Visiting Spain – March 2013

April 06, 2013 By: erik Category: Colindres, Family, Photos, Spain, Travel 384 views

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The following is a document written by my father, Paul Rasmussen, about his trip to visit us in Spain in March 2013.

Drinks in Laredo

Tuesday and Wednesday

We dropped the dogs off at the kennel at 8:30 am, and an hour later we were at the Charlotte airport long-term parking lot. We flew to snowy Toronto, waited there for four hours, and boarded the flight to Dusseldorf around 5 pm. We landed in Germany at 6:20 am on Wednesday, enjoyed a croissant and coffee, and then waited three more hours for our flight to Bilbao. Our son Erik met us there, and an hour later we arrived at his home in Colindres.

En Bar El Puerto

While extracting our luggage from the car, we scanned the school playground across the street and saw Nora sitting with her friend, Claudia. She saw us and waved energetically, but would not cross the 100 meters to greet us at the fence. This was normally her one o’clock to three o’clock lunch break at home, but Erik had arranged for her to stay at school for lunch, which she saw as a special treat.

Marga, when workload allows, has arranged to work seven hour days as she approaches the end of her pregnancy. She got home about five minutes after we arrived, and we soon sat down to a delicious homemade chicken noodle soup.

Reading with Grandpa

Reading books to Nora is my favorite thing to do next to golf

At 4:30 Marga, Betsy and I walked across the street to collect Nora as she exited her school. Almost all of the parents greet their child after school by immediately handing them a sandwich. Instead of heading home after school, most children engage in an hour or three of playground activity. Many parents bring bikes or scooters which their children ride with great skill and speed.

A light dinner meal of lomo, cheese, bread, olives and wine hit the spot, and soon it was time for me to take a short bath and go to bed.

Thursday

Marga begins work at 7:00, and is always gone before anybody else gets up. I rose a little before 7:30. After breakfast, dressing and playing, it was soon close to 9:30 and time to take Nora across the street to school. School entrance is quite regimented. First the big kids enter (first graders through sixth graders for you Americans), then the Elephants (5 year-olds), followed by the Bears (4 year-olds), with Nora and the other Turtles entering last. The Turtles have been taught to each grab hold of the back of the coat of the Turtle in front of them every time they enter and exit the building, and they entered the school like a train.

School and Home

Nora’s school can be seen over Betsy’s head, and her home is over mine

We took the 20 yard walk from school to the Susinos grocery store, where we always do most of our grocery shopping. The Susinos brothers and sisters who own and work in the store are all friends, and we spend more time talking and joking with them than we do shopping. After dropping our groceries off at home, Erik, Betsy and I set off on a walk through town. Erik showed us the new cruasanterí­a in town, and we sampled their wares before returning home.

Nora with GrandpaAt 1:00 we crossed the street to pick up Nora, and then stopped by Susinos to buy the day’s bread (2 loaves) before returning home for lunch. Nora had soupy soup with stars, and after Marga got home around 2:15 the adults had macaroni with chicken and chorizo. At 3:00 we took Nora back to school, and then came home for a much-needed 90 minute rest.

At 4:30 Betsy and I picked up Nora and gave her a sandwich. She didn’t feel like playing on the playground, so after a little bit of discussion it was decided that I should go get her bicycle. We watched her ride around the area surrounding the church, and at 6:30 we stopped by El Tablón for a drink and some peanuts. When we were done I asked Nora if she would like to go home now or go to one more bar. She thought for a second and then said, “Six more bars!” That’s my granddaughter.

We stopped at La Comarca, the Montecarlo, and the Radio Café, but then headed home for dinner (tortilla de patatas), bath and bed. I was pretty tired.

Friday

I got up at 7:40 after just two hours sleep. I typically have trouble sleeping after traveling to Spain, and this trip was no exception. I enjoyed a homemade donut with coffee, and soon it was time to walk to Nora’s 9:00 doctor appointment, for her four-year checkup. She was examined first by the nurse. He took her vital signs, asked some questions, checked her vision one eye at a time, and poked at her stomach, and then, after a brief wait outside, we went to the doctor’s examination room. She had Nora stand on some contraption which allowed her to examine the bottoms of her feet and her weight distribution, poked her some more, and pronounced her to be in good health. There was, of course, no charge of any kind, since medical services in advanced cultures, like police and fire services, are covered by one’s taxes. Nora was barely ten minutes late to school. As always, she was glad to see Viky, her teacher, and never looked back.

