¡España! Portbou i Valencia   Leave a comment

June 21-22   ***   21-22 Junio

On Monday night, I left Le Mans for a week-long school trip to Spain. About two dozen of us from the ESBAM are traveling around the country in a coach bus right now. It’s been great so far. We left on Friday evening, and after driving all night (OK, sleeping on the bus was pretty lousy, that part of the trip wasn’t so great) we crossed in Spain on Tuesday morning. All our driving since that morning has been on roads winding through hills and mountains, often right on the edge of the sea. The scenery is wonderful. The land is covered in vinyards, palm trees and buildings perched on hillsides.

We spent Monday in the seaside town of Portbou, located on the eastern Mediterranean coast just south of the French-Spanish border. The German-Jewish philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin died here in 1940 after escaping from France while fleeing the Nazis. There is a monument in his honor by Dani Karavan, “Passages,” a metal tunnel with stairs that extends underground from the top of the cliff to its edge, opening out over the water beneath, with a glass panel halfway down barring further passage.

Portbou

Walter Benjamin Memorial

The town is situated in a cove surrounded by steep, rocky hills, and the town center is situated on a beach overlooking the turquoise water of the Mediterranean. We spent the afternoon there on the seaside.

Portbou

June 23   ***   Junio 23

That night we spent another night driving, and this morning we arrived in Valencia, a seaside city in the middle of the east coast. We visited the indoor Mercado Central (Central Market), and the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (Valencian Institute of Modern Art).

Valencia

Mercado Central

Institut Valencia d'Art Modern

As far as Español goes, I speak about a dozen words. Fortunately my friend Nelly from Mexico came on the trip, and she’s been helping me get by. Hopefully by the end of the trip I’ll know how to speak a little bit of Spanish. The interesting thing, though, is that the Spanish spoken here is a bit different from the Spanish spoken in Mexico. First of all, Castellano (Castillian or European Spanish) differs from Latin American Spanish. Secondly, there are a number of regional Spanish languages spoken in Spain: Català (Catalan) is a varriant of Spanish spoken in the northeast coast of Spain, and Valencià (Valencian) is a related dialect spoken along the mid-east coast. For example, the name ”Instutit Valencià d’Art Modern” is Valencian; the Castilian name would be ”Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno.” Finally, the Spanish spoken in Portbou has a lot of words taken from French and hispanicized. For a North American, it’s hard to imagine this many different languages existing in such a relitively small place. Well, that’s all for now. I’ll try to update as often as I can so you can keep up with me.

You can see more photos here.

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