On my very first guidebook assignment in 2006, I was sent to Spain for six weeks for research. While I had many regions to cover, including Basque Country, Navarra and the Pyrenees, I made my base in the heart of Aragon, starting first with Jaca, the almost site of the 2010 Olympics. (Damn you, Vancouver!)(I kid, I kid, my love affair with Canada is quite evident.) It was insane. I’d get up at 8am, grab breakfast, run around to all the shops and attractions before they closed for a four-hour-long siesta each day, then check out the restaurants and other outdoor sites that didn’t require admission in the interim, return to my hotel and shower, go out for dinner with locals, then to a pub, then to a pre-club, then to a real club (one that only opened at 2am), get in at 6am or later (after being called lame by said locals for going in too “early”—at night, not in the mornng, they meant), nap a couple hours, get up and start it all over again. It was an exhausting time. Good thing for that whole Spanish siesta bit. When I absolutely couldn’t find anything else open, I’d go and take advantage of that quiet time with a book or my computer in some plush park.
I can’t think of a friendlier, more welcoming bunch than the Spanish. I’ve visited various parts of the stunning country over the past six years and have yet to find an international locale where I’d rather live…if, you know, money, proximity to family and job weren’t an issue, of course. (Sometimes I’m far too practical for my own well-being.) Only, this time ’round, in Zaragoza, when I would introduce myself with my full name, people would give me really strange looks. Look, I realize I have a Spanish last name and all, and I can’t help that I couldn’t look less like a Spaniard, but blame my dad and his genes, not me, OK? He got all the dashing Spanish traits; I got a pointy nose, too-thick thighs and broad shoulders. It took days until I happened to meet a history professor from the University of Zaragoza, his wife and two-year-old daughter in a bar after midnight (I know, right?? Spaniards are crazy like that!) that I found out just why I was getting such funny stares: At one time, the royal family in Zaragoza was the Luna family. So either these people thought me a descendant, or else they figured I was trying to pull one over their heads. (I would assume the latter, given the blonde hair and lack of overall exotic Spanish looks, for which I would kill.)
This is El Pilar, their my family castle and one of the most distinguishable monuments in all of Zaragoza.
Here’s another view, this of La Seo wall.
Upon further inspection, I discovered that indeed the family crest—the moon, natch—was embedded in the pattern. Neat. I always told my mom I was a princess.
But finding out I’m Spanish royalty aside, my favorite part about the whole experience was my new friend Erika, whom I met up in Jaca and who invited me to stay with her later when I was passing through Zaragoza (pronounced THAR-uh-GOH-thuh by Spaniards) and even offered to be my tour guide. And show me around, she did—and in style, at that. We zipped all over the region in her shiny pink Vespa, her dog Richie always strapped on to her front.
Although I was always, first and foremost, working, it was the time of my life.
**All photos taken with a Canon PowerShot A700, after my A520 was stolen—or rather dropped somewhere—while hitchhiking in France.
If I don’t get to Spain at some point in my life, I will consider it my biggest regret.
What a wonderful thing to discover you really are the princess you always wanted to be. LOL! And this was your first guide book assignment. How cool.
I’m looking into a trip to South Africa this March and would like to figure out how to get someone to pay me to at least write about it. Any suggestions?
Spain was a country that I regret not traveling to when I studied abroad. This was a great post…I’m inspired to move Spain up on my “Where To Go Next” list.
I love your photo fridays! Such fun. I was very surprised by how much I loved Spain when I went. It was a last minute add-on to my backpacking trek through Europe, and I loved every second. Even the crazy, staying-out-until-the-sun-comes-up clubbing (which is not something I normally do!).
I love Canon, too. Ok, now on to the Spanish royalty business…you never know–why don’t you check out your family tree :). And that La Seo wall is crazy; I love it!!! What a life you have! Seriously, you have a great life! Ok, you gotta tell me when you are retiring so I can try and get that guidebook gig. How do I do that? Do I just apply for it? So, you think I can send my resume around to the publishing houses (joke’s one me!) and they’d consider sending me somewhere? 😉 Have a great weekend, K!
How cool is that to be looked upon as a royalty on your visit. 🙂 Your castle does look amazing! Thanks for sharing your heritage.
What a cool assignment! I am dying to visit Spain. Only 35 + more years to retirement…sigh!
I lived in Spain for a semester in college and just cannot get enough of it! Can’t wait to get back there. Great post, def makes me miss it.
What a killer job you have. I’ve read a few interviews about people who work for guide books and their experiences are so harried and stressed. Yours are great. I am dying to go Spain, and am in the process of buying a scooter. Ironically, there are no Vespas in Guatemala. Weird!
Photo Friday – Volcanoes and Hanging Bridges!
I love Spain! I’m actually looking for jobs there right now because a few of my friends live in Madrid. I think the possibility of a pink Vespa is doing quite well in convincing me I should just move there!
We absolutely loved the Basque area when we visited a few years back…and the food was to die for! So good!!!
I love my Canon cameras, too. I started out with the old A-1 film camera and I’ve always had at least one Canon ever since. They’ve always done well for me, and I just like the weight and feel of them in my hands.
Once again, I love your photos of Spain! I particularly like the detail of La Seo wall.
Spain is on the list of places I still want to go to really badly…this didn’t help 😉
LOVE the pics! I too tell my mother I am suppose to be a princess in another country…still looking into that!
Absolutely lovely! And awesomely, wildly fun. (Sounds like summer stock theatre.)
I want that Vespa! Also, I’ve been obsessively reading books about King Henry VIII and his wives so it’s pretty cool to see where the first one came from. 🙂
i really want to study abroad in Spain, mainly because I took 5 years of Spanish in high school. I have been looking into programs in Barcelona. Do you think that is overdone? Should I investigate going somewhere else? What are your favorite parts of the country?