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Saragoza and Flamenco

Zaragoza & Flamenco 10 May 2014

We head off for another day on the road, towards Barcelona. The locals pronounce it Barthelona because someone important (a king or something) had a lisp and couldn’t say Barcelona, so he decreed that everyone say Barthelona. Aurora, the latino Californian girl who sits next to me, tells me that the people here say grathias for thank you, too, whereas usually the Spanish say Gracias.

As we leave Madrid, we drive through hilly country with some forested hills, some grassy hills, with small olive groves in pockets, and occasional streaks of red-orange poppies. As we continue, the hills become barer and rockier. At one stage we are surrounded by wind turbines – you could reasonably call it wind farming. We also pass sun-farming: a collection of solar cells covering the hills.

Nada had complained about the long driving days, stopping only at servos for breaks. She thought we should do stuff in the early part of the day, then drive through the afternoon, arriving at the hotel later in the evening. Possibly as a way of placating her, Ashley decides to change the itinerary slightly and make a diversion to Zaragoza for lunch.

We pull up outside a cathedral and pile out of the bus. It’s another gorgeous cathedral, but what is even more gorgeous are the ceremonies going on around it. There are first communions and baptisms and someone said there was even a wedding. I enjoy seeing children reaching for water in fountains, and little girls in elaborate white dresses, posing on podiums for photos. To be honest, I think the interior of the cathedral is overdone, just too elaborate – nothing like the grandeur of the rose window at Notre Dame, Paris.

The hotel we’re staying at in Barcelona is on the edge of the city, pretty much in an industrial area. But the bonus is, it’s actually a really nice hotel, with lots of marble, large rooms and kingsize beds. We arrive tired, but the joy of not being squeezed into tiny rooms is revitalising.

I quickly shower and get ready for another night out, then dump my washing into the bath, fluffing it up with bath gel.

It’s Saturday night and Barcelona is buzzing. The street the restaurant is on does not usually allow buses, but the restaurant had obtained a pass for us. The entrance to the restaurant has intricate timber carvings, which are continued inside on walls and ceilings. We’re ushered to tables and quickly directed to the buffet.

This is the best food yet. Salsa, avocado, potato salad, noodles, other salads, fish, chicken, paella………..the list goes on. Then for dessert: creme brulee, creme caramel, chocolate truffles, banana wrapped in pastry and rolled in cinnamon sugar, cream puffs…..yes, luckily I’m wearing stretchy jeans. I try to be restrained but stuff myself full, then head for the bathroom.

By the time I emerge, everyone has left the tables and moved to the theatre, seated ready for the flamenco show. I hurry in and sit down, chatting with an American couple, who were not part of the Trafalgar group, before the show begins.

Six young men are gathered casually along the back of the stage. One sits on a seat that seems to have drums inside and taps lazily on it. Another two play guitars while 2 girls with stunning figures wearing velvet dresses with layers of frills around the bottom edges, tap out rhythms with their shoes. The tempo increases, the girls moving faster and stamping harder. The men start singing and clapping. Well, I guess you call it singing, but it’s more like wailing. Another woman comes out and starts wailing in earnest. The girls dance on, dance off and there’s more wailing and metaphorical gnashing of teeth. The wailing, guitar playing and dancing becomes ever more dramatic and frenetic, the bored drum player even getting excited and drumming up a frenzy. The girls dancing look angrier and angrier and I think, shit, they sure wear the pants, you wouldn’t dare cross them.

A very cute young guy in a suit and beard comes out and dances and stamps and looks lustfully and playfully at one of the girls in particular. When one scene finishes and the lights went out, I see him put his arm around her as they go backstage.

When it all finishes, they come out for a final bow and we’re allowed to take photos. Yes, it’s dramatic and spectacular, even though at the beginning I thought they looked rather bored. I suspect they do 2 shows most nights, as we heard a show happening while we ate dinner.

I want to have a go at tapping and stamping myself, and when I get back to the hotel I do a little tap and stamp as we gathered waiting for the lifts. It got a few laughs, and one of the young girls (who has been quiet all the way) does an experimental stamp too. I would have liked to practice in my room, but unfortunately they have carpet and it doesn’t have the same effect.