March 2, 2001
I’m not quite sure why I decided to go to Spain. I had to go somewhere different for two weeks and Spain sounded like a good idea.
I finished up a few last things at work today and left around 2:30. Nothing extremely noteworthy occurred in the afternoon and I arrived at the airport a little after 4pm. It was at that time I decided to express the most important matters that lingered in the deepest chambers of my soul in written form as I gazed upon the wonder that is East Boston.
March 3, 2001
After three aviational legs of my trip, including the disinfecting “Hoof and Mouth” gauntlet in Madrid, I have made it to the Balearic Island of Ibiza. Although quite tired, I walked around Ibiza and found a nice, humble hotel by the name of Hotel Apartamentos el Puerto which means Hotel Apartamentos el Puerto.
I walked around the city and noticed a clash between ancient Mediterranean charm and some unfortunate modernization. I walked around the northern walls of Dalt Vila and was granted some nice views of the port, the city and some odd rooftop activity such as two dogs chained to a stairwell, one of which was barking at me while the other was growling at a spider.
After a nap and shower, I headed to Lizarran for dinner and engaged in some light yet pleasant conversation with a waiter by the name of Luca who kept singing something about living on the second floor. From there, I went to a local bar to watch some soccer and then stroll down by the port where I was propositioned for some cigarettes. Upon my denial, the gentleman then asked for cocaine. So I guess that’s what I look like: a guy that walks around ports with cigarettes and cocaine. And if I didn’t have cigarettes, why would this guy think I might have cocaine? That’s like calling up a pet store, asking them if they have lizards, they say no and then asking them if they have dinosaurs. I didn’t have any cocaine, by the way.
March 4, 2001
After a nice, deep sleep, I woke up and promptly went downstairs and enjoyed some free breakfast. From there, I rented a scooter and drove north to the Cova de Can Marca where I viewed some old caves because when I leave Boston in the winter and go to Spain, I don’t want to spend my vacation in the sun; I would rather spend it in a dark, damp hole in the ground. Supposedly, smugglers discovered these caves a couple hundred years ago and stored alcohol and other precious goods so deep in the caves, that they had to mark the trail with spots of paint. Were these smugglers in high school at the time of their discovery I wonder? “Oh dear, we can’t let Mom and Dad find this bottle of Old Granddad and case of Milwaukee’s Best that my friend’s older brother who goes to the local community college and lives at home bought for us. We better hide it in this cave where no grownups will find it!”
I then scootered my way to some place that either had no name or sounded like every other place on the island. It was actually an incredible ascent and then rapid decent to the ocean, which was surrounded by cliffs in this spot. As I neared the water, the road got so narrow and bumpy that I was amazed that my scooter didn’t turn into a pile of sad memories. After this, I ended up riding my scooter down a road that I was told to avoid by the English woman that rented me the scooter. Thank God scooters don’t have any rights or I would have been convicted of assault or first degree scooterslaughter.
I then showered and walked around the city and again visited with my friend Luca. Why can’t I make friends with an attractive Spanish women instead of men I wonder? I want to speak to a Spanish lady in lovely tones. I want her to realize I am a guy in the world that is a sensual liability or guyability as I like to say. But don’t get me wrong, Luca is nice. He kind of reminds me of a Spanish version of Daniel Day Lewis so I will call him “Spaniel Day Lewis”. That still doesn’t want me to make out with him though.
When I entered my room, I was greeted by a large, playful cockroach. It took some doing, but I finally got him. As I don’t speak perfect Spanish, I didn’t understand what he was trying to say to me but I stepped on him anyway. Gosh, I hope it wasn’t a tiny human I stepped on.
March 5, 2001
Today was unbelievable. After eating my breakfast, I bought vegetables and fruit, went to my room and headed for the port where I boarded a ferry to the small nearby island of Formentera. I got on the boat with a large group of old people, thinking the ride would be as easygoing and gentle as they were. Within ten minutes, the Captain was flying over small waves. I’m not joking when I say that it was like an amusement park ride being controlled by a James Bond villain. “Que bonito!” an old man cried as we flew into the air as if the captain made believe the ferry was a jet ski with a demon for a motor.
Once in Formentera, I rented a bike and cycled through the center, by beaches, and up a small mountain range. For lunch, I stopped in a small village by the name of Es Pilar where I fed upon a sandwich. I also ate my fruit and vegetables which provided me with the much needed fiber that had been eluding me up to this point. I have had trouble finding a restaurant that served salads or vegetables. I guess the whole island is constipated as a result.
