Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Silver Lining Visit to Madrid

And a warm welcome

As I prepared to leave Spain after this memorable trip, I was happy I had a 16 hour layover in Madrid after I left Malaga.  Last year, I'd met my cousin from Toro and spent a fantastic week in their home in the city and a few days in Toro, where my great grandmother Rita Eustoquia Trascasas Marzo was born.  I'd enjoyed a fruitful Trascasas reunion in the quaint village where I'd left part of my heart in 2012 when my brother Steven and I'd first visited as we followed the footsteps of our ancestors.  At that time, we had no idea there were any Trascasas relatives left... What a grand surprise when Mercedes Trascasas contacted me on a Facebook whim in 2012.  In 2017, they welcomed me with open arms.  I connected with her and Jenaro (her husband) immediately.  So, it was with excitement that I would see them again if only for an evening on this visit as I readied to return home to Arizona.

As the day to leave and arrive in Madrid neared, I was feeling a little apprehensive because the responses to all my texts to Mercedes were one word:  Ok.  Did they want to see me?  Was I asking too much to arrive at 8 pm and leave the next morning at 8 am?  Did they want to visit as much as I wanted to see them?  "OK" didn't tell me much.  But, I persevered; I grabbed a taxi to the city.  Their doorman met me, led me up to the apartment where both Mercedes and Jenaro kissed and hugged me with big smiles.  I soon realized why her text responses were "OK"...

Last year, she'd promised me to continue learning English and I agreed to keep up with my Spanish.  Well, she forgot almost everything...but her warm hugs didn't.  She and Jenaro were as giddy as I was.  She'd made a Tortilla Espanola, which is the typical egg/potato omelet known in Spain that she knew I loved so much.  It was still hot and would be part of our dinner about 9:30 pm.

It was raining when I arrived and a bit cold.  Did I take a jacket?  Yes.  Did I take an umbrella?  Yes.  Where were they?  In my suitcase on its way to Arizona.  But it didn't slow me down... When they asked if I wanted to go out for a drink and tapas just after I arrived, I opened the door and they laughed.  Mercedes hugged me again and made the motion of a woman running down the street and pointed at me.  They always take a stroll for a glass of wine every night before dinner and I was glad to be part of that special trek again.  The city was alive with lights, music and seemed to invite me into its embrace.  And I stepped right in.

After walking about three blocks, they led me inside a small restaurant where we stood at the bar.  Mercedes held her beer while Jenaro and I both sipped red wine.  A small plate of tapas was pushed in front of us with chips beside three white ladle-like spoons like you get in a Japanese restaurant with soup.  Each spoon held tiny pieces of of fish and green onions, all drenched in vinegar and oil.  
As I brought it toward my mouth, I asked Mercedes, "What is the pinkish fish?"
She answered me as I put the spoon into my mouth, "Pulpa."
I froze just a second (pulpa?  Ugh...octopus).  I chewed delicately and swallowed.  Lucky for me there was only one piece.  I didn't want to know the name of anything else because it tasted so good.  I just ate all of it and sipped my wine.  So good.

When we returned to their house about 10:30, we set up the table and she placed a prepared plate of meats alongside the Tortilla Espanola; chorizo, salami and serrano ham slices.  Jenaro poured each of us a glass of red wine. The late dinner time is typical Spanish.  Once dinner was over, Jenaro proudly displayed a plate of white grapes from el campo, their vineyard outside of Toro.  

For dessert, Mercedes brought peaches which Jenaro and Mercedes methodically peeled and cut into pieces.  I did the same, but when I lifted the peaches to eat, Jenaro stopped me with his hand and pointed to the wine glass.  What?  Oh, drop the pieces into the red wine to soak a little and then eat them.  MMMMMM..... I can do that.  Wow.  Very different taste and delicious.

Bedtime was after midnight because we talked into the night.  I was making sense with my Spanish because Mercedes answered me (I got sense of half of hers).  She pointed to the butter.  I said amarillo and then said butter.  She grinned and tried to make her butter sound like mine.  She tried several times until we just laughed about it.  Their letters are quite different sounding than ours, but we still kept trying to pronounce words in the other's language.

