Saturday, September 30, 2006

Heidi and I are enjoying ourselves and getting along despite differing philosphies of travel. Besides that there´s the nightly struggle over the remote - should we watch Family Guy in Spanish or Aljazeera news AGAIN?
Atilla! (pronounced Ah-teel-a). Apparently this is the universal European term for someone who is being pushy and rude. I inadvertently cut off a woman in line getting onto a double-decker tour bus and I heard, "Eh, Atilla!" directed toward the back of my head. I guess maybe I was being a little impolite, but being compared to a Hun whose armies sacked and burned major portions of Europe? I think that´s overstating it a bit!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Some thoughts on wandering in Madrid:
There are incredible crowds of people on the streets at all hours - there is such a lively feel in this city. This morning I couldn´t sleep and found a place that served hot chocolate (more like melted candy bars) and churros. I think I was the only one in the place who wasn´t still up after a night of partying! The city is noisy, but it seems like English-speakers stick out when they have conversations because we´re kind of noisy. The locals are more styish and better-dressed than Americans - you don´t see sagging, baggy jeans for instance. Even the police and street-sweepers wear sytlish day-glow uniforms.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We have arrived! I´m trying to stay awake until tonight in order to stave off jet lag, so I´ve been wandering in Madrid. (Heidi´s taking a nap.) I took this picture near the Prado Museum because I liked the light on the water. I found an Internet place and think that I have totally pissed off the woman who runs it, because I can´t understand the Spanish instructions and keep bugging her! Oh well, we´ll see if this works...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

This was a test to see if I could upload a photo directly from my camera. I hope this method works in Spain!

Slow travel - sounds like a trip on Amtrak, but it's actually a different approach to travel related to the Slow Food movement. Instead of trying to hit every sight in the country - 14 cities in 14 days - you stay in one place for a week or so. Get to know the neighborhood, shop for groceries in the same store, have coffee at the little cafe down the street, meet the neighbors, then start exploring in concentric circles, ranging a little farther from "home". It sounds relaxing and peaceful, but what about those other 13 cities that you never get to? Has anyone tried traveling slow-style?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What if you traveled to another country, left the airport, and just started wandering? Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration of what I'm up to here, but ever since I read John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie", I've had a bit of wanderlust that I just have to get out of my system. Back in the '60's, Steinbeck loaded his pickup truck and camper and, together with his dog Charlie, set out to explore the U.S., trying to get an idea what the country and the people were all about. Now he did have something of an itinerary - taking a lap around the U.S. and avoiding interstate highways and major cities, but it made me start fantasizing about a trip with no itinerary. What if you loaded up the camper and just started driving each day, letting your intuition be your travel guide? I fell in love with that idea and thought that I would like to try it one of these days.
So what does that have to do with wandering in Spain? My wife and I will be leaving for Spain shortly and we do have something of an itinerary. We'll be spending a week in Madrid and Barcelona. We own a Mediterranean restuarant here in California, so I'm sure that we'll spend a good deal of time exploring the restaurants and tapas bars of those two cities. We have a little difference of opinion on the merits of visiting churches, museums and historical sites, but I'm sure that we can strike some sort of a compromise on that matter. Our main goal will be to just soak up the Spanish culture and ambiance and see how far we can get with our high school Spanish.
After a week, Heidi heads back to California and I begin my wanderings. I've read the guidebooks and will do some last minute cramming, but I'm treating that week as an experiment in the art of wandering. What if I resist the urge to create a plan and just see what's there each day and let intuition and serendipity rule the day?
So, I'm hoping that you'll come along with me on this little journey, or experiment in traveling, if you will. Post your comments - share your travel experiences and theories about how "traveling should be done"! - Mark