A Very Strange Christmas

Christmas 2020 was an unusual one, pretty much along the same vein as the rest of the year.

Covid had its usual impact on the season. It forced my brother and his family to shelf any plans of going out of town for the holidays and, instead, spend it at home with the rest of the family. It had been 3 or 4 years since we had had the whole family together for Christmas day. So, thank you Covid for that.

This year was strange for its own reason, unfortunately or fortunately is yet to made clear.

The day started off bright and early for me as I had promised my sister-in-law that I would make some dishes for the lunch. I was up prepping and marinating and cooking. I had just my usual morning cup of coffee and that was it. I procastinated and then I got my tailcoat in a tizzy and just ploughed on. My brother then suddenly called and asked if I can pick up my sister and her daughter as well on the way. Sure, I said. Marathoned my way to my gate with pots and serving dishes, and here is where I will stop and give some context.

I am the youngest of 3 children to my parents. My sister is 20 years older to me and my brother 15 years. The brother and I are alike in many ways. Our sister who is 99% the exact opposite. It is literally a case of liberal minded vs. close minded, chilled vs. hotheaded. My brother is the epitome of chilled and open minded. Non-judgemental and never the meddler, you can count on him to help you constructively, when you need help. He is a doer.

For the last 20 years of my lifetime, I can very easily say I have not had a relationship with my sister. She married and left the house to start her own, when I was 14 I think. 2 months prior to her departure, my brother had got married and left the house as well. So, in a span of 2-3 months, my life as I knew it had upended and here I was with just my chilled father and cantankerous mother. There was nothing and no one to protect me from my mother’s ill-tempered, my-way-or-the-highway character, save for my poor father of course. My memories from before this point in 1998 were nice ones interjected with various memories of my sister fighting with my mother, blood being drawn – literally and metaphorically, especially when she used to physically attack my mother and father when she got into one of her blind rages. This is not to say that I had a bad childhood, you must understand. At least not that I know of! It was just a bit….. unusual maybe? Unorthodox even. Mostly though, I don’t have much memory of my childhood. If I had to sit down a memoir for example, I suspect it would be no more than 10 pages long. That is how my memory works. My conscious mind is not very good at retaining memories, especially bad ones.

Now to get back to my Christmas day narrative.

It was a small gathering of our mums and another couple – one of my brother’s closest friends and his wife. Incidentally, this friend was my divorce lawyer. He is the man who freed me from the shackles and weights of my marriage. I was drowning until he came along. Anyway, he and I proceeded to get positively drunk and the next thing I know, I wake up in my bed. I had walked home. I assumed. I couldn’t remember anything after a particular point, and I was terribly hungover. The next morning I called my sister to ask her what time I should drop off some stuff she had left in my car. This was when things took an unforeseen turn. She proceeded to lovingly lecture me on how badly I had behaved after I had got drunk. According to her and her daughter, I had said some nasty stuff to them, I had thrown myself at the lawyer, I had cozied up to him too much, and done all this in front of his wife. In their opinion I needed to apologize to them, and in my opinion, I thought so too. What they described me as doing certainly sounded familiar (except for the throwing myself at another married man bit). But this was their narrative. I listened. I panicked. I needed to know from my brother and sister-in-law if I had ruined a beautiful friendship and caused havoc within a marriage. They came home to drop off my stuff and I asked them straight off, “I have been getting a thorough lecture from those 2 from morning. How badly did I misbehave yesterday? Did I ruin everything? What happened?”

They just looked at each other and laughed. Proper guffawed. “Don’t be silly!” they said. “You were being you. They aren’t exposed to how we have fun. They aren’t exposed to our social gathering. Just ignore them!”

This is when it struck me. For hours I had been agonising, chastising myself, dreading my brother’s and sister-in-law’s reactions, all based on the narrative of my rather cloistered sister and her daughter. Painting the town red will never be synonymous with them. Partying, clubbing, again is a big NO. And that is fine! That is how they choose to live their lives.

However, their choice of living their lives, somehow does not give them the right to pass judgement on mine. Say things like, “Your behaviour was disgusting”, “It is only ugly for you”, “You were being inappropriate with a married man in front of his wife”. Until this point, no one, and I mean NO ONE, had ever said things like this to me. Not even my brother.

Even the married man’s wife had no issue with me. She insisted. Everyone had a good laugh at the antics we got up to, at the shit that was said. All except for my sister and her daughter.

