July 1, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Traditions, Travel, Travels in Spain


I like lots of different kinds of fruit, but I don’t like cherries. There’s something about the texture and ragged little pit that just doesn’t work for me. So when I was told the region we would be visiting last weekend for a wedding was known for its cherries, my reaction was that it mattered a cucumber to me (a Spanish expression meaning that you are indifferent – apparently they don’t care much for cucumbers). Well, ok, I was of course enthusiastic as I always love road tripping around Spain, but the cherry part didn’t get my mouth watering.

So it was off to the community of Extremadura where we first headed to the Monasterio de Yuste, where King Carlos V spent his dying days. Most interesting to me about the small, humble monastery/palace was Carlos’s bedroom located just to the right of the church altar. It is there that he had a window to the altar so that he could be as close to God as possible during his final days when he could not make it out of bed.

Following our tour of the monastery, we took our chances and headed in the opposite direction of home (the hotel) to find ourselves a pueblo (read: we wanted to fill our stomachs with some local cuisine). Sure enough, nestled in a little valley, we came upon Garganta la Olla (translated as throaght pan….I don’t even know what I could possibly conclude from this). Arriving in the town it was obvious that its cherries took center stage. Apparently this whole region within Extremadura is known for its amazing cherries – the region is called “La Vera” and many of the cities within its limits are named something “de la Vera.” The streets were speckled with discarded cherries and pits as if the evening before there were some sort of big cherry party, when, in reality, every day during this time of year is a cherry party. Each shop proudly displayed its freshly picked cherries, and cherry picking trucks dominated the narrow streets. In one shop they were sampling their juicy little gems – I hesitated, but given my grumbling tummy, I succumbed and tried one. Perhaps I never gave cherries a fair shake, but let’s just say that the two us now have a beautiful relationship. Since then I’ve been woofing down cherries and contemplating all the magical things I could make with them in the hypothetical world in which I love to cook. So far, I’ve just added them to my morning oatmeal, which I’d like to pretend is very, very creative and culinary of me.

That evening we made our way out to Plasencia for the wedding, which was held in the city’s grand cathedral. After the ceremony, and after finishing my workout for the day (standing, sitting, and standing and sitting some more through the whole Catholic ceremony), we headed to the ranch where the outdoor reception would be held. During the whole 20-minute-plus drive, ominous clouds were hovering overhead. We knew what this meant given the warm June evening in Spain – heavy wind, followed by lightening, thunder and torrential downpours, and then about 30 minutes later the skies would clear and all would be right in the world again. So would it rain, or would the weather gods give us a reprieve considering that there was ZERO back up plan for the outdoor dinner and reception? It didn’t look like we would be so lucky. We arrived as the wind continued to howl, passing the cocktail hour with signs falling over, the towering flower arrangements being removed from the tables and all of the wine glasses turned on their sides so that they would not be swept away. The storm was imminent and seemed to be waiting right until we were seated to unleash its furry.

We sat for dinner while the wind swirled around us and yet still not a drop of water had fallen. As the sky darkened and we took in the view of the expansive valley below, we could see that rain was pouring in just about every direction, with strikes of lightening bursting across the valley. For me, the rain wouldn’t be such a big deal – after all, I didn’t bother going to the hairdresser to get a fancy hairdo like many of the Spaniards (for some reason I always seem to feel severely under-made-up for these occasions – you know, no long Oscar-like dress, nor any glamorous headpiece). The lightening on the other hand has always troubled me – with these darn metal rods in my back I’m somehow convinced that I’m a human lightening rod just waiting to be struck! I watched the valley wearily, ready to take cover at the strike of any nearby lightening.

Before we could even be served our first course, however, the wind suddenly died down, signaling that the storm had somehow passed and completely missed the ranch! With that the party really began. In my effort to detox prior to my own wedding (and by detox I mean not eat like a cow nor drink like a fish), I spent the evening drunk on caffeine until 3:30am when my feet finally told me it was time to call it a night. Apparently shortly after our departure, many of the guests, including the bride and groom, ended up in the pool (which reminds me – thank goodness there will be no pool at my wedding).

The following day we took the scenic route home, passing through all the “de la Veras” and finally stopping in one little pueblo called Oropesa where we visited the Parador (a famous line of hotels in Spain that are typically located in historic buildings) and did a little grandpa site-seeing (one of my favorite pass times given my fascination with pueblo culture and particularly the sweet little grandpas). The best part of the drive was the massive box of fresh cherries in the back seat which sustained us during the two-hour trip home.

This whole experience reminds me that there are just THREE weeks left until my big day! And I am nerviosísima! Following the big event, La Tortuga will be heading to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand for three weeks, so expect a change of reading scenery soon!