Market Strawberries

There is a traveling street market which sets up in Colindres every Friday. Erik buys olives there each week from the same olive vendor. We also bought two kilos of beautiful fresh strawberries. We walked the food home, and then set out again on our noon bar crawl. We never have more than one small drink at each bar, and we generally select from the 40 bars in town based on the quality of the free food they give you with your drink. A small glass of very good red wine is dramatically improved by a couple of bites of good food. As is the custom in Spain, we each took a turn picking up the tab. Depending on the bar, the cost for our three drinks varied between three and four Euros. An hour is easily enough time to stop at three places. TIP: If there are just three of you and you have more than an hour to spend on this activity, you may want to avoid paying at the first stop, since it will once again be your turn at the fourth.

At one o’clock we picked up Nora at school, stopped by Susinos to buy bread, and went home to prepare macaroni for Nora’s lunch. Nora played with her grandparents until Marga came home at 2:15, and then we enjoyed lentils, bread, wine and olives. At 3:00 Betsy and I walked Nora back to school, and then came home for a brief siesta.

Photographer and Family

At 4:30 Betsy and I walked back to school to get Nora. Once again she didn’t want to play with the other recently released kids on the playground, so we walked home, where we played in the living room for four hours. First we read five books twice each, followed by a long session of tower building.

Nora and I have a very good relationship, at last in part because of all the video conferencing we have done in the last year. She kisses me and tells me she loves me, which I find incredible, considering how little time we have been able to spend with each other. Her attachment to Betsy, however, is a hundred times stronger. She attached herself to Betsy almost immediately on this trip, and almost literally never let go. The two of them even went to the bathroom together.

Nora’s energy is almost limitless, but her imagination knows no bounds. A short list of games she invented while we were there includes the following:

Two Mommies and a Baby – I am the baby and lie on the couch, but not wearing my glasses because babies don’t wear glasses. Betsy and Nora are the mommies. They use a washcloth (the role of the washcloth is played by a cinnamon gum wrapper), dipping it lightly in a glass of water to wet it, and then gently wash my face and hands. Then the other mommy dries me with a napkin.

Sleeping GirlsTwo Babies and a Daddy – Betsy and Nora are the babies, and I am the Daddy. I put them to bed, cover them up, and tell them a story, and in the morning they choose their own clothes and dress themselves before walking themselves to school. Very soon it is time for bed again.

Library – I am the librarian. Nora pushes her baby in the stroller to the Library and checks out four or five books (the books are actually magnetic letters). She walks them home (around the couch) and reads them with Betsy, then returns them to the Library. Sometimes she doesn’t return all the books she took, in which case she must pay a fine.

Teacher and Students – Sometimes Nora is the teacher. When this is the case, she obviously mimics her beloved teacher Viky. She places four books on the floor in front of her and asks who would like to go first. If you raise your hand she says “OK, come and choose one and take it back to your seat”. If someone displays inappropriate behavior she sends them to the “boring chair”. More often, I was the teacher. using the blackboard she had gotten for her birthday from her Abuelos, I made my Building Towers
students write letters of the alphabet and numbers. Nora was very good at writing her letters, especially the letters “N”, “O”, “R” and “A”.

Doctor – Nora has a doctor kit, and this is used by the person playing doctor to perform an examination of a patient. A normal exam includes listening to the heart, taking the temperature (under the arm) testing the patellar reflex, and examining the eyes, ears, nose and throat.

Two Policeman and a Bad Guy – Nora and Betsy are always the Policemen, and I am always the bad guy. My bad acts varied from speeding, to stealing, to snapping a rolled-up wet towel at Betsy. All bad acts resulted in either a monetary fine, or being arrested and placed in jail. When the game was played during walks, my repertoire expanded to include purse snatching.

Breaking Out of Jail – A natural extension of Two Policemen and a Bad Guy, this game requires me to escape from jail (the couch). The policemen, after putting me in jail, would look the other way for 10 seconds, and I was expected to escape and go hide. I tried hiding in the hall, the bathroom, the balcony, behind the couch and in the refrigerator, but I was always caught and hauled back to finish my sentence.