And for a brief moment, I forgot who I was and felt utterly lost and isolated.

More than this however, was the realisation of how one situation, one incident, can be remembered in polar opposite ways. Same situation. Same people present. Different narratives through the lenses of differing perspectives. My sister views the world through the lens of infidelity (as she was on the receiving end of it for years, as was I) and then there is my brother and I, who do not see the world through this lens, inspite of my own personal experiences, but instead, try (and hopefully succeed) to view the world as what it is, without rose coloured lenses or jaded ones.

Same situation. Different narratives.

If ever there was an example for the saying “There are two sides to every story”, this must be it!

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Being Grateful… Amidst Frustration

A few days ago I hit a low point, mentally. It had been a while since I had felt this low. A friend sent a simple message – “Happy November”. That was all she said; and it was as if I had an allergic reaction! I replied with a non-smiley emoji and she replied with “Oh come on. …smile a bit”, to which I replied, “What’s there to smile about… Covid is raging through the country and because of it I can’t finish my house and it’s just wasting away even after I’ve paid most of the money. What’s there to smile about you tell me.”

This was just the tip of the mental iceberg that I was carrying around with me. It was just an indication of the frustration I was feeling with my own life.

She then reminded me of everything that I do have in my life to be grateful for. With this second lockdown, I got a chance to recharge my fading batteries. I started to take evening walks in my neighbourhood, which is breathtakingly beautiful! I started to exercise in the morning. Brewed some homemade wine. Baked. Did a spot of gardening. Started reading a new book. Started colouring. Basically, she reminded me that I have the personal space to be myself and do what I want, when I want, in peace.

Yes, my home is my sanctuary. I love being home. I needed reminding.

We all need a reminding once in a way don’t we? We need to be reminded of what is good in our lives. Yes, we may have loneliness in our lives, or overwhelming responsibilities, or lack of support, or lack of resources, or money. Yet, we need to be reminded of all the good things going for us, no matter how small, because peace can be found in the smallest aspects of our lives, if we choose to see the peace there.

We all search for happiness and peace of mind, and most of us wrongly assume that they can be found in a big house, flashy car, enviable career and lots of money in the bank. To this end, most of us struggle and claw our way towards these goals, fooling ourselves saying we will be happy when we get that promotion with the pay rise and the benefits, or when we buy that house in the fashionable part of town. We lose ourselves in that journey, not noticing the journey itself, and instead, focusing only on the destination.

Is this how we enjoy ourselves when we go on a vacation? Take a road trip? Do we blind ourselves to the beauty and newness that we encounter on that trip on the way to the holiday destination? No! We don’t! So then why do we not apply that same logic to our own lives? After all, isn’t life a journey too?

It’s almost as if we forget that we are mortal. We have only this one life and we need to live it and enjoy it the best we can, and make the best of this one life we have been given.

We are mortal. We are all going to die one day. We have no control of that. The sooner we become comfortable with that idea, the better it will be for us. Then perhaps we will stop focusing on the wrong things in life, and instead, stop and smell the freshness in the air, hear the birdsong in the morning air now that there is no traffic on the road thanks to Covid, enjoy the company of your partner (if you are lucky to be living with someone) and your family, take pleasure in cooking your meals for the day, enjoy a glass of (homemade even) wine, and most importantly, learn to love your own company.

I needed reminding. I’m grateful for the little pleasures in my life and I am going to focus on those. I cannot control the course that Covid is taking in my country. As such, I cannot control when my house is going to be completed. Instead, I am going to visualise my completed house, imagine myself living in it, enjoying my own company and the company of my friends and family in that new house that I know I will transform into a warm and inviting home not just for me but for everyone I love.

I need to visualise. I have already started to do that. As my friend says, when you stay positive, you attract only positivity.

Live in Hope!

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My Company

Right now I am sitting by myself on my back porch with music and a drink and I am loving it. I am enjoying my own company. I am enjoying not doing anything; just sitting by myself surrounded by my mini zoo and sipping on a drink.

Whenever I do this, I am always amazed at how many people are out there who would be bored in 60 seconds flat or who would just be flabbergasted at this concept of spending an evening by oneself. Why is this? What is so wrong about learning about oneself, loving oneself and enjoying oneself?

