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 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 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 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.

Friday, August 23, 2019

My head is spinning

Toro is known as a center of Mudéjar art. It is an ancient town which was conquered by Hannibal in 220 BC but survived to trouble the Romans. After the Muslims had been pulled out, Alfonso III repopulated the town in 910.  It is also the village of my ancestors, the Trascasas, Marzo and Alonso families.  There are ten churches, three monasteries and two convents, population: 8,800.

With my café con leche this morning, I studied my map of Toro and with Mercedes’ help, I found the two streets where my ancestors lived.  Calle Doctor Olivares and Calle San Juan are both near two of the churches my grandmothers were baptized inside.  It was eerie to walk down both streets, not knowing the house number but I tried to imagine my feet crossing their paths.  Afterward, I wandered the streets until my feet yelled.  I found a table under umbrellas of Meson Zamora and ordered chorizos in wine.  In both Madrid and Barcelona I drank sangria because nobody had tinto de verano, my favorite drink of wine and lemon juice.  When I asked for sangria in Toro today, the waiter apologized and said they do not have sangria, but asked if tinto de verano would be ok?  Of course, I was delighted.  Delicious.

There is a house for sale with a gated garden area near the Arco del Postigo that I fell in love with when I first saw it during my visit in 2012 with my brother, Steven.  In 2017, it was still not sold. Mercedes told me her friend owned it and said I should buy it.  In 2018 when I saw them briefly in Madrid, she told me “your house is still for sale and  it is now 120,000 euros.  I laughed.  Today, it is still for sale and Mercedes told me her friend will sell it to me for 85,000 euros.  I laughed again,  as I will not buy a house in Spain despite loving this village and Spain in general.  However, on Monday, I am going to see the inside.

On my way back from my nostalgic walk to Mercedes and Jenaros house, I heard my name called, which was a shock in Toro.  Across the street was Jenaro and Dario, their grandson.  Jenaro waved me over and let Dario lead the way.  It’s a bar, I thought.  One room deeper and I saw an area where meats, cheeses and wine is sold.  But Dario kept walking until he led us to a narrow, stone stairwell.  Down, down and down some more.  The air turned cool, refreshing from the heat on the street.  Jenaro was grinning at me and beckoned me to follow.  We walked past alcoves with empty wine bottles, large antique looking bottles, a gigantic wine barrel and we weren’t finished.  I continued along the very narrow stone walkway in the underground area and found a press to make wine and the various water pipes etched into the walls.  Jenaro told me these antique wine making rooms are all over Toro.  I immediately thought of my friend, Mike Muñoz in Placerville, California and asked Jenaro to take my photo in front of the press.  He makes his own wine from his vineyard.
My visit to the village of Fuentesaúco was moved until tomorrow because Cintia, Mercedes’ daughter  is going to drive me and...she speaks English.  She has not heard about the subterranean wine bodegas, but she promised to look for us tomorrow.

My head is spinning some more for two reasons.
1) Jenaro makes wine. I named his bodega Puerta Roja because it has a red door.  He said he named his red wine Puerta Roja, but his white wine is his name in Latin, Ianuarius.  I joked that it looked like “January.” He and Mercedes looked at me blankly.  Yes, he said, like January.  Enero.  Well, I know January is enero in Spanish, but I still didn’t get it.  Mercedes looked at me and repeated the word enero.  “That is his name...Jenaro.”  What?  In Latin, January is Ianuarius. It is enero in Spanish.  His name is Latin:Jenaro.  I finally saw the light.

2) As a genealogical nut, I continue to look for more family connections.  Mercedes is Mercedes Trascasas, my Trascasas cousin.  My grandmother’s grandmother was Manuela Marzo. I have never been able to find a living Marzo.  Jenaro and Mercedes found one today, Pasqual Marzo.  There is no phone number, so the plan is we will soon knock on his door at Calle Santa Monica.

There is a fair in Toro this week.  Lights.  Music. Dancing. Crowds.  Great fun. 

Tomorrow at 10 am: Fuentesaúco awaits. . 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Snafus before Toro, Spain

I thought jumping through my biggest hoop today, as I prepared for my visit with Mercedes and Jenaro in Toro, would be navigating the bus station. Not so.  First, after Caroline left for the airport, I wandered around looking for café con leche and desayuno, a Spanish breakfast.  Within minutes, I had café con leche and soon afterward my toasted pitufo (small bread roll) arrived with typical tomato and instead of a bottle of olive oil to drizzle over the top, I got a small plastic tub with a lid I couldn’t pry off with a pair of pliers. I asked the waiter for help and he shrugged and gave me a new one. What? Same innovative as I am and trying to keep the oil from drizzling over ME instead, I finally punched a hole in the top with the end of my coffee spoon. Thunk. Finally!

