Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Madrid and Trascasas Cousins

I just lost my entire post!
I am posting on my phone and it is not working, so did not get saved.  So I am typing like a mad woman trying to recreate it...

A quick synopsis: I am in Madrid and will be with my cousin, MERCEDES TRASCASAS and visit the ancestral village in Toro! Her grandfather was my great, great grandfather's brother.  When I nervously knocked on her door today, she flung it open and we were instant kindred spirits.

She found me five years ago after my brother Steven and I were in Toro... She asked me if I knew who the brother and sister might be who visited the ayuntamiento looking for her family.  We have been communicating ever since she found me (and I'd nearly fainted since we thought no family existed in the village at that time).  She is a tiny lady who just retired as a professor at the Universidad de Madrid.   She is a modern, sprite of a woman with a touch of blue in her hair.  She doesn't speak English but is learning.  We are helping each other pronounce our words.  She and her husband, Jenaro, are taking me to spend a few days in Toro on Thursday (tomorrow).  I am beyond excited to be in that little village again and have a family reunion with the other Trascasas cousins.  Am I dreaming?

We walked down the streets of Madrid about 9:00 pm and saw the lights just beginning to come on in the many buildings.  I felt like a country girl gone to the city.  I kept tripping on cobblestones and sidewalks because I kept looking up, up, up.  Where were we going?  They were taking me to a dinner theater to watch flamenco dancers!

The main via was alive with so many people, I could hardly believe it.  People were taking selfies everywhere - with and without selfie sticks.  The shops were open and inviting everyone in.  I am still looking for that black ruffled blouse...
OFF TO TORO and hope I have wifi there... but if not, I will be smiling everywhere.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hasta Luego Andalucía


How does one say goodbye to a place that resides in one's heart?  Impossible.  By the time America reads this posting, I will have landed in Madrid and met my cousin, Mercedes Trascasas, for the first time in our lives.  Her great, great uncle was my great, great grandfather -- the father of my great grandmother named Eustoquia Rita Silvan Trascasas.  She is opening her home, her heart and will be sharing her family with me in Madrid and in Toro, a village I fell in love with on my first visit five years ago.  At that time, I had no idea we still had relatives in the village.  Now, it will be magical.

Yesterday (Monday) Paco drove me to the Ciudad de la Justica and pored through five ancient books looking for Ruiz documents.  He found two documents, but until I can translate and read the documents I am hesitant to say the man in the document might be my great-grandfather's brother.  I hope so!  Jose Ruiz Garcia, who are you?

Then, there's the trunk I hoped to ship back to America.  Nope.  After driving around in a hodge podge of winding, narrow streets with cars "Spanish parked" everywhere, we found FedEx, only to learn that FedEx doesn't ship from Malaga to America for individuals.  Now, I had to figure out plan B.  I couldn't take the trunk and I have accumulated gifts and items that will certainly NOT fit into the one suitcase I'd kept after sending Rina home with my other one a few weeks ago... So, I had to buy another one.  Today, I managed to fill both suitcases.  How I managed to create such a crazy event, I have no idea.  I think craziness follows me like a shadow.

But once I had the new suitcase, I wanted churros and cafe con leche.  In Campanillas, Paco pointed out a shop and ordered for us.  When the man brought the coffee, mine was half full and Paco's glass had more in it... I'd ordered mine half coffee/half milk.  He explained that they'd bring hot milk at the same time that the churros were ready so we didn't drink our coffee cold.  I asked why Spaniards delivered coffee in glasses instead of cups because it was always too hot to pick it up (for me).  He jumped up and asked the man to pour mine from the glass into a cup (yes!).  My friend (Myrtha) told me I should order it "café con leche en la taza" but I forgot half the time (in a cup).