I always used to feel this way and I used to sometimes feel bad about feeling so good. However, covid lockdown changed that. I realised just how much I love being alone with myself and just how much goodness I felt!

What I am yet to understand is, is it good for everyone? If yes, why isn’t it more a common thing? If no, then why and how am I different from most others? Yes I do understand that depression would be the biggest difference. But how do we encourage this sort of socialising with oneself for the betterment of us individually?

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Comment please.

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The Prison of Society’s Expectations

It’s early. Very early. Too early for a Sunday morning. Yet here I am, up bright and early on a rainy Sunday morning, sitting outside on my back porch and watching the rain; and reminiscing.

A few days ago I found out quite by accident that my ex-husband had supposedly had a life threatening heart attack and had needed two stents put in. This is unfortunate, yes. However, as one of my friends said, God saw the heart ache he gave me and this was just the payback due to him. I don’t know. As long as he looks at life and himself in a new light, that’s all that matters i suppose.

Now however, I’m sitting and reminiscing on my life after the separation and divorce. Life has not been too bad. In reality, life has been great! Yes there have been setbacks and heartbreak, but as a whole, life has been far better than what I thought it would be when my ex left me and I had to embark on a single life after 10 years of being in a relationship. Marriage makes you dependent for emotional support, whether you get it or not. Longstanding relationships do the same thing too. Of course this isn’t a luxury one can have as a single person. In a culture such as ours, a woman living alone is almost unheard of. There is a small percentage of women who do do it, and I think I’m very fortunate to be one of them.

As we become adults, unbeknownst to us, we get trapped in a series of prisons. Especially women. The job prison, the marriage prison (if you’re married to the wrong person), and the biggest prison of all – the Prison of Society’s Expectations. It becomes almost impossible to break free. People go into their 20s thinking they want the sought after job or career, the big house, the fancy cars, the perfect partner, the kids and maybe the dog to make their picture perfect, Christmas card family portrait worthy life. But do these things actually free us or trap us in multiple prisons simultaneously?

How many people can say that having all these things piled up on their plates make them happy? I find it hard to imagine being happy in these circumstances, but of course I understand that I am looking at situations through my prism. I understand that my prism is not the same as someone else’s. Still, it makes me question how prison cells can make someone feel fulfilled. Maybe it does for a time, maybe it does if one doesn’t know any better, but at some point, if the wool is pulled away from their eyes, do you think they will start to see their lives in a different light?

Some will. Others will choose to ignore. Some others will justify; but these are not the same as acknowledging, is it?

I was forced to embark on a single person’s life journey and it has made me ever so grateful to my ex for having left me because the wealth of experiences I have had can not be measured in any way. They are priceless to me. And ‘me’ is the only measuring tool I should have in my life tool box. Don’t you think?

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Life On Hold

I find myself plagued by moments of despair. Just moments. Sometimes these moments are merely that; moments. Then there are moments that last longer; hours or days.

At moments like these I question myself. Am I truly happy? Content? Or am I fooling myself into believing that I am indeed happy and / or content?

2020 really put a stoke in my wheel-plan. I had big plans for this year. This was going to be a year of change, of new milestones. I applied for my visa to travel to Australia, where I was going to go skydiving with my friend. On my birthday too! Or rounds about it at least. I signed up for a diploma in counselling in a bid to get an educational qualification in something I want to do for the rest of my life. However, all these came to a grinding halt thanks to the global pandemic we are living through right now.

My visa application is in limbo. I have not heard back from the embassy in the past few months and I am wondering if it will ever get processed as the days and months go by. I had to cancel my enrollment because I can’t be sure of my finances to continue paying for it for the next 2 years.

These two events have, I realized, played a major role in my mood swings. Here I am, desperately trying to make real and tangible changes in my life, and here I am being thwarted by fate itself. That’s what it feels like at least, for me. Life for me now is a rerun of work and responsibilities, and no joy almost.

Finding joy in the little things in life, in everyday life, has always been something I have strived for. I am not a particularly ambitious person. I am an easy-going person at heart. Having said that, these two incidents have had a major impact on my psyche, working together to drain me of that ability almost. One would think I’m speaking of a person, I know, but this blow to my confidence and my goal getting in life, has somewhat come against a speed bump, akin to a breaking of my heart. It is as if a real person thwarted me.