Later, as I entered the lobby to leave my room key, a handsome Spaniard dressed in a dark suit called my name. “Patricia?”  I stopped in my tracks for a moment until I realized it must be the taxi I ordered.  With a nice smile, he lifted my bags and nodded for me to follow him a black limo!  What on earth? I thought, oh boy, here we go. It sat beside a line of white taxis and looked like a raisin in the sun.  He drove me to the bus station. I pulled out a ten euro note, thinking the cost might be 7 or 8 euros and I nearly fainted when he handed me a slip of paper: 30 euros. Six minutes from hotel to station. Recognizing the scam, there wasn’t much I could do but pay the man. Next time, I shall flag down a taxi.

The bus station was easy to navigate.  After finding the platform that the bus would take me to Toro, I went back upstairs where I could wait on a bench for the next 90 minutes.  I learned the hard way that manipulating two suitcases down an escalator is very stupid.  Caroline told me so yesterday, but I’m an independent woman I told her.  I should have listened.  As I neared the bottom of the escalator to reach my bus, the front suitcase wheel staggered against the steel teeth that moved the moving steps into the floor...and took me down.  I fell backward and my butt hit the edge of the step behind me and then I landed on the suitcase I was pulling.  I couldn’t get up because the steps kept moving, trying to pull me into those steel teeth.  Five men rushed to help me; two pulled me off the escalator teeth, two grabbed my bags and the other man (a security guard) looked horrified and nodded toward the elevator beside me.  Very disoriented, I just reached for my bag, said gracias a hundred times and made sure my watch wasn’t broken and I didn’t have steel teeth marks in my pants.  Yes, Caroline, I hear you... and yes, I’m black as the ace of spades ♠️ on my bum.

But, within a few minutes, I was on my way, watching rolling hills of green, old buildings, little villages where the bus stopped along the way and enjoying the ride northwest along the Ruta de Duero, the route of the river Duero. (Ribera del Duero is fantástico wine...but I digress)  I especially liked the little village of Tordesillas and would’ve enjoyed some exploring...but my cousins were waiting for me in Toro.  Jenaro gave me a big hug and the kiss-on-each-cheek welcome and within minutes Mercedes greeted me the same way.  It is lovely to be here in the village of my ancestors.

We were on our way to their vineyard and country house by 5:30 to swim and relax. And I left both of my swimsuits at Lyn’s in Los Nuñez. Sometimes I do not think clearly!

They walked me to the bodega near the old clock tower for wine, so I wanted to post before I left.  It’s like Cinderella and the glass slipper; if I don’t publish the blog before midnight, it won’t post the next morning on my readers’ email!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Hello Madrid: A Bittersweet Goodbye

 Barcelona streets are decorated with yellow ribbons, similar to the pink cancer ribbons.  We read the words surrounding them, but it wasn’t until yesterday that we learned what they meant.  During the recent coup when some people tried to separate Barcelona from Spain, a few people were imprisoned.  Many people in Barcelona/ Catalunya want these prisoners liberated, hence the yellow ribbons.  This sign makes me think it is part of the disgruntled factions, but I couldn’t begin to understand the complicated saga.  So, for me it is a sign that tells me there is unrest here just as there is around the world.  Despite these feelings in Barcelona, we never felt threatened or uneasy in this beautiful city.

Another train. Another bunch of jostling tourists.  A window seat across from a pleasant Spanish gentleman.  Listening to opera music on headphones. Beautiful panoramic vistas outside the train window.  Goodbye Barcelona. Hello Madrid.
Our hotel for the night is the Mediodía Hotel near the Atocha Train Estación and it’s a beautiful respite for us.  Two tall windows with balconies surrounded with black filigree above cafes and bars below us are special. Old world wood and character everywhere.  And a bathtub!

The metro was a challenge here, quite different than Barcelona, but several people saw our frustrations and helped immensely.  We returned to the Calle Postas, where we spent last week near the Plaza Mayor and found the shoe store where I’d purchased my polka dot shoes...where the Spaniard smilingly replaced them with a new pair. And I smiled as we walked away.  

Caroline had spied umbrella covered tables in a café on a side street, so we plopped down and then magic started happening.  I have never had this happen before.  First, the server brought each of us champagne flutes and filled them with rosé wine.  Then, a small plate of crisp bread pieces with a small dish of creamed cheese mixed with butter and dill AND tiny glasses of chilled gazpacho soup and a basket of bread.  And we hadn’t ordered any wine or a meal. The white table clothes and freshly-pressed white linen napkins were devine and we looked across the table at each other with raised eyebrows.  Caroline ordered pasta and I ordered a quinoa salad with shrimp. More rosé. And then? Wait for it! Champagne sorbet and Mango and Cheese pudding...without asking! Caroline enjoyed an Americano coffee with cream.  The ambience, smiling servers and peaceful interlude on the quiet street (no cars) was the perfect goodbye to Madrid for us.

