We spent a total of 5 days in Jaen, and the days and nights were filled with old friends (new friends for me!), food, and lots of conversations. I was very quickly introduced to doing everything on Spanish time, which is different from the schedule that I’m used to. For instance, when we checked into Hotel Infanta Cristina (Princess Christina) in Jaen, we were told that breakfast started at 8:00 AM and ended at 11:00 AM. I’m used to breakfast hours starting at 6:00 AM in the hotels that I stay at for work purposes in the U.S. Lunch doesn’t even start until 2:00 PM (between 2-4 in the afternoon), and dinner isn’t served until about 9:00 PM. The siesta hours are still observed in Jaen, and Vin and I found ourselves being just about the only people wandering around town during siesta. We did see a few tourists (yes, they were tourists – they spoke German) up and about during siesta, but almost no locals. I found it odd to find older people (folks in their 70s and 80s) up and about at 1:00 AM on a work night, eating out with their families. Everybody keeps late hours in Spain – and siestas are a necessity to maintain this schedule.
Here are some pictures of the Hotel Infanta Cristina in Jaen:
[[image:eur96.jpg:Me by the hotel pool:center:0]]
[[image:eur94.jpg:Vin by the pool:center:0]]
[[image:eur95.jpg:This is as wet as Vin got – the water was coooold:center:0]]
Trick photography: You can see Vin and me in the reflection to the left of the photo, and in between the yellow flag and the blue flag, you see the Cathedral peeping out from between the buildings:
[[image:eur99.jpg:Domed roof of the building made of stained glass:center:0]]
Anyway, as soon as we arrived in Jaen and checked into our hotel, we set off into town to find the Dalas, which is the name of the bar that Vin frequented when he lived here 20 years ago. Now, before anybody gets in any kind of dander because I mentioned a “bar,” bars in Spain are different. For one thing, they open for breakfast. And not the liquid kind…regular breakfast. Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette), tostada entera con tomate (toast with crushed tomato and extra virgin olive oil), cafe con leche, etc. Granted it also serves alcohol, but it’s a much more family oriented place than what I would think of as a bar. It’s really more what I would think of as a regular restaurant.
The Dalas is in the building next to Vin’s old apartment building, and he used to eat there three times a day (if he could afford it) when he lived in Jaen. Vin sent two postcards – one to his friend Chico, and one to Alfonso, the owner of the Dalas – to tell people we were going to be in town. So when we arrived at the Dalas, Vin asked the server if Alfonso was in. The server said that Alfonso was around, so Vin asked him to tell Alfonso that “el Americano” had arrived. The server looks at Vin, then he points to a postcard tacked up behind the bar. “Tu?” he asks (“You?”). We look – it is indeed the postcard that Vin had sent! Of course Vin said “Si” and not long after that Alfonso comes out and we both get hugs and kisses from him.
I realized after we leave Jaen that I’d forgotten to take a picture of the exterior of the Dalas! Unbelievable! Anyway, here’s Alfonso, Vin and Chico – these pictures were taken our final night in Jaen when Alfonso invited us to have dinner at the Dalas on him. We had a fabulous feast that night!
[[image:eur103.jpg:At dinner with Alfonso and Chico:center:0]]
[[image:eur104.jpg:Me with Alfonso and Vin:center:0]]
At the Dalas, I was introduced to a uniquely Jaen tradition of getting a tapa (appetizer or kueh) with every drink. EVERY drink. In Spain, you normally get a tapa if you order an alcoholic drink, but in Jaen you get a tapa even if you are drinking a soda. Every single Coke I drank was accompanied by a tapa. Tapas could be anything from olives, and peanuts, to patatas alioli (a potato salad with mayo and garlic – reaaaaally good), cheese slices dipped in extra virgin olive oil (did I mention that Jaen is the Olive Oil Capital of the World?), gazpacho (beautiful smooth pink concoctions served in wine glasses), russian potato salad, potato chips, and lots of ‘jamon’ (ham). Of course, we did not partake of the ham, but the Spanish are very proud of their serrano ham. Alfonso was just wonderful about making sure our food was pork-free once he learned that we were muslim.
