Happy to be Seen

by wjw on October 6, 2021

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a foreign country where so many people were so happy to see me. Not just happy either, but ecstatic.

I don’t think it’s because my charisma has vastly increased in the last few years, it’s because 20% of Spain’s economy is dependent on foreign visitors and their money, and for the last 18 months those visitors have been staying at home hoping that Covid doesn’t visit them. It seems that we’re in the very first wave to return to this country, and our novelty hasn’t yet worn off. The hospitality has been splendid, and mixed somewhat with relief.

I’m also happy to be in a country that isn’t fucking around when it comes to Covid. Covid was blowing up here back in August, and I was expecting to have to cancel the trip, but since then the improvement has been vast, and somewhat to my surprise I find myself in Iberia after all. Masks are mandatory indoors and on public transportation. Hotel rooms are sealed after being sanitized by the staff. The vaccination rate is in the neighbourhood of 80%. It’s far safer here than it was at home.

In fact this last Monday was “freedom day,” when herd immunity was announced and a lot of the restrictions lifted. The next morning I saw a crowd of young people leaving a disco at 9am, and I wondered how long this freedom could possibly survive contact with human reality.

We continue our dash across Iberia. I know that we’re merely skimming the surface of this fascinating and historic peninsula, but that’s okay. The deep dive will come on another trip. In the meantime, let’s skim on to Castile y Leon!

Above you will see the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, built in the first or second centuries AD. (Local tradition insists it was built in a single night by the Devil.) It’s still in working condition. Segovia is a lovely small city, with an impressive castle and cathedral, and the church where Isabella I was proclaimed Queen of Castile.

Here are a small percentage of the walls of Ávila, which embrace 77 acres and feature over 80 towers. Orson Welles filmed some of The Chimes at Midnight here. Ávila is a college town and was also home to St. Teresa Jesus de Ávila, a 16th century mystic and reformer. Some of her relics are on display, including her cane, her ring finger complete with ring, and the whip she used for self-mortification.

One papal legate described her as a “restless wanderer, disobedient, and stubborn femina who, under the title of devotion, invented bad doctrines, moving outside the cloister against the rules of the Council of Trent and her prelates; teaching as a master against Saint Paul‘s orders that women should not teach.”

And yet she persisted! Makes her sound pretty cool, actually.

Ávila and Segovia are both very attractive small cities, with a population boosted by retirees from Madrid and other, larger cities. Somehow they survive the horrible winters.

If they were good enough for Orson Welles, they were good enough for me.

Juanma Barranquero October 7, 2021 at 8:51 am

While in Segovia, did you try Mesón de Cándido’s famous cochinillo?

Jane Lindskold October 7, 2021 at 12:00 pm

We had a similar experience when we went to the ALA conference in New Orleans. We were part of the first major convention since Hurricane Katrina and everyone thanked us over and over. Made up for lack of various things, including parts for planes…

Ralf.T. Dog. October 8, 2021 at 3:40 pm

My form of self mortification is talking to anti-vaxers on the internet. There is nothing like making a quick shopping trip and getting yelled at because, you have a mask.

I am very glad you are in a safe place.

Steve October 12, 2021 at 3:07 am

Are you taking public transport (trains, ect.) or did you choose to rent a car to get around?

wjw October 14, 2021 at 1:36 am

We traveled by hoverboard.

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