Today is the seventh day of my thirty day journey around Europe. Its traditional to spend some time on sabbatical doing something challenging that stretches and enlarges one's horizons. When I was thinking about what to do I knew I wouldn't find something very spiritually focussed helpful. Instead I chose to travel, to Interrail in fact, around Europe. I planned to see some of the art I've only ever read about, to spend time with myself, and to be stretched by having to live my life with only the resources I have on my own.
It would be fair to say at this point in the proceedings that I am achieving all of the above. The travelling has not been as simple as I thought it would be - trying to cover long distances using the Interrail pass has been complicated and stressful, particularly as my Spanish is non-existent, so I've never been entirely sure if I got the right ticket.
Yesterday I left Spain and traveled to Italy, with a quick stop in Nimes. I planned my route to go round the Spanish and French coastline, passing through Marseilles, Cap d'Antibes, Cannes, Nice and Monaco. Sitting on the train gives me chance to ponder and reflect on the journey so far, so in the tradition of my youth group at church, here is my Good Thing/Bad Things:
The rain - apart from two sunny days in Granada it has poured with rain fairly solidly. Spain is still beautiful, but sunshine would have suited it and me better.
Travel arrangements - I deliberately didn't want to nail everything down before I left to allow for some spontaneity but that has added a lot of work and stress that I hadn't realised would happen. I'm going to try and make it simpler from here on.
Loneliness - my family have been lovely and kept in touch via What's App and FaceTime, but I haven't actually had a conversation with anyone about anything other than ordering food and other necessities since a lovely chat in the hostel in Seville with Armando the Brazilian...and that was Friday! I think this is actually a good thing in the making because it pushes me to spend time with myself, which I don't often do, so I think that's a work in progress - I'll let you know.
Moorish architecture - the Alhambra is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. You've seen the photos; it's like that, only it's real! (See below)
Art - two museum visits in one day, the Prado and Reina Sophia, gave me a crash course in Spanish art. I've seen some paintings I've loved for a while: Bosch's Garden of Earthy Delights, Las Meninas, along with all the other Velasquez, Goya (they've got a lot of Goya in the Prado)' and then Dali, Miro and Picasso, including Guernica. The last was more moving than I thought it would be, and to see it alongside works that put it in context, its image of shattered humanity destroyed spiritually as well as physically by war was very powerful, emphasised by its monumental size.
People - the utterly charming and delightful Eli, who works at TOC hostel in Seville. She has a rare gift for welcome and hospitality that was a blessing to be on the receiving end of.
On balance Spain has been a delight and this taster session has made me want to come back and see more. On to Italy now...and the weather forecast is...more rain!
P.s. Also on the plus side, I have walked at least 10,000 steps very day, with a record breaking 16,440 in Seville on Friday! That was 11km!!!