Hey You Guys! – This game was played when out walking around town. I was instructed to go ahead of Betsy and Nora, and they would catch me and run past me. When they did I would say “Hey!”, or “Hey You!”, or “Hey You Guys”, which always made Nora laugh and run faster.

Making Grandpa Count – Played during meals, usually when her parents wanted her to eat more but Nora said she wasn’t hungry (and wanted to move directly to the dessert course). Grandpa was forced to say a number each time Nora took another bite. I was always annoyed and exasperated with being made to say yet another number, which provided sufficient reinforcement to Nora to make her continue until her food was all eaten.

Offal is WHAT??

I tried to explain what “offal” was to Nora, but she was perplexed.

At 8:30 Betsy, Nora and I sat down to a meal of leftover tortilla de patatas, cheese and bread. Erik and Marga had decided to go out to eat with their Friday night friends, something they had not been able to do since December.

Nora went through her normal bedtime routine, with Daddy reading her a book before tucking her in. She knew Mommy and Daddy were going out and she didn’t like it, but she didn’t protest too much. She didn’t cry, but as I lay in bed I heard her singing softly to herself. The melody seemed to be Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but I couldn’t make out the words. I got up and stood outside her door, but still couldn’t determine whether she was singing in Spanish, Basque, or nonsense.

Drinks in Laredo

I would like to walk up this 500 year old street from 12 to 2 every day

After sleeping for two hours, she got up at 11:30 and came into our room to ask Grandma to tuck her back in to bed. She stayed there about 30 minutes before returning to ask if Grandpa could tuck her back in. I was flattered, and quick to do so. A few minutes later though, she returned to ask if Grandpa could stay with her until Mommy and Daddy came home. I wasn’t sure about that until I heard the soft “please” at the end of her sentence. I tucked her back in, and curled up at the foot of Erik and Marga’s bed where I breathed audibly. Fifteen minutes later I got up to go to the bathroom. I checked on her before returning to bed, and saw her sitting up in bed. I explained that I had gone to the bathroom, but I was back now, tucked her in again, and curled back up at the foot of the their bed. At 1:00 I heard Erik and Marga return, and I slipped back across the hall.

Saturday

I was the first one up, and read in the living room until it was time to walk to the new cruasanterí­a to buy the day’s bread and breakfast. Since I wanted five croissants instead of the two they had, I had to wait 5 minutes, so I enjoyed a café con leche. Returning home, I found the family sitting around the breakfast table debating whether I had gotten lost. The croissants were warm and tasted great.

Making Cookies

After Marga and Betsy washed and dried Nora’s hair, Erik and Marga drove to Laredo to do six errands while the three of us played and played and played. Betsy had brought chocolate chips from home, and Betsy and Nora made chocolate chip cookies for Nora to take to school and share with her classmates on Monday. We got most of lunch ready, and when Erik and Marga got home from their shopping I quickly cooked the 7 sausages we had gotten from Bruno the Butcher the day before and we ate those along with fresh bread, sheep cheese, olives, and a green salad.

Around 3:00 Erik, Betsy, Nora and I made the five minute drive to Laredo so we could walk on the beach. We also stopped at a few bars. The 500 year old section of Laredo has some wonderful small bars, but most of them close in the afternoon since most self-respecting Spaniards are home sleeping off their late lunch.

We returned to Colindres around 7:00, but instead of going home we walked through town, stopping at a couple of bars along the way for some Rioja. We met up with Marga, who had been taking her own walk at her eighth-month pregnant pace. While Nora played at the playground in the park, I watched a Cantabrian bowling match between two 4-man teams and tried to figure out the rules to the complex game.

Cantabrian Bowling

The ball’s second throw is made from where it ended on its first.

We returned home around 8, and Marga and Erik prepared a lovely green salad with grilled salmon for dinner. Soon afterwards I took a hot bath and went to bed.

Sunday – Nora’s Fourth Birthday

After my first good night’s sleep since crossing the ocean, I was the first one up. At 9:30 Betsy and I walked to the cruasanterí­a to buy five croissants and two loaves of bread (one loaf for lunch, and one loaf for dinner). After breakfast Betsy and Nora swept up the crumbs, then went upstairs to dress Nora. Later we played School, one of Nora’s favorite games. We alternated between Nora being the teacher and Betsy and I being the students, and Nora being the student while Betsy was the teacher. After a while we changed to Two Mommies and a Baby. She and Betsy were the mommies and I was the baby. My job was to lie on the couch and not speak, and also to not wear my glasses, since babies don’t wear glasses.

