Saturday, April 5, 2008

Luna de Miel

That's Spanish for "honeymoon," at least literally. I'm not for sure if Spaniards follow that tradition of escaping...I mean, taking a vacation...after getting married. At any rate, we decided to spend our extra week of traveling in Spain, hitting Seville and Barcelona, as well as some additional side trips. I'd never been to Spain (with the exception of Mallorca, which is more of a beach getaway than a traditional Spanish experience), and although Jon did travel there after leaving Germany the first time, he was game for a return trip. I was anxious to put my Spanish minor to use (seven years well spent, believe me), so off we went.

The morning after the wedding we picked up our weary travelers at 6:00 am. I don't know what we were thinking, scheduling a flight so early the day after getting married. Regardless, we drove down to Munich, desperately trying to translate radio reports about the Muenchen Flughafen ("airport") and a strike. Evidently the baggage carriers went on strike--we actually saw them protesting--which had us very worried about the status of our flights. Luckily for us (and unluckily for lots of people), only domestic flights were cancelled, meaning that we left the gang at security and went to catch our flight to Spain.

Sevilla (Seville): Totally exhausted from the week's festivities, it was a pretty quiet plane ride. We changed planes in Barcelona and continued on down to Seville, the sister city of Kansas City (the Plaza is modeled after its Spanish counterpart). Our honeymoon started off on a great note as we both fell asleep face down on our matching twin beds.

We were able to rouse ourselves to go out and seek dinner at about 10:30, and we were quite fortunate to discover a tapas bodega not far from our hotel. For the unenlightened, tapas are smaller portions of a variety of dishes (depending on the bar/restaurant), like little snacks or appetizers. For example, over the course of several days, we ordered things like potatoes with ali-oli sauce, eggplant fries, chorizo sausage, Iberian ham straight off the pig leg, etc. Yum. Rejuvenated by delicious tapas and a decent night's sleep, we hit the ground running the following morning. Luck smiled down on us again as we stumbled upon a weekly flea market held mere blocks from the hotel. We found a great little carafe and painted tile (that is currently serving as a trivet), and I picked up a copy of Don Quijote en espanol. I can't resist used books, even in foreign languages.

We hit some of the big tourist destinations, like the Cathedral and the Real Alcazar (royal palace). Now that we were on our own and didn't have everyone else's photos to depend on, we were picture-taking machines. I think we ended up with more pictures that first day alone than from the entire week prior. We covered a lot of ground and saw lots of interesting sights, but one of the highlights for me was the flamenco show we attended in the evening. The performers were amazing. I think I must have been a flamenco dancer in a past life because I immediately wanted to break out my souvenir castanets ("click-clickies") that I purchased on my last visit to Spain and jump up on the stage.

Cadiz: Since we'd planned to take the night train up to Barcelona, we decided to spend our next day in another town that was also on the train route. The real draw to this city was that it was on the coast, and while it was too cold to actually go in the water (which didn't seem to stop the overweight elderly gentlemen in Speedos), it was really nice to walk on the beach. We very nearly spent the entire day in a cafe, however. Since the town isn't very large, the train station didn't have a place to store luggage. Neither one of us was interested in hauling our stuff around all day, so we tried a couple of hotels before learning at the Tourist Information center that the bus depot was the only place with a room to store luggage. Making grammatical errors left and right, I was finally able to communicate what we needed to the right person at the right place, and the day was saved. The weather was again beautiful--the sun slightly toasting the fair Scandanavian skin we both share--so we spent the majority of the day walking around and enjoying the scenery.

Shortly before we were to leave, we stopped in a little cafe "off the beaten path" because Jon needed some coffee. While there, we met a new friend, Pepe. Incredibly friendly--and probably a bit inebriated--he spoke to us for a long time. I was able to understand most of what he was saying, but really found myself nodding a lot. Poor Jon was totally lost, but was able to pick up bits and pieces here and there, and I translated the best I could. Pepe was very excited to learn that we had just gotten married and congratulated us profusely. He also tried to convince us to stay the night in town at his apartment in order to meet his wife, who likes to practice her English. But, alas, we had a train to catch. We'd planned this train ride to Barcelona so carefully, yet were utterly devasted to discover that what we'd thought was a private sleeping cabin was in actuality two reclining seats. Thankfully, they were able to upgrade us, so we celebrated by drinking the bottle of cava that Mama had given us at our reception ("Macgyver" figured out a way to chill it in the sink).

