The kindness of guides….


(Big Flowery Cat outside The Guggenheim, Bilbao)

I am sitting on my bed for tonight. It is a futon. To my right is a spiral staircase. It was fun carrying our bags up earlier! Downstairs I hear the very happy black Labrador called Koa (yes, Ciara, we are living with a dog for a few days!) padding back and forth between his owner in the kitchen and Denis in the office. Our home for now is called the Cliff House and is located on a hill (high up) overlooking a beach in a neighbourhood outside Bilbao. Our host has the second floor (someone else lives on the ground floor). We are in the attic, but Denis can use her office for work. If it’s okay with us, it is, the dog is allowed to wander around. But he is afraid of the spiral staircase so he meets us at the bottom step with his cushion (he seems to like giving us his cushion!).

Hurray for airbnb in Spain!

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(The driveway into the castle at Jaca.)

After my great experience at the monastery, I decided to check out one of my tourist office brochures and went to visit St. Peter’s Castle. So after breakfast yesterday morning (about 10.10am) I turned up at the gate. It was closed. But there was a sign in Spanish at a kiosk outside.  It was in Spanish, right,, but I could understand the main points (mainly because number are international)…. it cost €10 and it opened at 11am. Now, I could have trotted off to visit the cathedral again and I was tempted but the entrance to the castle is down a winding walled driveway off a busy street. And as soon as I entered the driveway, the sounds from the street quietened and I could hear birds singing, so I sat there on a bench in the sun.

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(My ticket and brochure, showing the shape of the castle.)

I had my brochure so I read about the castle. It was quite short so I filled the rest of my time learning the Spanish for the numbers from six to fifteen. (In case I didn’t mention it we both have Spanish and French dictionary apps on our phones – we usually use them to work out what we’re eating, or to buy a sticker for the bike -never did find a sticker shop in Jaca.) I already knew one to four (uno, dos, tres, cuatro) from Sesame Street and when I bought some buttons the lady taught me five – cinco. Then while I was waiting I realised that the numbers up to fifteen (and 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, etc) were the only ones I really needed because the others are made up of these. This might be getting complicated? In English 1 to 13 are all different but 14 is made up of four and teen. Fifteen is different, but sixteen is made up of six and teen. And the same pattern is true up to twenty. Then the pattern is twenty and a number you already know….. twenty one, twenty two…. Well this kept me busy and with a little practice I think I’ll have the numbers sorted.

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(The buildings are used as offices for the army now.)

Soon others joined me to wait, including two school groups (my guess, six year olds). We all waited patiently as the gates opened for the workers but not for us. At eleven o clock I did get to buy my ticket and asked for the “ingles”.  She paused and took a moment (she was compiling her English words) and she told me in very good English that there was a guided tour in Spanish but her colleague would give me the notes in English. Another new experience. “Grasias” and off I went.

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(Inside at last.)

There was a wait of ten minutes for the tour to start but very soon our guide came over to me with my English notes. She explained in the best English, really, really good, that she would tell me when we came to the different areas on the tour and if I had any questions to just ask. Although the castle wasn’t that interesting, the tour was brilliant. She made sure that I missed out on nothing due to my lack of Spanish. If she remembered something that wasn’t on my guide, she would tell me that in English. She also answered my questions and explained about the war with Napoleon and the military service in Spain. She told me she is from Jaca and one of her friends at school used to live in the castle grounds because her father was an officer in the army. Also, with my notes I got to read about the tour before she told it and so had time to take pictures. But even better than all that I got to listen to her speaking Spanish, while having some idea of what she might be saying. It was almost like I understood her, almost.

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(My kind guide.)

Her kindness made the tour great. It’s always the small things, isn’t it?


Buen viaje! (I’m practicing again, it means have a good journey) Mairead.