The Spanish Way

With all of the busy-ness that Khailee has brought into my life, I have had but a moment to catch my breath and reflect on my week in Spain. But before I do, I feel the need to paint a picture of what my first experience in Spain was like.

It was 2007 (a very good year). Mike and I had just begun our dating adventures and decided that after nearly 2 months together (long distance), we would toss in the added stress excitement of gallivanting across Western Europe.  UK was a blast. France was a dream. Portugal was a treat. Spain was…a marathon of Mr. Bean episodes.  What happened?

Interior of the Madrid train station

Episode 1: THE TRAIN

Our first experience in Spain was traveling from Avignon to Barcelona overnight by train. We had paid a supplement  for our Tourist Class seats and looked forward to some sleep after all of the biking we had done in Provence. What does that get you? Roomy seats that don’t recline….at all. At first we thought it was just our own defective seats but no. By the wee hours, passengers were dropping like flies – onto the floor to sleep in the aisle.  I will never forget the sight of Mike – all 6 feet of him – curled up in his upright seat in the most uncomfortable looking position. It was not a good start.

Explorer-extraordinaire Christopher Columbus pointing in the wrong direction


Barcelona was otherwise quite beautiful – although the beach along the Med was super dirty with litter and cigarette butts everywhere. That said, we felt quite at home walking along La Rambla. That is, until, we both spotted a mother encouraging her little boy to pee into a potted tree along the strip.  Not 5 hours later, we were strolling to find dinner – and a grown man relieved himself in a busy public square. Seriously people – are bathrooms in such short supply in Spain?

The most artistic stone sidewalk ever


Madrid was a short 14 hours layover. I snapped some photos and ate at a highly acclaimed vegetarian restaurant.  Everything was going relatively well until I – without any thought – walked over a grate on the sidewalk. In any other place I have visited or lived, the worst that can happen when walking over a street grate is that your heel might get stuck. In Toronto, with the exception of wintertime, they don’t typically vent. In Spain, the worst thing that can happen when walking over a street grate is that a gust of air will blow up your dress, exposing everything below the belt and your unfortunate decision to wear a thong that day. It’s hard to know how many people exactly I unintentionally flashed but I can say that the humiliation was long-lasting. To this day, I never walk over a street grate.

The rock of Gibraltar

Episode 4: THE BIDET

After a long trip from Madrid to Algeciras, Mike and I were both fairly excited to experience Gibraltar – the British territory at the tip of Spain across the Strait from Morocco. Although the Rock is formidable, much like with our experience at the Pyramids, the whole place was dirty with garbage and not well kept. (Maybe it’s my OCD but surely somethings are worth preserving.) Compounded by the fact that Gibraltar uses British pounds as their currency, our short time spent there put quite a dent in our travel budget. But really that was nothing compared to Mike’s horrifying experience in La Linea (the small Spanish town that borders Gibraltar). We were waiting to catch the bus from La Linea back to Algeciras and Mike decided to pop into the restroom at the bus station.  I generally have strong opinions about public washrooms and I won’t venture into one unless I have some confidence of their cleanliness and condition. I figured Mike would fill me in based on his experience in the men’s washroom. And what an experience it was.  Everything was going just fine until Mike walked out of his bathroom stall to find an Irish fellow yelling about how there was no toilet paper and using every sink in succession BUT one as his own personal bidet. Need I say more?

So that was Spain…the first time. (You can check out some of my photos from that trip here.) Did I want to go back? Would you? Thankfully my second Spanish expedition was much more successful. The details of that will be posted on Monday.


One thought on “The Spanish Way

  1. I’m really sad that you didn’t like Gibraltar. I totally get your disgust at the border town of La Linea though, it really is very down trodden. I have heard of muggings and all sorts of nastiness going on there!
    Gibraltar is normally regarded as very clean, although anyone coming off of a cruise liner has the dire view of McDonalds to enjoy… I guess it depends what time of day you get there, and how many cruise ships have been through.
    It never ceases to amaze me how dirty some people can be, the border gates are particularly bad, the Spanish cigarette smugglers have very little regard for litter and tend to trash the place, which is a horrible site.
    Where we live, which is about half way up the rock is really nice. I will be paying attention to the air vents / grates as we are going across Spain to Portugal next week!

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