Besides hanging out we also did some good stress free shopping
. Even in a city well off the fashionista map in Spain, you can still find designers who could sell out their stores in the US. We busied ourselves with family/home chores like picking up the kids at school or shopping in the organic grocery store. Meredith and Manu have a pair of extremely cute and clever children, Marcel and Dylan, who we had loads of fun playing with - they seemed quite interested in some new grown ups to play with who spoke English like mommy (at the age of three and five they can communicating in English, Catalan, or Spanish/Castillian). We also got a fabulous guided tour, courtesy of Manu, of Lleida's very excellent castle complex with fine architecture and requisite big views of the surrounding countryside.
Our usual food report differs here as we actually cooked a meal. Wow. First time fin a long time. It is strange for two people who love to cook to eat out three times a day for weeks on end. So we had a great time attempting to figure out Meredith's kitchen and putting some vitals down for us to eat with local wine from our hosts' cellar (actually it was stored in the laundry room). Our big night out started with a visit to Manu's father's house which gave us a view of how a successful lawyer in a small city lives. This was followed by some excellent tapas and a bottle of cava (of course) in a trendy wine bar/vinoteca that looked like it had been transported directly from 17th and Guerrero in SF. From there we were off to dinner in a local's joint with traditional checkered table clothes and Catalan standards like papa brava and baby octopus in tomato sauce. The night was finished off in true Spanish style at half past three in the morning at a local smoky bar with dim lighting and solid wood chairs. And this was on a weeknight.
Our timing could not have been better as it was election time and we had the benefit of the company of an expat and her Spanish husband to witness the historic outcome
. Not to mention we had an internet connection allowing us to witness it at all. We have not touched much upon this subject but it is worth noting that as we have traveled around the world we have marveled at the entire world's enthusiasm for our president elect. All across Asia, Nepal, India, end (perhaps especially) Muslim Turkey and Jordan, and Europe everyone wants to talk about Obama. In our unofficial poling of the world, Obama would have won the popular vote by 95%. Spain (and even moreso, France) was no exception and there was great excitement both pre and post election. The day following the election, the ticket seller at the train station was so ecstatic he kept us at the booth for five minutes making indiscernible exclamations about the election. We barely made our train! With all that pressure neither of us would want to be in Obama's shoes! Let us hope that he can deliver on just a part of what the world is expecting and can make America a strong and well thought of nation of the world.
Before taking off for the train, we enjoyed one last home cooked meal with lots of veggies (wonderful veggies our long forgotten friend that the rest of the world seems to ignore compared to us Californians) and of course some rose sparkling cava. While the bottle of Lambrusco was not unexpected it was a great surprise to be presented with a "wedding" cake as Meredith and Manu had not been able to make it to our wedding in California. Along with the cake, they surprised us with a wedding veil and tie so we could dress for the festivities. It was nice to be with such thoughtful friends.
Our stay in Lleida was supposed to be just about visiting friends but turned into a much needed recharge for us. A big thanks to Meredith, Manu, Marcel, and Dylan for their excellent hospitality and allowing us to enjoy their home an lives for these days.
Where? Lleida is a pleasant little village a couple hours north of Barcelona with a very worthy site or two. But more than sightseeing, we were there to visit our friends Meredith, Manu, their two adorable boys and to rest a bit after many days constantly on the move. Thanks to the hospitality of Meredith and husband Manu all goals were accomplished. It is hard to explain, but the ability to just hang out in a real home (and a Spanish one at that!) brought us great pleasure. Their home, with it's original Spanish tiles, concave ceiling, tremendous accumulation of art, design, and literary books provided us with a never ending source for comfort and interest. It was the perfect place and the somewhat frigid weather only made it more cozy to hang out and veg. We spent two days here, doing, well not much. And really liking it.