Barcelona: Lo and behold, when we woke up the next morning, we were in Barcelona. We immediately walked to our hostel, aptly named At Home Guestrooms. It was a literally a spare bedroom in "Uncle Emphysema's" (not his real name) apartment. He pointed out several places of interest, and we were off...after enjoying a traditional fattening Spanish breakfast of churros con chocolate (deep-fried dough dipped in unbelievably thick hot chocolate). The biggest challenge in Barcelona is that Spanish isn't the native language. Barcelona is in a region of Spain known as Catalonia, and Catalan is more than a mere dilect; it's a totally different language which we deduced to be a hybrid of Spanish and French. We muddled through with my (primarily Latin American) Spanish, but it was fortunate we went to a lot of tourist locations. We went through the Cathedral and Picasso museum before seeing some wacky Gaudi architecture, including the famous Sagrada Familia ("holy family") cathedral.

Again, we took lots of pictures and videos, but opted not to go inside the latter because we had plans to meet some friends who were spending their Spring Break in Barcelona. One of Jon's co-workers put it best when she said, "Jon, you are the only person I know who would take two dudes along on your honeymoon." Fair enough. But I'm so glad we were able to meet up because we had a great time...and ate some amazing (and interesting) food. (Both friends--who are brothers--are very knowledgeable about both food and wine, so if you thought I talked a lot about food before, beware.) On a search for a cafe with a view, we climbed to the top of this hill/mountain that had breath-taking views of the city. After spending some time catching up, we went "tapas hopping." While Jon and I had been playing it relatively safe, typically ordering only one or two unknowns, our friends were immediately drawn to the most exotic tapas on the menu or in the bar. They were also adventurous when it came to full meals, pairing them with the perfect selection of wine. We ate everything from snails to baby goat to paella (a traditional rice dish) to rabbit to pig's feet to razor clams. But you would be proud of me because I tried it all...and was surprised to enjoy most of it.

[Check out their blog for more great food and wine info:]

Montserrat: According to our What is Montserrat? book, it is a mountain, a monastery, and a spiritual community. It is also really cool. A relatively short train ride from Barcelona, Montserrat was a nice little day trip. We rode the aerial tram/gondola to the top where we explored the grounds and cathedral. We then rode a funicular train to a smaller chapel on a different part of the mountain. More than just a funny word, a funicular train is one that goes up and down a case you're like me and had never heard of that word until just now. At any rate, we followed the trail, which contained statues representing each of the three sets of Mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious) that are prayed as part of the Rosary. At the end of this trail was a small chapel. The whole place had an aura about it that was incredibly peaceful and spiritual. It's not surprising that the monks chose to locate their monastery in this place...that and the sighting of the Virgin Mary that truly prompted them to settle there.

Sant Sadurni: The next day was also spent just outside Barcelona, this time in a town called Sant Sadurni, the "cava capital of Spain." Cava is sparkling wine, Spain's version of champagne. Basing the entire trip off of blurbs from the travel books initially appeared to be a gamble because we arrived just in time for the town's siesta, or "nap time" when everything was shut down for a couple hours. The woman at the Tourist Information office did her best to find us a tour at one of the many wineries and recommended a couple of places to stop. We tried to follow her directions, but prematurely stopped at a location with a similar name. What a serendipitous discovery! We met a winemaker named Pere who, along with his father and good friend, shared some of his very own cava, as well as his philosophies on life. We were there for nearly two hours until his son came home for lunch. We then saw the other end of the wine-making spectrum as we went on a tour of the giant Freixenet winery. The contrasts were striking. Where Pere had a hand in every bottle of wine produced, the humongous winery was full of cellars and machines. We all agreed that Pere had it right. It was time to return to Barcelona, so we picked up some small bottles of cava for the train ride and enjoyed an impromptu serenade from the band on the train.

Garmisch: Okay, so Garmisch isn't technically in Spain. But since we were flying back to the States from Munich, we had to return to Germany at some point, so we took the opportunity to hop a train toward the Alps to meet up with another couple of friends from Bamberg days. They, too, were enjoying their Spring Break in Europe. Again, it was marvelous to catch up over dinner and a trip to the Irish Pub. While it was a fairly long train ride to go out to dinner, it was totally worth it to meet with old friends. Sometimes you just have to make the effort to maintain friendships. I wish we could have stayed longer; the Alps were beautiful the next morning. However, we had a full day of traveling ahead of us.

It would be hard to compare the German adventure to the Spanish getaway because they were so different. It's like we were able to take two vacations at once. That's a whole lot of memories for two weeks.

1 comment:

Bobby Bohanan said...

Good to see the whole trip layed out. You guys really know how to travel. Thanks for the shout out and the blog name drop too. Need more comments!!!