Would we what?!
We (Craig, Rob, Levi and I) had just spent an informative hour at the museum and had emerged discussing the artifacts we had seen. As we crossed the square an elderly gentleman had addressed us in impeccable English, asking if we knew the museum. We had explained we had just visited it and sang its praises. He paused, and we did too. He started to talk and we listened intently. We asked questions and he shared stories of the buildings about us, the history, the people. We laughed, we listened some more. He pointed out the castle just across the square, his castle, built in 1587, still the same today. He issued the invitation, then told us how much he hates tourists coming and taking pictures all the time – two were doing exactly that as he spoke. We now knew it was his crest above his door that they were photographing. We had taken photos just two days ago (the ones above). Today I questioned why he would invite us if he doesn’t like people intruding.
“I don’t hate you!” he laughed, “You are my friends.”
And so we started walking slowly with him towards the door. It was surreal. Were we really being invited to take a peek inside a castle that is lived in today? Really? Well, he had the keys and opened the door. He stepped over the doorframe (this was one of those smaller doors cut into a bigger door), turned and extended his hand. I reached out to shake and in that lovely European fashion he lifted it up and gently placed a kiss of welcome on it. He then shook hands with the males. He offered explanations of the large banners hanging in the entrance (his own and his wife’s) and jested that he hadn’t jousted since he was 16 (authentic jousting gear was on display on a table with a coffer that did not look unlike El Cid’s own one!). There were more explanations about the solid granite stairs and the central atrium with all its light flooding through, and an admonishment to “not pay any attention” to the turtle, Horace, that had tipped upside down when obviously trying to climb a step. We were also shown the library, a large yet simultaneously cosy room lined with shelves from floor to ceiling. When we had been talking out in the square I had had an inkling this man was an author, and had asked outright if he wrote. He had laughed in denial and stated others wrote for him. Now we were standing there looking at a stack of black bound books with silver embossed titles and he was humbly claiming them as his own. We had no reason to doubt him.
He seemed to want to show us more, but he offered an apology that his wife, the Marquis of O (complete name being withheld to protect their privacy) was entertaining ladies of the area upstairs.
Considering we had been friends for only half an hour, the farewells were surprisingly heartfelt. Craig was invited to return any time (he was the one who this gentleman had taken one look at and declared, “You have beautiful eyes”).
Next minute we were perching on a ledge of the church (which we now knew was made of golden stone brought from Barcelona) googling our new friend, Count V, and wondering if what had just happened had actually happened!
Suddenly throngs of nine and ten year old children surrounded us. Hello. How are you? Do you speak English? What is your name? How old are you? I’m very well thank you, and you? A teacher bustled over to hustle them away, but we assured her we were happy to chat. It is not the first time kids on a school outing have embraced us in this way. They love practising their English and love to hear us throw back some Spanish too.