My bobbing, six-year-old head suddenly wakens to the humid aliveness of a Mediterranean evening after a forever flight and full day’s drive through Almeria province, southern Spain.
Much of the road is little more than a daring, one lane gravel path rounding parched, precipitous hillsides. The drive affords majestic views under a colossal sky, the likes of which is comparable only to the ethereal dome encasing the Yukon.
Still, our party of five is fully green with motion sickness, forcing the occasional stop to spew communal relief.
Now, finally, we arrive in the seaside village of San Jose. Our powder-white complex strikes like a centrefold in a magazine showcasing Mediterranean white against blue hues of sky and sea and we are anxious to drink up tomorrow’s morning view from inside.
But in the haste of packing, my uncle, it seems, has forgotten the keys. My brother stands on shoulders to break in through the bottommost arched window. Finally we are here.
We afford ourselves a few awestruck moments to take in the magnificence of our summer home. Mom begins planning the sleeping arrangements and is already unpacking, eager to lay down her bedraggled traveller’s head.
My uncle is scouring the fridge and sampling Ibores cheese and locally cured salamis found in its depths. My brothers are menacingly pursuing geckos across whitewashed walls.
Suddenly, between munches, my uncle announces that we are in the wrong abode. What? Yes, that means our five selves and belongings are strewn across somebody else’s home. Shivery silence. We quickly clean up and discreetly back out. Oops.
We break in, again. Inch-thick in expired insects and exoskeletons. Brown water, stained porcelain sinks, amphibians scrambling every which way—all stark signs that nobody has been here for a time. Regretfully, THIS is the one.
We contemplate a return to the neighbours and feign [foreign] ignorance… Would they mind?
Our ‘backyard’ consists of a cove: a cavernous rock basin plunging eight vertical metres from surface to sandy sea floor. Here we spend much of our waking days observing the rainbow of life through mask and snorkel.
Suddenly, a kerfuffle and a race to water’s surface. My brother, Chris, has an arm wrapped in slithering octopi and he’s screaming like a madman.
The shrieks follow him up powder white steps and do not subside until long after our tangerine-sunset snack consisting of VERY fresh breaded calamari, tapas andManzanilla sherry.
Alhambra, Grenada, is the most exquisite among old lacy palaces: a dreamy place to drape one’s body dramatically across fountain edges to imagine life as a Moorish princess of 500 years ago.
La Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, Madrid, is a must for its cultural significance. Though I highly recommend The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf as a supplement to the adrenaline rich tauromachia (bullfighting) spectacle. It helps with the trauma.
El Prado is an impressive marbled space in which to zoom absentmindedly with arms extended (and annoy most visitors congregating for an appreciative dose of Velázquez and Bosch).
Hey, Jenn. You gotta check this out! My brothers blindfold me with their hands and lead me left then right through gallery corridors.
A sudden stop. Surprise! Hands lift. There I stand naked and vulnerable against Goya’s masterpiece: the gluttonous, penetrating and abominable stare of Saturn Devouring His Son and my earliest introduction to fine arts.
My brothers take a Polaroid of my shock before all blackness consumes my being.
Europe is a fantastic place to visit for the simple building of lifetime family memories.
Our visit to Spain 34 years ago marks the only memory of its kind across our family history, a particular time of unforgotten togetherness.
I continually look to memory-making with my own new family. Destination: Ireland, where storybook castles beckon my six-year-old daughter.