after they’ve seen paree

It’s a story I’ve told before, but it is Throwback Thursday, after all.

My wife and I made our first trip to Europe in 1984. We stayed with Robin’s sister and her soon-to-be husband Peter in England ... I want to say they lived in Little Bookham, but I’m not sure. As I recall (I’m only going to say that once, but imagine I’ve said it before every sentence ... this was 32 years ago, after all), we quickly took off on a car trip. We were staying for three weeks, so time was tight. We drove down through France after taking the ferry (urp, barf), and crossed over into Andorra, which I probably didn’t know existed at the time. Then to Barcelona, where Peter had family ... he was a true European, English heritage but with time spent in Spain and France at least, conversant in several languages. While in Barcelona, we visited the Museu Fundacio Joan Miro, where Robin’s sister took the following photo, which recently turned up on Facebook:

miro 1984

I’m not sure what order we did things, but either going to or coming from France, we shopped in Andorra, which was duty-free. We also spent a night in the Pyrenees at a place Peter’s family owned ... there was a town named La Seu d’Urgell, perhaps it was there. On our way back through France, we spent one night in Meung, a small town on the Loire where I had the best birthday dinner of my life.

Back in England, Peter took me to Wimbledon. I always say I saw McEnroe and Connors at Wimbledon, which is technically true, although it was in different matches. Connors beat a fellow American, Lloyd Bourne, on Court One, after McEnroe had dispatched Australian Paul McNamee. I have long forgotten this, but McNamee actually took the third set in that match, making him the only player to do so against McEnroe in the entire tournament.

What brings all this to mind is a different sport. Euro 2016 is going on right now in France, and when we vacationed in 1984, the Euros were taking place, also in France. Wherever we went as we drove from England to Spain and back again, people were glued to their televisions. Spain made it to the finals, where they lost to France, 2-0. It was then that I discovered my first soccer hero, Michel Platini, who scored nine goals in the tournament (no one else scored more than three). What I knew about soccer in 1984 would barely fill an English teacup, but I have Platini to thank for getting me interested. (Here's a link to all of his goals:

Platini was indeed one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and after his playing days, he went on to have a significant career in administration, spending eight years as President of UEFA. Sadly, not all stories end well ... he is currently banned for ethics corruption. Not to excuse him, but he was born at the wrong time ... it would seem that every soccer administrator today is steeped in corruption.

I retained a lot from that European trip. It was my first time in Spain (albeit we never got close to Andalucía ... that waited until 2000). When we went to Europe, I had just finished ten years in the factory. I guess it was a case of “How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?”, because within a couple of months, I had walked off the job, never to return.

throwback a-vo-dee-oh-doe

This was taken in the summer of 2000:

winchester lovebirds

In 1966, the song “Winchester Cathedral” was a worldwide smash, selling 3 million records. The artist’s name on the label was The New Vaudeville Band, which didn’t really exist, although one was formed for touring purposes after the record became a surprise hit. In the U.S. it hit #1, supplanting “You Keep Me Hanging On” by The Supremes. It hung around the top spot during the month of December of ‘66, taking #1 on the 3rd, relinquishing the spot to “Good Vibrations” for a week, then regaining the top for two weeks before finally being knocked out for good on the last day of 1966 by The Monkees with “I’m a Believer”.

When the Grammy Awards were given out for 1966, a year of Revolver and “Monday Monday”, the award for the Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Recording went to “Winchester Cathedral”. You can see why Robin and I had to take that picture.

if it's thursday, this must be rosas

This is from the summer of 1984:

postcard from rosas 1984

It was our first trip to Europe … we stayed and traveled with Robin’s sister Tami and her soon-to-be husband Peter, who lived in England. The first night we were in Spain, we stayed in Rosas, on the Costa Brava. My memory is we arrived at night, and it wasn’t until the next day, looking out the balcony of our hostel, that I realized Rosas was next to the water. From there, we went to the house of Peter’s sister in Castelldefels (I think), a suburb of Barcelona. This would have been around June 13, 1984 … a week or so later, I spent the best birthday of my life in France.

The “Hermanos” were Geoff and David, who must have been living together in Portland at that time. The Giants game I referred to took place on June 11, which also narrows down the time frame. On June 12, the 1984 European Championships began in France, my first taste of the power soccer had over entire nations. As I recall, we ate in one French place that was more like a house than a restaurant, with a TV in the next room that kept the workers occupied. It was the tournament that gave me my first soccer hero, Michel Platini, who scored nine goals overall, including one in the final vs. Spain.

cross-cultural alphabet

Let’s see, what can I dump into this catchall post featuring “highlights” from our time in Nerja?

