Among My Souvenirs

Stories of the road

Tilting at Windmills

Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes is considered the most influential work of the golden age of Spanish literature. Published in two parts, 1605 and 1615, it remains a classic. In the 20th Century the story found a new home in the Musical, The Man from LaMancha, a Broadway hit in 1965, winning 5 Tony awards. Each story is somewhat different than the other, yet they center upon the story of an old man who saw the world differently, who dreams “The Impossible Dream.”

Don Quixote is a middle-aged gentleman, perhaps idealistic, crazy or senile, from the region of La Mancha in central Spain. Obsessed with the chivalrous ideals touted in books he has read; he decides to take up his lance and sword to defend the helpless and destroy the wicked. In the story Don Quixote and his partner Sancho Panza imagine themselves to be fighting giants that had been magically changed to windmills perched on the hill.

Admittedly, I never read the book, but I have seen the musical and knew every song by heart! I was thrilled we were making a lunch stop in Puerto Lapice as we made our way north to Toledo. The tiny little city sits right outside the area of Spain known as La Mancha. Here Don Quixote could be found standing guard over the city and souvenir shops were abundant.

But it was the windmills I longed to see. After all, they are some of the most important images from the story.

As we drove near the city, I could see them perched up on the hillside. Surely if I ate lunch fast and took off in the direction of them, I would be able to get a shot. Little did I know how really far away they were from where we stopped. Undaunted, like Don Quixote himself, I walked faster and faster through city streets, with my eye fixed on the position of the windmills up on the ridge. Getting closer and closer I turned the corner realizing that they were indeed on top of a hill that I could not get too for lack of time and lack of breath from running all that way!

Tilting at windmills has come to mean doing battle with an enemy of your own making, a battle that you cannot win. The pursuit of something that is unrealistic, impractical or impossible. Sadly, that is what my race was becoming. Something that was not possible to achieve. Yet, I won’t cry defeat as I was able to get into a hillside olive grove and capture this shot of those proud structures. Winded but happy, I made it back to the bus on time!