The trip to Spain was great. Not as expected, perhaps, but better in most ways.
I had done thorough research on all the import requirements for a dog to Spain. I had my sister-in-law and a Puerto Rican veterinarian write me health certificates in Spanish. I convinced Gregg to sign them, so it wouldn't be my signature on them (it might look funny). So I drove 2 hrs to Cincinnati and checked Mr. Stormbringer pup and my suitcase to Madrid. It took about 45 minutes to get everything sorted out at the main desk. (The counter guy did wonder why someone would take a dog on a one-week vacation to Europe <g>) Then when we arrived in Madrid, Mr. Pup was the first one off the plane- NO ONE EVEN LOOKED at any of the paperwork!!! I was pretty amazed.
So the next task was to find Camilla in the crowd. This should have been easy given that Spaniards are short and dark and Camilla is a tall blonde. However it took me several rather unnerving minutes to notice her sitting at a bench gobbling up lunch without a care in the world. Her excuse was that she was also expecting me to get stuck in customs and would be a while!
To be fair, Camilla did hug me before letting Pup out. Camilla named the puppy Iago and he proceeded to charm her totally. Iago very quickly recovered from the trip and was busy pouncing on his stuffed teddy bear when we found a cart and headed for the car.
As you may know, I am not a car person. However, Camellia's car bears mentioning. It is an '82 Swedish tank also known as a Volvo. It is an astoundingly large car for Europe, but rather small by American standards. It reaches a maximum speed of 55-mph going down hill and most cars on the road passed us like a blur. It never once let us down however. At one point during the trip, we stopped to check the oil and get gas. Camilla carefully looked at the dipstick and added about 2 teaspoons of oil (It hardly seemed worth the trouble to me to add so little.) I noticed the oil was awfully black, so asked Camilla when she had the oil changed - "Oh, last May. We only change the oil once a year over here." I HONESTLY could hear Gregg screaming in agony all the way across the Atlantic. (He thinks going past 3000 miles without an oil change is a crime equivalent to mass murder.)
Anyway back at the airport parking lot. Out of the Volvo steps a darling, grinning, rather gawky 18-month-old red and white borzoi Epson. He said a happy hello to me and the pup then turned to watch "her majesty" descend.
I have seen some spoiled dogs in my time - face it - I've owned a few, but this one has them all beat. The center of the universe is not somewhere out in space (or even cyberspace) it is a Swedish deerhound named "Diera". At first meeting I thought she was a bit shy, but she is not, she is a SNOB! As the week progressed she would come over to be petted and kiss my face, but only if Camilla was playing with Iago. Diera will only go to the bathroom if taken for at least a mile hike - off leash- and will then go in the absolute center of the road about 6 feet from the car. She will only eat if Camilla holds her dish and extra goodies are added. She will only sleep on the bed and if you get on the bed first she will just lay on top of you and WILL not budge. I will say, Diera is an outstandingly lovely deerhound, so perhaps she deserves that ego.
We packed the car and headed south. I had a quick glance at Madrid and fell asleep. I woke up at an old city/castle of Toledo; where we were heading straight up hill toward on coming traffic on a cobblestone road about the width of a footpath with townhouses pressing close on either side. I managed not to scream, but did grip the seat! About halfway up there was a small hotel, but Camilla wisely suggested that we go back out of town to a hotel with more dog walking space and just drive into town later. So that we did, and Iago and I became horizontal on an actual bed until mid-afternoon. I woke to the sound of a puppy peeing. One of my favorite features of Spain is that all rooms everywhere have tile or stone floors. This is particularly handy if you are touring with a small puppy. Iago helped unpack my suitcase while I cleaned up.
Camilla had found a great park that we think was part of the University. At least it was about 40 acres of fenced wooded trails right next to the hotel. It was a lovely walk. Epson scared up a rabbit, so there was even some genuine borzoi coursing. Diera forgot herself for a moment and took about three strides. Iago played with pinecones and was incredibly cute.
Toledo is a genuine stone castle- moat, bridges, giant wooden doors, high stone walls with turrets. It is famous for sword manufacturing, and I had to buy one. I told Camilla I was getting it for RLynn - but Lynn, don't expect it anytime soon! There is a cathedral in the heart of the city. It is an incredibly lovely ornate thing of the smoothest stone, but it is so tightly packed into the houses and covered with so many pigeons, that it was kind of hard to appreciate. I also get the impression that Catholicism is no longer the big thing it was in previous centuries.