Paul and Juan

Juan and I pretended we like wine so as to fit in with The Drunks behind us.

Erik and I drove to the home of his friends Agustí­n and Ana to borrow their large paella pan, along with its stand and propane tank. Back at home he assembled it on the balcony, and we settled in to wait for Marga’s parents, Juan and Marce, and her sister Belén to arrive. Marga’s parents don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Spanish, but is always good to see them, and we manage to communicate in many small ways.

Rice with Lobster

We all went down to the street and walked to the far side of town, then stopped at three bars on the way back home. Erik killed and grilled the lobster, and propane’d the paella. Soon we were enjoying a delicious lobster paella. This was followed by a beautiful birthday cake, and quite a few birthday presents for Nora. Around five I went upstairs for a short nap.

Nora knows to never go down the slick hardwood stairs unless she is wearing her slippers or her shoes, but I had to learn the hard way. Halfway down, my socked feet slipped, and my grip on the rail failed. I slid down the last six steps on my backside. I bounced to my feet before witnesses could gather, and managed as best I could to pretend nothing was wrong for an hour or so until Marga’s parents had left. An injury inventory revealed left hand blood blister, a black swollen toe on the right foot, and a bruise on my lower back. Basically, I was fine.

Andrés, Paul and Bruno

With my friends, Andrés and Bruno, at the Susinos grocery store.

After some cheese, bread, jamón, Rioja and 600 milligrams of ibuprofen, I took a hot bath and went to bed.

Monday

I had just coffee and freshly-squeezed orange juice for breakfast this morning. We took Nora to school, along with juice and cookies for all her classmates and teachers, then we went to Susinos for oranges, wine, fresh green beans and bacalao (salted cod). We took it all home, and then left again to run some errands, including buying spinach, going to the post office, and filling a prescription at the pharmacy. Wherever we go in Colindres, we always walk.

At noon we left home again. Nora gets out of school at 1:00, and an hour is just enough time to walk to the far side of town, and stop at three bars on the way back to Nora’s school. Even when not accompanied by Nora, we tend to get favorable treatment in the Colindres bars due to the friendships she has made. At the last bar we visited we seemed to be the only customers served complimentary tapas (mussels in sauce) along with our Rioja.

Breakfast

Belén, Betsy and Erik enjoy their pastry and coffee at new cruasanterí­a.

We always stop at Susinos on our way home from school to pick up our daily bread – two loaves, one for lunch and one for dinner. We don’t eat day-old bread here. Any partial loaves left over from the day before are placed in a bag and passed along to Marga’s father, who returns them in the form of chicken eggs. At 3:00, we made the two minute walk back to school, and then headed home for my siesta.

At 4:30 we went back to pick up Nora. Her friend Claudia came home with us, much to Nora’s delight. With Betsy’s help, the two girls used scissors and tape to hack apart and reunite pictures from a workbook we had brought from the States. After Claudia’s father arrived to pick her up, we settled down to a long game of Library. After a pleasant meal of cheese, bread, wine, and a delicious tomato and green bean dish, I took a bath and went to bed.

Tuesday

I took the six minute walk to the cruasanterí­a earlier today, and arrived home with five croissants shortly after 8:30. After breakfast Betsy took Nora up to get her dressed, and we had time to play Library for ten minutes before walking across the street to school. Betsy, Erik and I returned the propane tank and large paella pan to Erik’s friend Ana, and then we walked to the bank. Betsy and I went in to request change for a hundred euro note, while Erik used the ATM outside the bank.

At the Alameda

Red wine is a staple of Paul’s noon to one o’clock walk around town.

We returned home long enough to collect Belén, who had stayed for an extra day, and then we took a long walk by the waterfront. All the fishing boats were out to sea, and the tide was quite low. In Colindres there is a 500 yard difference between high tide and low tide. When the tide is out, seagulls and herons walk through the mud poking around for tasty morsels, and row boats sit at awkward angles waiting for their twice-a-day float. Although it was not quite wine time, my whining and sore back, and Betsy’s hankering for croquetas resulted in a stop shortly before noon. As we were finishing, Belén suggested that we all drive to Laredo to visit the mushroom bar there prior to dropping her off at the bus station. The timing was tight, however, since we needed to pick up the four year-old when she exited her school at 1:00. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), three circuits of the town revealed no parking spots, so we pushed Belén out of the car at the bus station, stopped for gas, and went to school.