I then rode to the cliffs where I was donated spectacular views and slowly worked my way back to the ferry. I estimated I rode about 40 to 45miles throughout the island which means I achieved roughly 40 to 45 units of fantastic (which is very high).
Back in Ibiza, I gobbled up some Boquerones en Vinagreta which consisted of small bluefish in olive oil, vinegar and garlic. I greatly enjoyed this typical Spanish dish but even more so the lovely woman that made it. Finally, I enjoyed some charming conversation with a Spanish woman although I’m not quite sure she was Spanish. To be truthful, I don’t care where she was from since she was so damn desirable. I should have told her that (in Spanish).
From there I paid my last visit to Luca as I drank a Voll Damm and ate some guxtua which is a thin layer of cake and white, creamy pudding with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. We exchanged email addresses and beauty secrets and I left my amigo, Spaniel Day Lewis. Actually, no beauty secrets were exchanged. They’re called “secrets” for a reason, people.
March 6, 2001
I woke up at 7:45am. I don’t even get up that early for work! After finishing breakfast, I got on a bus, headed to the airport and flew to Valencia where I rented my mighty Peugot 306. I immediately took to the road and headed south, stopping only briefly just outside Murcia before reaching my destination: Mojacar.
I settled in at the lovely Hotel Moresco which like the rest of the small town, is nestled on a big hill that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. When you look at it, it appears as if someone cautiously placed these white, block-shaped buildings on this hill with steep slopes. The place is unbelievable. I went for a run and headed for the little mountains right next to the village. It was here I encountered not only spectacular views, but also several abandoned, deteriorated cottages that were surrounded by small farms that were in small step-like formations. I later found out that a fire swept through these hills in 1994. It was extremely interesting for me to see all of this.
I proceeded to shower and the hit the town like the wild man that I am where I dined upon salad, seafoodish soup and delicious chicken kebab at El Deserto Viento. When I left, I strolled through the small tight village in pure amazement. It was like Venice perched on a hill with its cozy, maze-like “streets” that lead in all directions. Please allow me to be corny and sappy but nevermore did I desperately want to share this special moment with a woman. The romance oozed from all these precious nooks and crannies, much like melted butter on a hot Thomas’ English muffin. I tell you!
I then had a few rounds at a small Irish bar where I met an older, American gentleman by the name of James or Indy as he was called since he was from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He came to Mojacar nine years ago to escape charges that were pressed by his ex-wife. As he continuously drank and smoked and coughed, I wondered if he thought that even though the Universe in which we live in is so vast, it is still not big enough to escape your problems by simply “moving on” so you might as well end up in a picturesque setting to watch your life carelessly slip away.
He told me interesting stories of how he was with the special forces in Vietnam and like this, his special mission to Guatemala where he supplied and the rebels and the Federals with arms, and other things, “I don’t recommend it.” Even as an art teacher after his service, he was called upon by the CIA for special missions that caused him to tell his principle, “I’m going to be sick for two weeks.” He then told me how his career as an art teacher was cut short due to the fact that he shot a man who pulled a knife on him in a bar. It was deemed self-defense by the courts but the school thought it best for him to leave. Wow, and Morgan Freeman thought he was so tough when he carried around a bat in Lean On Me. I always thought the art teachers were the liberal pansy types that you could push around but I guess I was wrong.
March 7, 2001
After awaking and eating breakfast, I walked around the town, through a small flea market and various shops and bought some items for my nieces and nephew. I made it back to my room where I wrote some damn humorous post cards to my friends and a more conservative yet informative one to my parents.
From there I decided to drive south past Carboneras through extremely scenic, mountainside and seaside roads. I ended up at a beach by the name of La Playa de Los Muertos or Beach of the Dead, which ironically is also the name of a movie that served as a sequel to both Dawn of the Dead and Beach Blanket Bingo.
Surprisingly, I had the beach to myself. I didn’t see one moaning, limping, strangely colored, malodored corpse stumbling around anywhere. I was really hoping to run into the cast of the Thriller video but was denied such joy. Actually, I did enjoy some amateur rock climbing and proceeded to work out with rocks and did some pushups and sit-ups. Sometimes I like to make believe I’m in a world before gyms and that I’m the first human who is inspired to work out. It’s quite enchanting.
