Tuesday, March 07, 2006

yo te quiero y finito

Yo te querda, oh mi corazon. That's about all the Spanish I got, a few lines from Clash songs, and I'm not even sure what it means. So you can imagine how the trip went, me and JJ wandering haplessly around Spain with our Sesame Street Spanish and some Mexican slang; we don't know how to ask for the bill, but we can say "Fuck your bitch mother." Which we were tempted to do, on occaision. JJ and I developed a ritual for restaurants called The Elaborate Putting on of the Coat, in order to conjure the waiter with the reciept. Also there was much pointing and gesturing. We managed.
I was worried that Spain wouldn't live up to Greece, and I was right; not that it was a bad trip, really, just very different. My trip to Greece was very much a Henry James novel: Idealistic American Young Lady travels among the Faded Glories of Europe, Expanding Her Horizons and Growing into Mature Womanhood (but luckily, being a dyke, I get to avoid Making a Bad Marriage and the resulting Tragic Consequences). I did feel very Isabel Archer. But happily I only met goofy Canadians instead of scheming Madame Merles.
So, if Greece was Henry James, Spain was more like National Lampoon's Iberian Vacation. Without Chevy Chase, thankfully. Like I said, it wasn't a bad trip, necessarily, but it was one long comedy of errors. Starting with meeting JJ in Paris, where my heretofore latent smoke allergy made a surprise appearance; so I spent the whole time fending off a sinus infection. It's partly my fault, for not bringing my medication; but I didn't think I'd need it, my life-long allergy had mysteriously gone into remission over the last several months. Or so I'd thought. But Europeans also seem to have some inalienable right to self-medicate with carcinogens in every possible public and private space. I'm real glad the French have universal health care because I'd sure hate to see your lung cancer rates in 30 years, that's all I got to say.
We fly into Madrid, which, as far as I can tell, is ugly and covered in dog shit (oh Europe. I never get to admire your centuries of beautiful architecture because I'm too busy watching where I step). According to my Damron traveler, there are scads of dyke bars in Madrid, and at least two queer bookstores, but I don't get to visit any of them because I feel too crappy. I don't even go to the art museum to view Velazques or Goya, and I'm big fans of them. Dammit. But on Sunday morning we manage to head out to the flea market, an impossibly huge, utterly mad chaotic thing that goes on for blocks and blocks and blocks. It was amazing, and would have been fun if it hadn't been so fucking cold (NB: just because it's Spain doesn't mean it's not still February). I did discover the one thing I liked about Madrid: anarchist punks. They had their own corner of the flea market and were selling buttons and pirated CDs and Marxist and Anarchist literature, and zines. And t-shirts! I snagged me two: a huge gray one that says MUERTA AL PATRIARCADO (even I can understand that one), with some Spanish anarchist version of Hot-headed Paisan on it, and a smaller red shirt with more incomprehensible Spanish and an anarchist dyke stomping around. It says Mujeres libres, which is also pretty self-explanatory. I got buttons too. It cheered me up considerably.
After Madrid was Cordoba. Cordoba was a vast improvement. We got there after a four and half hour bus ride, tired, hungry, getting lost and rained upon, discovering our hostel was temporarily shut down, and all we could do was exclaim over how beautiful it was. Narrow white-washed alleyways and rolling hills. We managed to find a great hostel in the old city that was decorated in the Spanish style that Pottery Barn likes to rip off. Family run establishment; their two little boys played in the entrance hall.
Cordoba used to be one of the most advanced cities in Europe, back when it was part of the Moorish empire, so we went to see the old palatial city Madina Al-Zahra. Except we almost didn't see it; we were eating breakfast and realized we were going to be late for the bus if we didn't book it. So we started running all over the place, in no particular direction, no idea where we were or where we were going. I guess just running gave us a pro-active feeling. But we made it, somehow, at the last minute. Because we rock.
And it was pretty damn incredible. This ancient ruined city on the outskirts of Cordoba, with the fog rolling in from the green hills. It was beautiful, and slightly mysterious (which didn't stop us from taking silly videos). I really can't do it justice, you just have to see it.
The next day was the Mezquita and the Alcazar. The Mezquita is a huge, gorgeous mosque that was converted into a church in the 13th century. We went during mass (free entry), and the place is so huge, we could hear the priest singing in Spanish, but we couldn't actually find him. So we wandered around the endless red columns, listening to the bells ringing and gazing at the 99 names of Allah inscribed on the walls. It was so fascinating I didn't even break out in hives, as I usually do when exposed to patriarchal religions.
But the Alcazar. The Alcazar was definitely the highlight of Cordoba for me. It's the medieval castle of the Spanish monarchs; Ferdinand and Isabella lived there. It's in wonderful condition; we went there at dusk, and it was like every fairy tale I had ever read in childhood come to life. Towers and turrets and dungeons in warm red stone. I stood in a marble courtyard with fountains and orange trees as white doves flew above me and sunlight streamed over the battlements. And then there are the gardens. More fountains and terraces and orange trees and hedges. Maybe it was the quality of the light, because the sun was setting and the sky was all purple, but it had an otherworldly quality to it. I felt underdressed. I wanted to put on a long brocaded gown and grab a book of sonnets. I hated to leave it, but they were closing.
Then another bus ride, and Granada. For some reason I thought Granada was on the coast, but it's in the Sierra Nevadas. Cold and rainy. But Granada was all about the Alhambra, the huge sprawling collection of Moorish palaces and Spanish castles. If the Alcazar was like a fairy tale, the Alhambra was more so, to the power of 10. Better preserved than the Madina Al-Zahra as well. I won't even bother to describe it, I've used up all my hyperbolic adjectives, but it's everything a resplendant palace in the mountains should be. They say if you die without seeing the Alhambra, you haven't lived, and I'd have to agree.
And then back to Madrid, to visit the market again and catch my flight back to Paris. Some parts (well, quite alot) of this trip would have sucked if I hadn't been with JJ. We kept each other sane with running jokes and irrelevant Eddie Izzard quotes. I didn't realize how much I missed hanging out with fellow feminists like her (we both lamented the fact that two girls from rural Missouri know more about French feminism than the French do. de Beauvoir? C'est qui? )
So, that was Spain. I'm glad I went, for Cordoba and Granada. But I'm glad to back in France, which smells of human piss and dog shit only part of the time, and where at least I can make myself understood (it's not like we didn't try, for the record. JJ and I are both language geeks, we hit an internet café and looked up every key word we could think of).
Will try to whip up something for tomorrow, since it's International Women's Day. But really, all I want to do at the moment is geek out on Jane Austen, so I guess I'll reserve Friday for that.


At 6:19 AM, Blogger TP said...

Wow! You sound like you're having an amazing trip. I am desperately jealouse!

At 2:56 AM, Blogger Andygrrl said...

Well, I'm glad I'm providing you all an opportunigy for vicarious living! ;-) It's a nice change, for once, to be doing things instead of just reading about them

At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Kevin said...

Three months later, those comedy-of-error days tend to make the best stories. I remember when I arrived in Cordoba, I thought the bank thermometer was broken when it said 40, but it didn't stop me from lugging my bags more than a mile to the hostel. Over that night and into the morning, my digestive tract wrestled with whatever parasite I'd picked up in Morocco. I had just enough energy during my one full day to go to the Mezquita, at which I also remember being similarly impressed.

Ah, also, in Holland they had these cute little signs instructing the dogs to poop in the gutter instead of on the sidewalk. Evidently the dogs and their owners both read about as much Dutch as I did.


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