When my alarm beeped at 7:00 am, I heard Mercedes in the kitchen.  By the time I was hurriedly dressed and put my overnight bag by the front door, she'd prepared cafe con leche for us and a carrot-breakfast cake she'd made the day before.  Her thoughtfulness in preparing for my visit was beyond the "ok" she'd texted to me.

Mercedes walked me several blocks and flagged down a taxi for me for my return trip to the airport.  I guess one doesn't call to order a taxi because they are everywhere.  Who on earth would want to drive in a city with a million cars all going your way?   It was still nearly dark at 8:15 in the morning.  The cars moved slow, so I could take some more photos.

It was a sad goodbye since I have no idea when I'll return to Spain.  They wanted me to stay so I could go to the fiesta in Toro this weekend.  Their welcome warmed me up. 
Life is simple there and so full of warm family and emotions.  
But it is sooooooooooooooooo good to be home again.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A trip up into the mountains to Almogía

A walk through the sister city to Winters, California.

Almogía is a town and municipality in the province of Málaga, part of Andalusia in southern Spain about fifteen miles from Málaga, where the cultivation of almonds and olives is their livelihood.  This village is where my great grandfather Francisco RUIZ Garcia worked as a math tutor before sailing to Hawaii with his family and then on to California, where I would be born 35 years later.  (I did not get his math genes, unfortunately).

My biological father Miguel RUIZ Silvan was instrumental in making Winters, California the sister city to Almogia, Spain.  And that is how it happened that I was determined to show the street to Steven where I'd walked six years ago with my brother also named Steven.

Before our trip up the mountain, Steven asked me, "Is there going to be a lot of walking?  I mean, I'll wear tennis shoes instead of these flip flops, he said as he  pointed to his sandals.
Me:  "No, not much walking, you'll be fine."
Once we'd parked and begun exploring, all uphill it seemed to me, I hoped he'd forgotten our conversation.  He hadn't.  By then, as we puffed our way upward looking for Calle Winters, he gave me the side eye.  
Steven: "Not much walking, huh?"  
I, of course, looked innocent.  "Sorry.  I'm sure it will be downhill back to the car." (I was wrong again, of course).  He is still talking to me but that's because after the long haul, I bought him an ice-cold beer in the main plaza where he'd asked some Spaniards where the street was located in the first place.  
Steven has no problem approaching Spaniards with questions now!
I grinned when the bartender served my tinto verano con limon: half glass of red wine with ice and a small bottle of lemon mix.  Steven and I both sipped it and agreed --- it tasted like margarita mix or squirt.  I'd been experimenting for over a year with not luck.  Now, I had something!  Lyn laughed at us and drank it as we discussed it in great detail.

It was a beautiful village and I tried to listen to the ghost conversations of my ancestors.
Afterward, we headed toward our friend, Saidie's, driving about twenty minutes further up the mountain.  A huge dinner and lots of hugs later, we wandered around her beautiful property and enjoyed the ambiance of the mountain view surrounding us.  So much colored tile, flowers dangling from pots, a small outside bar overlooking the valley below.  
Saidie served tapas and drinks on her outside patio before dinner...

Lyn loved the dessert too.
We were sorry to leave Saidie, who is a delightful woman whom I'd met last year.  She is charming and lovely, an added bonus to my friendship with Lyn and the round house.  And then, off we went to another friend's home just "up" the road (in the car) near where Lyn and Sean used to live before moving down the hill to Los Nunez.  We shared good conversation and sat in their outside patio room beside their shimmering swimming pool with purple mountains in the distance.  But the sun soon saturated us and we were sagging, although we still managed to walk through the gardens and point out specific plants and flowers before we were homeward bound.  We were sorry to cut the visit short, but we were also glad we were able to see these sweet people.

The memories of our day in Almogia will linger as I recall the time with smiles and the recipe for making my own tinto verano con limon.  

Tomorrow, Steven and I both get on separate airplanes and leave the valley... Steven flies home to California and I fly to Madrid...overnight.  An unexpected sixteen-hour layover has a silver lining...because I will be able to visit my cousin Mercedes Trascasas and her husband Jenaro again before returning to America.  Life is truly so sweet.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Musical contest of Verdiales, in Benagalbón

VERDIALES CONTEST for September 15 was rained out and lucky for us, changed to a time when we were in Spain to see our very first Verdiales music and dance.

