My original intention was to write a post actually related to the photos, but I am afraid it is not going to be the case (again). This blog was born as a travel diary and I did my best to keep it that way. For a while at least. However with the unfortunate pandemics-related nuisances, such as confinement and subsequent changes in interaction between humans, it became my way to vent desperation about politics and men. Between the spectacular debacle of the withdrawal of the western missions from Afghanistan and the fact that in Texas, coronavirus has basically broader reproductive rights than the local women, it hasn’t been a good summer, but I have no strength to write about that right now. I’ll still spend a few words about my trip to Cáceres, just on the odd chance you are here for that, but there is a good chance this post will degenerate into a rant about the predominant cause of my ever-growing frustration – the Y chromosome. Consider yourself warned.
When I was young and inexperienced and Sex and the City was the main source of emotional education, I thought the four of them were terrible characters. All four of them, even Samantha, although she was my favourite. Entitled, superficial, overreacting bitches with too much time on their hands, and definitely too much money. Not to mention heels I would not be able to even sit with. I though that their misadventures with men we exaggerated and somehow self-inflicted. Now years (uhm, almost two decades) later, as I have accumulated countless experiences, although my opinion of the four witches of Manhattan hasn’t changed, I feel the portrayal of the supposedly stronger sex is rather watered down. Not only they really are that way, they’ve become worse.
First the silver lining. This past 8 months, online dating has been an extensive course of Spanish culture. It has been a défilé of clichés (and a total freak show): there has been the one that looks perfect on paper: cultured, intelligent, with an interesting job, funny and with excellent manners. But firmly controlled by his over-present mother. There has been a bullfighter; a socialist assistant to the Prime Minister; a fierce Catalan independentist and a lieutenant-colonel of the air force. All I need is an ETA member and a priest, and I shall be granted a citizenship ad honorem. There has of course been the first of the Tinderellas: the horse breeder. Needless to say, all of them oscillating between “with slight issues” and “barking mad”. Not that I am hoping to find a sane one. No one is sane, me included. The goal is to find someone compatibly crazy. I’m hopeful. If nothing else, my Spanish improved impressively. So there’s a trade-off: I now cannot stand men, but I am officially fluent in a 5th language.
For a while I tried dating cyclists. Because cycling is an important part of my life, and I am not going to give that up (or most other things) for a man, so I thought it would be nice to forego unpleasant discussions about “you spend more time on your bike than with me”. I also think that cyclist share some values I admire in life, such as dedication, sacrifice, perseverance, curiosity to discover, and taking care of each other. Not in Spain (at least not in my limited experience). In Spain the cyclists collectively suffer from unfulfillment and disappointment of not being professionals. Moreover, it seems that here the love for sport and culturedness are mutually exclusive. So they are either interesting but adverse to any kind of outdoor activity (other than al fresco dining), or they are aspiring racers with nothing but a heap of punctured inner tubes in their skulls.
I am now off Tinder. Indefinitely. Because it came to the point where this much bewilderment simply does not compensate a shag. I also noticed that every time I start talking to someone new, I am gratuitously hostile. I enter the conversation already wary: I don’t know you yet, but I am sure you’re gonna do or say something appalling. Which is not the best approach when trying to know a person (even if the knowledge serves only to establish if I am willing to have sex with them). Follows a brief recount of the last straws that broke the camel’s back:
- Exhibit A: He started the conversation with this pearl: “I consume bodies and minds”. Sorry, you what? With fava beans and a nice Chianti? Or was that supposed to be profound? So I pointed out that bodies are meant to be enjoyed and minds ever more so. He replied that it was a euphemism. I corrected him that if anything, it was a metaphor and a rather bad one, come to that. Now, I am perfectly aware that men don’t like to be corrected. Tough shit. If you want to amaze me with your knowledge of foreign words, at least get their meaning right. From there, it went swiftly south. He said he was going on holiday for two weeks and I replied that it did not matter, I was in no rush. He said he could maybe do Thursday (the conversation was happening on Monday) and that he would confirm. I explained that I could do Thursday on the condition that he confirmed within 24 hours, because I had no intention to wait until Thursday afternoon, only to be cancelled on last minute, and that I preferred to wait until he was back from his trip. He said he was too curious to meet me and that we could even do a quick wine the very same evening. Again, I replied that I had no interest in a hasted drink, as to me it sounded like he would be checking me out to decide whether the Thursday date was worth maintaining. He pleaded I was wrong (I wasn’t, I rarely am) and that he was just too keen to meet me. As if. So two hours passed and he came up with a friend’s dead dog, someone – the dog’s former owner, I presume – needing his car, subsequent holiday planning difficulties and impossibility to maintain the 10 pm date. The connection between the four things escapes me to this day. I guess the only consumed mind was his own.
