Spain: Speaking Spanish

Thursday

Upon arrival to Madrid, I was determined to speak Spanish.

Who knew that the Spanish I had taught myself from working as a nurse in various Dallas Emergency Departments would be incomprehensible to the Spanish natives?

With resolute determination, (head held high, shoulders back, direct eye-contact and smile) my first opportunity to speak Spanish  was received with abject clueless-ness. Suppressing the look of incredulity is a challenge in any culture. Spain was no different and despite their politeness, I suspect the 'Madridlenos' were wondering what in the hell I was saying. Could it have been the eye-roll that frequently followed this expression?
The Incredulity of St. Thomas - Caravaggio 

Typically, Spanish responses to my questions (and they were always questions) included "the look" followed by a rapid-fire spoken Spanish akin to a verbal machine-gunning. After asking a simple, "Perdon senor, donde esta Plaza Mayor?" we were exhausted. With intense focus to our respondent, we were lucky if we made out an "isquierda" or a "dereche" but only if hand signals were involved.

Thankfully, we weren't special. It seems as though even the Spanish have a hard time understanding one another. In the southern Spanish province of Andalucia, we struck up an English conversation with our bilingual waiter, Marc from Barcelona. The topic of differences in the Spanish spoken in Texas and Spain.  Marc said the same held true for the various regions in Spain and added, "Even I don't understand the Spanish in Andalucia".
 
The Spanish spoken in Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Bolivia is "Latin American Spanish", the Spanish spoken in Madrid and northern Spain is "Castillian" and the Spanish of  Southern Spain, Andalucia (Seville, Cadiz) and parts of the Caribbean is "Trade Winds" Spanish. Huh. I learned something new.

"Gracias" was a dead give away that I was a tourist.

Or was it the backpack, sneakers and tourist guide clutched in my hand?

None-the-less, the locals don't pronounce "gracias" as you might think. They say "grathee-a".

Dropping the "s" at the end of a word and creating a "th" sound to anything that sounds like an "s" within the word itself tended to deplete any confidence I might have had in speaking Spanish to begin with. For instance, when I asked "Donde esta Real Alcazar?" and was met with "the look", I sheepishly pointed to the words "Real Alcazar" in my tourist guidebook. What I should have said was..."Donde etha Real Alca-tha?

Mr. Something thought it sounded as though the Spanish had a lisp.

Other examples? "Dos cafe con azucar por favor" really should have been "Doh cafe con a-thooca".....

So, humbly, by Day 7 after persistent pleading being encouraged by my travel partner, I sucked it up and reverted to pointing out words and phrases in my trusty tourist guide.

Spain: Trip Planning

Monday

Step 1: We began our trip planning with borrowing travel guides from the library and friends...
Step 2: Flying in and out of Madrid's Barajas Airport, we familiarized ourselves with the surrounding areas and decided exactly where we wanted to go.

The plan...
  • 5 days in Madrid (including a day trip to Toledo)
  • 2 days in Seville
  • rent a car in Seville and drive to Cadiz then Tarifa - stay overnight
  • return to Seville, stopping in Ronda (between Marbella and Seville) on the way.
  • the following morning, take the train back to the Madrid airport for a 1pm departure to Dallas.
Step 3:  Logistics.
  • Determining where we would stay was largely dependent on proximity to the train station and points of interest. 'Mr. Something' was in charge of that aspect of our trip. I gave him the dates and he simply got on hotels.com and took care of business.When he finds a hotel that he thinks would work for us, he checks out www.tripadvisor.com to see what others think of it. So far, his system has worked very well.
  • In an effort to maintain marital harmony, determining how to get from the airport to your hotel is very important and these days is as simple as Googling... "How to get from Madrid airport to Madrid". 

Our flight from Dallas departed Nov. 8th @ 5pm and arrived in Madrid Nov. 9th @ 10am. Deciding how to get to our hotel from the airport without sleep was just an argument waiting to happen so...we dodged that bullet by purchasing a 4-day Madrid tourist pass for buses, subway and city trains in advance through neoturismo.com

With the exception of the rental car, I was in charge of the inter-Spain travel portion of our trip and our passes were picked up without a hitch at Madrid's Barajas Airport, Terminal 4 - Visitor Info. Within minutes, armed with a city map and our 'Spanish Phrasebook for Travelers', we were on the express train to the Atocha Station where we found our hotel within a couple of blocks. 

Other Advance bookings included...

Spain: Occupying Barstools

Sunday


Mr. Something and I just returned from Europe where it was all about Sangria, crunchy bread and scarf-wearing. Needless to say, further documentation of our journey is upcoming but for now...a few photos from our very own, personal ..."Occupying Barstool Movement" throughout southern Spain.


...in Madrid

...in Seville

...in Cadiz

Scarf-less ...in Tarifa

...in Ronda

Girls Trip 2011: New Orleans

Monday

Karin, Kathy, Me, Patty
I love these ladies. 
We meet every November.
This year The 15th Annual Girl's Trip was in  New Orleans, Louisiana.
Or was it the 16th?
No matter. 
We love our annual reunions and as long as everyone is in agreement about not ever wearing red hats I'm thinking we'll all be in for the long haul.

After checking in at The Omni Royal on St Louis in The French Quarter, our first stop was a short walk to Cafe Du Monde for Cafe au lait and these delectable little pastries... Beignets.
 Got Insulin?
Later that evening, Pat OBrien's piano bar where for 41 years, a guy with thimbles on his fingers plays a "tray".  Odd but evidently, true.

Although everyone is familiar with the bawdiness of Bourbon Street, you don't hear a whole lot of the great, unique boutiques along Chartres St. or the antiques and art galleries on Royal.
This was a highlight to our trip. Gumbo, Jambalaya, Bread Pudding and Pralines were on the menu.
Our instructor, Sandra, cooked her ass off. Believe me when I say that "Roux" preparation requires the patience of a saint.


So, with a little bit of this...
...and little bit of that...

I whipped up a little Gumbo as soon as I got home. Admittedly, it was far from Sandra's but it wasn't bad.
 Other highlights of this year's Girl's Trip was...
  • Dinner at Emeril's
  • Harrah's Casino
  • Johnny's PoorBoys
  • Centennial Grocery Muffalettas

Paranoid in South America

Anticipating travel to South America was both exciting and scary. Admittedly, reports of muggings, kidnappings and police corruption go...