Yesterday was packed with food, drink and incredibly beautiful sites. At 9 a.m. we boarded our bus to travel to Spain’s ancient capital, Toledo. The rhythms of our flamenco experience from the night pounded away in our memory but began to fade as we drove south while listening to a lecture that centered our attention on the day ahead with information on the Arab influence on Spain, the Reconquista, and the nature of civilization.
In Toledo we took a wonderful walking tour which led us through the many Jewish, Muslim and Christian artistic and architectural themes apparent throughout this city of 16,000. We also saw all the preparations for the upcoming celebration of Corpus Christi – the body of Christ – we saw awnings, tapestries and flags hanging from buildings’ sides and balconies. One special treat was a viewing of El Greco’s masterpiece, “The Funeral of the Lord of Orgaz.”
The first portion of our tour ended in the Cathedral of Toledo, which is the “home parish” of the leader of the Catholic Church in Spain, the Bishop of Toledo.
Then, we learned a new verb, tapear, which means “to eat tapas.” Our group visited three tapas bars. One was in a converted church, one was a restaurant attached to one of the few urban vineyards in the world, and the third was more typical of Toledo. At each we sampled white and red Spanish wines—some of us even went beyond mere sampling. As one member of the group said, “I was careful; I did not finish any of the wines they served. But I did finish the last glass…three times!” We also sampled tapas. If we went into great detail we know we would only make you hungry, and we doubt that wherever you are, unless you are in Toledo, you could not find anything so delicious and we would only drive you mad. So, suffice it to say that we polished off our gustatory celebration with ox tail and then chocolate lava cake. ¡Olé y yo estoy muy satisfecho!
Coming back from Toledo, Tom and Randy decided to go for a long walk to wear off all the calories we had accumulated. Reminding us of Madrid and its status as the greenest big city in the world, we wandered around a great urban park, filled with trees and aromatic flowers and, most happily for Randy, heroes of the Latin American liberation movements such as Simon Bolivar and Miguel Hidalgo. Unintentionally or not, we did manage to lose our way and walk about 45 minutes longer than we planned—say good-bye to the effects of the lava cake!
For dinner a small group of us went to the Plaza Mayor to indulge our comrade Titania’s great love of Spanish pork, especially jamón de bellota, which is pork from pigs who feed exclusively on acorns. (According to Titania, these pigs are so desired the owners post police to protect them from theft). We feasted at a restaurant called Cinco Jotas (the home of 5J jamón) and put away a plate of jamón de betallo, croquetas de jamón, empanadas de jamón and tapas de jamón. You will know by now that jamón means pork, or ham, and all we lacked was a mousse de jamón for desert!
At the end of our meal our guide, Juan, got into an argument with the waiter because he felt we should have had ham from the backside and end of the pig rather than more succulent meat from higher up. To appease our guide, the restaurant brought us a plate of meat from the pig’s upper quarters. Randy did not notice any difference though Tom definitely thought it was juicier. Thus, el jamón de España helped us understand the old country phrase “eating high on the hog.”
Now we are going through jamón withdrawal and realize we have not said too much about the history of this great nation of nations. As we write we are listening to a lecture about the Spanish Civil War and we promise to try to pay attention to history as we go forward but for now, in order to get you caught up, you should know: “Hapsburgs have long (very long) faces (especially chins) and Bourbons have big noses (especially big noses).