Barring disaster (which this year is not a given), I am going back to Spain at the end of the month. Sadly, it will only be for a little over a week.
Spain is my favorite European country — scratch that, my favorite country other than my own. Spaniards are warm and welcoming, even to people who have failed to master even the rudiments of their language. (Somehow, I think the phrase “Le llama en Espanol despues” which I learned during working for Covered California, will not be of much use. “No habla Espanol,” on the other hand, I expect to be using frequently. And “gracias.” Very often.)
I will visit the paintings, my friends.* I will stand in front of Guernica and cry. I defy anyone to not do likewise. I will marvel Las Meninas, at the intricacy of the painting of the haughty young princess and her ladies in waiting, and the mirror in which royal parents are reflected while their daughter (who will become Holy Roman Empress before dying at a tragically young age) looks directly and confidently outward. (It is a wonder, Las Meninas: I only saw that the painter in the picture, Diego Velazquez, was not shown painting the Infante Margaret Theresa but Philip VI and his wife Mariana of Austria when it was pointed out to me that the painter is facing the people shown in the mirror, and not the girls themselves.) I will be moved by the Third of May, and grin at Goya’s two paintings of the mysterious and enticing Maja. Art can be subversive; Goya certainly was.
I will sit in the Muséo de Jamón (the Museum of Ham) and look around at the hundreds of Iberico hams hung from the ceiling and the walls. I will smile fondly (and wistfully) at the memory of a dinner a third of a world and forever away, in which the bizarre eatery provided a common point of reference.
I will wander the streets in Madrid, among the pubs and small restaurants off the Plaza Mayor, and eat tapas and gazpacho and drink sangria. I will delight in chocolate at the Chocolateria San Gines, the heady sweetness set off by crunchy churros.
I will walk streets that Cervantes walked, that Hemingway walked. I will look at the windmills and think of my hero. (I will not, however, go to see a bullfight.) I hope to see Toledo and Segovia glowing in the afternoon light, and the work of the visionary Domenikos Theotokopolous.
I will lounge on the square in Nerva, a small hill town an hour northeast of Seville, lazily sipping cafe con leche and reading a book, eating the wonderful square apple pastries that I love.
I will watch the feet of the flamenco dancers as they speed into staccato blurs, their tapping as sharp as fireworks, as though sparks could fly from their heels.
I will listen to the voices in the melting pot that is Seville, as different from the Castillian north as Georgia is from New York. I have no plans to go to Tangiers, this time, with its music of the Arabic traders selling rugs and shawls, skin lotions and enameled earrings. If Seville is a different country, Tangiers is a different world.
I will sigh and regret once again that my stay is short enough that I will not be able to visit Catalonia or the Basque region**, that I will not be able to see the pilgrim church of Santiago de Compostela, or Antonio Gaudi’s strange and wonderful Sagrada Familia. Or, of a more recent vintage, Frank Gehry’s weirdly magnetic Guggenheim in Bilbao.
And then home again, my heart once more my own.
**I may get to go to Portugal, though, which I am sure will have its own delights.