Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Leaving Spain, And a Piece of My Heart

Back from our last European travels (well, except for a 2-day stint in Paris coming up on our way out), we went into full-on pack-and-clean mode, at the same time welcoming in my German sister Martina and her family for 5 days, and of course a last massive flamenco party was in order!  I played padel, rode my bike through Puerto’s centro, visited friends, had some last dinner parties, packed like crazy, sold the big furniture we didn’t need, and cleared out the central patio for the goodbye party.

My friend Begoña gets the party rocking

Dancing my last bulerias

And what a party it was!  With Alejandro playing the guitar, Laura Alvarez singing in turns with Begoña and me, Enrique on the tambor y flauta, and a packed house full of people who had made Spain so all-embracing for me.  It was bittersweet, to move flushed and happy through the crowd, chatting with all the different people from our life we had created here in Spain, knowing that this was the end of an adventure that had changed and enriched me dramatically.

This is not your usual potluck!
And the most amazing goodbye gifts imaginable:  a Spanish tuna, complete in costume, serenading me in the street as I stood on the handsome wrought-iron balcony of my beloved palace.   That, along with a stunning hand-drawn portrait of me with the façade of our palace as a backdrop, a unique way to take a piece of Spain home with me, wrapped in memories.  These, along with some beautiful wines and sherries for our wine shipment, beautiful jewelry, and the hugs and well-wishes and offers of help and welcome whenever we return.  It made my heart sing and weep, such outpouring of love and friendship.

The tuna, serenading me!

Then they filled the garden with their harmonies

We cleaned the palace once more on Sunday with the help of Martina and crew, and then the movers came, packing and taking away everything in one fell swoop of a Monday. 

We'll miss this pool

Once we were packed, I was melancholy.  For a week I walked through my palace, now bereft of our things and left only with the remainders of Tomás Terry’s lovely and faded furniture.  I fixed up the main courtyard as best I could, hauling out an old green 15 x 20 foot carpet and arranging the old sofa and matching chairs from Todd’s man-cave.  We had a few plates and cups left so we could still eat at home, although those things disappeared as well as I finished up our yard sale and helped pack all the remaining items into a charity organization’s truck.  I completed all my lasts: last party, last flamenco class, last visit with this friend or that, last dinner with friends, last cleaning. 

Last dinner party at the palace

Last flamenco party with my compañeras

Saying goodbye to Juan at Bar Milord, where Vale That got its start

I’d thought that we would have more free time once our stuff was packed out, but there were so many things to do: a spa circuit at friend Mila’s hotel, the friends Tia and Sasha wanted to invite over one last time, the yard sale I persisted in, wanting our things to avoid the landfill and serve someone else’s needs, and the cleaning my beloved palace deserved.  
The most elegant office I'll ever have

Splendid façade

In the end, I didn’t get everything perfect, but I felt good that I had left the palace better than I had found it.   That would have to be enough.  We closed the door one last time and drove off at 5 am, headed away from a place that had been our home and that had taught me so much for five delightful years. 

El castillo de San Marcos, with my cousins Stephan and Kristen

What made Spain so special for us? 

The obvious: a familiar and delightful climate, warm to hot and sultry in the summer, cool to brisk and damp in the winter, but not too much on either side, and nearly always perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the view.

My beautiful Puerto de Santa María

The Things of Spain:  sherry, and the delight of learning about this hidden gem of a beverage; the Andalusian horses, with their massive necks, waving manes, gentle and noble temperaments, and willingness to please; padel, which never failed to make me laugh with the crazy backboard shots and tricky returns...

The magic flor of sherry

Riding on the beach

...the bullfights, controversial as they were, but with the brass refrains echoing through the Plaza de Toros and the Olés of the crowd, so quintessentially Spanish; the processions, religious and solemn and casual and deeply meaningful all at the same time; the Spanish language, rhythmic and flowing, my own mind catching it to an almost-perfection for brief moments, but always the joy of working its beauty on my tongue, the half-sadness at not having fully mastered it even after five years. 

Puerto's bullring

And then there’s flamenco.  From the first misconceptions of flamenco-as-tapdance, to the intricacies of the first bulerias moves, to the sevillanas and my first feria dresses and dances, the multifaceted world of flamenco fascinated me and left me determined to learn at least some of it.  And learn I did, learning first bulerias steps, then the wrist and shoulder movements, and finally daring to grasp for the attitude that makes a true bailaora.  

A pretty good flamenca

Through five teachers and the stealing of as many different sevillanas moves, I learned a great deal—and mostly learned how much there was to learn that I was not going to reach in a paltry five years.  Just to make that clear, I joined my teacher Jaime’s singing class in the last year, belting out my best attempt at sounding flamenco, much to my compañeras’ amusement, and I learned to play the castañuelas (castanets) barely well enough to dance with them last feria season. 
A flamenca wannabe

Four years of multiple dance classes per week, 20+ feria dresses with all the accouterments, and five fun-and-dance-filled feria seasons later, I know that I have just scratched the surface of what is meant by “flamenco.”   And I know that I will miss it dearly.

You gotta love feria

But beyond all the obvious lay a treasure most unexpected:  the Spanish people, and those we met in Spain.  We branched out from wonderful naval base friendships to the most delightful and interesting local friendships, and the more I basked in the wonder of our luck in meeting such amazing people, the more our luck grew.  

Naval base beauties

Olé Maribel!

Learning from the pros

I was welcomed into, not just one but three different groups of compañeras, women (and the occasional señor!) who loved flamenco and loved that I loved it, too.  We met people from many different regions and were welcomed into their homes and lives.  

At the Spanish Navy Ball with my amigas españolas

We were taught and invited by those eager to share their heritage.  The reason my blogs are full of such joy is due to the friendships created in five short years, and the big-heartedness of those we met and joined with in friendship.

Americans and Spanish all together now at the last Vale That concert

So glad to be here

And it is the main reason I am grateful to have these stories encapsulated in my blog, and why I enjoy re-reading it.  Spain, you have made my world so much bigger.  I will always be grateful from the depths of my heart.

Last dinner with our very first friends in Puerto:  How we will miss you!!

This will be the last installment of the Rico Petersons in Spain blog.  You can follow our adventures in the U.S. at the following link:

A California Adventure

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