Spain is one of those places that I can’t quite figure out. Most people love the country but I don’t. Someone tell me what I am for I know it is something.
My first trip to Spain was in 2004 when I was dispatched to Madrid by US Weekly magazine. Ben Affleck was in Madrid and happened to be in the midst of ending his inexplicable relationship with Jennifer Lopez. I was asked to get a comment from him and gladly obliged since it meant going to Spain, a country that everyone just seems to love.
I packed a change of clothes and off Lucy and I went in search of Ben. The assignment was only for one day and after I finished I decided, since it was a Friday, to go to Barcelona for the weekend. I had heard so much about Barna, as the locals call it, that I just had to experience it for myself. Although I enjoyed the tour around the city from atop a double decker bus and the popular tapas joint Cal Pep and drinking Claras, I wasn’t impressed.
Hoping for a different experience this time, I arranged for a three-day stay in Madrid before heading south for my spa assignment on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. My mission: to fall in love with Madrid. I was blown away by the elegance of the Hotel Villa Magna, where Lucy and I stayed in a luxurious Villa Magna Suite suite that I could live in forever. And the neighborhood had every designer store imaginable. A shopper’s dream! A visit to the Prado museum with a friend and her beau, who coincidentally were visiting from Germany, was educational and enjoyable. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Mandarin restaurant Tse Tang in the courtyard of Hotel Villa Magna so much that I ate there twice.
Yet there was still something missing. What could it be? Warmth, perhaps? Spaniards are wonderful people once you get to know them but as strangers I find that they keep their distance, don’t make eye contact and certainly don’t say “Buenos dias,” in the way that Italians greet people they don’t know with “buon giorno” when you pass them on the street. Catch a Parisian on a good day and even those snooty, chic folks will even say “Bon jour,” to a stranger.
But not the Spaniards. I discussed this topic with an American family that I met my final night in Madrid. I struck up a conversation first with the husband as we all hung out in the hotel bar watching a soccer game none of us cared about. While the patrons in the jam-packed bar rooted for Real Madrid to beat Barcelona and sang after their team won, I couldn’t help but note how the Spanish expressed tremendous passion when it came to futbol. Then why can’t they treat strangers the same way?
Or maybe it’s just me they don’t. I’m not going to give up on you Spain. I know there’s a chance for us to have a relationship at some point. When you’re ready, let me know and I’ll be back.