 Verdialas is a traditional music and dance similar to flamenco, but different... We were unprepared for anything but a small festival.  Again, as we are learning here in Spain, it was SO MUCH MORE. Miguel Alba met us at a beach chiringuito near Benagalbón, drove us into the village and the blend of emotions began to build.  It seems as if he knows everyone he sees on the street as he’s pulled into a hand shake or a hug.  Between his history books of the Spanish immigration, the village of Benagalbón and the recent documentary, the people in this area think of him as a hero.  And he wanted to pull me and Steven into his realm.  We followed him up and down the streets of the village as he proudly pointed out the ribbons, flower-adorned hats and the decorations that advertised a musical contest would soon begin.  When we saw him speaking with three policeman and some men behind the fenced barrier, we just assumed he was saying hello to more friends.  When he turned toward us and motioned us to follow him into the space up the steps in front of the church where we could see a microphone and others gathering, we were confused, but up we went.

All of a sudden as we gazed at the crowd in front and both sides of the Candelaria Church from our now-higher vantage point, the mayor of Benagalbón began to introduce the festivities and then we heard Miguel's name, the documentary and "Patricia and Steven."  What?  Another very impressive moment and the contest had not begun yet.  We were in for a beautiful surprise.

We heard the sounds of a conch shell and then a young man leading a group of musicians.  Then we heard the music and the quick beat of instruments, saw a violin, four red guitars, very small brass cymbals, large tambourines and castanets with flowing, colored ribbons in the hands of several women (castañuelas).   The beat was quick and I immediately started tapping my feet. All of a sudden, another man lifted a rainbow-striped baton and the music sped up.  Faster, faster, the guitar strings, the violinist and the men with small brass cymbals played to a frantic beat.  The large tambourine added its separate sound and the musician ran his finger across the length of the round instrument to make a sound like a zither.  The women's castanets kept up the pace until everyone in the crowd (including me) was clapping in the same cadence. Then, everything stopped.  And another group same but different moved forward.  It was the same as the first one.  Conch shell blown.  Music and the sounds of strumming guitars, shining red in the Spanish sun.  The rhythmic snapping sounds of the castanets mesmerized me. 

There were ten groups from surrounding mountain villages.  I heard the name of Almogia, Puerto de la Torre and the others as each group competed for the best verdiales.  Wow.  It was quite beautiful and we could hardly believe their efforts.  One of the things I especially liked to see was the losing and winning group immediately hugged the other group.  Hugging and Spanish kisses.  Loved it!!

After the group that was led by a man in a black Spanish hat with wide brims named Pedro Romero won, special ceramic gifts were handed out.  People began to disburse and Miguel didn't stop grinning.   He loved seeing our amazement and kept saying, "Benagalbón is a special place, hmmmm?"  YES, we agreed over and over again.  He led us through the narrow streets and pointed out  flowers and ribbons to us.  When he introduced a woman to us named Nati, he said she made roscos like our grandmothers used to make with wine and sugar.  What we didn't understand as we walked around dodging festival goers and stopping to listen to the musical groups here and there again and again...was she'd invited us to her home!

When Miguel and Isa (his wife) pointed us inside one of the gracious homes near the last musicians as I continued to clap and sway with the women snapping those castanets, we were pulled into hugs and shown chairs.  There were roscos on a plate and a bottle of clear Anis beside tiny liqueur glasses...Well, we tasted and sipped and then the old couple raved about the documentary they'd seen on September 24 and the questions started.  It was very interesting and seeing the inside of this small abode was lovely.  We had been nearly four hours! 
It was soon time to drive to the next town where we'd spent the first ten days, in Torre del Mar.  We had a 9:30 pm dinner date with Vicky (who lent us the apartment for our stay there) and Eterio Ortega, the producer of the documentary.   It felt good to be back in town and we found La Yate Restaurant easily from our previous visit.  Oh, it was good to see our old friends.  Plates and plates filled with salads, fish and bread were placed in front of us with our wines and beer.  We ate, talked and ate some more.  By 11:45 pm, we all got up to say our goodbyes (we thought) and find the car for the 45 minute drive back to Los Nunez.  BUT, no --- the group led us to another restaurant for another chat where Vicky showed me historical photos inside the bar of the town, her birthplace.  By 12:30 am, Steven and I were sagging.  The Spanish meal and night times were so irregular to us...
As soon as we got into the car, I tapped on the GPS and prayed my phone wouldn't die before we found our way home in the dark.  And it died about five miles from the round house, but it was okay because I knew where we were.  The dark, narrow roads were a trick to navigate but Steven got us home by 1:30 a.m.  What a day!  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Speaking Spanish with cousins in Fresneda

