Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Despite living in the New York area for almost four years, we still have a long list of places to visit on our to-do list. One of the last museums that we have wanted to take in was the Guggenheim. With a free weekend, and the kind of low temperatures that make you keep your entertainment indoors, we finally made it. It helped our motivation that we were actually interested in seeing the current exhibition on five centuries of Spanish Art, from El Greco to Picasso.

Both Daniel and I have a special love for Spain. My husband was actually born on a Navy Base in Rota, Spain, where he lived for the first two years of his life. It wasn't until he was a young adult that he was able to return and see the places that his memory had not retained. My father is from Chile, and somehow, this makes me attracted to all things Spanish, regardless of how different or similar Spain is from South America. After looking at the abstract art of Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Joan Niro in comparison to the surrealism of Salvador Dali, and in contrast to the realism of Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Goya, and el Greco, I was in my head and in the past.

In the summer of 1994, I embarked on my first solo trip to Europe. After an initial week in Paris, I headed toward Spain, a country that represents many firsts to me. Like most Southern Californians, I had studied the Spanish language in junior high, high school and college. Although I was in no way fluent, I was not prepared for my near complete inability to communicate. What limited Spanish I had retained bore little resemblance to the words of the locals that I was trying to decipher, and anything I said was met with equally confused ears. It took a while to tune myself to the different dialects and get the nerve to push forward with my own questions, requests and comments. This began the slow development of my own personal confidence. Being surrounded by people I could not understand forced me to find ways to connect, and also brought me out of my shell when I met other travelers who spoke English. Since I was by myself, and hungry for companionship, I found myself being more extroverted and friendly. This was an awakening of sorts, and will forever be tied to my memories of Spain.

Feeling nostalgic, I pulled out some old letters that I had written to my parents about my travels. I was 21 years old, and it is clear that I was feeling simultaneously like an independent adult and a newborn baby. I think this correspondence truly displays my youthful excitement about Spain, and therefore I am including them here in their complete and long-winded entirety.
(All comments in italics are my current insertions):

August 22nd
I am in a beautiful city on the North-western coast of Spain, San Sebastian. It's a rich, resort-like area with beautiful beaches, and lush green hills. The youth hostel is heavenly: laundry facilities, fully equipped kitchen, new bedroom furniture, very clean and practically a block from the beach. All this for 1500 pesetas, equivalent to $11.70. I've been told that this is expensive for Spain. My god!, that's half the cost of a hostel in Paris. I took a train here 2 nights ago. I slept in a couchette. Of course, there had to be a baby in the same room, so you can only imagine my sleep.
Oh no! - A baby? How far I've come.
Arrival in San Sebastian was trying, putting my rusty Spanish to use, and searching for anything that might be open on a Sunday. By the afternoon I was settled. I went to a restaurant/bar in search of food. Nothing was open in the way of "real" food, other than tapas. While sitting at the bar, I met an English man, probably older than Mom and Dad. He's married with children and lives in Valencia. He is in San Sebastian performing in a quartet, singing some form of classical music, I think baroque. He invited me to join him and his associates for dinner. We had an absolutely amazing meal in an expensive restaurant, and they treated. This man's name was David, and his friend's were Robin, another Brit, and David, a flamboyant gay man from the U.S., who now lives in Austria. As happened, I arrived in San Sebastian the last day of a week long festival, and they had a spectacular, twenty minute long firework display. It was quite a wonderful night. David offered me a free ticket to see his group perform tonight, but I feel a little uncomfortable. All night he kept telling me about his wonderful relationship with his wife, and how much I reminded him of her when she was young. When he walked me back to the hostel at night, I was concerned that I may have missed the closing curfew, but I hadn't. He then said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I was hoping it would be closed." Gross! No way, Jose! Besides being ancient and married, I am not the slightest bit attracted. Why do men have to fuck-up a perfectly good evening?!
Ignore my naivete, can you believe I used the F-word in a letter to my parents??

Aug. 23 '94
Next Day. I'm headed for Madrid tonight. My stay in San Sebastian was very peaceful. Yesterday and today I went to the beach. My buns are burned. I actually went topless.
(Oh yes, I never went to the concert that the British man invited me to.) I met 2 other Californians and decided to hang low with them. Today I took a hike through the vegetation with an Asian guy from Hermosa. This traveling is great. I want to keep going and going.

