Mayes begins her year in Spain - the first Spanish-speaking country I ever visited. That was in 1984 and I still hope to go back someday. Her time is spent mainly in Andalucia, in the southern part of the country. I was there for a weekend, but my time was mainly spent in the northwest, in Salamanca. Along with about 10 other students from the University of Maryland Baltimore County I was studying Spanish grammar and culture and living with a Spanish family for the summer. Mayes spends some time at the beginning of her trip in Madrid, as did I. She was much more impressed with the Prado museum than I remember being. She has a much better appreciation for portraits than I do, having grown up the daughter of an abstract artist.
When she arrives in Sevilla Mayes and her husband, Ed, are approached by an English woman who lost her purse upon arrival, although she is expecting friends to join her the next day she is stranded in the meantime. Frances and Ed give her some money and a few days later see her extracting money from another tourist couple. They are stunned as "[s]he looks like a librarian or teacher on holiday." Tsk, tsk. Will authors never learn not to dis librarians with outdated stereotypes? (see also May 22 entry). And for more fun with librarians see my pop-culture librarian webpage . At least I can rest assured that if I am ever stranded my bookish look is sure to score me some credibility points if I decide to beg.
As she leaves Granada, Mayes describes the few souveniers she bought "a few small things closely tied to my perceptions of the place." Mayes does seem to have a true sense of the place she visited and appreciates differences. This is a refreshing change from the view of many American tourists who I hear complain whenever they travel and things do not go as expected.