My moments of happiness and contentment are being interjected with these moments of despair because I am afraid I will never be able to become the person I want to become, indeed need to become. I am afraid that I will be too old or too tired physically and mentally to take risks and make changes in my life. For a person who is very comfortable in her little bubble, wanting to expand that bubble or even break through it and create a new one, is a big step. To have that decision put on hold by circumstances that are beyond my control, is undermining my need to have control of my life.

I think this is why I am so plagued.

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In Mourning

About 11 months ago, my heart was broken on a magnitude that I had not experienced since that time when my now ex-husband broke my heart about 10 years previous.

I was in love; had been for 1.5 years. It was a long distance relationship. It was difficult. However, it was fulfilling at the same time. It was unconventional from the very start, but, what is conventional anyway, right?

I hinted of this in a post back in 2018. My world had been turned upside down, and so had his. The depth of our feelings for each other defied all logic and reason, and gave him motivation and confusion all at once to have a better quality of life.

Problem with long distance relationships though, is that even though you think that things are going along quite nicely, whatever the circumstances, unbeknownst to you, things can be taking a nosedive. This is what happened to me. I was completely blindsided and yes, a part of me felt betrayed but, at the same time, I understood his point of view; his perspective.

Even the break up was unconventional. We’re still friends, keeping in touch on a somewhat regular basis. As I understood his perspective, where he was coming from emotionally and mentally, I also felt like I had no right to feel shit about the split. It felt almost selfish and illogical to feel anger and hurt when you understood, and still understand, the other person.

The problem with this situation is that it is unhealthy for me. I am the one who got hurt the most in this situation. I am the one who lost more. When someone loses someone, it is only natural to grieve that loss, navigate one’s way through those murky waters with the freedom of acknowledging that loss and feeling the pain. Yet, for me, I’m constantly dogged by a feeling of guilt for mourning my loss. This is what is complicating an already complicated situation.

By writing this post, I am trying to make sense of the confusion in my head. My heart is confused and no amount of writing is going to solve that, but I feel if my head can be unconfused, then perhaps it will be easier for my heart to get on board with what has happened and maybe move on.

This man was amazing. He is what I would call a twin flame. A well fitting puzzle piece to my own. By meeting him and being his partner, the bar was set so high. Since splitting from him, every person I have met has fallen so far short that I now find myself just not bothered anymore. I have come to accept that finding someone who truly breaks through that bar set so high, is going to be impossible. I was always comfortable with the idea of living into old age, a single old lady. That still hasn’t changed.

Only boredom would drive me to look for some relationship just to keep me occupied, not this need to have a partner to fulfill my life.

I already experienced a fulfilling relationship. Nothing else could possibly exceed that.

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An Example Of What We Have Lost

This is something I wrote last year and although it is old, I felt that it needed to be published.

-Written April 19th, 2019-

As I followed the story of the blaze at the Notre Dame Cathedral, in horror, I was saddened to see that there were some who were unapologetically unsympathetic. All because the world did not shed any tears about the destruction and pillaging of our historical artefacts by our colonisers. While I respect that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, this blatant display of a lack of empathy is disturbing. What was lost in that blaze was history. Perhaps I felt that loss even more than those naysayers because Sohan and I stood within the stone walls of that cathedral, in the presence of its beauty and history. But there were hundreds of more people who still mourned the blaze even though they had never stepped foot inside! If we adopt this attitude of I will not feel sorry for you because you didn’t towards me, then we as people, as human beings, are a lost cause. Didn’t we all mourn the loss of the majestic Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan? Don’t we still mourn the loss of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? When we lose history, it is not just our loss, but the whole world’s loss.

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My Spanish Experience

In my previous blog post, I mentioned I was travelling solo in Spain. Since I am almost at the end of my stay here, scheduled to fly back home tomorrow, I thought I would do a follow up to my earlier post. So, here goes.

My 1st destination was Barcelona. My goodness! What an introduction to Spain! The architecture, the art, the FOOD, the culture, everything was beautiful! But to me, as an Asian from Sri Lanka, the thing that impressed me the most was how SAFE it was for a solo female traveller!

Not everyone can speak English. Sad but true. However, don’t let that be a deterrent to you! As long as you know “Ola” (hello), “Bon dia” (good morning) and you have a smartphone with Google Translate, you’ll be fine! As long as you smile, and speak with your hands and feet as well as your mouth, you will get on just fine.

