Archive for the 'Spain' Category


Madrid 2009 - Parque del Buen Retiro

I studied in Spain in the summer of 2000 and fell utterly, hopelessly, wonderfully in love. I grew up in such a small town, so far away from, well, anything, that until that summer my perspective of who I was and who I could become was boundaried by the borders of the farm state in which I had spent my whole life. Going to Spain was the beginning of a stretching process—as if the piece of my heart built for dreaming was a balloon, each day abroad breathing a little more air into a slowly expanding capacity to see something more for my life.

Madrid, for me, was the epitome of Spain. I was enchanted by the city’s bustle, its grand boulevards, its unbelievable concentration of art, and its Metro. (Oh, the irony of being charmed by public transportation, considering all the tortuous hours I’ve spent locked in its delayed-by-signal-problem claws in the decade since.)

About four years later, living in New York, I started having dreams, both waking and sleeping, of a park with a lake. The park with the lake was familiar, but I didn’t recognize it until the image flashed again one night in a prayer.

El Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid’s equivalent of Central Park. Directly translated, it means “the park of good retreat, or refuge.”

When I arrive in Madrid on June 21, I want to stroll through El Retiro; to let my spirit catch its breath in this place of retreat. I want to be refreshed—reminded of who I am and who I can become. I want to stretch, just a little bit more. Just a little more capacity to dream.

Then, renewed, I want to invite others to do the same. To know the power of true refuge.


Barcelona & Madrid: What to Read? Watch?

Most of my travels in the last few years have been to places undiscovered. I keep coming back to London, and will again this year, but Istanbul, India, even France, Switzerland, Ireland — all new to me in the last year or so.

But this year I’m going back to the place where the wanderlust began. I studied abroad in Spain the summer of 2000 and am meeting up with an American friend for six days there before visiting friends in Lausanne, Amsterdam and London. I have been thinking of, dreaming about, expressing my love for Spain for the last 11 years. To go back… a gift. I feel something in my bones about the trip. I want to start soaking it all up—now.

My traveling companion and I have talked about putting together a “reading” list, to which I’m adding time-efficient film, to be steeped in culture before we go. My preference is for great art that illuminates Spain, its people, its places, its history and its culture. I’m particularly keen to read a great engrossing personal-drama-focused historical novel about the Franco era, a la La Fiesta del Chivo, which I pored over while in the Dominican Republic five years ago.

Here’s my list so far. Add your suggestions in the comments, please. I’ll update accordingly.

Spanish History: Film

  • The Spirit of the Beehive: made while Franco was still in power in the 70s, set in the post-Civil War days. Watched part of it last week. Fell asleep. This is not a comment on the film, but on last week.
  • Salvador: A 2006 film I stumbled on at some hotel site that tells the story of an anarchist executed during the last days of Franco’s reign. Anyone seen it?
Barcelona: Film
  • L’Auberge Espagnole: saw this years ago and want to soak it all up again. I want to spend as much time at cafe as they did.
Madrid: Film
  • I got nothin’. Other than Almódovar films, of which I’ve seen many, is there anything iconic? Browsing the Wiki page for Films Set in Madrid, I’m interested in Esa Pareja Feliz, a 50s film, mostly for its in-the-moment look at what Spain was like under Franco.
Spanish History: Books
  • I found this list of the 40 best novels in Spanish, collected on someone’s blog. I’ve been interested in La sombra del Viento … uh, though I will probably read it in English. Probably. I read Allende in Spanish once upon a time.
  • Also very interested in Nada, a novel called once of the best written during the Franco regime about a young female protagonist.
  • And, this list wouldn’t be complete with a little lament that I studied Spanish literature in college, and I’m still struggling to compile this list. I got a great overview of the 16th-19th centuries, I suppose…


Where I’ve Been

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