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Swallow

June 21, 2017

IMG_9775We went to Spain in celebration of Walker’s college graduation, a family tradition for travel begun by my mother and continued by my brother and me. There were eight of us. We flew into Barcelona and spent a couple of days there and in Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, and Madrid, with half a day in Toledo. Here we are with our Barcelona driver Daniel and our tour guide Tate.

I kept singing “I am Easily Assimilated” (from Candide) inside my head:
“In one half-hour I’m talking in Spanish:
Por favor! Toreador!
I am easily assimilated.
I am so easily assimilated.
It’s easy, it’s ever so easy!
I’m Spanish, I’m suddenly Spanish!”
Even those of us without much Spanish quickly learned to say “ocho personas” when we came into a restaurant.

IMG_0455We had to come in to most of them, despite the wider availability of tables outside, because my youngest niece is afraid of birds. She made me notice birds where I wouldn’t have, ordinarily—lots of pigeons, swallows, and starlings, and also peacocks. There were two peacocks at the café near the Alcazar in Seville, and this one on a windowsill at the royal palace in Madrid.

Swallow, by Donika Kelly

The first time you swallow—
the light, lurid and cold—

you know you mean
to swallow—again and again—

a woman’s voice crawling and heavy
in your body, trying to escape.

Stay calm. You cannot let go.
There isn’t an abstraction
you believe in and you are sad for it.

You need a mission to return to,
you need a flock to follow.

IMG_5083Following our flock, I limped along behind to find that sometimes my brother’s family had gotten a table for four inside and my family had another outside, or the youngest niece sat inside with one parent and the rest of us sat outside, while about once a day we managed to get a table for all eight of us inside and enjoy the air conditioning. It was about 40 C (100 F) every day after Barcelona, and it was exuberantly, extravagantly sunny! So much light! So much heat! Palm trees!

Ron had bronchitis the whole trip, coughing almost continuously and visiting various pharmacies in the different towns, all of which were easily identifiable by a green cross and which sold only medicines.

My older niece is allergic to shellfish, so we avoided restaurants serving only seafood, which was harder than you might think, especially in Granada. We sampled the sangria and paella everywhere, though, and enjoyed a honey-glazed eggplant dish and the local ham, dried and sliced thin, often served with very ripe honeydew melon.

Despite our assorted fears and weaknesses, we enjoyed being together and trying to see everything as we walked very slowly up and down the narrow, cobbled streets of each town.

We saw La Sagrada Familia, Castell de Montjuic, Parc Guell, the museum of modern art, and a lot of signs in Catallan (including the Super Mercat) in Barcelona.

This is mi familia en la Sagrada Familia.  19029524_10211839367612699_2205184741993349172_n

IMG_5056In Granada we saw the Alhambra, including a sunset view from the Mirador de San Nicolas, the cathedral, and an unexpectedly splendid Carthusian monastery. Here is my family with the Alhambra behind us, standing in a plaza at Mirador de San Nicolas.

In Cordoba we saw a Jewish synagogue with a Christian cross and Islamic decorations on the wall, and the famous candy-stripe arch mosque (mezquita). Ron and Eleanor and Walker saw some of the local Alcazar and gardens. Here are a few of us looking up as our tour guide David points at one of the candy-stripe arches.IMG_5078

19105936_10211883796523394_8009550740514221669_nWe were in Sevilla for the Corpus Christi holiday and got to see the parades and decorations, although we didn’t get to see anything of the cathedral except the bell tower and courtyard since it was packed full for the holiday. We saw the beautiful Alcazar there (where some of the Dorn scenes for Game of Thrones have been filmed) and the Plaza Espana, which influenced the downtown Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

In Toledo we drove around the walled city and admired it from a nearby hill before entering (by escalator) and touring the cathedral. Across from the cathedral there was a display of gigantic figures that had been used for decades on Corpus Christi; we were told that people walked inside them on the morning of the holiday, calling everyone to wake up and get to church. We also went into a shop to admire the swords and bought some letter-openers and scissors.  Here are Eleanor, Walker and a cousin on one of the narrow, canopied streets in Toledo. IMG_5153

In Madrid we saw some of the Prado, the fountains and plazas, the Royal Palace, and a flamenco show. Here’s a photo of Ron with Eleanor and Walker and their cousin at the Plaza Major just as the sun was setting. IMG_5147

It was an exhausting trip and very fun; although we couldn’t have sustained the pace much longer, it seemed over much too soon.

If you get to take a trip this summer, where are you going, where have you been?

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