Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Hot Date in New York



 After too many hours to count, especially with the time changes between Spain and Copenhagen, I dragged at the JFK Airport Friday night.  Customs.  Crowds. Lines of people surrounding the passport machines. A long wait at the baggage carousel. My muddled head and oh, so tired body.  I was the lucky recipient of a dear friend, who is not a big city girl, who drove four hours from Vermont to pick me up.  I pulled my three (yes, 3) bags to the curb and melted into the massive sea of travelers and mountains of luggage.  Elizabeth arrived through unfamiliar roads and then accidentally followed the taxi lanes, but the woman wasn’t daunted.  Seeing her familiar face after watching thousands of taxis drive by and honk their horns continually, gave me a smile that matched hers and those smiles lingered.

She’d already scouted out the JFK Inn for me and we were in our hotel room by 9:30 pm.  My feet, ankles and legs were very swollen and since she is a massage therapist.  Since she is a great friend, she knew she could bark orders at me.  When I laid down, she gave me a gentle, but thorough foot massage.  Ah...wonderful.  My jet lag began to set in, so sleep was next.

This morning, the woman had a serious plan.  We were going to Brooklyn, near the water and parks, the pier and lunch.  And we had six hours to accomplish the itinerary.  She, again, jumped into the (absolutely) crazy New York traffic with her GPS talking to us from the apparatus attached inside her windshield (I helped.). She slipped in and out of traffic, took all the right turns and then we were on Atlantic Avenue, which leads straight down to the Atlantic Ocean.  

There is a beautiful walkway along the bay and we could hear the water lapping against the pier and the pilings topped with hungry seagulls. Helicopters swooped over the watery area filled with tourists.  The breeze gently blew in our hair and the day turned from great to better.  We saw a children’s water-play park with large rocks, greenery and little geysers of water.  Children splashed in the area alongside many parents who used the excuse to be kids again.  Tennis courts were built right up to the edge of the pier.  Sailboats and yachts swayed in the water with the Manhattan skyline behind them.  It was magical.

When our walkway meandered past art posters, it led to huge rocks that lined the area between our path and the water.  When I saw a yellow sign saying, don’t stand on the rocks (why, I wondered?)... And then, she hopped up just as a woman offered to take a photo of us together.  And she managed to fit the Statue of Liberty between us in the background. 
We had our heart set on a rooftop restaurant, so we kept walking.  Dogs. Children.  Couples holding hands. I couldn’t help but take a photo of a young, Jewish man who walked slowly toward us.  Women and men running for exercise and we kept going.  When we found the restaurant, we took an express elevator to the eleventh floor and two things left an impression.  Well, also the skyline of the City and the Brooklyn Bridge, but mainly the prices on the menu...evidently it costs a premium to view the area from their tall patio.  The other surprise was a young woman strutting around the area wearing black-artsy, panty hose over what appeared to be a g-string.  Seeing women in Spain on the beach with bathing suits baring all seem so much more normal to me now.   I did not take a photo of the woman in black.

And the women's bathroom wasn't that exactly.  When I went down the stairs as we'd been instructed, I saw a restroom but didn't know if it was the men's or women's.  As it turned out, I saw a woman come out the door and I headed toward it.  But, she was quickly followed by a man just a couple steps behind her.  What??  I could see into the restroom and there were men AND women inside.  Oh, dear.  I only had one option, so I stepped inside.  I felt uncomfortable, but the doors were floor to ceiling, so I joined them.  A different world.
We found an electric cover that we could barely read NYC, but it was the best we could do for a foot photo.

