Say Spain, and we all think tapas, so here are a few quick tastes of our short visit to Spain. Cadiz, the port du jour, is an historical city that goes back to the Phoenicians. It also tells tales of more seafaring men in small boats who dared to venture towards the horizon in the late 1400’s. In our two days there, we only enjoyed an evening in Cadiz. During both days we ventured out first to the ‘white cities’ of Arcos de la Frontera and Ronda, and on the second day to Seville. Both Arcos and Ronda are perched on high spots, with winding streets that lead to a vista. Ronda was especially lovely as it has tiles everywhere, more small streets with their classic geraniums, squares with fountains, and doors with the detail in iron that you also find in other things like Spanish leather. A highlight of the visit was to the bullring. It is the largest in Spain, and our guide took us onto the ochre colored sand of the ring itself as well as behind the arena to where the horses and bulls are kept. We saw the ‘traje de luces’ suits worn by the toreadors too, but it was the smell and feel of the ring itself that left an impression; tense and sunny and evocative. Bullfighting is a tradition that brings a spark to the eyes of some people and a stony look from others. The most memorable thing about Ronda, without a doubt, is the precipice it clings to and the views from the edges.
Seville was a whirlwind tour with students from the ship, but I got to visit places that I missed on an earlier visit when I was working, like the Plaza de Espana built for the World Exposition in 1929. It still impresses with its tile work, the sweep of history it details, its fountains and the very fact that it was built to last! Like standing at a bar in Spain, with a crowd around you, a glass of lovely red wine and those little plates of olives and shrimp and maybe a Spanish tortilla of egg, this visit to Seville was intense–a buzz in your ears and your head. Amazingly, within the few hours we had in Seville, we also got to see our friend Paco. From Granada [we all met in Mexico in 2011; a long story], he is a fine painter and marvelous person. We enjoyed a meal at just the bar mentioned earlier where we talked non-stop switching in and out of English and Spanish, catching up with his life and work and future plans. He joined our group and together we visited the cathedral, and also the Alcazar, a place that definitely is not a tapa–it deserves hours and hours to savor, but we got a taste. Then it was back on the bus to Cadiz. I lived in Spain for several months in the 1960’s, visited it for work a few times in the decades after that, and on this return visit it tugged at me to stay. I would like to have enjoyed many more savory small plates, or even better a long, leisurely mid-day meal! But, it had to be enough for now. Next, it’s Casablanca, for me a totally new city and a totally new continent.