My french language skills leaves a lot to be desired, I know this. But, as the people of Spain loved to point out, my spanish language skills are non existent. I know around 10 phrases, all of them completely basic, I had to stop my son from singing “Yo no hablo espanol” over and over, because it was getting really boring for him to say.
My experience in Spain was very mixed. On one hand, it was VERY beautiful, The drive from Madrid to Granada was spent looking at the countryside in awe and contemplation of our amazing opportunity to be there. We saw the Alhambra, and Flamenco dancers in Granada. The Alhambra was one of the most amazing places I have seen in my life. We spent a few hours wandering the grounds on our own before we met up with the Stacks and went into one of the castles together, amazing! I wish I had taken 1,000 more pictures. The Flamenco dancers were nothing short of awe inspiring. It was a late night, Our walking tour started at 10pm and lasted for more than an hour before we went into the restaurant/cave, my kids handled it like champs. It was a little chilly but our guide was great and my kids were attentive. Once the show started Kaleb cuddled in and I spent the next 90 minutes trying not to let my jaw hit the floor or look too stunned. It was truly amazing. About halfway through I had to hold a sleeping Kaleb’s head up so he didn’t fall right out of his chair. It was so loud and we were so close, I was a little surprised he was able to sleep, but he didn’t whine, cry or complain once so I didn’t mind holding his face with my elbow. I also noticed that people in Spain loved my kids, in fact, all kids were treated differently than here in France. People constantly talked to them, handed them flowers, laughed with them playing in the squares, and even tried to comfort them when they seemed upset, Kaleb was all out hugged by an older man with honest intentions at the Alhambra when he had a 45 second meltdown, I’m sure it would have been longer had the man not approached Kaleb, but the boy was so stunned he stopped immediately and tried to figure out what was happening. The man wiped his tears with his own sleeve and ushered Kaleb a few feet to a water fountain. Then they high fived and separated, just an example of how kids in Spain are looked upon. Here in France I get the feeling people really want me to beat my kids if they dare to cry in public. The Sangria’s were the best I’d ever had, hands down. Our hotel in Madrid was very central, so it was quick and easy to do anything and everything we wanted to do, we were very close to a large square so it was easy for me to sit in the sun and have a coffee while the kids played around or watched entertainment, living statues, magicians, people blowing bubbles larger than my kids. In Madrid and in Granada it really seemed like foreigners banded together, people were happy to speak in English or French to me, ask me about our trip and tell me about theirs. I had coffee one morning with an old man from Peru, he didn’t speak english or french and he only sat with me because I had one of the last empty chairs in the sun at my table, but we got across that I was from Canada, he was from Peru, and my kids were being silly enough that we could laugh at them together. But, there’s a reason I believe the foreigners tend to band together. Again, My experience in Spain was very mixed.
On the other hand, a wingspan away from the first one, visiting Spain was a difficult venture. Where I live in France, people are very patient and kind with me trying my best to speak french, it can be obvious when somebody is annoyed, but they aren’t overly rude, ever. My phone was useless in Spain, except when I was connected to Wifi, so using my translation apps, I practiced anything I thought I’d need during each outing, but I couldn’t translate on the fly, at all. I was constantly angering people. Cab drivers when I showed them an address or didn’t have exact change and had a hard time communicating that, employees of every single restaurant that I had to point at items from the menu, people asking me questions on the street, it seemed more people were angry with me in my five days in Spain than in my two months in France, by far. My attempts at asking questions or saying things in spanish were not taken kindly, people did not slow down their speaking or attempt to help me understand anything. Not that they have to, it was my job to navigate my five days there, it was just unexpected. I also did not expect to be physically pushed out of the door of a restaurant when I asked if they were serving food (asked, in rough spainsh) pushed and yelled at about not speaking spainsh (I think). It was more difficult to navigate feeding my kids than it should have been. Spain runs late, and I don’t mean the bars are open until 2am, I mean people don’t go for dinner until around 10pm, and often later. When we left the Flamenco caves and headed back to our hotel around 12:30am we saw people outside sipping coffees at cafes, restaurants (not bars) were packed with people eating dinner, the city was alive, from toddlers to seniors, everywhere. Doesn’t seem like an issue until it’s 5pm, your kids are starving and there isn’t a SINGLE place to eat. On one occasion I had to buy chips and other convenience store snacks just to tide my kids over until 7pm when the earliest (and likely crappiest) restaurant opened, and even then we ate in a room full of seniors. If it had been appropriate to take pictures of us in this setting, I would have, it was hilarious, I was the youngest one there by about 40 years. Eating was a weird balance of adjusting to another country and not starving my kids just for a cultural experience. My kids ate more bar nuts on that trip than I hope they do for the rest of their lives. So we learned that Lunch needed to be the big meal (3pm lunch? No problem!) and granola bars, trail mix, fruit and yogurt would be dinner. Our companions also had a bit of a rough go on our trip. Two of them ended up with a stomach virus that lasted longer than anybody would like. Having a stomach virus is an extremely difficult thing to deal with at the best of times, never mind being in a country where you know no words and seem to piss people off everywhere you go, and are stuck in a stuffy, tiny hotel room. Luckily, they didn’t go on their own, can’t imagine how rough that would have been.
Like I said, it was a very mixed experience. I am glad I went, saw some amazing things and met some great people but I think I can honestly say “been there, done that” about Spain. There are many other places I’d rather see before returning to Spain. On a positive note, it made me realize how much I actually CAN communicate in french, upon our return to France it felt like a miracle to understand most things and be able to ask questions again. While I was fumbling outside of our building with still packed bags from Spain looking for my keys I was stopped by a couple who asked me if the store two doors down was always closed, or just closed on Mondays (in french, of course) the feeling of relief I felt realizing I was back to understanding people was so strong I wanted to hug those strangers right there on the street. But I didn’t, because I’m not THAT weird. I just said “Ils n’ont pas ete ouvert pour un mois, ils ont construction a l’interieur” and opened my door and went home.