Mario Batali went to Cambados, Spain. So did we.
I learned exactly two words on the trip that Maya and I took in the summer of 2000: resaca and bodega. Symbiotic and entirely relevant to our journey, the words “hangover” and “winery” bring back vivid memories from the trip.
Back in those days, we had the luxury of time. (And, for me, money; I’d been working in London and the exchange rate between pound sterling and the Spanish peseta put the odds ever in my favor.) After visiting Madrid, we took a train west toward Santiago de Compestela, in search of a winery. Maya, whose Spanish far exceeds mine, communicated this desire to a tourist office. Several bus rides later, we found ourselves near the Galician town of Cambados for the Albariño Wine Festival.
A little off the well-travelled tourist path, the small town where we landed lacked the public transit and copious amounts of hostels, hostales and hotels that we found in other cities. When we arrived at our hotel, six kilometers away from Cambados’ town center, we learned that taxi service back from the festival would end at midnight. This did not thwart our young and thirsty minds. We were in Spain! We were going to a wine festival!
I do not remember the wine. I remember the large crowd gathered in the cobblestone town center. I remember meeting people. I remember that someone — surely not us — was smoking weed. And I distinctly remember the music coming from the giant stage. Someone with the voice of Dave Matthews (I was a fan in those days) was singing Irish-style rock music in Spanish. A clash of cultures.
And then there was the ride home. (All mothers of Maya are advised to stop reading at this point.) Having too much fun to abide by the taxi curfew, we ignored it. I promised Maya that we could simply walk the six kilometers back to our hotel. Albariño will do that to a gal. And so we started down the road that seemed to get longer with every step. It took about fifteen minutes for me to suggest hitchhiking. (Okay. All parents of anyone can stop reading, now.)
There may have been a discussion. An argument, even. But it was decided; we’d rely on the kindness of strangers to get us back to our temporary home. In seconds, a car with two men — of course — pulled up to our aide. Maya translated and told me that they would offer a ride with one caveat: we’d stop at a diner for a cup of coffee. That was the longest coffee of my life. We sat at a counter in a brightly-lit diner, nervously nodding to whatever it was our chauffeurs were saying. In short: they didn’t kill us. (As I think back on it, perhaps they were just looking to help us regain some sobriety.)
Mario Batali went to Cambados, Spain. So did we. But I’m willing to bet all the orange Crocs in the world that we had a better time. Besides, we were there first.