The Befouled Weakly News

26 November 2006

Penny & Greg's Spanish Siesta - Part 2


We left Seville on a sunny Saturday morning and managed to navigate our way out of the city without too many false starts – in spite of the excavations! We headed west across the rolling hills of Andalusía towards the coast at Sanlucár de Barrameda. After a pleasant drive of about an hour or so, having jousted with some wind mills along the way, we made our way to the centre of the town and managed to get hopelessly lost whilst looking for the maritime museum.

Had we found the museum we would have learned that Christopher Columbus sailed from here on his third voyage to the New World and that Sanlucár is also the place from whence Ferdinand Magellan sailed on his attempt to circumnavigate the globe. In spite of these historic connections, the town is now best known, it seems, for producing manzanilla, a light, dry sherry. Not being overly fond of sherry, we gave it a miss.

Windmills on the road to Sanlucár de Barrameda

Barrels of Manzanilla

The town seemed a pleasant enough, typical sea-side destination with a lovely bustling centre. After doing a bit of shopping and successfully locating a somewhat more detailed road map of Andalusía than the one which had been provided with the hire car, we set off on foot in the direction we were convinced lay the maritime museum. We toured several exceedingly uninteresting residential districts of the town until a pair of young señoritas finally agreed to point at a map and thus indicate where we were. Naturally, we were somewhat disappointed to discover that we were (a) several miles from where we thought we were and (b) several miles from the maritime museum. Having thoroughly exhausted ourselves with our unnecessary perambulations we decided that a retreat was in order so we trudged back to the centre of town and our subterranean car park to make our way a bit further down the coast. We then spent the next forty minutes or so driving around suitably uninteresting (but considerably more modern) villas and similar residential accommodation until we finally found a road heading more or less in the general direction we felt like heading.

Just a bit down the coast from Sanlucár is the seaside town of Chipiona and, since it was now about lunch time, we decided to stop and see what it had to offer. The guidebook describes Chipiona as a lively little resort town with a great beach and a holiday atmosphere. I have to confess, it all seemed just a bit run down and seedy although, to be fair, we weren’t there in the summer so perhaps the liveliness and holiday atmosphere is seasonal.

After a meander up and down the quay side we stopped for a bite to eat in one of the many cafés along the front, fortunately choosing the one which seemed to be open. After studying the menu for a few moments, Penelope suggested that I have the sea food platter and, against my better judgement (and, with hindsight I was completely justified in my hesitation) I did so. In fact, I had already settled on a plate of paella but, when confronted with someone telling you to order the sea food platter, what can one do? I should point out that, ordinarily, I would have leapt at the opportunity to consume a sea food platter but for some reason I fancied the paella and, you know what it’s like when you’ve set your mind on something. Nevertheless, when Penelope suggested the sea food platter I willingly agreed.

After a short time, the platter arrived and I was confronted with a mountain of deep fried sea food of all size, shape and descriptions sufficient to feed a medium-sized army (with or without intervention from the hand of Christ). I think the chef must have had a bet with the waiter that no one individual could eat their way through an entire sea food platter and, to make sure of winning the bet, he made mine a triple helping. Although I am ashamed to admit it, I was beaten and could only manage a pathetic two-thirds of the pile. Even more disappointingly, it was sufficient to put me off sea food and shellfish for the majority of the rest of the expedition.

Enjoying the warmth of the sunshine along the front at Chipiona

Greg's sea food platter (with the proprietor's wife in the background)

Whilst having our lunch we observed an amusing little tableau between the proprietor, the proprietor’s wife and a passing acquaintance of their’s. Unfortunately, I had my back to them so had to rely on Penelope’s interpretation of events along with what snatches of Spanish I could understand from their conversations. In short:

The proprietor and his wife are sitting out on the front simply watching the world go by when an acquaintance of their’s passes by, walking his dog which is on a lead. Clearly the acquaintance is just out walking and has no intention of stopping but naturally he says, “Hello” as he passes. The proprietor greets him fulsomely and invites him to join them. “No, no,” the chap says. He is just walking the dog and has many important things to do. Well, the proprietor insists and, as if to make his point, asks his friend for a cigarette.

This sparks off the wife who immediately starts complaining about how he is supposed to be giving up and he is always borrowing cigarettes from whomever comes by. As if cadging a cigarette isn’t sufficient, the proprietor then asks to borrows the friend’s newspaper and, upon being handed it, opens it out and proceeds to read. Naturally, by this time the friend has little option but to draw up a chair, sit down and share a cigarette (and any interesting bits of news from the newspaper) with his friend. However, sitting in a seaside café smoking a cigarette isn’t sufficient in and of itself so the friend feels obliged to order a glass of wine for the both of them. Meanwhile, the wife is continuing to castigate the husband because he smokes too much while at the same time taking the money for the wine from the friend.

They sit and chat and smoke and drink for a bit and then the friend clearly feels that he should order something else. So, he orders a bit of tapas which, naturally enough, he shares with the proprietor as he (the proprietor) continues to smoke his cigarettes, read his newspaper, drink his wine and now, of course, share his tapas. And still, the wife goes on.

So here we have the key to success in the Spanish café business: stop any friend or acquaintance who passes by and insist that they sit down and join you even though they are clearly keen to get on. Then, smoke their cigarettes, read their newspaper, and help yourself to the food and wine they have just paid you to provide. It’s a great way to run a business.

Ronda - Part 2

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