Project Gaylord

Chronicles of a year in Spain without a plan.

Gotta love Gallegos: warm welcome from tranny nun and she-man

We’ve been in Galicia only fifteen minutes.  We are pulling into the teeny town of Celanova (which turns out to be a bustling metropolis compared to the ghost town we’re staying in down the road).  We park, grab our umbrellas from the car because it’s raining in Galicia (that’s like saying it’s raining in Seattle, big surprise).  We ask a woman walking by where to find restaurant o forno do lito, and she points us up the road.

Nothing seems to be open on our short walk up the street, so we’re not surprised when that same woman pulls up next to us in her car and tells us she just remembered that de lito is closed.  But we are surprised when out of the passenger seat pops her husband, wearing a complete nun’s habit and robe with a huge rack of fake breasts protruding beneath.  He walks right up to us and immediately starts telling us about his favorite joints in town, completely ignoring the ridiculous state in which he is presenting himself.  I tell him jokingly that it’s impossible to take him seriously when he’s dressed like a female nun with huge boobs.  He laughs heartily and tells us to just hop in their car so they can drive us straight to the restaurant. 

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I give a glance and a thumbs up to mom and Mike and open the car door to find a seven-year-old boy in the back seat.  The mom just tells him to move on over while the three of us comparatively behemoth strangers pile into the back seat next to him.  I give him an apologetic smile as I see him crushed up against the window and ask him his name. Meanwhile, the mom and the transvestite nun pull up to the restaurant and discover that it too is closed.  “Mierda!” shouts the nun.  “Coño!” we respond.
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Instead of saying “well, it’s been nice” and sending us on our way, they continue to drive us through town while deciding on a good place to drop us off.  They finally decide on a place and the mom turns around to say, “You’re going to love this place. You can’t look at the food or what they’re doing behind the bar because it’s disgusting, but if you close your eyes the food is delicious. Especially the octopus and the sheep kidneys.” Wow.

(So if you think that when they dropped us of we just waited for them to drive off and went to a different, cleaner, non-organ meat restaurant, you’re wrong. The nun had an accomplice.)

We pull up to the restaurant, and the transvestite nun says “I want to leave you in good hands” as he gets out of the car with us, walks up to a man standing outside and brings him over to tell him to take good care of us at the bar.  But we quickly see that this person isn’t actually a man, but rather a woman named Berta who is dressed like a man, complete with wig and fake facial hair.  The nun gives us big kisses, gets in the car, and the whole family goes on their way.

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So now we’re following Berta She-Man into the dirty octopus place and find ourselves ordering octopus and white wine.  It is the type of place you picture when you think of a small local bar in rainy Galicia– twenty square feet packed with families, windows dripping with humidity, pig heads and ham hanging from the ceiling… and to add to the surrealism, I have Berta on my left, who is barely recognizable as a woman given that we have no previous genderial context.  But while we chat with the moustached Berta and eat our delicious octopus (that crazy nun and his family knew what they were talking about), we quickly fall in love with Berta and with Galicia. 

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It turns out that these people aren’t in fact crazy, but that they are wearing costumes because it’s Fat Tuesday.  Berta is really enthusiastic, warm, and friendly and gives us a great introduction to Galicia.  After she treats us to our drinks, we invite her to a round and she suggests a place across the street.  So for the second time in one hour, we follow a transvestite to a Galician dive bar.

We order wines from Galicia and she tells us about the different grapes and wine regions of the north.  She tells us about her dream business venture that she is going to launch by summertime.  It’s going to be a local hangout/store/”home” that will function as a store with local delicacies (wine, sardines, peppers, cheese, etc), and as a place to gather to have a drink, play music, read, etc.  She has already acquired the space and asks if we want to see it.  Of course we do.  But first we need to go get the key from her house.

It’s still raining as we walk across the main square, stopping at the beautiful monastery on the corner where she gives us a quick tour, including the closed-to-the-public monastery kitchen.  We also go through a part of the monastery that the town has converted into a social hall filled with older people playing cards, having coffee and hanging out.  Berta knows everyone, and they all laugh at her ridiculous costume.

Right next to the monastery is Berta’s house: a charming, tidy, crooked little place that somehow cascades into four different floors. The floors are slanted at a 20-degree angle and I feel my butt muscles working just to walk across the tilted room. She has a cute little balcony overlooking the monastery.  She offers us some fresh torrijas (fried battered bread dipped in sugar) that she made that morning and we stand in her cramped little kitchen while we eat them up, lick our fingers, and laugh.
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Back on the street, through the square (where some old ladies recognize Berta in her man costume and exclaim, “Holy mother of the lamb! You look like Don Quijote!”), and up a tiny street, we arrive at a big blue double door.  This is the entrance to Berta’s dream project.  She unlocks the doors and flicks on the lights.  Everywhere we look is old wood: centuries old wood floors, long wooden counter through the middle, wooden cases with glass doors lining the right side, wooden shelves lining the left side with a second level above accessible by a wooden ladder.  This place breathes history.

She starts explaining how this will all come together.  Wines along here, food delicacies in this case, cheese over here, tables and chairs here for people who want to shop and eat all in one trip, instruments and stage over here, library over here… her vision and the potential of the space are all clear.

She starts digging through some of the cool old stuff she’s discovered while cleaning this place out.  She pulls out a roll of old coins she found here and gives one to each of us: copper Spanish coins with the year 1870 just barely visible.

We finish off the visit with one more drink at a different bar across from her store.  Berta’s mustache that she made with a charred cork has almost completely rubbed off. She gives us some tips on how to spend our days in Galicia, including to come back to her town on Friday to hear the traditional music in the plaza. 

If this friendly She-Man and the tranny nun who brought us to her represent the people of Galicia, I have to say that I really do love Gallegos.

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One thought on “Gotta love Gallegos: warm welcome from tranny nun and she-man

  1. Warren on said:

    Thanks for sharing ! In the spirit of festival looks like some fun people there ! 😉

    Like

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