Alive in Spain

A travel diary

Archive for the tag “Travel”

Rosemary Sprigs, Music, and Home

Granada’s Gran Via, the route the #33 bus takes from the train to the center of town, is an avenue full of relatively new buildings and smooth granite sidewalks. I’m staying in a historical section and welcome the sight of the old cathedral knowing I’m almost home. I don’t know if it’s because I have strong nesting instincts, or if it’s because I’ve moved so much in my life, that I think of every place where I stay as “home.”

The Plaza Outside My Granada Home

The Plaza Outside My Granada Home

With my red BU hoodie, I have tourist written all over me. On my back is my knapsack. With my right hand, I tug at my suitcase. It bumps behind me grudgingly through the now cobblestone path adding notes to the symphony of autos and voices.

Near the cathedral’s front entrance, four ladies stand with rosemary springs in their hands. The lady to the left extends her arm out and offers me a sprig. “It’s to bless you,” she tells me. “Un regalo,” a gift.

I’ve never heard of rosemary sprigs blessing people unless they were about to cook, and growing up a chica in Queens, NY, I have a strong b.s. radar. “No. Gracias,” I tell her, barely looking her way.

“Es un regalo. Una bendición,” she tells me and puts the sprig close to my face.

“No. Gracias,” I say sternly and veer away. At my new apartment, I do a little research.  It seems rosemary sprigs are a gypsy trick to get money from tourists. I resolve to act less like a tourist in Granada.

A View of Granada

A View of Granada

I call this city Lorca Land. It’s Federico García Lorca’s former home, and I couldn’t be happier to be here. Of course, many things have changed since his death in 1936, but one thing that hasn’t is its heterogeneity and liveliness. The rosemary ladies are just part of this scene, as are the flamenco dancers in the plazas, and the musicians on the streets. Lorca was a voice for the gypsies, the moors, and the peasants. He was a danger to Fascism, and so he was killed.

My impression of the current Granada is that it resembles a silk shirt with antique lace accents. Much of the city has been modernized. Huerta de San Vicente, Lorca’s family’s former summer home, the place where the poet did most of his writing, now sits in the middle of a city park.

Huerta de San Vicente

Huerta de San Vicente

The world changes drastically in the city center off the main roads. Just a few feet away from the main streets, one steps back in time: historical buildings, cobblestone roads, narrow streets – many lined with Middle Eastern stores whose sellers set their wares out on tables and mats creating a colorful outdoor market to entice the tourist passersby.

Up a mountain road is the Alhambra with its vast gardens and Moorish architecture. With special permission, Washington Irving set up shop in one of the rooms of the main palace in 1828. There he wrote Tales of the Alhambra. He reportedly felt his writing unworthy of the place. How I understand the feeling! As I travel through Spain, I fear my musings and iPad pictures could never do it justice.

A View Through Windows at the Alhambra

A View Through Windows at the Alhambra

Archways in the Alhambra

Archways in the Alhambra

Further up the mountain, through steep cobblestone roads, some with steps for pedestrians, and at times for risk-taking or foolhardy bikers, is the white washed world of the Albacín.

A Road in the Albacín

A Road in the Albacín

At the top of the Albacín is the Mirador de San Nicolás, where gypsies, university students, and tourists gather for views of Alhambra and live music.

Mirador de San Nicolas. Alhambra on the Right. Sierra Nevada in the Background.

Mirador de San Nicolas. Alhambra on the Right. Sierra Nevada in the Background.

As I take in the beauty and energy of the city, I am fully aware that my time in Spain is coming to an end. Part of me turns to thoughts of home and responsibilities, my need for a job (I’ve been looking, but don’t have one yet), the work my car will need to pass inspection, my father’s health. Then in my head I hear a friend’s voice, communicated through email, saying “home will exert its forces soon enough. Let Lorca wrap you in his arms and give you these last two weeks of wonder!”

Madrid: An Interlude

I had expected the temperature would get warmer as I travelled south. But late fall or winter has overtaken Spain, north and south. Cold fills the streets and seeps through windows and doorways, like a phantom. No place is safe from the chill.

My Somió Neighborhood

My Somió Neighborhood

I reluctantly left the pastoral neighborhood of Somió in Gijón after having spent an entire month there. I had fallen in love with it — the trees and mountain trails, the ocean, the magpies, snails, mules, livestock, sidrerías and bakeries, fresh produce and seafood at the local markets, and of course, the kindness of the people.

