The Trail Boss Has a Birthday

By our second day, rhythm and familiarity made for even more enjoyable walking along the edges of cliffs with miniature villages and farms in the valley below.

Steep bits challenged, both elevation gain and loss led to accompanying stress on body parts. In our tattered copy of “A Journey to the Islands of Scotland” Samuel Johnson describes the ascents perfectly: “…an aclivity not dangerously steep but sufficiently laborious.” Same for the declivities. But we also traveled miles of country lanes through meadows and Robin Hood-worthy forest paths with soft leaves underfoot.

Walking through farms at siesta time, with maisas quiet and shuttered, cows chewed their cud and regarded us with both boredom and incredulity at such madness in the afternoon sun.

In spite of weary bodies our evening approaches always thrilled – not quite sure where we would stay or what the food would be like. But eager – and then always pleased by good food, hot showers, and cozy beds.

At the end of the second day, when our hostess Carmen warmly welcomed us to her beautifully remodeled 18th century farmhouse, I blurted out that today was the younger son’s birthday. (She had two hijos of her own.)

Her evening meal was Perfecto! – a beautiful salad with olives and apples, tomatoes and garden lettuce, pumpkin soup, a melt-in-your mouth tortilla de patatas – and exciting to me – fesols de Santa Pau – a local white bean of such renown in Spain they may be given a denominacio d’origen like wines to identify them.

Fried pork for the carnivores almost capped the meal, but then Carmen presented (with help from Miguel) a birthday cake ablaze with a big numeral three candle and three little ones. We shared it with Miguel and Carmen who offered the first taste of Ratafia Russet – the local liqueur made from alcohol, anise – “and many, many flowers.”

In these days, wine and desserts always accompanied meals – no doubt part of the happiness. And we were so companionable – so much laughing – and always the pleasure of walking. The hot sun rarely unwelcome, being sometimes interrupted by huge fat clouds drifting by – or shading trees. I loved seeing the young people up ahead – grateful for sharing daily life in such a setting.

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