The next few entries of the blog will be called Sisters in Spain. My sister, Margaret, has arrived for a visit and we are not allowing any time for jet lag, we are off exploring and keeping her very busy!
33 Years Later
Margaret’s visit is significant because it’s the second time we’ve been in Spain together. In 1983, when Margaret was 15 and I was 13, our parents brought us to Spain to live for 4 months as an educational and cultural experience. That trip pretty much started the trajectory of travel in my life. It’s what really modeled the idea of living overseas with your kids for a different kind of educational experience. 31 years later when I broke the news to my mother that our family was leaving the USA and going off to travel, she just nodded with understanding. She really couldn’t object!
So when we put Spain on the agenda of the Sherman Worldschooling Tour I knew Margaret had to come for a visit so we could see how it had changed together. Poor Mar had to travel for over 24 hours to get here, tolerate a 9 hour time change and lost luggage for another 24 hours after she arrived. But she’s a trooper and we are having a blast.
12 Hours in Madrid
When she arrived into Madrid it was about 9:00pm on a Friday night. She hadn’t had a full meal since the day before so after checking into the hotel we set out to get some food. The late hour was not a problem at all. In fact, most of the cafes were totally packed and had people waiting for tables! After our dinner of tapas – little appetizer-like foods – we set off to explore. Stores were open! And this was Black Friday, which really means nothing to a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but many stores capitalized on the popularity in the USA. The souvenir store had a 20% discount off everything so we had a great time getting some recuerdos only 2 hours after she landed. That’s how we roll. We are that good.
The next morning we took the train to Malaga and met up with the family, who were so excited to see Aunt Margaret, even though she didn’t bring the cousins. She did bring 75% of her suitcase packed with treats, gifts and treasures from home. But we were just so happy to see HER. We spend so much time with just our family of 4 that when we get visitors it’s such a treat. It’s so nice to have another person in the mix. And Margaret has a great Worldschooling mentality. She’s always asking questions about what things mean, why things are the way they are and is so excited to learn about everything around her. We’ve spent a lot of our time on Google, researching the places we’re going.
Albaicin in Granada
Yesterday the girls and Margaret and I took off for a day trip to Granada. Granada is most well-known for the Al-Hambra, a palace and fortress used by the Muslims before the Catholics moved into Spain. Margaret and I have been to the Al-Hambra before so we decided to skip the long tour in favor of wandering around the old area, Albaicin, which is one of the best preserved Muslim neighborhoods in Spain. With narrow, windy streets where cars cannot travel, doors with Arabic writing and pretty windowsills with flowers, it’s so fun just to get lost in the neighborhood. We parked our car and put a pin on the map so we could find it again (this is not my first rodeo!) and off we went, prepared to lose ourselves in the neighborhood. It’s what you do.
My Fitbit tells me we walked 11,000 steps. We slowly made our way down from the hill where we parked and ended up along the river at the base of Al-Hambra. Spaniards love their promenades and just about every city has one. There’s no beach in Granada because it’s inland in the mountains but they put a lovely paseo (promenade) along the river. We saw Spaniards out walking with their families, which is pretty common for a Sunday and was very common when we lived here in 1983.
Nuns in the Wall
We stumbled across a large door that looked like a church with a small, nondescript sign that said “se vende dulces” – sweets sold here. Many nuns in the convents of Granada earn their living selling sweets and confections. Their recipes come from the times of the Romans and Moors, which they have preserved over the ages.
The procedure for buying the sweets is very archaic, but very charming. You enter the convent to a very small room with a lazy susan installed in the wall. You never see the nun with whom you do the transaction, since the nuns are cloistered and avoid direct contact with the public. On the wall beside the lazy susan is a list of prices. You look it over and decide which sweets you want to buy. At this place you could buy religious items too, so we decided to buy a rosary. It seemed appropriate even though we aren’t catholic!
Then you ring a buzzer on the wall. After a while you will hear the voice of a nun greet you and ask you what you want to buy. For some reason we were compelled to whisper. You tell her your order and after a few minutes the lazy susan turns and you will find your order on it. You then put your money on the lazy susan and turn it so that the nun can get it. If there is change, the nun puts it on the lazy susan and you then can get your change. We were so enthralled with this process we did it 3 times. The girls loved that you never really knew what you were going to get. It was a bit like Vinylmations at Disneyland. It satisfied their treasure-hunt passion.
Copying the Spaniards
Busy days mean late nights. We arrived home from Granada around 8:30 p.m. and still had to find dinner. The kids wanted to eat at home so Margaret, Daniel and I set out for dinner. The first place we went to had closed the kitchen already so we went to find another restaurant we’d been meaning to try. Well, the driving here is crazy. You can’t easily find your exit until you’ve passed the store or restaurant. Then you have to turn around, then turn around again, get off the freeway BEFORE you see the restaurant and then you can go. Well, this would have worked but we couldn’t find the restaurant. We see it every day while driving home but for some reason we could not find it. Siri used Google Maps and was sure she knew where to go but she led us to a closed pharmacy. No, gracias. Get it together, Siri.
We spent the next 45 minutes trying to find the original (2nd) restaurant, or another one we wanted. We missed exit after exit, finally took the right exit after spying a steak house, then couldn’t get to the steak house due to a crazy frontage road. We finally we burst into the restaurant door, exhausted, at 10:00pm. We are being so Spanish, eating so late!
A wonderful steak, caprese salad, vegetable soup in a shot glass and warm bread was worth the hassle. We got home at 11:45PM, in time to catch a few episodes of our beloved Big Bang Theory before crashing for the night. We need our rest, we have another day of exploring tomorrow.
Stay tuned for another episode of Sisters in Spain. We are just getting started.