A Little Comic Relief in Spain: The Icing on The Cake

Travel, above all else, is an opportunity to learn, but if you’re lucky, sometimes it’s a chance to just have a laugh. When we travel, there isn’t a day that passes without at least one good chuckle.

Some of these funny incidents are planned, and some are pure happenstance. On our recent trip to Spain, we encountered lots of grin-worthy sights and scenes, like this rosy-cheeked cherub, and all were a welcome comic relief from our usual tourist diet of highbrow museums and somber cathedrals.

Street Performers: Wow! A Vespa goes airborne.

Performance artists have a long history of squeezing coins out of tourists, and there were street performers in just about every city we visited. The most popular gig seems to be the “living statue.” It’s hard to believe this is an easy way to make a buck, but it must be effective.

Barcelona’s Las Ramblas had a few fantastical dragons and golden angels, but a couple of guys in Madrid raised the bar to a new level. Their crashing Vespa is, without question, my favorite living statue of all time. In addition to being imaginative, it raised all sorts of questions about the engineering behind their clever trick. And like good magicians at work, they brought to mind the “How’d they do that?” question.

Menu Translation: How do you like your robot eggs?

I speak enough Spanish to get by, but when it comes to important stuff, like what I’m having for lunch, a bit of English translation is always welcome. And it’s even better when it’s a source of a giggle or two.

The small cafe next door to our apartment on Plaza San Justo in Toledo had a classic, bumbled translation that definitely brought a smile to our faces. The Spanish menu advertised Huevos Rotos con Setas y Champiñón, which literally translated means “Broken Eggs with Mushrooms.” This local favorite is made from fried potatoes and chorizo, which is topped off with a fried egg with a broken yolk; hence “broken eggs.”

I’m not sure what translation app they used, but the English menu offers a less appetizing, but mucho mas hilarious “Robot Eggs with Mushrooms and Champignon.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Ikea meets the Middle Ages

The streets of Segovia’s old Jewish Quarter are lined with centuries-old Medieval houses, and our small apartment balcony overlooked a short row of these homes. As you can imagine, houses were smaller in those days, but what happens when you want to move a tall, Ikea-style bookcase between floors in a tiny flat with a too-small stairway and you have no ladder?

It was no problema for these improvising lads. They just painstakingly maneuvered their mini-van as close to the building as possible, and with three sets of hands, the oversized bookcase came out the door, up to the second level, and in the balcony.

They saw me snapping photos of this humorous process, and the comical end to the affair was smiles all around and the big thumbs-up for mission accomplished.

Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to entertain us, but comic relief is just that, a relief, and it’s the icing on the cake when traveling.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

53 thoughts

  1. Thanks for the chuckles. What a fun and funny collection of experiences and photos. Good to keep at hand on a sad or depressing day. 🙂 The Vespa statue pose is incredible. It’s good to see that originality is still alive. In the tourist acts and the moving acts!

    1. Liesbet, this seems to be a version of the “levitating person” routine, but they have definitely upped the bar. I can see these guys planning this project over a few beers, and all I can say for sure is that they know a good welder. It’s a great gag. ~James

    1. Tracey, there has to be a couple of strong steel bars involved, but they’ve done an excellent job of hiding the support. I’d love to see them set up. Ingenious really. ~James

    1. Thanks Amit. I didn’t have Huevos Rotos while I was there, but it sounds like good, hearty food for long-distance walkers; lots of carbs and protein. I was wondering if robot eggs hatch into nanobots. ~James

    1. Joanne, menus are always a good source for funny translations, as are T shirts. Some of the nonsense T shirts I’ve seen are hilarious, but I can never catch them with my camera. ~James

  2. Thank for such a fun post…the “living statues” of Las Ramblas are quite something, I remember finding them all very entertaining. I can relate to the lads trying to get furniture into their apartment via some unusual way in. My daughter has recently moved to Brighton and there was no way some of her furniture would fit through the very narrow corridor. We had to use our imagination and sledgehammers to deconstruct it all.

    1. That’s a funny story Gilda, and I can relate as well. It’s interesting how, over time, furniture has gotten larger and larger. When lived in London, we had a large, rattan bed frame that we couldn’t get up the stairs. We searched forever to find someone who could cut it in half, so we could get in into the bedroom. It was a rental so we definitely couldn’t resort to sledgehammers. ~James

  3. Wonderful post James,I love the rosy-cheeked cherub and venison wings sounds like it should be on the menu for Thanksgiving.

    1. It’s good to hear from you Joyce. I hope all is well in BG. I need to talk to a Catholic art scholar about this cherub. I took this photo in an important and grandiose cathedral in Salamanca, Spain. It was in a side chapel off the nave. What I’m wondering is, from a religious perspective, exactly what does he represent. But it is a nice, little tushy. 🙂 BTW, Mike can probably tell you all about venison wings. Say hello to Dascal. Love, JH

    1. Lynn, I’m sure that being a living statue is lots harder than it looks, and I know that I couldn’t pull it off. But I loved the creativity of the Vespa boys so I dropped a few euros in their hat. ~James

  4. Very fun post, and it’s nice to see you back here! My favorite was the guys hoisting the bookshelf into the window. It reminded me of moving a queen bed into my daughter’s skinny rowhouse in Baltimore – that baby had to get pulled on ropes up through a second floor window as well! (Menu translations are a great source of laughter throughout the world, I’ve found.)

