Friday, 16 June 2017

Dazzled

The street is still. My head aches, just a little. My the skin on the back of my legs sweats against the plastic chair, but it's cooler here in the shade than anywhere else.  
We sit beneath a Coca-Cola umbrella outside the only bar in Fuentes de Valdeperos. We don't know this town, or this bar. The three old men sitting in the other chairs under the other umbrellas are not particularly friendly, but we don't mind. We don't need to be their friends.
My beer glass drips with condensation. It leaves big rings of water on the plastic table-top. I make an olympic symbol. Paddy fishes an ice cube from his gin and tonic and sends it skittering across the pavement. The town is built of pitted, pale-yellow stones, massive blocks. The bar is built against the church, a monumental structure that looks like it erupted out of the earth a million years ago. Its roof bristles with stork nests, each of them full of stork families. Just up the street is a castle, newly restored, a real sky-scraper Disney kind of place that dates back 800 years. You can go inside for 2 euro, if you get there during visiting hours.
There's another spectacular castle just a couple of miles up the road, at Monzon de Campos. We've never managed to see inside that one, either.
There are castles all over Palencia, lonely old keeps on hilltops and out in fields and stuck right in the middle of tiny towns. Museum ticket-takers must be some of the loneliest, most under-employed people in Spain. They are always overjoyed when we show up, but more often than not they have to tell us No, so sorry, you've arrived too close to lunchtime, you'll have to come back some other day.   So we go. We walk round the Plaza Mayor, we follow the fancy paving past the most historic buildings. There are no people in the streets.
Our only fellow humans are huddled under the umbrellas outside the bar. The bar is why we stopped at Valdeperos, really. Paddy just had minor surgery on his left eye, and he felt a gin and tonic coming on. We were driving north from Palencia, a route we almost never take, and there was a huge castle over there, one I'd never noticed. Castles mean tourism, which means there's probably a terrace bar there someplace. And bingo.  
So we sit. No one says anything. The sun has stunned us all silent.  
The street is narrow. A car eases by, the bumper passes a foot or two from the back of my chair. It's the museum lady, heading home for lunch.
The sun dazzles the face of the old church. Its bell strikes two.
The storks on the roof answer back, clattering their bills, making a sound that says to me, "you are in Spain." "This is Spain. Castile. It's summer."

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