San Nicholas is the birthplace of Saint Diego, a well-known saint. It’s also in the foothills leading to the province of Badajoz, which is why it can be called a port (a small river runs through the town). I’d been a few times with Kike to visit old friends and attend a local festival, but this time we went en plan emboracharnos. Read: We went to get drunk and little else. Since the town is small, there isn’t much else to do.
Upon arriving, we went to the bar owned by his friends Ede and Kike’s parents. The bar is a bit shabby, but it’s always full of people because the food is the best you’d find anywhere. There’s little on the menu besides pig meat and potatoes, but the utilize every part of the cochino – intestines, flank, ears. I chose secreto iberico this time, passing up my beloved carrillada (cheek) in tomato sauce. Spain’s famous jamon iberico comes from this part of Spain, where the black-footed pigs feast on acorns and live quite comfortably. You’ll also find sheep, toros bravos and Andalusian horses grazing the gentle hills when you drive in, fenced in their fincas. After washing it all down with a few Cruzcampos, a few miuras (a cherry-flavored liquor from nearby Cazalla de la Sierra) and a coffee, we headed to the finca that Kike’s dad owns, Finca Roche.
When Kike calls himself the Lord of San Nicolas, he says it in all seriousness. His dad owns something like 75% of the land that constitutes the town and has become a famous farmer. He took us to the farm through the back way, high above the highway that cuts and curves through the sierra. Passing through a hole in the fence, we passed an abandoned lightbulb factory (which seriously looked like something out of a horror film) and crossed over a stream by a fallen plank. Crawling down through boulders and brush, we came upon the rest of the stream and a gorgeous waterfall. We stopped and rested on the boulders until it was too dark to see anything and used our cell phones to guide us back to the car.
We had dinner a bit later outside of town at a campsite. Kike grew up with the head chef, who has been studying in Bilbao in the Basque Country, which is famous for its cuisine. We ate well – plates of enormous croquetas, ratitouille, flank steak, country mushroom omelette, potatoes. Dogs ran around outside, coming into the restaurant to beg for food and warm up next to the stove in the corner of the bar.
After dumping our things at Kike’s dad’s house on the main street, we drove to a urbanizacion called Cierro del Hierro, a famous iron mine. There’s a few houses (AND CELL PHONE RECEPTION!) just right off the highway and a few kilometers south of San Nicolas, and one of Kike’s buddies was having a party to raise money for the local children’s group.
The party took place in an abandoned building that had just the shell remaining – exposed bricks, some scary-looking and crumbling columns. Teenagers had built bonfires and sat on top of their cars drinking straight out of the bottle. Inside the building, completely absent of bathrooms or chairs, a three-member band was playing old Spanish pop and Sevillanas, a type of light flamenco that’s accompanied by a four-part dance. I felt like I was in a frat party-turned-quinceñera. Everyone held plastic cups full of alcohol and danced to the band. Kids played tagged, running through the crowd of about 100 people of all ages. At three euro a piece, we drank enough to give us the courage to request songs from the band, to which they happily played. Kike requested one early in the morning for his “novia la guiri” that I didn’t know, but the chorus rang, “Que contento mi corazon” – my heart is happy.
The cavorting continued until we had exhausted all of the bottles and our feet. We got back to San Nicolas and slept until 2 or 3 p.m.
I love being in the country, but I really am a city girl.