Boda Dorada: A Spanish Celebration

Don Harris | June 2014

Every time we travel to Spain many of our friends ask us whether the trip is for business or pleasure, and the reply is always "Yes!" Whether we are mingling with the revelers in Carnaval de Cádiz, or sampling the artisan sauces that Lola and her ladies prepare in rural Córdoba or meeting with our supplier of Wild olive oil at a medieval–style olive press, how do you draw the line? When you are among friends, it is an artificial distinction.

This year Ruth and I are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. We contemplated an appropriate way to include Spain in our festivities. At first we thought it would be romantic to celebrate our anniversary by taking a wine-tasting cruise on a four-masted sailing ship that would embark from Lisbon, and make ports of call around the Mediterranean coastline of Spain - all this under the guidance of our adventurous friend and wine expert, Jorge Ordoñez. (I wrote about Jorge: “A Shepherd of Wine” in my book, The Heart of Spain). 

But then, we thought, why not instead celebrate 50 years of marriage by including our extended family and Spanish friends who are so much a part of our lives? Besides, our grandchildren (not to mention their parents) were so looking forward to returning to Spain, and spring school vacation would be a perfect time. So that is what we did.

First we invited our extended family to join us at Hacienda La Vereda, a remote rural hotel/finca an hour or so south of Córdoba and west of Granada. Cousins, aunts, nephews and nieces as well as Ruth’s sisters and their families were all invited to join us. 

It was quite a family gathering. They came from Virginia and Vermont, Denmark and Morocco, Madrid and Galicia. There were about thirty of us who gathered for a few days of relaxation while renewing our bonds as a family. The highlight was when I had the privilege of baptizing 10-month old Cleo, daughter of our son Chris and his wife Rian, who are now stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid after a tour in Pakistan. 

Some friends we included in the family gathering were actually little children when we first met them in the 1970s in Rota. We even included a new friend, Pablo, whom we first met when he joined us on a “wild goose chase” to discover what was claimed to be the world’s most perfect bread! The young man is a gifted amateur photographer from Vigo, Galicia, just north of the Portuguese border.

The grandkids and cousins and their new friends loved the swimming pool (brr, it was a little chilly), and playing on what became a fútbol/wiffle ball field. There were hikes around the neighboring olive groves, horses to ride and ruins from another era to visit. In addition, some went on a few short excursions to the white towns of Andalucía. It was blissful: we were on a hacienda in rural Spain with no time constraints, no TV, minimal Internet.

One typical day we started with a breakfast of toast and café con leche at about ten in the morning. We spent the entire day on the patio, chatting around the table until a little before midnight! We just sat under the pomegranate trees and visited with each other, enjoying fresh simple fare and lots of good Spanish wine. 

The manager of the hacienda, Juan Luque Serrano, and our waiter Edgar Berm Fernández, could not have been more attentive and caring. Juan and Edgar were there solely to be of service to our gathered family and friends, and soon they were included in our circle, too. Before we left, Edgar proudly introduced to us his wife and young family. The cordial cook in the kitchen served one fresh delight after another - she was very skilled with her seasonings.

Then on Saturday morning all of us headed to our friend Felipe’s classic Casa de Carmona hotel (built in 1561), in an ancient white town situated between Sevilla and Córdoba. In that beautiful setting Ruth and I invited many of the Spanish friends we have met over the years as La Tienda grew. Felipe provided wave after wave of delicious tapas and wine in the courtyard; and later a flamenco couple from Triana played in the bar to the delight of us all. (North Americans, I freely admit, are not as adept at dancing the Sevillanas as are our local friends!)

We welcomed our old friends Hans and Daida from Cataluña who provide La Tienda with amazing Arbequina olive oil. Our friend Aixa arrived with a Berber flair from Priego de Córdoba - her husband Fermín brings us the popular Señorío de Vizcántar olive oil. Warm and dignified, Carmen and Juan Carlos joined us from their boutique Colosia sherry bodega in El Puerto de Santa María, and got to meet other sherry family members from the Domecq and Osborne families.

We were so pleased that young Jorge and Sonya drove all the way from Extremadura where he with his father produce exquisite Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Antonio Alvarez, our first employee in Williamsburg back in 1997, joined us with his family. He now works for an excellent bodega in Spain, and shared some cava at the gathering.

Our good friend Abel Rodríguez generously provided the best of his company’s Jamón Ibérico de Bellota for the celebration. He joined us with his gracious wife Mari del Mar and two of their three handsome sons. Their eldest son, Alejandro, who joined our family in Virginia for a while, is now a student in Paris so could not be there. But it was a delight to see their two younger boys, Abel and Alvaro. Our grandsons Sam and Ben remember with glee a battle of ripe oranges the four boys launched together a few years ago.

But perhaps the most poignant was the presence of Isabella Díaz with daughters Olga and Eva and family members. She has been a widow for many years now - I worked with her husband Pedro at the Base Naval de Rota. He was a real brother as he helped set up my retreat program for sailors in the seaside town of Chipiona. 

Our two families have kept close contact for the last thirty years! I wrote a chapter about Pedro and Isabella: “The Shoemaker’s Son and the Carpenter’s Daughter” in my book, The Heart of Spain). Surrounded by our two families, Isabella’s eyes sparkled with joy as she met infant Cleo, the youngest of our Harris family. It does not get much better than this!

Ruth and I didn’t give our proposed cruise on a four master a second thought, because we were among loving family and friends in a land which is close to our hearts. The Spaniards call this type of celebration a Boda Dorada, a Golden Wedding, and indeed it was for us. We are so grateful.

Best wishes to all in the La Tienda Family.

Su amigo,