Eating LentilsLunch consisted of a big bowl of lentils. Nora stubbed up after the first four spoonfuls, so we invented the Making Grandpa Count game, and exactly 40 bites later her bowl was empty. Marga had to work a little late, so Erik, Betsy and I enjoyed a meal of pork chops and asparagus. At 3:00 we took Nora back to school, and then Betsy and I lay down for a short siesta.

At 4:30 we went back to pick her up. It was raining, aborting our plan to walk around town. Back at home, we spent the next four hours alternating between Tower Building, Fathering the Babies (this time I was the father, and Betsy and Nora were the babies), Teacher and Students (I was the teacher), and Library.

In El Tablón

Paul, Nora and Betsy like to walk to the El Tablón and smash peanuts.

I enjoyed a fine dinner of grilled langostinos and green salad, along with bread, wine, cheese and olives, of course, and then it was time for the susto (Nora hides somewhere in her bedroom, and her Daddy walks loudly into the room determined to find her, but he never can, and she jumps out and tackles him yelling “¡Susto!“), bath and bed.

Wednesday

Croqueta Eater

I got up before eight and made the six minute walk to the bakery at 8:30. I was given a complimentary pastry, which cemented my customer loyalty. After our customary breakfast, Nora got dressed and we took her to school. We had five errands to run, and, walking here and there, we completed them before 11.

At 11:45 we went back out onto the street and stopped at two bars before heading to Nora’s school. Today was “Field Day”, which meant a day of constant play, with school ending for the week at 1:00. Parents were invited to attend for the last hour or so, which consisted mostly of all the younger students sitting on benches watching the older students playing basketball against the teachers. The teachers’ clear height advantage was offset by three extra players on the student team, and the final score was very close. The basketball was severely under inflated, so dribbling was not possible. The resulting no-dribble game was fun to watch. If I ever meet Roy Williams I will suggest that he use under inflated balls in some of the Tar Heel practice sessions.

We bought two loaves of bread at Susinos, and stopped at El Tablón on our way home for three glasses of Rioja and a mosto (grape juice) for Nora, along with a bowl of peanuts. Back at home, Nora enjoyed a bowl of soupy stars while playing Making Grandpa Count (to 64!), and then Erik, Betsy and I enjoyed macaroni and sausage, along with wine, bread and olives.

Reading Books

Nora is exceptionally attached to her grandmother, but she likes me too.

After lunch, as Erik went to his office to work, Betsy, Nora and I began a marathon 6.5 hour play session. The majority of that time consisted of a combination of Fathering (me) the Babies (Betsy and Nora), and Teacher (me) and Students (Betsy and Nora). Five times I put the girls to bed, told them a bedtime story, turned out the light, turned it back on, made them get dressed, prepared their breakfast, and sent them along to school. After walking three times around the dining room table, they arrived at school, sat in their chairs and received instruction from the teacher in numbers and letters.

Thursday

Today was the beginning of the Easter holiday. No school for Nora, and no work for Marga. I was hoping Marga would sleep until 9, but she got up shortly after me, around 8. I left at 8:10 for the bakery, only to find they were closed until 8:30 due to the holiday. Perversely that pleased me, as it allowed me to knock one more minor thing off my Spain bucket list by stopping at a bar for a café con leche.

Drawing With Grandma

Practicing letters on the chalkboard Nora got for her birthday.

With no school, the day unfolded at a more leisurely pace. After breakfast Nora and her Grandmother swept up the breakfast crumbs, most of which were under my chair, and then Nora was bathed. Soon I was back in my teacher role, with Betsy and Nora as my students. I led them through gym class (rolling a ball back and forth), music class (toy trumpet and harmonica), numbers and letters at the blackboard, and reading, before sending them home (three times around the dining room table) for their imaginary lunch.

We left at 11:55 to get bread at Susinos, running the whole way, since Susinos was closing at noon due to the holiday. On our way home we managed to stop at two bars. Nora had warm broth at the first, and a mosto at the second.

