Mornings in Spain

Putting on my threadbare IKEA slippers, I shuffle into my apartment’s kitchen to figure out what I might have for breakfast. I open a cabinet and find no eggs left in the cardboard container, and it looks like the only tea I have is caffeine-free chamomile. Ugg. The kitchen window that looks out into the light well is ajar, and from it I can hear pigeons softly cooing, almost in derision that I have no food. I make a mental note of the things I need to go to the grocery store for and hop in the shower.

My hair still drying, I pull the house door shut behind me, in accordance with the handwritten “Mantén a porta pechada—Grazas” sign I see every day on the way out, and I quickly zip up my hoodie: it’s a little chillier out here than I was expecting. Four faint, almost-imperceptible dings trickle down the street from the Baroque-style convent that sits on the other side of Belvís Park, calling the nuns who live there to prayer. I look up to the cloudy, gloomy skies, and, noticing I didn’t bring an umbrella with me, offer up a prayer for no rain.

Here in Santiago the morning air is clean, humid, and cool. As I walk past a row of pine trees I inhale their crisp, woody aromas and turn to hike up the hill to the central city’s main drag. My heart suddenly skips a beat as someone in the house to my right vigorously raises their persianas, or plastic light-blocking shutters that roll up into a coil above the window. The unmistakable clackety-clack-clack reveals a squinting university student, none too enthused about going to class today.

At the house to my left, a housewife steps across the threshold to finish up mopping her floor. She squeezes the excess water out of the mop into the bucket and then carefully pours the gray, soapy water into the street, where it creeps toward a drain. I have to watch where I step lest I get the dirty water all over my shoes.

And that’s when I feel the first drop of rain.

A photo posted by Trevor Huxham (@trevorhuxham) on

Fortunately only a few more drops follow the first one, and it’s light enough that I can endure it, but like clockwork there’s already folks opening up their umbrellas, from little kids in navy-blue school uniforms to grannies toting plaid rolling carts on their way to the farmers market.

Once I get out of the historic residential area where I live and into the modern zona nueva neighborhood, I’ve got to weave my way along the sidewalk—no staring down at my cellphone while I walk. A barista sleepily sets up tables, chairs, and umbrellas for his café’s streetside terrace, while his colleague smokes a cigarette just outside the doorway. A large truck is parked with the doors to its bright red trailer wide open, and a stinky odor wafts out of it. Workers remove styrofoam boxes of all sorts of seafood, crustaceans, and fish packed in ice. A little taste of the ocean, just 30 minutes away, here in Santiago.

Finally I arrive at my go-to café: Café Bar Alabama, complete with a wavy sign of the U.S. state’s name. Greeting the baristas with a Galician bos días! I order a latte, croissant, and glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Carbs and caffeine: a balanced breakfast. I leaf through the stack of today’s newspapers looking for the red calligraphy title of La Voz de Galicia, but one of my fellow patrons at the counter has already nabbed it this morning. After giving a little side-eye, I settle on the national El País daily and sit back down on my barstool with the paper.

Meanwhile, the barista pulls a steaming shot of espresso and starts frothing up the milk jar. He serves my bubbly cafe con leche in a tiny ceramic cup, complete with saucer, teaspoon, and sugar packet. An older man at the bar to my right dunks a crispy churro into his coffee while I hungrily await my croissant. Now the barista drops three oranges into the juicing machine, which slices them in half, deftly extracts the pulpy juice, and leaves the rinds to fall into two small bins. Pair that glass of OJ with a sticky glazed croissant and breakfast is served.

In between sips of coffee I pull out my phone to put together a shopping list. Eggs, Earl Grey, hmm…maybe a chocolate-filled pastry, or three. When I look up from my phone I can see that the drops of rain have turned into a downpour, so I cozy up to the bar and determine to read through all of El País this morning. After all, I don’t have an umbrella.

What are your mornings like? Share in the comments below!

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