Along with the cathedrals, museums and natural wonders that travel exposes us to, there are the little quirks of individuals or cultures that enhance our experience.
Many weeks ago, in Cesky-Krumlov, a waiter told us he did not like young Australians. But the “older-born”, like ourselves, are OK. We have adopted the phrase with enthusiasm, carefully noting those who are more older- borne than we are and are still able to travel. They give us hope that we will have more adventures.
In the Doñana National Park, Jose, our wonderful Spanish guide took us on a”shallow hike” ( short walk). As the temperature was in the mid-thirties, we needed a shallow pool at the end, but had to settle for a cool beer.
We arrived in Cordoba one quiet Sunday morning. One of the first sights was a young Japanese woman who at first glance appeared to be a bride, accompanied by a groom. But a closer look revealed that along with the bridal veil, she was wearing a tutu and gym shoes. Sporting a camera and tripod, they moved from scenic background to scenic background, her upper half elegant, her lower half walking in a most un-bride like manner.
In one three star hotel, two tourists walked in to breakfast, each clutching a fork. Did they not trust those provided? Did they want to use two forks as a kind of chopstick? No, they subtly placed the forks in the cutlery drawer, presumably having borrowed them to eat a take-away in their room.
Later the same morning, we were sitting on a quiet street having a coffee, when we heard the unmistakeable voices of schoolchildren. Looking up we saw a large group approaching, neatly uniformed, but chattering excitedly. They passed us on both sides, so that we felt surrounded by a swarm of bees. Only two spoke to us; a young boy said “hóla” and two girls said “ah.. Coffee”. There must have been about two hundred, accompanied by teachers, aged between ten and fourteen. They passed us and the street returned to its former quiet.
Seville is renowned for its processions, especially around Easter. But it was Friday evening in October when we heard we heard a loud brass band, with many drums, behind the hotel. We followed the sound, and found the end of a procession going into a church. Presumably this was a fiesta and there had been an image of the virgin carried in front. We returned the next evening to see if the event would be repeated. Although we saw many musicians assembling, and well- dressed people going into the church, after half an hour of watching and waiting we decided to eat instead of waiting longer. The policeman assigned to the event didn’t know what it was, other than a festival. But like any brass band, there were people of all ages, maybe 150 in all, some well groomed, others less so, looking like the naughty girls at school. Many were smoking as they waited. They wore uniforms, had badges on their chests, and many had banners attached to their instruments. Much later, back in the hotel, we heard the band finishing the festival.
We have admired dogs on public transport ( not allowed in Australia) and cats at historic monuments. We have seen art students sitting on footpaths, diligently sketching the surrounding buildings, and children of all ages exhibiting the universal behaviours of joy, excitement and sulking.
In Madrid, tall Africans stand on the streets, selling handbags, sunglasses and t-shirts. When the police move them on, they pick up the sheet on which the goods are displayed, pull it together, and move around a corner or two and begin the process again. I was amazed by how many people actually bought from them.
But the most bizarre sight we have seen is stand of dot-painted boomerangs among the scarves, postcards, jewellery and models of the Alhambra in Granada. Not just once, but several times. Why here and nowhere else in Spain? Why at all? We tried to ask one stall-holder but he had no answer, other than to ask us about boomerangs. People must buy them, or they wouldn’t be there. Cultural appropriation, globalisation or just plain tacky. Probably a bit of all three. Totally unnecessary as far as I can see, but just one of the little things that have added to our wonderful,adventure.