Back at home, play continued briefly, but at one o’clock Erik suggested that his parents and daughter accompany him on a paseo (walk). One mile and three bars later we returned for lunch – fried cod and something called repápalos, which nobody but Marga and her mother make. Made with onion, egg, milk, and cilantro, it was very good.

After lunch I cat-napped (sorry, donkey-napped, as it is called in Spain) on the couch, while Betsy and Nora continued full-tilt all around me. When I regained sensibility, they were in the playhouse playing Doctor with Nora’s doctor kit. I was given a quick examination, and then promoted to doctor. As the afternoon progressed, we played many imagination games, and invented a few new ones, and soon it was time for dinner, bath and bed.

Good Friday

The morning progressed in the usual holiday fashion, with a bakery run followed by dressing Nora and playing with Nora until 11:30, when the five of us got in the car and made the short drive to Laredo. There are never any parking spots available in this popular beach resort town, and this day was no exception. Erik dropped us off in the middle of town, and we waited there for ten minutes while he parked on the outskirts and walked back. The weather was warm and the sky was blue, and we walked to the 500 year-old section of town, stopping at a few bars for drinks and tapas. The second place we stopped was El Guti, my favorite restaurant in Laredo. It is owned and run by Erik’s friend José Luis, and we always get great service there. I watched José Luis’ son prepare mushrooms. He fried them lightly on both sides, made small cuts on the tops, added a dab of a mayonnaise garlic sauce to each, and topped them with a toothpick holding a small shrimp, and put the whole thing on a small piece of bread. It was delicious.

Mushrooms in El Guti

I am anxious to try what I learned watching a professional tapas maker.

Back home, we enjoyed a dish of beans and spinach. This morning’s lovely weather had taken a turn for the worse, and when it began to rain we settled in for a long afternoon of play. Mothering the Babies turned into School, which turned into Two Policemen and a Bad Guy, which turned into a very long session of Breaking Out of Jail. Some time around 8:30 Marga made a tortilla de patatas, and at nine – you guessed it – bath and bed for me.

Saturday

Nobody else was up when I left at 8:30 on my regular walk to the bakery, so I swung by the El Chade bar for a small café con leche. The three old men – okay, my age! – at the bar each had a narrow glass with a small handle at the base filled with something that looked like my favorite grass liqueur, but I didn’t know how to say “I’ll have what they are having”.

Sushi

After breakfast and Nora dressing, we went to Susinos to buy groceries. Back at home we played until noon, and then Erik, Betsy, Nora and I went out to visit a few bars, including some I had not been to. A little before 2:00, Erik called Marga, and she met us at our fourth bar. Soon we walked the fifty feet from there to my favorite Colindres restaurant, the Sakura, a Japanese restaurant run by a local Chinese family.

I like Japanese food, Chinese food, and one-price-covers-everything restaurants, and this offered all three. After Japanese shrimp dumplings, tempura shrimp, tempura vegetables, sushi, sashimi, prawns, fried rice, fried chicken legs, duck in Japanese sauce, Japanese soup, Japanese noodles and two orders of giant prawns, we had ice cream and flan for dessert. We had coffee and several bottles of water, and Erik and I also each had a pitcher of hot sake, and a plum liqueur. The bill for the five of us came to 64 Euros. When the waitress delivered the bill, she explained that there was no charge for the pitchers of sake and the plum liqueurs. I have no idea why.

Fishing Boats

For hours after the fishing boats come in, the Colindres harbor is hopping.

We spilled out of the restaurant about 4:00, but instead of heading home we went for a slow three hour walk around town. The fishing boats were all moored in the harbor. When they are all there, they are double-parked for 500 yards. The tide was high, and we walked the full length of the waterfront to the far side of town, and then back slowly to the park near their home, where Nora played with her Grandmother on the swing as Marga watched. Erik and I watched a Cantabrian bowling match between two teams of four, and tried to figure out the rules and scoring.

In Limpias

Nora and Betsy logged many miles together, always hand-in-hand.

Back home at 7:00, I enjoyed an early bath while Betsy and Nora mixed up the dough for chocolate chip cookies they would bake the next day. After a lengthy game of Two Cops and a Bad Guy, we sat down a little after 9:30 for some ham (both jamón serrano and lomo) and cheese (five varieties of Cantabrian cheese) on fresh bread. After setting the clocks ahead one hour, I slipped off to bed around 11:30.

