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The Last Days in Spain

So far it’s been a great vacation. The scenery at the beach has been spectacular; the food outstanding and shopping for retirement property has been interesting. I came very close to buying a piece of property that had 350 young olive trees, some apricots and some other fruit that was sweet and juicy. I have no idea what it’s called, but it sure was good. There was also a swimming pool and a view that reached for miles. We might have bought it but fate intervened and the next day provided me with what my physician called a possible “cardiac event.” I decided that it might be better to retire to a land where the physicians could understand my description of symptoms I might be experiencing.

I could imagine a situation in which I experience a possible cardiac event, wherein I carefully describe my symptoms to a physician in my best Spanish. The physician makes encouraging responses like Sí. ¿Qué? Sí. ¿Dónde? ¿Qué?, etc. She smiles and says (I think), “No problemo,” just like in the United States. She continues rapidly in Spanish. Although I can’t understand a word, her smile seems to be telling me, “We can do that in no time. You might be a bit sore for a few days. I play golf on Wednesdays.” After a minor office procedure, I have to come back home to explain to Lynn why I was circumcised so late in life. No, this situation does not appeal to me. While the idea of retiring in Spain has great merit, there are possible drawbacks. So, USA: I’m staying here.

The 2 weeks in southern Spain passed quickly and, like all good things, had to come to an end. We (that is, Lynn) packed up and we (that is both of us) headed north toward Madrid and the airport. On the way we stopped in the town of Jaen to spend the night in a castle built about a bazillion years ago or the 13th century whichever is later. The castle had been turned into a Parador, which is an accommodation run by the Spanish government. We checked in just as a wedding party was leaving. I would have made some commiserating comments, but the groom was nowhere in sight – just the lovely bride and her female relatives, dressed to the teeth and enjoying the party to the hilt. Maybe weddings in Spain are just like weddings here: the groom is just a minor inconvenience; just a figure to balance off the top of the wedding cake. Lynn felt my comments were inappropriate and she hit me with the small bag she was carrying—the one that weighed 97 pounds.

The castle was perched on a hill overlooking the town and miles and miles of olive trees. The olive trees were everywhere—on the mountainsides, in the valleys, on the plain. Spain produces more olives than any other country in the world. The Extra Virgin Italian Olive Oil that folks rave about was probably made from olives grown in Spain. What is an “extra virgin” anyway? I didn’t think you could have too many. So what’s with the “extra?” It’s probably an Italian thing that I don’t understand.

Back to the castle. We checked in about 3:00 pm or just in time for lunch. We had a hard time finding the dining room—it was down several narrow hallways lined with knights in armor. Lynn explained to me that there were no knights actually in the armor—they had all decayed in the 15th century leaving their suits of armor lining the hallways that they were guarding at the time. I mostly believed her because she is the family expert on all things Spanish. That and the fact than none of the knights would carry on a conversation with me until after I had drunk almost an entire bottle of the good wine served at lunch. We had dinner in the same dining room about 11:00 that night. The food as usual was spectacular.

After a hearty breakfast the next day we headed for our last stop for the trip—Alcala de Henares. Acala is the birthplace of Cervantes, a great Spanish writer, and the author of the well-known Donkey Hote. We almost always stay in Acala on our last night in Spain because it is so close to the Madrid airport. Our hotel of choice is the Beadle, which is translated, I believe, the Beatle, in honor of the living critters that inhabit the rooms. The hotel is very old and the beetles that live there seem to have resisted any evolutionary change over the past 600 years. My wife says there were no bugs whatever in the Beadle. She says that if I saw anything at all it was a product of hallucinations brought on by excess consumption of Spanish wine.

Acala’s other claim to fame, in addition to Cervantes, is the storks that nest on the large old chimneys in the center of town. A stork nest is not a small cute mass of grass, twigs, and string. No sir. It is a huge pile of tree limbs about 8 feet across. It looks like it could accommodate Arnold Swartznegger and three of his friends. This size is necessary, of course, because the storks themselves are huge. I don’t know what they eat to attain such size, but I do know that much of what they eat is indigestible – it passes right through. It is very disconcerting to be walking in the lovely pedestrian mall in the center of town and be bombed by bird greetings the size of a grapefruit. I've been bird bombed before – right in the middle of the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. That time it was a seagull that got me right on top of my head and missed Lynn and my mother who were on either side of me. A stork bomb is even more impressive than that of a seagull.

We spent our last night in Spain and headed back home, to be met by our good friends Jack and Bettie, who delivered us home to Huntsville. So ends the saga of the spring trip to Spain. By the way, if you see me around town, you might notice my new hairdo. Not long after we got home I noticed some sticky, grapefruit-like stuff in it and. . .