Downtown Somió

Downtown Somió

But once a city girl, always a city girl. Confronting crowds and noise as I stepped outside the Atocha train station in Madrid was second nature. It was like ending one great novel and starting another. Although I didn’t want the first book to end, the next book captured me from the first page. I found myself fully immersed in that other world.

Perhaps I didn’t pick the best weekend to spend in Madrid. I arrived to a cold and rainy city on the eleventh day of a garbage strike. Mountains of garbage overflowed beyond trash cans. Fall leaves and refuse intermingled in sidewalks. Dog waste seeped from plastic bags accidentally mashed by pedestrians or bicycles. My landlady apologized and promised Madrid is a clean city. As strange as it may sound, the garbage didn’t faze me. Madrid was Madrid and better than I’d heard. Having grown up in New York City, being in a metropolis seemed natural, and the multiethnic neighborhoods of Lavapies and La Latina, its people, stores, and restaurants of many different colors, flavors, and nationalities energized me.

The first thing I did the evening I arrived was look for a place to eat. It made no sense to buy groceries, as I’d done in Gijón, since I was just there for a weekend. There were tapas bars, Arab restaurants, Chinese takeout, and Sushi. So many restaurants from which to choose. Tired and excited, I settled on Indian takeaway, a good book, and a warm bath.

Roy Lichtenstein's Brushstroke, outside Reina Sofía

Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke, outside Reina Sofía

The next day I set out to the Reina Sofía. Everyone had told me “You have to go to El Prado.” But having limited time, I opted for the museum that had the painting I most wanted to see: Picasso’s Guernica. I was not disappointed. No picture could have ever prepared me for the experience of seeing it live. Breathtaking! I was also fascinated seeing the various studies Picasso painted in preparation for the main work and the photos of the painting process. I liked seeing how at times he changed his mind about one particular image or another. The rest of the museum, of course, was also great fun. I saw paintings by Chagall, Dalí, Miró, and many others. I love modern art, and there was plenty of it. To think I had considered skipping Madrid.

Making New Friends at the Museum

Making New Friends at the Museum

To satisfy the foodie in me, my landlady suggested Mercado de San Miguel. Once a food market, it’s now an upscale food court with stalls selling all sorts of Spanish food and drink. The difficulty was choosing what to eat. I wanted one of everything! I started with a sea urchin that proved somewhat disappointing, especially given the price. It had some sort of sauce that covered the taste of the actual urchin. I did, however, enjoy seeing just how much the shell reminded me of chestnuts. After seeing chestnut-lined streets almost every day in Gijón, it brought welcomed memories. I moved to another stall with better food and friendlier service. I had fried calamari tentacles (my favorite part) and a grilled whole sardine. This time, the food was delicious and the attendant was friendly. He asked whether I wanted him to remove the sardine’s head and innards. I wanted it whole. “Are you sure? There are people who don’t like it that way.” “Segura” (I’m sure). The fish took a long while to cook, and since the crowds hadn’t formed yet, we talked for a while. Once the fish was done, he handed it to me saying “if it’s not fully cooked, let me know and I’ll put it back on the grill.” I found a table by a window away from the draft wafting through the the doors. I ate the sardine (cooked to perfection) as I watched people on the streets fight with their umbrellas then quickly fill the Mercado.

Sea Urchin Shell

Sea Urchin Shell

Friend Calamari Tentacles

Fried Calamari Tentacles

Monday morning, the garbage strike had ended and the streets were considerably cleaner. As I walked to Atocha to catch a train to Granada, I mentally planned what I would do when I return to Madrid before heading back to the U.S. I’ll only have one day.

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Vacas, Vacas, Books, and Vacas!

In an effort to travel light, I packed only one book for this trip — a difficult feat for a writer and a decision over which I agonized. The first thing I usually pack for trips is a selection of books, but I was preparing for various climates (summer clothes, fall clothes, winter clothes) with only a knapsack and a carry-on suitcase. It became like the game where you are asked, if you were on a deserted island, what one book would you like to have? Boy! That’s a tough one. One week into the trip, I was salivating at the mere mention of books. True, I could get ebooks on my iPad, but it’s just not the same. I pined. I passed the used bookstore in Toledo with a pang knowing I couldn’t put more things in my bags.

