So I heard from Kenny a few hours ago that my family has returned safely to the United States. I am grateful they made it back without any problems, delays, cancellations or radical Nigerian terrorists; God knows they did not have such luck on their voyage to my side of the pond. While no one had attempted to thwart their flight via complicated syringe-bombs, they did have to deal with several delays, a canceled flight, and to top it all off, the airline lost their luggage. Despite the difficulty they faced in order to get to Spain, once they arrived everything got exponentially better.
Given the fact that they missed a flight, we decided to head straight to Autol, my town, immediately instead of spending one evening Logroño. Our timing could not have been better, however, because before we even stepped foot into my apartment we were cheerfully greeted in the hallway by my landlord and his children with their families. It just so happened to be his wife’s birthday and they were preparing a massive lunch celebration. Of course we were invited.
So before my family could soak in my new hometown or even shower, they were tossed into the ridiculous and overwhelming tornado shit-show that is the Spanish birthday lunch. I was fortunate enough to know what to expect. I was fully aware that we were to be presented with numerous appetizers, a variety of main courses and, most certainly, countless desserts. Did I mention that it was Christmas Eve? That means that in addition to each of the visitors bringing a desert from home, which they of course would because they are going to a birthday lunch, these women have been preparing sweets for Christmas-they were most likely pulling baked goodies out of the oven earlier that afternoon.
While I was confident that the lunch to go down in this manner, my family was not prepared to say the least.
In addition to surely feeling a little out of place, being in a Spanish family’s home just after meeting them for a big birthday fiesta and not speaking the language and all, Kenny, Virg and Clay were immediately bombarded with foreign and exotic food. We literally sat down and ate for about a 3 hours. The next day my dad recounted what we ate and we realized that in a 24 hour period we had literally eaten more than 10 different kinds of animals. Afterward we decided to walk it off, so I showed them my town. I took them by the school and into the old part of Autol, where we ran into some of my students. I then took them to Picuezo Park, which is still beautiful to me. That evening-after the necessary siesta-I took them bar hopping, which of course is customary on Christmas Eve in Spain. We had a really good time, I got to show them my favorite watering holes and they were constantly being greeted and welcomed by the locals, who were openly enthusiastic about the quadrupling of Americans in Autol as well as intrigued by the similarities between Clay and I.
On Christmas morning I gave them some presents (mine were still in their luggage, probably in Amsterdam). I had got my dad an authentic bota-the traditional cow skin sack you drink wine out of. Rob has one. This bota, however, was made by hand by an old man who has been doing it for decades and lives in a small nearby town of about 2000 people named Quel. I had bought my mom a Palestinian-style scarf in Granada along with an olive oil pourer. For Clay, a small bota covered in bull hair and an Islamic proverb painting I had found in Granada. That afternoon I cooked them lunch, which was quite tasty, and then we joined Carlos (my landlord) and his family in their bodega for drinks and desert.
The next morning we set off for Pamplona, which brought back cool memories for me since I was there last summer for the San Fermin Festival. I even walked them along the route of the bull run, which was a cool experience. We later had drinks and pinchos at Tkoko, a bar that Ernest Hemingway used to frequently visit.
Our last stop was San Sebastian for two nights. We could not have picked a better place to end the trip; I am fairly certain that San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is a centuries-old port city with some of the most stunning beaches in Europe and, given the amount of wealth that exists in the city, the architecture is fancy and excellent. Words to not do San Sebastian justice, so pictures will be posted on Facebook soon (for family, I will e-mail my parents the pictures and have them send them out to everyone). Moreover, let us not leave out the fact that this wonderful city is also one of the culinary capitals in the world. For the past 5 years 2 restaurants in San Sebastian have been listed in the top ten restaurants in the world-food is an art to these people. And given that it is a city with a pinchos culture, we were able to try just about anything we wanted. (Again, a ‘pincho’ is a small, individual serving of food that you get for about 1-2 euro, many bars have as many as 15 out on display for you to choose from). In fact, there really isn’t anything not to like about San Sebastian, unless you have something against beauty, seafood, or funny hats.
All in all, my family and I had a really good time together. It had been the longest we had ever spent apart, and the fact that we got to experience Christmas from a different perspective in Spain made it more unique and special.
By the way, Kenny, Virg, and Clay still do not have their luggage, I just hope the airline wasn’t trying to send it back to Lafayette via Detroit on Christmas Day.
Hope everyone had a good Christmas and has a Happy New Years