Food & Drink · Travel

Ro’s Recipes: To Cadiz by Car

Part 1

The very first day I met Jacqui and Pepe in the staff room, I knew we would be friends. Jacqui taught Russian and Pepe, from Cadiz, taught Spanish. They had a wide open, exuberant embrace of life. We became friends immediately.

I would spend the occasional rumpled weekends at their tumbled, messy home, drinking Spanish wine, cooking together, reading poetry and raucously discussing politics and effete philosophical concepts that would change the world if only we could figure out how! Disagreements were liberally coated with affectionate fun. The concept of intellectual argument was the ethic that held the grip on our discussions, with a goodly dose of relaxed living-in-the-moment.

So in the summer when asked if I’d join them in driving to Pepe’s family home near Cadiz, I jumped at it with wide-winged wonderment at the ongoing happy miracle of friendship.

I asked if I could invite my boyfriend Craddock too. Of course! Open, friendly, smiling, enthusiastic approach to all things unexpected and different were welcome.

But with three adults and a toddler there was no room for another bod in the car or the tent when we stopped to camp overnight. We were driving from London to Dover taking the ferry to Calais, then driving down through France to San Sebastian, through Burgos, Victoria, Valladolid, past Madrid, on down through Almaden, through Sevilla and on to Cadiz. A journey that would take us three days and two nights.

No problem – Craddock would fly in two days after we arrived and we’d pick him up from Seville. Craddock was cool even before it was cool to be cool. All the girls fell for his movie star looks, enviable locks, and slow smile approach. It wasn’t love but I liked him and it was fun.

The drive through the countryside of France was a summer delight, stopping at road stands to pick up fruit, cheese and bread to eat while driving. After dinner at a bistro and a wander around the little town, we piled  into the same room at a B&B, which made things feel even more like family. I enjoyed practicing my dilapidated French as our journey progressed.

Cross the French border at San Sebastian into Spain and almost immediately everything changes: the weather, scenery, layout of the towns, and the fumble of little shops on the streets are still small but somehow different. And the language! I had insisted that Jacqui and Pepe speak Spanish in my company in the few weeks-in-waiting before our travels, so I was becoming confident that I could function my way through quotidian life in Spain, even perhaps striving to follow an interesting conversation in different tenses.

I was in awe of the wondrous olive groves we drove through. How could trees that bear fruit grow in this apparently arid ground! I was entranced by the farmers toiling and disturbed by the occasional dead animal thrown into a trench by the road. Intellectually, I knew this was a different country, but not until I was brushing up against it with my instincts and ignorance did I sense the wonderment of new awareness and learning. I was brought back to a child state: learning as young children do through observation and acute necessary understanding. It was glorious!

Night camp was an adventure. Jacqui and Pepe had done this many times. I tried to make myself useful by taking care of baby Miranda while they unpacked and pitched the tent in a small encampment. Then off to the little town for dinner and a wander. Pepe, the gentleman, decided to sleep in the car and left the tent to the girls. I felt I was eight years old at a sleep-over again, telling stories to Miranda till she fell asleep.

The last leg of the journey took us through vineyards growing grape varieties I had never heard of and yet to drink, like Tempranillo, Mencia and Manto Negro. Though not wine-world-widely known then, we now know they make some of the most prized wines in the world like Rioja and Valdeorras

Finally, tired but excited we arrived in the small town of Puerto Real, within walking distance from the shoreline. One of the delights of some older Spanish homes is the hidden promise. The outside of the houses are wrapped alike in the same smooth sand colored stone with no hint of what is beyond the door.

We gathered all the luggage at the door step and Pepe opened the unlocked door . . .

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