My View from Spain- Live Breathe Futbol
A few years back my dad retired from his federal job and during his speech at the party he impressed upon me something I still hold dear: world travel is one of the most important things you can do. I try to instill this same idea upon the students I teach. America is NOT the end all be all in the world. With this in mind, I sponsored a trip to Spain and Morocco through EF Tours. Our tour began in Madrid. We arrived the day after the Euro 2012 celebration. Imagine the elation Spaniards felt after winning their 3rd straight FIFA title. Some of the areas in downtown Madrid still wore the scars of the party, streamers and other remnants of a huge party littered the streets. I was sort of mad I wasn’t there the day before to participate in the celebration. Everywhere you turned in Madrid boasted their infatuation with the beautiful game. Stores sold jerseys, scarves and other national team memorabilia. Even in Madrid you could buy a FC Barcelona jersey. Soccer love knows no boundaries. These tours are educational in nature and while in Madrid we toured the Royal Palace, ate traditional paella, took in an exhibit of Raphael at the Prado Museum and viewed Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum. A few really adventurous souls traveled with me from the Puerta del Sol in the southern portion of the city on the local bus to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in the northern part of the city. Of course we took the tour of Real Madrid’s stadium just like hundreds do seemingly every day. We sat in the bench chairs and hung out in the locker room just as Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Memut Ozil do on game days. We took pictures with several of their team trophies as well. As football fans it was a great experience for us all. We left Madrid and ventured south to Toledo. The first time I visited Toledo 7 years ago it was about 110 degrees. This time it was not as hot which enabled us to have a great tour of the city. We toured the main cathedral (there seemed to be more priests here than in all of America) of the city and viewed an El Greco masterpiece. Her knowledge of the city and the painting were historically and artistically amazing. Toledo is a city once inhabited by the Moors. When Europeans drove out the Moorish people they did not tear down what the Islamic architects built. The city and others like it in Spain bear witness to the prowess that Muslim architects and artisans over Europeans. In Toledo we also visited a sword making shop. Using centuries old technology the sword makers in Toledo have been responsible for making the swords used in popular movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They also make damascene jewelry brought to Spain from Damascus centuries ago. It takes these artisans years to become masters in their respective arts. We left Toledo with a greater appreciation of Spanish history for sure. We continued on our tour and drove towards Granada. Unlike my last trip to Spain we stopped in a city that may not be well known to most people although they have heard tales about it. Consuegra is the home of Don Quixote’s windmills. Don Quixote de La Mancha was written by Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century and is considered the epitome of Spanish literature. Don Quixote was an idealist in the true sense of the word. The windmills in Consuegra were “giants” that Don Quixote had to “fight”. He and his squire Sancho Panza were the butt of jokes and practical jokes throughout the novel but what the novel and its stories teaches is that it is okay to dream. Once in Granada we had to eat dinner pretty quickly because we had a planned trip to the “Gypsy Caves”. The people of Europe who are considered Gypsies in Europe are very much maligned by most people. I have had a few run ins on different trips throughout Europe but have never been robbed or hurt by anyone. Some of the Gypsies around Granada try to read your fortune for 10 Euros after handing you a sprig of Rosemary but we found the people in the caves to be fantastic. They dance the flamenco for our group with style and grace. One of the women tried to get the crowd up to dance and when she got to me I happily obliged and danced the flamenco with her. My students were howling! It was definitely a highlight of the evening. We left the caves and went to the top of a hill opposite the Alhambra. The Alhambra is Arabic for Red Fortress. It was built by the Moors in the mid 14th century as a fortress and palace and is exquisite at night. I visited the Alhambra before but had never seen it at night. I was amazed. The next day of our trip was one of the best as we toured it with a local guide, a Brit who was extremely knowledgeable. Taking the tour with him was like being on an episode of the History Channel. My descriptions of the Alhambra would not do it justice. It is a place you must visit to really appreciate its grandeur. We left Granada and continued our tour in Sevilla. The cathedral in Sevilla is one of the three largest cathedrals in the world. It is absolutely enormous. There are numerous chapels, religious relics and some of the remains of the explorer Christopher Columbus. I had to remind the kids that Columbus did not discover America as they know it, he landed in the Caribbean but never set foot on the mainland of this country. From the huge bell tower of the cathedral you can see all of Sevilla. It’s a breath taking view and it took a good deal of stamina to walk to the top. Running to the top would be a great training regimen for any football player. Again Sevilla was filled with the leftover spoils of the Spanish victory of Italy in the Euros. Interestingly, my first ever trip to Europe was 8 years ago during the 2004 European championship. I happened to be in Athens when Greece beat Portugal to win the trophy. The Greeks (and our tour) partied in Omonia Square for a while! On the way from Sevilla to our next stop, the Costa del Sol, we stopped at a rest stop as it was a pretty long drive. I found a Cruzcampo beer with Spanish and Manchester City star David Silva on the can. I’m assuming the beer company produced a pretty good amount of cans celebrating Spain’s victory well ahead of time! We made it to the Costa del Sol and the beach area called Torremolinos. Our hotel was BEACHFRONT! We spent our last three days on the beach but one day took us to Africa. This was my third visit to Africa and second to the country of Morocco. We traveled by ferry to Morocco. Once we got there I saw my tour guide from my first trip there and yelled his name. He saw me, dropped everything he was doing and called me over, “My brother, what are you doing here”? , he said. He handed over the group he was set to guide t another guide and took my group with him. Abdul was so happy to see me he kept hugging me and walked most of our tour of the Medina with his arm around my shoulder. The crazy thing about our day in Tetuan is that 6 other people remembered me! It was surreal. I felt like the mayor of the medina for a day. As a group we saw how people in that part of Morocco live every day. It was a shocking experience for my students. The smells and sounds were so different than anything they have ever experienced but I felt right at home because of the hospitality shown by Abdul (he gave me a gift before we left). While in the medina we visited a pharmacy and got a lecture on homeopathic medicines, a rug cooperative and we ate a traditional lunch of cous cous vegetables and chicken. Little kids in the medina dribbled soccer balls while walking with their dads and there were a multitude of nations represented in shops selling jerseys.
Our trip to Spain and Morocco was memorable. I suggest to everyone to get out and see the rest of the world. People live differently than we do in America not better or worse just different. Differences make the world a great place. Learning about them and experiencing differences will enhance your life and help you appreciate the things that you have at home. -by Damon Moreland.