Friday, June 16, 2017

A Thoroughly Pleasurable Week-end.

Time has slipped by, and I've been meaning to post about the lovely week-end Rajan and I had with a succession of special friends. It started on Friday evening when we went with Melanie and Craig Briggs to the city of Ourense, where a favorite fadista, Maria do Ceo, was giving a free concert in the Plaza Mayor. She was also sharing a new CD, this one for children.

Maria do Ceo has great presence onstage, and her voice is magical — expressive and emotional, as Fado should be. Gracious as always, she took time with people from the audience afterwards who

came up to speak to her and have pictures taken with her.


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We had arrived early on purpose, to make sure we had good seats. We were able to snag a good table  to one side, but quite close from which to enjoy the performance. Before the program began, we enjoyed a glass of wine with Craig and Melanie and watched the crowd as the plaza filled up.

Melanie
Rajan
Craig
Before that, as we walked through an adjacent plaza set up with kiosks advertising Portugal's fiestas, a familiar voice called, "Elizabeth!" It was a young woman at Braga Turismo (Cristina) who has helped me with information for my Braga mystery. What a pleasant surprise!
Our house

Craig and Melanie, by the way, sold us our house in Trasulfe, which we love very much.

They have another house they are selling that you can look at HERE. Craig has also written three books about their adventures in Galicia since they came about 15 years ago. You can learn more about his books and how to contact them HERE .

Saturday, our friend Jacki Edmonds visited from England. We met Jacki years ago when she lived on a farm in the province of Ourense. Even though she has returned to England, she frequently visits Galicia, and she introduced us to Elvira and José, about whom I wrote earlier.

Jacki is an artist who specializes in pet portraits and wild life portraits. She painted a picture of our
dog, Cezar, that has "pride of place" on one of our walls in Sacramento. Just seeing this portrait of him makes us miss him. Currently she works mainly in pastel pencils—you can see samples of her work at her website HERE . You can also visit her Facebook page HERE

I forgot to take pictures during her visit, because I was so interested in catching up on her news. Then Monday morning just before she left, I scrambled to get the camera and took turns with Rajan to get a couple of good photos. I think she is going to be one of those eternally young people, largely because she is full of energy and so interested in life.

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Meanwhile, Sunday, our good friends Terri and David Anderson had invited us all to lunch at their house.

Terri is an excellent cook and hostess, so her small dinners always have the sumptuous offerings of a party. (And she has given some wonderful parties, too.) Another friend, Mandy Rainy, joined us and brought her dog, Frankie, a rescue dog with a sweet disposition. (Rajan and I are dog people, so we were doting on Frankie all evening.) I forgot my camera, but Jacki took some good pictures:


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I have Terri and David to thank for hearing Maria do Ceo the first time during the summer of 2013. Things come full circle.
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   Rajan and I were taking turns with one of us traveling while the other stayed home to care for Cezar, whose health was failing.  Rajan came in April. I came in June. Terri and David took me to a special anniversary dinner for the restaurant/casa rural Rectoral Castillon one evening, when to celebrate the event, Maria do Ceo was the star. I had never heard Fado before then, but I became hooked on this art form immediately, and later Rajan became equally hooked. As I say, things come full circle.




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Some of Our Good Friends in Galicia

Last week-end began with a visit on Friday evening to our good friends, Isobel and Santiago, who actually live in Germany but are from Spain. Santiago is from Toledo. Isobel is from Monforte, and it's quite possible they are going to retire here to her parents' home in the hills just above the town. We were invited for meriendas and, in true fashion, I took my camera and forgot to use it. Last year, I used it, and didn't find time to post a picture, so here is a picture of them from last year, when we spent another evening with them.                                    


We first met Isobel and Santiago a few years ago in the Madrid airport, en route to Santiago. I wanted to pet their dog (who has passed on since then.) As many of you know, Rajan and I are dog people, so it was an immediate bond. Later, we encountered Isobel while shopping in Monforte, and a friendship was born. Since she is from here, they have been coming twice a year, like ourselves — in their case, to touch base with relatives and take care of various paper works. Since then, we visit with them every trip when possible. They do not speak English, but they help us a great deal with our Spanish, both in visits and emails.

