Gracias Lorena

Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete11

Hola from Portugalete, Spain

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.

Basque street signs

Which way do we go?

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.


Lauren with Txakoli and pinxtos in Bilbao

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.

Spanish, Basque and English2

Basque (Euskara), Spanish (Castellano), and English

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.

IMG_6897The 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.


7 thoughts on “Gracias Lorena

  1. Megan — what a grand adventure for both you and Lauren. Victor and I leave for Austin soon to visit my daughter Liz who is expecting her fourth baby (another boy :). Let’s get together in June and catch up.

  2. Carol, congratulations on your new grandson! Enjoy your visit to Austin. I’ve been thinking about you and would love to get together in June. When you get back let’s set up a time. Hi to Victor.

  3. Hi, Megan, I remember our meeting in Madrid, I can assure that with a couple of wine glasses, you can speak spanish or castellano almost fluently. Very nice to have met you. Begoña.

  4. Hola Begona, It was such a pleasure to meet you, that evening in Madrid was memorable. Thank you again for the delicious Spanish wine, and yes I do think it helped me to remember a few more Castellano words, haha. Hopefully you will visit San Francisco sometime.

  5. I’ve enjoyed your story. My daughter is only in kindergarten, but I hope to travel like this someday when she gets older. I’ve met your daughter, Lauren a few times from the farmers’ market time in her life. BTW, I LOVE the name Lauren. That’s my Ava’s middle name. Cheers!

  6. Hi Anna,
    Thanks for reading my post. I’m sure you will travel with your daughter when she is old enough, maybe sooner than you think. And you will love it. Cheers.

  7. Nice introduction to your trip to Spain. And perhaps more so, how much of a gift it was to have your daughter speak and understand the language. Your descriptions of some of your experiences were quite genuine and i really felt like I was right there with you.

    There certainly is a big difference between going on a trip, particularly to a foreign country, with a tour group (as I did as a kid with my family to both Mexico and Hawaii) versus touring completely off the cuff. In the latter instance, you conveyed very effectively what it was like and why it made such a big difference having someone with you who knows both the language and the lay of the land.

    Judging by what a positive experience this whole trip was with your daughter, it seems natural that you two should do a lot more traveling together. One country down, the rest of the world to go!

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