Two days inside presenting and listening to papers so now it is time to party. And today, Saturday, will be packed with eating and drinking. David went back to Tel Aviv and Elizabeth to Cambridge early this morning so our numbers are reduced: Stephen (from Ireland) and his girlfriend, Katarzyna (Stephen teaches in Poland); Silvia (teaches at John Cabot U in Rome), her husband Claudio, and 4-year old son, Luca. As well are our hosts from Logrono: Inma and her huband, Chima (our favourite computer go-to person); Elizabeth, Rafe, and their 11-year old daughter, Ava; and Azucena (a fantastic children's author) and her 12-year old son, Bruno.
I wish I had a recorder to tape our conversations as we rolled through English, Spanish, Italian, with a bit of Polish thrown in for good measure and Stephen "putting on the Dublin." I'm afraid my Spanish is still pretty rudimentary: vino tinto, si, and a few other important survival phrases. Bruno and I had great fun, however, discussing mountains (foggy, snowy, flat, peaked) and his favourite subject, castles. Since we were in the Basque country today, our Spanish friends were able to practise a similar but different language. There is a very noticeable security presence in train stations (Madrid train station bombing killed almost 200 in 2004) and other places where there are public gatherings.
Chima had arranged an English guide for us at Heredad Ugarte winery near LaGuardia. We had about an hour's tour of the winery, followed by a sampling of three wines and a taste of local specialty, chorizo. The EU has invested heavily in this region's wineries, and the consequence is a large number of new architecturally interesting buildings. At the end of the day, we stopped at the winery designed by Toronto-born Frank Gehry (who designed the new AGO and, of course, the Guggenheim in Bilbao). I could not get any good pictures as the gates were closed, but there is a great virtual tour for anyone interested: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/luxury/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1539 I really appreciated this stop as I had hoped to get to Bilbao on Sunday, but the group has opted for an alternative destination. (I was thinking of you, Rocsana, as I remember that your godparents live in Bilbao.).
Other highlights of Saturday were a tour around the walled town of LaGuardia (braving the cold and rain) and a wonderful meal of white asparagus (my favourite--different from what I've had elsewhere as they are big and juicy) and grilled lamb chops, "hibachi style" (we decided there was no English translation). All accompanied, of course, by lots of red wine from the area. The restaurant was packed and smoky (from the grills and the lack of a no-smoking policy), which added to the atmosphere.
Link to complete set of pictures: http://picasaweb.google.ca/ldclement7/Logrono#
I did not take pictures at the evening's activity--a "laurel"--but Chima downloaded over 500 pictures onto my computer last night, so I'll post a couple of these separately with an explanation of what a "laurel" is.