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Viva España!

By MILLIE AND KARLA REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 06, 2024 5:00 am

MILLIE: We arrived in Madrid from Paris and were warmly welcomed by Alicia Cuartero, my dear friend and former schoolmate from St. Paul’s Manila, who has lived in Madrid since 1980. We were whisked to Qava, a Spanish cheese shop where we enjoyed an assortment of Spanish cheeses and wine for cocktails together with another friend, Rowena Javier, and Karla’s friend, Gisa Paredes. Our gracious host took us to a fabulous seafood restaurant, Marisqueria Ogrelo, for dinner.

KARLA: Ogrelo is a restaurant specializing in bringing Galician delicacies to Madrid. Galician cuisine is known for its wide variety of sea produce due to its geography.

Qava, a cheese shop featuring Spanish cheeses from all over the country

For starters, we had special oysters, as they had run out of the super king oysters at that time, baked scallops and sea urchin with champagne and leek sauce baked in its shell.

I ordered the pulpo a la Gallega con cachelos to share. Cachelos is a traditional Spanish dish from Galicia where potatoes are boiled in salt water with bay leaves, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika, or pimenton.

Ogrelo brings Galician cuisine to Madrid, featuring seafood specialties such as special oysters. 

I ordered the cod baked in a filo pastry, while we had the hake cooked with shrimp and garlic to share. Mom ordered the arroz con bogavante or a soupy dish of lobster with rice.

Baked scallops

MILLIE: Karla went to school at Poveda Learning Center, where she learned Spanish, and when she was 17 years old, I sent her to Spain to further enhance her knowledge of the language and culture. She stayed in Avila with a Spanish chef, Señor Gaston and his family, so on this trip, she insisted on revisiting Avila, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I was just as excited to see the famous medieval walled city and visit the home of Saint Teresa de Avila, a Carmelite nun.

Sea urchin with champagne and leek sauce, baked in its shell 

The next day, Alicia insisted on driving us to Avila instead of taking the bus or train. It was a leisurely trip and we were blessed with fine weather. It came as a surprise to us to learn that on the very day we came, March 28, it was Saint Teresa’s 509th birthday.

As we entered the walled city, I was quite unprepared and did not expect the medieval walls of Avila to be such a spectacular sight! We were lucky to find a parking slot within the walled city and so the trek on cobbled stones began. Our first stop was for a bite of the delicious yema balls made from egg yolks and syrup and rolled in sugar, which Avila is known for.

Tender pulpo on top of cachelos, a traditional Spanish dish where potatoes are boiled in saltwater with bay leaves and drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika, or pimenton

KARLA: Avila is also known for Chuleton de Avila, a rib of beef, cow, or veal from the Avilena-Negra Iberica breed, an indigenous breed of black cattle from Castile de Leon. It is a PGI or a Protected Geographical Indication, which was approved in 1988.

Arroz con bogavante, a soupy rice meal with lobsters

My memories of Avila were so different from 21 years ago. I remember it to be a small, quiet little town. We would see the same people every day and we even made friends with fruit delivery boys and the tapas bar owners we would frequent. There were very few restaurants to eat in, so we kept going back to the same ones, a taperia near our school, a paelleria, and a Chinese restaurant we would dine at when we missed rice and Asian food. There were barely any cars on the streets, while today there are cars left and right and even tuktuks to help bring around tourists. There were no souvenir shops that I recall; if ever, they were small, family-owned stores. There were a number of parks and playgrounds where we would spend our free time, supposedly siesta time, hanging around, chatting and eating snacks. I was flooded with memories being back at Avila; however, I've lost my bearings. I couldn't find the apartment building where I used to live; the school was now a coffee shop and so I constantly felt lost. Everything felt familiar, but different.

Authors Millie and Karla, finally in Avila together at the ayuntamiento, or Townhall of Avila, Spain 

After a quick lunch, we walked around the walled city, taking souvenir photos before driving back to central Madrid.


Qava is at Doctor Castelo, 34 Madrid. Marisqueria Ogrelo is at C/Menorca, 39. Esquina con Feran Gonzaleza.