With the bikes gone and new backpacks in tow, we were lighter, faster, more agile than ever. Trains, buses, cabs, piggy-backs, we could take whichever mode of transportation we wished. The world was now at our toe-tips.
After a week of change in Madrid, we hopped a bus south to Cordoba.
In Cordoba we stayed a night with an Ecuadorian couple, Davids and Paulina, both of which were studying and/or practicing medicine.
For a day we explored this ancient Islamic-influenced city, wandering around streets of Moorish and Roman architecture. From the Alcazar to the Roman bridge, the scenery here was all a bit different than the rest of Spain, we were inching toward the Arab world.
After Cordoba came Seville, the most Spanish of Spanish cities. Here, we were housed by a martial arts teacher, Jeronimo, and his Chinese Kung-Fu master. Three wonderful days were spent in this city, seeing the sights, enjoying the food, and falling completely in love with the atmosphere.
We both truly enjoyed the Plaza de España in Seville, returning each day of our visit to gaze at this highly detailed and enormous structure.
In addition to the Plaza de España, we paid a visit to the architectural masterpiece, the Metropol Parasol, an ultra-modern piece of art tucked between the walls of this 2,200 year-old city.
We also spent quite a bit of time in the old town, Barrio Santa Cruz, where we lost ourselves for hours in the narrow, winding streets.
On one afternoon, we enjoyed a few beers at Cerveceria Internacional and found a slice of home in the trendy, hipster-clad coffee shop of Red House Art & Food.
To top off our trip, we followed tradition and enjoyed a night of Flamenco at La Carboneria. No touristy, over-priced entry-fees here. Just a quaint bar, with a few tables, and a small stage. All free, although drinks were encouraged.
By now, time was flying, the world was passing us so quickly. It had been about a week since our big change in Madrid. The buses and trains transported us in a whole new manner, one much faster than our previous pedal-ridden lives.
From Seville, we took a quick dip south to Cadiz, the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Spain. This was to be a quick, uneventful pit-stop before we set sail to Morocco.
For a few hours we checked out its old sea-side forts, munched on cheap bocadillos, and lounged on the city’s small beach.
As night fell we took a 20-minute train north to El Puerto de Santa Maria (on the opposite end of the bay), where we would meet our evening’s host.
At the train station, we were greeted with a big “Hello!”
It was our nudist host, Jose.
I make mention of his nudist tendencies, not because it’s interesting and different, but because he made it very very clear that he was a nudist and that his house, too, was a nudist home.
A commander in the Spanish Navy, he invited us into his house after a quick tour around his small town.
Once inside his home, he led us to a small room where we could lie our bags to rest.
“Alright, let’s get into our natural states!” he exclaimed.
“Our natural states?” Emily and I looked at each other in concern. This fellow expected us too to be naked.
After a quick chat, we decided we weren’t all too comfortable with getting completely nude in a single, 40-something year-old man’s home, so we tossed on our bathing suits (to semi-appease his wishes) and walked into the kitchen.
As we turned the corner into the kitchen, there he was, in all his glory. Butt-ass naked, slicing tomatoes and pouring wine.
He wasn’t too happy that we weren’t nude, staring at us angrily with a knife in hand, claiming that we were making him feel uncomfortable in his own home.
We offered to leave, as to not ruin his evening, but he insisted we stay.
From this moment on, the full-moon night was a blur of wiener infused conversation, as we moved from the kitchen to the backyard and the backyard to the living room. In his living room he played us a tutorial video for his country’s newest battleship, one that he would be commanding in the near future.
We sat, we chatted, we drank. Never have we ever made so much eye contact.
It was weird, I felt dirty, I felt used in a way. Not to mention, I’ll never drink red wine or gin and tonic again without picturing a 45 year-old man basking nude atop a blue towel in his air-conditioned palace.
The next day, hungover and hanging loose, he drove us to a random bus stop at 7am.
As we awaited the bus, the sun began to rise, assuring us we were back on Planet Earth.
From here we would head back south to Cadiz and onward to Tarifa.
Relieved, and happy to have survived this awkward encounter, today we would be in a whole new world.