Changing cultures is always fun. I love to feel disoriented, as I am when I first arrive. After a stint in Austria, I’m in Spain. I got up early. Walking around Madrid at 8am people seem in a kind of fog. It’s not clear who’s starting their day and who’s ending it.
When I enter a new culture, I have certain rituals. In Spain it’s: a plate of Pimientos de Padron–sautéed mini green peppers with a delightful coat of salt and oil; savoring a slice of jamon iberico–the most expensive ham, made from acorn fed pigs; people-watching over a tall glass of horchata–that milky, nutty refreshing drink you find only in Spain; eating really late–8pm is tea time, no one seriously starts thinking about dinner until 9:30 or 10:00; setting the circa 1950s orange plastic machine into motion as several ugly oranges drop down, are sliced, squeezed, and fill the glass with liquid sunshine; and being really, really hot.
Austria is a relatively religious part of Europe. But in Spain, people brand Catholicism into their children with the choice of names. My last cabbie’s name was Angel. The woman at the hotel desk is Maria Jose (Mary and Joseph). The guy who runs my favorite restaurant is Jesus. And another friend is Jose Maria. Men have Maria in their name and women have Jose.
I’m done with TV production for the season. Simon is back in Seattle editing together the two new Austria TV shows we just shot and I’m in Spain for five days to update my Spain guidebook and apprentice one of my guides to do more research. As always, Spain is a festival of life. The streets are jam packed with people…at midnight.