Spanish Firsts (by Wendy Bray)

“Americano loco!” was not spoken, but certainly could have been in the mind of the Catalan who gave me my first stamp in my virgin passport. (Perhaps it was the little happy dance and celebratory “whoop-whoop!” that accompanied this event that caused his knowing smile and shake of the head. . .)

So many “firsts” that it is hard to capture them in this guest blog. From the time we landed in Barcelona, it has been a journey of wide-eyed anticipation, appreciation, and astonishment. Barcelona is a bustling city filled with such history that is hard for us Americans to embrace. The walking tour we took on our first full day in Spain exposed us to beautiful cathedrals, wound us through narrow streets, past the oldest Jewish temple, and filled us with an oral history of the Catalans and their ability to continue to rise out of the ashes of wars, dominance, and poverty.

Seafood tapas

Seafood tapas

There were more first-time experiences for me on our tapas food tour. Our evening began with two stops to enjoy appetizers representing local cuisine. This is where I sampled my first octopus (can’t look at the tentacles!), raw fish, and the spicy vermouth that Barcelonans enjoy. Dinner included additional delicacies served with flair and paired with the perfect wines. It’s a good thing that we had done so much walking that day!

The highlight of Barcelona was definitely the Sagrada Familia, a cathedral in Barcelona that has been under construction for over a hundred years! I had never heard of its architect Guadi, but his vision and execution of design is amazing! It was like walking through a dream. Even the use of the stained glass created the feeling of walking through a green forest! Words just cannot describe it. I did, however, realize that my fear of heights had not disappeared in recent years . . . The elevator ride to the top of one of towers did not prepare me for the amazing view—which I could only enjoy while looking out—not down! I allowed my traveling companions to fully enjoy the experience while I kept my eyes on the railing and inner wall of the spiral staircase which seemed to go on forever for this acrophobic.

A distant view of the La Sagrada Familia

A distant view of the La Sagrada Familia

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One of MANY stained glass windows

One of MANY stained glass windows

The long way down from the tower...

The long way down from the tower…

Next stop—Sevilla! If Barcelona was the example of metropolitan Spain, Sevilla was the quaint old-world town that I envisioned would make up this country. We stayed in the heart of the old city, with tiny streets, plazas, small eateries and shops lining the cobblestoned walkways. We visited a 100-year-old tavern where we listened to a flamenco singer, whose performance did not make up for the awful wine and leaking ceiling!

View of our courtyard in Sevilla

View of our courtyard in Sevilla

Sevilla at night

Sevilla at night

Catedral de Sevilla

Catedral de Sevilla

From Sevilla, we went to Jerez, which is known for sherry—which means, “wine coming from Jerez.” The tour of the bodega (winery) Tio Pepe and tasting, only confirmed that we don’t necessarily care for sherry—no matter where it comes from! But it was cool to see Picasso’s signature on one of the barrels, as well as our version of Picasso, namely, Stephen Spielberg!?!

En route to Jerez

En route to Jerez

Tio Pepe winery

Tio Pepe winery

We topped off our stay in Sevilla with another wonderful dinner, and early bed to catch our morning flight to Madrid. I only wish I could be collecting passport stamps at each destination!

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