I made my way back to Mojacar and on the way stopped for a run on the beach, went for a quick dip in the sea and made my way to my room where I showered. On a tip from my friend Indy, I ate at Felipe San Barnabe’s where I dined upon salad, salmon, fined red wine and a delicious desert made of vanilla, a pastry shell and chocolate sauce.
I then made my last stop of the evening at the Irish bar from the last night and met some more lovely Irish people, two of which were two gay men that were both in the early sixties and quite a charming couple. I didn’t think Ireland made gay couples. That’s like Greenpeace making whale poison.
March 8, 2001
After the normal morning routine, I wrote a postcard for my friends at Greater Boston Track Club and hit the road towards Cabo de Gata, which is exactly the southeast corner of Spain. On the way, I picked up an old man that was hitchhiking. His name was Pedro San something and he didn’t have much to say. I believe he said thank you at some stage. I dropped him in Carboneras and made my next stop in San Jose where I was told what to see in the Cabo de Gata region. I stopped first at La Playa Genoveses, which was nice, but it was the next beach down, La Playa Monsul, that warmed the cockles of my heart. I climbed up this large rock formation that stood alone in the sand as waves crashed on one side. It was quite stunning.
I got back into my car, headed down the dirt road into San Jose and drove by two more hitchhikers. “What the hell?” I thought and decided to pick them up. The young German couple was from Hamburg, Germany and their names were Burger and Beerty, aged 24 and 22 respectively. I thought that it would be funny if they opened a restaurant named “Burger and Beer by Burger and Beerty”. Further irony coming from the fact that Burger is a vegetarian from Hamburg. I envisioned difficult childhood’s for the both of them with such cruel jokes as, “Hey Ham – Burger, are you medium rare or well done, ha!” or “Hey beardy (Beerty), looks like you could use a shave!”
But in any event, they turned out to be a charming duo and quite friendly and I got a great opportunity to know them as I took them through observation and hiking areas that were west of the lighthouse in Caba de Gata. They quickly developed a strong trust for me not just because I didn’t offer them candy but it was rather my unwavering navigation through treacherous, coastal, mountain roads. The views were again spectacular and we also climbed upon an interesting stone formation that had little mini-caves in it and was surrounded by the ocean on one side and brownish-black rectangular stones on the other side. It looked like a chocolate version of Superman’s home planet Krypton. I thought it would be cool if they put up a hotel at that spot and called it, El Hotel Krypton, “La casa la mas preferida de Superhombre!” and the inside of it would look like the Halls of Justice, including a large video screen that had a video tape playing of a Spanish actor portraying Aquaman.
After speaking with my new my new friends, I found out that Beerty wants to teach disabled children and Burger wants to write children’s books. Again, I must ponder. Possible titles: Burger Boy Comes to America, Burger Boy Battles the Evil Robotic Hotdog or Burger Boy Falls in Love with Katy Ketchup.
I then brought them back to Mojacar and showed them to the hills where they could camp. Hey, that’s the way they wanted it but I couldn’t help feel like an evil mayor of a village that was banishing some poor, innocent lepers. “Off to the hills ye Heathen bastards!” I snapped out of it and told them I would pick them up at 11:00 the next morning to go to Granada.
That night I ate at a small café and headed back to my favorite little Irish bar which I finally discovered the name of: Tir Na Nog, which means Land of the Young and is based on an Irish fable. How ironic as the bar is full of older men who are constantly trying to extinguish their smoker’s cough with beer. This small bar is like something from a novel (one of the last chapters). It is the place where I met Indy and tonight I had the pleasure of meeting Rupert Clifton, an Englishman that looked a bit like Clark Gable and was full of wold stories ranging from the most expensive, dangerous town that is Boy Vista, Brazil where one egg costs $5 and five people a day are killed in a city that has a population around 40,000 to stories of coca leaves and their relation to Coca Cola and a certain DEA personality.
Rupert was 55 but when one saw the cautious and uncertain way he maneuvered with his cane, he appeared to be much older. Supposedly he came from money in England and basically paid to leave the country as he was quite the black sheep. His last exile brought him to Bolivia where he met and married his third “beloved wife”.
