February 14, 2014 by Caroline Leland
Vitoria, Spain has lovely benches. I am intimate with several of them, as I spent much of today sleeping on them.
My solo day trip to Vitoria (1.5 hours west of Pamplona) started unpleasantly, as my stomach decided to empty its contents into the aisle of the bus about halfway there. I retched periodically for the remainder of the trip, suffering from some miserable combination of a hangover and carsickness. I dwelled on the vaguely positive thought that at least the bus was mostly empty; I was able to retreat to the very back so that no one else would have to suffer as I choked on my own bile.
When we arrived, I shamefully approached the driver.
“Estoy enferma y vomité en el fondo del bus,” I confessed with a grimace and volunteered to clean it up.
He was unperturbed.
“No te preocupes,” he waved away my concerns. Someone from the bus station would do it, he told me. This isn’t the first time it’s happened.
We went back and forth a little bit, me insisting that I could clean up the mess, but he was indifferent since the responsibility clearly wasn’t his. I gave in, thanked him and left the bus. After dealing with my Number One Priority — buying gum from a vending machine — and acquiring a city map from the info desk, I retreated to sit and catch my breath in the park next to the bus station.
I still felt terribly sick to my stomach. All the landmarks on the map looked dauntingly far away. So I threw my pride into the bushes behind me, clutched my bag close, and took a wonderful hour-long nap in the sun. (Sun!!!)
|the bench that loved me back|
Then I went to an art museum that had lots of rooms full of interesting art.
|rooms full of art|
Then I sat for awhile on a bench outside the museum, as my nausea had started to rise again.
Then I went to look at some of the city’s old historical cathedrals. I found one, but my petulant stomach wouldn’t let me go any farther, so I took another lovely nap on a bench next to the cathedral. Also in the sun. I formed a new hypothesis that the sun has healing powers and that the gloomy clouds and rain of Pamplona is what made me sick.
|a third sunny bench|
After an hour or so I felt well enough to walk to some more cathedrals and a couple of pretty parks. I asked a passerby how to get to el Museo de Bellas Artes, and he jovially told me he was headed that way and invited me to walk with him. He was a friendly lawyer who was curious about race relations in North Carolina. Someone had told him interracial couples were stigmatized and he wanted to hear about it first-hand from an American. I told him it really depends on who you ask, because most people at a university wouldn’t care at all, but I probably know people from my hometown who definitely wouldn’t like it. It made me curious about racism in Spain. There’s obviously less racial diversity here, but I really have no idea what the country’s history is in terms of race and discrimination. It’s something I want to find out.
I didn’t eat all day, partly because I wasn’t hungry and partly because I didn’t want to tempt my stomach on the ride home — which was blessedly uneventful.