Friday night in Los Nuñez....This time, I was forced to converse with my limited Spanish and each time I got my point across, everyone smiled with a sigh of relief.  Great fun all around.  I loved to see Maria Angela’s wrinkles smooth off her forehead when my words finally made sense. I loved every minute of having a nice, long visit with her and the family at El Corrito, their family-run store and bar restaurant on the little road down the hill from where we are staying in the round house.  The photo below shows Esther sitting on her Uncle Antonio's lap and Lyn on the left.

Esther is thirteen and her brother is nearly sixteen, both learning English and both sweetly shy.   I believe that Esther hopes to one day visit me in Arizona.  “Es mucho calor,” I said.  It’s very hot.  “No matter!” She replied in English with a cute little smile.

Antonio arrived (Maria Angela’s oldest brother) and all the chairs slid back so he could kiss me on both cheeks and give me a big hug.  I learned that he went to California in 1992 with their parents to visit my cousins, the Tortosa family.  What??  I’ve had a photo of my Aunt Millie and grandmother, Manuela SILVAN Trascasas (Ruiz) with a “couple from Spain.” Nobody could remember their names... Now I know!
Pedro Nuñez Camuñas and Francisca (Paca) Ruiz Martos

ALSO, in a flash, Maria Angela put a large photo album in front of me.  She opened the book to a large photo of Maria Ruiz Romero, the sister of my grandfather.  The family thought she was Maria Tortosa...but I said, “No.”. I pointed to each person in their photo book and said the names aloud.  So, we all learned something new about our family last night as the crowd grew in size and volume in tandem with alcohol intake.

When Lyn and I were ready to head home about 9:30, we were given a menu.  Time to eat dinner.  (Steven stayed home to recharge his batteries for the festival tonight...). More food, a glass of red wine, photos and then I stretched my Spanish to the limit.  Ah,  another wonderful family encounter.

I am writing this blog Saturday morning and we are preparing to the Peña El Revezo Benagalbón, the village of my great grandfather.  Steven’s great grandparents were married in the village.  Small world. 
Miguel sent the address for a chiringuito, a tavern on the beach. 
Steven:  We should leave early to avoid crowded highway.
Me:  Okay.  Good idea.
Steven:  If we get there too early, we can have a drink while we're waiting...
Me:  Like my friend says, I like your way of thinking...

I will post festival photos tomorrow.  I know there will be music, dancing, laughter and dinner will probably be very late by our standards in America, but very normal for Spain... and we will see most of our documentary crew and friends to celebrate our last time together before going home soon.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fried peppers, potatoes, And a visit down the hill

A lazy day at La Casa Redonda

It was near dawn that I posted "last night" about the wine and tapas tour and I didn't post photos.  Also, I couldn't make the edit function work on my iPad, so it is a little bit of gobbledigoop in places. So, I'll post them below -- today was a lazy, lovely day. 

Steven made a potatoes dish with zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and pimenton paprika.  YUM.  And Lyn made a chicken dish with vegetables.  The Spanish usually eat the large meal at 2:00 pm, and so did we.  The aroma of Steven's frying peppers and the rest of the meal made all of us mmmmmmm with delight.  Eating it afterward was excellent.  It is so nice here when we eat a meal because there's no rush to get up from the table.  The chatting afterward is also a lazy, enjoyable time.  The view from the table is beyond words as the hills go on and on with miles of orange trees.  The houses seem to topple over one another and sets the easy flow of conversation for us here in the country.

It has been a lazy day.  I drenched myself in Lyn's pool, read in the lounge chair and languidly tossed the ball for the dogs.  And then I came inside to avoid the many flies that dive bombed around me.