This is also the point where Camilla and I discovered that neither of us spoke any Spanish at all. So we got terribly lost trying to find our way out of this maze of narrow stone streets and stone walls. And, of course it started to rain. I then introduced Camilla to the Midgarden method of touring foreign towns. This technique was invented by my brother, and is quite simple. When it starts to rain, you stop in a local pub and have a beer. When it clears up, you wander a little further, then stop and have another beer. Camilla is much more the "go forth and conquer" type, but she did see that this technique has its merits.
The next day we drove to the south of Spain. The countryside was in early spring and a soft green. Farm life in Spain seems to involve living in town and commuting to the land. There were virtually no farmhouses with surrounding land just vast acres of cultivated land as far as we could see. Most people lived in apartments or town houses.
On Sunday we went to a dog show. I tried to buy a catalog, but couldn't find the right person to ask. There were no borzoi, but there were some breathtaking Ibizan hounds. The popular breeds seem to be big ugly great pyraneese looking dogs with too much skin for their bodies, rottweilers, bulldogs, and water dogs of Spain (which look like matted poodle mixes). And it was basically just a dog show. Not much different that the states except fewer entries and different breeds and classes. Camilla bought dog food and puppy toys.
The Costa del Sol is the Mediterranean coast. We decided to skip Gibraltar, but it really is astounding to think with all the history of Europe that you could drive from Sweden to Gibraltar in about 2 days and take a 2 hour ferry to Morocco. We stayed at a hotel on the coast for 2 days. The dogs loved the beach. Iago particularly liked digging tunnels in the sand. Iago's big joy, however was the hotel room. He was happy not to be in the car. He played and played with his new toys. Epson would play with him some. But Diera grumped at him from the bed if he got too wild.
This is also were we discovered to only 2 things I don't like about Spain. There is not enough hot water to take a bath anywhere and there are NO clothes dryers. We had our laundry done, but had to leave before it was dry because it rained every day. I had the passenger side of the car and the dashboard pretty well decorated in damp clothing for the rest of the trip. Camilla wouldn't let me hold my socks out the window as we were driving along. She didn't want to project a gypsy image.
The food was great. Camilla had coffee, bread and yogurt for breakfast and I had Sardines, olives and diet coke. We made the mistake of ordering eggs once, but they were sunny side up and quite rare. I ordered blindly from the menu and got some good things. Fortunately I like squid and asparagus. Camilla once ordered a tunafish pizza (yuck). The only Spanish word I did know was servasa (beer) and Coca-Cola light is the same in any language. I actually gained weight (must have been the figs and dates).
We drove north to Granada through the Sierra Nevada mountains (I only thought they were in America). Camilla is a major hiker and we took a lot of walks. I tried to walk slower since it inevitably rained whenever we were at the furthest point from the car. There are a lot of olive trees all over Spain. I found a tree with a couple of ripe olives still hanging, and tried one out. While I was busy spitting that foul tasting thing out on the ground, Camilla came over and bit into one too! After we were both done spitting out purple juice I asked her why on earth she decided to try one since I obviously thought they were so bad? She said she thought she might like them since I hate milk and she loves it. I guess fresh olives are one thing we agree on.
Granada was the old Muslim stronghold in Spain. Ferdinad and Isabel threw out the last of the Moors in the 16th century sometime. We toured the old Alhambra palace and admire all the mosaics and tile engravings. The place gardens were pretty cool too; of course this was our only sunny day so that added to the charm. There were walls and doorways made entirely out of cedar trees. We were walking through the gardens when I pointed out a particularly fine looking man to Camilla. The man in question then turned around and asked me in very American English if I knew where the bathrooms were <blush>. Camilla about died laughing. I had gotten used to no one understanding us.
That night Iago learned to get on the beds, such a clever puppy.
We found our way back to the airport and said good-by. Camilla plans to head to the north coast of Spain to find a place to live and work. I said a fond good-by to Epson and to my darling grand puppy (who will be a big black grown up dog before I see him again). Diera seemed resigned to the loss of one of her servants, and allowed me to pet her.
The trip home was uneventful, except that my car battery was dead and I had to beg a jump. Gregg seems happy to have me home and I'm almost recovered from my jet lag.