Spain: it's warm!
© By Mike Keenan
I am sitting in the Spanish courtyard of a hotel, located in the heart of historical Seville's Santa Cruz district. Sitting is not the correct word. For a Canadian who has weathered a frigid winter of discontent, with temperatures consistently below zero, I am habitually lolling, lounging, sprawled, slumped and reclining beneath the magnificent, warm sun, soaking up the benign weather and wondering, since I am retired, why I do not return here each time our country experiences a blizzard of snow that
inevitably turns to slush then ice.
And, if I ever get tired of passively absorbing the sun's rays while sipping my sherry or fino in the relaxed courtyard, I can leisurely leave the refurbished 18th-century aristocratic mansion and in a few minutes, meander and explore the
nearby Cathedral, Alcazar Palace, Plaza de Espana, river and wonderful tapas bars that will provide me with yet more sherry.
Byron wrote that this city is famous for oranges and women. The Seville orange tree decorates the pavements of the Spanish city which, of course, takes its name, and in spring a heavy perfume from the flowers fills the air.
The Moors brought oranges with them to southern Spain
in the eighth or ninth century, and by the 13th century, orange groves extended from Seville to Granada as well as regions of Portugal.
The Brits have caught on to Spain as both a vacation spot and a permanent home. Living Spain Magazine conducted a recent survey for London's Daily Telegraph newspaper. The trend to move out of Great Britain in large numbers has continually increased over the past 50 years. Spain and France are the prime choices for obvious reasons of climate and accessibility, but other draws are the cost of living and a more relaxed lifestyle.
I am armed with Langenscheidt's Universal Spanish Phrasebook and the tattered remnants of my ancient high school Spanish. Spanish is the third most spoken language in the world after Chinese and English. It's the official language of 20 countries and according to the Instituto Cervantes, a local language school, spoken by six per cent of the world.
In Spain, there are 39 universities, 325 private schools and 15 official language schools. Linguistic tourism is taking off, Germans the most keen, with an average of 30,000 visits each year.
I was eager to give my Spanish a try. "Buenas dias," I said to the hotel manager. "Yo soy un hombre sincero. Feliz Navidad!"
She looked at me strangely.
"What are you doing?" asked my spouse
"I'm merely trying to converse in her native language," I said. "Those were the only song lyrics that I could remember."
"You wished her a merry Christmas." Consulting my phrasebook and looking like a "hombre sincero," I quickly apologized, "Lo siento; no hablo espanol muy bien." (I'm sorry; I do not speak Spanish very well.)
She smiled and said, "That's okay, I speak three languages."
A lot of retired friends think that travel anywhere is risky now. Some have become paranoid, imagining terrorists lurking behind every tree. My travel philosophy is thus: I didn't work all those years to sit idly at home, afraid to venture into the world. Travel is the best form of education ever invented. Besides, it's warm here; there's no snow to shovel; the sherry is sweet; the flamenco dancers are hot. And, did I mention, it's warm here?
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
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