Language is always interesting in Spain. I don’t know why … it’s not like I practice speaking Spanish between visits, and it had been four years this time around … but I’m mostly comfortable speaking now, comfortable with my mistakes, and thus far more fluid than I used to be. Sometimes one of my family would ask me about a specific word, and I would usually fail to be of assistance, but when I was talking, words just flowed without my actually thinking about them. It wasn’t perfect … I spoke to the immortal Ayo, told him my wife had been on Spanish TV with him in 2009, and said she was “famoso”. “Famosa”, he corrected. More often, problems would arise when the two parts of my brain got in each other’s way. As long as I was locked into Spanish, things were fine, but when my American roots showed, anything could happen. Once, I stopped in a tourist assistance office, looking for a pharmacy. “¿Dónde está la farmacia cerca de aquí?”, I asked, and was told “Calle Pintada”. I replied, “Oh yeah, we just passed it.” (The pharmacy was interesting, as well. I was looking for chewable Pepto Bismol, and had brought a couple along as samples. I wasn’t getting anywhere with “para el estómago” or “para la diarrea”, but then I said, “como Immodium”, and that turned out to be the magic word. “¡Immodium, sí!, and off she went to get the medicine.)

We didn’t have wi-fi at our apartment in Nerja, and maybe it was the regular posts I’d made the week before from Ronda, where we did have net access, but people seemed to be unaware that I’d be checking online sporadically, at best. I’d get online for five minutes at a café, check for important emails, maybe leave a quickie message on Google+ or Facebook, and people would ask where I’d been, as if I’d disappeared forever.

Food … I could write all day about the food. Lots of pork, nightly ice cream cones, Fanta Limón (it was hard to find Fanta Limón Zero, but I did come across Fanta Limón sin gas, which I didn’t try). I discovered a new-to-me tapa, masita de chorizo, little chorizo burgers, which were yummy, but I only saw them in Ronda.

We walked around a lot, which we always do, but this time, we had my sister, who was wearing something that counted her steps. She informed us that we walked 14,000 steps one day.

I made a note to myself to say something about “Johnson”, but now I can’t remember what that refers to.

I’ll finish with probably my two favorite stories from Nerja. One afternoon, we went to Cochran’s for drinks. It’s an Irish pub with a gorgeous view … I get the feeling it’s popular with the British ex-pats. We’re sipping our beverages of choice, looking at the Mediterranean, while piped in music played fairly softly in the background. I heard a song I recognized, although it threw me off for a bit, since it sounded like a remix rather than the original. It was Cee Lo Green’s hit, the one that had been edited for radio and TV as “Forget You”, but which before the editing was the much more emphatic “Fuck You”. Remix or not, it was “Fuck You” that we were hearing. The word “incongruous” comes to mind … sitting in an Irish pub on the Spanish Costa del Sol, hearing “Fuck You” as we drank.

But my favorite of all moments on this trip came when we were at El Pulguilla, which was a tapas bar in the front and a restaurant in a huge outdoor eating patio in the back. Our waiter was quite charming … and here I should stop to note that whenever the whole bunch of us was together, there would be a mélange of halfway-decent Spanish, English-with-a-couple-of-Spanish-words, and the occasional effective use of pointing at the menu from our crowd, while the waiters generally had enough English to get by. This waiter’s English was pretty good, perhaps better than he realized, although, as would be seen, he also took some pride in his English. We asked for the wi-fi password, and he said something that sounded like “bah-tee-cah-no”. I told everyone it was spelled B-A-T-I-C-A-N-O, and we went to work, but no one could get connected. He repeated the password, but still nothing. So he wrote it down … and in Spanish, the letter “v” is pronounced very much like a “b”. The password he wrote was “vaticano”.

Now everyone was connected, and we all had a laugh at our expense. At which point he smiled, and proceeded to recite the alphabet to us in English: “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ!”

It was delightful. We enjoyed our meal, and later, when he stopped to check on us, I said, “un momento”. And then I added: “a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, rr, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z!”

The waiter and I then congratulated each other for doing our part to improve international relations.

Here we all are at the end of the meal, photo taken by our waiter:

seven at la pulguilla

i have to start somewhere

The last time I posted “live” was two weeks ago, two weeks in which we had our usual fine time in Nerja, but went without Internet access for most of that time. So there will be a few vacation-related posts, and a handful of photos, and then back to normal. I posted several times from Ronda, so these will stick to the two weeks in Nerja.

We stayed in an apartment on the Mediterranean with my sister and brother-in-law, Sue and Paul. My sister and sister-in-law, Chris and Karen, were also in Nerja but stayed at a different place, and my brother Geoff, who was staying in Sevilla, visited us for a couple of days. Here is the view from the balcony of our apartment (Geoff took the original):

More later …