Food & Drink:

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Bacalao cooked in tomato sauce

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Tinto de Verano

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Tapas – Grilled Pimento Peppers & Stuffed Mushrooms with Chorizo

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Shrimps cooked with olive oil and garlic

You can get a beer or a glass of wine or something a bit stronger even, at 8 in the morning! Don’t you just love that? Well, I do! Breakfast and lunch in Spain is important as meals, and you can take your time with these. Dinner, on the other hand, is a more light, yet social, meal. Tapas (small bite sized plates of goodness) is very typical for dinner, and even as a single female traveller, you can enjoy this very Spanish experience.

Culture:

A very broad subject, but I will touch on just a few things that resonated with me. Clothes wise, you can wear whatever you want! It’s as simple as that. No one is going to stare at you if you wear those butt cheek showing hot pants during the day or night and take the metro or bus or any form of public transport. If you are like me, brown or dark skinned, you just cannot disguise the fact that you’re not Spanish. So my advice is to blend in as much as possible. But don’t let this stop you from dressing sexily either. It is quite safe here and no one bothers you simply because of the way you dress. You can happily dress according to your personal preference or style. Just keep in mind that it is required that women cover their shoulders when entering a church or cathedral. Obviously! It’s a place of worship and it is necessary to be decent in such places. Goes without saying, right??

If you’re a smoker, well then, you’re in luck. Most hotels, motels, Airbnbs will have no smoking notices. But if needed you can always go to the street and have a smoke or 3! It’s fine! Most Spaniards, male and female, old and young, smoke. And if their building has a restriction due to age of building or some such, rest assured, they would have worked around it. So, fret not. You’re fine.

Safety for a woman. Now this is always a big thing for me when I travel. Obviously I don’t want to be harassed or worse, while travelling! It is VERY SAFE for female travellers! As long as you take necessary precautions to safely hold your bag, you’ll be fine.

At this point though, I need to mention that I nearly got mugged twice. Both times were by kids no more than 18! The 1st time was on the day of Barcelona’s Festival of Fire, which is the feast of the city’s patron Saint (more on this afterwards). I was on the sidewalk with a friend when a young kid who walked past me, tried to grab my bag (or my arse) from behind. If not for my friend, I might be minus my handbag! The 2nd instance was also in Barcelona, when I was lugging my bag up the stairs from the metro, headed for the train station Barcelona Sants, when a young girl no more than 18, lifted my bag from the wheels pretending to help me, and then pushed me towards the wall while her friend was behind me trying to have a go at my backpack. They gave up and went away back down the stairs into the metro. All this took perhaps 30 seconds. I didn’t even have time to react! I just kept smiling at them and saying, “no thank you I’m good”! It was a few seconds before it dawned on me what had just transpired!

Now, as I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to be in town for the Festival of Fire. It’s bigger than new years eve for them, and the celebrations are like our typical NYE celebrations, with fireworks and parties on the beach and all over the city, and everyone spending time together till sunrise or beyond! Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll seemed to be the modus operandi on the beach! It was quite the experience for someone from a backward and immensely conservative country like mine! I think it’s the one day of the year where everyone gets a sort of free pass. My advice? Experience it! If you’re lucky to be around when this is happening, go out and have a blast! Just be sensible about it of course! I think that too goes without saying!

Pre-Book Bus / Train / Domestic Flight Tickets:

I used an app called Trainline EU to book my train and bus tickets within Spain. If you’re travelling within the EU region, you can get train tickets for journeys that will take you over borders. It was convenient for me, plus, you almost always get cheap options based on the times of travel. I definitely recommend it.

Buses and trains run on time, so please get to the station at least a good 30-45 minutes before your train or bus is scheduled to leave! Your luggage will go through a scanner, so be prepared to be asked to a side for the security officer to do a manual check of your bags. The platform number (if going by train) or the loading dock number (if going by bus) will be put up on the big LED screens with all the schedules on them, just 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. So always keep an eye out for these screens, because they don’t announce anything over the PA, and besides, it’s not like you would be able to understand them anyway! So just track your bus or train number on the screens and get to the gate in time! These stations are so big and have to handle so many passengers on a daily basis, they operate almost like mini airports. This is where pre-booking tickets is very important, because if you think of going to the bus or train station and buying a ticket there, the chances are that you will get a later scheduled bus or train because the seats are all sold out in advance.

Be smart! Don’t be like me and end up sitting in station for 6 hours, losing money to vending machines and lockers!