In Galicia, I finally lightened my load a bit after giving my aunt and uncle their gifts. As a treat, I bought a novel and went “home” with a smile on my face and a book in my hand. It was a thick and enjoyable novel, which I savored like the finest dark chocolate. But, it only served as an appetizer. I needed more. One week later, in Gijón, I stopped by the central bookstore and bought two poetry books. TWO POETRY BOOKS! One is a book by Angel González, a poet from Asturias who, I was sad to find out, died in 2008. I would have loved to meet him! The other is an anthology of the Generation of 1927 (Antología del Grupo Poético de 1927), including, of course, poems by Federico García Lorca. image

Lorca has been a favorite from the first time I read him. Rereading him in Spain was as exciting as kissing a lover for the first time, and as comforting as greeting my husband each morning while half awake. I have since finished the novel and hope I can find the sequel, since it’s part of a trilogy. It’s not the type of book I would normally read — a bit of word candy — nevertheless, I enjoyed it. And now I have two poetry books, plus one has poems by García Lorca!

As those of you who are Facebook friends with me know, aside from my love of words, I am obsessed with nature, and there’s lots of it here: trees, fruit, slugs, snails, butterflies, horses, and cows. Yesterday, as I walked through my neighborhood, I came across a group of honey-colored cows in a field and immediately thought of Lorca’s “Vaca” (“Cow”).

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It’s not one of the poems in my new anthology, but it is one I analyzed in detail two or three years ago as part of an independent study I did with my former professor and good friend Will Hochman, and one I keep coming back to. I wasn’t able to find a good English translation on the internet, and my bilingual version of A Poet in New York (edited by BU’s own Christopher Maurer) is at home in the U.S.

I hope you can enjoy the poem in Spanish. If not, I would urge you to get a GOOD translation of Lorca’s work. He is wonderful.

Vaca

Se tendió la vaca herida;
árboles y arroyos trepaban por sus cuernos.
Su hocico sangraba en el cielo.

Su hocico de abejas
bajo el bigote lento de la baba.
Un alarido blanco puso en pie la mañana.

Las vacas muertas y las vivas,
rubor de luz o miel de establo,
balaban con los ojos entornados.

Que se enteren las raíces
y aquel niño que afila su navaja
de que ya se pueden comer la vaca.

Arriba palidecen
luces y yugulares.
Cuatro pezuñas tiemblan en el aire.

Que se entere la luna
y esa noche de rocas amarillas:
que ya se fue la vaca de ceniza.
Que ya se fue balando
por el derribo de los cielos yertos
donde meriendan muerte los borrachos.

— Federico García Lorca

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Árboles y Raíces (Trees and Roots)

“You have to go to Los Picos de Europa,” the lady at the market tells me. My landlady echoes the sentiment. “Es el lugar mas hermoso en todo España” (It’s the most beautiful place in Spain). I’ve heard there are cave paintings in Los Picos, which intrigues me. The weather has changed overnight. Everywhere I go, people talk about it with pride and relief. It’s finally cold! Some say there may even be snow in Los Picos. I’ve also heard no buses or trains travel there, and I don’t want to incur the expense of renting a car. I also don’t want to drive through snowy, narrow, railless mountain roads in a foreign car with manual transmission. I’ve seen those roads. They’re scary, even on warm, sunny days.

My BU sweatshirt knows Spain as well as I do. The historical section of Gijón is in the background.

My BU sweatshirt knows Spain as well as I do. The historical section of Gijón is in the background.

I came to Asturias knowing very little about it, except it has mountains, a coastline, lots of rain, and most importantly, the origins of my paternal family. Unlike Colombia, however, there aren’t any businesses or parks with our name. In Cali, Colombia, they’ve gone as far as naming one half of a park Plaza Caycedo and the other Plaza Caicedo, evidencing a significant event in our family’s history and acknowledging that we share the same roots.

My aunt in Galicia, the family’s historian, says our family split over a marriage — a matter having to do with race. Disowned by the family, the couple changed their name to Caicedo and settled in Ecuador. The original Caycedos made their way to Colombia. Their name can be found in the history books. Both sides now have a presence in Colombia, Ecuador, and the United States. I bear the original spelling. “The proud ones.” “The ones with the upturned noses,” I’ve heard Caicedos call us. But the broadness of my cheekbones and that of other Caycedos evidence our lack of “racial purity.” I am happily a mixed-breed.

A Typical Street in Gijón.

A Typical Street in Gijón.

