Para Tomar or Drinking in Local Colour

No sangría, sidra

Sidra, por favor

If you asked for the name of a favourite Spanish drink, the first answer would be sangria.  However, sidra, cider in English, remains a popular regional beverage in Asturias, a province of northern Spain. 

The traditional light apple cider, fermented and packaged like champagne gives this regional classic a certain nobility.  Traditionally, perhaps now folklorically, sidra is poured from on high, a glowing fountainlike flow created by holding the bottle up and the glass low. This cider’s alcohol content is similar to beer’s. Light and now available in a non-alcoholic version, Asturian sidra should be sold everywhere, yet it remains limited to Spain, some Hispanic marketplaces, and Spanish specialty stores.

One renowned brand uses the gaitero as name and image. Again, many consider Spain to be a land of white villages, gypsies and sangria; whereas the northern provinces (Gallicia and Asturias) resemble Scotland more than anything else.  Many residents have a Celtic air about them.  This influence appears in Gallego and Asturiana music  so the bagpipe player (gaitero) suits sidra perfectly. The old-fashioned image appearing here gives you some local colour.

Given the cool damp climate, Asturians do not shy away from a drink to warm up or to mark an occasion. Besides fine Spanish sherry or brandy, Asturias possesses is Anis de Asturias. Every self-respecting local must have on hand one long tall shiny bottle for guests.  If not drunk often enough, the mouth of the bottle accumulates sugar. In a region known for gastronomy and hospitality, you do not see this phenomenon often.

In One Dress, One Day, there is a reference to one character’s family  cider business, but the regional anise liquor plays a more important role when the farm family of Uno, Nieves and Mother reunites and takes a celebratory sip.  In fact, later, Uno, the blind son and lottery ticket-seller, recalls the licora.

Uno decided to break the news as gently as possible to Mother only after she got up. That nip of licora had really put her to sleep.  He could easily justify buying the four extra loaves in gratitude for the driver’s bringing them news.  Right then, Uno felt not so much fear but more a sense of purpose, of belonging with Nieves, Mother, and the farm, even the province. He thanked the driver again and headed back upstairs on tiptoe.”

To be continued…


SALUD or to your health!



Do you know Angelababy?

It seems that she is a Chinese star who wore a Dior wedding dress.

No one knows how much the Chinese superstar spent on her custom designer gown at her extravagant 2015 wedding to actor Huang XiaomingDo the math, as they say– 115 feet of ivory satin organza, 165 feet of tulle, nearly 100 hand-cut rose bouquets of Chantilly lace, not to mention the 10-foot train.  By the way, it took five months to create. One can assume that a massive chunk of the $31-million wedding budget was spent on bridalwear. Shame that the traditional Chinese costumes and rituals are being forsaken by wealthy Chinese. Many now go to Crete and Santorini for weddings and honeymoons (with their relatives in tow). Imagine a remake of my big fat Greek in Mandarin?

Another star’s wedding once fascinated the world. However it falls much lower on the price list. Grace Kelly’s 1956 wedding to Monaco’s Prince Rainier III exemplified Hollywood and royalty. MGM costume designer Helen Rose made the American princess’ dress from 100 yards of silk and 25 yards of taffeta. At the time it cost around $10,000, but today, the price tag would be closer to $85,000

  • P.S. SUGGESTION: New Bridal List: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue plus garment insurance against stain, loss or theft.

Dream Wedding Dress?

OR Dream of a Wedding Dress with Online Interpretation

 My Celtic side makes me superstitious.

Standard interpretations learned at my grandfather’s knee include oppositions, e.g., if you dream of a wedding, you’ll go to a funeral!

I do dream of being in a wedding dress at least once a year. It is not always my wedding, either! I try to give my own twist to the dream by considering how I felt in the moment and upon waking.  If you ever look up dream interpretations, you may find something similar to what follows: 

NB The meaning varies depending on whether you are already married or want to be! PLUS how you feel about marriage in general! A few nuances are included.


Getting married in a dream

 To dream you are getting married may represent your commitment to or partnership with someone or something.

 OR  wish fulfillment, if you desire to get married in waking life. [Surprise?]


May represent a union or merging of the masculine and feminine aspectsof yourself.  

Your unconscious may be telling you that you have met the one you should marry.

Marrying your current spouse

May symbolize reviewing and questioning the status of your relationship. Consider how you feel – are you happy or unhappy about marrying your spouse in the dream?

May symbolize recommitting yourself and reminding yourself of the love you share.

Marrying your ex!!

May suggest you have learned from the experience and accepted the end of the relationship. (You may be recognizing the similarities between your ex and a current relationship.)

 A dream about a wedding where someone else is getting married may be dealing with issues involving your independence or commitment in a relationship.

 May suggest feeling jealous of the happiness of others. [FOMO?]

If you see others getting married, consider the main character traits of the bride and groom and how they interact with each other. It may be representing oppositional aspects within yourself that you are trying to accept and merge.

Other wedding-related dreams

 If you dream of a wedding dress or wedding ring, you may be evaluating a current relationship andconsidering the prospect of getting married; you may be considering making acommitment to someone or something.

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on

A dream about a broken wedding ring may symbolize fear that your marriage is in jeopardy of ending or may be awarning that you shouldn’t get married.

A dream of being at a wedding reception may represent a family celebration or a reminder of the joy your partner and family bring to you.

Happy Ending? Sweet Dreams!

5 Easy Tips to Outsmart Pick-pockets

PERHAPS THIS IMPORTED POST WOULD HAVE HELPED ME IN BARCELONA (1990).  Of course, after the wedding gown was stolen, a police officer quite officiously warned me about how to carry my purse. Here is a modern reminder for travellers by another author.

