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!

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?


Natalie Aguirre said...

So fun how you met your friends petting your dog. Yes. I love all the food you mentioned, spicy food, and of course chocolate. Sounds like your husband and you have been having lots of fun visiting friends.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Natalie; actually I was trying to pet their dog. He was so cute. Yes, it's been so nice to catch up with news with different friends and to see new sights with them. There is so much to see in these ancient villages (although the locals take them all for granted. For me, it's a thrill to touch walls that are hundreds of years old and know someone else touched them. Some of the vineyards are over a hundred years old. We think that's why our immediate neighbors' wine is so good for a home-made wine: the grapes are old.

Rosi said...

My, you are keeping busy! Sounds like a lot of fun, except maybe for those peppers.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Rosi, this feels like one of the busiest vacations we have ever taken! We allowed more time here on this trip, but it seems to be going faster, since we've crammed more into it. It's lovely to see everyone again — we had a visitor this week-end. Today I'm catching my breath by sitting down and enjoying a good novel. :-)

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like you are having a marvelous time. And the food sounds divine! You're making me hungry.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Kate, I feel "stuffed". People eat well, here, and a lot, and our friends love to cook. Bad news for any diet plans! 😊

Joanne R. Fritz said...

I love old towns with cobblestones and stone walls.

Hot foods and I don't get along but I absolutely adore churros! And chocolate! Yum. Loved reading about all your travels and "feasts" with friends. Glad you had a wonderful time.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Joanne. I suspect we need to walk more cobblestones to counteract the feasting. 😃 Thanks for stopping by.