Afterward, I told El Carro to take me to Los Nuñez and la casa redonda to say goodbye to my good friend, Lyn M.  I arrived at 12:30 and she wasn't there, but I knew she'd return soon.  So, I made myself at home with Pesky, Scalli and Scamp, my little dog friends.  They were excited to welcome me and kept watch while I scurried to the back of the round house to slip on my swim suit.  It was 92 degrees, hot, and the swimming pool shimmered invitingly.  So, of course, I jumped in.  

When Lyn arrived about 30 minutes later, I was ensconced, still dripping, in her lounge chair with the dogs keeping me company.  Within a short time, Lyn had a tray of tapas prepared and two glasses of wine poured.  We sat companionably and chatted while I tossed Pesky's rubber toy (many, many times) and she retrieved it too quickly each time.  

I always smile when I see Lyn's fingernails and toenails.  Who says fancy is only for the young?

Sitting outside beneath the grassy-roofed pergola with the sun keeping us company, Lyn called her friends so I could say goodbye to them since they are now my friends too.
Saidie in Almogia!  Talking to her on the phone was not as good as getting a Saidie-hug, but it was nice to hear her voice one more time.  And Bobbie (also in Almogia).  I also said hello to her daughter, Jane and grandchildren, Austin and Mae.  (I was sorry I couldn't have dropped in on all the cousins for one more hug, but... lo siento mucho)  Angela, Jose, Ruben and Ivan / Juani and Mari / Maria Angela, Manolo, Adrian, Esther and the brothers at El Chorrito / Elisa, Laura, Pedro Ruiz...and Paco and Andres and the family at Venta Gloria.   And the cousins at the bar near Lyn's... 
It is amazing that we have so many cousins in the area and I will think of them often.

When  Lyn and I saw that it was 8:30 pm, we were stunned.  So, inside the house we went.  She heated up tasty leftovers and Lyn invited me to spend the night in "my" room.  

Not long afterward, we saw the sun go down behind the mountains of Los Nuñez and after we watched Britain's Got Talent, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

And this morning?  Of course, my last dog-walking-morning.  Over the past two months, I'd smelled orange blossoms, seen spring flowers along the roadway and sprinted through the dry river bed many days.  Today, the orange trees have fruit, the spring flowers have died away and have been replaced with tiny grapes and tall, flowering weeds.  But regardless of the landscape, it was still a dog's morning and I was delighted to be part of it one more time.

I left early, teary-eyed to leave Lyn who has blessed me with her friendship, her home, stories of her life with Shawn before he passed away, memories about my father and skyping with her daughter, Linda, in the UK.  I will miss her dearly.  

AND WITHIN FIFTEEN MINUTES, THE GUARDIA CIVIL TRÁFICO POLICIA WERE HONKING THEIR HORN AT ME!  THE POLICEMAN WAS WAVING HIS ARM FOR ME TO FOLLOW HIM.  OH DEAR.  I'd been listening to music on my phone through the radio and as always, when Elvis starts singing, I start dancing around in my seat, body and soul.  This time, Blue Suede Shoes beebopped out of the speakers and I was gyrating and singing along with him...etc etc etc.  So, my first thoughts? Was I weaving all over the road?  Did the policemen think I was drunk?  Did I have my European driver's license in the car?  Yes.  And I had the car rental agreement in the glove box.  Oh no, I thought.  It shows I rented El Carro for eight days and I've had it ninety days.  Will they think I stole the car?  Oh, my stomach was in the back seat and my heart rate was up a hundred points.  I moved El Carro into the other lane immediately (after I put on my blinker and followed all the rules) and followed the dark green and white jeep, my heart thumping wildly behind them.  When the jeep passed the exit and didn't slow down my mind went into overdrive.  What?  And then it sped up and disappeared.  It took me some minutes to get my body back into one piece and I realized they just wanted me to move into the slow lane.  I cannot begin to write the words to say how relieved I was...  Just one more day trying to avoid the police, other cars and crazy streets.  Because I return El Carro in the morning (Wednesday) and fly away.  

