Tag Archive | souvenir

Saturday in Spain VII

“Maman, wish we went to Spain,” a wistful little 3 year old voice tells me at least once a week. “How we get to Spain?”

“We would fly in an airplane.”

Konik heaves a sigh of exasperation and replies, “But you have to take a car to the airport.”

“Ok, yes, we would take a car to the airport and then get on an airplane and fly to Spain.”

He gives me a satisfied smile and then continues, “Wish we went to Spain and then I will unlock all the doors.” He holds up the large key ring that normally hangs on the back of the door.

I see you

I see you

The keys are really our only souvenir from our trip to Spain — long before Konik was born, but he has heard the stories and seen the pictures. And like the other two kids, he has developed a desire to travel and see places. The poor child has barely had the chance to leave the state, but he knows there’s more out there to the world. And he’s 3. I love that.

Mr. Gren, baby Rana, and I took our vacation to Valencia, Spain in February 2006. I had bought a Lonely Planet guidebook prior to going and had studied the few pages on Valencia, marking things that I thought we should try to see. One of those was the Plaza Redonda — a circular market place not too far from our hotel. We ended up criss-crossing through it quite often on our way to other locations in the Velle Ciutat (Old City). It was interesting, but I’m not sure it was worthy of a guidebook mention.

The Plaza Redonda, also known as El Clot (The Hole) is not an obvious place to get to. Despite being a decent-sized little circle with shops all around the outside, the only ways in are through narrow little spoke-like roads that aren’t immediately apparent when you’re walking down larger, more active streets. It gives the Redonda the feeling of seclusion, which is always fun in a secret sort of way when you’re in a big city. The shops and walkway near them are all covered, with the center fountain open to the sky (hence “the hole”).

The only picture I took of la Plaza Redonda was, inexplicably, at night.

The only picture I took of la Plaza Redonda was, inexplicably, at night.

Several of the shops sell sewing notions, fancy handkerchiefs and Valencian lace. Nowadays, I would probably be paying closer attention to those shops, but back then I wasn’t sewing at all. There was one shop on the corner of one of the little spoke roads that was quite different — a blacksmith’s shop selling all kinds of iron works. I don’t know if it is still there; I’ve read that a lot of the shops have changed in recent years. But at the time, it was a lot of fun to poke through. The set of antique-looking keys caught our eye.


Obviously, they are cast iron reproductions, but I loved them. The style of the keys (each of which are different in shape and size) reminded me of the key I used to open the door to my 500 year old apartment in Grenoble where I did my study abroad. We wanted a souvenir that was not too big, heavy, or awkward to bring home with us and these keys fit the bill. Little did I know that they would be so attractive to my children seven years later.

Today, Konik and I looked at some pictures from Valencia and I showed him a photo of an ancient door on the Torres de Serranos.

“Maman, when we go to Spain, I bring dese keys. I will open that door.”

“Someday, Buddy, someday.”

Saturday in Spain III

After our little bus adventure through all the outskirts of Valencia, some walking, a helpful policeman, and another bus ride, Mr. Gren, baby Rana and I ended up at our hotel, Hostal El Cid. The lady who ran the hotel immediately fell in love with Rana. “¡Que muñeca eres!” Apparently she was the most adorable baby in Spain because everyone we met ended up proclaiming her doll-like cuteness. We were led up the stairs to our room where we could finally put down the suitcases we had been lugging for hours. It was a small room but clean: a bit cramped with two beds in it, a small shower in the corner and a sink next to it. The toilet was down the hall. After we had had some time to settle in a bit, we realized that there were no towels. Looking back, I don’t know why we didn’t just go down and ask. I think we must have chickened out, thinking that perhaps we were supposed to have brought our own? Obviously, we hadn’t. We decided we’d just have to go buy a towel from somewhere. Again, don’t look for logic in any of this. Baby Rana also needed diapers and we may as well go explore the city a bit.

While we were winding our way through the city streets to get to our hotel, we had noticed a tourist information center not too far away, so that’s where we headed this time. I asked the lady at the information desk if there were a store around where we could buy diapers and bath towels. She whipped out a map and highlighted a department store a few blocks away called El Corte Inglés. Off we went!

We found the store and then ended up walking all the way around it trying to find the door. They didn’t make that easy. We had been hoping for something in the Target price range. This store ended up being more in the realm of Macy’s. Have I mentioned that we were on a shoestring budget? Maybe even less than that. More like, half a shoestring or dental floss budget. Our eyes popped out when we saw the price tags on the bath towels. But our other options were 1) air-drying after a shower, or 2) not showering for ten days. Neither sounded appealing. There was no way we could afford regular sized bath towels, so we looked at the next size down which were about the size of a welcome mat. At 10 euros a piece these would have to do.

You know how new towels have that fabric softener stuff all over them to make them nice and fluffy in the store and virtually impervious to moisture? Yeah, we had failed to take that into account. After the first shower, using our little towels we discovered that there was not a lot of absorption going on. “Drying off” consisted of wiping the water down our bodies with our oversized chamois cloths, leaving us nice and moist. Ok, not so nice. Mr. Gren and I are pretty good at making the best of things, so we continued toughing it out with our tiny towels and damp skin, hoping that eventually they’d start absorbing more.

Need more coverage.

A few days into our trip, a set of bath towels magically appeared in our room. Apparently, it had just been an oversight all along. Towels were provided! We felt a little bit silly then, but it was a relief to finally be able to get dry.

We still have our little overpriced towels and, after multiple washings, they still don’t really absorb. But I doubt we’ll get rid of them — they’re one of our few Spanish souvenirs after all.