I’ve always been a “completer”. When I start something I like to finish it. So it didn’t take much psycho-analysis to work out that when presented with a card with a box for each of fourteen participating tapas bars to visit, I wasn’t going to leave a single box unstamped. And we had just Sunday to do it.
As part of Colmenar’s Fiesta del Mosto y la Chacina, each bar would provide a speciality tapas of their own choice, and a drink, and then the all-important stamp on the card. My friends Steve and Linda set off with me as we walked out to the Arco del Sol on the edge of Colmenar. We were Antonio’s first “Ruta de Tapas” stamp-collectors, and after we had enjoyed queso viejo with our drinks the ink was fresh as our cards were duly stamped.
On to Venta de Colmenar. This “speed-dating” type of pub-crawl was introducing me to bars that from the outside had not appealed. Venta de Colmenar was a good example. Unprepossessing, adjacent to the small industrial estate, yet friendly and welcoming, and serving a tasty tapas of callos (well we weren’t likely to get through the day without sampling tripe!).
Out to tick off the other two “outliers”, Hotel Balcon de los Montes (lovely home-cured ham) and Restaurant Belén (migas – except they’d run out so we decided to return later). Next, to Bar Tele-Club (callos, or tripe, again) which was another unattractive building hiding a pleasant bar with friendly staff making time to chat despite the crowds. The same went for Peña Flamenco (tomate frito con morcilla). With six stamps we were well on our way.
Almost adjacent we dived into El Ventorro (morcilla con tomate again) and Mesón El Pilar where Miguel didn’t mind serving a second round of tapas when I realised we’d eaten it before photographing it! Our next stop was Bodegas José Molino, where Pepe showed off his fine wines with justifiable pride. The great barrels filled a long tunnel, while a bright rear patio served as a temporary art gallery. A different experience, and our ninth stamp.
Bar Los Pepes (asaduras con tomate) and the place was rocking. Music and bodies filled the bar and nobody else looked like they were bothering to collect stamps any more, but after a bit of searching the wooden stamp and inkpad were found with a smile.
With completion within sight we sprinted back up the hill for a return visit to Restaurant Belén. Still no tapas so we had a drink and got our stamps anyway. Then back down to the centre and to Dutch-run Bar Bartola. Round the corner to Bar CO2 (by this time, late afternoon, we’d given up expecting tapas, but were served with some sausage with our drinks anyway. Linda had dropped out of the Ruta a few bars before and had settled in CO2 to read. Staying put was more tempting than the climb up to our final two bars so Steve and I set off with the finishing line well within our grasp.
Bar Diego was one I’d glanced into but had assumed (wrongly) that it wasn’t particularly welcoming to a single foreign female. In fact the son of the owners was welcoming, and served the most delicious tapas of the day (aliño de espárragos), a hot dish of egg, breadcrumbs, and mostly asparagus. It was so delicious we dived into it and scraped the dishes clean before remembering the photo. Yet again, a further portion was supplied generously and good-humouredly despite our (almost genuine) protests. With the football on, and a relaxed family atmosphere, it was hard to drag ourselves away but we had one final call to make.
Taberna de las Flores at the top of my hill provided our final drink of the evening, plus a worrying moment when it appeared the inkpad had been lost. But all was well and the fourteenth space on the card was duly filled. Shortly after 8pm, having started nine hours earlier, we returned to the big tent where the whole thing had begun, but it was deserted and we were clearly too late to hand in our completed cards. If anybody else had completed the tour, they would have needed to do it without any slow, relaxed enjoyment of their surroundings. We didn’t even know what the prize had been.
Steve and I looked at each other, totally content, knowing that the best prize had already been won by us – our completed cards could be retained as a reminder of a truly excellent fiesta, some good bars discovered, and some good friends made.
© Tamara Essex 2012