Keeping it Real

I was a late arrival to travel. Or rather, a late departure. Growing up, my parents were never wealthy enough to afford anything further overseas than trips to see our relatives in Dublin. But once I got the bug, boy, was I bitten. And yet, in almost twenty years of exploring new places, I’ve never been to mainland Spain.

I can’t explain why – it’s pretty much the same story with a lot of Western Europe. For some reason, the East has always appealed more. Maybe because at one stage, travelling to what Michael Palin termed the “new Europe” was considerably cheaper.

My only previous brush with Spain was a few days in Lanzarote several years ago. And I won’t be going back there. Don’t get me wrong, for some, the family package holiday with a pool and an ocean are the perfect break. For me, being largely stuck on a relatively small island with said families is my idea of hell.

And so to Madrid – and latterly Lisbon. My choice of Spain was partly driven by good value, connecting flights to Portugal, and partly because my ticket to Spain was virtually free, thanks to some British Airways points collected on a previous trip. There’s not much science or logic to those choices, but when the word “free” is involved, I’m happy to pay up.

There are other attractions, of course. The history and architecture – and cuisine which is largely based around cured meats and cheeses. A la cena pequeno generally satisfies my appetite, washed down with a local beer or cava. My only potential worry is that – unlike on the costas, the Spanish are reputedly (and rightly) proud of their own language, and I’m pretty rubbish at learning such things. I feel a week of loud talking and hand gestures await….

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