Meanwhile, what they called meriendas (a snack that usually occurs around 6:00 or 7:00 pm, was more like a feast—tortilla, which has to be one of the world's greatest dishes, an empanada, marinated cod salad, numerous accompaniments and condiments, wine, coffee. Needless to say, we didn't need dinner later that night. Then, because Santiago, being from Toledo, loves hot food (not the case with most Galicians), they sent us home with a huge jar of peppers that make even Rajan gasp and raise his eyebrows with each bite!
The hot peppers. Delicious, but beware!
Saturday and Sunday we spent with two other friends from Galicia, Elvira and José, who live in a small village outside the town of Celanova, in the province of Ourense. (They are also mutual friends of our good friends, David and Terri, of whom I'll be writing more in a future post.) Elvira and José live in the house of Elvira's parents, which is out a long ribbon of winding road near the village of Casal do Regueiro, and like many of our neighbors here in Trasulfe, they raise small crops, and have chickens as well. They, too, "feasted us" both days—there is no other way to describe the fabulous meals Elvira served up: fish lunches, pizza for dinner (but what a pizza!), hot, thick fried churros (ribbons of fried dough) to dip into mugs of thick chocolate.

On Saturday, they drove us into a small village, A Merca which is famous for its horreos.
An horreo is a small granary, built in a specific way, either wood or stone, often with slats to let air in and provide protection from moisture; always to keep rodents out; for that purpose, they are set on mushroom-shaped pedestals that would require rodents to hang upside down on the bottom of the mushroom cap.
A typical horreo
José & Elvira
Horreos are now considered as typically Galician monuments and are protected as such; thus, they cannot be moved off someone's property for personal boasting, etc. (apparently a problem at one time). In A Merca, I was amazed to see 34 all in one location, moved there for their protection.


So many horreos!
Us.


I don't think I've ever seen so many horreos in one place, ever.

After that, we went to a larger village/town called Allariz. Allariz is absolutely beautiful.  I had been to it before in the summer of 2013 with Terri and David, but I was so preoccupied with the health of our dog then that I didn't really take as much notice of the town as I normally would have. (Rajan and I were taking turns with our trips so that one of us could be home with Cezar, who was basically on his way "out the door."We miss him still!)

A river runs through a lovely park in this pretty town, with little waterfalls that pour into a pond. In the main park, a small van had been painted with flowers to advertise some shop (I think).


Flowers under the hood, too!
Then we wandered around—a lot of big name clothing stores are tucked into these charming winding streets. I love the cobblestone streets and stone walls that are such features of Galicia (and Iberian in general) architecture. You can feel the ancientness of the town as you walk along narrow alleys.




These towns are also built on various levels, so stairs lead up and down to other parts of town.  Soon we found ourselves in a plaza above the stairs, where the local orchestra was practicing for a later performance. you could walk out and see a grand vista of the town below and the countryside beyond.




Afterwards, we returned to Elvira's and José's home and spent a delightful afternoon and evening catching up on news.


The next morning after breakfast, we walked around the neighboring villages, in all about a two mile walk, up slopes and down, but all lush and beautiful. One of our stops was the village Elvira's mother was born in and the cemetery where she is buried. (We met Elvira's parents years ago, and they had the same warmth and exhibited the same kind hospitality Eli does.)





After a marvelous lunch (salmon!) it was time to go. They did not send us away empty-handed, either: We are still munching on cherries from their tree and reminiscing about what lovely people they are.


Do stone walls and cobblestones appeal to you as much as they do to me? Are you drawn to ancient places? How about different foods? Do you like hot peppers? Churros? Chocolate?











Thursday, June 1, 2017

Dreamy Days and Ancient Villages


Our house on the corner that leads into
Trasulfe (population 7 year round, about'
6 more in the summer and other holidays.
Even though we are back in our house, now, in Trasulfe, we took four days to go to Braga, Portugal, which I'll be blogging about later. (Meanwhile, I'm posting pictures on my Facebook Timeline at:  https://www.facebook.com/elizabethvaradan )

But being back in Trasulfe and having good weather every day brings home the peacefulness of the entire area. Two days ago we took a walk to a nearby larger village — Tuiriz Santa Eulalia — that actually included several smaller villages. These villages run into each other. Thus, we passed El Carmen, El Bario, and finally Santa Eulalia, before turning left onto a road that led to another group of village — these with more space between them.
This house borders El Bario. We bought
our garage space from the woman who
 lives there and from her sister.