Last night's photos:
Muscatel wine, serrano ham, salami and wine-drenched cheese
Antigua Casa de Guardia (Taberna est. 1814)
Some of the tapas also included a shell with fish inside for 2 euros
Stuffed olives wrapped in anchovy, roasted pepper slice and a pickled onion served with wine

I fell in love with the beautiful sweets behind the glass case of a historic bakery

Tonight I will go down the hill to Fresneda and see my cousins, Maria Angela and her family, so I need to go practice my Spanish...she speaks no English...

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Tapas and Wine Tour in Malaga

One would think that a tapas and wine walking tour would be tasting wine with a bit of food along the way.  Tonight I learned that my thoughts regarding a wine and tapas tour was so much more than that.  Taking Lyns advice, instead of driving into Malaga, we decided a train ride from a nearby station would be convenient and less stressful. And that is exactly what we did.  The short train ride was perfect.  When we arrived in the city, we’d only walked one block and I knew where we were, so Steven and Lyn followed me to our meeting point.

At 6:00 pm, our friend, Javi, met us with a thumbs up because we were early.  Spanish kisses on each cheek, hugs and we were off.  A couple from Denmark brought the group number to five.  Javi said he was happy to have a small group since it made it nearly like a private tour.  Knowing him as our translator when he came to California with the filming crew for the recent documentary, it made us feel like we were being led around the city by a friend.  We were all delighted to begin.

First stop, a shop that showed salted bacalao (fish) in the front window, a Spanish tradition that Steven remembers from his grandmother and a food he cooks back in his own kitchen.  Javi was surprised to hear that we’d all heard of it.  The shop had been in one family for fourteen generations until the last owner retired without children to carry it on.  He asked that the name remain as well as the inclusion of his bacalao.

A bakery nearby is where he showed us the original type of bread that is used for a typical Spanish breakfast.  The bread roll is about 8-9” long and toasted.  When it is served for breakfast, you spread smashed tomato over it and drizzle olive oil over the top.  I agreed it was food I enjoyed very much.  The desserts behind the glass made everyone ohh and ahh.  But we were off again.

Javi knew from our previous get together that I’d told the film crew I’d seen a YouTube video about the oldest bar in Madrid called Antigua Casa de Guardia.  After several instances where our friends Tried to make it happen, the timing never worked out.  When Javi said we were going there, I was grinning and when he heard I’d never made it there, he’d taken off down the street like a shot.  The old bar was established in 1814 and when I saw all the wine barrels perched behind the very long bar, I was enchanted.  He told us the history and a young man brought us a large shot glass filled to the brain in tandem with a small plate for each of us.  Huge green stuffed olives were wrapped with a long, salty anchovy on a stick accompanied by a small white pickled onion and a slice of roasted red pepper,  the anchovy was the only thing that went into the trash basket, which Steven helped remove for me.  The wine tasted like a bit of sherry, one I liked okay but didn’t love.  

Next stop Was walking through the narrow streets to an outdoor tapas bar.  Here, we were given small plates of Serrano ham sliced thin as paper, salami sliced thin as well with white edges and two small wedges of cheese, 3/4 goat cheese combined with 1/4 sheep cheese that had been dipped in wine.  The wine was a small glass of something dark that I didn’t like too well, but was an important local drink.  I left most of it and so did Steven.

We followed Javi past the huge building that was a marketplace inside, with the entrance catching our attention.  Having just left Córdoba, we thought it had a Moorish influence with its archways of stone and we were right.  The end of the building where he led us was made of stained glass in pieces that showed the mosque, mountains, shipping, wine making, statuary and more.  We followed Javi like ducks all in a row, across a huge courtyard area called Constitution Square and past dress shops where I saw beautiful feria (festival) costumes like the one that I wore in Seville last year.  Ruffles, polka dots and fringe.  Oh my.

We rounded the corner into a narrow alley where he pointed to a large ceramic tile piece of art that depicted the various types of coffee in Spain.  I learned that cafe con leche was actually called media, which means half coffee and half milk. There were nine ways to order coffee depending on the ratio of espresso coffee to milk!

More narrow streets and my feet were saying that we should stop and sit.  When Javi led us to an outdoor restaurant called El Chinitas, we were delighted to see a linen draped table, linen napkins and wine glasses just for us.  Red wine or white?  He preferred the white, both Ribero del Duero wines, which have become my favorites.  I chose red and it was smooth and rich.  Steven shared a sip of his white and it was delicious.  Next time, I will listen to Javi and take his advice.  The tapas were large plates of thinly sliced eggplant called berenjenas with molasses dribbled on top, which I’d eaten in Córdoba.  These were different, but the crispy slices were delicious.  Javi gave us a short lecture on the wine, the restaurant and the foods.  Time to go!

