Three years ago, as a middle-aged almost divorced woman, I took a trip to Spain to feed my appetite for life and love. It was a spiritual awakening and hopefully inspiration to others to just close your eyes and jump, having faith that the net will appear. You can read the entire story starting with the first post by clicking here. Bon Apetit…
We stroll and talk about how much we love Spain and Europe and Europeans in general. The attitudes that put family above work and of using only what one needs rather than wasting. We both love the efficiency in design and energy use. It just seems to be a smarter, better way to live than the work yourself to the verge of mental breakdown attitude Americans seem to have.
The faint sounds of a band playing on the Passeo become louder as we come closer to our destination. There are about twenty restaurants boasting various types of cuisine lined up on the land side of the wide walkway. Each restaurant is handing out samples of their wares as part of the opening festivities. Some are passing out samples of traditional foods while others are giving away tastes of wine or crazy signature cocktails. There is so much going on a less focused team might be thrown off their game but Ricardo and I are Spain centered so I hold a place in line for some traditional black risotto while Ricardo fetches small glasses of sample Cava from a neighboring restaurant’s sample table. While in line I play a game that I learned from a book I used to help teach college Marketing students how to network. The man that wrote the book used to chat with the people standing next to him waiting for things. His thing was to engage the people in line next to him and ask them each three questions. For example: he might ask the person in front of him getting on an airplane, “What is your final destination today?” , then allow them to answer and let the answer lead to the next question like: “Oh, Paris! How lovely! Do you live in Paris?” Wait for answer…as in “yes”. Then last question such as: “What do you do for fun in the city?” Wait for answer to this question then decide if there is something in common and if yes, get contact information. Once that is accomplished start again with the person in line behind you and so on everywhere you go- the people sitting next to you on the plane, in line at the bank, grocery store, movies, etc. This guy actually keeps in touch with all these people and then he has a cadre of contacts.
This game can be even more interesting in a foreign country when you don’t really speak the language but really almost everyone in this part of Spain speaks English which is the international language of travel apparently. But fortunately for me, the women in line in front of me are speaking English, one with a British lilt. I start a conversation. Martine is from Quebec. Her friend Maria is a native of the Sitges area. We chat about how they met and Ricardo jumps right into the conversation when he appears bearing a plastic flute of free Cava for me. The story of Maria and Martine is a technological one. They were friends 40 years ago when they met while studying English in Spain. They rediscovered each other recently on Facebook and re-united earlier that day and it was as though they had been separated only 40 hours rather than 40 years.
The reward for waiting in the long line was a small but reasonable sized portion of Riz Negro or Black Rice which is rice served with seafood, usually muscles or clams, that is colored black with squid ink. The four of us enjoy this dish standing together next to the rail of the boardwalk overlooking a small beach. It is divine. The rice used is a small grain like Arborio, the rice used for risotto, cooked to a state of slight hardness to lend a crunchy texture to the dish. The squid gives it a sea salty taste that is ecstasy on a fork.
We leave the ladies at seaside as many of the stands are closing up. Thus the task of choosing among the restaurants for our dinner began. We walk the entire length of the strip of restaurants 1and a half times checking menus, examining the perceived patron satisfaction levels and scoping atmospheric vibes, discussing each possibility adnausium before agreeing on an Argentinian steak house.
The host explains in Spanish to Ricardo that we must wait by the bar for a few minutes for a table and cheerfully leads us through the al fresco dining area into the front of the restaurant where the bar is located to the right of and facing the front door. No one bats an eye at the what I think is obvious age difference between us. Perhaps they think Ricardo is my son or maybe a gigallo. But most likely no one cares enough to think anything at all. It is Europe. It is a beach town. It is all about being with a person that makes you happy in the moment regardless of age, gender or marital status. No matter. We stand at the bar- no stools anyway- and the bartender recommends a most flavorful Rioja. We are both quite pleased with the wine as determined by our mutual big smiles and sparkling eyes following the first taste. In that moment was born the promise that the perfect beginning to the evening would extend at least through the wine. Shortly we are seated and the dinner chapter of the evening begins.
There are rare moments in one’s life in which all the elements are ideal- a period of time dwelling in unequalled bliss. This was one of those evenings when the biorythems of air temperature, the sounds of the waves lapping the shore and the conversations surrounding us, tastes of good wine, smells of excellent food and the sea floating on the warm breeze to caress the senses heightened by good company spiced by a hint of romance and a dash sexual tension. Nowhere to have to be. Time to just drink in the joy of being alive and in the moment. To gaze across the table at this suave international looking young man, glasses on, making him look smarter than he is, bulbous wine glass in his hand thinking “Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than this”. Knowing that what ever happens I will greet the morning sun grateful for this night just to be a grown up and to have mutually appreciated an evening in Spain.
We laugh and talk and there is no pressure to be anything other than just ourselves because there is no romantic future or possibility to be anything other than good friends and we are each satisfied with that. We order a salad of shrimp, avacado and lettuce lying in a puddle of something like a very light thousand island dressing. It is fresh and tasty. This is followed by a filet mignon cooked to juicy medium rare perfection, seared on the outside to almost crispiness but wet and pink on the inside, served with an olive oil based sauce with hot peppers. We shared one entree so that it was the perfect amount of food. The meal was superb in it’s simplicity and quality- we are delighted. Ricardo eats the accompanying fries and we opt for a mousse chocolat for dessert (my favorite).
After our plate licking meal we decide to order a bottle of Cava to go to lubricate our walk back to the hotel. Before we depart, I make a quick trip to the loo and decide, since the dinner hour is pretty much over, to stop into the kitchen to thank the chef. I attempt my praise in broken Spanish and then kiss his cheeks to offer up a clearer means of my appreciation. His sun-tanned face brightened red as his mouth formed a huge smile. He then took my hand and kissed it, returning the gratitude.
Ricardo laughed at the chef kissing incident as we began to saunter up the hill chewein rum soaked lemon peels and a cinnamon stick provided by one of the boardwalk restaurants that had featured a flaming rum punch as a sample drink to passers by. There is an abstract sculpture of a woman on the way, stray cats and the enchanting Spanish air, thick and perfumed by the sea. Our passeo extends passed the hotel down to the Port beach. I am called by the Mediterranean to swim in its salty waves. Ricardo decides to stay ashore. I strp down to underwear and wade in up to my waste. I would go further but the tide is hight and I am already quite far from the beach. I don’t want to get my bra wet wither for fear of it not drying before time to pack the next day. After a few minutes I emerge form the waves strip off my wet undergarments and strugle into my jeans trying to avoid getting too much sand in them. We lean on a stack of lounge chairs and finish the Cava- such a sad moment flagging the end of the evening. It must have been 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning when the door to suite 402 was opened by our key.