28 March 2020

10 places I would miss
if I could no longer
see or travel … (2) Spain

Work continues on La Sagrada Família … it is expected to be completed in 2026 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I know I have been moaning about how many of my travel plans have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

But, if I should face several weeks in self-isolation, I shall spend that time wisely, praying and keeping in touch with people through social media. In addition, there is a lot of books to read, a lot of music to listen to, a lot of games of chess to play, movies to catch up on, and there is a promise to complete some of the writing projects that have been on the ‘back boiler’ for some time.

I shall dream too, and in particular dream of travel.

Matador, the global media travel platform, sent out an encouraging email last week, saying, ‘You may not be traveling now. But you will travel again.’

It went on to say, ‘There are few things that collectively unite the world. Coronavirus has pushed us into one such moment. No one will exit this time period unchanged or unaffected. And we must do our part in this pandemic to prioritise and value our fellow humans around the world.

‘We believe travel is an essential human experience. We believe travel is the ultimate education, with the power to open minds, change perspectives, and defeat ignorance, racism, and prejudice. But we also believe that traveling should be approached responsibly, and we can’t in good faith tell you to go out into the world at this moment.

‘What we can tell you is that the day to venture, explore, and wander will come. We are already hungry for the sights of far-flung destinations, the comforting sound of laughter contrasted by unfamiliar languages, and the weight of a passport in our pocket.

‘This will pass, but we hope your appreciation for people will not. In real-time, we are witnessing the resiliency and strength of the human spirit, from the singing balconies of Italy to the healthcare workers putting the needs of others ahead of their own.

‘For the foreseeable future, we encourage you to do your part. That means distancing yourself from others as much as possible. And in the meantime, we will do our best to inform and entertain you with our most inspiring stories and videos. Our goal over the coming weeks is to connect you to the destinations outside your four walls – because we want to get you back to doing what you love and exploring soon.

‘Travel will be waiting for you: and will welcome you back like the old friend it is.’

In liturgical and preaching resources I posted last week on another site, I looked at last Sunday’s Gospel reading – the story of the man who is blind from birth and who is healed (John 9: 1-41) – and asked readers, ‘What would you miss if you were blind?’

In answer to my own question, in solidarity with people living in countries that are now in total lockdown or facing that prospect, and in tune with the idea that ‘travel is the ultimate education, with the power to open minds, change perspectives, and defeat ignorance, racism, and prejudice,’ I plan over the next few days or weeks to repost photographs of ten favourite places in a variety of countries. I began with Italy last Saturday [21 March 2020], this evening I continue with Spain, and in days or weeks to come I hope to post photographs from Greece, England, Portugal and other places.

In part I have been inspired by a posting last Tuesday from Jewish Heritage Europe (JHE), headed, ‘Social distancing or lockdown got you stuck at home? Take a virtual tour of some of Italy’s gorgeous historic Jewish heritage sites!’

The beach at La Carihuela … but there is more to the Costa del Sol than beach holidays (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I began on Saturday with ten places in Italy I would miss in Italy if I could no longer travel or see. This evening I turn to Spain, another country in lockdown because of this pandemic.

When I first visited Spain, I had to get over two sets of prejudices: my images of Franco’s fascist Spain, and my own images of package-holiday Spain, created by Monty Python sketches about ‘terrible Torremolinos.’

But those images were taken apart on my first two visits to Spain: May Day in Madrid, and Holy Week and Easter in Málaga and La Carihuela, near Torremolinos.

I have been back to Spain regularly since, and last year I was there three times, including joining part of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. Click on the images to view them in full-screen mode. If social isolation is extended, I may even broaden my horizons.

1, The Alhambra

The Lion Fountain at the heart of Alhambra (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

2, Barcelona:

La Sagrada Família is Barcelona’s most famous building and Antoni Gaudí’s best-loved work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

3, Córdoba:

The Mezquita-Catedral or Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is one of the most accomplished examples of Moorish architecture in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

4, Granada:

Flamenco buskers in a square in Granada … Andrés Segovia said Granada is ‘where the Lord put the seed of music in my soul’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

5, Málaga:

A fountain in front of the cathedral in Málaga (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

6, Mijas:

Climbing through the whitewashed, cobbled streets of Mijas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

7, Santiago de Compostella:

The High Altar in the cathedral in Santiago … pilgrims on the Camino and visitors climb behind the altar to embrace the silver mantle of the 13th century statue of Saint James (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

8, Seville:

In Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla in the Alcázar in Seville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

9, Valencia:

The City of Arts and Sciences, designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, is one of the ‘12 Treasures of Spain’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

10, Madrid:

Madrid has a rich architectural heritage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

La Casas de las Juderias in Seville is like no other hotel I have stayed in and is orth returning to for its own sake, no matter where it is. I have been back to Spain again and again in recent years, and have become intrigued too by the Spain that is Sefarád (ספרד).

I have found to my delight that there is more to Spain than a package holiday on the beaches of the Costa del Sol, and I would miss not seeing more of it, as well as revisiting many of the places I now treasure.

I am finding my way along the Sephardic trails and pilgrim routes in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Next: Portugal.

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