The thing about Spain is nobody asks why you’re travelling alone. It’s just not a thing. Everybody does it. And everyone is different and difference is also not a thing. There are young and old, singles, families, conservatives, tattooed, pierced and very funky people, sexy, straight, gay, very gay and anything in-between.
People sit on their own in bars and in restaurants and they’re cool with it, which is not something I am used to. Each year in South Africa my New Year’s resolution is to learn to dine alone and be comfortable with it.
I never am.
But here, it feels so easy to be alone. And to be anything you want to be. Nothing is questioned. Anything goes. Everyone is okay.
And I feel pretty okay too.
Not defined by divorce, not defined by marriage or children, not defined by sexuality.
I’ve been here for two and a half weeks and I am completely and utterly in love. I spent the first week in Gredos near El Barco de Avila, as part of an English / Spanish program and after a change of plans, the next many days in Madrid.
Madrid has stolen my heart.
I’m in love with the people who are vibrant, carefree, vivacious and also talk at a thousand words an hour. I thought I could speak a little Spanish but I can’t really get past ordering a martini and my favourite olives and anchovies. It doesn’t matter though; the Spanish want to speak English and in fact, they really like to speak English.
Language is why I was here in the first place and Gredos Vaughantown was incredible, but a different kind of love story.
This story is about love for a city! About love for everything Spanish. Right now, right here, in Madrid. It’s the sunshine and the buildings, the water fountains and the narrow streets, the church bells, the Pride flags, the wine, the Cava and the food oh my sweet goddesses the food. I love the Spanish way of drinking and eating. A drink and a tapas here, another drink and another tapas there, a stroll, a drink, always a beautiful sky, one more martini, a few more olives, and finally, dinner.
Alone or with someone, it doesn’t matter.
Because I’m an A type personality, and obsessed with how many steps I do a day, and because I don’t want to miss out on anything, I wake early. And that is when I meet all the dogs of Madrid.
Of course, I am in love with them too.
Everyone here seems to have a dog. Someone told me it’s because people are choosing not to have children. Life is expensive, but also, the world is too precarious to bring kids into it. I don’t know if this is really true because there are many families, but I quite like the sentiment. Everyone should have a dog.
My last love, although I have left out a lot, is that the Spanish are aware. Aware of our planet and aware of our environment. There is hardly any plastic. Gifts and groceries come in brown paper bags and water and milk in glass bottles. If you want a plastic bag, you pay heavily. Everything gets recycled. And second-hand or vintage clothing is big. Consumerism, except for tourists who shop up a storm, is out.
I like this city.
As I’m typing, I’m sitting in my favourite little tapas bar around the corner from my AirbNb. They have a beautiful playlist – some Spanish and some English music. Right now, oddly, they’re playing The Beatles, Eleanor Rigby. ‘Ah, look at all the lonely people…’
Except. It doesn’t feel lonely at all. It feels right. It feels divine. It’s perfect. I’m packing away my writing book and heading to a rooftop bar. It’s my last night in Madrid and they have beautiful sunsets here.
I think I should go and soak it up. With everything else about this beautiful place.
And see you again, very soon, dear Madrid.
You had me at the very first olive!