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(All photographs copyright 2015 by Gerry Dawes.)
One time we were on our way with Alicia to Pamplona (via Rioja and Burguete). To avoid the maniacs driving southbound on the main then two-lane highways, I opted for a back country road somewhere in the direction of Soria in northern Castile, when Alicia spotted a bar at the entrance to a village. "Stop the car!" she said, "Let's go in there and have some fun." We went in, ordered some vino tinto and had some fun.
Later, we all drifted down to the Bar Txoko and I encouraged a Navarrese girl with a beautiful voice to sing a jota. Looking at Alicia, the young woman sang a wonderful moving jota that had the line, “Madre mia, madre de Navarra."
I looked at Tía Alicia and we both had tears running down our cheeks. It was one of the most magical moments I have ever known in 50 years of running the roads and fiestas of mystical Spain. But when Alicia was around, magic was never that far away.
In 1985, Alicia took her namesake, my daughter, Erica Catherine Alicia, to her first and only bullfight.
Photo by Gerry Dawes.
I vowed after she died that wherever I go in Spain, wherever there is a fiesta and a restaurant where it would have been appropriate for Alicia to have been, there will always be an empty chair and a place setting at my table with a glass of agua del grifo, the tap water, which she always drank for the 40 years she spent in Spain; a vino tinto de la casa (when it was her call, she always asked for the red wine of the house); and a cigarillo de tobaco negro. That is the least I can do in her memory.
There was no one like Alicia. To paraphrase the ditty about brave bullfighters that was written on the banner she always carried when her torero Diego Puerta was fighting, "Alicia, Alicia, . . . Como Alicia no hay ninguna."
"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter.
"Chiarello embarked on a crash course by traveling to Spain for 10 days in 2011 with Food Arts
"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections
Gerry Dawes can be reached at email@example.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): firstname.lastname@example.org