Monday, November 29, 2010

The Story of El Balcon

Meet Dani.
He's the charming guy who owns the bar next-door to our apartment.  It is, or was, called the Balcon de Aquiles.  But more on that later.

It took us almost an entire month to venture inside the Balcon for this graphic image graced the front window.  Would you want to see this photo every time you opened your front door?

But finally, we decided to give our neighbors a chance and then never looked back.  Ted or myself or both visited the Balcon every single day of October and November.  Sometimes just to say "Hola" but other times to stay all night.

Dani and his friends - Pedro, Fernando, Jano and Marcial - were very welcoming to us and especially patient with our broken Spanish. This is Marcial, probably telling a funny story.

Later we found out that the graphic image in the window was of a bearded man drinking water sideways.  Ha!  Silly of us for being so square.

Since the season of giving thanks was upon us, either Ted or I had the idea of throwing a grand Thanksgiving feast for all our new Spanish pals at the Balcon. But then we realized there were many people who had shown us kindness when we first arrived.  

So, we asked Dani if we could invite twenty people to a Dia de Gracia event at the Balcon since all those people definitely would not fit in our tiny apartment.

Dani, being the gem that he is, agreed to our plan, but his response was bittersweet:

He was being forced to close the Balcon the very same day we wanted to have a the feast.  A malcontent neighbor had called the police one too many times for noise issues on the bar. We were devastated.  

The Balcon had already become a special place where we saw friends, spoke Spanish and laughed a lot.  When everything seemed wrong and out of place in Spain, we looked forward to dropping in on the Balcon to hear the latest.

Fast forward to the Dia de Gracia. Here is Ted tweezing out the feathers of the 18-pound bird, later nicknamed "Flor."

And here is Pau and Xavi trying to imagine what it's like to be "Thanksgiving Full":

The obligatory photo of the table pre-meal:

 Our Spanish friends were thrilled to get up close and personal with the holiday they had seen so many times depicted in American Film.

"Wow, what skill he has carving," they said.  

Post turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, pear salad (cranberries don't exist in Spain) and sweet potato pie, everyone was in excellent spirits:

It was an incredible day and felt a whole lot like a traditional Thanksgiving at home, even though we've only known these people a couple of months. 

There was no time for tryptophan sluggishness as the festivities quickly turned into a raucous party lasting well into the wee hours of the morning. The neighborhood came to pay their respects to Dani and the Balcon (and make as much noise as possible for the very last time).

El Balcon was fantastic while it lasted, and maybe it's for the better since, well, one probably shouldn't spend quite so much time in bars. Anyway, the best part of it was meeting really great people we'd otherwise never have met. And to have learned how nice it is to experience the kindness of strangers in a strange land.


  1. What a beautiful Thanksgiving memory you guys will have-never to be replicated. Much better than mine 46 years ago in Marbur, Germany. It was the end of the month, funds were low, so 4 of us shared 2 chicken dinners at this cheap Gasthaus and then went to class feeling very sorry for ourselves. Much love, Aunt KittyCat

  2. Can't believe we missed the Balcon! But REALLY glad to have met your bro-hams. Give them a left-right kiss for us! xoE