Day 26 – Last Day in Spain

We didn’t do much today – it was most a travel and prepare for more travel day. We drove from Cartagena to our hotel, located at a rest stop between the cities of Elche and Alicante, near the Alicante airport from which we will be flying to Rome tomorrow.

We had a lovely lunch in a tiny town nearby, Torrellano. The place was totally packed so we had to sit at the bar, but it was a great vantage point to observe all the hustle and bustle. Our food was simple but done well – two croquettes and Iberian beef cheeks with a rich wine sauce, as well as bread with this amazing garlicky yogurt-type spread. The best part came at the end of our meal. We’d been watching the cook bring out huge pans of paella to be taken out to the tables and they all looked delicious. We watched as our waitress spooned a wet rice dish (technically not paella; paella has all the liquid cooked off) full of lobster into bowls that were then whisked away to the table. There was, however, a fair amount of rice and broth left at the bottom of the cooking dish, and so our waitress spooned it into a bowl and handed it to us – “To try,” she said with a smile. It was such a wonderfully nice gesture – she didn’t have to do that and after days or touristy spots with mediocre food, we appreciated it enormously. (It was absolutely delicious, by the way!)

The rest of the day was spent repacking our suitcases so that they would be ready for the flight tomorrow, as well as watching the Euro Cup games. We went to dinner in Elche at a burger place, which seemed to be the only restaurant open. It was actually, surprisingly, pretty good!

I like Spain, overall, I think. The whole thing with the food that I wrote about previously has been enormously frustrating and disappointing, but despite that, I have enjoyed my time here. I loved Seville and Malaga (I would love to go back and explore some more!), and seeing the Alhambra was extraordinary, even if Granada overall was just ok. The most interesting thing to me was how few people spoke English to us. In Portugal, everyone spoke at least some English, and was eager to do so with us. Not so here in Spain. Whether people don’t know it or refuse to speak it, more often then not people (waiters, mostly) would only speak in Spanish to us, even after they realized (or were told) that we couldn’t understand them.

Now, I see both sides to this issue. People take great pride in their language and feel like people coming to their country should learn it. I am also, obviously, as a language teacher myself, a huge advocate for the study of another language. On the other hand, however, one has to be realistic. Whether we like it or not, English is now the universal language for communication. And one of our guides in Portugal made a great point – if a traveler speaks two or three or even four languages, but goes to a country with a language s/he doesn’t know, how is that traveler expected to communicate if not in English? How are the people of the host country to communicate with it’s tourists? It just isn’t feasible for a traveler to learn every language of every country s/he wants to visit! So…I don’t know. I was able to understand/speak enough to get by, but I felt like I couldn’t get all the information I needed or wanted because of the refusal to use English (I’m pretty certain it’s refusal rather than lack of knowledge). Anyway, how do you guys feel about the language issue, especially when it comes to discovering a new place?

Speaking of discovering new places, I can’t believe the main part of our trip is over. While I hope to discover new things about Rome, we have completed the portion of the trip with all the places we’ve never been to before. It’s a bit hard to comprehend, reading all the names of these places you’ve never heard of or only vaguely looked at on a map. If you’re wishing for a more visual representation of our journey, you’re in luck! Chris made this awesome map on Google and you can see our whole itinerary:

Check it out!