After our first lunch in the Dalas, and Vin had greeted Alfonso, we decided to go and look for Vin’s friend Chico. So we walked through Jaen to where Chico lives. Here are some pictures of the older parts of town:
[[image:eur91.jpg:Extremely narrow and hilly streets:center:0]]
[[image:eur90.jpg:A very old church:center:0]]
And of course, the focus of Jaen, La Catedral (I couldn’t get far enough away from the building to get a wider shot):
Chico answered his doorbell, and was just ecstatic to find Vin (and me) at his door. So for the next 4 days, we spend every afternoon hanging out with Chico. Chico regales me with stories of his and Vin’s escapades from twenty years ago, and overwhelms us with his utter hospitality (gracias, Chico!).
[[image:eur101.jpg:Chico and Vin at the Gamba de Oro:center:0]]
And…Chico has 3 cats! Julio, Gregorio (Goro), and Juanillo. We of course, waste no time making friends with the kitkats.
[[image:eur102.jpg:Chico and the very manja Julio:center:0]]
[[image:eur106.jpg:Vin petting Juanillo:center:0]]
[[image:eur107.jpg:Vin with Julio curled up by his neck:center:0]]
[[image:eur108.jpg:Sila and Julio:center:0]]
Yo quiero los gatos!
The cat imagery is also a focus of one of the peaks that you can see from Jaen. This is Las Orejas del Gato (the ears of the cat):
[[image:eur93.jpg:Las orejas del gato:center:0]]
Chico is a successful musician (he plays bass guitar and the double bass) and we spent the rest of our visit hanging out with Chico, meeting some of his friends, listening to music (Chico’s performances as well as his favorite bands) and eating. His mother, Antonia, took us out for a wonderful lunch at an Italian restaurant and then we visited at her casita (country house) about 20-30 minute drive out from town. I was in such a tizzy that I did not take any pictures. Antonia is fast-talking and it took all of my concentration to attempt to follow the conversation. Did I mention that of all the people that we met, really, only Chico spoke English? So I was beginning to comprehend most of the conversations (or the important bits of it), and Vin and Chico translated the rest for me. Antonia is a well-traveled, well-spoken woman whose journeys have taken her to Turkey, the middle east, and even Bali (that’s right around the corner from Malaysia!).
With Chico, we frequented a bar called La Manchega (can be translated as ‘the woman from La Mancha’) where the house special was called reclutas. Unfortunately I was usually too busy digging into the recluta to take pictures of it. Basically, a recluta is a sandwich with fresh tomatoes and anchovies (packed in olive oil), and the entire sandwich (bread and all) has been dipped in extra virgin olive oil and either deep-fried or toasted in a really hot oven so the bread is crunchy. Now, I am not a big fan of raw tomatoes (in fact I don’t like them) but these reclutas were just delicious. I was extremely happy with my sandwich.
Anyway, we talked late into the night every night, and thoroughly enjoyed our time in Jaen. We were going to bus to Granada for a day trip to visit the Alhambra (another Moorish castle), but our schedule in Jaen was packed for both lunch and dinner, and because we stayed out until the wee hours of the morning, we were not in any shape to get up early to do any sight-seeing somewhere other than Jaen.
Since we missed the Alhambra in Granada, and La Mezquita in Cordoba, I think this means we MUST come back to Spain. In fact, I enjoyed our time there so much I really hope that we can visit there often so I can catch up with all the sights that I want to see, and visit with Chico and all of Vin’s friends. It was hard to leave Jaen. In large part it is due to Vin’s wonderful friends who made us feel so welcome and at home (we barely ever paid for a meal while there), it reminded me very much what it is like to go home to Sitiawan where if you show up unannounced at an old friend’s home, even if they’re not there, their parents will make you stay for dinner or at least take tea with you. Twenty years ago, these people embraced Vin (or Vicente, as they call him) as a friend, and taught him all the slang swear words he would ever need, and twenty years later, they welcomed him right back into their community and took me along for the ride.
But all good things come to an end, and after a most enjoyable time in Jaen, we took the bus to Granada and then to Malaga for one last night in Spain before we return to England to have more fun with Mei!! 😀