Tag Archives | spain

¡Felicidades Canadá!

July 1 is Canada Day and this year marks the nation’s 150th birthday. To celebrate the occasion I thought I’d post the following essay, which I wrote in 2012 for the Canadian magazine Explore, edited by James Little. It’s a story about kayaking in Canada, but also a story about Spain. Hope you enjoy it. Happy Birthday Canada!

Not in Spain anymore: The gorgeous granite of Phillip Edward Island, Georgian Bay, Canada. Photo ©Mike Randolph

A few years ago, I moved from Toronto to Zaragoza, a city in northern Spain. Not long after, my friend Graham came to visit. Hanging out one evening, drinking wine on the terrace of my neighbourhood restaurant, he said something I still think about now and then.

“Do you ever worry that if you stay here long enough, you won’t really be from Canada anymore, but you’ll never really be from here either?”

I don’t know the answer to my friend’s question, except to say that when you live somewhere for a span of years, you can grow into the rhythm of the place and eventually it starts to feel like home. I was born in Spain, but we moved to Canada before I ever spoke my first word of Spanish. My family was a typically Canadian family in that our house was a small enclave of some other country. When I didn’t spend my summers in the Canadian bush, I spent them on Spanish beaches. It was never easy to choose between them. Continue Reading →


Tales of the Levante

Photo ©Mike Randolph

My latest podcast is now online. This time, it’s not about food it’s about the wind. Not just any wind, but the infamous Levante. Be prepared to get blown away. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)


The Cocas of Camarasa

A few years ago my cousin Jaime and I were looking for a river in Aragon but one thing led to another and we ended up looking for a pizza in Catalonia.

It all started because I had two inflatable kayaks and all the other bits of gear needed to paddle down a river, as long as the water wasn’t too big. But it was early May. All the rivers flowing out of the Pyrenees were raging with meltwater from the snowfields high in the alpine. It was a warm day but the river was only a few degrees above freezing. An unplanned swim would be pretty grim.

In the town of Broto, just outside of Ordesa (one of the jewels of Spain’s national park system, you really should go if you have the chance), we walked into a store selling commercial rafting tours. The guide said we might be able to pull off the River Ara, which flows right through town. Thanks, we said, and walked down the street to the bridge across the Ara.

The river’s roar alone was discouraging. And then we saw it. The water looked the way you’d expect it to look, considering the roar. It was very fast and technical, with lots of rocks sticking out. It didn’t strike me as a very good idea. That hasn’t always stopped us in the past, but this didn’t look so much adventurous as it looked just plain dumb. (There’s often not much difference between the two.) Continue Reading →


Madrid, Through The Looking Glass

Off and on for the past year, I’ve been working on this photo essay on streets in Madrid. It’s one of those things that you’re never quite sure you’re finished, but I thought it’s been long enough now, time to show it. There is no Photoshop involved and no double exposures or anything else. Just images I found with my eyes and took with one click of the shutter. Some of them are almost abstract, with multiple layers of reflections. It takes a while to ‘see’ these image opportunities as a photographer, because everyone living in cities is so used to seeing reflections that you just tune them out and no longer really even see them. I made a video out of them, and put them to a song that I like by the very talented Andrew Bird, who plays Carnegie Hall next week. It’s really best to watch it full screen. (After hitting Play, it’s the bottom-right button.) Let me know whether you like it in the comments below. Thanks for having a look and please share it with your friends!


With the Retiro it’s not Goodbye, it’s Hasta Pronto

I recently moved away from my favourite place in Madrid, the Parque del Gran Retiro, a green oasis in the heart of the city.

There were reasons, and some justifications, too. The new apartment was bigger, with nicer floors, and lots of storage space. Those things can eventually become non-negotiable. Plus we got something of a deal on it because my cousin Jaime lived there until he decided to move with his family to Switzerland (that’s another story, and I’ll get to that sometime). Had we not taken it over the rent would have gone up but the point is, it’s a beautiful apartment in an old building in Chamberí, right downtown. Besides, we were ready for a change.

The problem was leaving the Retiro. It’s not like it’s far, you can walk there in 45 minutes from the new place, but it’s not just outside your door, either. At first Miss A and I tried to justify it by saying, ‘we’ll still come here all the time, it’s not that far’ but eventually we stopped pretending. On an average night when we just want to get out of the house we’re not going to the Retiro. We’ll miss having it so close, but that’s how it goes when you move to a different neighbourhood. You prefer some things, and miss others, hopefully in the right proportions.

The Retiro is relaxing not only because it’s a beautiful park with lots of trees and birds and away from the chaotic traffic of downtown Madrid, it’s also relaxing because that’s where other people relax. It’s catchy. There’s the young couple canoodling on the grass near the fountain, the old, well-dressed man reading the paper on the bench, smoking his pipe. On the promenade the inline skaters slalom through tiny pylons on one foot, dogs chase and sniff each other, and senior citizens languidly turn the pedals on stationary bicycles. There are cafés throughout the park, and they’re almost always busy, either with people sitting quietly, maybe reading a book, or groups of friends having beers. Everyone has a great time. It’s hard not to.

Images ©Mike Randolph, All Rights Reserved


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