Vino blanco de la casa por favor…

Never were more innocent words spoken. I just wanted a glass of white house wine. We were at Restaurante Nicolas last night, for our first real late-night Bilbao dinner (nobody goes out to eat before 20h here). Once we figured out the obscure “restaurants are located behind a secret door at the back of the bar” system, we were flying.

Our small pale balding old waiter, every inch a gentleman, brought us a simplified English menu, which was a saving grace at the end of a day of stumbling our way through Spanish. Catherine ordered the lamb chops, and I the hake with red peppers. And the aforementioned “vino blanco de la casa.”

In short order the glass of wine arrived, and after a couple of sips, along came the bottle.

Those who know me will know that I am just as likely to cut off my foot as to drink more than a couple of glasses of wine, so this came as something of a surprise. But being still inside that “strangers in a strange land” terror that is foreign language tourism, I smiled and undertook my task. Thankfully Catherine pitched in to aid.

The hake was very good, and it was followed by a dessert called, in English, “a little bit of everything” which was just that — tart, chocolate, eclair, puff, ice cream. Dreamy all of it. Catherine’s lamb chops were very good as well, and she ordered the same dessert and had the same reaction. Oliver had a little bit of all of the above, and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. The waiter took a liking to him, and brought some roll cookies out at the end of the night which made him very happy.

At the end of the night — about midnight — we headed off into the raininy Bilbao night, and, thanks to Catherine’s clear head, made it home to our hotel in one piece. I haven’t ordered wine since.

Today it rained, again, and our spirit was slightly diminished as a result. We made the best of it all, though, and took the wonderful Bilbao subway out to the edge of town where we rode across the river in a giant car carrying gondola, walked up the side of the opposite town in the pouring rain, walked back down along the ocean in the pouring rain, and returned, in the pouring rain, to Bilbao. Where it is pouring rain.

Tomorrow we say good-bye to Bilbao and head south-east by train. We decided not to make for Barcelona in one day, so we are stopping, for at least a night, in Zaragoza. Imagine the ‘z’ pronounced with a slight lisp, and you will see the attraction. We know nothing of the city, which is the point. More to report from the frontier.

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