- Exhibit B: after we matched, he too was very keen to meet me, but he was concerned about how tall I was. To me this question is like a red rag to a bull and I cannot contain my sarcasm. I already addressed the very same topic on several occasions on this blog, but one last time: it does not matter in life, on the bike or in bed, it really does not matter to me, and if it matters to you, maybe you should try your luck elsewhere. In a circus, probably, if you really like them significantly shorter than you. However, we agreed on time and place (for a drink) and when the day arrived, the following conversation happened. He asked whether the appointment still stood and I said it did. Then he said that he had a laser hair removal appointment in a beauty clinic on the same afternoon. My immediate reaction, that I (un)fortunately didn’t manage to keep to myself was: “not sexy”. OK, it was probably out of line, but it came straight out of my soul before I even thought about applying a filter. So he felt the need to stress that he had no hair below the neck. I said that I did, and I had no intention to shave it, because in my view adult people have pubic hair. He said that on that note he’d rather cancel the date, as we clearly don’t have enough things in common. I mean, what the actual fuck? I get that Tinder is mostly catalogue shopping, but still, you establish that we don’t have anything in common because I am taller than you and my pussy does not resemble one of a nine-years-old? Wow. Another bullet (and most certainly a lousy lay) dodged. At first I thought I overstepped. At the end I have no right to express an unsolicited opinion about other people’s aesthetic choices, whether they are tattoos, body jewellery, or level of depilation. On the other hand, if the “no hair below neck” remark is the first thing he says to another person, it sounds like a request, like he is actually soliciting an opinion, or assurance, like the absence of evidence that the person in front of him went through puberty is a deal breaker. Which it clearly is. And my opinion happens to be that the gentleman in question is a superficial idiot, regardless the amount of body hair.
So, you can see. I am having some time off. Surely I must be able to meet people in real life. I may consider going back if I want an abrupt change of career and reinvent myself as a stand-up comedian, or maybe a film-maker documenting the wildlife in all its variety and wonder, like David Attenborough. “A Life on our Planet, 2021 edition”.
Anyway, Cáceres: this was a special trip for several reasons. It was the first time I was able to leave Madrid region since October 2020 without breaking any Covid rules (well, except for my half-illegal escape to Lanzarote over Christmas, but shhh), and it was also the first (and as yet only) time I ended up on the podium in a fencing tournament. For that reason, Cáceres is and always will be awesome.
When the announcement of the tournament came out, I had every intention to make a weekend out of it. After all the call was at 8.30 on Sunday morning, and we’re talking 3 hours drive from Madrid, so leaving Madrid on Saturday morning, visiting Cáceres, maybe going out for dinner (and drinks) in the evening, sleep properly and turn up at the competition on the following day seemed a much more sensible option than waking up at 4 am and driving over (and back) on the same day. I’ll pick hangover over sleep deprivation every time. Wouldn’t be the first time I’d fence with residual alcohol in my system either. So I proposed a group trip, but they all (except for one) preferred the option two. That’s right: the Spaniards would rather wake up at an ungodly hour than participate in an out-of-town fiesta. I was clearly lied about the character of this country. At the end I convinced one of my club mates to come with me, thus destroying his reputation with mine. Not sure if anyone to whom this may concern reads this blog, but just in case, Alberto’s honour is intact (I seriously doubt that anyone is worried about mine).
Cáceres is located in the region of Extremadura, which is known, as the name suggests, for extreme weather conditions. At the end of May, the temperatures were already hitting high thirties. We arrived conveniently at pre-lunch aperitif time, and by the time we got through the fairly liquid lunch, Alberto desperately needed a siesta. I, on the other hand, having sustained a hard self-imposed training in alcohol intake during the confinement, packed my camera and went for a walk. Styled as the third most beautiful monumental complex in Europe (after Prague and Tallinn) and UNESCO’s World Heritage site since 1986, Cáceres is a little jewel that is not to be missed. The medieval city centre consisting of a mixture of Roman, Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architecture enclosed within the ancient walls is perfectly preserved and untainted by any modern influence, which also makes it a popular shooting location of many historical films and TV series (most recently the Game of Thrones prequel, so hurry if you want to visit before Cáceres suffers the same fate as Dubrovnik). I first walked around the city on my own, to be able to take photos in peace, entered every opened church and climbed every tower, and then went on an hour-long guided tour (in spanish, I suppose english would be an option now that foreign tourists are back), which I booked upon walking in the official tourism office in Plaza Mayor. 10 euros totally worth it, especially if your time in Cáceres is limited to one afternoon.
Dining tips: we had lunch in Mario & Marieta and dinner at Que Cocine Pepe. Both modern bistro-restaurants offering tapas and shareable dishes that blend traditional and modern Spanish cuisine. Also, dirt cheap. Even for Spanish standards