First Stop – Madrid
My first night arriving in Spain was a fantastic way to kick-off my trip. My mother met me at the Madrid airport and from there a friend of the family, Javier, picked us up and took us to stay the night at his home in San Fernando, a “barrio” (neighborhood) of Madrid. Born and raised in Madrid, he had married a friend of our family who is from the Dominican Republic. So with Javier, his wife Gina, and their beautiful dark-haired little girl Beatrice, we walked from their apartment along a quaint park square, passing statues and fountains on the way to dinner at their favorite local bar. The walk was cold and damp, with temperatures around 50 degrees farenheit (10 degrees celsius). Having come from dry Colorado, I could already feel the humidity in the air.
Arriving at Las Alitas, I could see that it was the equivalent of a wings bar in the U.S.and I was not disappointed in the atmosphere and food. Javier’s brother and his wife joined us with their three children, ages ranging from two to eight years old. Throughout the night I reveled in the Spanish culture as I watched the children run in and out of the restaurant, safe to play in the small courtyard. The adults and I enjoyed several glasses of the local “cerveza” (beer) and small plates of cooked chicken gizzard, neck, wings, and pork, all served in small bite sizes and piping hot. Javier and his family knew the owners and all the servers, as well as several other neighbors who stopped by our table to say hello.
As the night went on, I watched the small space fill with more and more people to the point where there was only standing room left at the front door by the bar. I love trying new things, so although I’m not used to having chicken gizzard and neck, I savored my share of bites of each and found the flavor delicious thanks to the broth they cook it in and the texture was just like chicken. Some of the bite size pieces of chicken looked like chicken nuggets, however were still on the bone. They were tasty, but probably my least personal favorite since, unlike chicken wings, you had to be careful to spit out small fragments of bone that came off with the meat.
Even though my Spanish is limited to grammatically poor conversational level, I understood most of what we discussed and was already off to what promised to be great practice. It was wonderful to discuss the local markets and how the economy was faring in this part of Spain. Javier and his brother, Oscar, run a small business that rents out commercial trucks in the area. They were interested in my own marketing business and gave me some great insight into the current use of social media among their business and those of other local small businesses in their part of the world.
Although I have not seen Madrid yet, my arrival in that area was wonderful. I look forward to being there with my local friends again when I return in a couple of weeks to fly back to Denver. It is interesting how there are so many differences, usually in food and language, yet so many similarities as well. We have families and friends, our homes and work. The similarity I have found most enjoyable so far has been the hospitality. I can never thank these people enough for opening their homes and families to me.
First thing the next morning, we prepared to get on a bus for Higuera La Real. Our breakfast with Javier and his family consisted of a special holiday cake (la Rosca de Reyes – the doughnut of the three kings or wise men). It looked almost like a giant doughnut, but with a layer of chocolate frosting in the middle of one side and a layer of vanilla frosting in the middle of the other side. With a delicious cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk), I was more than content with my first Spanish breakfast of the trip. Tradition in Spanish countries says that if you find the small toy figure of one of the three kings in your piece of cake, you have to pay for the cake. At the same time, it is also good luck. Well guess who got the figure of a king in their piece of cake? That’s right…me! I still have it and carry it around in my wallet. My hope for you is that you enjoy the good luck of the three kings this holiday season as well. Check in soon to see how I am enjoying Spain with my three-kings luck.