The Road to Santiago.

October 19, 2004

Photo of park vista.
Park vista


Since I was going to have dinner with Manolo in the evening, I decided to clean up my act. I had washed a shirt and socks the night before and hung them out my window which faces el patio de luces (the patio of lights, i.e. atrium). But I needed to do more than put on clean clothes. My beard was getting pretty ragged and irregular in length since I hadn’t trimmed it in a month. I was beginning to look like a bum, and the dirty clothes only confirmed the suspicion.

So I set out looking for a cuchilleria (cutlery shop). Imagine, here they have stores that specialize in selling and sharpening cutting instruments such as cuchillos, cuchillas, navajas, espadas, (knives, cleavers, folding knives, swords). I was looking for a pair of tijeras (scissors). None of them were cheap. Perhaps that’s why they can have a whole store dedicated to blades. I finally chose one to do the beard trimming job.

Walking back to the pension, I went by the beach and saw about 30 or 40 people taking a quick dip during their siesta rest time. The water looked inviting so I asked someone what the temperature was. The answer was 16 or 18 degrees (60 or 65 Farenheit). That’s warmer than where I live at Plum Island! I decided that if I got a chance, I would go swimming while in Gijón.

When I got back to my room, I found my underwear and socks lying neatly on the bed. Mrs. Gonzales, the pension proprietor, had washed and dried them and ironed my shirt. She must have felt sorry for me when she saw them hanging up to dry. (Or, maybe she didn’t like seeing underwear hanging out the window.) She even darned the hole in the socks.

This reminds me of a broma (joke). A Spanish lady went into a store in America and asked for some calcetines (socks). The clerk didn’t understand what she was saying and stood there dumbfounded. When another clerk went by with an armload of socks to stock the shelves, the woman pointed and loudly exclaimed: “¡Eso, si que es! (That, yes, is it) [which sounds in English like S, O, C,K, S]. To which the clerk responded, “Why didn’t you spell it in the first place?”

Photo of Plaza de Palacio Revillagigedo .
Plaza de Palacio Revillagigedo
"". Well, with my clean socks and shirt on, I went out early to the Plaza de Palacio de Revillagigedo — I didn’t want to chance being late (that will come as a big shock to my friends). And since I arrived early, I went into a corner bar where I could grab a copa de vino (cup of wine) and keep an eye on the plaza. At nueve en punto (nine on the dot), I sauntered out into the plaza trying to look casual, as if spies might be watching. I was wondering if Manolo would recognize me. Yep, I soon heard a call from across the plaza as he came forward to greet me.

He introduced me to his wife, who unfortunately had to go to work. At night? Yes, she is una asesor (accountant) and her company was doing the year-end closing, so she had to work overtime.

Manolo suggested that we eat there at the plaza. The restaurant was right next to the palace. In fact at one time it was a part of the palace — living quarters for someone important. It was a pleasant and bright place with pastel walls and candelabras hanging from the ceiling. Much nicer than the comedors (dining rooms) that I’ve been used to.

At Manolo’s suggestion, we started with an ensalada de pulpo which is marinated octopus on a bed of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. It was delicious. Octopus can be a little chewy, so it’s best to cut it into small sizes. They eat a lot of octopus in Spain and another popular dish is pulpo galego (Galician Octopus), which is made with garlic and tomatoes. Again, very tasty.

[Note: It never ceases to amaze me how many people are squeamish about eating pulpo (octopus) or calamari (squid) or mejillones (mussels). These are generally the same people who will hungrily chow down a boiled lobster or eat a “mess” of steamed clams, and not think a thing about it. I guess culinary tastes are in the buds of the eater. After all, isn’t a lobster just a giant cockroach which lives in the sea? ] [Editor’s note: He likes them all, even eel. But he won’t eat sweetbreads.]

For my main course, I had rape (monkfish) steaks served in a tomato sauce with shellfish. It, too, was delicious. Again, I’m at a loss as to why we don’t eat monkfish at home. Perhaps we need to serve it with a good Rioja red (wine from the Rioja region).

Manolo asked me if I had any problems with eating in Spain, being a diabetic. My reply was — not anymore. When I first started using insulin, I had to take the dosage one half-hour before eating. That can be very problematical here and at home because meal times are not always easy to predict. It was often difficult to eat at someone’s home because I would have to ask the hostess when and what she planned to serve (so I could count carbs and calculate the insulin). “Oh, excuse me, but when are we going to eat? And, by the way, what are we having?”

Once I took my insulin, I would have to eat within thirty minutes. A delay, say, because of a late-arriving guest or due to a lively discussion, could result in me going hypoglycemic and I would be bouncing off the walls.

Such a situation could be more than just amusing. Sometimes it could be downright dangerous. Once, when I was in an unfamiliar city in Spain, we were planning to go to a special restaurant mentioned in the guidebook. Anticipating our ECT (Estimated Chow Time), I took a dose of insulin. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and ended up in a different part of the city — the business section — a part that didn’t have any restaurants. As we got more and more lost, I got more and more anxious. As I started to “go hypo,” I got confused. (Imagine, confused about where you are in a strange city!) Fortunately, we suddenly stumbled upon a place where we could get a bite to eat. After that, it was too late to go to the special restaurant.

Now that I’m taking Humalog insulin, I don’t have to inject the dose until I’m ready to eat or just after I eat since the insulin acts very rapidly. It peaks in about 15 minutes and then drops off — simulating the insulin response of a normal person.

Later, I asked Manolo about his interests. He said that on weekends he hikes the Asturias. Also, he does a lot of canoeing in the mountain streams. To hear him talking about the Asturias was inspiring. I could see that he loved his mountains the way I love Plum Island and the sea. I made him promise that, if I come back, he would take me into the mountains where we can taste some of those spectacular cheeses for which his patria chica (little country) is famous.

All too quickly the meal and the pleasant evening were over. He had a busy day coming up. As he left, he wished me ¡un buen camino! He had been pleased to learn that I was including this year’s trek on my Web site. He said that what I am doing for diabetics is “una cosa muy buena!” (a very good thing!). I really hope so.
Photo of Dudley and Manolo.
Dudley and Manolo