The next stop was another outside wine bar.  Candles burned on tables and the artwork on our table caught everyone’s attention.  Each table was a piece of art done by the same artist.  He’d embedded Spanish coins to create a bunch of grapes and entangled the vines beneath and around it.  Beautiful.  We snapped a few photos and then the wine began to flow again.  Javi told us that the red here was best and this time I took him at his word.  Again, delicious.  Our first plate was a tiny elongated white dish that held two puffy, hot croquettes.  He told us it was typical of Spain and the ingredients, but I was too busy laying into it to remember his words.  Very good and sipping the red wine was perfect.  When the server removed those plates, he replaced them with a meat and chips tapas.  So good!

It was nearly 9:00 by then, more photos and more hugs and it was time to go home again.  It felt like an enjoyable family evening as Javi thanked us again for allowing him to give us a piece of Spanish history with wine and tapas.  It was a bittersweet goodbye to a lovely evening and he was gone.

Winding our way back through the myriad of interlacing narrow streets as we looked for Calle Larios again to return to the train station was a bit of a struggle.  My feet were crying and we were all tied, but we found our way, got on the train and homeward bound by 10:00.  We all agreed that it was a    adventure and I’m so glad it was so much more than just wine and appetizers.  Malaga at night with the lights shining through grills, stained glass, clock towers and across tiled walkways gave me another magical feeling.  Another lovely day.

But, Friday we must rest, swim, lay a bit in the sun.  I fear I’m running Steven ragged.  Lyn keeps up a running commentary for us as she tells stories of the surrounding area and feeds us along the way.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cousins everywhere and two surprises

The village, the cousins and more fab memories.

 This morning started like a long-ago Los Nunez morning:  walking Scally, Scamp and Pesky, the dogs from la casa rodonda.  Lyn sounded surprised when I said yes when she asked if I was going to walk the dogs with her like I did last year.  What?  Por supuesto.  Of course! What fun it was to pop them into Lyn's car, drive down the road, across the one-lane bridge and park at the dry riverbed.  Nearly 3,000 steps later, I tried not to lag behind as the dogs led us back to the car and I hopped in.  Whew.  I am out of shape despite street walking in Torre del Mar, Malaga and Cordoba.  The dogs were happy.  I was happy and Lyn was happy.  I didn't think the day could get better. I was wrong.

After a lovely breakfast of yogurt, cereal and toast with marmalade for me...and that brown stuff Lyn likes on her toast...Marmite (yuk) for her, I asked Steven if he was up for a walk?  I wanted to take him up the road toward the lane where I remembered there was a cement stone with my father's name engraved into the road.  It was a memorial to him because he was instrumental in paving the dirt lanes and getting street lights installed years ago when he was mayor of Los Nunez.  Walking down the road was intricate...walking past the roosters that I hear in the mornings, the hens, and then seeing the stone marker...and then back upward again.

And the old, old houses along the way were so interesting.  I told Steven to stop whining and tried not  to tease him.  I knew the lane was very steep and he followed me unaware.  He is a good sport.

On the way back up the lanes, we saw children playing at a school behind a wrought iron gate.  I love saying "hola" (hello) to Spaniards and the children were congregating at the gate watching us.  I said, "Hola" in a singsong voice and made the turn, Steven right behind me.
Then I heard one of the children yell, "Hola, Patricia."
What?  I was stunned.  Without a second thought, I ran across the road to talk with the children and recognized (not sure how since it's been a few years since I saw this girl) Maria, who was the granddaughter of Juani Ruiz Ruiz, the niece of Angela Ruiz Fernandez.  She was delighted I'd joined them and all the children were suddenly shy.  After a bit of conversation, they said they spoke English "un poco"  (a little).  When I realized who called my name, I got mushy.  She was adorable and her friends tried to speak to us.
"Como esta?" (How are you?) I asked.
"We are fine.  How are you?"  They responded in English.
Steven and I laughed.  It was the exact wording we'd learned in our own first Spanish class.
How are you?  I am fine.  And you?  Ha ha.  Loved it.
I played in the swimming pool and tossed the ball for the dogs while Lyn went to chorus practice.  I lallygagged for awhile and fell asleep on the lounge chair.  And I got a little sunburn before running into the house to change, asking Steven if he wanted to practice his Spanish because we had a date with cousins down the road, Juani Ruiz Ruiz.

