Sunday, May 25, 2014

Free food and more

We’re back on New Mexican soil on a day with cool temperatures and light rain that has just turned to bright sun. We were so beat after the flight from Hell that started in Barcelona, on to Madrid and then to Albuquerque via DFW that we drug our sorry selves to baggage claim where we declared ourselves unfit to drive and spent the night near the airport. The toughest thing about being in the rural Southwest is the epic effort it takes to go back and forth to Europe.  It is, in a word, a bitch.

Today’s little effort is supposed to be a short look back at beautiful España from the perspective of the remarkable hospitality we received there. But, alas, I’m dealing with a pesky PC to hard drive problem wherein my computer reads my 2TB portable only sporadically.  My biggest worry, of course, is that I’ll lose several thousand images taken over the course of a month in a place that's 5,000 miles away.  I pray, in the figurative sense, that it’s only a faulty cable for which Western Digital is famous.

And so, there may be a paucity of pics to support this treatise. Right now the hard drive does not read so it doesn’t look promising in the short term.  So you’ll get no pics at all or ones that have the barest relevance to the story at hand, Spanish hospitality.

The lasting memory I will have of Spain will be its welcoming people. The joyous way they live life is both instructive and inspirational.  Nowhere in the world have I felt as befriended as I did in Spain. The heartwarming trend began at Xampu, the little tapas bar in Barcelona that we visited on nights one and two and where we were welcomed back as old friends Thursday night.  Because we wanted a more upscale dinner on our last night we chose a two week old seafood restaurant called HaHa!Mariscos. No entiendo el nombre.  I had seen some glowing reviews of the place on the net and quite by chance we had noticed its beautiful seafood display when we were walking home from the beach in the afternoon.  At the unseemly hour of 9PM we were greeted by the proud owner Kai Finkener, an expat German who had been in Barcelona 35 years.  As he told us, “I’m more Spanish than German at this point.” The engaging service would support his belief.

We shared tuna carpaccio, each had whole seabass that Kai carefully deboned, a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Rioja and finished with the eggiest flan ever.  Our tab was 46 Euros or about $65.  Double that back home.  More importantly we left with a new friend who asked us to consider his establishment our home and meant it.

First View of Gaucin
In our pueblo blanco, Gaucin, Lola Colon welcomed us to the wonderful La Lateral.  And on our second visit Lola called her partner Carlos Patilla out from the kitchen to meet us.  I was a rare kind of hospitality that exemplified the ‘Mi casa. Su casa’ attitude we experienced throughout Spain. At the spanking new La Granada Divina also in Gaucin and where we dined three times owner Neal Brown and I exchanged restaurant war stories and parted with big hugs and the shared disappointment that we wouldn’t see other again.

San Jose Waterfront

Free Food
In tiny San Jose on the arid Cabo de Gata we chanced upon a little bar near the yacht harbor.  It was filled with thirsty regulars at least one of whom was a certified barfly. We sat down for a simple vino blanco and a beer and as if by magic a tapa of sautéed prawns appeared, just a hint of curry in its buttery sauce.  It was just like the Anthony Bourdain segment in Granada.  You really do get free food. With the second round came Patates Bravas, kind of like spicy home fries. The third round came with some fried chicken wings, the universal bar food.  There was no fourth round nor was there dinner.  Dinner, shmimmer.  We don’t need no stinking dinner.

More to the point, proprietor Claudio late of Milan made us feel like long lost friends. That place could have become my new favorite bar in world if I could just remember its name.


Daryl A. Black said...

We have always considered visiting Espana but you have whet our appetites even further with lush descriptions and photographs. Glory, the free food is beautiful as is the harbor shot. Interesting to hear that there are so many expats from different countries operating restaurants there and you shared war stories!

Welcome back, Steve, and mil gracias para los fotos de Espana.

Steve Immel said...

De nada Daryl. It was grand though occasionally stressful and with lessons learned about doing it smarter. I'd definitely go back especially to the north from Barcelona toward France.