Spain is a mysterious country of conquistadors, matadors, paella, the Holy Grail and the color red. A recent eight day visit to three cities began in Madrid. I arrived in Spain’s Capitol with a miserable head cold, complete with red nose and bloodshot eyes, which made the thirty-hour experience a blur. I do remember the beauty of the baroque architecture alongside modern skyscrapers, and roaming the enormous Parque del Retiro, full of sculptures, a Crystal Palace and a peaceful lake. We dined in one of city’s plazas on a meal of tapas, found on most menus throughout the country.

The temperature was hot and got hotter traveling to Seville. I had brought mostly lightweight fall clothes and several pairs of leggings, which I never wore due to the ninety degree heat. I ended up wearing a loose pair of black workout pants with my favorite tops and tunics. Spain falls mainly on the plain.” It became evident why the Spanish chose the Golden State to inhabit and develop since it must have reminded them of home.

Seville is an ancient city dating back over 2000 years, and in mythology was thought to be founded by Hercules. Remains of the Roman aqueducts and Gothic and Moorish architecture are evident.

My favorite find was the tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Seville Cathedral. His remains are shouldered by the four kings of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre. As I circled this impressive monument to the famous explorer, it struck me that as an American, I may not be standing here if it hadn’t been for Columbus and his successful trips to the New World.

Another experience I had in Seville was attending a bull fight. As we purchased tickets in front of the brick arena, I thought of the matadors and their intricate brocade costumes, colored socks, flat shoes and of course, the red cape. I decided that red was probably not the color to wear to a bull fight, and tried to blend in with a taupe duster and harem pants.

A bullfight, or corrida de toros, is something enjoyed and loathed by visitors and Spaniards alike. Bullfighting is a tradition in Seville and the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza is perhaps one of the best venues in all of Spain to watch the event.

Bands played as the matadors entered the Plaza along with a parade of horses. When the bull is let loose there is an eerie silence as the spectators watch the matador challenge the animal to charge with almost dancelike leg work. As the bull goes for the red cape, ole’ is cheered until the animal meets its death. Our culture wouldn’t allow such brutality to an animal, and after the first few fights we decided that we’d had enough of that particular Spanish experience.

Our last leg of the trip was in Valencia, a beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea known for oranges and paella. Because we were there attending a meeting on energy conservation, tours were offered to see the old city, as well as an architectural tour which included the City of Arts and Sciences. There are three large structures that include an opera house, the largest aquarium in Europe and an interactive science museum. The four block complex is the most amazing array of modern architecture that I have ever seen. Valencia architect Santiago Calatrava also designed the Milwaukee Art Museum, and is currently working on the World Trade Center Transportation Hub at Ground Zero.

Our final day in Spain took us to the cathedral of Saint Mary of Valencia where the Holy Grail is supposedly displayed. The Chalice has been traced to St. Peter, and legend states it held Christ’s blood at the Crucifixion. Seeing the reddish stone vessel was remarkable, as was the eight days in acountry of rich cultural and historical significance. On our last night I wore my ruffled red duster to dinner as a symbolic olé to Spain.