I feel that in order to really capture the essence of this trip to Spain, I want to share my experiences out of sequence. This has to do a lot with a lack of internet service where I am and with the fact that I need to enjoy time with the family and friends who I am visiting.
So here I am, sitting in the doorway of my mom’s home in Higuera La Real, with the sun warm and toasty on my face, keeping me warm despite the cool breeze and temperature outside. What I’ve been surprised by so far, is that out of each of the three days I have been in this small town, there has not been a single cloud in the sky. And that is the case today as I write this. Having lived in Colorado for the past twelve years, I thought clear beautiful blue skies like these were more particular to Colorado, but I’m excited to see firsthand that Spain can also boast this glorious weather as well. The sky here is gorgeous! Not only during the day, with the vibrancy of clear bright blue, but also at night with so many stars and few lights to disrupt their brilliance and hide the smaller ones.
I arrived on Thursday, December 22nd and had a spectacular first night staying with friends just outside Madrid (that experience will be another blog post entirely on its own, so look for that soon to come). Since then I’ve been staying in Higuera La Real with my mother. I like to think of it now as my second home and for the purpose of this trip, my home base over the next two weeks. Being here is giving me an experience true to the local culture. Let me try to paint a picture of it for you in words.
Among rolling green hills and open countryside, the pueblo (small town) consists of narrow roads, many of them cobblestone, that are lined with white buildings and red Spanish tiled roofs. Every few hundred feet or so, there exist a wood door and windows ornamented with black wrought iron in different designs. These are the homes, some are one-story and some two, and my mother’s boyfriend’s home is one of them. Numero 10, to be precise. I especially love the old large lamps attached above each home. There is a square in the town center, complete with an architecturally inspiring ancient church and local stores and restaurants. Everything is within walking distance and among mercados (markets), they also have my particular favorite, panaderias (bread shops or bakeries).
Out here in the country, it is still common that the homes have no heat, and that does include mine. It is definitely cold and they use braseros, which are small gas fed burners situated underneath their dining room table. This is usually located in the kitchen, which is why a significant part of the family interaction takes place in the kitchen and around the kitchen table. You lift up the heavy table-cloth laid on top, place it over your lap, and thank God that at least your legs are going to be warm. There is hot water though, which if I had to have my pick, I prefer that to full-time central heat. Of course, you have to make sure to turn on the calentador, which is another gas-powered contraption much like a water heater in the U.S.. And it certainly works just as well.
I’ve enjoyed walking around the town and like the fact that my particular home is located on one of the streets along the outer edge of town. Around the corner the road turns into dirt right away as it heads out past the last buildings and into an open view of the surrounding hills. Something different that I did not expect is that despite cold temperatures here, there are palm trees among the oak and pine trees. In my daily walks and ventures, there have been unusual sites to encounter: the old man riding a donkey drawn cart and leading another donkey behind them, a young Spaniard man riding a horse through town with a dog following behind, and my personal favorite, the group of old men bursting into the local bar playing Spanish guitar and singing the traditional holiday songs.
Are you overwhelmed yet? Well, I am a bit and that’s only a fraction of the great experiences and aspects of the culture and people here that I am living among right now. I am learning that when you travel to experience people and culture, there is a lot to take in and so much to learn about. Please check in again soon for more.