Aug. 25
In Madrid. Kevin (the Asian guy) and I went to Madrid together. We spent the day following mapped-out 'walks through Madrid". We were not impressed - just another big dirty city.
What a fool was I.
While following our map, we met a couple from New York, Bob and Tania. We went to the Palacio Royal together and then lunch. Our Spanish waiter was extremely rude, screaming "Vamanos! Vamanos!" as we tried to order. In the evening, I called Julio, Josephina's brother, and the four of us met him for drinks and dinner. First we went to a bar, where Julio's friends were hanging out, and had about 3 rounds of drinks. We had great conversation, despite the fact that only poor Spanish or English was spoken. Momo, Julio's Moroccan friend, joined us when we left for dinner. The six of us ate an incredible Catalonian dinner and drank more vino. We had salad, bread, jamon, chorizo, tuna omelet and pate, then dessert, coffee and some extremely strong alcohol. I had a great time. When we left the restaurant, it was 1:30 or 2. We proceeded to the next bar where we drank mas cerveza. Along the way, another of Julio's friends, Tom, joined us. The bar was very cool. It was entirely decorated in painted tiles. At 2:30, Julio and his friends informed us that the night was just beginning. We walked to a disco/bar. This place was a 'trip'. The hallway to the servicios was painted with pornographic pictures. We danced all night long. The music was all in English. It was so funny, because we were probably the only people in the place who knew the words, and we sung them out loud. Madrid's night life is insane. We didn't leave the disco until past 6 in the morning, and this was considered early. There were people still packing in at this time! It's the day after and I'm definitely not recovered. The Spaniards in Madrid could definitely out party any American.
I'm staying in a hotel, where for the first time, I have my own room. Privacy at last! Daniella, another Californian I met in San Sebastian, joined Kevin and I this morning. We went to the Prado, which was very intense, and now I'm resting in the Parque del retiro. Tomorrow, I think I'm going to head for Sevilla. I might catch
up with Bob and Tania, who are heading in the same direction.

Aug. 30th
I called you from Sevilla, absolutely miserable. Nobody spoke English and I was bored and lonely. Sevilla is perhaps the prettiest Spanish city, but the heat and bugs are unbearable. While in Sevilla I stayed in a bungalow (part of university housing). The room was very clean with a bath and air-conditioning all to myself. The day before, which was in Madrid, I spent with Daniella. We spent the latter part of the day drinking sangria and getting quite silly. All of a sudden, I looked at my watch, and realized that I had 40 minutes to get back to the hotel, grab my stuff, and run to the train station. I barely made it! The day after I spoke with you, I got in contact with Bob and Tania. Our day together in Sevilla was much more enjoyable. They were renting a car, and we decided to head for Granada that evening. In between meeting Bob and Tania, and being reunited with them in Sevilla, Bob proposed to Tania in a castle. They've been dating for four years, and are finally ready to tie the knot. Tania now wears a rather large rock on her ring finger. Yesterday, the three of us went to the Alhambra and Generalife gardens. Beautiful! It's also possible to beat the heat amidst all that vegetation. The hostel we stayed in has a pool, which has been lovely. They took off mid-afternoon, yesterday, but I wasn't lonely for long. There are tons of Australians, British, Canadians and Americans in this hostel, all young and ready to party. A large group of us hung out drinking cheap red wine, and then headed into the city at 11PM. My first romantic encounter! One of the Brits and I hit it off. We ended up kissing in an Arab bar, with a lovely view of the city. He plays guitar, and is studying the flamenco. He has actually made some extra money by playing in the streets. His name is Nick, and he is a true nomad. He travels constantly, and has been just about everywhere. I believe his family is rather affluent, but Nick has the heart of a gypsy (an easy feat when the parents help you along $). Actually, he does work and pay for almost his entire traveling.
All this nonsense for a busker? - Wow.
Anyway, I have decided to stay another evening in Granada, with this fun crew of people. Then I'm off to Barcelona!

P.S. I evaluated my funds, and if I keep spending as thus, I might be home on my birthday. I'm trying to learn to cut back. You know how much I love good food!

Sept. 4 '94
First of all, "Happy Anniversary!" I wish I were with you guys. Last I wrote, I was in Granada, having fun with a guy from England, and partying day and night. My friends were trying to teach me how to cut back on expense. They had me eating cold lentils and chorizo out of a can. Everyday, we journeyed to the market to buy bread, tuna, tomatoes, and a carton of wine. The whole day was spent drinking by the pool, and trying to master the many uses of a Swiss army knife. The evening I finally headed off for Barcelona, I realized one of the major differences in myself. I'm much friendlier and open to making friends. Meeting someone and deciding to spend the entire day with them in five minutes is the norm. I think that this is a good thing. Everyone is so accommodating. No one is excluded and everyone is invited.

