I'm in the same cafe' about a week later. Outside it's chilly, in the 40s. It's morning, and so the atmosphere here inside the cafe' is quiet, mellow, with easy music in the background. Soon, I'll meet Francisco in the zona vieja.
Francisco is my friend from Spain, from here in Santiago de Compostela. I met him years ago in the United States when we worked together at Princeton in a neuroscience laboratory. He had a silly sense of humor, like me, and we became friendly.
Back then, he introduced me to Spain by showing me a photograph of Santiago, a postcard image of people walking along stone streets, umbrellas in hand, cafe's in the background. In My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle repeats, in her Cockney accent: "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain". It also rains a lot in this medieval city of northwestern Spain, with mountains on one side, ocean on the other, like San Francisco.
Over ten years ago, I made my first visit to Francisco in Spain, and on that trip I met Rosa. My first shock in Spain was the delicious coffee. Then, the beautiful landscapes driving west from the Basque Country, up along Spain's northern coast, past the coastal city of Santander. The next shock was the huge grilled shrimp, the largest I'd ever eaten or imagined eating, in a fishing village on that northern coast. Then the vibrancy of the walking-cities with cafe's everywhere. Then the shock of the medieval beauty of Santiago de Compostela, our destination. And then Rosa.