españa, wednesday day 1: estepona.

I know I haven't written more than 100 words in total out here over the past few months, I'm just going to ignore that fact and pick up as if nothing had happened, hope that's OK fictional readers.


I learned and/or was reminded of a few things when I was in Spain last week. One: if you're going to a country where you don't speak-a the language: izza really helpful to travel with someone who does. Is 392 times even more helpful if that person's family has owned houses in that country for many years and is a kind and gracious enough person to let you stay at these places. In other words: get started making wonderful new multilingual friends with expatriate tendencies and exotic tastes!!!

Two: I learned/was reminded that I don't know aaaaaaaaaaanything. I've been interested in the Spanish kitchen for several years now, and have cooked a pretty good amount of what I considered to be "Spanish food". The Spanish cookbooks I own are not "fancy" by any stretch of the imagination: Penelope Casas' "Tapas" doesn't even have any pictures for chrissakes, and it has like 8 different but very similar recipes for tuna salad. Unfancy. José Andrés' "Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America" is slightly fancier in that it has glossy well-staged pictures, but the recipes generally have less than 10 ingredients and can be easily cooked in an hour or so.

Annnnnyway, my point is, I kind of thought I knew what I was doing/ordering/etc. I did not.


Luckily/unluckily, our journey begins somewhere utterly familiar and well-known: Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Our flight to Málaga was at 06:50, yes that's early, meaning we had to be at the airport by say 05:30 at the latest, meaning that the alarm was set for 04:30, which is, yes, early.

If you're like me, or if you're actually me, you're liable to make some not-so-good decisions under these circumstances, and let's just say I did not disappoint: below is my toasted "broodje Caprese" breakfast idea. You're going to SPAIN, why put something like this in your stomach first.

After landing in Málaga, our first destination was Estepona, where the Captain's brother has a house. A gorgeously appointed little house about three minutes' walk from a placid rocky beach with clear blue water. But you'll see that in a second. Here's the drive to Estapona in our underpowered Fiat Panda.

Before heading to the house, we stopped at the grocery store, one of my absolute favorite things to do in a new country. What am I talking about, I love grocery shopping in any country. But anyway, so I found some fun things, marinated artichokes; supergarlicky allioli; giant scallions called javeloyes; padrón peppers, membrillo, fresh mint...

Then, the house, this is the view from the upstairs terrace.

And after throwing together a quick (check out my Spanish) bocadillo (artichoke, mint, allioli, queso manchego) or two, we were off to a real lunch.

El Capitan had warned me that one of the only downsides to her brother's apartment was that you couldn't walk to restaurants and bars, you had to drive everywhere. Wellllll, although: there was this one pretty great restaurant that you could walk to, but it was "kind of posh", and about an hour's walk.

But sure, OK, hey, the weather was fucking gorgeous, 70F and sunny, we kind of had time to kill, lunch doesn't really happen til 14:00 or so here in southern Spain. Yes, let's walk for an hour.

OK, here's the walk:

Now, I don't know where you live, Fictional Reader, but on the planet where I live, if you have a beach like this and it's 70F outside, certainly you will not be the only human being (you and your senior officer I mean) who decides to partake of this lovely stretch of coastline. Will you?

Yes, at 13:00 Wednesday afternoon, you will be. Obviously looking at the sand, some other exotic creatures were gallivanting around here earlier in the day, possibly even the, ha ha, dogfish that will enter the narrative on Day 2, but yes etc etc etc there was nobody else about.

Which, "Ooooh," we thought, does that mean the restaurant will be closed? Because it's off season? Noooo, El Capitan ate here with her family last February. OK so we're cool. Keep going. Plus there's a flag flying on top of the restaurant. That must mean something. Say, walking on sand is kind of tough after a while. And then-a:

We were Guggenheimed. This refers to a trip to NYC in the mid-to-late 1990s where, I think we were staying in Chelsea or Tribeca, we decided it would be educational and informative to try and walk the 65 or 85 New York City blocks to the Guggenheim Museum. It was a Thursday.

"Ahhhhh", the more informed Fictional Reader is now saying to themselves. Yes. The Guggenheim is open every day except Thursdays. 65 or 85 NYC blocks is a long fucking walk. Definitely well over an hour, possibly two. I think that was the first and last time I ever howled into the sky "Who in God's bloody fucking name closes their business on a fucking Thursday for the love of Saint Fucking Peter, Paul and Mary etc etc etc". From that day on I would never again be surprised to find a business closed on an inconvenient or illogical day.

Which is why, upon finding Bahia Beach closed, there was no howling or swearing. The Captain and I simply looked around for a moment, acknowledged the dim misty shapes of Gibraltar and FUCKING AFRICA off in the distance....

And asked the first people we saw if they knew anywhere in the hood we could get our grub on. They were German. They said "Oh ja, you juss valk a little vurder, you cant miss it". But they said it either in German or Spanish, I don't know, the Captain related the story to me in English, but she speaks every language, so who knows what actually happened.

In any event, yes, it was "juss a little vurder", and this potential Death Mope suddenly ended the way all good Death Mopes end: with a perfectly-sized and -weighted beer and a bowl of awesome, cold, orange-marinated Manzanilla olives.

This is Chiringuito La Sal, and this would present the first of my lessons in Real Spanish Food. I will explain soon, por favor espere aquí.


Michael O'Neill said...

You are the Anthony Bourdain to my Al Bundy.

MEM said...

I am also the Ronnie James Dio to your Graham Bonnet but no one's keeping track of these things really.