Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Westward Ho!

Saturday 12 September 2015

Thunder, lightning and torrential rain

Awake for 8.30 and thunder right overhead and windows rattling in their casements. Sky black.  Rain hissing on gravel.  Dog was in the laundry room and didn't want to come out. After an hour the noise abated and I got him into the car and over to the pension.  P was waiting and dog took the opportunity of peeing all over her magnificent flower borders. A small dog, of indeterminate race but with a large element of terrier, shot out of the door.

"Sarko!" shouted P.  "Sarcozy, viens!"  Dog and Sarcozy eventually went back over the wall and I drove back home, during which time OH had managed to finish packing EVEN more stuff into the car and then we tied up the gate, lightning flashing uncomfortably near, and we were off.

The skies cleared as we neared the coast but, in general, all very grey.  Stopped for lunch around 2 pm in a bar.  It was the type of bar which exists all over Spain.  Run by members of the same family.  Huge TV in a corner blasting out news and/or music at deafening volume.  Bar heaving with locals of old ages.  Old men reading the local journal.  Couples talking animatedly.  The default status for a Spaniard is animated.  Children running in and out.  Vast selection of gins and whiskeys.  Cigarette vending machines.  Chewing gum with toy in plastic ball vending machines.  Dark oak tables set with paper cloths.  Good smells coming from the kitchen.

As we were passing through and there were many miles before we sleep, we had a bocadillo (sandwich) of ham and cheese and stood at the bar.  The bread was substantial with a deep liquorice crust and dense chewy texture.  A family ran in out of the rain, downed some small glasses of beer, and left with a selection of green leaf vegetables, a stick of bread and a local paper.

Ever onward we continued and finally, at five pm, we headed down a valley and into Nabia, our first overnight stop.  A graceful double white hooped bridge looped over the river on whose banks lay the town.  Orange roofed and many buildings crowded together.  The main flavour and odour of the town was an immense factory, surrounded by its own clouds of steam.  Oh had chosen a Palazio which looked lovely from the outside.  The skies had closed in again and all the lights were lit in reception.  A pale skinned man led us to the tiny lift which hoisted us, complaining all the way, up to the third floor.  The room was in the rafters, long and narrow, with a servant's feel about it.

Undeterred, we had a quick shower, brief siesta and then hit the streets.  The streets hit us back.  Groups of young men roamed about, banging balls into walls.  People were shabbily dressed and many of the buildings were empty and crumbling.  It looked like a town which had fallen onto hard times   "the phrase shit hole comes to mind" said OH reflectively.  We got to the end of town (it didn't take long) and admired a small park with a statue of a poet and good views of the river and the bridge and the special clouds, now glowing yellow in the sunset.

There was a bar next to the park and a G and T called so we went in and sat down on some tall stools and ordered two Larios and tonics.  The lady behind the bar brought out two huge globe glasses, half filled them with ice and then tried to cover all of the ice with gin.  The tonic only just fitted in the glass.  No lemon slice was forthcoming.  It wasn't a lemon slice kind of town.  Clinking glasses, we set off around the bar to look at the artwork on the back wall.  There were two sizable pieces, the size of animal skins but too regularly shaped.  The surface was encrusted with a dark sticky substance.  Further over were other works, in the same medium, one of a man with a boar's head and another of a man with octopus tentacles instead of hair.  "Hey" shouted the bar tender "they are all for sale".  She directed us towards a list.  One piece was entitled "the fucking power of love".  Nice to see that some Europeans have a grasp of basic English.  I felt the fabric and asked if it was skin.  "Oh no" said the lady "it is paper.  Painted with blood - from animals of course".  We took a step towards the door.  We were a long way from home....  "Should we be scared?" I enquired of OH.  We drank up with unwise haste and staggered out into the rapidly fading light to find a place where the blood was still in people's veins.

The main place in town was a cider bar so in we went.  Asturian cider is pretty flat when it comes out of the bottle so the bar person holds the bottle high over their head with one hand and the glass as low as possible with the other.  And pours.  Our cider gillie barely spilled a drop.  Two bottles of cider later I discovered my legs no longer worked and said we really needed something to eat.  OH said he knew just what to do and called over the cider gillie, stopped him opening another bottle and shouted "Zoroniak".  He then sat back and looked pleased with himself and rubbed his hands and said just you wait and see and I said we might be waiting a while as he had just wished the bar tender Happy Christmas in Basque.

After the cider gillie had brought us the menu and we had discovered that the right word was zambrinas, a plate of small scallops arrived.  In their shells and delicately garnished with parsley, garlic and olive oil.  I then tried to go to sleep on the bar and OH took me back to the attic where he snored like a stuck pig all night but fortunately I was very, very tired and could wrap the sausage shaped bolster pillow around my head and drown out the worst of the racket.