They say smell is the scent most closely tied to memory. It certainly felt that way when I arrived in Bilbao, Spain, lat week. I'd taken a long weekend for a holiday to my old stomping grounds in Spain and, I'm not sure how to describe it, the air just instantly felt, somehow, Spanish. (Sometimes on hot, windy days in Athens, the air felt the same for just an instant when rounding to corner of Union Street at Bromley dining hall.)
And it was exactly what I needed. My Spanish wasn't nearly as rusty as I'd feared, my days were blissfully unplanned, and I had plenty of me-time to do some soul-searching as my internship nears its end. I got to get some of the things I'd been craving—like sidra and pintxos—and was pleasantly reminded of things I'd forgotten about—like vino con gaseosa and fresh-squeezed orange juice. I spent most of my time in the always-amazing San Sebastián and went to Pamplona one afternoon to hang out with my friend Yolanda, who I haven't seen since my days at the Universidad Pública de Navarra way back when.
My days generally started with this:
An hour or two of newspaper-reading and people-watching at the cafe later, I'd perhaps go for a paseo on the beach:
Followed by a massive Spanish-style lunch during the siesta and then an evening hike up one of the mountains to the east of San Sebastián, like San Pedro:
I didn't want to leave! But alas, London was calling, so I packed up the Spanish-language books and hunk of Roncal cheese that I bought and flew back for the usual grind. When I left Spain in 2006, I had no idea if I'd ever return. I don't know this time, either, but it's good to know that Spain is still there, waiting for me. Hasta luego.