Juani Ruiz Ruiz was waiting for us later and it was delightful to try to converse.  Little Maria from the school this morning is his granddaughter.  My Spanish is not as good as it was last year when I lived here for three months, however we did fine between Steven's Spanish and my translation APP.  When I told them about my surprise encounter with Maria and her friends at the school, they laughed.  As it turned out, Maria had told her teacher about the documentary that Steven and I were in.  Her teacher discussed the documentary with the class and they knew about me.  I guess I am a star in Los Nunez.  (smile).

During our discussion over coffee and cookies with Juani and his wife, Mari, his daughter Angela and her husband Jose Maria, I mentioned my grandfather, Bernardo Ruiz Romero.  "Where is Arroyo de los Olivos?  I know my abuelo Ben was born there..." I asked.
Juani pointed out the window.
His daughter Angela grinned at me when she saw my face light up in surprise.
Her mother Mari rose her eyebrows.
Jose Maria grabbed his car keys and everyone led us to his car.
We were on a roll.  What?  It was close by and they were taking us there.  I felt suspended in time for a moment.  I'd heard of the "place" and knew it was somewhere near Los Nunez, but it had always been nebulous to me.  Within ten minutes, we were inching our way up a dirt track road behind the village and then we saw a sign, "Finca lo Romero" on the stone wall of a house and we were there.  My heart was beating wildly.  This is where my grandfather was born.  That meant the village I thought his mother lived in wasn't Alora, it was Arroyo de los Olivos in Almogia.  Another genealogy clue!  Olive trees were everywhere.  Juani said at one time, the Romero family lived in Los Nunez but they moved to Arroyo de los Olivos to farm the land.  NOW, Romero families encompass the area.  He did not think I was directly related to these Romero people could I NOT be when my great grandmother, Rosa Romero Fernandez, gave birth to my grandfather there??  I am anxious to start that investigation.

By 7:00, it was time for the next adventure: dinner at Venta Gloria Restaurant where I would find my other cousin, Pedro Ruiz, who now owned the restaurant.  And there was Paco (the bartender),  Andres (the waiter) and their families.  We arrived when it was still daylight and as I laid my sunglasses on the counter and we ordered wine, I eyed the sunglasses and thought of Roberto's words...don't leave your sunglasses on the bar in the daytime because if you have a glass of wine in your hands and the sun has gone down, if a policeman comes in, they'll see your sunglasses and know you've been drinking for awhile.  I pushed them into my pocket, lifted my Ribiero del Duero and grinned.  I was safe for now.  (smile).

Andres recognized me when we walked in and came around the bar for a hug and gave me Spanish kisses on each cheek.  Then, when we moved to a table a while later, the bartender (Paco) arrived and he opened his arms to welcome me with the same hug, kisses.  It was very sweet.  We ordered Carridillo (pig cheeks), Gambas pil pil (prawns in garlic oil) and Rosada (grilled fish)...and then Pedro Ruiz arrived.  His grin lit up the room as he saw me and I rose to meet his warm hug and kisses.  He called his daughter Laura (who tried to teach me to dance flamenco last year) to tell her I was in the restaurant.  This family has overwhelmed me with their eager welcome and obvious love.  It is pretty amazing.  I was delighted to introduce Steven to my family and Lyn enjoyed it all, knowing most of these people as neighbors.
This is Laura Ruiz, the little cousin who tried to teach me to dance flamenco last year.  All grown up!  

Pedro Ruiz

What a lovely day.  When Pedro brought us a Bailey's with ice after we paid our dinner bill and winked at me, I felt full of all that is good in my life.  I've only been here in the country village for two days and I'm looking forward to the next few to follow.  A Tapas/Wine tour tomorrow night.  A festival and dinner party on Saturday.  A visit to Almogia soon and more good conversations with Lyn here at la casa redonda, the round house.
Life is truly sweet in Spain today.