Spain Calling

Friday, October 28, 2005


Written by Chantelle Petersen

I’ve just returned to London after a mid-semester break spent in Spain and part of me is cursing the London rain after soaking up the Spanish sun, while another part of me is very pleased to be back in the city swing of things. I’ve come to realize as a lot of the other students have, what kind of lifestyle I most prefer. So far, in my travels I’ve treated every destination, including London, as a possible settling point in the future. The more I travel the more I realize my personal preferences, especially when they’re contrasted with those around me.

Let me explain what I mean by recounting my trip. My first three days were spent in Barcelona much in the same fashion as my days in London: touring the city by foot and trying to soak up as much culture as possible by day and going out at night. The main difference besides the Spanish (or Catalan rather) was that Barcelona borders the Mediterranean. At anytime we could go for a walk along the shore or “sprint to the sea” to escape unwanted company. This was an ideal atmosphere for me, my love of large cities combined withy love of the ocean. Yes – Toronto has Lake Ontario but unless you’re willing to risk coming out of the water with a mysterious appendage, there’s no frolicking there.

Our last day in Barcelona was spent mainly in Park Guell. This park to me looked like a candy-mosaic-coated Tim Burton set. Designed by the architect Gaudi, this space was meant to be a liveable community but was never used because it was so shocking to the period it was designed in. I, being partial to strange and crazy things, really loved exploring the changing environments. At one point, you’d find yourself in a cave-like area, another in a forest, then at the precipice of a vast platform overlooking the city and another standing between pillars connected to a ceiling designed with mosaics. My friend Nicole adored this space. She’d been there before and couldn’t wait to get back. I really liked it too, but although it was an open space, I felt like I was at a museum with the throngs of people staring at these works of art which happened to be functional buildings. Also, there was no bit of water in sight. I couldn’t deal with the desert-like climate in that heat, and kept hallucinating the sound of fountains around every corner.

From Barcelona, we moved onto the south of Spain, specifically Malaga. Here we stayed in our own beach from apartment for a price comparable to hostels because it was “winter.” For Malagans, winter still means 25 degree weather and manageable ocean temperatures. I turned out to be a little too brave in the water and was punished with a jellyfish sting but that’s neither here nor there. My love of urban centres aside, I could not be happier to give sightseeing a rest and just spend my days relaxing on the beach. However, every time I saw a jogger or cyclist breezing past me my otherwise athletically disinclined self would be ever so slightly tempted to join them. It made me feel utterly sloth-like to see others being productive although relaxing felt like just what I’d been missing.

Our final day in Spain was spent mainly on a bus to the airport. The Spanish countryside was breathtaking. However, the rolling mountains to my left and the sparkling ocean to my right relaxed me to the point of comatose while it sparked curiosity and evoked serene appreciation in my fellow travellers. I found the mountainside spotted with white houses gorgeous, but I could never imagine myself living in them. Summer house – yes, permanent residence – no. I need to be close to a vast selection of shopping, restaurants and employment but I realize that others do not share my priorities.
Upon her return from Italy, my roommate told me that she realized what a true country girl she is/ Tuscany was by far her favourite region and I could tell by her voice and expressions that there’s no way I appreciated the south coast of Spain as much as she did Italy.

We’re all taking travel not only as exploration and the satisfying of our curiosity but also as a means of discovering ourselves, as amazingly cliché as it sounds. I’m not one to write in any romanticized fashion, but I really feel that this is relevant. I’ll continue to search out new places that stimulate me and I encourage everyone to do the same.

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