We’ve been home just over twenty-four hours and haven’t come close to absorbing our experience touring Spain. After spending four days in Madrid with day trips to Segovia and Toledo, we spent five days in Marbella on the Meditarannean coast in the province of Andalusia, the home turf of Salvador Dali, with day trips to Granada and Seville. Here are a few impressions.
Everywhere we went we were struck by the warmth and hospitality of the Spanish people. We did not have a single bad experience of any kind. We saw few Americans, althought tourism from other points in Europe and from Japan seemed heavy. We experienced no overt anti-Americanism, but no expressions of solidarity or support either. Our expressions of appreciation for Prime Minister Aznar elicited no kind words either for Aznar or for President Bush.
In Marbella we had access to London’s Daily Mail, a lively tabloid, and to Rupert Murdoch’s Skynews. Skynews was hilariously parochial in its featured stories; the two biggest stories in rotation over the five days we were in Marbella were the sacking of the then-current English cricket team Test Match captain and the cross-channel unpowered flight of an Austrian daredevil (think smart Evel Knievel), whose name I have forgotten, from Dover to Calais.
We watched the opening of the official inquiry into the death of David Kelly live, and we found it difficult to deduce from the coverage that the investigation involves apparently serious misconduct on the part of the Skynews’ foremost competitor. Strange. The inquiry appears calculated to ascertain the proximate cause of the suicide of David Kelly. I bet he was depressed, but I would guess the inquiry will suggest it was Tony Blair’s fault. Even if that were true in the sense that the Blair government leaked information suggesting that Kelly was the source of the BBC’s extraordinarily deceitful “sexed up” reporting, why would this be deemed any kind of misconduct on the part of the government? Strange again.
Everywhere we travelled in Spain the rise and fall of empire was visible. The aqueduct in Segovia, the Alcazar palaces in Granada and Seville, the royal palace in Madrid, all provide powerful evidence relevant to consideration of the war we are in.
Before our tour, I had simply not known how monumentally important Ferdinand and Isabella were for reasons other than the Inquisition and the underwriting of Columbus’s exploration of the New World. They also defeated the Moors and unified Spain. If I had ever learned that, I forgot it long ago.
Andalusian Spain under Islamic rule during middle ages was the home of the greatest scholar and most learned man in Jewish history, Moses Maimonides. As Jews we learn that “from Moses to Moses, there was none like Moses.” (Knowledge of the Jewish law of charity as set forth in his Mishneh Torah would have killed some of the most destructive elements of the Great Society.) But Maimonides left Spain and ended up as the court physician in Egypt. He is buried in Israel, where his tomb is rightly a tourist attraction.
Among the many other things we learned during the trip was that pork is the staple meat of the Spanish diet. The chain restaurant we saw most frequently was The Ham Museum, with pig legs hanging from the wall. We stuck to seafood, of which the selections were plentiful.
By the end of the trip, I had reached page 300 (out of 1000) of Don Quixote. The landscape of southern Spain is obviously Quixote’s landscape — sun-drenched, alternately lush and arid. At this point I am declaring Don Quixote the great book of life. Like Spain itself, it is teaching me much, and I believe it could teach contemporary Spaniards (and others, of course) much about the need for prudence as well as the destructiveness of certain kinds of willful delusions. Cervantes was an incredibly wise and witty man.
Upon our return home we were reminded of the hospitality of the Spanish people in a most remarkable way. On our home computer yesterday we found this e-mail message from Barcelona:
“Not sure if you read your email while away, but I’m trying anyway. First of all, congratulations for your excellent blog. I’ve read that you’re currently in Spain, I hope you enjoy your vacation. If you happen to have any plans to visit Barcelona as a part of your trip, drop me a line if you feel like and can get together for a coffee an any assistance you may need (restaurant suggestions, places to see, etc.).
All the best,
Jose M. Guardia”
We couldn’t squeeze Barcelona into this trip to Spain, but suffice it to say we hope to be back soon.
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