Spain-ing Away

Posted by on Jul 19, 2010 in Featured Posts, Travel Tales | 2 comments

Spain-ing Away

I firmly believe Spain is not a country. I believe Spain is a way of life. Being Spanish by birth makes you lucky. Feeling Spanish by choice makes you happy. And I feel Spanish!

Certain things about being Spanish have always made me happy. They live life, as if today was the last day..they hate regrets..they love loud games like soccer..they are historically rebellious by nature..they love expressing happiness(or sadness) through loud forms of dancing …they believe in mid-day siestas…the men love their women dusky or tanned…and most importantly they love food! Good food.

I visited Spain, just to establish and reinstate the “Spanish” elements in me further. Andalusia. The land of the vivacious flamenco, the place of the bull-fights, and a history steeped with rebels and revolutions. There are certain right ways and wrong ways to lead the Spanish life.

People often say,the Spanish way of life can be quite different to that found anywhere else. Really? Are they? I don’t think I disconnect with it anywhere. I can’t follow this lifestyle living in India for sure, but I feel totally at home, even thinking about a lifestyle that spans this: They party late and still get up at a reasonable time to do a day’s work. They eat big lunches that go on for hours and then sleep in the afternoon(Refer reason, why I feel Spanish!). They believe in big families and family get-together-s. They make a lot of noise. Often unsolicited noise.

There are a few simple rules to remember when in Spain- eat late, go out late and don’t try to anything mid-afternoon. Believe in small bite size breakfasts, large lunches and binge on tapas for your evening supper. Always remember the night hasn’t even started when you are at your normal dinner time!

Seville is as Spanish as you can get – flamenco, tapas and bullfighting usually dominates most tourists’ time here. It also has an immense cathedral, some beautiful gardens in the Alcazar and the picturesque Barrio Santa Cruz to explore (and get lost in!). During the day-time,roads are lined with lazy horse-carriages and blossoming orange trees. Fuchsia bougainvillaeas and ornate hanging balconies make for the most spectacular canopies overhead. And like me, if you are always on the lookout to catch some soul-time, my time-out would be on the bridge across the Guadalquivir River,to Triana- catching a full-bosom-ed moon reflect its glorious,voluptuous and resplendent image on the dark blue waters!

Or ..experience a flamenco. Despite the popular myth, flamenco is not a dance. It is actually a music form that sometimes has dancing, but more often than not it doesn’t. To me, it is spiritual,and often healing to hear or watch the flamenco. “Kuki” my local host, with the curliest most hair I have seen,suggested “Eshavira”, tucked away at a behind of by lane.Tourists, were hardly spotted, just locals,mostly friends and relatives of the performers. Rosa danced her soul out,Lalo sat on the Cajon, almost in a trance, and Gabriella had a voice that could evoke the Gods. Frico played the guitar.Let me correct myself. He didn’t play the guitar-he made love to it! The elusive mood built up slowly, rising and falling, fast and slow, the dancer’s feet slammed down ever harder, the gypsy’s fingers drove across the guitar strings with increasing ferocity. Shouts of encouragement came from the crowd, a percussive crescendo, an impossible guitar falseta, voices crying “Ole” – and then suddenly it is all got over, barring the long echo of the final chord and that feeling of warmth and vitality that lingers inside of you for days afterwards.

First-timers might call it a unique musical experience. Aficionados call it the spirit of “Duende”.

The Albayzín (or Albaicín) is Granada’s Moorish district, full of winding streets and steep gradients. Overlooking the Alhambra, Sacromonte is Granada’s gypsy quarter and is famous for its flamenco venues.This is where I was staying with Kuki, in her cave-house, tucked away from obvious sight. These two areas of Granada couldn’t be more different and are the most beautiful places to get lost in.

The Alhambra has been written about too many times. Moorish poets described it as “a pearl set in emeralds,” in allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods around them.The palace complex was designed with the mountainous site in mind and many forms of technology were considered. The park (Alameda de la Alhambra), which is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the spring, was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges and myrtles; its most characteristic feature, however, is the dense wood of English elms brought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812. The park has a multitude of nightingales and is usually filled with the sound of running water from several fountains and cascades. These are supplied through a conduit , which is connected with the Darro at the monastery of Jesus del Valle, above Granada.

When in Granada you have to drink tea and smoke shisha at a Morocco Tea Shop!Don’t worry, shisha isn’t illegal: some call it hookah, others call it nargila. Granada is full of Moroccan tea shops where you can drink and smoke..legally!

There is one more secret I can share with you.Let me tell you about a “guiri“-a term which made for hearty conversation one very late night with Kuki.And in Spain,believe me- you don’t want to be one! A guiri is not just a foreigner, it is a plainly obvious foreigner that is subject to ridicule, much like the Mexican term gringo. Kuki advices on the top three signs that someone is a guiri -(1)Socks and sandals, or baseball caps when sunny, or tees spelling out the city you are currently in (2)You don’t follow the the Spanish culture of eating late and going out even later. If not you will (a) be eating alone and (b) be the subject of ridicule! (3)Show your tan off!And take it easy …! Show of your pinks and purples first, before you get to a burgundy! Lucky me..I cant turn pink! The advantages of having olive-skin are numerous as I have often been told-this being surely one of them! Kuki also has a wonderful  and unique house. When you visit the Andalucian region of Granada, stay at the Cuevas!

Feeling Spanish never stops for me. After my trip, I came back to the US,and took a few Flamenco classes from Bianca Antonia-a Spaniard and a professional Bailora! Couldn’t do much with the music, but learnt the dance.My friends in Bangalore(when I came back)were even kind enough to arrange for a special private show, much to my amazement! And later, in 2009, I was fortunate to be part of the “International Salsa Congress”,in Bangalore- where a showcase of Flamenco was being conducted by a visiting Spanish Bailora!

That story-some other time.

Off for my siesta, now !

PS: When I wake up, I would love to take you through my favourite Spanish food. Right here…Eat, live and be Merry!

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  1. I am amazed…the site is so good…pictures so compelling…narratives so refreshing….way to go girl…

  2. Thank you Mou!

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