Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Vignettes from a trip to Spain

They say you can find a Malayalee anywhere. We found three in Toledo, a medieval Spanish city where tourists easily outnumber residents. Mom and sis-in-law were browsing souvenirs when the stall owner overheard their comments and - as is the wont of any Malayalee bumping into another - promptly asked her where we were from. Being fellow Keralites didn’t get us any discounts though. At a jewellery shop near the city centre, we chanced upon a Malayalee saleswoman who introduced us to her goldsmith husband. Mom had her heart set on a pair of 300 euro earrings but I quickly steered her away. Malayalee or not, my wallet has its limits.

I have never understood why bathroom doors in European hotels don’t have latches. In fact, one of our hotels in Madrid had just a sheer glass pane. Which is all very well for honeymooning couples in or out of love. But since I was sharing the room with Mom, we devised a verbal warning system while taking a bath or answering nature’s call. And we never opened the main door if the bathroom was occupied, since the person in the corridor only had to glance to his left at an angle of 30 degrees to see me the way God made me.

Spain is extremely Instagrammable. After the first few days, I stopped taking photos. What was the point? The drives between cities included views of undulating hills and meadows so green that I felt transported into a Windows desktop wallpaper (I did Google it, that famous ‘Bliss’ photo was actually clicked near San Francisco). Wherever we went, the Spaniards were an affable lot. The only unpleasant experience we had was at a Burger King where we used the restrooms. As we came out, an employee smirked and told his co-worker in Spanish - "Oh no, we have to clean them again".

My Spanish was rusty but I got my money’s worth in Spain. I was cast in the role of de facto interpreter, ensuring our sandwiches didn’t contain any carne (meat) or anything else that would give us the runs. My Cervantes professors may clutch their hearts in disbelief if I claim to have skillfully navigated the Spanish-language obstacle course in a country where people barely speak any English. But I did:

a) make a 5 a.m. run to a local farmacia (pharmacy) when my four-year-old nephew started vomiting, and had an intriguing conversation about travel sickness with the kind woman at the counter
b) buy a stroller for said nephew from the department store 'El Corte Ingles' - this turned out to be a lifesaver for his harried parents
c) make life miserable for our tourist guides in Toledo, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza and Tossa de Mar - since I insisted on conversing in Spanish and expected them to ooh and aah over my middling command of their language
d) rile my other four-year-old Leon-based nephew, interrogating him in Spanish about his favourite book, teacher, cartoon, game, friend, food, etc. every five minutes

In short, I fell in love with Spain. And I’ll be back. Hasta la vista, baby.

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