Thursday, July 20, 2006

Memories of Spain

Following my junior year in college I spent the summer in Spain. It occurs to me that the 15 years between that summer and now has passed in a flash! Where does the time go?

I remember being excited to go, but so very scared. I was a Spanish major and my college sponsored the trip in conjunction with the University of Madrid. I had classes four days a week in the mornings and the afternoons and weekends free for travel and sightseeing. Looking through the photo album I made, it seems that I saw very little of the country, outsiide of the areas surrounding Madrid where I lived. This photo taken outside the Plaza de Toros de las Ventas bullring in Madrid is my favorite; I think because it reminds me of my Uncle "Doc" who grew up in Barcelona. Either one of those men could be him. A copy of the poster advertising that Sunday's corrida hangs on my sunporch. Bullfighting is controversial, even in Spain, but I'm glad to have had the experience of seeing a few. I only wish we hadn't bought the cheap seats - the Spanish sun is incredibly strong even late in the day.

We visited an inordinate number of churches, most of them much more ornate than this one in Segovia, a spectacular old town set high on a rocky cliff and surrounded by two rivers. We saw the castle-like Alcazar and the Aqueduct built by the Romans during the 1st century. My most vivid memory from this town is buying a beautiful handmade lace tablecloth for my sister-in-law from a gypsy who tried to steal my camera after I had paid her.

We spent a lot of nights in bars, but we were college students and that's what one does is Spain. The custom is to have a late supper around 10 pm when the sun finally sets and head out for the evening sometime after midnight. This made being in class at 8 am pretty difficult, but I found that by staying up all night I wouldn't oversleep and miss class. I'd go to class and then spend the afternoon sleeping by the pool. I often missed the big meal of the day around 2 pm, so was always hungry. Sundays were my favorite day because the cafeteria at the school was closed and we went to a chain restaurant that served spaghetti (my favorite!) Hungry, but I had a great tan that summer. The pic at left shows us drinking milk and orange juice ;-) shortly before I returned home to NJ. I'm almost as dark as my Spanish friends, but the red-haired girl clearly didn't spend enough time by the pool!

My favorite city was Salamanca, where we spent a weekend and treated ourselves to an expensive hotel with air-conditioning and room service. Quite a treat after dormitory living! Salamanca is a breathtakingly beautiful city, where the quality of light is somehow magical, especially at dusk in the Plaza Mayor; built of a warm golden sandstone. We spent most of our time there, eating and people-watching. Very late in the night I took this photo of people dancing in the middle of the square.

I would love to return someday and see the south of Spain, and the northern regions, and Barcelona. There is so much that I didn't see and a lot of what I saw I couldn't really appreciate because of my youth. Years of summer jobs and my dad's generous nature made the trip possible. I'm still amazed that he let me go. Some day I'll post more about that.


bunnygirl said...

I love this post! I've always kicked myself for not taking advantage of an opportunity to spend a semester in Salamanca. It would've been a big financial stretch for me, but I realize in retrospect that it was the sort of experience that would've been more than worth a little financial hardship. You can usually find a way to get more money. It's those really cool life experiences that don't come your way that often.

In answer to your question, here's my post on how I got Tidbit:

debbie said...

those were the days....have a good weekend.

Susan Gets Native said...

Lucky you!
I had a chance to go to Paris with my French class, but I blew it by getting into trouble and my parents wouldn't let me go. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Think you will ever get back?

Michelle Lewis said...

Susan!!! Same thing happened to me. I so wanted to go to France with my class, but alas, I was stupid stupid stupid too :)

DH traveled the Med and Europe when he did his time in the Navy and doesn't have a single pic to show for it and never saw any sights.

LauraHinNJ said...

Thanks for the link, bunnygirl.

Stupid is typical of us at that age. I wish I had been a bit older when I went; I think I would've gotten more out of the trip. Still had a great time, but I shoud have paid attention to something more than boys!