Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Before leaving to teach in Italy, I ran into Professor of Modern Languages and Literature Reyes Fidalgo and explained to her my wife’s desire to explore her family roots in Spain. The family of my wife, Clara Potes-Fellow, heralds from Potes, Spain. When Spanish Queen Isabel the Catholic came to power and united the kingdoms of Aragon and Castille, Jews and Moors either joined the church or fled. Those that stayed behind changed their names to the Spanish town where they lived, as in the case of the Potes, or a fruit.
Reyes said she would take care of it. While groups of my students explored Berlin and Capri last weekend, we took a flight to Barcelona then to Oviedo followed by a taxi trip to Luarca, a delightful fishing town on the northern coast of Spain. There we met not only Reyes but Angel Mateos-Aparicio, who was with the Fulbright program at Cal State Fullerton in 2006.
He is now an American literature professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, a region about two hours south of Madrid and10 hours from Reyes’s Spanish casa. Matoes-Aparicio was our guide as we explored the ruins at Castro de Coana, which was inhabited by the Celts before the Romans arrived. There we learned how they used local slate-type rock to build their communities and curved homes. The Romans would teach them to build square houses from the rock that would be similar to what we would see in Molejon, the city where Fidaglo purchased her farm home 12 years ago.
It is a piece of work that many CSUF professors have visited. As a matter of fact, Chiara Gratton-Lavoie, CSUF lecturer in business and economics who also had been teaching in Italy, called while we were having dinner and said she would be coming to the farm house three days later.
Fidalgo is known at CSUF for her outstanding dinner parties. At Casa de Molejon, it is no different except we have dinner at midnight because the days are so long—and everywhere else in the country so hot. And there is never a shortage of Spanish fare.
It was fun to explore the 200-year-old two-story house with its huge, really huge, cellar. The gigantic beams of our very spacious upstairs bedroom were made from the trunks of nearby trees. The scene from almost every window in the house is breathtaking as farm lands dotted with cows roll out to trees signaling a forest in the distance.
Saturday morning we took an hour’s walk around the neighborhood where we were greeted by more cows than people. There are no stores or restaurants in the neighborhood. Two cars passed us on the road. Only bright yellow and white butterflies accompanied us as did Johnny, the German shepherd of Reyes’s neighbor. Along the way, Fidalgo pointed out a three-story farmhouse that was on the market. She suggested we buy it and all of us open a gourmet restaurant. It’s an inviting offer.
Unlike the weather in the rest of Spain, Molejon offers a cool climate, and we could not have been happier since temperatures in Florence reached triple digits with a heat that seems to scorch one’s bones. There’s also a calmness about Spain. It’s organized. The airports are among the most beautiful in the world.
One of Italy’s charms, if you can call it that, is that it operates in a sea of chaos--whether it is her government, transportation systems or banking. Take our flight to Barcelona from Pisa. While waiting in line for our 4 p.m. flight, Italian airport officials notified those in a line to nowhere, that weather and air traffic conditions would delay flights for three hours. They would soon add that technical problems on the runway also were to blame. It was not what anyone, especially those in the most chaotic of lines, wanted to hear.
Yes, we were happy to be in Molejon with Fidalgo. It was a pleasant respite from Florence’s heat and crowds of tourists, though down 30 percent this year. However, we also were looking forward to returning to Florence, our summer home the past six years, where we were expecting to connect with Reyes’s acting dean, Angela Della Volpe, and husband, CSUF sociology professor Ronald Hughes. It really is a small world!