The numbers of homes and apartments he had owned or currently does in Manhattan, Bolivia, England, Mojacar and other places could never approach the number of times he had to gasp for air and make it through an acute, dehabilitating coughing fit. The awkwardness I felt could only me rivaled by that of when you are a young child and forced to remain in an embrace with an old, odd smelling relative. Even more numerous was the number of times he would quickly utter, “Do you know what I mean?” As he expressed this repetitive verbal mannerism, he would look at me sort of funny as if he were preparing to tickle me. Thankfully, he did not but instead carried on by explaining the background of some pictures that were hanging in the pub of a costume party. Of course Indy was among the patrons in the photographs but so were men dressed as women. “I tell you,” Rupert said “some of those men looked downright foxy. I do say I was tempted.” Thank goodness for beer and the ability to bury your face in it when such verbal mistakes are placed before you.
March 9, 2001
Again I awoke and again I ate. I then packed up my things and went to gather Burger and Beerty from the hills to travel to Granada. As they packed their things, Burger looked at me and in his German accent said, “Last night there was, I don’t know, a small animal…a mouse or something or maybe a large insect that was crawling under the tent. It kept me up during the night.” “That’s great,” I replied, ”Let’s go.”
We made our way through hilly and mountainous terrain and even passed through a place called Mini-Hollywood where many American westerns were filmed. Once in Granada, I dropped my German companions off at the Alhambra and said a quick goodbye to them. I then found some lodging in the Hotel Dauro where I got myself into a small, humorous spot of trouble. As I had been in the car much of the day, I decided to do some exercises, one of which called for a handstand against a wall or door so that I can do inverted pushups. Since my room is so small, I was forced to do this exercise in the bathroom. Needless to say that as I brought my feet up into the air, I misjudged the distance behind me and absolutely nailed this bathroom stool. I went flying into the air and when it landed, it broke into two pieces. After I finished laughing, I thought, “What the heck am I going to do with this thing now?” The two pieces were too large to bring downstairs and I didn’t want to leave it in the room so I brought it out onto the brick balcony and broke it into smaller, sneakable pieces. From there, I placed all the pieces into a plastic bag and on my way out for a run, I scooted quickly out past the receptionist, blocking the contraband with my body. After successfully depositing the damaged goods into a park trash can, I went off and enjoyed a pleasant run along the river.
I dined in fine style tonight and a quick love for this city emerged when I discovered that nearly every bar gives you a free tapa with every single beer you order. So now you can get fat and wasted for relatively little money in one night. Smashing!
March 10, 2001
Finally I had to cough up some money for breakfast. It was rough but I managed. I then proceeded to the Alhambra. As I was waiting in line, I was forced to bare witness to one of the most excessive cases of PDA ever to exist. I swear there must have been one of those wet, “affectionate”, cheek kisses every ten seconds. It sounded like a couple of bullfrogs jumping in the mud. I came so close to saying, “hey, go behind those trees, make out for twenty minutes straight, get it out of your system and then get back in line.”
I purchased my ticket and walked a few hundred meters to another entrance when this woman ran up to me and put a small branch from some sort of evergreen tree, wrapped in a big green leaf, into my hand and started spitting out words at about three thousand RPM’s while she was reading my hand. Before I knew it, I was strong, elegant, handsome with two kids, a great job and a hot wife.
Once in the Alhambra, I was amazed by the intricate, mosaic architectures and patterns. In the gardens that surrounded the buildings, you always heard the sounds of water since there were tiny canals that brought water everywhere.
When I finished, I made my way to the part of Grenada called Albaicin, where I feasted on salad and swordfish in a great little restaurant called Ladrillo II. I then decided to walk around the tiny winding streets where I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the arrest of a drunk, belligerent man. I knew not his crime but moved on down another tiny road, all the time placing my body against the building in Spiderman-like poses as not to get struck by the sometimes maniac, “I want to be like Steve McQueen in the movie Bullit” drivers.
It was at that moment that I saw something so strange that I almost made fun of it but I’m glad I didn’t because it was part of a Spanish Christian festival/holiday for the saints. Basically, there were 36 people lined up like this:
O O O O O O O O O
O O O O O O O O O
O O O O O O O O O
O O O O O O O O O
and they were all underneath this huge, wooden, table-like structure that they were carrying. The table had many, heavy cinderblocks on top which I sure hope was intentional and probably part of the ritual but they also built in a car stereo in the back. I was dumbstruck. Were the early Christian Saints more technologically advanced than we thought as to have stereos? What would they have listened to? Stryper? Other Christian rock bands?
Back at the hotel, I showered, rested and made my way to The Palacio de Exposiciones Y Congresos de Grenada to watch the V Festival Flamenco. There my senses feasted upon voices of ferocious power, expert musicians and elegant, colorful dancers.
