Thursday 13 June 2013
While Susie slept in, I went for a walk along the river to warm up my aching back. The river is called the Ebro, and its source lies in Cantabria, which is where we will be at the half-way point of our holiday.
I paused a while in the middle of the Pjedro Bridge gazing at the raging water. Like the bridges in Paris, the base of the pillars facing the current are shaped like the prow of a boat, presumably to reduce the force exerted on them. This creates vortices on the lee side of the bridge, and interesting whorls and eddies on the surface.
I crossed back to the old city via a pedestrian bridge, and when I returned the apartment, Susie was being vexed by philosophical questions: “Why are we travelling? What is the point of it all?” I did my best to answer them. She has a very strong work ethic, and I think perhaps this brought on a minor existential crisis. When it had attenuated, we set out in search of a bookshop near the Plaza España in search of a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls in English. (I suspect that the existential crisis was being channelled into a program of self-improvement through literary study, but if that contains the anxiety, I’m all in favour of it.) We were unable to find a copy of Hemingway’s novel in English, but it was fun hunting for it. Susan later downloaded the text to her iPad, and has been reading it on that ever since. (I must reserve a corner of this recount for useful travel aids, and the iPad is going to get a glowing mention. It has been an extremely useful accessory.)
We selected our lunch from the menu del dia in a café in El Tubo, which is a cluster of narrow streets and alleys where some great tapas joints are located. We then retired to the apartment for a siesta. Susie later went out later to try on some shoes, but she encountered some unhelpful service and so drew another blank on her quest for the perfect summer sandals. On her way back, however, she noticed an advertisement for live music in the Casto Café at 9:30 that evening. So we mooched around the apartment until the appoint hour, and the then went out for what turned out to be the perfect conclusion to our stay in Zaragoza.
It was a little incongruous: you would expect to encounter flamenco in a Spanish tapas bar; Zaragoza is not renowned for the blues. But there they were, waiting for us in the Casto Café. The duo called themselves Hot Hands and consisted of two guitarists who both played very well. The crowd gathered in the bar were rapt by the music and did not drown out the players; and nor did the players try to compete with the murmur of the audience by turning everything up. Overall, the atmosphere was lively, convivial, and very relaxed. We ordered some tapas and some drinks (Susie was even inspired to have a margarita), and we whiled away an extremely enjoyable evening. Nearer to midnight, we rolled home with Robert Johnson’s Come on in my kitchen ringing in our ears.