Vending Machines:

There are vending machines all over, especially at bus / train stations and even in small cafes and shopping malls. You can get anything from vending machines – from soft drinks / water, to fully charged powerbanks, phone headsets, data / charging cables, to cigarettes! Even tokens to storage lockers at bus / train stations are from vending machines. Of course, even though most have instructions in English, not all instructions are CLEAR! I was at the Granada Bus Station, I had 6 hours to kill before my bus to Seville, so I thought to myself I’ll just store my luggage in a locker and go exploring a bit more. Went to the locker area, saw there was a vending machine to get the token for the locker, put in 3.50 Euros, got myself a token, found an empty locker, chucked my bag in, put in the token, locked the door, and tried to take the key out. But it wouldn’t budge. So I unlocked the key and tried locking again, and it locked! But the damn key just refused to leave its snug keyhole! So I unlocked again and opened the door and to my dismay, I heard the token fall in to the main cavity. I knew then that I got screwed. So no more token and no more locked locker. So I just took the bag out and decided that this was a sign for me to stay put in the bus station.

So, I found an empty seat and parked myself there. Had at least 5 more hours to go, so I just settled in with a book and that’s when I remembered I had busted my earphones, which meant I couldn’t listen to any music. That’s when I noticed the vending machine with the fully charged powerbanks and headsets. So I went up to it, looked at the instructions, which were essentially 2 lines that basically said, insert money and punch in the number of the item you want. So, that’s what I did. Found the cheapest pair of earphones for 5 Euros (yes yes I’m a cheap traveller!), inserted the money, punched in the number of the item, listened (again!) to the money fall into that cavern inside, and waited for my item to come up. But it didn’t! Punched in the number a few more times just for good measure! Nothing! Now I understand why people physically attack vending machines in movies!!

So vending machines basically swallowed up 8.50 Euros! But hey! You might have better luck with them! So give it a go! And just to give you some insight, 8.50 Euros in my local Sri Lankan currency is roughly about Rs. 1,800/-, which is a fair bit of money to lose to a bloody vending machine!

Walking Food / History Tours:

I highly recommend signing up for some sort of walking tour on your first or second day of the trip! It’s a great way to get your bearings in a new city, and if you’re lucky, you might make friends on these tours and end up exploring other destinations together!

In Barcelona, I signed up for a free walking tour on this website, https://freewalkingtoursbarcelona.com/en/ which I found out about through a YouTube vlog! Our guide Misha, was super awesome! The tour was 2.5 hours long, started from Placa Catalunya, and took us through the Gothic Quarter and ended there. I loved the tour! Gave me a sense of confidence to venture out on my own after that! Met some lovely people, and got some interesting tips as well (bonus!)! To sign up to any of their tours, is free. However, at the end of the tour, you can pay what you feel was worth the tour. It was suggested in the video, that it would be acceptable to pay around 15 Euros if you were happy with the tour.

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Bishop’s Bridge

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Barcelona Cathedral

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Narrow streets in the Gothic Quarter

In Madrid, I went on a Wine, Tapas & History Tour with Devour Tours (https://madridfoodtour.com/). Again, I stumbled across them on YouTube. Our guide was Jake. Half Spanish, half Irish, a teacher by profession, he was simply amazing! I would call him a great host, rather than call him a tour guide, because he made us feel like we were his guests, his friends. The group I was with was also amazing! So win win! Since I was scheduled to spend only 1 night in Madrid, I figured, a tour like this would be the best way to see the main sites of the city, hit the markets and tapas bars and sample the city’s culture! I must say, these tours were probably the most intelligent decisions I made in connection to this trip!

My last 3 nights were spent in Granada and Seville. Before my trip, I had earmarked La Alhambra in Granada, and the Royal Alcazar in Seville as my must-visit sites! Accordingly, I booked myself for 2 nights in Granada and 1 night in Seville. Unfortunately, due to my bad luck at the Granada bus station with getting a bus only at 4.30pm, I couldn’t visit the Royal Alcazar.

