I live a quiet life. Most days, I’m reading and writing with my cats beside me. The hallmark of my day is a walk with my dog or a cup of good tea or my children’s conversations about school. But I love travel. Not the physical aspect, mind you. I’m rather terrified to fly. But new places thrill me, and no matter where I go, I always experience a certain sadness when I leave.
So was the case when my family and I embarked on a trip to Spain this month. My husband had to go for work, and my daughters and I had the opportunity to go along with him. We stayed in Madrid, which, if I remember my reading, is the third largest city in Europe. Coming from a small city in the Midwest, I might have been scared by that fact, but I wasn’t. I’ve been to London and New York and other big cities and have loved every one of them.
I loved Madrid, too. It was around 55 degrees every day, balmy compared to our Midwest winter weather, but still chilly enough for coats and scarves. People congregated outside, under outdoor heaters, eating and drinking. Every meal was a social event, and it was nice to be around people. Tapas (small appetizers) were served with drinks, and no matter what one ordered, the ticket was never rushed and had to be requested. Despite the large amount of people, no one was in a hurry.
One of my favorite side trips was to Toledo, where a guide met us for a three-hour walking tour. (My daughters’ compensation for walking up and down the hills of the small town was a trip to McDonalds!) The guide was local and knew much about the area and its history. He told us the tall buildings and narrow streets protected residents from the heat in the summer, which frequently reaches over a hundred degrees. I enjoyed the twisty town, famed for the great artist El Greco, local Damascene artisans, and mazapan. And I enjoyed how proud our tour guide was of his city.
Other special moments included a traditional flamenco dance, lunch on top of the Plaza de la Cibeles, dinner at Casa Botin (the oldest restaurant in the world), and an afternoon at the Botanical Gardens.
A week later, I was sorry to leave. But I love remembering our time there, especially on these cold afternoons, when daydreaming takes up a large portion of my day. It’s fuel for my spirit and imagination in an otherwise quiet February.