We are in the large town of Jaca and I’m having a lovely time, very, very little English spoken here, so Spanish skill increasing. It’s 4.30pm and everywhere is closed until 5pm. Must be siesta time. When we stay anywhere long enough we start to slip into their ways. We can’t imagine having dinner at any other time than 8.30pm now! Well, we’re usually the first in the door at that time, for the Spanish it’s probably a bit early. The benefit of having dinner so late is the way it splits the day. For example, I get up (here) around 9am (GMT 8am!), then have breakfast. After breakfast there’s about three hours until lunch. After lunch there’s six hours to dinner. Plenty of time to fit in a cafe con leche and a pastry or a little tapas. After dinner just enough time for a little walk and off to bed. So all through the day there’s no rush, just movement from one eating event until the next. And the bonus for me is that I don’t have to cook any of it. Fortunately, we are on the fourth floor and I am walking off all this food.
(I know, every day there’s a picture of coffee, but it’s so pretty)
This morning we had breakfast and Denis went off to work while I went to visit the town. It’s just a little too small to have a bus tour so won’t be able to test that but there is a Tourist office. Off I went to find some English brochures. There were three tables in the office and a tourist official sitting behind each one, a bit like the travel agents used to be when there were still travel agents. On each table was a little plaque with the flags from Spain, France and the UK. I took this as a sign that the person at the desk could speak each of these languages. But I did what any polite tourist might do… I asked “Do you speak English?”, she said “no”.
This is happening a lot in Jaca. And really, it’s what we want, isn’t it? We want to increase our Spanish….but strangely what’s happening is – it’s increasing our French. I know this will come as a bit of a surprise to those who have followed my journey with French, so I’ll explain. When the waitress last night at dinner and the receptionist in our hotel said “No” to the “ingles?” question, they followed that up with “francais”, meaning they have French. And although we do start out with our minuscule Spanish we soon run out of vocabulary. That’s when we realise that our French vocabulary is really quite…. medium sized. It’s a cruel joke if we end up speaking better French the longer we stay in Spain.
Anyway back to the tourist office. Ok, I can do this.. I know how to say “I want…”, it’s pronounced Key-aero (a key and the bar of chocolate, and it reminds me of Ciara). And I know how to say “English” , it’s pronounced Ing-Les. I don’t know how to say brochures, but as there were plenty of Spanish ones around, I could improvise. So I picked up one and looked her in the eye and said (in Spanish) “I want (waving brochure) English”. Not a bother to her, she asked in English (!) “ok, for what?”. (So she did have English. There’s a message here for me, not sure yet what it is, I’ll get back to it.) “Jaca (remembering to pronounce it Haka), por favor” (I only remember my manners when things are flowing). At this stage we’re both smiling and she heads off to the back of the office to search through lots of cupboards and finally brings back six booklets about the town and hinterland. We’re both delighted and with lots of gracias from me I’m moving towards the door when she says “where are you from?”.
(The pilgrim’s walk, The Camino, passes through Jaca on it’s way from France to Santiago de Compostela, the shell is the symbol of the walk)
She must have said it in English because I don’t know any of those words in Spanish. Anyway, I’m delighted, we’re still talking and I say “Ireland” and she whips out a bunch of pages stapled together and searches for the page with Irlanda on it. Then she puts a little tick on the page and says “the first”. And I realised she was saying that I was the first person from Ireland (today? this year? ever?, I didn’t check…). Well I was thrilled.. to be an ambassador for the people of Ireland…. I gave a little cheer and both thumbs up. And didn’t she do the same! Relations between Ireland and Spain are in no danger in Jaca today. I left, waving and smiling to my new friend.
After that I went to the Cathedral, a nice place for a quiet moment. There was a mass going on so it wasn’t that quiet, but I sat down anyway, and then I noticed a door off to the left. It was open and very bright so I got up and went towards it….. I’m going to have to tell you about it tomorrow because it made a big impression on me and I think I’ll have to sleep on it.
Buenas noches (good evening, I know it’s not evening – I’m practicing!)