Monday, February 27, 2012


The other day, the lovely and rather blunt K brought it to my attention that I had promised vacation stories and failed to deliver. She is right, and for that, I am sorry. Here is one funny story from our Spain trip last October. 

We would go back to our hotel room at around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. to wash some of the grime off our bodies and to rest up for what was sure to be a later night out. I'd don my red lips, specially purchased for our trip (you CAN'T go to Spain without your perfect red lipstick I had decided), fix my hair, affix the appropriate scarf to my ensemble and we'd be off in search of something to whet our whistles. We'd probably eat something too. We had become quite fond of stocking our fridge with a supply of ham, cheese, and a loaf of crusty bread for snacking purposes.

One night, we had returned from a day trip to Toledo and then hit a local tapas place for a late bite. Before returning to our hotel, we decided we wanted one more drink, a night cap, if you will. We'd been drinking beer at the cerveceria, naturally, so I thought a rioja (vino tinto, claro!) would be the perfect end to our evening. We wandered around, and finally settled on one particular bar. La Venencia.

I walked up to the bartender and said, "Dos vinos tinto, por favor." She looked me squarely in the face and said, "No. No vino tinto." I looked back at P.I.C. and he just shrugged. I attempted to use my not-good-enough Spanish to order white wine. Based on my brief survey of the bar, everyone had small glasses of white wine. She said to me, "NO. No vino." She then proceeded to tell me WHAT they served, but she spoke ridiculously fast. I shrugged my shoulders at her and she shrugged them back, clearly frustrated with my inability to communicate with her. I wasn't giving up so easily. No way. (It was at this moment that P.I.C. started to get frustrated with the whole situation, thinking that this woman was just refusing to serve us because we were Americans. I, however, was not so willing to give up, and fairly certain that it was just a language barrier, not a discrimination issue.) Finally, I just asked her, "Is it good?" She said, "Si," and then proceeded to say more words I could not understand. Finally, I determined she was asking me if I preferred dry or sweet. Whatever it was, I ordered it dry.

She served it up and wrote directly on the bar with chalk our total. P.I.C. and I picked up our small wine glasses and clinked them together. "Salud," we said to each other, an expression that was very common among our two weeks of sun and fun on the Iberian peninsula. She put a bowl of olives down in front of us (our free tapa). We took sips. My mouth puckered as it reacted to what was most certainly fire water. As I breathed out fumes that most certainly were flammable, I perused the action behind the bar. The bartender was filling those small wine glasses from a variety of bottles, each corked with a rubber stopper. Moonshine? IT HAD TO BE.

"P.I.C. OMG. I can't wait to tell everyone at home we drank SPANISH MOONSHINE. WOOOHOO!"

 It was something much, much stronger than wine. After two sips, I was brave enough to attempt another conversation with the bartender. I asked her what we were drinking (in Spanish, of course). She responded, "Fino." I said, again, bolder by the liquor and willing to make an ass of myself by speaking in Spanish to her, "It's stronger than wine, isn't it." She chuckled and responded, "Of course."

Feeling much less inept at my language abilities, P.I.C. and I stood at the bar and began to look around. The bar looked ancient. There was a thick coating of dust along all of the fixtures. No one seemed to mind. The air was lively with conversation and the smell of olives. We noticed the bartender washing off bottles as we continued to just stand and take in the scene. It appeared that the "fino" was kept in old wine bottles that they would wash out and reuse. Again, I made the determination that fino was some kind of Spanish moonshine.* I didn't hate it. But yes, it was "mas fuerte que vino."

After one glass, we paid our three euros and forty cents. We left our two small wine glasses on the bar, mine slightly smudged with my Spanish red lipstick, and meandered home, not quite in a straight line. One glass of the fino was enough to do us in.

*A tipsy google search once we returned to our hotel room taught us that fino was not moonshine as I had previously proclaimed. It is fortified wine, or a sherry. As our dear Spanish friend told us, "drink lots of it, you'll have a great hangover." We fortunately limited it to one glass. But I'd be willing to investigate a fino headache. I'm fun like that.

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