We happened to be visiting Spain during Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Holy week is all about the “passion” of the events around Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and his resurrection. Every town had a daily afternoon “procesion” , where the churches bring out dramatic Passion floats displaying Christ in some stage of passion (more on this in a later post). Before these floats appear however, lines of hooded “penitents” march somberly down the streets. The penitents (penitentes) are somewhat disturbing, their faces masked with pointed hooded robes that elicit feelings of the Ku Klux Klan. They are different organizations (or clubs – think Elks Lodge) that are anonymously paying their penance in public, and they apparently have worn these hoods long before the Klan existed. Still… anonymous figures with pointy hoods, swinging incense, and accompanied by beating drums are a little on the disturbing side for me. Figures of the penitents are everywhere; made into key chains, figurines, and even chocolate (as shown in the window of this panaderia in Bilbao).
Some Lessons Learned in the rural part of central Spain:
- The country-side of Spain seems to be covered with either olive groves or vineyards (more olive groves overall). Something we questioned as we drove along was “Where were all the pig farms?” For a place that seems to idolize the Jamon, we couldn’t see any pigs or pig farms. One butcher explained to us that the pigs are essentially treated as an annual crop, harvested every year, then cured, keeping only a brood stock for next years harvest. Those Iberian pigs who grow up in the forests on an acorn-fed diet must be in areas we didn’t see.
- In Alagon (it seems only in Alagon), it is typical for groups of older men to eat lunch together, order a bottle of wine, and commence to add sparkling water to it. Called fizzy wine. We didn’t ever find out if this was to get a fizzy taste or to make the wine go further. Every table in the restaurant (except ours) did it however.
- People in Spain take their meals nice and slow. If you want to leave and get going, don’t expect a waiter to bring your bill around just because your plates and glasses are empty. You must ask (la cuenta por favor) for the bill, and even then, don’t expect anything to happen quickly. I liked relaxing during meals, but spending the whole afternoon at the table was something that went against my grain…places to go, people to see you know.
Food enjoyed at Hotel Los Angeles in Alagon:
We stayed in Bilbao for the evening, but decided to go back to Haro in the morning for a wine tour of one of the Bodegas. See tomorrow’s post for the “Bodega Tour”. M-m-m-m
I’ve mentioned before how much the Spanish people love their Jamon. This photo to the right was taken in one of the hotel lobbies. Look at the number of security cameras surrounding this Teurel Jamon! And there were even more than is shown, but I couldn’t fit them into the camera frame. They take their Jamon seriously here in Spain.