March 11, 2001
With the usual morning routine complete, I began to realize that I was becoming a touch worn out so I decided to go a bit easier today. I then moved on to the cathedral where I was once again presented with uncountable intricacies.
Outside the cathedral, two more palm readers attacked me. Although they showed great paparazzi-like persistence, I brushed them aside like a seasoned celebrity. One of them shoved one of those branches in my hand but still I resisted her gentle charm. “Uno regalo”, she said or “A gift.” A gift, I thought, well it’s a good thing this woman is not the chairperson for Toys for Tots: “Well children, we didn’t manage to get you any traditional gifts this Christmas but I’m sure you’ll have just as much fun with these bags of twigs, mulch, leaves, pine needles and poison ivy!”
In need of a more peaceful venue, I strolled through the more residential and quiet are of Realejo (which is Spanish for Real G.I. Joes! – That’s not true.).
I then got in my car and drove up to the mountains near the Alhambra where I went for a run. The first twenty-two minutes were up a mountain as I reached an altitude of 3000 meters. Although this sounds like a studly accomplishment, please bear in mind that I did not begin at sea level. In any event, the views were satisfying and I started my powerful descent through what I believe were olive orchards. At the bottom, I laid on the hill as I enjoyed a superb, sunny, 25 degrees Celsius afternoon (my car has a thermometer).
Back at the hotel, I took a load off as I thoroughly enjoyed the Matrix on TV, which of course dubbed in Spanish. I could not get enough of when the head agent would call Keanu Reeves Senor Anderson, especially in the end of the movie when he shoots him several times and as Keanu falls to the ground, the head agent looms over his dying body and says “Adios, Senor Anderson”.
After shower and shave, I ate at Café Botanico and then enjoyed a piece of cake at a sidewalk café where I noticed two things about Spain: 1) There are no single people in this country, and if they are, it’s because they are one of three things: asexual, in jail or dead. There are people making out on every street corner. It’s like walking through the set of a Big Red chewing gum commercial. 2) Cars are allowed to drive anywhere they want. You’ll be walking on a frickin’ sidewalk and there is some clown behind you in a car giving you grief because you are not walking fast enough. I’m not joking.
March 12, 2001
After the usual start, I quickly hit the road towards Ronda. I highly recommend this small city to anyone travelling in the south of Spain. It is perilously perched on an extremely high plateau that overlooks beautiful farms, valleys and hills. Even more amazing is the fact that there is a river that flows at the bottom of a 130-meter canyon that divides the old and new part of the city. My hotel, Don Miguel, overlooks this spectacle of nature. When I open my window, I can look straight down the canyon and at the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which is an incredible structure that was built in the 18th century and allows cars to drive over it.
Back in the hotel room, I did a quick workout and decided to scout out the town in running fashion. My cardiovascularly challenging journey first took me down a far way to the canyon where if I were not a grownup, I believe I would have been a tad afraid of the intimidating personality of the view of the Puente Nuevo and remainder of the city that rested on the immense cliffs. I made it back to the top where I circled the outskirts of the old city and viewed the last two bridges: Puente Viejo and Puente Arabe (both, I believe, were built before the 1400’s).
At that point, a shower was definitely in order and once accomplished, I meandered through the new city where I landed myself in a tobacco shop. While looking at the cigars, I realized that I completely forgot that I could buy Cuban cigars here which is probably for the better since I would have contracted some form of mouth/throat cancer had I remembered earlier in my trip with all the cigars I would have smoked. I took my cigar then to a very interesting tea café that allows its patrons to sample teas from all over the world. It is here and now that I write, enjoying a liberating cup of Jamaican tea and of course, my fine Cuban-leafed companion. How I forget the buzz a good cigar can put on you when not dulled by the effects of a few drinks. It is now that I feel like a native Spaniard with an ever-familiar cloud of smoke around me.
The interior of this tea café or Teteria Al-Zahra as it’s called, is quite cozy and boasts of an intense Moorish décor and musical selection. What a relaxing venue and along with my mysterious tea and cigar, definitely the cause of my present, verbose, literary situation. I wonder what’s in my tea? I think I’ll return tomorrow to further research its constitution.