We walked back towards Atlantic Avenue to a restaurant called Fornino’s, where Elizabeth treated me to lunch. The watermelon, feta cheese, red onion slices tossed with chopped mint leaves in a salad was delicious.  It was so good to catch up with each other again.  We've been friends since 1999.
She assured me that my swollen ankles and feet needed hydrating and walking, so headed up Atlantic Avenue, choosing shaded side streets.  I love all the brownstones, old buildings with arched windows, leaded glass and the ambience of New York and the Brooklyn neighborhood.  We were watching our clocks by then.  I certainly didn't want to miss my plane.  We were hot, so a cool drink was on our minds when we spied a small French café called Chez Moi.  A Frenchman invited us in.  We sat at the bar and the bartender immediately poured each of us a glass of water.  I wasn’t sure if we looked parched or if it was his usual offer until I saw him pour a glass for the man a few seats from us.  Elizabeth was flirty and the bantering was fun.  The man said he’d been bartending for quite some time.  I told him I’d just returned from Spain.  I also said that in Arizona, I’d asked several bartenders to make my favorite drink called tinto de verano.  I gave him the basic ingredients and he took the challenge.  Red wine and lemon juice (two to one) and simple syrup.  He mixed the drink with ice before shaking it frothy.  
I laughed at his expectant face as he pushed it toward me.
“All it needs is a lemon slice.”  
His left hand whipped up with a lemon slice already in his hand before I could finish the word, slice.
IT WAS PERFECT.  At last!  When I asked if I could take his photo, he positioned another slice of lemon for the picture and gave me a thumbs up.  We laughed when he pulled it out again, saying, “Now I want my lemon back.”  Here’s  a big shout out to Axel Iron, Perfect Bartender.  

Elizabeth is back home in Vermont and as I type this blog post, I am on the plane among the clouds with one more hour to go before I land in Phoenix.  
Goodbye Spain.  
Goodbye New York.  
Hello home again.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Going shopping!

Wile I’ve been in Spain, I always get excited when I walk into a grocery store whether it’s Mercadona, Lidl or super Sol.  Today, it was Lidl.  Lyn knows when we enter, she will lose me.  As usual, she put a 50 cent coin into the grocery cart handle and unlinked it from its brother...and off we went. This time, I followed her through the produce department and had a good laugh.  When I watched her pick up a cauliflower and begin removing the outer leaves, I scratched my head.
Me: Lyn, what are you doing?
Lyn:  You don’t think I want to pay for part of this that I’m not going to eat?? These are 1,89 per kilo.  I won’t pay for the leaves...

She had her own laugh as she watched me photograph tortillas español with spinach, with chorizo and without eggs.  There anchovies in vinegar, salmorejo soup, chorizos, and wine everywhere.  Tuna in huge cans, red peppers in plastic, already cooked and ready to eat.  Everyone gave us the side eye when the clerk tallied up the wine and beer for tonight’s dinner party... and then Lyn and I emptied the groceries into her trunk.  She returned the cart, relinked it to the other carts and retrieved her 50 cent piece.  It was another adventure.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lazy is Good and we are not old...

Being in our seventies sounds old...but Lyn and I assured one another today, as we lazed around the pool for my last couple of days in Spain, that we are definitely not old! Life still has adventures to unfold before us, we have our health, friendship and a good dose of humility.  And a sense of adventure.  When Lyn suggested that we take selfies by the pool, I grabbed my phone with its trusty camera and we had a photo shoot, filled with laughter and jaunty jokes.  Some of the photos were too hilarious to post, but we chose the ones that gave us the biggest smiles. 

The brand new washer wasn’t working and the two of us fixed the problem. Yay!  All the laundry was done and we hung all our clothes on the clothes line.  When I turned around to glance over the curved railing to view the beautiful panorama of the village of Los Núñez below us, I caught my breath with the beauty before me.  And then I helped Lyn haul a new propane tank into place for her tankless water heater and we couldn’t get the flame to burn.  After several tries, we gave up, called a man named Terencio, who promised to arrive later and set ourselves around the patio table for a good conversation and wine.  By the time, Terencio arrived, we’d eaten a lovely dinner of chorizo, potatoes   and vegetables and we were in lounge clothes after the pool adventure... Terencio had the flame working quickly and the adorable man chatted with us and promised to return to Lyn’s in February to trim trees and replace the sea grass on her pergola.  It was a lovely, lazy day filled with laughter, fun and a breath of Spanish air.  Tomorrow, we will prepare for a big party here with special food and various friends of Lyn’s.  She always makes me feel like I’m a star ⭐️ 

