Shades of Basque

This title may confuse some of you, especially those of you reading this in Portugal. How dare I think of the Basque country while sitting in a cafe in Lisbon, right? Well, as everything else in my entries, there is always a back story. A few of you might have followed the old Frog Blog on another platform before I shut that down, and in it I chronicled my Camino Ignaciano adventures that began in Bilbao, Spain. That is too long a story to get into at the moment, but let me just share one particular anecdote – I was walking from Arantzazu to Vitoria, through the glorious Basque mountains, huffing and puffing at my turtle pace. I ignored all the local hikers, especially the older men who seemed to zoom past me like mountain goats and chuckled with amusement. One in particular stopped to talk and walk with me for a little while, until he got too impatient and picked up his pace, but not before pointing to some mountains in the distance and saying I used to climb those every weekend! Hrmph! The point of this story is that I got used to being overtaken on the way up, and embraced my own path with serenity. To each his own.

Yesterday morning I was headed from the cafe to the office, going more at snail’s pace rather than turtle when an older man overtook me, stopped, and then turned and waited for me. I frowned, getting a little suspicious and stepped aside to establish more distance between us. He smiled at me with a twinkle in his eyes and pointed to my bag, and scolded me – scolded me! – for having one of my outer pockets open. He told me to keep an eye on my belongings before someone pickpocketed me. After his gentle firm reprimand, he zoomed off. I stood at the stop light to catch my breath, not because of the walk but in disbelief and amusement.

This morning when I walked into my favourite cafe, GG actually smiled at me! Before I could even blurt out cappuccino, he already had the milk jug in his hands ready to foam up. His eyes darted to the pastries, wondering what I wanted today, and when I asked for a croissant, he tried to push the chocolate one, and frowned when I asked for the simple. The way he serves up the croissant would make any Frenchman cringe and turn in his grave, because it is sliced crosswise down the middle. I mean, it is easier to handle, but it goes against the very grain of the essence and philosophy of a croissant! (Right, SBK?)

GG knows by now that I don’t take sugar with my cappuccino, which he strongly disapproves of and kept trying to place sugar packets on my saucer, until yesterday when he finally gave up. Instead, I got a mega dose of cinnamon that made me cough violently. Since I knew what the total was already, i simply handed over my coins before he rang up the cashier, and I walked back to my table. A few minutes later, GG shuffled over shyly, small saucer in hand and my change! I got a 20 cent discount today!

Portugal is reminding me that there are still gentlemen and gentle men in this world. Berlin almost eradicated the notion completely, and I began to believe only the worst, clinging only to an illusion. The Frog included in today’s blog is my first Frog in Portugal, it is actually Hungarian but given as a precious gift from one such gentleman! Thank you JPR!

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