Last minute trip to Spain leads to longtime friendship

Nikola Toledo, Reporter, Puma Press

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






It was May 2010 in Bolsena, Italy. Bolsena is 80 miles north of Rome. The weather was humid, very humid, more humid than what I am use to. I was in the quaint little town for a few days. I stop by my friend Paolo’s house to check if my clothes are dry from hanging them out two days before. Paolo is hosting a small group of tourists.

One of the tourists, an older blond woman, fancy clothes, perfect make-up and expensive red lipstick keeps staring at me.

“’Richie,’ probably from France,” I think to myself.

She approaches me while I am folding my damp clothes. I am set to leave Italy the next morning. She asks me if I am Navajo.

“Oh, a smart ‘richie’ from France,” I think while shaking her hand introducing myself.

She says her name is Rhonda and tells me she is from Holbrook. I repeat “Holbrook? As in Holbrook, Arizona?” Rhonda gives a little laugh and confirms, “Yes, Holbrook, Arizona.” I know the area well since the Navajo reservation is located nearby. She begins to tell me her family raised cattle and describes where the family ranch is located. My guard is starting to lower since we now have a connection. My father raised cattle and I know the hard work that goes along with it.

Rhonda tells me she is traveling to Spain the next day. Her husband could not make the trip and she is contemplating not going to Spain. Rhonda explained to me she does not want to travel alone. She then asked me if I would accompany her.

“Is she nuts? Who would travel to a foreign country with someone they just met?” I remember thinking.

She tells me she will pay my travel arrangements, hotel, food and give me spending money.

I try not to look too astonished and tell her I will think about it and will have an answer by sunset. I return to my hotel with my original plan for going home the next day. Thinking what Rhonda asked me was too crazy and did not sound right. I send a couple emails to my close friends in New Mexico about the offer Rhonda has given me.

My friends respond immediately, telling me I am the one who is crazy for having to think about it. I should accept the offer and go to Spain. Since Bolsena is a little town, it is not difficult to find Rhonda. I tell her, “I am ‘in.’”

The next day, instead of being on a plane heading back to the United States, Rhonda and I are on a plane to Madrid, Spain. This would be my first trip to Spain. I am excited and still a tad cautious about my travel companion. I notice Rhonda has a huge piece of luggage, maybe weighing 100 pounds, she names it “El Toro.”

We take a taxi to our hotel and settle in. The hotel is the same hotel where Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his books. I learn that is why we are in Madrid, Rhonda is retracing Hemingway’s steps.

We go to our first dinner and the resturant is not too far from our hotel. Our waitress looks like Nicole Kidman. Our dinner together resembles a blind date. We do not know much about one another. We are total strangers. “What do you do?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Children?”

For the next four weeks, we cover a lot of Spain: Madrid, Seville, Puerto Banus, Ronda and Toledo. Each place offers it’s own uniqueness and we have a memory for each one. In Madrid, walking to one of the well-known museums, we pass a hotel with a crowd outside. I asked some people what is going on and I am told, “Jon Bon Jovi is inside.”

When we arrive to Seville by bullet train, as we are exiting the train, Rhonda tells the conductor, “Please don’t bother; you might hurt yourself,” but the man picks up her heavy luggage with one arm not even blinking an eye and takes “El Toro” off the train. We still talk about that man’s muscles to this day.

While in Puerto Banus, a funny exchange took place, and my travel companion and I still laugh about it to this day. I am in the hotel lobby using the hotel Internet. The front desk person asks me if I saw Ronda. I am confused, thinking my travel companion left without me for the day. The front desk person and I go back and forth:

“Did you see Ronda?” The front desk person asked.

“She left without me?”

“No, did you see Ronda?”

“Did my friend leave me a note?”

“No, the town Ronda, did you travel to see the town Ronda?”

Now, I realize, she is not referring to my travel companion, she is asking about the town.

We return to Madrid. Rhonda is under the weather. I have a day to myself. I walk around Madrid looking for something to do. I see some buses and ask the driver where they go. I am told Toledo. Since my last name is Toledo, I jump on the bus. This trip to Toledo was the best trip in Spain. I loved the town and the silverwork it is known for.

We wind down the whirlwind adventure to Spain in Madrid preparing to return to Rome. When thinking about the trip to Spain, and how I spent a month with someone I barely knew, I realize I learned a lot. From this trip I learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. I had judged Rhonda when I first saw her. I assumed she was a rich snob from France. I was wrong. To this day, we are still great friends. Rhonda came to New Mexico when I graduated with my master’s degree in 2010. She was there for me when my father passed on in 2011. We meet every Christmas and have dinner. She has even written me into her will to spread her ashes over an undisclosed location.

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
Last minute trip to Spain leads to longtime friendship