I was on the metro in Barcelona and had my wallet stolen because I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings beforehand. Don’t be the next pickpocket victim.

Source: 5 Easy Tips to Outsmart Pickpockets

Quod natura non dat Salmantica non praestat

This old Latin adage refers to the Spanish Universidad de Salamanca’s ability to teach anyone anything! Expressed almost literally: if you don’t have the natural capacity, Salamanca cannot give it to you. Booklearning is not everything. This actually applies to One Dress, One Day. Where a street smart thief triggers the whole 24-hour tale based on actual events.

Yet Salamanca does embody much of the spirit of Old Spain. The feeling of traditional Catholic Spain infuses certain cities during Holy Week. Malaga, Sevilla, Zamora, and, of course, Barcelona, an urban port city in Catalonia. [Image above]

Salamanca is the capital of the Province of Salamanca in Castile and Leon. (Remember that Spain used to comprise various small kingdoms.) The city lies on several hills by the Tormes River.  Approximately 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of the Spanish capital and 80 km (50 mi) east of the Portuguese border, Salamanca retains its historical character and importance through its university, founded in 1218.  The oldest university in Spain, it is the fourth oldest western university.

One of the most important moments in the city’s history was the year 1218 when the university received granted a royal charter.

A foreigner, I was fortunate to attend classes there. Many foreigners flock to the University to improve my Spanish (castellano), notably in the spring and summer. The high standards and serious adult students from around the globe made my time there memorable. The DELE (diploma de español lengua extranjera) international examination is administrated from Salamanca. I took my DELE superior later at an old convent school in Montréal, Canada. It felt like the Spanish Inquisition or a Reconquista!

Although One Dress, One Day takes place in Barcelona, parts of Asturias and the Basque Country, my memories of the food and the spirit of Holy Week in Salamanca found their way into the story. The nightly processions, the Lenten concerts in damp churches, the rites and rituals of hooded penitents carrying relics, statues or crosses … Once experienced, these moments cannot be forgotten.  

During the 16th century, the city reached its height (around 6,500 students and a total population of 24,000). The juridical doctrine of the School of Salamanca represented the end of medieval concepts of law and founded the fundamental body of the ulterior European law and morality concepts, including rights as a corporeal being (right to life), economic rights (right to own property) and spiritual rights (rights to freedom of thought and rights related to intrinsic human dignity). In 1551, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ordered an inquiry to find out if the science of Vesalius, physician and anatomist, was in line with Catholic doctrine. Vesalius came to Salamanca that same year to appear before the board and was acquitted.

Salamanca suffered the downturns of the Kingdom of Castile during the 17th century but experienced a rebirth in the 18th century when the new baroque Cathedral and main square (Plaza Mayor) were finished. Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor is one of Spain’s most famous main squares.

English people generally have heard about Salamance and Napoleon!  Wellington decisively defeated the French army of Marmont there in the Battle of Salamanca fought on 22 July 1812.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) the city quickly went over to the Nationalist side and was used as the de facto capital. Franco was named Generalissimo in September 1937 while in Salamanca, where the official party that ruled Spain until the end of the Francoist regime would be formed. The Nationalists soon moved most of the administrative departments to the more central city of Burgos. Historically, however, Franco’s headquarters (located at the Palacio Episcopal, next to the Old Cathedral) and the military commands remained in Salamanca, along with the German and Italian fascist delegations, making it the de facto capital and centre of power during the entire civil war. Like much of fervently Catholic and largely rural Leon and Castile regions, Salamanca was a staunch supporter of the Nationalist side and Franco’s regime.

In 1988, the old city was rightly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Judging by the Cover

Never judge a book by its cover?!

Recently a major publishing house sent an e-mail asking me to vote on two different proposed book covers for a non-fiction work on financial scams. Clever marketing: Use a focus group to judge a product then market the product to that same group.

Obviously, the publisher knew enough to profile me and chose well, as both author and topic interest me.

Advice abounds on building a platform and knowing your readership.  Key question: Who is your reader?  Answer: Female. Romantic. Curious.

I asked my friend, a graphic artist, to design a mock-up cover for my manuscript One Dress, One Day. Naively, I believed accompanying artwork would make my proposal stand out. I sent mock-up covers to only two publishers. Nothing.

Of course, all the how-to-get-yourself-published advice columns and websites tell you the opposite. Perhaps I was influenced by Céline Dion’s story about how as a teenager, she wrapped her demo cassette with a big red bow then sent it to her future agent and husband, René Angélil. Too enthusiastic? Too late.  A lesson for me.

Fortunately, my artist friend became so involved in the manuscript that she begged for more. As a reader and artist, Joy responded to the drama, setting and pop culture but primarily became fascinated by the characters.  “What happened to the thief?” Joy kept asking me.  “And the baby?” [NO SPOILER ALERT]

At that point, my concept was a short hybrid text, a novellario, but now I am fleshing out my cast of quirky characters.  The thief, his lover, … this sounds like a lush Greenaway film with cannibalism. Rest assured, One Dress One Day resembles Almodóvar’s colourful cinema. A romantic romp in bittersweet Barcelona, circa 1990. Tapas and Sangria plus pop music within one dramatic 24-hour period.

Joy’s professional perspective not only led to the eye-catching illustration seen here but also reminded me to keep telling the story.  Rather like gossip, readers want more…   about the stolen wedding gown ensemble and how it touched the thief, the barmaid, the farmgirl, the blindman, the politician, his wife, the bride and groom plus the middle-age couple.

Here are the mock-ups. Which illustration did I prefer? The cover with a vague romantic couple in the background or the other with a blurb at the bottom of the image?   Flamenco? Taxi? 

Honestly, both covers inspire me to keep chronicling the lives touched by a stolen wedding gown.