By Scott Klein
Some of you may remember Noel Wolff, a German exchange student who lived with us and attended Cardinal High School in 2010-2011. She has been back to visit us a few times since, and our daughters Allison and Becca have visited her in Germany. Experiences written by Noel have been published in the Middlefield Post as well. She now lives in Spain and teaches German to Spaniards. We just got back from visiting her and her boyfriend Alejandro in Spain. There were six of us. My wife, Laura and I, our daughter Allison and her boyfriend Aaron Byler, and our daughter Becca, and her boyfriend, Xavier Moore.
Noel is fluent in German, English and Spanish, and dabbles in French and other languages as well. She received her college degree in Germany and then attended the University of Sevilla in Sevilla, Spain to earn her master’s degree.
Sevilla is in the southeast corner of Spain, close to Portugal. The climate is similar to Florida or California, palm trees everywhere. The weather was sunny every day with no rain – gorgeous after getting through our cold winter.
Life is quite different there. The siesta is a true part of the day where the streets empty out a little in the afternoons, and folks just take a rest. Where we are accustomed to eating dinner around 6 p.m. each night, they eat around 10 to 11 p.m. And they eat out most meals, even breakfast.
On a Sunday night at 11 p.m., we were out to dinner, and every café was jammed. Cafés are everywhere. Meals are small and light. Beer is commonly enjoyed with meals, even lunch during their workday, but just one or two.
We had a nice meal by the Mediterranean coast our first day in Spain. For seven of us, the bill was around 100 euros. I left a tip of 20 euros, and the guy couldn’t believe it. I learned that in Spain the waiters and waitresses are paid normal wages and a small gratuitous tip is all that is expected…simply a Euro or two.
And good luck getting your bill when you are done eating. While we Americans are always in a rush with so much jammed into our schedules, their pace of life is much slower. They are not hustling all over the place. They are much more laid back and content to just sit and socialize. I had to go in and ask for my bill at most every meal; otherwise, I could have been waiting for hours.
We did a day trip to Portugal, and no passport was needed to cross the border, as they are both part of the EU (European Union). Folks in Spain can’t believe Great Britain wants out of the EU (Brexit). They love he freedom of travel, and same monetary unit. They feel Great Britain will regret their decision.
While there, we saw Noel play a volleyball game with a club she belongs to. We went to Alejandro’s parent’s country club. Not exactly like the country clubs here with golf courses, etc., it is more like a club out in the country. It was very nice though, lots of open space, tennis courts, and a huge pool. We had a great time meeting his family and eating their traditional meals.
Men and women kiss on both cheeks when meeting each other. We met several aunts and uncles, and the greetings can take several minutes while everyone lines up to hug and kiss.
Parking in Sevilla is incredibly tight. Cars are literally just inches away from each other when parallel parked. We drove a large Mercedes minivan so as to accommodate all of us with our luggage, and there was no way we could park in the area where we rented an Airbnb. We had to park a mile away and walk each time, but in Spain, it didn’t seem like a far distance. People walk all the time. We probably walked an average of 10 miles every day.
Spanish restaurants have many types of foods on their menus. Some items we tried while there included: bull tail, kangaroo, octopus in black ink, squid, ostrich and others. Many restaurants only serve tapas, or hors d’oeuvres. You receive a small plate and share across the table, so it is easy to try lots of different things. One of our favorites was Croquets, little deep-fried mashed potatoes with chunks of ham in them.
Another day trip was to Cadiz, Spainn a small island off the far southeast coast. Have you heard of “Sea Glass?” It is little pieces of glass from broken bottles that have washed up on shore after many years in the ocean. The pieces are rounded and smooth. Typically, at a beach there, you will find several pieces while walking around. No one collects them apparently, as we filled up baggies with them to bring home. They look great in a clear glass jar.
Cadiz is one of the most beautiful places we have ever been with stunning views of the ocean and coast. There is a spectacular old church there as well. Old churches are everywhere in Spain. From our rooftop in the city, it is no exaggeration to say we could see 50-plus steeples or domes topped with crosses. Many of these buildings are from the 15th century or so. The architecture is beautiful and because the buildings are so old – pre-automobile – the streets are very narrow.
Noel and Alejandro were excellent hosts and loved showing off their city. Alejandro has never been to the United States, so we are hoping we can get the two of them here one day soon. Noel says to say hello to everyone, and is again, so thankful for her time spent here back in high school. She will always be a Cardinal Huskie.