Though it may be a massive cliché, sometimes the greatest trips you will ever take come about because of petty mistakes. It all started with a snap decision to head towards Calatayud, an old Mudéjar town in the province of Zaragoza, with a friend. I had never used Airbnb before and went a little crazy over the fact that it would only cost us €12 each a night to stay in a little room. I booked it straight away without hesitation, though in hindsight perhaps I should have paid more attention.
After arriving in Calatayud, I discovered that my amazing cheap deal was actually in a town 12km away from Calatayud. And what’s more, there was no bus running between. Luckily for me, IB 2016 (Ursies Div 1, thank you very much) prepared me for this. I found a map and began the relatively short trek towards the pueblo with the White Tower. I arrived sometime after lunch and was greeted with the positively beaming face of Gloria, the mother of Eduardo, who was running the Airbnb. With a swift motion, she welcomed me into her home and helped me to set up. She realized quickly that I didn’t speak fluent Spanish but that if she spoke clearly enough, I would understand her. From the first moment, I knew that she was a woman that would leave a lasting impression for her sunny demeanour and embracing atmosphere.
That afternoon, I was sitting in the town’s bar about to order lunch when an older gentleman approached me and enquired about the book I was reading, La Catedral del Mar by Ildefonso Falcones. We launched into a conversation ranging from Spanish literature to Australia to the European Union and finally, and most importantly, wines of Europe. I had never felt more welcome in a strange place than I did in that moment. Carlos then recommended I visit the village of Aniñón while I was around because it had church impossible to miss.
Taking Carlos’ advice, the next day my friend and I made our way through the countryside to visit Aniñón, some 5km away from Torralba. It was a cold walk through the sierra but a lovely one with plenty of amazing photo opportunities. Arriving in Aniñón, we were greeted with a lovely view of the church rising above the town draped in the light of the morning sun, which emphasized the Mudéjar style of its architecture and certainly proved Carlos was good on his word.
That night, we passed time in the bar with Gloria amidst the din of a birthday party. Over the course of our time there, many of the villagers approached us to have a friendly chat and sate their curiosity of the two foreigners. Every person there displayed a truly hospitable amicability which even now makes me smile.
We did eventually spend time in Calatayud and while it is a stunning place, I can safely say I am glad to have made the mistake and stayed in Torralba. Eduardo and Gloria demonstrated a truly marvellous spirit of welcoming and inclusiveness which reminds me of summers spent with my grandparents in country Tasmania. To sit down over a small breakfast and coffee Sunday morning with Eduardo and Gloria, chatting in Spanish about Spain and the world was an experience more rewarding than any that I have had since arriving in Spain.