Monday, April 25, 2005

Viva Espagna

Frog and I got back last night from a fantastic long weekend in Valladolid.

We were in the region of Castilla y Leon (just over an hour north of Madrid) for the wedding of Frog's old college housemate, Dani. Dani is half-English and half-Spanish but grew up in Valladolid - his bride was also from the city.

One of the things that Frog and I discussed while we were away is that we have been extraordinarily lucky with the experience that living overseas has given us. Not only did we 'profit' from the experience at the time but we continue to have our lives enriched by a door into more travel, invitations and further introductions to new friends to be made in far flung places.

The highlights for me of the trip were:

  • Wedding Service: at the English College which is a church and seminary college for priesthood training for the English Catholics fleeing persecution in Protestant England & Wales (they may not still be fleeing following the English Reformation but they still come here to train!). A trilingual service including a bilingual homily by a Yorkshire Priest, sung service led by the English seminary students, selection of Spanish and English hymns (I could sing along to ones I knew which made me a little homesick!) and mass in Latin.

  • The food and wine: was fabulous. The region is famous flor its vino tinto and even Frog who doesn't usually touch the red stuff made his way comfortably through a couple of glasses. Leaving me to finish off the bottles!

    The city is also famous for its tapas. The night before the wedding a group of us made tour of bars, selecting the best tapas that each bar was renowned for. I have no idea what we were eating to tell you about but it was all yummy. Highlights I think were the raw ham.

    The local regional dish is lechazo asado which is a salted roast lamb. I loved it so much I ate it at the wedding dinner on Saturday night and again for lunch on Sunday. If you're not a fat fan you probably shouldn't order it but I an a self confessed fatty, and the crispness just melted in the mouth leaving a very tender meat. Frog is not a fatty but he ate a piece of baby bull steak on Sunday which was so soft that you could have cut the meat with a teaspoon. Miam miam.

    After getting used to Paris prices our jaws hit the ground when we got our bill for Saturday's 3 course lunch with wine - 22 euros! The waiter looked amused and Frog cringed as I took a photo of the magnificently simple pear poached in wine.

  • The reception: was held at the site of a large winery. Drinks (large balloon glasses of the famed vino tinto naturally) and canap├ęs were taken in the stone cellar amongst hundreds of wine barrels. Frog ran around snapping photos to take back ideas for the family house.

    Dinner was upstairs in the restaurant of the winery, seated for over 200 people and an amazing menu:

    Pickled Game Salad
    Monkfish with Pine Nuts
    Tropical Sorbet with Frozen Wild Berries
    Roast Lamb with Green Salad
    Pastry Dessert with Chestnut, Walnut and Mandarin Ice Cream *
    Local Eau de Vie
    Marinated Cherries dipped in chocolate

    I will dream for a while of the walnut and chestnut ice cream each filling their respective hollowed nut shells. Miam Miam!

  • Dancing: one of the things I love at French weddings is watching the traditional dances. In Spain there was a great selection of local dances with all Spanish guest joining in. I always find it's the older generation to watch when these come on - and the eighty something grannies didn't disappoint here with flourishes and kicks to put the average English wedding to complete shame.

  • Language: Usually when Frog and I are living or travelling we are fine on the language front. Between us we speak more than competently four languages (with the Frog pushing that average up). Spanish, however, is not one of them and we were both as linguistically lost as each other. Frog has more confidence to go up to a complete stranger and when all else fails I have Italian which I speak putting a thick Manuel accent on it in the hope that something will be understood! But the common lack of language put us on a fairly unique level playing field!

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