The urge to eat swept over me and I headed to Camelot, a restaurant recommended to me by the young woman at the front desk of my hotel. As it was closed, I went next door to the lobby of a small hotel where I met an extremely charming and attractive young Spanish woman that urged me to try a restaurant by the name of Dona Pepa. I did so and upon entering, I was greeted by beautiful mosaic tiles and a vivid display of colors all around the room. The quality of the food was tremendous and a must for anyone who visits Ronda. I feasted upon trout prepared in the Andulucian style and drank a lovely red wine from the same region. Exquisite! Perhaps the culinary crescendo of my trip but we will see.
I don’t know what it was, perhaps the Jamaican tea, perhaps the high altitude, but I found myself heading back to that small hotel to inform the young Spanish woman of how gustatorily satisfied I was with her choice. We got to talking and she politely asked me to sit and talk with her. Hiding my excitement to the best of my abilities, I did so. Finally, I thought, I have gotten into a long and pleasant conversation with a beautiful Spanish woman. I was quite happy. Although Veronica had a novio (yah, that’s a frickin’ boyfriend), she gave me one of the hotel’s local travel guides of the area and asked me to come back tomorrow. Perhaps nothing will come out of this interlude but I could still not help but wear a small smile upon my face that reflected a quiet, humble triumph. What a day.
March 13, 2001
After a pathetic breakfast, I was forced to leave due to the fact that Hotel Don Miguel had no rooms for me that day so I decided to splurge a little across the street at a four star entity by the name of Hotel Paradores.
But before I checked in, I drove to a national park called Sierra De Las Nieves that consisted of a huge protected area with beautiful mountains and valleys. I once again had to work my way through dicey mountain roads that took me six miles into the park. I then enjoyed a medley of running and hiking through extremely peaceful and striking surroundings. I was surprised to find a fair amount of grass and trees in the area. Even more exciting was the pack of wild horses I ran into. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe they ran into me. Maybe these horses went home to their families and said, “Ma! Pa! I ran into a wild human over yonder today!” In any case, it was a thrill to see them roam the mountainside.
I returned to Ronda and checked into the Hotel Paradores which is so nice they probably have proms there. Although I doubt it could ever begin to match the beauty of my junior year prom that was held in some indoor tennis courts. Ahhh, an evening of pure decadence it was.
My room is large with stunning decor to greet you upon entering it. After crossing over the deliciously rich wooden floor, you come to French doors that open out to a small terrace that looks out upon the valley and mountains from the 130-meter cliff it resides on. After a quick lunch, I decided to nap but had a difficult time with all of the noise. One reason being was that I was only one floor above a walkway where people can view the surrounding wonders.
Now the next thing that kept me awake is not a joke. It really happened. My eyelids grew heavy and a sound slumber was right around the corner when I heard Elvis Presley singing on a radio. I opened my terrace doors and peered down on the walkway. Are you ready? There was a Spanish guy dressed like Elvis, holding a radio that was playing Fools Rush In. He was standing completely by himself, looking out upon God’s wonder like some tortured soul that could not find someone special enough to understand his passion. Unfortunately I was too tired to fully savor the flavor of this truly tender moment.
I then made a visit to Senorita Caliente in the small hotel from last night. That last sentence could use some reworking as it conveys a naughty and untrue potential translation. I simply intended to say that I returned the book that Veronica had lent me. I then went on my way and had a royal pint (20oz) of Guinness at an Irish pub and then ate a satisfactory meal at the restaurant called Camelot. As Lancelot was not behind the bar pouring drinks, I felt it to be false advertisement and left in a huff.
What evening would be complete without returning to my lovely Spanish enchantress in efforts to charm and entertain. Well, I at least entertained her since she said that she found my accent to be funny. Undaunted, I carried on like any caballero would and again enjoyed the conversation along with some desserts I purchased in Camelot. I later said goodbye for the night and went back to the hotel.
March 14, 2001
I typically don’t start writing this early but I must immediately convey the elation I feel. I just took part in a beautiful experience. The thing I speak of was one of the most incredible breakfast buffets ever. Freshly squeezed orange juice, pastries, eggs of all styles, fresh cut fruit, tasty cereals and so much more. I was like a bear eating his last great meal before a long hibernation. I even managed to sneak out a few items but isn’t that the thing that makes buffets so exciting? It’s like drinking before you’re 21 or trying to rent a car at age 23. The thrill and the strategies put into place when you eat as much as you can and then think, “Okay, when that waiter turns his head, I will quietly stuff this omelet down my sock.” Some hotels try to scare you from doing such things by having a sign, “Any guest bringing food out of this room will be charged for it.” Great! Now the stakes have risen and level of fun as well.
