Sunday, 4 April 2010

Semana Santa in Ocentejo

We're just coming to the end of Semana Santa - Holy Week in Spain. The week leading up to Easter is as important as Easter itself, and MamaDuck had a week off work. We were invited to spend the week with some friends of ours at their place in Ocentejo, a tiny village (permanent population 25, but weekend and holiday population somewhat larger) about 150 kms north of Madrid. We've been there several times, but usually only for an overnighter, and usually as passengers in someone else's car. This time, our friends were already there, so we took the twice-daily coach as far as Cifuentes, about half-an-hour from Ocentejo, and they picked us up from there.

With spring teetering on the verge of sprunging, there is a lot of work to be done in the garden, and MamaDuck was eager to do some of it. I had been enlisted to make pork pies for general nibbling through the week, and a big steak and kidney pie to share with the family of José-Luis (the chef/owner of the only bar/restaurant in the village), and Espe, who just happened to be around. I spent a very happy morning in the kitchen constructing these pies, and they were a great success.

The pattern of our days at the house goes something like this: get up some time between 9 and 10, sort yourself out with breakfast, then get down to thinking about writing a new novel / actual work / dig the garden / make pies / go for a walk / paint the walls of the living room / try to draw a picture or do whatever it is you want to do. Sometimes there's a mid-morning coffee at the bar. At about 2.30, we knock off and go for an aperitivo at the bar. José-Luis is very canny, and will appear with a superb bit of food just as we look to be on the point of going back to the house for lunch. As we're eating this, we will of course order another round of drinks, and on more than one occasion we would be too full of J-L's creations to actually have or need any lunch. Some of the things he made for us: codornices (quails); migas (a southern Spanish dish of breadcrumbs and meat with a chopped-up fried egg stirred in - it sounds weird, but José-Luis makes the best migas I've ever had); beans (not Heinz); red peppers stuffed with a cheesy cod sauce; lomo (pork loin); patatas bravas (sauteed chunks of potato with a hot sauce); and many other goodies.

Then, back to the house for lunch (or not), usually followed by a snooze, and then whatever was planned for the evening. One night this involved trooping down to the Mayor's* house to watch Atléti vs Real Madrid (el Derbi, and a truly crap match it was), and a few days later a drive to the next village, Sacecorbo, to watch Atléti vs Valencia. The reason for all this mooching around to watch footie is that Castilla La Mancha switched off their analogue TV broadcasts last weekend. Now, this has been planned for years, and everyone now has a TDT (Terrestrial Digital Television) adapter. But Ocentejo (actually, the beloved Mayor of Ocentejo, who is the only person in the village who has satellite TV), forgot / didn't bother to tell the authorities they would like to have whatever doohickey is required to transmit digital signals. So, blank screens in Ocentejo.

And then back to the house for a nightcap, and sometimes staying up talking till stupid o'clock.

Sigüenza Cathedral

Some days we'd have a trip out of the village - MamaDuck and lady friend went to a garden centre in Guadalajara one day. We all went to Siguenza a few days later - it's quite a pretty place with an astounding cathedral and a castle that has been restored and is now a Parador.

Castle / Parador

And finally, the culmination of Semana Santa - el viernes Santo (Good Friday). There were lots of events organised by the village, starting with a competition to see who could make the best torrijas (a bit like a cross between French toast and bread-and-butter pudding). MamaDuck and I had been co-opted onto the judging panel, along with one of our friends and the mayor's wife. After that there was a concert of classical music given by a violinist and a guitarist, followed by the church-goers parading their little statue of Christ on the cross around the village. And then a bonfire in the square, which was supposed to be accompanied by roast potatoes. But they didn't put the spuds in until about 11pm, and by midnight they were still not ready, it had turned seriously cold, and us poor little Brits buggered off to bed.

Yesterday our pals gave as a lift into Guadalajara and we caught the train back to Madrid, where it promptly started to rain. But it was such a pleasure to be out of Madrid and plunged into a proper little Spanish pueblo where, of course, almost nobody speaks English and so you absolutely have to inflict your appalling Spanish on them.

*It's always amazed me that such a tiny village as Ocentejo has a Mayor and a town hall, but it turns out that the municipality is actually the largest in Castilla La Mancha in terms of land area. 


Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

I love the paradores of Spain. Happy Semana Santa.

Jayne said...

Your pork pies are getting quite a reputation keefie!