    1. Lexie, I’m sure that the Baltimore row house was of the English design (read; small with tiny stairways). As I said to someone else, in London we had a queen-size rattan bed frame cut in half to get it up the stairs. We know better now, so in the case of oversized furniture, we try to sell it with the house. And thanks for noticing, it’s good to be back. After 6 years of blogging and almost 600 posts, we needed a wee break. Thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

    1. I’m with you on the menus Peta. Years ago, on my first trip to China, I discovered that the farther from Beijing I traveled, the funnier the menu translations were. And when I think about it, I realize how may idioms we (and other cultures) use in the names of dishes. And idioms almost never translate. ~James

  5. Grilled venison wing raised an eyebrow. Their deer must differ from ours which sadly have no wings. Wish they had – it might make them less of a menace on the roads, especially at this time of year.

    1. Dorothy, I’m sure there are lots of gardeners that would not agree with you. Imagine deer flying over garden fences to munch on all those goodies inside. Now moose with wings … that’s another issue. ~James

    1. Curt, this is a very timely comment. This very day, we watched Blade Runner 2049. And after seeing the movie, I can say that some of those replicants would definitely be good companions: wink, wink, nudge, nudge. ~James

  6. What fun to relive these lively moments you no doubt enjoyed! We, too, hunt for humor because, as you pointed out, museums and cathedrals get pretty dull after a while. I’m amazed at street artists, not just for the wonder of how they did it, but also just the monotony of doing it every day. I’d hate to paint up, stand on a corner, and endure stares and close-up looks for hours. It’s a living, I guess!

    1. Rusha, we do our share of museums and cathedrals, but we try not to overdo it. We can only absorb and appreciate so much art and culture in a day. We always make sure that we plan some serious people-watching time: just sitting on a bench and taking it all in. It’s amazing how much you can learn about a culture just by watching and listening, and it almost always turns up a laugh or two. ~James

    1. Marilyn, that’s bad for lots of reasons. I can’t imagine how they got to that phrase. Maybe it’s just a typo and it’s supposed to be pulp carp. But that’s not much better is it? ~James

    1. Suave is the right word Dee. These guys moved the bookcase and didn’t even break a sweat. I’m sure they thought I was pretty crazy for photographing the process, but I knew that it would eventually end up in a post of some sort. ~James

  7. Wandering around a foreign city is fun in itself but the unexpected oddities and laughs seem to be all the more hilarious. I loved the rosy-cheeked cherub and the menu translations but the vespa street performers really steal the show. A recent menu translation we found at a train station in Seville for “Hambuguesa Orgasmica” had us hooting! Anita

    1. Anita, these Vespa guys were amazing, and I still wonder exactly what kind of framework is underneath their clothing to enable them to stay in position for hours. As I said to someone else, they must know a good welder. And even though it looked very cool, there has to be an easier way to make a few euros. As for an “orgasmica,” I’m a big fan of burgers, but I’m not sure that a train station is the first place I’d think of if I were hungry. 🙂 ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. And thanks for the link to Engrish. These are absolutely classic and it’s cool someone has a blog covering the mis-translations. ~James

  8. You two seem to find the most entertaining sights, no matter the city. I am wondering when you were in Spain. We have been contemplating a trip there, but with what is going on in Catalonia, we have thought to move this trip down a list a bit, at least for the next travel year.

    1. LuAnn, we spent March in Spain, before all the Catalonia business began. We’ve been to Spain many times and love, love it. And while I don’t think that Barcelona is unsafe, we wouldn’t choose to visit now because of the inconvenience and uncertainty of knowing what’s going on and getting caught up in things that we aren’t a part of. However, Spain is a wonderfully diverse country and these troubles (at least for now) seem to isolated to Catalonia. But there’s so many other parts of the country to explore, I wouldn’t hesitate visiting. I can tell you that wherever and whenever you decide to go, you’ll love it. The people are kind, friendly, and accepting, and they have a relaxed lifestyle that’s contagious. ~James

      1. Since we always try to make the most of our travel dollars and stay as long as we can at any one time, we were thinking about waiting to see what shakes out with the Catalonia situation before traveling to Spain and Portugal. Although our sights were set on these two countries for early next year, we have directed our attention elsewhere. Thanks for the comment James. I always appreciate your perspective, as well as that of your lovely wife.

  9. I’m grinning away. Robot eggs you say? I wonder if those are vegetarian friendly? There are many smiles along the way when traveling. I think too it is important to be in the mindset to see the fun in a situation. sometimes things can seem quite challenging and we always try to find some sense of haha in it all. Glad to see you had lots of laughs in Spain. Makes me smile just thinking about it. Well that an the IKEA delivery.

    1. Sue, when we travel I’m always on the lookout for gems like these. When I take these types of photos, I know that eventually, they’re going to show up in a post. I just don’t know how or when. I’m sure these guys thought I was a total kook for photographing them, and I suspect they didn’t realize how funny they were. But the point is that life is full of fun – day in and day out, at home or abroad. And as you know, one just has to pay attention. ~James

  10. You obviously have an eye for funny stuff, and a good sense of humor. On a recent trip to California, I saw a kid sitting on a sofa cushion while riding a skateboard. I suppose you could say he was “couch-surfing”

    1. Very nice pun Joe. Do you think he knew he was couch-surfing? Scenes like that one are great fodder for funny posts, but they’re tough to capture with a camera. But cell phone photos and videos have increased the funny quotient a great deal. ~James

      1. Good point, James. I did capture the couch-surfer on a short iPhone video that I posted on Istagram. I think it got a few laughs.

  11. We see something funny every day here in Spain. Sometimes it’s the locals but often it’s the expats that provide our entertainment. Those street performers are getting more and more clever! Glad you had a good time in Spain.

    1. Darlene, to the expat list, I would add tourists. Tourists seem to have a total inability of knowing when they’re doing something dumb and ultimately funny. Hopefully, it’s just comical and not annoying, but my favorites are glamour shots and selfies in front of majestic churches. ~James

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