Monday, April 12, 2010

Forget Vicky and Cristina...this was Campbell Family Barcelona!

(Spanish family meets American family…lunch with Carmen!)

My dad has always been a do-it-himself kind of guy. Whether it be his insistence to take our whole family into northern Michigan backcountry every winter to chop down a Christmas tree, or his ability to catch, gut AND fillet a fish himself, he likes to feel self-sufficient. So, it was no surprise that before he left for Spain, he bought a ‘learn Spanish in 10 days’ audio kit—guaranteeing him all the essential skills needed for a 10-day vacation in Spain. Trying out a few of his favorite new phrases on me before they left (the main essentials being ‘Where is the bathroom?’ and ‘I’d like another glass of wine, please’), his progress (when not aided by google translator) seemed promising.

When I met my family in the airport of Sevilla however, it seemed any sense of Spanish confidence my dad had before leaving had immediately been shattered upon entering good old España. One of the first stories I heard was about a restaurant in the Madrid airport, where my dad attempted to order a milkshake. After it was clear the waitress didn’t speak English, my dad repeated, slower and more deliberately (and have no doubt, still in English), ‘MILLLLKK-SHAAAAAKE.’ The third time, he resorted to getting louder. Needless to say, upon arriving in Sevilla, he let me take over most of the talking, resorting to only ‘Sí’ ‘Gracias’ and his personal invention ‘perdito’ (his term of affection for everything and everyone.) I knew it was going to be an interesting vacation.

We spent our first 3 days in Sevilla—diving head first into the crazy Semana Santa activities, where the small winding streets are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with masses of elegantly dressed people watching the processions pass by. During Holy Week, each church in Sevilla (55 in total) puts on a procession, where they dress church members in Ku-Klux-Klan-like apparel (a Catholic tradition which symbolizes repentance and grief), design elaborate floats dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Jesus (some weighing over 4,000 pounds and carried by about 40 men), and march through the streets for up to 9 hours. Kids as young as 5 march in these processions (it’s quite the honor), and many of the older, braver participants walk barefoot (as an attempt to more closely emulate the hardships Jesus faced before his crucifixion.) Some processions start as early as 9am, and others don’t even end until 7am.

Apart from the processions, the Campbell family conquered all of Sevilla’s cultural landmarks, including lots of yummy meals and a much-needed morning of relaxation and massages at the Arab bathhouse. We continued onto Barcelona Easter Sunday, where we met Anne, and began our weeklong whirlwind of adventures. We made fast friends with the world-famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, as we toured the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, and Park Guell, 3 of his most renowned projects. Gaudi's unique style seems to combine gothic art with elements straight out of Candy-Land, all the while producing a perfect harmony with the surrounding natural elements. We continued onto the '92 Olympic Stadium and the Picasso museum, where I surprisingly learned that Pablo was quite the ladies man (managed to have 7 mistresses throughout his life AND 'relations' with a 24-year old shortly after he turned 70! Who would have thought.) We finished off the week window shopping, relaxing on the beach, and dining at a 5-course dessert restaurant (where my lucky mother got the selection that came with both bacon AND beet ice creams…mmm mmm.)

I sadly said goodbye to my family and returned back to Sevilla yesterday, only to have spring break round two begin this Friday. I’ll be spending the week in Italy, and despite my lack of Italian skills, I figure that with pizza, pasta and gelato galore, one can’t really go wrong. The gordita’s about to make her reappearance Italian style.


  1. Love, love, love this post! Enjoy Italy love!

  2. Gayle, this was hilarious!!! After visiting our daughter in France several years ago, I could really relate to your Dad's attempt at the language.
    Your blog is wonderful--