The Art of el Paseo Español, part 1

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Dar un paseo. Dar una vuelta.

Literally translated: to give a walk, or, to give a circle/turn.

Part of my adventure in bilingual parenting is the balancing act of two cultures: D. and I haven’t chosen to simply raise E. with two languages, but with two cultures, or in other words, two ways of seeing and experiencing the world. And that includes the culture – no, I’m going to call it art – of taking a walk.

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The inspiration for the next two posts was born last week as D. and I shared a meal with friends. During a dessert debate about which of our city parks offer the best green spaces and facilities, our friend, an avid runner, asked, “Do you guys take a lot of walks?” (Background: over the past several months we had bumped into him running numerous times during our family walks.)

“Um, well, we go out at least twice a day,” I responded, not having expected to justify what has become an engrained part of my marriage and family.

“Oh, wow! That’s a lot. I’ve got nothing on you guys.”

Is that a lot? I thought.

And so, I thought a little bit more: in my eleven years of marriage to a Spaniard, we’ve taken, on average, one to two walks a day. If you do the math, that’s 365 walks per year, times eleven. A total of 4,015 walks (minimum)! Yeah, okay, that’s a lot. Well, to me, as an American. For a Spaniard? And, what does it mean to take a walk for a Spaniard?

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Interested in what Spaniards thought, I solicited opinions of good friends in and from Spain: what does dar un paseo, dar una vuelta mean to you? I received so many (great) responses to this question that what I thought would be enough for one post has spilled over into two. So, in the spirit of David Letterman and his Top-10 Lists, here are numbers 10 through 5.

10. A comprar (to buy or to shop)

  • “Paseo de tiendas: La llegada de centros comerciales a España es algo muy reciente. Lo que siempre tuvimos fue tiendas en las calles. Por ello creamos los paseos para ver escaparates, porque eso es otra cosa importante: Se ven escaparates sin comprar.” – Ismael, Madrid

(Walk of shops: the arrival of shopping malls to Spain is something very recent. What we always had were little shops on the streets. That’s why we created walks to see the shop windows. Another important component: window shop without buying anything.)

9. Como complemento de una actividad (together with another activity)

“Has quedado con otra pareja para cenar en un restaurante ¿salir de casa en coche, llegar, cenar y volver? NO, eso no es ir a cenar fuera. Cenar fuera incluye: Si al restaurante se llega en menos de 30 minutos siempre vas a ir caminando desde casa porque una tarde esperando en casa hasta la cena se hace eterna para el español. Después de la cena disfrutas de un paseo de vuelta a casa.” – Ismael, Madrid

8. A Despejarte (to clear your head)

  • “Las casas no son muy grandes y hay que salir para ver horizonte! Es una manera de despejarse y de no hacer nada, simplemente ‘estar unos con nosotros.'” – Ruth, Mallorca

(Houses aren’t very big in Spain and you have to go out to see some horizon! It’s a way to clear your head and not do anything, just be with others.)

  • “Para mí la cultura del paseo es una de las cosas que más echo de menos aquí,…despejar la mente callejeando….” – Iván, Sevilla

(For me the culture of the walk is one of the things that I most miss here [in the States], to just clear your head wandering.)

  • “Un día entero en casa se convierte en una tortura que sólo los americanos con sus enormes casas, jardines para barbacoa, televisión por cable,…podían hacer. Y es que el español histórico ha sido alguien con una casa pequeña….” – Ismael, Madrid

(A whole day at home is torture, something that only Americans, with their enormous houses, yards for barbecues, cable television, can do. Historically, the Spaniard is someone with a small house.”)

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7. Es una actividad gratis. (It’s free.)

  • “Dar un paseo es una actividad gratis…y agradable, que te permite disfrutar al aire libre en un espacio bonito….” – Marusa, La Coruña

(To take a walk is a free activity, and enjoyable, that allows you to enjoy the fresh aire in a beautiful space.)

6. A tomar unas tapas y cañas (to go out for drinks and tapas)

  • “Dar un paseo es ir a tomar unas cañas… Vas caminando, paras en un bar, pides unas cañas, caminas al siguiente y pides otras…” – Fernando, Galicia

(To take a walk is to go out for drinks. You go walking, stop at a bar, order some drinks, walk to the next bar, order more drinks….”)

  • “Acompañado de unas buenas tapitas, claro.” – Iñaki, Madrid

(Together with some good tapas, of course.)

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5. Disfrutar del clima español (to enjoy the Spanish weather)

  • “En verano por las noches después de cenar también.” – Mónica, Madrid

(At night in the summer after eating dinner.)

  • “Disfrutar del clima español – del “solecito” en invierno y de la “fresca” en verano.” – Ruth, Mallorca

(Enjoy the Spanish weather: the sunshine in winter and the cool of the summer night)

The paseo for a Spaniard is so much more than a way to “benefit your mind and body.” It nurtures the soul and connects individual members of a culture into one body, el pueblo español.

Stay tuned for the top five reasons of el paseo! Coming up this Wednesday!

4 thoughts on “The Art of el Paseo Español, part 1

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