Our trip to Spain was wonderful. How could it be other than that?
For those of you who know that I left with my right leg in a boot because of a stress fracture, the boot came off. In fact it came off practically the minute we got to our apartment in Madrid, and they offered to show us the terrace…on the roof…up the tiny spiral staircase.
It never went back on.
We went in every cathedral and church we could find, spent hours in museums, and browsed (and bought) in every store that caught our fancy – all things we couldn’t do if we’d had my understandably reluctant teenage son in tow. We walked. And walked. And walked. Up hills, over cobblestones, through side streets and too many plazas to count. I spent most of those walking hours reveling in the fact that I wasn’t in a boot.
We had more ham (jamón ibérico) and cheese and wine than we could imagine. Each day had four meals – the third being our “pre-dinner” meal of jamón ibérico, cheese, and wine.
I learned to ask for the type of wine I like (heavy, full-bodied red – always). “Muy fuerte” I learned to request. “Muy robusto.” “Con mucho cuerpo.” I ended up with many wines I liked, and even loved.
And I had fun asking.
Right or wrong, the way I like to travel is to at least try to speak the native language wherever I am. One of my pet peeves is the American habit of speaking English to everyone, everywhere (and if that doesn’t work, simply speaking English even louder, with more emphasis). I like to learn what I can, and attempt to connect with people in their land, in their language.
But I’m not very good at it – even in Spanish, which I studied “hace muchos años, en la escuela” (many years ago, in school).
So I try, and I make a fool of myself, and then I – and the people I’m with and the people I’m trying to communicate with – laugh. That’s what I like. I like the trying and the laughter, and the connection of the laughter.
That’s how I learned to ask for my desired type of wine, in fact. “Quiero un vino tinto, muy fuerte,” I said to the waitress at our first pre-dinner, with a number of hand gestures and weird, hilarious sounds to accentuate the “muy fuerte” part, because what I like is very, very, very full-bodied, intense red wine.
With these efforts, I got a great wine one night, one I loved. I wanted to order another glass, and to remember what I’d ordered for our next night out, so I reached into my remembered Spanish and asked, “Cual vino que eso?”
The waiter smiled and my daughter cracked up. Apparently my remembered Spanish was poor. Instead of “Which wine is this?” I asked something like, “Which wine, what that?”
Ah well. I had fun. (And I had good wine.) I laughed. My daughter laughed. The (Spanish) waiter laughed. We laughed at my trying and failing, and had a moment of human connection – and faulty communication.
And I got another glass of great wine.
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