I love Barcelona. It is one of my favorite cities yet. There is such an incredibly happy energy here. My first day I was charmed. Many unbelievable things have been happening. On my first day, I was admiring a catedral when I heard someone say, "Sarah?!" I turned around and saw a girl who I had worked with at Gaucho Grill. Her name is Stacee, and she was with her best friend, Jennifer, doing Europe in a month. I think that is was pretty amazing that we were in the same plaza, at the same time, in Spain! We spent the day together and went to the Park Urgell. That evening I met Joel, a guy from CA. who has been traveling for about 6-7 months. We decided to cook an incredible mussel, vegetable pasta the following evening. It ended up quite delicious. Earlier that day, I took a tourist bus around Barcelona, stopping at the major sites, such as the Gaudi buildings, Poble Espanol, shopping areas, Olympic stadiums, and the Pablo Picasso museum. After shopping in an open market and cooking our grand dinner, we joined two Australian guys, and 2 Canadian girls for a night out on the town. We went dancing to a club called Karma, where we were stuffed like sardines with a group of extremely drunk Spaniards. Our hostel had a 3AM curfew (extremely lame in Barcelona), so we could not stay out very late.
The following day (Saturday Sept.3) I got a hold of Will (a friend of a friend from L.A.) and made plans to go to the beach. Will's friend Steve joined us. All of a sudden, Steve, who is a model/commercial actor started to wave over one of his friends. I look up and who the hell is it, but Monte!! "Oh my god!" I gasped.
Monte was an old ex-boyfriend from college.
It turns out, he's living in Barcelona for a couple of months, trying to get some modeling work. It's a very small world. He joined us, and then in a couple of minutes, recognized another friend who had gone to UCLA!! By the end of the afternoon, 4 or 5 more people had joined our beach party. Steve offered to let me stay at his apartment. That evening we went to 2 bars (Cafe del Sol and ZigZag - a model hangout) and a disco called Ottozutz. Monte and another English model were supposed to join us, but their gay booker/agent was showing them off around town. Today I slept til 1PM, and then headed to the beach with Steve. The English model (also named Steven) joined us. Later that night, I turned on the tube to see the Diagnosis Murder episode that I was on, being dubbed in Spanish.
I played a nun!
It was absolutely hilarious to watch myself, but to hear a different voice and language....
blah, blah, blah...
P.S. Remind me to tell you about these two American girls who went to the disco with us, and did the most disgusting porn-like dirty dancing with two other American guys. An unbelievable show!
Dirty dancing - the horror!

Hey Family! Last I wrote I was loving Barcelona (and still do!). My last day in Spain, was once again spent on the beach. While tanning, I met a very nice Canadian boy - blonde, buff, intelligent, compassionate, he works with mentally and physically handicapped children (ahh, a sensitive heart!). Anyway, he invited me to stay with him and his friends in Cannes. I'm looking forward to hooking up with him.

After rereading the above, I realized a few things. First, I have diarrhea of the written word. I lied, the above is actually edited! Second, I was a lush. Third, talk about too much information, can you believe how much I told my parents?


Blogger Rein Morgen said...

ROFLMAO. Oh Sarah, I was doing the exact same stuff just on this continent. I was city hopping across our lovely great nation. Alcohol, food, new friends, alcohol induced "wonderful" men, and the lot.
We can both have drunken slut on our resumes. LOL

11:18 AM  
Blogger Rein Morgen said...

I have to laugh, neither mom commented here. Did I scare them, or maybe it is all you Sarah! Yeah, I blame you ;)

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Mom G said...

After reading Rein's last comment and laughing at her remarks, I HAD to write.As I have mentioned before,I am learning soooo much about you.Some things maybe would have been better not to know and yet I in some ways envy your free spirit.At your age of this trip I was getting married,leaving my parents home to start a whole new life.The only travel I did was going to Bermuda with a couple of girlfriends the year before I got married.(Some day I will tell you how "wild" your mother-in-law was).Not sure I could have told my parents all the info you seemed to have shared with yours.Just goes to show what a close relationship you have.Keep writing, you won't scare me,maybe surprise me at times, but I will always love you for what you are....(and were....)

12:16 PM  

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