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Cider Houses Rule in Spain

December 9, 2012

Filling my Glass!

Like most of you, I too have bad habits, but, when reflecting about them, is there a bit of guilt involved or do you just have a smile on your face? I’ve decided to embrace mine because rarely do I complain about how they reduce my quality of life; in fact, I’d say that they add to it. Further, at my age, if I haven’t fixed them yet, I must really want them in my life. Call it a severe dedication to perfecting it. When you are polishing a bad habit, it eventually turns into a hobby.

Thus, I am now labeled a beer snob and I don’t believe-yet-that any country can beat America in this department so when I travel, I have to branch out to other libations at times. I’ll drink the swill with the locals, and be perfectly happy, but almost everywhere you journey, you can discover a specialty of sorts: the wine of Italy, the moonshine of Greece, and so forth. Every place seems to have a libation that they are proud of, and advertise relentlessly. Either way, I’m always going to make it a point to experiment with the local bevi of choice. After all, I want to know all the angles of my hobby.

Most of the time when I’m traveling, I find that there is at least one epic episode involving libations, where the stories are rich, the company is perfect, and the experience never leaves me. Even when I don’t exactly get the good shots with my camera, they rest with me, and deserve a page in my memory album, just like the hikes or destination days you savor.

I hadn’t been to Spain before. For the most part, I like to go to different regions of one country rather than jump from country to country in one quick swoop because I find that I was really there, mentally and physically, as opposed to this frazzled tourist with a tail wind behind her who can’t create much from the experience because it’s moving so fast. My Spain travels led me to the Canary Islands, Barcelona and the Basque Country. Part of the trip was donated to this Peace Conference that I was accepted into, but writing about that is another post; let’s just say that the trip was full of variety.

Arantzazu, Basque region, Spain

Arantzazu, Basque region, Spain

Specifically, I was a skip from Arantzazu, near Bilbao for most of my stay there. At the time, I hadn’t even heard about the cider houses of the Basque Country, but when I entered this one, I was ecstatic about its atmosphere: long, wooden picnic-style tables with benches, huge portions of meat and potatoes down the center, guitar playing, large groups of families and visitors chatting away, and then two very long lines leading to these silver barrels. It was charged with good vibes and energy. The best part was that it was loaded with locals so I knew I was in a good spot.

I went up to one of my companions to ask what she thought about the cider and she told me to go get in the line. Getting the drink is one of the best parts! There are many steps in perfecting filling your glass (see picture above); the first two times I tried, I ended up with more cider on me than in my glass. Unfortunately, you do witness a lot of cider going down the floor drain, which isn’t exactly environmental, but you’re given a tiny glass, and have to aim it just right so that this flash-squirting cider coming out of the barrels lands in it. The stuff was full force and just like its delivery method, its flavor was strong too. I wouldn’t say the taste is something I’d go after regularly, kind of like mead; you have to be in the mood for it, but it was made on sight, and seemed perfected. I was talking to a guy from Basque and he was telling me that these places were all around in the mountains, but that of course, they had their favorites.

Meanwhile, there would be a new course awaiting us at the table after walking back from the cider fills. And, did I  mention that it was all you could drink? They didn’t have to tell me that twice; I practiced my filling skills and gained the perfect buzz-not too little and not too much. What is there not to like?

I remember sitting at the table for the last few minutes feeling sad that I would be on a 4 a.m. bus the next morning to catch my plane, wishing that I had more time to hang out in the cider houses of the Basque Country, in the circles of the locals because it was there that I really met them, in the utter joy of their bad habit.

Thanks for reading, sharing, liking, commenting, and reflecting!

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