Hola! I’ve ended up in Spain, totally unplanned, unprepared for and amazing.
I picked up a car in Barcelona and felt like a week in the Spanish countryside, because, why not. Booked an Airbnb in a town on top of a hill in the lower Pyrenees area of Catalonia and set off driving on the right (wrong in my books) side of the road.
I’ve driven on this side of the road before in America and Canada and had one of the most stressful and terrifying driving experiences on a highway in Los Angeles, wrong side of the road, people yelling…you get the idea…so I was feeling confident about driving in Spain.
Turns out I’d hired a manual, which also doesn’t phase me, except that the gearstick is on the right. I spent the first two days automatically going to change gears with my left hand and smacking it on the door. Hence the bruised knuckles. I’ve finally got the hang of it, and I’m reverse parking on the wrong side of the road like boss.
The tiny town of Talarn sits on a hill overlooking the Tremp Basin, surround by mountains covered in olive trees, vineyards and goats with bells. There is a church, two restaurants and a pharmacy.
On the first night I was invited to my Airbnb hosts house for dinner and spent a wonderful evening with them eating amazing freshly cooked tapas, French and Spanish cheeses, drinking beautiful Spanish wine looking over the whole valley and mountains while eating the grapes off the vine hanging above us. What a way to start Spain! They spoke passionately about the Catalonian referendum and we talked about life in Spain and Australia and the love of good food, family, good wine and enjoying life to the fullest.
Apparently, the largest wine producer in Spain hired the greatest vigneron in the world to search all of Spain for the best place to make wine. This vigneron decided on the Tremp Basin, so the company built their vineyard there. The vigneron, clearly onto something, built his vineyard 2km away and when he dug down into the soil on the hill discovered that monks (those crafty monks) hundreds of years ago had also had a vineyard there and had built massive stone vats into the hill, which the vigneron still uses, and produces the best wine in Spain. The monks knew how to make a drop!
I spent the next day driving north in the Pyrenees mountains towards France where the mountains turn from arid dry stone with flocks of 20 vultures with a two metre wing span, circling high above terracotta stone houses perched below 300-year-old churches, into the Spanish ski fields with French inspired chateau’s and fondue on the menu.
Given this detour of life of ending up in Spain, I was unprepared for the Spanish language. My ability to speak any Spanish comes from my brief watching of Dora the Explorer. But I’m trying. I can say “hello” (grassy arse), “goodbye”, “thank you”, and “where’s the monkey, can you find the monkey?” That’s it. And truth be told, I’m yet to find the monkey, there’s the same pause Dora gets after she’s asks a question and no one seems keen to help.
I went out for dinner one evening at one of the two local restaurants and ordered the “especialidad local”, that I’m assuming is the local speciality, which I’m always keen to try out. I’d ordered the house wine which came in a bottle sized carafe (challenge accepted), and sat waiting for my special, listening to the rocking beats of ABBA. Dinner was at 9pm which is boarding on the early side here in Spain, but I was about to eat my arm, so I was the only person in the restaurant. It became apparent that the owners and the waitress were talking and laughing about me at one stage, which is the second time that’s happened here in Spain, I’m hoping it’s the monkey thing and not just my face in general.
The “especialidad local” arrived and smelt delicious, I dived into the fried slices of meat and rice and after bite two had an inkling I may be eating offal, the casing around it kind of gave it away. Not a big offal person, I do eat most things but life’s too short to eat offal, but like the good girl I was brought up to be I ate the lot and showed my gratitude (washing it down with a carafe of wine helped). As I left the owner asked how my “especialidad local” was, and said the word “haggis” …yep…awful, I mean offal, I mean it was delicioso (just pop a ‘so’ or a ‘es’ on the end of most words and you’re half way there.)
Since then, Spain hasn’t showcased much of its gastronomical flare:
But the search for the monkey, monks and tapas continues…
Nugget of Wisdom
Endeavour to learn more of a language than what you learn from a talking monkey