As we drive form Madrid to Sevilla I’m overwhelmed by what I see, fields of sunflowers all over the rolling hills of the Spanish countryside. I smile every time I see more of them, but it is pretty difficult to take a good picture of them as Felipe coasts down the road.
While in Spain we decided to rent a car because it was less expensive than train tickets and it allows us to see more of this amazing country. Natalie has named our new ride Felipe, who is an upgrade from our last car Frida, because he has a bit more room, a built in GPS and an audio hook-up so we can rock out to our favorite tunes. But there’s a reason Natalie choose a male name for Felipe: he has the typical traits of a man in a car on a road trip. He’s a bit vague when giving us directions, when he gets us lost he does not admit it, he’ll just blurt out more directions and tries to forget about how turned around we are. But we forgive him and make it to all of our destinations without too much trouble.
I think I can say that for all three of us it is wonderful to be in Europe, and Spain has been a fantastic first destination. Asia was amazing and I know we all learned so much, but there is a comfort level here that is nice. Both Rachel and Natalie are enjoying speaking Spanish again; I myself have not spoken any in about 10 years, but it is coming back to me. I remember certain words and try to work them into conversations. Luckily most people in Spain speak way more English than I speak Spanish.
When we arrive in Madrid I can feel that something is different here. For one thing, the weather is amazing. We left behind 90+ degrees and traded them in for 70 degrees. The sun doesn’t set here till about 9:45p.m. which can really throw your body off. Time change, a long day of traveling from Bangkok to Madrid via Moscow and late sunsets can add up to a messed up sleep schedule. I think it took me two nights to get adjusted.
On our first day we join a group from our hostel for a walking tour around the older parts of the city. We walked to the palace, cathedral, past numerous statues of kings and so many wonderful places. Our tour guide Viviana showed us some of her favorite spots, like a café famous for its churros con chocolate…YUM
As we walk around the city there seems to be a sense of joy. There are so many cafes and restuarants with outside seating either on the sidewalks or flowing into the squares. Everyone has a coffee or glass of wine with a smile on their face. I don’t think it is just the alcohol consumption at all hours of the day, I think there is truly an appreciation of life here.
The ability to not work yourself to death, but to make time to spend with family and friends. They take 2 hour lunches and siestas, have tapas around 5p.m or 6p.m. followed by a nap and finally around 10p.m. they go out for dinner. This does not even include the young crowd that goes out around 2 a.m.! Let me tell you, this 30 something year old was not ready for the nightlife here.
We loved our time in Madrid but it was time to begin the road trip to Sevilla. We honestly didn’t know what to expect but everyone has told us that it is one of the best cities in Spain. Though we only have one night there, we plan on making the most of it! After checking into the hostel we ask the woman at the front desk where we should go if we only have one night; she pulls out a large map and circle two options.
We freshen up and begin to walk through the crowded streets. As we come upon a square our ears our filled with music. I am not sure what the occasion is but there are bars lining the square and a stage at the end with groups dancing the flamenco. What a lovely treat in the city where it was created. We make our way to the restaurant and have a wonderful meal enjoying all that surrounds us.
Rachel and I go on a walking tour the next day and we fall in live with the city. This 3000-year-old city has so much to tell its visitors. The architecture alone shows you the history of who has lived here and their influences; from the Romans, Muslims and finally as a Christian kingdom in the 13th century.
We not only see so many beautiful sites but also ourselves become a part of its story. Rachel acts out the part of Carmen in our guides story telling and I danced the Sevillana, a folk dance similar to the flamenco. Experiencing the culture this way only brings you closer to the people and I am so thankful that we are able to join in the celebration of this wonderful city.
Our trip continues and we have the opportunity to visit friends that will be in Europe this summer, the first one being Marina in Rota, Spain. We are treated to a wonderful weekend at her home, which for 3 girls traveling for 3-4 months it is truly a gift. We are welcomed with open arms and treated not only as friends but family. Rota is a small costal city on the southwest tip of Spain where locals are seen waving at others as they walk down the street to the market or coffee shop.
And visiting the coffee shop on a Saturday morning was an adventure. All you see are cups and saucers floating around with plates of toasted bread heading to tables. This we have leaned is the typical Spanish breakfast. Natalie has become a Spanish coffee-ordering expert and enjoys savoring the experience outside the café.
It’s scenes like this that make me love the Spanish culture. Like getting coffee here, you go to the café, order and then sit and enjoy it there. It’s not getting a ‘to-go cup’ as you’re running out the door. They take the time to enjoy not only the taste but also the people that surround them.
While attending mass on Sunday the priest’s words seemed to capture these thoughts. He spoke that the way of the Lord is the way of life and that we should never forget to look at all the joy in the world. There will always be sorrow and difficulties but not to forget the joy. He ended saying that if we go through life with faith and joy there is nothing to worry about. So that is my plan, to look for the joy in all that surrounds me, even on the tough days. I think that my life will be all the better for it and maybe I can bring joy to those around me.