30 degrees Fahrenheit has a different meaning when you don’t have a car. In Chicago, it’s 30 degrees before it’s even winter and I don’t really think about it as I run from my heated house to my heated car, and drive in my heated car to my heated location. Here it’s different. It’s 30 degrees in the mornings before the sun rises as I get off the train where I work. That 15-minutes walk from the train to the high school I teach at leaves my ears throbbing and my jaw aching. I count my steps to distract me from the wind. Every outing requires the unspoken consideration of if braving the cold (the cold that’s colder than my unheated apartment) for 10 or 15 minutes is worth meeting my friends at whatever bar, or going to Spanish class, or going to yoga. I’m growing soft and full of olive oil and wine and cheese and cake, the things I feed myself when I’m feeling cold and sad. This has been my February in Madrid.
Last month I went on my most recent trip: a local one to Segovia, a small town an hour by bus from Madrid. It was January and raining icedrops. I went with someone who had studied abroad there years ago, so I put on my weird earmuffs and gloves and tottered after him as he led me to what there is to see. There’s a castle there, and an aqueduct from the 1300s. I sat on the damp lookout wall looking out over it, and tried to imagine what life was like when it was built, and the different ages and people who have moved and lived and changed things around the aqueduct while it remained unchanged.
The whole town looked more like somewhere lifted from the past than anything existing now. I’m discovering the charm of small Spanish towns. They have something all their own that neighboring countries don’t quite do the same. I liked Segovia’s stone steps and medieval feel. We ducked under an archway and out of the rain to eat sandwiches with ultra-spicy French mustard, and laughed as it gave us brain burn and made our noses run. We finished the day with whiskey shots and a sleepy bus ride home.
Next month is Spring break. I’ve been looking forward to this break ever since Christmas; it’s been for me a sign of warmth and travel to somewhere relaxing, this oasis shimmering from far off. I don’t know it if will be any of those things, but I’m excited to break up my routine. The destinations currently in the running are Malta and The Canary Islands or Madeira. I’ve got islands on my mind.