When the lights burned low, I slipped outside about 10:00 pm while Lyn watched her favorite television programs.  Scally, the larger of her furry dogs, welcomed me as I sat at the pool steps and swung my legs slowly in the water as the solar lights from various pots lit up spots around me.  I turned my head to glance at the small village below us and marveled at the impact my father had in its history.  Despite his inability to a master the skills of husband or fatherhood, he excelled in the ability to make a difference as mayor of Los Nuñez about forty years ago.  Where dirt paths once threaded through the village, the streets are now paved.  And the once-dark streets are now lit up with twenty-five street lights that sparkle through the village.  When the river flooded and the village was stranded, he managed to get food brought in by helicopter.  He is remembered with love and a smile here in Los Nuñez.  A physical thank you is also here in a cement plaque embedded in a village street with his name, Miguel Ruiz Silvan, to honor him for his impact to the village of his forefathers and for those of us lucky enough to reap the benefits of his legacy.  He would have been proud that his children managed to get here to the land he loved so much, where his father and father before him left their marks behind them.  It will be sad to leave this beautiful place on Friday morning, but as it always touches me when I drive away from the Campanillas and Almogia area, my heart will always be thankful that I was part of this world for even a little point in time.  The magic will follow me home, as it does each time I leave, and stay with me as I continue my genealogical quest to fill in more limbs and leaves on my family tree.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

At home in Los Nuñez again


Saying goodbye to my Trascasas cousin Mercedes and her husband Jenaro in Toro this morning was emotional.  I have grown to love these sweet and generous people, along with Cintia, Mario and Dario, their precocious five year old, who has a grin to melt hearts.

After a three hour bus ride to Madrid, I had the silly idea to walk to the Atocha train station instead of riding a taxi.  My GPS assured me it would only take me twenty minutes and my train didn’t leave for another 2-1/2 hours.  Pulling two suitcases was a trick but I mumbled that I could do it.  The GPS directions didn’t make sense and after pulling them along under the hot sun for three long blocks, I asked a woman where Atocha Station was located.  Ugh.  She pointed behind me.  The way I’d just walked...so I turned around, grumbling now and pulled the cases back up the hill (much easier going the wrong way).  And yes, I hailed a taxi.  So, I paid 30 euros to get to the bus station a week ago to the guy with the limo and 9 euros today...for the exact same distance to take me back to the train station. When the taxi driver let me off and rolled my suitcases toward me with an hasta luego greeting, I noticed people were entering a door next to me.  What?  When Caroline and I got out of our taxi last week to ride the train to Madrid, we walked all the way down the sidewalk, across six lanes of traffic at the cross walk and into the station...

Today, I followed the crowd and stood, dumbfounded.  I was exactly where I needed to be!  After I piled everything onto the security belt, walked around to get my bags and pulled them off the belt, a security guard was on the other side.
Man: Su maletas allí?  (Your suitcases there?)
Me: Sí.
Man: Sacaste su equipaje por el cinturón de seguridad? (Did you put them on the security belt?)
Me: Sí
Man: He smiled and nodded me through the door, where I saw three policemen coming toward the area; one held a machine gun, one held a shield from shoulder to knees and the third man had a large gun strapped to his thigh.  Id seen them there before, but at that moment, it was a bit unnerving.
I imagined how the American TSA would’ve reacted and I chuckled.  Letting me and my luggage pass through without their eyes on it wouldn’t have happened, I’m sure.

Three hours later, after watching travelers of various sizes and nationalities, I kept watch on the monitors to see which numbered door I would go through for my train to Malaga.  When door nine popped up, so did I.  You see, I know by now you must get in the line fast, even though you have an assigned coach and seat, because I wanted to be assured of a spot for my luggage.  I knew I’d never be able to lift it up to the carry bins above my seat.  Perfect timing.  Window seat.  No companion next to me.

Another three hour ride through vast farmland, grapevines-laden fields for miles and Atocha Train Station came into view.  The air was warm, a soft breeze welcomed me and Lyn pulled her car up beside me in our designated meeting point.
Lyn: Did you come back for a rest?  Your blog was exciting for you, but.”
Me: Yes.

It was good to see my friend again, catch up with news and zip through the small country barriadas again.  Scally and Scamp, her dogs, seemed excited to see me.  It’s always so nice to be missed.

