Monday, May 23, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Sevilla and Off to Madrid

Monday, May 16

On Monday, I said goodbye to Sevilla.  I zipped up my crammed bags and took one last look around what seemed now to be my home.  Montse had offered to drive me to the train station on the way to work.  I gave my two kisses to Ceci, and relinquished the key in the elevator.  We got in Montse's car, and I could barely speak as I said farewell to the door man (who like many others had adopted me during my time in Spain).  Montse wiped the watery eyes as I got all choked up, calling me, "llorón" (crybay, or one who easy tears up).  I sat frozen in the front seat as I tried to calm myself down.  I recovered enough to exchanged a few words.  Getting out of the car at the train station, Montse gave me two loud and elongated kisses (the most endearing type, reserved for family members).  "Gracias" was the only thing I could muster up amid the tears; I turned around and entered the station, not knowing when I would be back. 

I had had a similar episode for my last "comida" (lunch) on Sunday.  I had translated mom's thank-you letter to Montse; I gave it to her along with the original handwritten version (Montse was in awe of mom's beautifully uniform cursive handwriting).  I did not think I would have any problems getting through it, but when I suddenly sensed that Ceci was tearing up, I was doomed.  I continued until Ceci was wiping her tears, at which point I had to hand over the letter to Montse to finish it.  Montse tried to break up the sadness by cracking a joke, "See, look Brad;  I know it did not appear that Ceci was too attached to you, but here she is crying; she loves you; we have both really enjoyed having you here."  The mixture of laughter and tears surprised all of us.  Montse said Borja was the same way, easy to get emotional.  She, though, contained herself both Sunday and Monday.  I gave Montse a photo of us; and to Ceci, a homemade card and printed picture of us as well.  The are now prominently on display in the living room.  The letter though, as Montse emphasized, was truly something special.  

The tears resurfaced here and there on the train and later in Madrid, my final destination on my four-month stay.  Riding the fastest train in Spain, I was in the capital in two hours.  I dragged my luggage to the nearby youth hostel and started another slew of sightseeing.  All the action made for a good distraction. 

I made my way through town, passing through the famous Plaza Mayor and arriving at the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), where King Juan Carlos lives.  Franco had ceded power to him before his death; Franco's mission from the beginning was to restore the monarchy from the unstable liberal governments of the time.  But, upon becoming king, Juan Carlos relinquished his power in favor of a constitutional monarchy and today he is extremely admired across the country.  All of the royal family keeps a low profile.  Inside, I was most impressed with the throne room and the dining room, which are still used for state functions.  Rick Steves says it is Europe's third largest palace after Versailles and the one in Vienna.  The structure outside looks austere; it faces a grand cathedral; and lots of empty space is in between (see all three elements below).  A phenomenal tour all around, but my sadness about Sevilla kept lingering. 

To make things more complicated, I was dealing with an upset stomach.  It must have been the nerves surrounding the departure.  I would have to restrict myself to a "yogurt, powerade, and water" diet for a few days (difficult considering the energy I needed to sight-see).  After exiting the palace, I made my way down the Arenal to the heart of the city, "Puerta del Sol" (see below).  Although it was quiet on Monday, it would be the scene in the coming days for one of the largest youth protests in the country.  I managed to avoid it, having other things to do. Funny that I missed the chaos before it set in.  The newspaper on Friday was full of pictures of young Spaniards camping out in "Sol," unsatisfied with the status quo political situation ahead of the May 22 regional elections.

Across town, I entered the Reina Sofia, a museum housing modern art work of Dali, Picasso and others. Most just come here to see Picasso's Guernica.  After all of my time learning about Picasso on this trip I was also looking forward to the artist's greatest work.  I could appreciate it even more now that I had been to Basque country.  Again, it depicts the Franco-Hilter bombing of the Basque city on market day (to maximize the killing of innocent people).  I stared at it for a while, surprised at how large it was.  At first look, it appears like a bunch of shapes (typical of Picasso), but you can eventually piece the figures together.  It further heightened my interest in the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso's Guernica (from

I returned to the hostel and met some of my roommates.  They would come and go the whole week as I remained in my top bunk.  Altogether, I met an Israeli, a Mexican, a Russian-Kazikstanian, a Londoner, and two Americans from the University of North Carolina.  Most were beginning their Europe trips, I was going home; I sensed their excitement, thinking of my own upon arrival.

To see pictures of this day, click "Madrid Day 1 (5-16)" at

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