23 Jul The ‘Feels’ Of Spain
The one question I have been asked on repeat during my travels is; “What has been your favourite place so far?” to which my standard response is, “I really can’t pick a favourite. They’ve all been so different.” (cue: cynical eye roll). Some people are happy to just leave it there, but many refuse to take the hint and keep pressing, with questions like … “But, if you could only revisit one place, what would it be?” … Seriously … I mean, how do you compare Bhutan to Barcelona or Bilbao? But, if I’m honest, the truth is that I do have favourites and I struggle to explain them to myself, let alone justify them to strangers on the train. Some places have just given me ‘the feels’ more than others. Don’t get me wrong …they’ve have all been amazing … I guess it just boils down to ‘the vibe.’
Even within countries, the vibe across cities can be wildly different. Like here in Spain, where the cities and regions seem to share little commonality, apart from their love of an enforced arvo nap (like at pre school) but rebranded as a siesta and a toddlers tasting tray rebranded as tapas or pintxos depending on whereabouts you’re located. At face value, both these customs have a lot going for them, however their novelty and appeal is starting to wear a little thin. You see, I am a morning person … the Spaniards … not so much. Thanks to their napping culture, it is not uncommon for them to dine at 10pm, drink into the wee hours and then sleep til late morning. On many a morning, I have found myself wandering the streets at 8.30am searching for coffee and wondering whether I had inadvertently slept through some cataclysmic world event. Apart from street sweepers cleaning up from the night before and the odd drunk making their way home, I have been completely and utterly alone. Incompatible circadian rhythms aside, I am also growing tired of grazing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Call me old fashioned, but I am beginning to crave a meal that involves sitting down at a table, and that is not served on an ‘Always Fresh’ mini toast.
I also think that I might be suffering from stage one “awe fatigue.”I have been awe struck so many times in recent months that a degree of indifference is starting to creep in. I mean, after Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia or Granada’s Alhambra, any cathedral or palace could be considered a bit ho hum by comparison … until that is, you lay eyes on the soaring cliffs of Ronda, the breathtaking beauty of San Sebastian or the architecture of Bilbao. And that’s the thing about Spain. It is so vast, so different and so brimming over with history, beauty, architecture and iconic monuments, that any ‘awe fatigue’ is short lived.
Not so short lived however, are the journeys between Spanish cities, which so far, have totalled about twenty-seven hours of planes, trains and automobiles. I will also add that the novelty of travelling with Big Red is wearing thin and I am beginning to look with envy at those backpackers, as they skip nimbly on and off trains, and acknowledge that I may have been a little quick to dismiss this as a viable packing option. Trying to perform an overhead press of Big Red (who at last weigh in was just shy of 34kg), onto an absurdly narrow train luggage rack, is not easy, and surprisingly few gentlemen seem keen to jump to my aid. On my most recent train trip however, as I went to deadlift the big girl, the death wobbles took hold and as Red and I waivered precariously close to my neighbours head, he quickly sprang into action … motivated more by self preservation than chivalry I suspect!
On a positive note however, Big Red is proving to be a very effective retail retardant. She is currently at maximum capacity and so, unless I am prepared to discard something, I simply have no room for anything new. It’s like the one in, one out, nightclub policy applied to life … and I think there’s something in it. My physical storage constraints prohibit me from accumulating ‘stuff’ and I am seriously considering the feasibility of applying the ‘Big Red rule’ to my post gap year life. Sure, there’s stuff I’ve missed, but I think that I could consolidate all my favourite things into three ‘big reds’ … and the prospect of taking delivery of that massive storage container full of stuff I haven’t even missed gives me the heebie jeebies. Perhaps I could reinvent myself as an Aussie version of Marie Kondo, using the ‘Big Red Rule’ to help people simplify and declutter their lives!
My last week in Spain will be spent walking the last 110 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago “Pilgrimage of Compestala.” Don’t panic … I am not dragging Big Red behind me, (as amusing a visual as that might be). I have opted to transport her in an advance party each morning … (if only she could run a bath and make a good G&T). I will also not be succumbing to the usual pilgrims ‘dress code’ of tragic zip off pants or anything resembling a legionnaires cap. I figure if I can cycle 600km in yoga pants then surely I can wander through a few Spanish villages in the same? I have no clue what to expect from this walk or even what I am hoping to get out of it, but I am ready to embrace whatever lessons it dishes up. I am tackling this pilgrimage alone. Just me and a map … which for those of you who know me, is cause for concern. I am directionally challenged, or as my darling Dad says; “she couldn’t find her way out of a telephone booth.” So here’s hoping that the other pilgrims know where they’re going and that the wifi signal is strong.
If you want to check in on my Pilgrim’s Progress, then feel free to follow my journey on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ang_galloway/