I recently returned from a trip of a lifetime to Spain, traveling with my daughter Lauren (Lorena in Spanish which is how she often introduced herself while I was there). I’ve been too tired to write down my thoughts about the experience either while on the trip or since I’ve been back because we toured around at full speed and now we are both settling in, both mind and body. I don’t know where to begin to write about the experience with so much packed into 14 glorious days of exploration and adventure and 1750 photos.
I want to begin by acknowledging that I wouldn’t have been able to have this experience of a lifetime trip without Lauren, she led the way in knowing both the language and the culture of Spain. She has lived there two years and in my opinion speaks fluently although she won’t attest to that. If I had traveled to Spain by myself I would have had a limited experience in comparison because I realized as soon as I landed that English isn’t commonly spoken in Spain and that I really couldn’t communicate very effectively on my own.
Lauren was my interpreter and tour guide. She regularly asked for directions and information from strangers on the street and at the tourist offices so that we could navigate our way to our destinations of the day.
She figured out the bus schedules and traversed the metro lines while I asked far too many questions along the way.
In the evenings we enjoyed a variety of pinxto bars because she knew about Basque wine (Txakoli pronounced Chokoli) and that we could order pinxtos from the special menu in addition to choosing what was on display. Sometimes the menu was in the Basque language Euskara so Lauren would ask for a translation to Spanish and then translate that into English for me.
And to make things even more interesting, Spanish is called Castellano in the Basque region.
So, yes, I was impressed with Lauren’s command of the Spanish language, how easily she shifted between English and Spanish, constantly interpreting for me what was being said. I found myself often asking her, “What did they say? What did they say?”, because even though I understand a little Spanish l usually would not really get the gist of what was being said. She spoke in Spanish like a pro from my perspective, laughing and carrying on like it was natural to her. I didn’t detect furrowed brows of confusion on the people’s faces she conversed with, she just kept rattling off in a foreign language like it was no big deal. I came to rely on this skill of hers right from day one.
The few times I was left on my own my attempts to communicate left me looking for her right away. For example, at a bus stop café I wanted a decaf coffee and although I knew how to order café con leche (coffee with milk) I didn’t know the word for decaf. So while I waited at a table with our luggage Lauren ordered one decaf coffee for me at the bar and then headed to the restroom. While she was gone my coffee was placed on the bar and I went to pick it up. When the waitress looked at me, I pointed to the coffee with one hand and toward the restroom with the other, and said “por chica”, which means “for girl”. She gave me that look of “you are making no sense crazy lady and if you steal that coffee I’m going to call the cops”. I couldn’t come up with anything else to say in Spanish so I cowardly went back to our table without the coffee and waited for Lauren to return. Obviously knowing a list of vocabulary words in a foreign language isn’t enough to sufficiently communicate, although it’s better than nada.
In a nutshell I admired her command of Spanish and realized more fully the effort it has taken her to get this far. And I appreciated so much how she showed me around Spanish Basque country and Madrid even when she was exhausted. So, Gracias Lorena, it really was a trip of a lifetime for me. I will always cherish the spectacular time we shared.