Spain: Travel Goals

March 8, 2018

These are examples of my travel goals:

A bold endorsement: Exhaustive and Exhausting"!

A bold endorsement: Exhaustive and Exhausting”!

So far I have two objectives for the Spain part of my trip. I’ve done a ton of background reading for this leg, including Michener’s exhaustive and exhausting Iberia, Zoellner’s chapter on the AVE high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid in his wonderfully researched Train, Jack Hitt’s mostly enjoyable memoir of his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon and Cervantes’s Don Quixote. I’ve also digested a stomach churning account of the Spanish Inquisition, and browsed several other weighty tomes. After all this, here’s what I’ve come up to do in Spain: I want to find a good bowl of paella and an English edition of Jan Morris’s Spain. That’s it, you say? Bear with me, though. (I know that’s bearing a lot.)

Hemingway belongs on every booklist

Hemingway belongs on every booklist

For more than nine hundred pages, James Michener took me on a detailed tour of every city, town, village, church, farmhouse, pasture, topographical feature, tuft of grass and unturned stone there was to see in Spain. At the end of his saga he came to the conclusion he’d never had a decent bowl of paella in all of Iberia. At one point, though, he did eat barnacles scraped off some shoreline rock and loved them. He ate a partridge that he said smelled putrid but was delicious. But not a single helping of paella came up to the standard of what he said he could get in New York. That’s like going to Italy and saying you didn’t find a decent lasagna anywhere. First of all, how can you screw up paella, which presumably can be assembled from the leftovers in your refrigerator? Given my pedestrian taste buds, I’m betting I’ll can find many fine examples of paella throughout Spain. (I better, because that’s about all I plan on eating while there. I’m certainly not ordering anything you can gouge off the bottom of a boat, and I’m not getting anywhere near one of those partridges.)

No trip is complete without Theroux

No trip is complete without Theroux

The Jan Morris book is a bit of a nerd quest. James Theroux referenced Morris’s Spain in his can’t-put-downable The Pillars of Hercules. A thorough search of my branch library, Kindle and Google returned an “unavailable in your region” message. Morris is an (now) Englishwoman, and the book was acclaimed when it was published just back in 1964. How can it be only available in the UK and Australia? I gotta believe a well-stocked bookstore in Barcelona or Madrid must have an English edition for sale (although Michener did note the Spanish are famously provincial when it comes to non-Spanish authors, save for him and Hemingway, of course.)

Jan Morris'  Spain

Jan Morris’ Spain

Not that I need another book on Spain to read, mind you. Jan Morris’s story interests me, though. She’s transgender and underwent sex change surgery to turn her from a man to a woman long before it became all the rage (so to speak), and decades before she’d ever have to fret over which public bathroom to use. To top it all off, she re-married her former wife, making them at once a same sex couple without having to hit the dating scene. Question: Did they have to divorce first? (I did acquire her Conundrum, which is a memoir of that whole experience. It has to be the paella of memoir writing if there ever was one, and I can’t wait to dig in.)

Other than these two quixotic quests, I guess I will have to at least gawk for a moment at that Gaudi monstrosity of a church…in Barcelona, is it?… because I know I’ll be asked.

  1. Bonnie Cramond says:

    You can get the paperback of the Jan Morris book from Amazon for $8 and change.

  2. Bonnie Cramond says:

    Of course, you must see as many of Gaudi’s creations as you can: Parc Gruel and the apartment building as well as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Eat at Los Caracoles there. Go to Tossa de Mar up the coast—beautiful! If you go that coastal route, you can visit Port Lligat in Cadaques, Dali’s home. But if you like Dali, you should also go to Figueras and Casal Pubol, at least to Figueras. Near Madrid, I loved Toledo with the El Grecos and Avila, the walled city. Up north, I loved seeing the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Down south, the Alhambra and the Generalife in Granada are fabulous. (Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra would be good.) Seville is also lovely. But, the islands—Mallorca, por exemple, are gorgeous. I love Spain! You can get wonderful paella all over, but Valencia is famous for it.

    • Rei says:

      I did go to Figueres to the Dali museum. He was the first artist that truly blew me away in college. And I am reading Irving’s "Tales" and have been surprised at his unstilted prose for being an 18th century writer. Thanks for the tips. Toledo is on the list for sure (I’m in Madrid now). Everything else is on the table. Will be in Spain for several weeks, I think.
      I swear I came up empty on my Amazon search for the Morris book. I’d rather find it in Spain if I can. There’s a bookstore here that features a wine bar. Sounds like my kind of place.

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