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Spanish Secrets, Spanish Secrets: Tapas And Jazz – An Acquired Taste

Craig Briggs brings us a tasty account of a night of tapa and jazz in a small Spanish town.

An English registered car driving through Monforte de Lemos - it’s an easy spot.

‘This is them now,’ said Melanie.

We were meeting friends for a tasty tapa before feasting on an evening of jazz.

The weather was perfect for an open air concert: comfortably warm and breathlessly still. We strolled towards Rua Cardenal Rodrigo de Castro, hub of the town’s café culture. During the summer months, local bar owners commandeer this pedestrianized thoroughfare, blanketing the street with tables, chairs and parasols.

As we approached, a cacophony of lively chatter and raucous laughter bounced off buildings and echoed down the street. Excited children dashed in and out of tables playing with friends, and strangers. We weaved our way through the crowds and continued on into Plaza España, venue for tonight’s concert.

The small square seemed eerily quiet. A temporary stage had been erected at the back and bright-yellow barriers prevented pedestrians from climbing the worn, stone steps leading up and out of the square. Sympathetic lighting illuminated the surrounding buildings forming a romantic backdrop.

We turned left and headed towards one of our favourite bars, Cantón de Bailén. Strolling through the warm, humid streets had given us a healthy thirst. Tonight we were in luck: a vacant table right outside the door. A waiter approached and stared at us, waiting for our order.

‘Dos cañas, una vino tinto y un blanco.’ (Two beers, one red wine and a white.)

‘Y tapa?’ (And tapa?) He asked.

We each chose our favourite and away he went.

A few minutes later he returned, balancing a tray laden with drinks and generously sized tapas.

David had chosen pincho Moreno: cubed pork marinated in a spicy sauce and char-grilled. Jacky preferred calamari fritos: circles of fresh squid, lightly battered and deep fried, and Melanie and I had chosen Spanish tortilla: a thick wedge of potato omelette cooked just as I like it, firm and golden brown on the outside, and soft and gooey in the middle – delicious.

My suggestion to make a move, received a less than enthusiastic response. On a warm summer’s evening, the temptation to remain there sipping cold drinks and nibbling tasty tapas was quite alluring.

Somewhat reluctantly, we strolled back up the street. Roadside cafés and bars were doing a roaring trade. Swinging melodies floated down the street as we neared. The volume increased and the clarity improved as we rounded the corner into the square. Four more friends were already there, lounging on two stone benches.

The temporary stage was occupied by a very young-looking, three-piece jazz band made up of a drummer, an organist and a guitarist. The low turnout, while not unexpected, was rather disappointing. Between songs, one band member tried desperately to engage with the audience, encouraging them to move closer or at least dance but his appeals fell on deaf ears.

For me, Jazz is an intimate musical experience, more suited to a small club or earthy cellar bar. Outside in the open air, watched by a disconnected audience, their well rehearsed routine drifted into the night sky.

By the time we were due to leave, my attention had done the same.

Tapas and jazz, an unusual combination but one I can cautiously recommend.

Craig has written a book, Journey To A Dream, a vivid and entertaining account of how he came to live in Spain.

It is available from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Journey-To-Dream-discovery-industrial/dp/1480254932/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374567185&sr=8-1&keywords=craig+briggs

Do visit Craig's Web site


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