“If you are reading this in another country and are not familiar with the marine delicacy (the whelk), you may get the same experience (from eating it) by finding an old golf ball, removing the cover and eating what remains. The only difference is that the golf ball has a little more flavour” Bill Bryson – ‘Icons of England’
Generally speaking we have been fortunate to have fine weather on our travels but the rain now was relentless so we had to find something to do for the afternoon. Fortunately it doesn’t generally tend to rain in bars so we agreed that the best thing to do was to return to Le Bodega de San Segundo, where we were practically regulars now and spend the afternoon chatting over a drink or two.
It seemed that most of the citizens of Ávila had the same idea this afternoon because the place was full to overflowing as local people were enjoying Sunday tapas lunch whilst watching the final round of the 2010 formula 1 motor racing championship and keeping their fingers crossed for the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso.
The place was buzzing with sociable chatter and family lunches and it took a while before we could claim our favourite seat in one corner of the room and after Mark Webber won the title and denied Alonso we stayed long enough for the crowds of people to quieten down as disappointment set in and begin one by one to slip away and after an hour or so we practically had the place to ourselves. Each round of drinks produced a new plate of tapas and by late afternoon we decided that we would have to stop or else we would be too full to enjoy the evening meal.
It was getting gloomy and dark when we returned to the hotel but we had grown accustomed to the rain by now and we didn’t mind because this was our final evening and we were certain that we had another grand meal to look forward to later.
After a short rest I joined Micky in the lobby and we went to the underground bar to wait for the girls where we had a drink anyway and another plate of tapas and eventually Kim and Sue joined us but there was no sign of Christine so tonight the travel club was reduced to only four for evening meal so after a final drink in the bar we returned to the rain sodden streets and went back to our favourite bodega where we were shown to exactly the same table as the previous night.
We explained again that we wanted them to select the food and that we were quite happy with this arrangement but if possible we would prefer pork to beef because we thought Sue might prefer this. Sue, you see, is quite a fussy eater and we have had some gastronomic disasters along the way on our travels through Europe, the most spectacular being the sea food dining experience in Peso Da Regua in Portugal where she thought that a seafood salad looked more like a serving of demons from the deep! The waiter explained that last night we had had a typical Castilian menu which consisted mainly of meat and tonight he planned a more generally typical Spanish meal and we had no reason to doubt his judgment.
He opened an excellent bottle of Rioja and brought to the table a simple tapas starter and there was no problem with this at all but the next course was razor clams that Sue wasn’t going to touch with a barge pole and this was followed by a plate of regular clams that didn’t excite her a great deal either. Actually both selections were delicious and we were certain that things would improve for her with the pork main dish.
Not a chance! When it arrived it was little slivers of tiny deep fried cuts of meat sitting on a strong garlic sauce which we knew instinctively wouldn’t appeal to her. Micky is a butcher and knew exactly what part of the pig the meat had come from and I’m not but even I could identify bits of ear and nostril and quartered trotters and I think there is a very strong possibility that we were eating some bits that we really didn’t want to know where they came from! It was all rather tasty but forty-five minutes into the meal Sue hadn’t touched a single thing so Micky called over the waiter and ordered some beef – well done.
In Spain of course they consider it sacrilege to overcook a nice piece of Avileña-Negra Ibérica and when it arrived it was predictably pink and it had to go back for a nuclear blasting. Sue prefers her beef completely black and even when it came back a second time it was still not to her liking so it went back again and the staff looked on completely bemused. When it returned for the third time it was still pinkish in the middle but there was no point sending it back again so Sue nibbled around the edges and then started to push it around her plate trying to hide it under the salad leaves and I knew that it was time for drastic action and a reprisal of my role of mussel disposal man (Galicia, 2008) and the meat was discreetly wrapped in a tissue and I took it to the lavatory to get rid of it in a waste bin under the sink.
The food had been delicious but it had been a disaster for Sue so it was a relief when the sweet course arrived and she was able finally to tuck in and enjoy the chocolate coated strawberries, the filo pastry fancies and the delicious pastries and the night was partially saved. After the meal we congratulated them on a fabulous meal, said goodbye and returned to our hotel for a final drink before going to bed for the last time at the Palacio de Los Velada.