More good news:  I made friends with the man next door this afternoon (Ross from Dublin.) My landlady asked me to leave my house key there so when I introduced myself, the man invited me in for coffee (we left the door open...) while we waited for his sister to come home.  He looked very trustworthy, I thought.  He was interesting, very nice and we ended up talking for about an hour.  He was disappointed to learn that I'd driven El Carro everywhere and seen more villages than he's ever heard of... He's lived in Fuengirola for two years!  And he scolded me for not introducing myself two months ago so he could have accompanied me on some of my wanderings.  When his sister opened the door and saw me sitting there (she had no idea who I was), her face was a roadmap of indecision... We all had a good laugh.  
The good news?  
Ross is going to put those big suitcases in my car in the morning.  
Life is good for another day.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Synopsis: Spain's Mediterranean Diet

Still laying low and lazing around to recharge myself after the past two days.  Still not sure what knocked me flat, but I am on the mend.  Instead of a travel adventure post, I will list the different foods I have eaten and beverages I have imbibed during my almost three months in Spain.

I've heard over the years that a Mediterranean diet was healthy, but I can now say I've lived it here.  One of the first facts about food here in southern Spain was "don't eat their beef because they don't hang it long enough to drain all the blood off properly and it's tough."  That wasn't a problem since I rarely eat beef, but I found it strange; if I'm told that and it's true, why don't they hang it longer and serve it more?

First and foremost:  Café con leche alongside toast with either marmalade or tomato spread.  The tomato spread is not like jam and it's thicker than tomato juice.  It's full of chopped tomatoes and when you spread it on toast in the morning (yum) it is lumpy and delicious.  Funny how it is often offered on a special for a breakfast with this coffee and usually the combination is less than 2 euros.  The marmalade here is delicious and made of bitter oranges like the trees grown in Córdoba.

TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA - One of the best breakfasts I had on my first trip to Spain.  I will always remember taking that first bite of hot potato and egg into my mouth.  It was soft, not eggy, and melted in my mouth.  I could hardly wait to eat it again.  English call it Spanish omelet.  Here in Spain it is often called tortilla de patties.  It's sometime made with onions, not always.  It's sometimes served cold.  I can eat it either way.  But warm is best.  Was it as good as it was in 2012?  Absolutamente!  
Photo: CC BY-SA 2.5,

SALMOREJO - This is a cold tomato-based soup, similar to gazpacho.  I was told in April, it was too soon for the tomatoes to make a good gazpacho, so when I was in Sevilla during the recent Féria, my friend Karen McCann suggested I try it.   It includes stale bread, hard boiled egg and diced serrano ham served on top.  Unlike gazpacho, served in a glass, salmorejo is served in a bowl.  It doesn't include the onions and peppers of gazpacho, but instead only tomatoes and a clove of garlic.   It was delicious, but different from gazpacho.  When I return home, I will make it and will remember my lunch date with Karen and Rina as we sat outside a restaurant in the Plaza Alfalfa area of Seville.

ENSALADA MALAGUEÑA - My favorite new potato salad was introduced to me by my friend Vicky Martin in Malaga at El Pimpi restaurant in a large square next to the Roman ruins.  She told me it was her favorite and that is exactly why I ordered it when we shared the day a few weeks ago.  It is a cold potato salad that includes bacalao (salt cod) mixed with olives and oranges.  It tasted like ambrosia, especially with the orange sauce drizzled over the top and a bit of balsamic vinegar decorating the sides of the dish.  It sounds odd to add fish to potato salad but in the heat of summer, it's perfect because it can be prepared ahead of time.   Since Vicky suggested this salad to me, I think I've eaten it 5 or 6 times and each time that first forkful hits my mouth, my tongue curls around the potatoes.  Yes, I will definitely think of Vicky and her bright smile when I eat it again.

