|Along the sidewalk in Madrid|
Thus we turn to the neighborhood supermercado, Carrefour, where we examine labels on bleach-like products that could be used in a front-loading washing machine. With more Spanish and a dictionary in his back pocket, Rich reads all the labels; I look for key words and distinct illustrations; Rich gets final choice since he has read the washing machine manual. I pursue box soups; Rich reads Listerine labels in search of "original." We move to sour cream and yogurt. Either sour cream is rare or we need a different name. What I thought was real sugar instead of artificial sugar in yogurt turned out to be extra sugar; this time, I choose "natural." Rich settles for creme fraiche.
Simple grocery shopping becomes adventure, and I haven't even gotten to the self-checkout machines, which are less confusing in Spanish than in English.Things get lost in translation.
|Crowded city sidewalks|
I watch a large black and white bird soaring in the distance. "¿Que es eso?" I ask. I describe the bird using my limited Spanish, substituting arms for wings, and get only blank stares. I repeat the question and point to the bird. Finally, the group leader digs through his backpack for binoculars and says, "Cigüeña." "Stork," the group translates. I'm excited, but the others know it as a familiar site in the city.
|Watching the ducks|
On a cold, rainy Tuesday, Rich and I catch a Gray Line tour to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen. The two sites are related only by proximity to each other, just an hour outside the city. The Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a huge, often gloomy palace, completed in 1584. The main structure comprises the royal living quarters used by King Philip II (1527-1598) and his family, a mausoleum for Spain's royal family, a monastery, a Basilica, and a school. The gray-black stone building exudes the dreariness of a prison, but is made much more cheerful when bands of school children fill the stone courtyards with rugby balls and soccer games and playground glee.
|Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial|
|Granite cross marking Valley of the Fallen|
|On the terrace outside the monument|
monument to 50,000 of the 500,000 victims of both sides of the devastating Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Inside, the huge Basilica is a cold, stone crypt guarded by towering angels bearing swords. Outside, the terraces are framed by fastigiate cedars and low mountains and valleys. A funicular leads up to the base of the cross, but was not operating the day we visited. The view from the top would be stunning, even on a cloudy day.
Music, art, wildlife, beauty of city and countryside, shared passion, good food, good wine, basic kindness, children's antics transcend language, but I feel isolated without it.