Yes, last night was the visit to Tabloa de Arenal, a place to dine and watch flamenco. Amazing, entertaining, exciting, passionate... I could not take my eyes of the performers, which consisted of singers, guitarists and, of course, dancers. The footwork of the dancers is stupefying - I always have trouble understanding how the human brain can get the feet to move that fast, and with such precision.
Even though I thoroughly enjoy watching a good flamenco performance, I am always a little sad by the end of the night. I wish I had studied the art of flamenco myself. The music inspires me, the expressions on the faces of the dancers, the dramatic gestures and emphatic movements which proclaim proudly that life is something to be savoured and lived to the fullest. Unfortunately, when I was young, I was not allowed to take up flamenco classes - something which always leaves me with a feeling of regret and longing for a pursuit that could have been. Of course, now, it would be physically impossible for me to start any kind of classes - my motorcycle accident took care of that. So, I watch, and pretend that I am up there dancing with them, feeling the heat and the passion as well.
If you have never seen a good flamenco performance, I suggest you watch a particular film, to understand what I talking about. There is a flamenco version of the story of Carmen, which is a famous opera by the composer, Bizet. Not to worry... The flamenco version is not sung - it's a modern interpretation of the story, not the music. (I know that opera doesn't float everyone's boat.)
Anyway, this film, also titled Carmen, is directed by Carlos Saura, and the flamenco in it is marvellous. The film provides the viewer with a much better undertanding of the passion behind flamenco, and the work involved in perfecting the skill of dancing it.
The words I type here will never do the art of flamenco justice. It's a feeling, almost indescribable to someone like me. One has to watch it to get an idea of what I mean. So, I cannot go on about my experience in the tablao last night - it is an extremely personal one. All I can say is that it was truly amazing and uplifting, and I'm looking forward to seeing more when I get to Barcelona.
So, I will move on to the questions that I have about what I have seen so far in the beautiful country...
Walking through the narrow streets of Seville, I wonder about silly things like garbage collection. Yesterday, I noticed that there were a few bins, about the size of the wheelie bins we use in Australia, standing out on the street. There is no access for cars, let alone trucks, on these narrow streets. How is the garbage collected? Surely, garbologists don't have to wheel each bin individually out of the old part of the city to the main road for it to be collected every week? That concept would require a LOT of staff in order to maintain the routine of collecting it. I hope I will work up the nerve to ask the hotel staff before I check out on Sunday and move on to Cordoba.
In Toledo, I had another question, which was ultimately answered via observation. Toledo is an old city, dating back to settlement in the fifteenth century, I think. The streets there are also narrow. The last time I was in Toledo, in 2005, I had a car rental. I was scared sh*tless driving through Toledo's streets, even though I had a tiny Citroen hatchback. The streets were so narrow, I tucked in my side mirrors, as I felt that driving down them was an extremely tight squeeze. I was so scared about damaging the car, which was not mine.
Amazingly, the locals whizz up and down them at 40-60kms per hour, happily. I watch them in awe. thanking my lucky stars that I'm not driving through them again this time around. However, one thing I have noticed since, is that MANY cars here have dents and scratches all over them. It doesn't take a genius to wonder why.
In my first week in Madrid, there were 15 deaths on the road in the city. The footage of the aftermath was scary - the cars looked as though they had been through a wringer - they were almost unrecognisable as cars. It made me a little nervous about the prospect of drving the car I have organised to get from Granada, to Cuenca, Murcia and finally, Zaragoza, before I return to taking trains again. I know I will be driving like a little granny on the right-hand lane (which is the slow lane in this country).
So another question arises... will I die in Spain? LOL
I keep asking the locals about scooter rentals - there don't seem to be any! Scooters are extremely popular here - a perfect vehicle for all the narrow streets. I see motorcycles too, but my impression is that a motorcycle is just too powerful a vehicle for zipping around on these streets. I saw one take off when a red light changed to green yesterday. The rider quickly got up into third gear, built up his momentum, and then dropped immediately back into first to stop at the next intersection. I now understand why we have far more motorcycles in the cities in Australia - we have far more space! Our streets are wider, there are more lanes, and the intersections are further apart. Plus, we have far more wide, open space. There ain't no Nullarbor here, folks!
A scooter would be perfect... but, then I think of what I've seen many times here already. Cars change lanes without indicators, or checking their blind spots. Scooters have been cut off many times by cars - it's amazing that they still happily zip around, squeezing into the traffic and taking short-cuts whenever they can.
Moving on... no matter how hard I try, I cannot get used to the late dinners here! 8.30pm is an EARLY dinner in Spain. People in restuarants, where we make dinner reservations, seek clarification when we ask for a booking for 8 or 8.30pm. They are stunned that we would want to eat so early. They try, unsuccessfully, to persuade us to have a 9.30/10pm booking instead.
Since I have found out that the Spaniards don't really get a siesta in the afternoon any more, I often wonder how they have the energy to rise for work at 7pm, start work between 8/9am, and go right through to knock-off time at 6 or 7pm... returning home to freshen up for dinner at 9pm! wtf?? I'm sure I'd collapse in a drained heap if I stay here longer than 6 weeks!
So, what doesn life mean to these people? They spend a lot of time with one another, partaking in tapas, pinchos and aperitivos in restaurants, bodegas and cafes all over the city. When do they think about their lives? Is there time for reflection? Or is their experience all one big rush through the day, catching up with friends and loved ones before they go to sleep? I often find myself wishing my Spanish were more fluent so that I could ask some of these questions. I guess I might have to walk down the same path as Earnest Hemingway, and actually live here, immerse myself, and start by slowly building relationships to finally understand if the Spanish, generally, are as happy as they seem to be on the surface.
Ahhh.... don't you love it when the questions that arise in your head don't always have answers? It can make you mad, or make you philosophise more than usual in pursuit of "truth".
Just on that point...
Yesterday, I also managed to go and visit the Auditorio de la Cartuja, which is located on the other side of the Guadalquivir. (By the way, the name of this river is Arabic - it means "Big River". There is also a place in Spain called Guadalajara, another Arabic name. This one, I always find funny, as it literally means "River of Sh*t" - some fascinating trivia for you all. LOL)
At the Cartuja, there are exhibitions of contemporary art. We were there for hours. One artist by the name of Alfonso Jaar, had a Marxist Lounge. In this room, which had red walls, black couches, and a red neon light with the name Marx Lounge, there was a huge table in the centre. On it, were numerous books, lying face up. Mainly Spanish titles, but about a third were English. All titles were about Marx, Engels, Che Guevara, Socialism, Existentialism, all kinds of modern philosophy and thinkers.
I took ages looking at all the books, wishing I could spend a few weeks reading some of the titles here. Yes, it was an "art work", but you could touch and feel the books, and sit on the couches to read them, if you so desrired.
I found authors I recognised from my own reading pursuits... John Pilger, Tariq Ali, Ryszard Kapuscinski... I was so overwhelmed with the array, I took photos, so that I could chase up some of the titles when I return to Melbourne.
Yes... as I stated earlier... questions, questions and more questions... I will found out some of the answers in the near future I suppose. And if I don't, oh well... not all questions can or will be answered.
Hasta la vista, mis amigos...