With my shoes in hand, our 46,90 euros paid for the unequaled meal, and a feeling of contentment, we headed to the metro to ride back to the hotel.  Enough walking, we thought. And then we overshot the return ride and ended up deep in the bowels of the train station again, but we were okay with that since we could see the hotel from the exit doors.  

Tomorrow, Caroline flies back to America and I take a bus into the hills that lead to the villages of Toro and Fuentesaúco, the northern lands of my Spanish grandmother and her Silván, Trascasas, Marzo, Hernández and Gonzales families.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Goodbye Beautiful Barcelona

Sometimes it is lovely to wander without a timeline and today that is exactly what we did.  The Gothic District is too amazing for me to find words, so will post photos.

There was the large plaza, the Cathedral of Malaga, the narrow itty-bitty streets with buildings so high that our necks hurt looking for the tops toward the sky. We found several monuments and the antique archway alongside millions of other visitors.

There was a sea of people streaming through the narrow streets in the old district.  We saw street kids sleeping in doorways that broke our hearts, families with little children and old couples walking hand in hand.  There is an abundance of shops selling only socks, while others specialized in underwear.  Clothing stores that were so full of shoppers, we avoided those doorways.

And shoes.

I found shoes.  Espadrilles with thick soles to baby my feet.  It seems like I was walking on the cement and I was happy to replace my flip flops since I’d already tossed away my walking shoes. From then on, I studiously avoided looking into the doorways of the  shoe stores..  There are so many shoe shops here in Spain!!!

And sangria.  When our feet started to scream and stopped us in our tracks after walking past their limits, we found a nice little café on La Rambla to have a cold drink.  Caroline ordered her usual white wine and I asked for sangria.  When the waiter brought the glasses, it looked like a Mutt and Jeff cartoon.  My drink was huge!  I put a photo on Facebook with the promise that it took me two hours to drink it.  It’s a good thing Caroline remembered we were on the L7 metro to take us back to the hotel.  Wow.  And we did it without a problem.

Barcelona speaks a different Spanish, called Catalan.  I can understand a bit but we’ve been lucky to find many English speaking people.  The words are so different from the language I learned... for example, empanada in the south of Spain is empillada here in Barcelona. Words are close, but different.  Thankfully, people are nice and friendly here, just as they are in the other places I have been in.  It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people.  I love knowing its blood flows in my veins.

But, goodbye to Barcelona and tomorrow will be a quick hello and goodbye to Madrid.  It’s been a fun ride through Spain with Caroline.  Then, I’ll be back with cousins in one of my ancestral villages  (Toro and Fuentesauco) and speaking my Spanish again.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Mosaics, Curves and Stone...It’s Park Güell

Park Güell is high on a hill above central Barcelona, so there are no close metro stations.  I agonized and studied the maps to find the best route from our hotel.  Two years ago, I had taken a route that was so steep and arduous, I told Caroline, “not this time!”  But, alas, after we walked across a few blocks to ride a different metro to take us to the Vallcarca stop to save us steps, I found that it was the same route I’d taken before.  The advertising said escalators. Two years ago, there was one set of escalators, but all others up the very steep hill were not moving.  Millions of steps awaited us.  Maybe it’s been renovated, I said under my breath...I was wrong.  The first set was perfect.  And then a stone staircase  and a long sidewalk greeted us going up and up and up.  This is the first escalator we saw when we started upward.  Then the view from the first flat spot looking down to where we’d begun the crazy walk.  We were about a fourth of the way to the park entrance...
Caroline and I were frizzed out by the time we arrived, breathless, hot and exhausted.  We were 2-1/2 hours early because our timed ticket was 11:30.  Lots of water and sit-down time for us, but people watching and waiting finally took us to the time we could go into the park.  We’d seen spires on buildings, covered in the advertised mosaic beauties, but seeing it was over the top. Tall columns, stone caves, buildings and animals covered in thousands of various colored mosaics told a real story.  Again, Gaudí’s creativity was awesome. The special area was surrounded by a stone wall topped with serpentine shaped mosaics that looked like a gingerbread house.  Gorgeous.
I knew that Caroline probably would not follow me anywhere again if I didn’t lead us out without the massive trek we’d taken to get into the park.  Last time I was there, I didn’t get into the park because I was too exhausted to wait and explore, but I’d taken that walk from hell, so I’d found a secret route. Today, I remembered it and she is still talking to me. (Smile). Of course, we found a street café and had a cold drink that certainly made everything better.  Oh, and food.  We had food.

And then we wove our way to a metro, made the transfer to our train and arrived back at the hotel to sag with exhaustion.  And we are sure employing the Spanish routine of having a nice siesta.  We did that too.  Another 12,000 steps today.  I had to throw out my Vionic walking shoes...

Tomorrow: The cathedral, historic area and dinner at the port near the water.  That’s the plan.  We just need to avoid the stampeding Nigerians who will be running across the bridge to stake out their vendor spots.  We’ll be ready this time.