Aug 152010

I’ll be honest. Spain and I had a rocky start.

After my CouchSurfing host in Barcelona fell through at the last minute, the city misguided me all over its hot, pickpocket-lined streets with false promises of vacancy – and when the final hostel had an available bed, it was only for two nights.

Madrid apologized, offering the joyous challenge (and I mean that) of finding a hospital specializing in travel medicine and communicating with its staff, most of which spoke no English at all. (Many thanks to David, the Spanish attorney waiting for his own vaccinations who served as my translator.)

But Toledo won me over. The old-town architecture and tight, winding streets, the inexpensive castle hostel, the time spent drinking beer and eating tapas as I sat under water misters surrounded by Spaniards and little hopping, chirping birds. The endless stairs, experts at building anticipation for the incredible views waiting at the top of the town-on-a-hill.

Highlights Reel


– Enjoying Barcelona’s nightlife with some American and South American friends from the hostel; going to the beach where rhythms of dance music drifted over neon sand until reaching the ocean, where they crossfaded, overwhelmed by clapping waves.

– Seeing a girl lose 100 euros in a street game on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s main pedestrian lane, packed with tourists, merchants, performers and con artists.

– Being taken by two Norwegians to a Barcelonian-run Irish pub that played all Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen songs.

– Going on a mission to find authentic Spanish tapas with American and Canadian friends Elise, Ben and Sarah; stumbling accidentally into a Chinese-run tapas bar but having Elise order everything in Chinese before hurrying back to catch the night train to Madrid. Trying to negotiate in line for the train to get seats together; failing. Trying (in Spanish) to trade seats on the train; failing. Staking claim to a table in the train restaurant all night instead.


– Seeing Picasso’s Guernica and photos of the revision process he put it through: where he added and removed whole characters, rearranged their anatomy, and turned the sun into a light bulb at the last minute. The step-by-step series of iterations at first seeming to prove something about the overlapping realities of whim and meticulous planning, of accident and design — but then realizing that in fact, the finished work is not so much a creation as it is a revelation. Deciding that Picasso wasn’t making editorial choices; he was exploring the canvas for clues, discovering the truth of the scene as he fumbled his brush across the surface the way an archaeologist brushes dust away from ruins, pulling something solid and meaningful from a shapeless mass of sand and earth.

– Seeing disgustingly, beautifully decadent jeweled and painted interiors at the Royal Palace as well as violins, violas and cellos built by Antonio Stradivari in the late 1600s. Thinking it was okay to take pictures without flash. Getting yelled at in Spanish.


– Taking a day trip to Consuegra with my Austrian hostel-roommate Jacob to see Don Quixote’s windmills.

– Finding the fabled slow pace of Spain with CouchSurfing hosts Eda and Use; enjoying siestas, eating homemade meals of salad, gazpacho and Spanish tortilla, and waiting to go outside until late at night after the temperature dropped to 80 degrees.

– Gradually improving my Spanish, ceasing to rely on charades, getting comfortable enough to not only ask for directions and the costs of things, but also make jokes and haggle for cheaper ice cream. Complaining that the weather was spicy.

 Posted by at 3:46 pm

  4 Responses to “Spain”

  1. Don’t be too alarmed… But I think Randy is stalking you. I have been reading to catch up on your adventures and I must say he is everywhere!! :-)

    I am sorry you are having such a horrible time over there! That giant upside-down frown are your face says it all. Try not to cry! Muggers drink your tears for liquid courage (and all along you thought that was alcohol). And since you are a veggie it is like superfood for them, all healthy and crap!

    Can’t wait to read more!

    • Thanks, D. Yes, it’s been a torturous experience so far and I’m only hoping to go home as soon as possible before those muggers start drinking my healthy bodily fluids. Glad you’re enjoying it :P.

  2. The word “stalking” kind of implies that Kyle doesn’t know I’m following him. Which, in fact, he does know. Or maybe he doesn’t. Never mind. Ada’s right.

    Kyle. These blog entries are suffering from the plain and simple fact that you’ve got waaaay too much going on to contain within five or six hundred words. Your bulletpoints belie this. Time for weekly short stories. Two per week, if necessary. Twenty-five-hundred word minimums. Go.

    Capturing Picaso’s process in Guernica was a fascinating read. I’d love a lot more, if there were more details to soak in. But obviously, you’re in the business of enjoying all of Europe on your own, and giving us ignorant Americans only tapas-sized teasers.

    Just kidding. Sort of.

    • Randy is indeed a loud stalker. And a demanding one, apparently.

      Fair points, Randawg. Enjoy this tapas-sized response.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>