Across from the house pictured below, a woman whose son had shown us a house for sale once reminded us that she knew our neighbors in Trasulfe. She also knows I bake "pan dulce" for Eva and Manolo (my way of thanking them for all the eggs and wine.) But this is one of the things I love about this part of the world. Everyone knows everyone. They have cousins, friends, children, etc. in nearby villages, and news travels in a way that gives that song, "I heard it through the grapevine" real punch. (Or wine, teehee.) We always notice carefully tended flower gardens in some of these small villages.


















A side road took us up to Frenzas, then O Docil, then Santalla, then brought us out onto the road that led back to our house. Along the way, the roads curve, you pass scattered meadows and pastures divided by drywalls, and woods where the cuckoos call. Wildflowers abound that I've mentioned before: Queen Anne's Lace, alfalfa, buttercups, wild blackberry brambles that will fruit in the fall, purple foxglove, and some beautiful wildflower below that I can't identify.



Found out! Vipers Bugloss,
or Echisos Vulgare

Wild foxglove

The owner of one of our favorite tapa bars in Monforte grew up in Frenzas, and he also knows our neighbors. One day a couple of years ago he drove us around Frenzas and all these other little villages and told us some of their history. So it was a thrill to go on a walking tour that revisited them all.

And then we were home again, savoring the experience over a glass of wine, looking out our window at more of the Galician scenery. This is what it look like on a sunny day. On most mornings, it's full of twirls of rising mist. Then the mist fades and the trees emerge into the day.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Beautiful Galicia Once AgaIn

We arrived in our little village, Trasulfe, on Tuesday, May 9th, but the day was not beautiful, like this. It was overcast and rainy with chilly winds, and not welcoming, and our whole village had a water problem. (I wrote about it at length on my other blog, Victorian Scribbles, HERE.) After roughing it a day and a half with bottle water, we succumbed and spent three nights at Torre de Vilariño,  a casa rural near Escairon, a nearby town we shop at. We've often eaten at Torre, but this time we had the pleasure of a cosy, charming room with the restaurant just a couple of doors away.



on the left, Mila, middle, Susana, right, Cristina
Here are some examples of the beautiful setting — and the delightful staff whom we've enjoyed through the years.

By Saturday, the water problem was solved, but the weather still was fickle: mornings would start out clear and sunny, but the afternoons would turn chilly; mornings would start out chilly, but the afternoons would turn warm, then hot. And, through it all, a few sprinkles of rain would punctuate the day, or a dry wind. It was more typically April weather than May weather. But now we are finally having the spring weather we expected.


Spring in rural Galicia is especially beautiful. The country roadsides are ablaze with yellow broom. Purple foxglove, wild blue forget-me-nots, yellow butter cups are everywhere, as well as lacy ferns. I couldn't get a good picture of the foxgloves, but this will give some idea of the vistas:















I don't know what these meadow flowers are in the third photo, but they are everywhere — along with some purple field flowers in other meadows. They look like Impressionist paintings.
Buttercups

Broom and ferns

Forget-me-nots, roses that were
planted against our wall, and some
sage that has a heavenly scent. 
There are also elderberry bushes nearby with flowers that remind me of Queen Anne's lace, and dozens of other plants I'm still learning to name.

Meanwhile, the late frost that occurred just days before we came damaged so many fruits and vegetables that were coming into fruition beforehand. The grape vines were affected badly in so many places, including Trasulfe. All our neighbors have said they will probably only get about half the usual yield to make their wine. Our neighbors down the road had their potatoes and tomatoes wiped out. It's so sad. They depend on these crops. Some of the fruit trees fared well, but the fig trees around here and the nut trees were also affected. Luckily, for our neighbor, Miguel, who uses one of our small fields to plant his potatoes, he planted late this year after the frost, and you can see that they are doing pretty well. We are very glad for his sake — and ours! He always gives us potatoes in the fall. 

Miguel's potatoes in the field below our gate
His potatoes to the left, one of his fields to the right.
 
The neighbors are all wonderful that way, sharing wine, eggs, and whatever they grow. Today I've been baking cakes for them with some of those eggs for a simple "thank you," but really, it's impossible to thank them enough for how rewarding they make our life here when we come.
When I think of it, we've been blessed with good neighbors and friends here and at home in the States.

How about you? What makes you thankful?