Wine, spaghetti and good conversation later and the delicious boon of a beautiful sunset from the balcony here at la casa redonda was exactly what I needed.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Paella,,Splashed Wine and a new document

Each day touches me with excitement here in Toro.  I think pieces of my heart are lodged in this village.  Today a man at the juzgado (court) found my 2nd great grandmother’s death certificate for me.  I hugged him, he laughed, and Jenaro took a photo.  I learned when she died and where she lived and Jenaro walked to Calle de Trucos and we found the house.  He and Mercedes have helped me figure out my family puzzle along with their beautiful daughter Cintia.  I’d be lost without them.

I walked to Calle Santa Monica with Jenaro today, hoping to speak with a possible Marzo family descendant, but he wasn’t home.  I wrote a note and put it into his postal box with my contact info.  A neighbor told us to return at 8:30 tonight when they returned from work
Cintia took me to the plaza mayor afterward to meet her friends and she explained the paella competition now for the fifth day event for the feria.  There is a group called the Peña that is made up of several (15-18) groups of people who create paella every year for the festival in Toro.  Tourists cannot taste the paella that the juried judges taste and vote on... but if a person is lucky enough to be invited by one of the groups, one can taste and be part of it.  Today, this lucky person was me.

Cintia was raised here off and on, so she knows everyone.  Her friend asked if I wanted a limonada, lemonade while we waited for the paella to finish cooking.  Of course, I answered.  With the first sip, I knew it wasn’t the lemonade I expected.  Oh no.  The man laughed and started to explain the ingredients.  When he listed rosado wine, rum, lemons, Malaga sweet wine and...I just took a sip.  I knew I’d never remember... the paella was filled with rice, saffron, port, clams and giant shrimp.  Oh, my. Stupendous.

Watching all the groups preparing their special paella was interesting.  I could feel the excitement in the air and oh, the aromas were wonderful.  When I was given my plate of paella, I could hardly believe the amount of food on the plate.  The giant shrimp had eyes, tentacles and was surrounded by clams, pork and yellow saffron-colored Spanish rice.  When I slipped the first bite in my mouth, I swooned.

AND A WINE TOSS in the plaza.  Everyone dressed in white.  Red wine was splashed over people’s heads.  Some people splashed water, but mostly wine.  As my friend Darla said. What a waste of  good wine.  When I arrived, the event began and I jumped away from the melee to avoid turning red with the vino all around me.  Very fun.

At 8:30, Jenaro, Mercedes and I returned to Calle Santa Monica.  Still no answer to Apartment 2A.  A neighbor told us that David Marzo may be away in another Pueblo because the noise from the feria here was too much for them to endure.  My fingers are crossed that he will answer my note one day...

My cousin, Felix, sent me pages from my own book with notes to help in my investigation of the Silvan family from Fuentesaúco and my cousins here read all the pages.  This has become a big family project for sure.  I have a good idea of where the family members fit into my tree, but I must return home again to pull out my files and get to work on the puzzle.

There was so much adventure loaded in the day that I can’t encapsulate it because it is now 1:00 am and we took our usual, leisurely walk to the cantina and I’ve had too much wine to think straight.  So, photos will tell the tale.  First, the clerk at the court giving me that fantastic document about my gggrandmother...and more.

Tomorrow a bus to Madrid and a train to Malaga,



Sunday, August 25, 2019

Hoy tranquilidad = Today is tranquil


I believe half the village of Toro stayed up all night merrymaking...loudly...beneath my window on Calle Rey de Los Labradores.  At 6:30, I woke up but decided to forget the idea and burrowed into my pillow again. When the church bell rang, I lazily counted the gongs and lay stunned when I got to nine!  I jumped up and prepared for the day.  When I walked down from my attic room to the main floor, all was dark.  Hmmmm...four other adults and one child were still either asleep or they’d left me to sleep on my own.  When I realized it was the former, I tiptoed back upstairs again.  The door needs a key to lock, so I can’t go outside unless someone locks the door behind me.  I’d checked the back private patio, but the walls were very high and climbing didn’t appeal to me either...so I waited quietly with a good book until 10:30.  Everyone must have been exhausted from yesterday’s family party after the road trip earlier in the day.  But, me?  I was ready to roll.