First, Granada. Granada was a bit too touristy I felt, but don’t get me wrong! It was still nice! My AirBNB was in the old neighbourhood of Albaycin. Narrow, climbing, winding cobblestoned streets and old buildings, and small secret squares ever so often, it was a cosy, lovely feel! The higher you went, the less noisy it became and more intimate almost. Even the bars were less busy. This suited me more than the busier ones at main road level. I spent a fair bit of time, going from bar to bar and sampling their different beers and wines. I especially loved their summer wine – Tinto de Verano! Refreshing, cooling, and oh so yummy! Let’s not forget the humble tapas that they serve you with your drink! I had some of the best chorizo and bacalao (salted cod fish) in these small nondescript hole in the wall bars! Not just here in Granada, but even in the big cities!

My 2nd day in Granada, I went to the Alhambra and my mind was officially blown! Simply wow! Within the complex, the Nazarin Palace is a must! However, they allow only a limited number of visitors and there are time blocks. If you miss your time block, you are denied access. So, I tried to buy my ticket off the official site, but it was sold out for weeks past my last day in Spain. That was when my AirBNB host told me about the Granada card. As with any big European city, the Granada card gives you access to a bunch of historical sites as well as public transport. When you buy this, you can choose the time and date of your visit for the Nazarin Palace. This is the only sure-fire way of getting in. Get to the entrance well in advance of your time block because you need to take into account all the other visitors who will be there in the queue. My suggestion is 1 hour in advance. The Alhambra is the entire complex. But the real tear-jerking architectural beauty is in the Nazarin and the Generalife. A visit to La Alhambra simply would not be complete without seeing these!

Next stop was Seville, but as I mentioned earlier, because I didn’t get my ticket earlier, I was able to get a seat only on the 4.30pm bus. It’s a 3 hour bus ride from Granada to Seville. 2 hours into the journey, our bus broke down and delayed us a further 1.5 hours! So, by the time I got into Seville it was 9pm. Now I had even less time to explore the old part of Seville and I was really sad about this because, the moment I got on to the streets of Seville, I fell in love with her! I fell in love with her energy!

Thanks to my bus breaking down, I made a friend. She and I ended up rendezvousing at this bar called La Carboneria, which is known to have authentic, almost reverential flamenco performances. From there, we went on to explore, finally trudging back to our respective accommodations at about 2am. This particular day, they had their annual gay pride, so the streets were filled with revellers, visitors and locals alike! Even at 2am, there were people still out, and you got the feeling that the night was still very very young!

At this point, I want to revert back to my observation on safety. Of all the places I visited in Spain, Seville was where I felt the safest! I know that I was there only for 1 night, literally, but I always follow my intuition when I travel, and the vibes I get when I walk into a city or neighbourhood, is my guide. It felt as if Sevilla was simply oozing good vibes! As I said, I was there for only 1 night, but I found myself regretting having not booked myself for a longer period in Seville. In fact, I should have just stayed 1 night in Granada, and made Seville my big bang finale to my 10-day Spanish experience! But I’m just looking at this as motivation to revisit Spain, and explore the Basque and Andalucia more! As I listened to stories from fellow travellers I met along the way, who were either in the middle of their travels through Spain or at the end, or on a repeat visit, the one thing I saw in all their eyes was this wistful look, a dreamy faraway look, that even the heat wave couldn’t burn out. The fire of Espanya had most definitely infected their soul!

And personally, I think it infected mine as well.

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Solo Travel & I

Currently I am in Spain. I travelled here on work and I have to be here for a total of 10 days, plus 2 days for flying in and out.

I was supposed to originally come with either my brother or my GM. It would have been quite the nightmare coming with my GM because he is a vegan and teetotaller. My brother would have been the better companion for sure! Although I would have had to hide my smoking or force him to accept it!

However, what I have realised through this is that, even though I had a sneaky suspicion, it is now confirmed that I am not so fond of solo travel. Perhaps I’m feeling a wee bit emotional these days because I am supposed to get my monthlies in a few days! Maybe I should schedule solo travel after the monthlies, wherever possible!

I think having the perfect companion is important when travelling. Considering you are going to be sharing each other’s personal space for an extended period of time, it is important that you two are able to enjoy each others company. Not just tolerate it. And when possible, do things independently. Go solo for half a day or a full day. Do your own thing. Then rendezvous in the evening and tell each other what your day was like, over a cup of coffee or a pint or three of beer!

It’s the perfect antidote!

Even when I went to the Maldives a few weeks ago with my partner, we ended up having a full day apart, and when we met up in the evening, it was at this waterfront restaurant with fantastic views of the ferry terminal. To this day, he says that that is his favourite memory of that trip. Coming up the stairs onto the deck and seeing me seated at one of the tables near the railing, reading my book with my shades on, in the sun.