A short bus ride from my apartment, the city of Gijón reminds me of midtown Manhattan. In the neighborhood where I’m staying, there are palm trees and pine trees (which I didn’t know could coexist). Chestnut- and Eucalyptus-covered mountains lead to the ocean. Roosters crow each morning from local apple orchards. Neighborhoods with Spanish-tiled houses are sprinkled with structures that resemble those of Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s as if every place where I’ve lived converged into one. It’s like having Caicedos and Caycedos, white, black, and Native American honored in one park.

Eucalyptus roads lead to the ocean.

Eucalyptus roads lead to the ocean.

My neighbor says my name sounds more Galician, or at least not from the center of Asturias. My landlady has never heard the name. Maybe it’s from an area closer to Cantabria, closer to Los Picos. That could very well be. I once heard we had family in Santander.

I’m not a big fan of organized tours, preferring to set my own schedule and agenda. To paraphrase Thoreau, I prefer marching to my own drummer. I could have been that relative who refused to do things “the right way” and changed my family’s history. But if I want to see cave paintings, I figured I may have to at least pretend to hear the drummers other people hear. So today I set out to the city’s tourist center hoping to find information about excursions. There are advantages and disadvantages to traveling off season. One disadvantage is that tourist information centers are closed! I guess I’ll have to find another way to get to Los Picos. In the same way, I’ll have to try other ways of finding the origins of my paternal family. They’re both near, and at the moment, inaccessible.

Language, Blonds, and Beans

A view of Gijón from its outskirts.

A view of Gijón from its outskirts.

In my current neighborhood, there are Spanish-style houses, mountains, and moss. Snails travel fences and steep wooded trails. At the bottom, the beach. It’s as if Ibagué, Colombia (my birthplace), and Connecticut (my former home) had coalesced. It’s akin to the way we commingle people and facts in our dreams. In my dreams, my mother (four years gone this month) is alive and dead, and we’re all in our house in New York. Aunts whom I’ve never met and my grandmother, who died 30 years prior to my birth, are also there. And I’m present, invisible, and omnipresent. That’s the strangeness I feel in Gijón.

One of many trails in the area.

One of many trails in the area.

Growing up in the U.S., I’ve been conditioned to expect that people with fair skin, blond or red-hair, and European features speak English. Here, most everyone matches that description, yet it’s Spanish they speak. But the Spanish is different to my ear.

When I was little, my maternal aunts would chide me: “Hable Catellano!” Speak Castilian! But the language I speak is not quite the Castilian of Asturias. In Colombia, the soft c’s and z’s are pronounced as s’s. Here, they’re pronounced like “th’s.” On my fourth week in Spain, saying gracias as “grathias” has become second nature. Other words do not come as easily. If I paused to think about the spelling of the words, I could pronounce them like a continental, but who pauses to analyze spelling in mid conversation? So, I confuse my c’s, z’s, and s’s.

There are other things that peg me as an alien. Last week, for instance, I decided to purchase white beans at the local market. In Colombia, beans are fríjoles. In the Dominican Republic, they’re called habichuelas. The Spaniards don’t use either name. I was clueless. I pointed to the lower shelf behind the counter. “Los blancos,” the white ones, I told the shopkeeper. She pointed to a jar of garbanzos. “No, not garbanzos, the white things,” I said.

Galicia!

My retired aunt and uncle live in a small town in Galicia in the same house where my uncle was born. This is a house his grandfather built nearly 100 years ago and the place I was fortunate enough to call home for seven days. Galicia is a coastal province in northwestern Spain, and my aunt and uncle wanted to take me everywhere! “It’s too bad you’re not staying with us for a month or two,” they would tell me. “There’s so much more to see.”

I travelled to a town with narrow streets that pirates would use to escape from the English navy. It reminded me of the Disney World ride “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It’s believed the waters in the area are loaded with stolen treasures.

I saw cities and churches. I saw ancient grist mills that my uncle said were still in use in his youth.

One of the old grist mills

One of the old grist mills

I went to a place where mollusks are weighed and inspected before they can be sold. I visited a 16th century monastery, picked chestnuts in a park near the house (before last week, I had no idea what the fruit looked like), made friends with my aunt’s cat (despite my allergies), and picked grapes from a neighbor’s vineyard. It seems almost all the neighbors have private vineyards and make their own wine. As we passed the houses, sometimes we could even smell from the street the wine being made.

Chestnuts

Chestnuts

This being the harvest season, grapes were plentiful. In addition to the few we picked, neighbors knocked at the door bringing gifts of their prized fruit.