GAMBAS PIL-PIL - Tapas!  These are prawns served in a hot, sizzling sauce of garlic, chili and olive oil.  It is typically served in a terra-cotta dish for individual servings.  My friend Lyn Murphy says she usually orders this dish, so of course I tried it.  When it arrived, it was sizzling hot with a plate over the top to keep the heat in.  Another time I ordered it, my friend Paco Rosa caught my hand  when I started to lift the plate covering off the dish.  "Quema," he said.  He motioned to wait a minute or two to let it cool down or it was burn me (quemar = to burn).

BOQUERONES - These are European anchovies, different from the kind I've tasted (and didn't like) in America.  It is related to the herring.  My brother Steven introduced me to crispy, fried boquerones in 2012 on my first trip to Spain.  I wasn't thrilled and didn't eat more than one.  THIS TIME, I changed my mind.  In fact, when Rina was here visiting me, she introduced me to boquerones en vinagre.  These are not fried, but fresh anchovies literally drowning in vinegar and oil.  Delicious.

ENSALADA MIXTA - This is more than a simple green salad because it is usually a large salad with shredded carrots, corn kernels, tomatoes, various vegetables -- all topped with a large dollop of tuna.  It is just more than a salad and every time it is served with only olive oil (the best is in Spain I'm told...) and vinegar.

GOAT CHEESE SALAD - It is a round of goat cheese, warm and slightly melted on top of a green salad.  I have eaten this several times and it is always "the best I've ever eaten...."

MENU DE UN DÍA - One price for a full meal that includes a starter, main dish, dessert and beverage.  It is usually way too much for me to eat and the menu varies at each restaurant.  It is usually at a cost of anywhere from $8 - $12 per person.  I've eaten bacalao several ways (cod) and sea bass and white fish I can't even name.  Here in the south of Spain, fish is fresh and plentiful so I have tried to eat as much as possible.  In fact, it seems that all I do is eat when I'm not running in El Carro somewhere.

SANGRÍA - of course!  And shared with brothers = maravillosa  (marvelous)

TINTO VERANO CON LIMÓN - This is wine mixed with sprite or 7-up / half and half typically.  It is light and cool in this hot climate.  At home, I usually drink chardonnay - nicely chilled, but here in Spain I haven't had a single glass of white wine.

When I asked for a glass of tinto verano at the little bar in the village on Friday, I saw the barman pour half red wine and then fill it up with tonic water.  NOT so good as carbonated soda...but he plopped in a slice of lemon and called it good.  Most of the men were drinking beer and I'm still not quite there...

OLIVES! Big, fat green olives everywhere!  Oh, if only I could find these at home.

RIBERA DEL DUERO - This is a red wine that is now my absolute favorite, suggested by my friend Rina Rien from home.  It is a rich, red that tickles the taste buds and never gives me a headache.  Here, that is.  At home?  I'm not so sure but I will look for this wine and try it when I leave Spain.

CHOCOLATE - Lyn Murphy began my addiction to a piece (or two) of dark chocolate with my red wine of an evening.  So far, I have a little piece every evening and may continue that tradition when I get home...

MARMITE - This is a spread or paté that Lyn introduced me to that is from the UK.  I'd heard of it several times from my We Love Memoirs FB friends.  So, of course, I wanted to taste it.  YUK.  Not for me.
DESSERT?  Well, I tried to ignore dessert while I was in Spain, but I did give in when the restaurants nearly shoved it at me (right?).  This is flan - sort of an egg custard.  There were other desserts but I won't fill the page.  Other types of dessert, I stayed away from though...

When I get back to my real life again, I will be eating tapas, green olives, ham sliced thin, cheese and maybe get back to dessert.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ruiz Research, San Pablo church and Boquerones

Sick in Calahonda!  Whether it was caused by food poisoning or sunstroke, I was too sick to post last night (Friday)... and it had been a very interesting day all around.  

