Falling in love with Spain!

Paul and I were recently interviewed by Adventure Rider Radio and one question we were asked was: “When will you go home?” Well, after our first few days in Madrid we seriously thought the time had come to pack it all in…

We arrived in Madrid fatigued from our month in South Africa – trying to do too much and see as many people as possible exhausted us beyond anything we had experienced thus far. I was not recovering from what I thought was flu, so we found an English speaking doctor on our first day in Spain. It was fun seeing the doctor’s face when he asked me to list “all the countries you have recently traveled to”. Long story short, I was diagnosed with tick bite fever, which I must have contracted on safari in South Africa. Despite our fatigue we were excited to collect our motorcycles, which were arriving from Santiago the next day. 

We ‘met’ Karen and Dieter online in 2016. At the time we were planning our journey across the Americas and they were on their ‘round the world trip, following a similar route. They’ve mentored and encouraged us these past 2 years and it was wonderful hosting them in Australia a few weeks before the start of our journey. We were looking forward to seeing them at their home in Spain and also to get going with our European journey. Unfortunately Paul’s bike arrived severely damaged in transit to the point of being unroadworthy. Getting the bikes imported and through customs is challenging enough in Spanish, however the added complication of arranging for the transportation and repair of Paul’s bike proved one challenge too many. After trying unsuccessfully, we called Dieter with our desperate plea. To say that we were treated like royalty would be an understatement. Within hours literally everything was arranged, thanks to Dieter’s networking. The bike was collected the following day and Rolan Motor BMW prioritised Paul’s bike repair. We just had to wait out the delay and as I was still unwell, it was good to ‘just chill out’ awhile and do a bit of sightseeing in and around Madrid.

I’d been to a few European countries on business trips so this was not my first time in Madrid. However, what I have come to realise is that this really is my “first European experience” when I consider all the things that I am really able to see, explore and do… Madrid is an incredibly beautiful city and in between doctors’ appointments and tests we visited the Museo de Prado, Science and Natural History museum, the Palace, various parks and other attractions. However, the main thing we did was ‘chill out’ and get into the Spanish way of living which entails late morning starts, afternoon siestas and evening strolls out to dinner or tapas at a square, simply watching the world go by…

There have been many incredible places we’ve seen, magnificent cities or towns and ancient history we’ve learnt, however travelling through Spain, my greatest joy has been its natural beauty! The wild spring flowers have absolutely awed and amazed me – fields upon fields of wild red poppies being my favourite by far… Realising my fascination and awe for the wild flowers, Paul found a magnificent breakfast spot one morning, next to an old ruin in a field of wild red poppies. That morning is one I will always treasure and re-live as one of the highlights in Spain and of our whole journey…! 

Many ancient ruins are scattered across Spain and we spent a few days in one which has been beautifully restored by John and his partner Phil. John and I met as students at the University of Cape Town in the 80’s.  It was awesome catching up and enjoying their remarkable haven, situated in the hills of Fuensanta and living ‘off the grid’. Paul and I often talk about our time with John and how it was a particular highlight for us both,  what an incredible few days it was, reminiscing and dreaming… and thinking about how that experience profoundly touched us and restored us in so many ways. Seeing the remarkable transformation of an old ruin into a magnificent retreat, the walks through the hills and through John’s labyrinth… the many chats at the fireside with a bottle of wine, cooking stunning meals in the kitchen that once was the barn for the donkeys… so many magical, precious, soulful moments… including the outdoor shower! We met an English couple who had recently bought a house in the hills near John. They seemed surprised at themselves and at their decision to leave the UK, buy an old house in the hills in Spain and start a new adventure restoring and building something ‘off grid’. It was wonderful seeing their joy and chatting with them about their incredible plans… and such a reminder that we have many incredible choices in life, if we are just brave enough to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’…

Our visit to Spain was speckled with moments of frustration from the start. We were immensely grateful for the generosity and help of Karen and Dieter, throughout our travels. They laughed at us and coached us when we got frustrated or confused at the slow pace of life and mañana philosophy! Our experience can be described as a dance where you are doing the fox trot, but find your partner dreamily doing a slow waltz…well, that’s Spain! “Slow waltzing” is how I’d describe the laid back pace of life here… it always seems time for yet another siesta, yet another festival or public holiday where no-one is working, nothing is open and everyone is relaxing, nothing gets done. Our fast-paced approach to life simply had not been appropriate and we’ve reflected at length about the merits of a “mañana” approach instead! On our journey through Spain she grabbed onto our hearts, seduced us with her food, wine and laughter…taught us the art and joy of a “slow waltz” way of life – really taking the time to see, feel, hear, touch, taste and savour every beautiful moment. We were shown an incredibly magical way of life and of being… and it was a wonderful way to find ourselves falling in love with Spain.

 

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