On Sunday we visited Santiago de Compostela, where St. James’s remains are said to rest.

The cathedral that holds St. James's remains.

The cathedral that holds St. James’s remains.

Earlier in the week, we traveled to the place were Columbus landed after his most famous voyage and went to a mountain that holds the ruins of a bronze-age village.

A few homes from the Bronze Age village

A few homes from the Bronze Age village

I did so much, yet my most vivid memories are of people and food. On walks with my uncle, every few steps we would stop to greet people he’s known for over 70 years. Each greeting me with a kiss on each cheek and an “encantado” or “encantada,” a few adding that I look like my aunt. Then they would continue their conversation in Gallego. This is a dialect somewhat similar to Portuguese, and to their delight, with my knowledge of Colombian/Castilian Spanish (Castellano) and college Italian, I could follow most of their conversations and even understand the signs in the area. They’re all in Gallego.

In Spain, young and old alike gather in cafés, restaurants, and bars between meals or at night to nurse a coffee (strong and delicious), a beer, or a glass of wine, always served with a small snack of some kind (sausage slices, fresh bread and cheese, olives, etc.). One can sit there for hours without being rushed.

A Night in Pontevedra

A Night in Pontevedra

The main meal of the day is a late lunch. I don’t know about others, but for us, it often lasted from 2-5pm and consisted of multiple courses accompanied by wine, always ending with dessert, espresso, and a chupito (a shot of some sort of sweet liqueur).

In Galicia, the house wine truly is the house wine, pressed and aged in a back room of the restaurant and sometimes sold without labels or even wine bottles.

Wine Fermenting at a Restaurant in Pontevedra.

Wine Fermenting at a Restaurant in Pontevedra.

The sweet liqueurs are also homemade.

In every restaurant where I went with my uncle and aunt, the food was fresh. Sausages, cheeses, and bread were made on the premises. Fish and shellfish were freshly caught. Meat was free range and recently butchered. My aunt and uncle know many restaurant and café owners, and each treated me as if I were an old friend.

Late at night, my aunt would invariably ask me if I wanted a sandwich or something else to eat. I declined each night multiple times, my stomach still full from the afternoon feast. Then my aunt would say, “I’m worried you’ll think I’m not feeding you enough.”

Galician Octopus

Galician Octopus

My last day in Galicia, I attended a large family meal at a restaurant owned by my uncle’s cousin. We had lots of Galician octopus, clams with a delightful caramelized onion sauce, lamb and more lamb, asparagus, potatoes (Gallegos love their potatoes) and peas, bread, dessert, red and white wine, a selection of homemade liquor, and coffee, and more coffee. With all the people, food, and conversation, the lunch lasted longer than usual, and at night my aunt accepted that I truly was full. She and I spent the evening in her sewing room talking. The following morning I had to get up early to catch the 8 a.m. bus from Pontevedra to Gijón. My aunt got up early to make breakfast and something for me to eat on my eight hour trip. They drove me to the station and put me on the bus with a hug and a kiss, and a huge sandwich, some grapefruits, a bag full of chestnuts we’d picked the day before, and three bottles of wine.

Highlights — Toledo

On my last day here, I decided to post pictures of what to me were some of my favorite things about Toledo.

I’m starting with a picture of something that is not in Toledo, but I found it captivating (and hope you will too). I thought I could get away with posting it here.

The Back Window of the Tropical Gardens at the Madrid Train Station.

The Back Window of the Tropical Gardens at the Madrid Train Station.

The picture is a little dark, but it was the only way to capture the beauty of the ironwork.

I came to Spain hoping to better understand my heritage (both sides of my family have Spanish lineage). My first impression of Toledo was that it was like no place I had ever known. But as I walked around, I came to see how much of Spain may be found in Latin America, and how much of Latin America the Spaniards had brought back.

Plaza Zocodover is at the center of Toledo. Though I’ve read that it’s a gathering place for locals and tourists, most of the people I saw seemed to be tourists, except on Saturday, when all of the Toledanos seemed to be enjoying the city and its many bars, restaurants, and cafés. On one side of the plaza is a large building that made me think of the buildings one finds in Colombia.

Building at Plaza Zocodover

Building at Plaza Zocodover

Off the plaza is a street named after Cervantes. A statue of the author stands at one end overlooking the street named in his honor.

Statue of Cervantes at the Top of Calle de Miguel de Cervantes.

