According to one legend, the tapas tradition in Spain began when the King of Castile, Alfonso the Wise, visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry. On this particular day there was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham supposedly to prevent the sherry from getting dirty but more likely because he didn’t want to have his head cut off!
The King finished the sherry and ate the ham, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first. This evolved into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and bodega owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry but, more importantly, increasing their alcohol sales as a consequence. There are alternative stories about the origin of tapas but so far this is my favourite.
There was serious temptation to stay longer but there remained lots to see so we left after one drink and returned to the walls and this time our intention was to see them from the top rather than the bottom. We paid the €4 fee and received long-winded instructions on how to find the four separate entrances to which our tickets entitled us to go and then at the tourist information office climbed the steps to the top of the wall and began a steady walk around the eastern section.
It was still rather cloudy and the grey sky sapped the colour from everything beneath it but from the top we could see that weather to the north seemed to be improving and there were some tiny slithers of blue sky making slow progress south and as we walked these grew larger and got closer and we began to grow optimistic about the afternoon’s weather. There were good views from the walls looking east towards Segovia and north to Salamanca and from the mountains in the west the pace of improvement in the weather began to gather an increased momentum.
When the city wall walk ran out we climbed back down and once again left the protection of the walls and walked around the outside of the western section and as we did so the clouds as if by magic suddenly cleared, there was a blue sky and bright sunshine and the temperature leapt several degrees which led to the hasty removal of jackets and coats.
After about half an hour we re-entered the city at the Puerta de Santa Teresa which led to the Convento de Santa Teresa (Santa Teresa is important in Ávila) and we walked through the twisted narrow streets through the commercial centre and the market place and then deftly bypassed the shops back to the cathedral where we turned down the opportunity to pay and go inside in preference for staying outside in the sunshine.
Not for long however because it was time for alcohol so not being able to find a bar with outside tables we returned to the tiny bodega which was busier now with lunchtime diners but we squeezed into a corner and had local beer and generous plates of tapas.
We liked it here and hit upon an idea for evening meal and arranged with the staff to return later when, to save us the inconvenience of menu selection, for an inclusive price they would choose the food for us and serve us a local traditional meal. This took some explanation and negotiation but eventually everyone understood and a deal was struck! For Sue and Christine this involved a significant element of risk of course but as we discussed the menu we did take the precaution of stipulating that there should be no fish because we couldn’t really afford to take the risk of something slimy from the bottom of the ocean turning up on the table.