Travel stories to discover

A family in el Escorial

A family in el Escorial

A dinner with Patricia’s family in el Escorial

Patricia invites me for a couple of days to visit her family in el Escorial near Madrid. That is an interesting possibility to get to know her hometown and see how a typical Spanish family lives.

Our walk from a bus stop leads through little streets with sizeable villas on both sides. All the houses have shutters, some are covered with creepers as to give extra protection against the sun and heat. Facades of the houses have interesting shapes and are covered with a rare variant of clinker bricks. We keep on strolling the quiet and calm streets with restaurants and bars closed in siesta time. We drink coffee in a old, historic café, once visited by the nobility and the other dignitaries, as Patricia let me know.

Professional service, an individual attitude and a bit of art put all together for a casual coffee order suggests it is a truly classy place. Definitely not one of a bulk coffee shops round the corner in big cities.

El Escorial is a monastery and palace complex built at the foot of the mountain range Sierra de Guadarrama . First of all is serves as the Spanish monarchs cemetery. Almost every royal couple has been buried here. It is also a library in possession of thousands of priceless manuscripts. The building is gigantic, as evidenced by its dimensions, more than 200 x 150 meters in size. Inside the building there is one hundred staircases linked together is sixteen kilometers of corridors. Unusual and increadible. The main entrance to the Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial is unfortunately closed during the summer.

A morning bike trip

We are waiting for the train to los Arroyos in a train station bar. With a beer order we get a descent size bowl of frutti di mare tapas for free. I find it hard to identify and call individual ingredients, but it is undoubtedly the biggest and most various portion of tapas I have had so far.

Our train arrives, we get on, however it lasts just a moment as we get off at the first stop. We’re pass plain plateau, an abandoned village, dried fields and olive trees until we reach Patricia’s house. Together we begin preparation of a Castilian dinner. We start with salads, olives (Spanish aceitunas), avocado, a large Spanish onions, sweet fruit paste and fresh vegetables. Soon Patricia’s parents and her little brother arrive. We continue with preparing shrimp and mussels, which tonight will be served in several ways. There is only a good music missing so we play rhythmic Cuban sounds. We sit down altogether on the terrace to have this splendid dinner in a warm July evening. It is an honor to be a guest.

I get to know Patricia’s family. Her father, Roberto Brown, has a company organizing incentive trips, which is about arranging activities and sports for employees from various companies. This explains why there is a dozen or so of windsurfing boards in front of the house and a whole garage filled with bikes and sports equipment for diving, rock climbing and kayaking. I ask Roberto, where is the main office of his company. He points at two file binders and a laptop lying on the desk in the room next door. “Here it is. I want to keep my company as simple as it is right now." As you can see, it is possible to control a prosperous business yourself just with a little help of your laptop. I record it as an example and a good rule of thumb to follow.

The second application of minimalist’s utilitarianism is the absence of TV at Patricia’s home. The unnecessary inventions people keep cause them not to have enough time for themselves. Here it is different. We’re talking the entire evening till late night.

July 2008