Statue of Cervantes at the Top of Calle de Miguel de Cervantes.

All over the city are statues of his most famous creation: Don Quijote. This is one of my favorites. I love his expression.

Don Quijote and I.

Don Quijote and I.

As I said in my prior post, I didn’t do too many of the touristy sights, though I probably took pictures of most of them. The main cathedral is perhaps the most visited. Although I didn’t go in, I passed it several times each day from all different angles.

Santa María de Toledo Cathedral

Santa María de Toledo Cathedral

The two major to-do’s on my list, other than buying marzipan and tasting local food, were visiting the El Greco Museum and the Sinagoga del Transito.

Exterior of Museo El Greco

Exterior of Museo El Greco

Below is El Greco’s painting of St. James (Santiago). According to tradition, after Jesus’s death, St. James made his way to Spain to preach the gospel. He then returned to Jerusalem, where he was ultimately beheaded. After his death, his remains were brought back to Galicia to be buried. They now rest in a lovely old cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, a town named after the saint.

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This is La Sinagoga del Transito. I love that it is a synagogue built by muslims for Jewish worship.

Main worship hall of the Sinagoga del Transito.

Main worship hall of the Sinagoga del Transito.

When the Jewish people were ousted, it was turned into a Catholic church. Then, when the altar was removed and the building turned into a Jewish museum, to everyone’s surprise, a section of the original floor remained where the altar had been. It’s as if the Jews knew they would be coming back.

Segment of Original Synagogue Floor.

Segment of Original Synagogue Floor.

Finally, I thought I would post some pictures of doors around the city. I am fascinated by old windows and doors. I wonder about their past, the people who have walked through them and those who now walk through them. I’m also always curious and like to imagine what life is and was like behind those doors. So much history!

There are tiny entrances – about 5ft high – in many buildings all over the city.

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Toledo is a very clean city. I’ve been impressed with the care given to it.  This is one of the few instances of graffiti I found.

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One final and important door: The back door of the El Greco Museum.

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Toledo

When I decided to come to Spain, my main objective was to experience life as a resident, rather than observing it with touristic distance. So, it’s funny that I should start my trip in one of the most touristy places in all of Spain.

City View from the Alcázar

City View from the Alcázar

Toledo, the former Spanish capital, is a small city atop a mountain. The city is a conglomerate of Moorish, Jewish, and Catholic architecture that embodies Spain’s rich and tumultuous past. Although there is a Jewish neighborhood, a Moorish neighborhood, and monasteries and Catholic churches scattered throughout, the influence of each religion and culture is present everywhere.

Hebrew Letter Tiles Are Inserted Along the Road in the Jewish Area

Hebrew Letter Tiles Are Inserted Along the Road in the Jewish Area

Because a law prohibits the modernization of building exteriors, walking through its narrow cobblestone streets feels like walking into the past, or it would, if it weren’t for the tourists and the cars that amble the roads in reverse anachronistic discomfort. One quickly learns to duck into a doorway or press against the side of a building to allow vehicles to squeeze past. It’s just a part of life, just as walking its steep narrow streets darting tourists and souvenir vendors is a part of life.

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When I arrived at the train station, despite clouds and rain, the passengers took out their cameras and iPhones in a flurry to snap pictures of the railway building. It was only at that point that I realized what travel books mean when they say Toledo is a place that lives on tourism. Well, when among tourists, do as Spanish tourists do. Besides, the building is lovely.

Toledo Train Station

Toledo Train Station

Except for that one moment, I can’t say I’ve behaved like a typical tourist. I don’t eat at trendy restaurants with bilingual menus or feel the need to take a tour of the cathedral, the Army Museum, or any of the other smaller museums, with the exception of the Museo Casa El Greco and the Alcázar. I have always admired El Greco’s paintings and could not let this opportunity pass me by. And the Alcázar is a former Roman castle that now houses the regional library in its top floors. That’s were I sit as I write this. The Alcázar is a large square structure on Toledo’s highest point, and at various windows of the hallway leading to the main reading room, individual arm chairs have been placed so that one can sit and read or write while admiring the view of the city: Spectacular! The other thing that sets me apart from the average tourist, or from anyone around, is that, not owning a smart phone, I take all my pictures with my iPad.

Connecting to Wi-Fi at Biblioteca Castilla-La Mancha at the Alcázar.

Connecting to Wi-Fi at Biblioteca Castilla-La Mancha at the Alcázar.

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