Friday, July 26, 2019

Lost in Translation

Espana is full of surprises.

About the last thing we expected to hear when the Hertz agent looked at our passports was, "Oh, Virginia is for lovers, eh?"

Seems this young Spaniard had a Virginia girlfriend for a while and could rattle off Virginia places like Roanoke and Richmond, only with a far better accent. As we were leaving with the keys to a Volvo, I inquired if he still had his Virginia sweetie.

"No, she moved to Phoenix," he said as if that were that.

With wheels, we could bid farewell to Santiago and head for the North Coast beaches for a while. And while life may not be a beach, I could make a case for beach life being best.

En route, we stopped in Rinlo - a one cathedral town, if you know what I 'm saying - a tiny village with narrow streets and a highly recommended restaurant for lunch. Scallops in garlic brown butter were served in scalloped shells, the ideal place for the brown butter to pool and from which to sop it with the crusty bread that has become de rigueur at every meal (at breakfast I slather it with jam).

After a walk through the tiny town and along the sea wall to a view of the sea, we hit the road to Ortiguiero, near Porcia where we were overnighting. Everything worked according to plan until it didn't. The GPS deposited us near a dirt road (part of the Camino trail) but the tiny hotel with a view of the sea was nowhere to be found.

With a can-do attitude and an extremely limited Spanish vocabulary, I hoofed it down a dirt driveway to a patio where three women were enjoying the beautiful day. After trying to explain our destination, I pulled out the email confirmation from Tesera, our home for the night. Her response was to lead me to a side porch, indicate that I should lean waaay over and point across a valley to a verdant hill.

Apparently our hotel was there.

But rather than trust us to find it alone, this sweet Spanish woman who spoke not a word of English marched to her car and indicated that we should follow her to our final resting place. Along the way, she stopped not one but three times to ask of strangers where the hell Tesera Apartmentos were until finally a neighbor pointed beyond her hedge.

Hallelujah and pass the Albarino, we are in Porcia, home at last.

Running the Tesera was a woman with nine broken bones in her back (or so she told us) and a fondness for conversation with strangers. Once she'd led us to our apartment (complete with kitchen and magnificent view of the water), she spent 20 minutes regaling us with the nearby eating options.

As soon as she mentioned a place just down the hill and on the water - "a cabana, no?" uh, no - we were sold. Bar Menos Mal was part hilly picnic area, part ramshackle restaurant and part exquisite water views complete with paddle boarders, setting sun and tree-covered cliffs. We scored a bench and low table next to a young Spaniard drinking a beer while he awaited a friend's arrival to enjoy it all until dinner service began a couple hours later.

All the servers clearly loved where they worked and both a neon sign and their t-shirts - "Life is better in Porcia" - said it all. Had the shirts been for sale, we'd have bought them on the spot. "Maybe in the future," the young bartender promised.

Not likely we'll be back this way, but good to know.

Jamon tostada - ham over pureed tomato on toasted, oiled bread - kicked things off until an enormous pan of paella arrived studded with the bounty of the sea. With every langoustino I crack open, I seem to break a nail or two, but it's a price I'm more than willing to pay. Happily, mussels, clams, cockles, fish and the like don't make me work for my food.

Not that I'm complaining.

The place was understandably wildly popular and people kept coming but only certain locations rated service. For us, it had been nothing more that dumb luck to have happened onto a table that did since every possible reservation for the 8:30 and 10 p.m. seatings had long since been spoken for when we'd arrived.

Many glasses of Albarino later, we stumbled back up the hill to Tesera's Apartmentos, far easier to find in the dark than in broad daylight apparently.

I guess it takes a lot of wine to see clearly in Porcia. Maybe that's why life is better here.

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