"Got any brothers?" the vivacious O'Hare ticket checker asked Jeff as she looked at our passports, quickly ascertaining that the following day was my birthday and that this man was taking me to Spain. She and I proceeded to fawn all over bashful Jeff, the good husband, the total fox, and (unfortunately for women everywhere) the only child.
Jeff has given me three unforgettable birthdays prior to this one, but for #42 he went above and beyond. We wanted to travel during the off-season to save money and avoid crowds and heat, and we booked this trip during the dark days of September. The deadline for our decision fell on the same day we learned that I was going to need a biopsy to determine if I had breast cancer. We walked around our small town that afternoon, shell-shocked with the scary news but with this booking deadline still looming. Jeff mentioned that even if I did have cancer, I'd probably still want to take off to Spain; in fact, that could be a good break from whatever dreadful things I might be dealing with. I agreed. The correct buttons were pressed, and soon we were looking forward to spending a week in Madrid and Barcelona. And in case you're new to my blog, I don't have cancer.
Therefore: Spain in January! World-class art and architecture! Amazing food! Not having cancer! Highs in the low 50s! We were excited.
Felix to my Oscar, Jeff immediately began planning what and how he would pack. Within days he located the perfect gray jacket, loaded with inside pockets and neither too formal nor too casual. He already had a system in place that would allow him to fit everything he would need inside a backpack. Behold the jacket on St. Jeff:
In contrast, I tossed a bunch of dresses and tights into my wheeled carry-on the day we left. My coat choices were limited. I can never find a coat that will work in 50 degree weather, can you? A trench coat seems too cold, but a winter coat, such as the one I wear to survive in Illinois, seems too hot. A long time ago I ordered a red wool coat online--it was ill-fitting and not quite warm enough for winter here, but I kept it around thinking that eventually I'd get someone to tailor it for me...which of course I never did, and it languished in my closet for years. But I felt it was the right weight for 50 degrees. My mom kindly offered to fix the coat last month, so every day in Spain I wore this screaming red number.
More than any other European country I've visited (France, Italy, Germany, England), I felt different from the natives in Spain, looks-wise. I am white as a sheet, as you can see, especially in the winter, but in Spain everyone else seemed at least kind of tan. And nearly everyone wore the muted bruise palette that Jeff prefers: black, gray, blue, olive, and brown. People stared at me in my red coat, but soon my self-consciousness turned to iconoclastic, freak-flag-wavingness, and as I rode the Metro or toured the museums, I channeled Prince in Versace and Lady Gaga meeting the queen.
You got some kinda problem with red, Spain?
And with that, I am happy to officially begin my upcoming series of posts about our trip to Madrid and Barcelona, and I hope you will enjoy reading about our adventures in this beautiful country.