It was late afternoon. The sun was still caressing in its warmth. Straws pulled, luggage dropped bedside, every one met on the terrace. Hundreds of starlings greeted us, taking flight from the rooftops in aviation precise formation, swooping together a few hundred metres to the left, then the right, a cloud of wings that then settled on the terra cotta tiles, waiting to take flight again. Every thirty minutes we were gifted the sounds and show of fluttering flight. The views of the lush countryside, winding roads, red roof tops and nearby medieval village perched on a hill, were spectacular.
A few of us had wandered the village but the eagerness to meet kept observations at bay. “Delighted to meet you!” “How was your trip here?” “Where did you travel from?” “When you leave here, where else do you plan to visit?” “I’m starving! Are you hungry? We haven’t eaten since breakfast.” “Would you like some honey or the mustard for your plate?” “Can I pass you some of these pistachios? Olives?” “Do we need more bread?” “Can I offer you some more cava, red wine?” The spread of local Iberico and Serrano hams, spicy and mild chorizos, a few different types of olives, tapenades, pistachios, mixed nuts and marconas, Spanish honey and mustard, local Manchego, Cabrales and Mahon cheeses, figs and grapes were delicious, devoured and refilled.
The introductions are fascinating. As hostess, I knew the profile of every one. Self-introductions didn't include careers or levels of education. No measuring sticks are planted. Everyone is living in the moment. One couple describes their last couple of months as packing and unpacking across three countries. Another are recovering from their windy road coastal drive and are in awe they are in Spain as is the first time they’d left their primary school children home. One of two best friends travelling together has never traveled outside of North America. Everything is so new to her, her excitement is contagious. We look forward to hearing her experiences through fresh eyes. The other friend has arrived from a personal retreat in Barcelona. Another couple drove up the coast from Malaga, visiting many beach spots along the way. It didn’t take long to observe half of the group are insatiably curious, mentally curving their intellect around the next corner, seeking the next adventure. The other half are mindfully grounded to every moment yet game to experience what each day has to offer.
It was easy to settle in with such a setting and wonderful company. We didn’t feel like tourists, we were already sharing stories and we’d only just arrived.
As the dark of night descended, I was sure everyone was tired. I mentioned we had late dinner reservations at a local restaurant famous for its rustic, simple setting and pizza. The restaurant was close, located in the large town of La Bisbal, world renowned for their ceramics industry dating back centuries, an easy 6 minute drive from our “home”. It was, like everything, for everyone, an option. “Are you kidding? A unanimous “we’re in” was the response. The chatter, like the magpies, didn’t dissipate. The hum just moved en masse to the vehicles and then the restaurant.
We parked in designated spots hemming a water channel built to accommodate flash floods, a tree-lined avenue lit up with yellow lanterns that illuminated the spanish architecture of the buildings around it. It was beautiful. Located a three minute walk from the restaurant on a Saturday night, we couldn’t understand why, besides one car, no one else was parked there. The restaurant entrance was through an outdoor garden with dinner seating surrounded by deep pink bougainvillea and fairy light lit. Late, there was a chill in the air so we choose to dine inside. We’d be back to dine outside, it is so pretty, our inner voices said. The restaurant was unpretentious and charming, with family-style wooden tables, red chequered tablecloths and local ceramic olive oil and olive dishes glazed with roosters. Warmly welcomed by a lovely, gregarious hostess we were immediately served fantastic local Spanish wine, bread and olive oils. Dinner conversation moved to food, most memorable meals and the small pleasures in life. There is an openness that naturally happens when people share food. The pizzas were delicious and leftovers wrapped up. It was time to return to our haven and truly settle in. We returned to our cars to find them blanketed with bird poop. Ah, clearly these trees belong to the birds in the evening. It wouldn’t be the last time we’d experience this. Lots to learn, but we’ve only just arrived.
"Home", unpacked and ready to call it a night, everyone found themselves in the Dining Cave. The allure of a vaulted medieval stone cave with four foot thick walls flickering candle-light was too beguiling. A table that easily sat ten was decorated with flowers displayed on a tablecloth of cream and lavender flowers, a further invitation to intimacy. Centuries of stone ambience, whispers of past occupants and warmth enveloped us. Out came the cava again.
Conversations revolved around personal itineraries for the next week, an exchange of passions and interests, must see places to visit and the scheduling of long afternoons. Plans were made to visit some sites and villages together. The night lengthened, more cava was poured and conversation moved to sharing more personal stories, tastes and ideas. It was just before 2am when the candle lights were blown out. This kinship in the cave happened every evening, regardless of the events of the day. There was storytelling over meals, show and tell around the days’ events, plans for the next day shared, dancing, music and endless conversation. No one ever fell into their dreams before 1am.
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