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Byline: Courtney Semple
MADRID _ We had the spirit of Ferdinand. Remember the little black bull from the children's story, who wanted to laze around under the cork trees in Spain, smelling the flowers, rather than go to the bullfight? Well, that was our vacation. Instead of dashing around like crazy, trying to cram in every tourist sight and museum in southern Spain, my friend Edgar and I spent our visit this fall lazing around under the umbrellas, smelling the wine corks.
We enjoyed some traditional sights, of course. But what was special was the profound relaxation that came from getting up when we wanted, exploring food and wine, and doing exactly what we felt like.
A little planning and open minds made an unforgettable vacation.
From the Madrid airport, we took the bus to the Plaza Colon and a taxi to the Hotel Galiano, which is next to the Interior Department. It's quiet _ not much partying by those gun-toting government guards _ and efficient, though I was surprised a "double" room is two single beds pushed together.
We'd been up more than 24 hours, but to combat jet lag we wanted to go to sleep at bedtime Madrid time. Well, Edgar did. I had to have a nap first. But it worked _ by the second day we were pretty much acclimated.
For our first meal in Spain _ tapas, of course _ we found a bustling outdoor cafe under giant, leafy trees and a sky that sparkled. The service did not, nor did it through most of Spain. But the salty queso manchego and rich jamon serrano were thrilling; "cheese" and "ham" doesn't begin to describe them.
Seafood, from squid ink paella to octopus, is …