Easter Sunday

I had been getting up each morning at ten to eight, for no good reason, and today was no exception, although my watch said ten to nine. I walked by the church on my way to the bakery, and observed those entering. Erik had told us earlier in the week that the only people in town who wore ties were the bankers, and I noticed Easter Sunday didn’t change that. I stopped at the Bar La Mar for a small coffee, and was home with the day’s breakfast pastry at 9:45. Only Marga had risen (with the possible exception of Jesus).

Plum Liqueur

In a rare photograph, Paul is captured with a drink in his hand.

After breakfast we piled into the car and drove three miles to the neighboring own of Limpias. The weather was great, and we had a good time walking by the river. We stopped at one bar for a drink, and then walked back through town to the car. Back in Colindres, it was time to walk around town visiting with friends at bars along the way. At 2:30 we went to Willy’s for the Meníº del Dí­a. I had croquetas, shrimp, fried squid and asparagus for my first course, a breaded steak for my second course, and Willy’s special flan with coffee and a grass liqueur. As is our custom, instead of walking home after our meal, we turned the other way and walked the long way home, along the waterfront, arriving home a little after five o’clock.

Sunny Sidewalk

With 40 bars to choose from, it was not hard to find a table in the sun.

At 6:45 we struck out again. We walked to the Gurugíº bar, which has a nice outside sitting area. I had a piña colada, and we spent about an hour playing Teacher and Four Students, with Nora as the teacher. At 8:30 we walked home, and Betsy and Nora baked up a batch of cookies. Nora was particularly proud of the huge cookie she made for herself.

Marga made some wonderful french onion soup, which went great with bread and cheese. After the normal Nora bedtime routine, I hit the sack about 10:30.

Monday

I made my last trip to the bakery a little after 9:00. I explained to my friend there that I would not be back tomorrow, and she shook my hand and wished me a safe journey home.

We enjoyed an adult breakfast, as Nora chose to sleep in. She woke around 10:30, and didn’t finish her breakfast until after 11:00.

Shortly after noon Erik, Nora, and I went to Susinos to buy our daily bread. Nora and Betsy presented Ana, Bruno and Andrés with a bag of chocolate chip cookies. They were well received.

After returning home, we picked up Marga, and we all went for a walk around town. Four times we stopped at a bar for a drink and some tapas. We returned home about 2:30 for a good lunch of beef, potatoes and peppers stew.

In Westfalia

Family is very very important in Spain, and to me too.

After lunch, Marga rested and Erik went to work in his office, and Betsy, Nora and I played School. I was the teacher. After much discussion, Nora was given the designation of “in charge”. At Nora’s school, each child takes his or her turn being “in charge”. Duties include calling the role, handing out juice, and a variety of other major responsibilities. It is quite a privilege.

At 5:00 Marga, Nora, Betsy and I went out to the playground. Nora swung on the swing, and generally avoided social interactions with other children. At 6:00 Betsy and I went for a short walk and then returned home to begin packing for the next day’s trip. When Marga and Nora came home we played Two Cops for a bit, and Jailbreak for a bit, but Nora’s energy exhausts me, and at 7:30 I took an early bath.

Marga made lemon chicken for dinner. Afterwards we sat around the table watching Nora say and do cute things. She negotiated playing three more games, selecting Cops and Bad Guy, Daddy and Babies, and School with Grandpa as teacher. In our final game I wrote “NORA” on the blackboard and asked Nora to write her name right under it. Success!

The whole trip was a success. Marga was lovely, and more importantly seemed healthy. Erik continues to do well at his job, and is clearly enjoying his life in Spain. At four Nora is prettier and more verbal than Erik had been at that age. Being able to spend almost two weeks with them was a real treat. I am a lucky man.

Drinks in Laredo

 
  • http://twitter.com/kaleymuchomas Kaley

    A really fun entry! I love your dad’s entries.

    Anyway, I know my parents can relate to him, because they don’t speak Spanish and Mario’s parents don’t speak English (well, his dad, newly retired, is learning), but they do manage to communicate.

    Nora is indeed very imaginative! I love hearing about her linguistic journey. I told Mario about the “itchy” (picante) food, and we both loved it!

  • http://twitter.com/simon1972 simon1972

    I dea for a drinking game: drink every time you see a photo of Paul with a glass in his hand.