So yesterday was my sweet mother’s birthday.
And I’m going to be honest, since her stroke last year, birthdays have taken on a greater significance. They have a weight to them – an appreciation that before, was admittedly, taken for granted.
But not any more.
Having spent the last couple weeks with her in Spain on the Camino, I got to see, very intimately, her heart. Her spirit. And I spent the entire time trying to absorb every heart ray she was radiating, and trying to learn everything I could, simply by observing.
And I came away having learned an incredibly important lesson from her:
Our greatest calling in life is to love.
Loving God. Loving Others. Loving Life.
And everything we do, can and should be an expression of that — even in the littlest of ways.
Tonight, instead of some heavy think piece on lessons I’ve learned from my mother, I thought it could be fun to share one of my favorite memories from the Camino with her.
Nothing earth shattering or super spiritually enlightening. Just one of my favorite moments with my mom.
So it was the fourth day on the trail, and we had just walked all morning/early afternoon – about 18 miles, into Caldas de Reis, Spain. It’s this cute, sleepy little town on the northern coast of Spain, and it has a beautiful river that runs through it.
So we were the first in our group to arrive at the hotel. And it’s around lunch time. They’re hours behind us and we’re pretty hungry. So we mosey on downstairs to the hotel restaurant, and we sit down to lunch. Or so we thought. To our surprise, all they serve for lunch is either a whole, head-on fish with the eyeballs starin’ at ya. Or some big, fried leg of meat, fit for Gaston in Beauty and the Beast.
We both took one look at each other and high tailed it out of there.
Besides, here we were in Spain, let’s not eat at the hotel!
So anywho – after a quick Yelp search, I discovered that the #1 locals’ hangout is a hidden little tavern that just so happened to be across the street from our hotel. O Muiño.
They had patio seating, overlooking the scenic river that ran through it. Just what we needed.
So we walk in, and it is honestly straight out of a medieval storybook . You walk through this dungeonous, stone cellar with a big wooden bar, only to open up onto this adorable little patio, where I swear, it was as though the entire village was there.
Siestas are a way of life in Spain, and boy, do they celebrate the good life!
But it was packed. As in – we waited close to two hours to get a table. And no-one spoke English, so we had to rely on my Spanish skills, which…were 7 years of studying, but I hadn’t used them in about 10!
But people were – no kidding – jockeying for tables. Boxing people out. Making a mad dash to the next available seat. It was mayhem.
And after a two hour stake out, and a glass of wine, we finally got a table.
Now, getting the food would be another story.
It took us forever to flag the waiter. Then forever to order. Not a bread basket in sight. Even longer to get the food out — which ended up being the wrong order. It was a comedy of errors and we laughed our way through the entire thing.
We ended up drinking our lunch (free wine), and eating the free appetizers and desserts that the waiter gave to us. He’d slide these random dishes onto our table with a wink, as he laughed about the crazy situation and slammed restaurant.
I’m realizing now that this is one of those “you had to be there” stories, but chalk it up to say that we had so many belly laughs about how absolutely absurd the situation was that we found ourselves in: A locals tavern in true pandemonium: an understaffed hotspot with boisterous Spaniards that loved to drink and socialize.
But the best part of the afternoon was when the patio of older women — these local Spanish mamas and aunties — were trying to set me up with the cute waiter.
To set the scene, everyone on the patio – ourselves included – had now become this large dysfunctional family, all laughing at how crazy this lunch shift was. I mean, we’d cheer for each other when a bread basket was delivered, or someone got a refill of wine. I mean, that’s the absurdity we’re talking here.
Anywho – our waiter was probably late twenties – very cute. And then myself. We were probably the only ones under the age of 40 by a long shot.
So we had been flirty-chatting the entire time, he – in his broken english, and I – in my broken spanish. Well, this patio of women – and my mother – decided that they were going to try to set us up. Or just, embarrass the heck out of us.
Meanwhile, I had just walked 18 miles in the humidity and was looking real rough – but that’s besides the point.
It was incredibly endearing, and we made some new friends that day. I think he gave me his phone number on a napkin. I honestly don’t even remember.
The best part of that whole episode was just being with my mom and navigating that completely out of the norm situation. We were in a different culture, out of our element, just having fun. Laughing. Drinking good wine. Being in the moment.
But any who – you can watch a little vlog I did with my mom at this pub in this YouTube video.
You know you’ve got a “true blue” friend, when even a crazy, circus of a cafe can be one of the most fun days of your life.
So thanks for indulging me in that story, and happy birthday to my favorite adventure partner!
And one last thing – one of my biggest tips for traveling abroad: get out there!! Out of your comfort zone! Out of the touristy areas! Explore the city like a local – walk around, ask locals where they like to hang out and eat. You never know what kind of adventures you can have if you just put yourself out there! And sometimes, the most fun experiences are the most chaotic or disorganized!!
What’s your craziest restaurant story?
See ya tomorrow morning on the Podcast!
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