When I heard Mercedes, I zipped downstairs.  At 10:45, I left the house with a map of Toro after my café con leche and enjoyed my solo flight.  Knowing that Jenaro was going to speak Spanish for me when I knocked on a prospective cousin’s door at Calle Santa Monica, I decided to look for the street to sort of scope the area out for us.  I knew it was by the bus station, so I walked through the antique archway which was the city’s entrance, and wandered up and down the narrow streets.  I spied a woman walking her beautiful labrador and she studied my map.  And then she proceeded to lead me across two empty fields and around apartment buildings as she apologized for not speaking English while the dog followed us.  When she found it, she grinned and hugged me then and there.  I’ve met so many friendly strangers willing to help me limp through my language impediment here in Spain.  Did I knock on the door?  No.  Did I think about it?  Yes.  Did I decide to save the encounter for Jenaro?  Yes again.  But, Monday, not today.

Instead, I walked the many streets that fan outward in Toro from the Santa María la Mayor Church to the village toward the stone archways that serve as entrances to the town.  There was a Judería, a Jewish district, an older district and tree-lined avenues that all lead to the plaza mayor.  I decided to wander through all of them.  I saw cars parked a breath away from stone walls, cement areas that propose to be sidewalks and tired, worn out Spanish flags flapping in the breeze of balconies.  At 1:00, suddenly the town broke into song as all the church towers began ringing their bells.  I stopped, leaned against the stone wall on Calle Antigua and closed my eyes.  It was emotivo as my cousin Rafa would say. Emotional.



After taking sixty photos (yes, I am a fanatic) I wound my way back toward the plaza mayor.  When I looked up, I felt a connection with this older part of the village and then stood, stunned, as I realized I was at the corner of “my” house that I am planning to tour tomorrow.  All was well and I slid into a chair at the nearby café and ordered a café con leche with a glass of ice cubes...iced coffee.  Perfect.  A woman sang on the stage beside me with a guitar player who moved his body jauntily in time with their music.  The area was soon filled with listeners, even children who sat cross-legged on the cobblestones in front of the stage.  Her voice was soft, pleasant and very Spanish.

By the time I returned to Mercedes’ house, I was ready to relax again.  But she was working madly in the kitchen preparing the big meal of the day.  Jenaro was helping her and I was amazed once again at the amount of food they cooked for us.  This meal consisted of platters filled with tiny clams, large mussels in their shells and Jenaro’s specialty from his home town near Santiago del Compostela in northern Spain, squid cooked quickly (to perfection) with cooked potatoes (my favorite) drizzled with olive oil, pinches of sea salt, pepper and sprinkled with pimiento.  DELICIOUS.  And wine.  Always wine.


Afterward, we were off to the vineyard farmhouse again where Mercedes and I snoozed in chaise lounges by the pool.  When the clouds lit up with lightning and the thunder erupted around us, we barely got ourselves onto the covered patio before the deluge came down.  Real rain, a tormenta they call it here.  But, oh no, Mercedes had plans.
 Three cars drove into the long driveway. Two English couples, two children and Mercedes’ daughter, son in law and grandson joined us.  The table was immediately filled with chorizo, cheezes, empanadas, beer and wine and we chatted for two hours as the rain poured, the wind blew while my teeth chattered from the cold.  The couples were also professors like Jenaro and Mercedes, also retired.  It was a wonderful interlude.  But, alas, the hard rain washed out the concert in the plaza we’d hoped to attend tonight...at 10:30.  The events are very late here!  Instead, I’m being smart and going to bed early.  Maybe I will be awake enough to better proof read my blog.  Wine and midnight aren’t conducive to good writing I’ve found.

Tomorrow: The juzgado (court) to research my Marzo family, knock on that door of Pasqual Marzo that I was too nervous to do on my own today and see the inside of “my” Spanish dream house.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Paco Silván - a new family member

With the fantastic help from Mercedes and Jenaro, I have found several Trascasas cousins in the memorable village of Toro over the past two visits here. Today, their daughter Cintia, pushed me forward in Fuentesaúco, the village of my grandmother, who I have always called abuelita. The scenario was magical today as she became my Spanish spokeswoman, interviewer and excited cohort.

