Saturday, 26 July 2014

Five Days in Spain, Five Stories to Tell

1. Cow bells
There is something very pleasant about waking to the sound of distant cowbells. We’ve just done that in a small country hotel in the Asturias region of Northern Spain. After flying from Madrid, taking the high speed train to Santander, and then driving to the village of La Pedrera, their gentle morning wake up call was a perfect start to our holiday.
In the countryside and off the beaten track. Perfect. 

2. Spanish siesta
I’ve always known that these two words go together and that they refer loosely to the Spanish belief in an afternoon nap. However there’s more. I now know that in the interests of siesta, all shops, including supermarkets and restaurants, shut at 2.30 and then open again at 8.00ish.  Consequently, if you want a late lunch or an early dinner, you are dead out of luck. Which is why one of us has now started referring to our holiday as the Spanish Diet Plan.

3. Fortuitous finds
Beautiful Potes nestled among the mountains of the Picos de Europa.
 Market day and local cheeses for sale 
I love discovering things unexpectedly, for instant a market day in a small village square, such as the one we came across in Potes. Or the really extraordinarily unexpected, such as the exhibition we came across, also in Potes, housed in the fifteenth century Torre del Infantado. It was entitled, somewhat enigmatically, The Cosmos of Beatus of Liebana and included among other things, illuminated manuscripts covering John’s apocalyptic messages from the book of Revelation.

Now I’d like to read more about the Apocalypse, because I’ve realized how little I know. Perhaps there’s a potential Christmas present in there somewhere.

4.  Lovable oddity
One of my favourite books is Prayers from the Ark by Carmen Bernos De Gasztold.  It's a collection of small poems, each one written from the point of view of an animal on the ark.  So for instance, the elephant talks about being “embarrassed by his great self” but then also reflects on his need to rejoice “in the lovable oddity of things.”

We’ve had a few “lovable oddity” moments ourselves. Yesterday in Aviles, for instance. We heard the bagpipes before we saw them. It was a street procession with a difference.

I'd thought it odd when I came across Saudi bagpipers at Janadriyah a couple of years ago, but now I’m wondering if assuming bagpipes to be the exclusive domain of the Scottish may be a major error of judgment. 

5. Déjà vu
We’ve also had some déjà vu experiences. In the Museum of Altamira, we looked at an exhibition featuring Palaeolithic cave art from the surrounding Iberian coastal area. 

As part of the exhibition, we saw a map displaying examples of cave art worldwide.  And there, marked in the area of the Middle East was the very same cave art we’d quite literally walked past when we visited the Nabatean tombs at Madain Saleh two years ago. 

Seeing it here, in so significant a context, felt quite extraordinary.

We've another five days in Spain and then a week in Portugal.  I’m guessing there’ll be more extraordinary moments to come. 

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