Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hasta Luego, Madrid

A visit to roses in the Botanical Garden in Madrid 
Seven months was once a ghastly long time. And now, a skip and a jump and it passes. This is our last week in Madrid. Not the end of our year-long life out of the country, but now, we will be nomads, moving with as little baggage as possible, with no home, not knowing where to sit with morning coffee, where to buy a newspaper to read with said coffee, limited to dumb phones, no dependable Internet, no easy access to English books. Are we ready to leave Madrid? No, we would gladly stay the rest of the year, happily ensconced in Maria Carmen's apartment and just travel from here. However, MC returns next week for her six months in Spain and so we are off to explore Europa.

These last weeks, we have tried to continue our return to favorite spots as well as discover more of Spain. We went to see "Clementine" at Teatro de Zarzuela in Madrid. Zarzuela is Spanish light opera, entertaining, easy to follow plot of lovers thwarted first by parents and second by plot twist, subtitles in English and Spanish, polished voices and lively music. 

Red bricks and white stone create the Mezquita
arches in Cordoba.

Mezquita in Cordoba

Detail in the Mezquita
We traveled to Cordoba to meet long-time friends Donna and Dave at the end of a tour and grabbed another opportunity to visit the Mezquita. Built on ruins of a sixth century Visigothic church, the Mezquita is a 10th century mosque with a 16th century cathedral built inside. I find walking among the red and white arches of the Mezquita hauntingly beautiful; it and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona are my two favorite buildings in Spain and beyond -- breathtaking, peaceful, offering solace and awe.
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Gardens of Spain

Rich, Donna and Dave
on Cordoba patio tour
With Donna and Dave, Rich and I visited the private patios of Cordoba, an event much like the Mother's Day House Tour on Capitol Hill when residents open their houses or, in Cordoba, their small enclosed patios to the public. The tiny spaces overflow with flowers hanging high on the walls in pots, spilling from balconies, tucked against the walls. Most also have a center fountain or an old well filled by rain channeled from neighboring roofs into the patios. The patio tour invites all to see these interior courtyards and glimpse the inside of houses through windows or open doors.
Flower filled patio in Cordoba

Donna and Dave returned with us to Madrid and the three of us continued the flower theme with a walk and lots of photos at the Botanical Gardens. The gardens span several acres in the heart of the city. As in much of Spain, the gardens are formal beds outlined by boxwoods and blooming with roses, rhododendron, iris, peonies on another gorgeous blue sky day in Madrid.
Rhododendron blooming in the Botanical Garden 
Peony bud with lady bug
Botanical Garden 

Travel lessons

Two questions haunt these last days: What have I learned? What will I take home with me that will influence my future? I'd love to dash these off higgledy piggledy, but no. 

I have learned that I feel at home being in a house that's personal even if the personality is not mine; I love MC's books in Spanish and English; I love the family pictures in the hallway; the pottery from different places in Spain; the DVDs for children or adults in Spanish or English; hanging wet laundry on the roof, especially now, but even during the winter; I love, love the washing machine that sings sweetly and cheerfully to us when the load is finished; the sketches of Segovia and Salamanca and Moxente blending with West Virginia scenes; the sunlight that pours in; the furniture pieces that have known time and family.

I love this simple Spanish barrio stocked with mayores - the old and the very old - and young families with children and dogs. We love the little cafes that spring up beside playgrounds where parents sip and chat and kids dart from swings to table. At minimum, each block has two restaurants and three bars, but try as we might, we have missed more than we made. Rich has loved cooking our main meal, served between 2 and 4 p.m. He loves the mercados, the sausage guy, the fish guy, Ali's vegetables, Jose's jamon and cheese, the German-style bread two blocks further than other bakeries, cafe solo and Spanish conversation at tiny Chispa in the mornings. He watches Real Madrid and Atletico and Barcelona futbol at Casa Vicente within spitting distance if you lean out the kitchen window.


And so we're off to roam: Malaga, Gibraltar and the white towns; Italy for June; Pamplona and northern Spain in July; Germany, Amsterdam, Belgium, Denmark; Greece in late September; Washington in mid-October. Stay tuned for erratic reports from the road. 


  1. We talked about you at book club today, wondering when you're moving on? Question answered! Safe travels, have fun, and bring back lots of pictures!

  2. So glad things worked out so well for you in Madrid. BUT--you will enjoy the rest of your journey I'm sure. If I don't hear from you much I'll know that you are away from internet access. SO--have a great 'rest' of your wonderful year. God Bless.