After this, I hit some of Ronda’s tourist attractions: Casa Del Rey Moro (which has a 365-step stairway that is part of a mine that goes to the bottom of the canyon that Christian prisoners used to climb and was built before 1480 by the Moors) and Palacio Mondragon where I encountered an interesting piece of Americana. Upon my exit of the Palacio, I saw a large film set tucked away in a small plaza in the old neighborhood. They were filming a music video for country singer Trisha Yearwood. I have to say that Ronda definitely provide a charming backdrop for the video although I still don’t like country music anymore than before.
On the way back, I entered the Plaza de Toros that boasts of being the first ever bullring (1785) and the site where the first bullfighter ever fought a bull on foot. I thought they always did it that way. What did they use before? Mopeds?
I then got into my car and drove through another beautiful National Park by the name of Sierra de Grazalema where yet again I traversed through challenging mountain roads. I pulled into one of the hiking venues and began a lovely descent that took me through bull and goat farms. Midway down I came upon a fence that was ripped open and a sign that said, “Prohibo de Paso” or “Keep Out”. As the fence had a large enough opening for me to pass through, I thought, “Oh, they must have changed their minds.” I made my way across a 15-meter, concrete mini-dam and then a one-meter ledge that took me around a cliff, 50 meters from the top and bottom. My destination was this awesome dam that was about 120 meters in height and 60 meters in width and nestled in a gorge. Had there been an armed guard on the bottom of the dam, I most definitely would have bungi-jumped down and attacked him like James Bond in Goldeneye. Or had Tommy Lee Jones been chasing me, I would have jumped into the water like Harrison Ford. I waited around for a few minutes but none of my conditions were met so I moved on and made my way back and decided to visit the bottom of the gorge where I encountered a tremendously large cave that was 100 meters in height, 30 meters in width and probably once the home to the biggest caveman ever. I followed the river that flowed deep into the cave until it became too dark to go on. Not able to think of any interesting cinematic situations to emulate in my unique atmosphere, I headed back to the car and drove to the hotel where I performed a workout. Nothing was broken.
I then found myself in my favorite little tea café with a fine Cuban cigar, recounting the day’s events and all the time hoping I would run into that special, Spanish Elvis with his little radio that played Mr. Presley’s cherished music.
A final dinner at Dona Pepa was in order so I made it so with the grilled swordfish and house wine. Afterwards, I paid my final visit to Veronica, armed with two light, yet effective apple and coconut pastries. The conversation, like the desserts, was sweet and gratifying. We exchanged email and home addresses and said our good-byes.
March 15, 2001
I awoke rather groggy from a poor night’s sleep and unfortunately with a stomach that was not fit for a battle with the formidable buffet so I began my drive to Sevilla. Once in Sevilla, the force somehow guided me through this large, foreign city to the tourist office where I parked illegally, got a map and a hotel reservation. I then dropped my car off and went to my hotel that was tucked in the heart of the beautiful neighborhood of Santa Cruz.
As time was short, I decided to go for a run through a few parks, one of which was Maria Luisa. This park was built in 1929 for the Ibero-American world fair that did not happen due to the stock market crash. I tried my best to offer some form of humble redemption for the creation of this park. On my way back, I went through Plaza de Espana and back into Santa Cruz.
After a shower and a quick nap, I strolled through the quaint and beautiful neighborhood of Santa Cruz and sat down outside for a nice meal. What better way to digest your food than to watch an electrifying flamenco performance at the tiny, intimate theater that is Los Gallos? The show offered three singers/clappers, three guitarists, five female dancers and one male dancer. Flamenco seems to be pleasantly informal as the guitarist casually starts while one or two men will clap, sing and say things like “Ole!” or “Alle!”. Like Irish traditional music, flamenco has the feeling of some neighborhood friends getting together on a whim as people gradually join in. Then one of the men will move towards the center of the stage and sing with passion and pain as if he was outside the window of a special woman he is trying to court. Then a beautiful woman in a colorful, multi-dimensional dress will gracefully enter the stage and dance with an intense expression and snap her fingers, use castanets or expertly whip around a hand-held fan. She will then forcefully and amazingly tap her feet as she lifts up her dress to her knees, often with one of the men boldly singing about her as they emotionally wave their hands.
