Here's to my last post from Alicante...
I decided spur of the moment today to exercise my right to fast public transportation and take a breather outside of the city. The fact of the matter is that I simply am not ready to admit to myself that the end of one incredible phase of my life has come to an end. Although I feel ready to move back home to America, to all of you incredible people and the familiarity of Georgia, the foreboding feeling of missing Alicante is making it hard to pack. Hence the insomnia that caused me to watch five episodes of Sex and the City until I graduated to a Woody Allen film called Match Point (which, coincidentally, I would highly recommend). Anyway, it was the perfect day trip and beginning to the last few days of my time here.
Altea is postcard perfect, and what you think of when someone says "I'm on the Mediterranean Coast." It is a beachfront town with obscure restaurants directly next to the beach, such as "Ni-Hao Chinese Cuisine," "Tutti Frutti," "Fronton Beach" and others, and an older barrio (town) further up the hill. If you get off the tram stop, to your right is a rocky beach with breathtaking blue-green water, directly in front of you, well, the tram line, to your left a hillside of white houses with bright purple and pink flowers, blue-lined windows, and adobe rooftops, and beyond the houses a stunning blue-tiled domed cathedral from 1901. Behind all of this incredible scenery are very arid Mountains, and in the distance the Rock of Ilfach that I climbed back in March (or was it April?). It took my breath away immediately. The little streets were described to us by a local bar-owner (who lived in California, married a Spanish man, realized her dream of opening a cafe/bar, and invited us for mojitos) as a "labyrinth," and she couldn't be more right. There are restaurants, dogs looking down at you from small patios, frescoes on the walls, old mosaic tile accents, and, might I add, very tasteful graffiti. I am still walking on air from the experience. There are orange trees around some corners, old style pump fountains, views for miles, and archways made of flowers that lead to hidden terraces. The smell of garlic from nearby Italian restaurants mixed with the salty sea breeze. Only the pictures I will be adding below do this place justice. Mark my words: I will return. Altea was so great that it turned me into one of those bloggers that I told myself I would never become (would you like a side of plot with your adjectives, ma'am?)
On the tram ride home, I got to thinking about places so peaceful as Altea, and the circumstances in my life that had led me there. I couldn't help but get a little depressed thinking about the possibility that a return to this place may not be in the cards for me. The fear that I would forget how I felt today crept in, and I wondered how I would keep the memory of Spain with me after I returned to my bubble in Lexington. Enter, solution, stage left.
The solution to my melancholy came in the form of a 70 year old Spanish man, who sat across from me in the Tram while my friend Hilary was walking off the sensation of claustrophobia from sitting for so long in our car. I knew right away that he wanted to talk. What started out as a conversation about air conditioning turned in to a combination auto-biography, history lesson, sports discussion, and confidence booster. Turns out, he is from Cordoba but moved to Granada at the age of 11 to go to school. He told me about the days before it was always bogged down with tourists, when he and his friends from school would butter up the nuns and snag a few minutes of time for soccer. He told me how incredible it was to play soccer in the same plazas where his ancestors defended Spain from the Muslim invasion in 800 AC. He also told me how much he loved painting, and tennis. Naturally, we went off on the tennis tangent for a while, discussing facets of the game and how great we think Nadal is. He then hits me with this one: he was a coach at a tennis camp from 1970 through about 1990 at a tournament here in the province of up and coming tennis stars from the ages of 8-13. He saw the likes of Ferrero, Sanchez-Vicario, Seles, and even Nadal play when they were kids. He told me Nadal had a long neck, was very skinny, but very hardworking and polite, even at ages as young as nine. Speaking of gentlemen (Nadal and Federer), he went on to tell me that being a gentleman is part of your "alma," or soul, and not your last name. He told me to remember always how important tradition and culture is, and where you came from rather than where you're going. Regrettably, after about 45 minutes of conversation, he had to get off at his next stop. The last things that he told me (when I mentioned how sad I was to leave Spain) were that I am young, I have my whole life ahead of me, and that Spain would be happy to have me. He kissed me on the hand and said "por favor, trae mi corazon contigo a los Estados Unidos"...meaning, "please, take my heart with you to the United States". As the TRAM moved toward the castle lit up in the distance (meaning our destination), he knocked on the glass of our window one last time and gave us a wink and a bow.
Needless to say, there are some parts of Spain that I will never, ever forget. To all of you that await me in the states, and to my new home here in Alicante, I say "hasta pronto"...see you soon.