Woke up Monday (Nov 7, 2016) morning came downstairs to find Brenda all excited about a Sherry Festival produced by Richard Harvey at Calgary’s Metrovino the week of November 14th. Immediately, memories of our first trip to Europe rushed into my still sleepy head.
We were young and naïve. And I was cocky. We had booked a 3-week road trip adventure in Spain and Portugal. We landed in Lisbon at afternoon rush hour and had to get to Cascais what we thought would be a short, easy drive to our hotel. Wrong.
It was like driving the Deerfoot with traffic circles thrown in for some fun. (Note: this was the late 80s and I had never seen a traffic circle in my life.) It was white knuckling all the way. Backstory: We thought we were going to die at least 3 times in the first 2 days of this trip. I learned to drive with one foot on the gas and one on the brake. My motto became that of a running back in football i.e. run (or in this case, driver) for daylight.
Back to Cascais. We arrived to find none of the streets had signage names at the corner and their were few street lights – it was pretty much pitch black by then. (Note: There was no GPS, or cell phone apps to guide us, just old school paper maps.) We had to park the car and walk around to try to find where we were i.e. the street names were in ceramic tiles on the buildings, impossible to see from the road.
Finally, we found our hotel and room to find two twin beds. That wasn’t going to work for us, (remember we said we were naïve) so back down to the check-in desk to see if we could get a queen bed at least. (Note: We spoke no Portuguese or Spanish). Yes, we made the twin beds work.
After 3 days we thought, “what the hell have we done, but after 17 days we didn’t want to go home.”
Most Embarrassing Moment
Perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments of my life happened in Jerez (the sherry capital of the world) while I was filling up our rental car with gas. As we entered the busy gas station lot I noticed that one of the gas pumps wasn’t being used so I quickly pulled up to it and as former gas jockey, I was quick to jump out and started the fill up. People started looking and waving at me and saying something but not understanding a word they said, I just kept filling it up.
Then someone came over pointed to a word and turned it off. The light bulb came on – I was filling up the car with diesel fuel and it was not a diesel car. What to do? Luckily, we found someone who could speak some English who took us to a pub nearby where we phoned the rental car company who towed the car away and got us a new car later that day (all they charged us for was a full tank of gas). I spent the day feeling stupid and we wasted what was supposed to be a fun day in Jerez tasting sherry.
Backstory: When I was an undergrad at McMaster University (’72 to ’76) I was introduced to sherry by one of my biology professors Dr. Davidson who became my mentor (what one might call a “life coach” these days). He would host an annual Sherry Party in his condo full of modern art and Persian rugs for graduate students each year. As the President of the undergraduate Biology Club, I got invited and loved the smooth sweet taste of sherry. My sweet tooth thought I had died and gone to heaven. I started to volunteer to work in Davidson’s lab in the summers, partly to learn more about biology and the life of a researcher, but also for those 5 o’clock glasses of sherry and lively debates he often hosted in his lab.
I first met Richard Harvey back in the mid 1980s when he was a partner with Janet Webb who opened one of Calgary’s first wine stores in the then brand new Glenmore Landing Shopping Centre (the Aspen Landing Shopping Centre of the ‘80s). I used to hang out there every Friday for happy hour enjoying wine and chatting with Richard, Peggy (Peggy Perry the brains behind Willow Park Wine & Spirits), not the and Janet waiting for Brenda to return home from her job in Coaldale.
We will definitely be heading to Metrovino for their Sherry Festival that also included tapas from Ox and Angela, Char-Cut, bar C and the Bar Von Der Fels. One of my fondest memories was enjoying a tapas dinner in Seville watching the sunset from a patio on the Guadalquivir River and wondering what was Christopher Columbus thinking when he said off from here to find the new world.
Would going every night and see if we can taste all 27 Sherries that Harvey stocks be too boorish? We did after all, we miss out on a lot of sherry tasting in Jerez.
I wonder if Harvey has Harvey’s Shooting Sherry, it was one of my favourites. I think they stopped making it several years ago, maybe he has a bottle in the back.
Imagine $5 for sherry tasting, tapas and listening to Harvey’s storytelling. Too good to be true; maybe I am still asleep and this is a dream.