My father's friend, Paco Rosa, drove me to the Ciudad de la Justica in Malaga where the old books listing births, deaths and marriages reside.  He completed the form with my genealogy information and we have an appointment on Monday, May 29, to look through the books.  But, alas!  Only one person is allowed into the research room.  When Miguel Alba and I looked through all the books in Benegalbón, it was as if my fingers were walking through history, dust and smudged ink and I felt people prancing through the pages... And it was such a neat experience.  But in Malaga?  Nope.  We decided that since he speaks Spanish, he's my "assistant" and I'll wait for him with fingers crossed.  (No papers were found in Almogia from last week's request).
In order to begin looking through the books, a form is always required to list the ancestors plus their birth dates or the facility doesn't let you get past the door.  This is an example of the form.  The one I completed in Almogia was typed by the clerk, printed, he put his notary signature on it and I had to sign it.  I signed my name with Ruiz to prove I was a descendant or I would not have been given the information.  
The next stop yesterday (Friday) was the Parroquia de San Pablo.  This is the church I thought sat in Campanillas, the village of my grandfather Bernardo Ruiz Romero.  When I saw that church was Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, I knew information had been confused because my baptismal document clearly shows San Pablo.  Paco drove us to the church through narrow streets and parked cars in a hodgepodge of slanted areas.  People were crowded around the entrance and lined the sidewalk waiting to get in.  When we arrived by foot after parking about ten blocks away, Paco grabbed my hand and pulled me to the front of the line.  I tried to avert my eyes away from the people we passed by to avoid seeing their faces aghast with his rudeness.  They thought we were cutting to the front of the line (and so did I) but he just wanted to ask the priest where we could find document information without losing me in the crowd.  The offices were closed, so we walked to the other side of the church where a large square surrounded by flowers and benches invited people to meditate.

By then, it was lunch time.  Paco drove toward the villages again and parked the car halfway on the sidewalk and halfway on the narrow street.  He saw the look on my face and grinned. (I could never play poker since my face talks) 
"This is ok here..." he said and got out of the car.  
Then, he was walking down the street.  I followed him past several brightly-colored shops, two bars with men sitting at tables with cigarettes hanging from their fingers or lips, beer on their tables --- all eyeing us walk down the street.  Then, he turned around the corner (I was nearly trotting after him by now).  He introduced me to the barman, Cristóbal, at the local bar in Huertacilla.  Here, they both told me, my father (and brother Steven) had eaten many times.  

Paco explained that my father drank anisette with water and kept tapping the edge of the white plate of olives in front of us.  He said blanco over and over until I realized he was telling me when you mix anisette with water it turns white...
When my boquerones arrived, Paco saw me pick one up as if I was having English tea, finger in the air and munching as if it was a potato chip.  His hand came up to admonish me, shaking his fingers and his head with a "no, no, no..." and he showed me how to eat it properly.  Huh?  I'd seen Steven eat them this way but I thought he was just playing around.  No so.  And I am in Spain, eating their food, so of course I followed Paco's instructions.  These fried anchovies are delicious.  I'd always shied away from anchovies on pizza but he said these anchovies are different and you can't find them this way in America.  I will have to look around when I get home though...

THEN, there was the trunk.  When we returned to the village so I could drive back to Calahonda, he invited me into his auto mechanic's shop.  I knew he wanted to show me something but the Spanish didn't quite come through.  When he pointed me toward an old trunk in the back corner,  I knew it had been my father's.  He'd been storing it all these years.  He told me that when my father returned to America in the early 2000s he couldn't take it with him.  Now, it is mine.  (Maybe my brothers and I can each have it for a year at a time to share? (smile.)   There are odds and ends inside with some papers that I will share with Rick and Steven.  But now... I must find a way to get it home.  The silver lining?  I needed to buy a new piece of luggage because... and now I can just dump my extra things into the trunk.  My hope is that on Monday when Paco drives me back to Malaga, the FedEx offices will ship it back to Arizona for me.  Fingers crossed again.