One of the great pleasures (and challenges) of any expat is the Visit From Home. We ask ourselves if these Scots/Americans/Brits will be able to adapt to the Spanish lifestyle for a couple of weeks or is there any risk they´ll make our life a misery?
I found out the answer to this a couple of weeks ago when my cousins, Monz and Marz for the purposes of this post, came to Alcalá. These sisters, with the lovely surname Woods, turned out to be completely risk-free - primas sin riesgo* - as they flowed seamlessly into our lives to the extent that we wished they´d just up and move here!
Of course, these two girls have spent years travelling in Italy, a fellow Latin country, and so the Spanish language and culture didn´t scare them one bit.
(I hope my brother will forgive me for mentioning that when he came a few years ago he brought half a suitcase of British crisps and sweeties – not for me, but because he knew he wouldn´t get his favourite brands here)!
There was no such problem with Monz and Marz who were up for everything! So, in a sensible, leisurely fashion, we saw Alcalá and Madrid and my husband took them to Toledo. (I stayed home, heart-broken, that day with my adored and dying little foundling cat, Rocky. When I left him for the last time at the vet – he was only three but had leukemia – Monz and Marz comforted an inconsolable Mo who got completely pissed on Rueda wine).
Then it was off to Asturias! En route we stayed overnight at the Parador at Lerma, near Burgos, and the next day stopped off in León to see the stunning stained-glass windows of the Cathedral.
Once in the Principado de Asturias, my suegra kindly let us use her holiday flat in Gijón, near the beach.
Then we headed inland to Oviedo where my Woods cousins visited the Woody Allen statue in the casco viejo.
He´d had his glasses stolen again, of course, so the ovetenses joke about having to get him contact lenses!
We also saw the charming town of Villaviciosa, nerve-centre of the cider industry in Spain, and visited the cute and innovative cider museum in the town of Nava.
(I suggest that if you read Spanish, don´t bother with the museum website´s English version since it´s almost as awful as the natural cider itself …..).
One of the highlights in Nava was our visit to my husband´s uncle´s farm, not to mention the huge tins of home-produced morcilla and chorizo and bag of home-grown fabes (beans) his Aunt Lena gave us so we can make Asturias´ traditional dish, fabada, with the best possible ingredients.
(Watch out for our recipe for this and the seafood version, fabes con almejes, when the weather drops from 40 degrees in the shade)!
Then it was the vertical, coastal fishing village of Cudillero and our two weeks of food, fun and family were over.
Monz and Marz flew out of Asturias´ small airport, Ranón, excellent cook Monz loaded up with saffron at a fifth of its price in the UK, and we drove back to Alcalá. It had all worked out perfectly – sin riesgo – partly because of my wonderful cousins and partly because of Spain herself!
Because everywhere we went there was a party!
For example, there was a parade of the traditional maragato costume in León, a Noche de San Juan bonfire on the night of the 24th in Lerma (who lets their kids stay up till one in the morning jumping over hot coals)? as well as a noisy charanga band in Cudillero and a huge procession with a Spanish colonial theme in Burgos. Particularly wonderful was a concert of Renaissance music – in full period costume – at the Parador.
All of it free!
Half-kidding, my cousins kept saying how well I´d planned the trip for them!
But Spain did.
So as a holiday destination, España is definitely a prima sin riesgo.
* The “prima de riesgo” is the degree of security – or in the present crisis, the lack of it – of government bonds. The term relates to “premium” but sounds like the Spanish word for girl cousin, “prima”.