There was even a male dancer that, although not in a dress, danced brilliantly and furiously exploded with fits of tap-dancing. In the end of the show, all the performers got on the small stage. Four women danced in two pairs and then all the dancers were allowed a brief chance to dance while the others clapped and cheered them on as if it were a party. Pure, unadulterated dynamite.
March 16, 2001
I awoke from a preciously long and quiet sleep, had breakfast at a nearby café and soon found myself travelling at great speeds on the AVE train towards Madrid, sitting next to a man that had an odor about him comparable to low tide in a pollution-ridden harbor of a major city.
Joyous with the conclusion of this train ride, I took the Metro to into the neighborhood of Huertas where after unsuccessfully looking for a hotel/hostel with vacancies, decided to again spoil myself at the four-star establishment known as Hotel Green. I then turned right around and did a whirlwind 4.5-mile tour of the city on foot as I was trying to see as much as I could in the little time I had. With my head spinning, I was back at the hotel, doing a brief workout that was followed by a shower.
I then hit one of Madrid’s brewpubs and sampled their two selections and a dazzling tray of nuts. Upon the recommendation of a darling 85-year old woman whose bag I helped carry up a small hill earlier that day, I ate a delightful dinner at Restaurante Pereira.
With this done, I headed to Café Populart that is known for flamenco music and jazz. Instead I found a band by the name of the Celts who did tribute songs to the Boston Celtics with such titles as: Oh Kevin McHale, Why Are Ye Arms So Long?, Robert Parish, Robert Parish, Ye Be Taller Than Me and Eagle From Three Larry Bird Be. Actually, they performed Irish traditional music with a bit of a rock n’ roll edge. Yah, you know that rock n’ roll, it’s what all the kids are listening to these days. Deciding to call it a night, I went back to my tranquil room where I had a lovely sleep.
March 17, 2001
The final day of my trip and there is much travel ahead. For breakfast, I feasted upon an apple, tuna fish and bread that I bought the day before. I couldn’t help but smile when I thought, “I’m in a four star hotel, eating tuna fish from a can. What the hell is my problem?”
Undaunted by the meagerness of my meal, I made my way to the airport and began the first of two flights towards London. I found myself sitting between Bill from New Jersey who at one time lived in Gloucester, NJ which has more bars per square mile than anywhere else in the world (way to go, Bill) and Lisa Leof from Los Angeles whose last name I know because she was a woman and Bill was not. In any event, we pleasantly exchanged stories about our Spanish experiences. I delighted in the fact that Bill knew more alcoholic shots than an eight-year, collegiate, fraternity boy and that he was trying to bring back a large piece of cheese he picked up in Spain. As the flight drew to a close, I gave Lisa my phone number and email address since she is planning to come to Boston in August for a wedding (not ours).
I then exchanged planes in London and began my flight towards Boston. I enjoyed the best airline food British Airways could muster, the film Men of Honor and sitting next to a man that neither had anything to say or an odor.
On the ground, I was warmly greeted by my close friend and roommate Tom Hoffrage. He updated me of the great snows that plagued the region during my absence and I, in efforts to offer some recourse, shared some of the stories of my trip. It was nice to see my apartment and Tom’s fine craftsmanship of the painting variety and furnishings in his new bedroom. At that moment it became clear to me that Tom has not only the skills necessary, but also the attitude and personality needed to be a fantastic interior decorator. This is a bit of a joke since one night I was speaking with Veronica; I tried to explain to her that I used to be a painter. She looked at me and said, “Oh, like an interior decorator.” Feeling my masculinity was challenged, I quickly corrected her.
As it was St. Patrick’s Day, I was lucky enough to have quite a social bustle about 40 Marine Road, Apartment #3, South Boston. My friend Rob, his cousin Kathy, my friend Shane, his sister Erin, my former roommate and current friend Derek and his lovely romantic counterpart Maryann were all there as we enjoyed brilliant conversation as always and some thought provoking music that spontaneously erupted from Derek that succinctly covered imaginative topics such as Tom’s bedroom décor. Tom and I then enjoyed some premium Cuban cigars I picked up in London. After spending a spell of time with my companions, I headed northwest to my parent’s house in Boxborough.
It was magnificent to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities and to share my experiences with those close to me. What’s next, I wonder? A return journey? Perhaps a surprise, well received visit from my Latin enchantress, Veronica? I’m not quite sure but I do hope my words and my stories have moved some of you to travel to Spain to encounter some of the sweet and friendly mysteries that await its guests.