Oh, hey there. So, it took me a little longer to get back to you than I had originally planned. Work trips, ya know? If you didn't read my last post, this is going to be a follow up talking in a little bit more depth about my Spanish adventures. And since I made you wait longer than I had originally planned, let's just jump right to it.
Spain. I am not even sure where to begin, because every moment of it was just perfect. I even enjoyed the rush of my delayed flight connecting me to my international flight from Philly to Madrid. Nothing like almost missing your first flight abroad, right? So yeah, I figure my flight is a good place to start and I just have one question: Was no one going to tell me about the free wine? Really - I didn't even know that was a thing until the night before my flight my friend Lauren—who traveled to Europe a few years earlier and was currently in Australia—bestowed upon me this gem of wisdom that would soon change my expectations for traveling... forever. Spain could have been a total bust, and I would have come back talking about the free wine. I don't know why it touched me so, but it truly made my flight.
So after two full glasses of wine and a pair of zzzquil later, voilá - I'm in Madrid. Admittedly, this part was a little intimidating. It was my first time being in a country where I didn't speak the native tongue, and I was all alone. To his credit, David gave me specific instructions but still, I was stressed. After asking a girl where to go—because she looked cool and European so she had to know—I made my way back through security and over to my terminal for my almost 4-hour layover. Oh, and did I mention it was 8am (aka 2am in my mind). BUT THAT WAS OK! It was at that very moment, when I was just about to get really grumpy because of how exhausted I was (and was going to be all day), that it hit me... I was in Spain. And I did it all by myself. Not only did I travel there alone, but I planned and funded my whole trip solo dolo. It was my first big girl gift to myself that I could comfortably afford, and I'm pretty proud of that. Hard work does pay off, you guys!
OK - Realizing I could seriously write a novel about this trip, so I am going to hit the fast forward button here just a bit. Surprise! I made it to Rota safely. David, Kurt and Shannon were waiting for me right as I walked through the airport doors, which was a nice end to my travels. And the fun immediately began.
First of all, I need to preface this all by saying that I was warned about how inexpensive everything is in Spain—but I was not prepared (and neither was my liver, to be honest). I ate and drank for 11 days like the queen that I felt like the entire time, spending mere pennies. I highly considered never returning to the US, but I don't know how well that would have gone over with my family. We dined al fresco for most meals, which was so magical as most seating is placed steps from the hustle and bustle of people going to and from their destinations at the most non-urgent pace possible. And I don't mean non-urgent in a lazy way, but in a really delightful I'm-never-too-busy-to-stop-and-say-hi way. My first lunch in Rota was magical, I was running on fumes and couldn't believe that I was actually there. This is the first photo I took in Rota, and though it's just a single palm tree it's really special to me, I feel like I see so much more:
While I'm writing this post I'm already having the irrational fear that I am going to forget this trip one day, because the details are already kind of escaping me - I'm so glad I took as many pictures as I did.
So, after my first day I was actually able to shake my jet lag pretty quickly. And even until I was able to shake it, I could have drank cafe con leche for the rest of my life and been happy. I am still going through Spanish coffee withdrawal. Seriously! I'm not sure about other European countries, but the coffee I had in Spain was better than anything I have even remotely tasted in the states (sorry boutcha, Starbucks). Has anyone else had that experience? If so, please let me know and I'll add it to the list of things I plan to bring up with my mother this Mother's Day. I'm going to need her to explain, in detail, why I wasn't born in Europe. It's really starting to piss me off. Anyway, so I'm in Spain running on wine, cafe con leche and the occasional (very occasional) bottle of water, counting down the days 'til I can ring in the new year in a country I had no idea I'd be visiting. I claimed 2015 as my year, and I couldn't believe I actually managed to end the #YearofVanessa in Spain of all places. It was like I'd hit the self-help jackpot.
New Year's Eve was such a special night. We ended up, by chance (which is kind of how most things happen in Rota, I quickly discovered), making reservations at a restaurant that happened to be on our walk home from afternoon drinks. David knew the people who ran the restaurant, and after a quick hello and catch-up sesh—as you do in Spain—they made room for us at their sold out NYE dinner. $40 for all you can eat and drink for what I can only imagine was no time limit. Just let that sink in. NYE parties in the US run anywhere from $100-$150 for the same treatment, and you don't get a plate full of fresh-caught seafood... as your appetizer! So after stumbling across plans for the night, we hurried home and pretended we were all going to take naps (this never happened for me), then we were off to the grocery store to buy our post-dinner materials: vodka, champagne, and grapes. Grapes may sound weird if you aren't familiar with their New Year's tradition: In Spain it's tradition that as the clock strikes midnight, you have to successfully eat 12 grapes for each bell strike. It's definitely easier said than done, but guarantees a year of success and prosperity, which I'm 100% into.
The weather was mild NYE night, and the streets were vibrant with excitement for the night ahead. We arrived to the restaurant around 9-ish and were greeted with the most down-to-earth accommodations I have ever experienced on a night out. It was refreshing. NYE requires so much work at home, this was a nice change of pace.
So, after a night filled with champagne, more champagne, grapes, champagne, and dancing on the square, I finally made it to my pillow at approximately 5am. And I lie to you not, there were children that out partied me. I'm talking literal 10 year olds. I'm happy to report that the New Year fell at the beginning of my trip, and my first day of 2016 was another magical Spanish day where you go out for coffee and end up sitting and pretending you understand Spanish in a bar until 8pm. This happened so many times, that my rusty Spanish comprehension actually returned to me by the end of my trip.
The rest of my trip was such a magical whirlwind filled with lots of wine, great conversation, day trips to Sevilla, Arcos, Cadiz and Jerez, each place more beautiful than the next—if that's even possible. I have never laughed so hard, ate SO much and cared so little about it, and been so happy away from home as I was in Spain. It was a dream realized for me. My last day actually still feels like it didn't happen. We were invited over by neighborhood friends of David and Kurt for a home-cooked meal, bottomless red wine, delicious tea and cookies, and shots of something that tasted borderline poisonous, but wine - so I didn't care. It was in this moment that I had just enough red wine to sit back and revel in the fact that I was sitting in a room with people who spoke less than five english words to me my whole visit, and there was never a barrier. I had so much fun with them, and could have stayed hours longer. I even started to remember Spanish words and was so impressed with myself for keeping up with the conversation. I made many failed attempts at recording sound bits to capture the magic of that moment (no one knows this!), that's how special it was to me. The Year of Vanessa was a good year, and thanks to España, 2016 didn't start too shabby.
Here are a few of my favorite photos, in no particular except for the first is of my last day in Spain.
I'll be back Spain. Don't miss me too much!