Sometimes, what may not seem ideal at the time, turns out to be just what the doctor ordered to preserve everyone’s sanity.

I am an ambivert. Most days I’m 50/50 but everything depends on my mood I guess. The past few months I’ve been more introverted than usual. And in the week following my trip to the Maldives, I’ve been even more so. So, a trip to Spain on my own suddenly didn’t seem too appealing.

Now I’m just trying to make the best of the chance I have got! As my cousin put it, I seem to have lost my fire. Perhaps this trip will turn out to be exactly what I need to jump-start my batteries!

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Relationships Outside Of Relationships

I have heard of strong, independent women saying it’s better to get involved with a married man because then they don’t need to be responsible for that man like in a normal relationship. It can be all about sex and no one needs to worry about the truth coming out, because the guy definitely wouldn’t want to let the world know about what’s going on.

I have heard this being spoken by women, and one of my friends who noticed an increase in the number of women hitting on him after he married also told me the same thing. I found it unbelievable! Even though I had heard it with my own ears!

Why would anyone do that? First of all why would anyone want to be in an extra marital relationship?? And secondly, why would a single woman prefer that over a single guy??

At first I was shocked. Then I started wondering about the why. Eventually I came up with a theory or two.

Most men are kids in adults’ bodies. My theory is that nowadays women look for maturity since they have the option of finding their own men, unlike in the olden days of arranged marriages. And women are essentially romantics who imagine themselves in an equal, loving partnership for life.

Second theory is that women are much more focused on their careers and can’t afford to get distracted by the usual trappings of a normal, straightforward relationship. Sounds shallow, I agree. A sly relationship, kept on the down low, is low maintenance. Perfect for that career oriented woman. I’m not saying every woman is like that. But some are.

Third theory involves those men and women who genuinely fall in love with each other outside of any existing relationship or marriage in their lives. Why does that happen? My theory is that because those parties went in to a marriage or relationship prematurely. Before they could develop self awareness. Before they could fully measure the character and personality of that particular partner, and decide if he or she is actually for them. Before they could fully understand what true love is, what happiness is. Most people want to keep up with the Joneses, and in doing so, end up making bad decisions. Some look at a marriage or relationship as an escape from their reality. Others come from a place of insecurity, where they don’t believe that they can ever find someone who will love them because of how they look or who they are. Sometimes they just don’t realise it is a situation of jumping from the frying pan and into the fire.

Sometimes one can go for years, decades even, fooling themselves into accepting and believing that the relationship or marriage they are in is what love is and what a relationship or marriage is supposed to be. Sometimes they tell themselves that no one really sees behind closed doors into the reality of other people’s marriages and relationships, and tell themselves that this just must be love and what it means to be in a loving partnership.

Eventually of course, this illusion is bound to break down, as is the case with any illusion. One day you can meet someone who turns your life, your beliefs upside down, makes you see your reality for what it truly is, makes you regret your decisions. One day you can meet someone who fills your heart with love and happiness, and yet the cost of that love and happiness is expensive. Being with you could mean the end of that person’s stability and the end of their lives as they’ve known thus far…

Most times extra marital affairs are a result of boredom within their relationships. But some times, it really is love. Most people will disagree and go on about lying in the bed you made, taking responsibility for one’s actions etc etc. We’ve all heard them. Even I’ve said them. But step out of your little box and look at their situations from a neutral perspective. Be kind, be sympathetic to their situations, be non judgemental. Remember we cannot see behind closed doors.

Love knows no boundaries, no distance, no reality. All love knows is being kindred in spirit. Calling it a spark refers more to a physical passion. Calling it a rope that links two hearts, instead is more accurate I believe. Like mountain climbers link each other with a rope, so does love. It is life saving and life threatening at once. Just like two mountain climbers link themselves with a rope to save each other, that very life saving object could also kill each other if one person stumbles and falls into an abyss or down a ravine or off a cliff.

I subscribe to the school of thought that we all have lived many lifetimes and that we have all met our key people in our lives in those previous lives. How else can you explain that sense of weird familiarity and connectedness we sometimes feel when we meet someone for the first time? I know that love too happens in such a way.

Question is, what do you do once you’ve experienced that? How do you react? How do you come to terms with that?

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