For someone who doesn’t consider herself much of a shopper when I travel, I’ve managed to bring back a lot of stuff for our house. But this kind of ‘stuff’ comes with something much more valuable than a great exchange rate at some foreign department store – these objects comes with stories, and because of that, they have become my personal travel artefacts.
Artefacts Have Stories; ‘Stuff’ Doesn’t
As I look around at the objects that I have on my bookshelves and walls, I don’t see souvenirs – I see faces, and places, and moments in time: I remember being the only foreigner at a local festival in a plaza in Giza, Egypt; or having an enthusiastic conversation about technique with a ceramic artist in Sutri, near Rome. I feel a breeze coming off the ocean through my window at a little hotel on the island of Elba. Or sometimes it’s the stifling air in the attic room in Cordoba, Spain, where I literally begged the owner of a pensione to let me stay, because I loved the beautiful courtyard in her tiny hotel so much, I didn’t care where I slept…
My Cordoba Plate Story
I was in Spain during Easter week, and had arrived in Cordoba, planning to stay at a hotel that I had booked ahead, knowing that accommodations would be hard to find during this popular holiday.
Walking around the historic centre of town I found myself peering into hidden courtyards filled with beautiful ceramics, intricate tile work on staircases, decorative mosaics, and dozens of hand-painted plates displayed on the walls of homes and buildings. And the more charming these places were, the uglier my boring, characterless hotel room became.
So I rang the bell at one little B&B, La Milagrosa, and in broken Spanglish, convinced the owner to rent me the only room she had vacant, a tiny attic room literally under the eaves that was used by her cleaning staff. It was probably 80 feet square, had a tiny pop-up window that looked out over tile roofs, and was easily 90 degrees in the heat and humidity.
I didn’t care. Because for the next 2 mornings, I walked downstairs, plunked myself in her charming open-air atrium for breakfast, and took in the peaceful beauty of its tiles, its mosaics, and its decorative plates scattered on the courtyard walls. In fact, I was so enamoured with the decor that I went out to find myself my own ceramic plate to bring back to Toronto.
Some Things Don’t Change
What’s crazy is that 30 years later, I just Googled La Milagrosa today, and the courtyard looks the same!
I had to smile seeing that courtyard again – because it brought back all the memories of that visit to Cordoba.
Which is why this little plate will always have a place in my home.
TIP: There’s actually a Festival of Los Patios competition in Cordoba in the month of May, when these patios are opened to the public: there are two categories, traditional and modern.