If there were anything needed to convince me even further that this place is just right for M and I, then yesterday’s serendipitous event is it. We had just come back from a late morning drive along the coast south of Ametlla de Mar, past Roques Daurades and on towards L’Ampolla. Below is one lovely part of L’Ampolla.
An email from M’s sister had come in, revealing that her husband’s cousin lives 180 km south of Barcelona. More or less around these parts. In no time at all, M and his brother-in-law’s cousin were chatting on the phone. It turned out the cousin, A, was right here in Ametlla doing some errands. And much more intimate than mere cousins, A said. They had been suckled together at A’s mother’s breast, something that one only reads about in stories (and a nod to a previous post on queso de tetilla). How absolutely serendipitous is that?!
We tagged along as A did his errands, and he introduced us to his circle of friends, one of whom we’d already had the chance to meet. Such as the lovely manager of the local branch of the Agrobotiga, the marketing cooperative for local products. It was where we’d stopped for wine the other day, and, unfamiliar with Catalunyan wines, asked for advice. I said I liked white wines that were “afrutado pero seco,” whereupon she recommended the Adernats Blanc from Nulles, Tarragona. And a Shiraz blend for a red, once she’d learned that that grape variety is one of my faves.
Being with A reinforced that first meeting with the charming Agrobotiga lady. And it was wonderful to chat with her, now being on a different level of interaction. And that switch from formal to familiar, from being a customer to the friend of a friend, underlined how one feels about place – any place. Our links with people are those that make a difference to how we feel about a place. They bind us to a place and provide that sense of belonging — or at this early stage of settling in — of the promise of being part of a community.
The Agrobotiga lady divulged that the town centre branch was closing the next day, that is today, as the holiday season is officially over. In the summer, she said, it would be impossible to see the colour of the pavement of the street just outside her shop for the crowds. The population swells thrice, from year-round 6,000 to 18,000 from mid-July to August. The main Agrobotiga just on the outskirts of Ametlla de Mar is open all year round though. A then pointed out that the best quality local wines come from the Priorat, the region further north from here and inland from the coast. Once, he said, he’d brought a small barrel to be filled on the spot at a vintner’s there. No wonder most houses have underground wine cellars.
I had been wondering about bookstores, and one of A’s errands took us to one at the far end of Ametlla town centre, which we had yet to explore. Again, A introduced M and I warmly to the bookstore proprietor as “familia.” The proprietor’s name is Antonio, a name easy for me to remember as I told him, he and my late father and a nephew are “tocayos.”
We got to meet A’s beautiful family — wife and two daughters here also doing some shopping — later. What an amazingly incredible day! Who would have imagined that here, of all places, M would find extended family? And, it turns out, our nearby bakery is one of A’s favourites.
Earlier that day, way before we’d met A, the baker’s wife mentioned that special pastries would be ready later that afternoon – with assorted fillings of apple and cream and other delectables. And then she said, “We’re neighbours now. If ever you run out of anything –- sugar, salt, milk, eggs, whatever – come!”
Ahh… truly a warm and endearing welcome! Together with the serendipitous encounter with M’s brother-in-law’s cousin, these are signs –- if ever we needed any — signs indeed that here would be an excellent place to unpack our bags for some time.