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Maggie Beer

Maggie's food reflections from Europe Part 1

October 31, 2018

The last two months have been a whirlwind; I know you will have seen on Instagram a few photos I sent from Vienna; Isle of Skye and London. What I hadn’t mentioned up till now is how our time in London was upended only days before we arrived there by having our Air BnB booking cancelled without anything other than a memo to say they would return our money. It made London where I had so much to cover from a business sense in workshops; a trade show and investigating trends with the difficulty of finding a hotel at the last moment for 5 nights to fit in with all our plans certainly has made us want to know we would have security in the future should we rebook anything with Air BnB.

So that to one side; I only have wonderful things I want to share with you now. One of the great trips of our lives that was 7 days on the Camino with guides Nancy Frey and Jose Placer of ‘On Foot in Spain’ from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. Some background is needed here in that my great friend Dee Nolan who has written two wonderful books on the Camino had researched her books with the help of Nancy and Jose on many walks of the Camino. I had long wanted to be part of the trips undertaken with Dee and friends to walk but wasn’t sure I could manage it physically and if you saw the photograph of Colin and I the evening at the end of the walk you can see it all in our faces….the thrill of the achievement of finishing the walk is palpable.

It happened that it was very unseasonable weather conditions between 28 and 31C on all but the last day at the end of September but I not only managed, I revelled in it. There was so much that contributed to this being so special; the organisation of ‘On Foot’ with Nancy and Jose pulling together so many aspects to give us such an unforgettable experience; and that was by taking into account our love of food and making that a huge highlight every day from the wonderful picnics Jose prepared for us each lunchtime sharing with us the specialty of the area we had just been walking through; the stories of the history of the Camino, Nancy having done her Phd on the very subject but always with the most fascinating knowledge delivered in such a way that brought the journey so alive to us.

One great friend couldn’t come at the last moment and was sorely missed so there were nine of us along with Nancy and Jose all bound by friendships of one very special couple so firm new friends made and lots of great shared experience of our lives as we walked and much hilarity at the table each night. Nancy and Jose’s knowledge of the foods of the region added so much to our adventure always organising whatever was most special and significant each night and other than one spectacular lunch at a One star restaurant Culler de Pau with chef Javier Olleros, a treat for us almost at the end of the walk – such great psychology that; an exceptional meal all of it recorded in my food diary and all with the marriage of history; tradition with an edge that made it so exciting and relevant to today in a sophisticated way yet still so of the region.

The meals at night were often so simple; so seafood dominated yet with the specialties of northern Portugal I suspect unseen anywhere else and the same in Gallicia….. it was a never ending journey of discovery for me in so many ways. And then there were the random acts of kindness that blew us away. Such as an elderly lady in a village we walked through; so small there was no bar or shop to be seen yet having so obviously heard three of us coming she picked three bunches of grapes from her garden washed them and simply handed them to us with a smile; such giving that gave us such joy and such camaraderie with everyone we encountered.

Continue Reading Part 2

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