Before we left Paris, Miguel, our Spanish home exchanger, had a look at the list a French friend had given me with places to eat near the Plaza Mayor. The first address was El Madrono. “Ah yes”, he said in Spanish, “El Madrono is good, but just across the plaza, there’s a better one. You like fish? El bacalao. Very good restaurant. If you can’t find it, just ask”. That’s what I understood anyway. So he drew this little mud map with a cross in the middle, showing El Madrono on one side and “bacalao” on the other.
We didn’t get to the apartment until after 9.30 pm, but as we discovered in Sevilla last year, going out to dinner at 10 pm in Spain is not a problem. They do everything about 2 hours later here. I don’t know how Miguel’s going to get on in Paris! Relationnel followed the map to the Plaza Mayor and we started looking for the Bacalao. Lots of other restaurants in sight, still no Bacalao. We asked in a souvenir shop but the girl had never heard of it. We then asked a couple about our age, showing them the paper with El Madrono on it. No problem. They knew where it was. Then I explained (in my Italian-style Spanish) that we didn’t want El Madrono but the Bacalao, which was supposed to be better.
They both laughed. The man got out his business card (he turned out to be a lawyer) and wrote down the name of a good Basque restaurant for the next evening with a phone number (that he knew off by heart !). After that they showed us the way to what we thought was the Bacalao. Suddenly Relationnel saw a big stone cross. “There’s your cross and look, there’s El Madrono!” So, after consulting the mud map again, we set off the look for the Bacalao.
After at least a quarter of an hour, having tried in every direction, I suggested that we forget the Bacalao and go to El Madrono instead. We went in and were taken through to the dining room which was completely deserted. We consulted the bilingual menu and then it dawned on me. “Bacalao” means “cod”!!! Miguel had obviously said “a good restaurant to eat cod, better than El Madrono”. No wonder our lawyer and his wife were amused.
We obviously ordered “bacalao”. Every time I thought about the confusion, I laughed. So much for my Spanish!