She drove to the village, 35 km/40 minutes SW if Toro. The small plaza at the entrance to Fuentesaúco has a stone wall surrounding a small garden. We saw about ten men perched on the wall, some with canes, some with hats, all conversing.  Jenaro pulled me along and asked the gentlemen if they knew of any Silváns in the town.  Oh, yes, I know Silvano Juanis.  Hmmm, my great, great grandfather was Juan Silvan... He gave us directions and we thought we’d start there. In the meantime, a woman walked by, heard the conversation, told us she was of that family and it wasn’t Silván...but she knew a man whose family was named Silván. My heart sped up.  She walked us through two streets nearly to the Iglesia de Santa Maria, where my grandmother was baptized, and knocked on the door of a non-descript house.  When the man answered, Cintia and Jenaro explained about my family, and he invited us inside.

His name is Francisco Hidalgo Marcos and his grandmother was Clara Silván.  His Spanish was eloquent and he was dressed like an academic, not a farmer as I assumed were most people in the village. The more Cintia talked to him, the more interested he became. When he pointed to a picture on the wall I hadn’t noticed earlier to say it was his grandmother, I became so emotional I couldn’t talk. She and my abuelita could have passed for sisters.  A Silván link living in Fuentesaúco at last. I’m not sure if Cintia was more excited or I was.

Paco, as he is called, walked all of us to Calle San Salvador where my grandmother lived before she left Spain at the age of nine with her family. My cousin Felix Gonzales had calculated where #6 house would be located and he was right. At first, it looked like a barn like area, but I peeked through a hole and spied an open area with a house at the back. I tried to imagine what it would’ve looked like in 1901 when she was born and 1911 when she left, but couldn’t. Instead, I have a photo.


And then Paco  led us down another street and knocked on a lovely blue door where a woman about eighty answered. She was his cousin, Sarita and she opened the door from the street and we walked into an oasis with gardens, flowers, sitting areas and a huge fig tree that shaded the table and chairs.  We sat down at her invitation and told us that their grandmother Clara Silván was raised by her aunt Petronila, but they couldn’t remember other names.

Now, I can imagine the house at #6 Calle San Salvador.  One would never know what lay behind the small door at the street edge.  The front expanse she had created her garden in must have been the area for their food garden and pigs and chickens.  The house sits back from the garden. Amazing how large the area is compared to the small house.

Paco led us to still another woman, his aunt who is ninety one named Louisa. She remembered that Clara’s father was named Pedro. I thumbed through my ancestry tree and couldn’t find a sibling to my great grandfather named Pedro. Cintia was beside me when I glanced down to read the name of my great,  great grandfather and nearly toppled off the narrow sidewalk—-Celestino Pedro Silván Hernández. PEDRO.

I turned around to Paco and showed him the photo of his great grandfather. His eyes filled with tears and it was his turn to spill emotion. He was so excited and asked me to send it to his phone. Yes, the man has email and WhatsApp - very savvy.  He is going to find a copy of his mother’s Will and read family names.  Very exciting.

We all went to a small outside café and drank Coca Cola and beer to discuss our wonderful find.  And then, Cintia drove us to a  restaurant in a village near Zamora called Perigón.  While we waited for a table at Bodega Antigua, Cintia led me into a deep dungeon-like cellar (bodega) down  51 narrow steps  where wine was made in old times.  It was similar to the one in Toro but much larger.  I’d wanted to go to a subterranean wine bodega, but we were told that they aren’t open to the public unless you know the owners because they are all private.  More research needed here, I think.

Later, Mercedes had organized a Trascasas cousin’s  party for me.  I could get used to being treated like a princess (smile.). One cousin named Rafa brought along my  book, The Girl Immigrant, and shyly asked me to sign it for him and his wife María.  When I picked up my pen, he picked up his phone to photograph me signing the page.  It was very moving and he thanked me several times as if I’d given him a special gift.