The streets were bustling as we found our way out of the station and onto the street, our legs still aching from the long flight. Photos being taken, children running around, the man (or perhaps, woman), dressed in a giant bear costume, hoping for pictures in exchange for a few cents. The sun was beating down, encouraging us to take off our sweaters and put on our shades. Like happens so often in a new place, a phone was pulled out, and an app turned on. We have to go down that street, he said. I miss traveling before smart phones provided us with the answers to every question. We walked across the cobblestone, suitcases thumping, the wheels begging not to break. We dropped them off, and were back out into the city, which was already a bit cooler than before, as the clouds began to take shape.
No-one crossed the street until the sign gave permission. I knew I was no longer in New York. We continued through the plazas, filled with tourists and overpriced restaurants with pushy staff. No, gracias, I would say. I hate to purely ignore. Finally, we found ourselves down a side street, entering a little spot with food that was intended for locals. I’ll have smoked cod, and that pepper dish, and yes, definitely the sangria. The food was filled with the flavors of the country, leaving us fuller than we intended, yet surprising our host when we had finished so quickly and didn’t ask for more. We were alone for a precious moment, jet-lagged but content, celebrating our first year together.
Suddenly we were back out into the world, and minutes later were standing in the center of the bustling market, filled with purveyors selling meat, fruit, wine, cocktails, and oh so many desserts. He could hardly choose which sweet to have, which meant we went back twice. The energy was palpable, leading us to understand what a Sunday afternoon in this city was like. Let’s keep going, we said. We soon found ourselves in front of a palace, which happens often in this part of the world. I knew we had to go in, when I heard one of my favorite songs being played next to the queue. The palace was glorious, like so many are, and we soaked in the rich architecture and art within.
It will take an hour to walk to dinner from here, he told me. Shall we take the train? No, let’s walk. Back through the market, back to the original square, the same bear continuing to hug tourists who were passing by. That creeps me out, I told him. I think it’s cute, he responded. We found ourselves in a park, seemingly the size of the big one we have in our home city. On the other side, we were beyond the area where tourists go. I was glad we had walked. The cafes were filled with friends and family enjoying their last meal of the weekend. The sun was still shining bright, though the 8 o clock church bells had already rung. Finally, we were at the restaurant – far removed from the city, but filled with others who had made the long trek. I wondered what else they had seen that day. One year, we remembered. We finished the last drops of wine, and headed back into the streets, now dark. It was time to rest.