Footloose in Europe 40 years ago
Laurent d’Entremont during a trip to Europe 40 years ago.
Please don’t jump to conclusion too soon, the title: “Help! I’m a prisoner In a Spanish Bedroom” is a lot more exciting than the story itself. I was indeed locked into a Spanish bedroom though, and told to keep quiet, along with my cousin Raymond and a Spanish hitchhiker we had never seen before.
This was 40 years ago, and to make a short story long, so to speak, this is how it happened.
My brother Alban had been living in Spain for one year studying and teaching at the University of Navarra, Pamplona, in a city made famous for the running of the bulls during the fiesta de San Fermin in July each year. Spain in those days was under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and the Spanish people guarded their opinions and point of views, even though the dictator was near the end of his regime, and very much into old age.
“Walls have ears,” we were told in French.
Alban had persuaded my friend and relative, Raymond, and I to visit Europe and take a tour of the country. The flight plan was quite simple: Yarmouth to Boston, Boston to Madrid, Spain, via the Azores and Lisbon Portugal.
The TWA Boeing 707 jet from Boston was sailing over the Atlantic Ocean at an altitude of 35,000 feet and at a cruising speed of 600 miles per hour. In the wee hours of the morning we could see tiny spots on the ocean’s surface, which turned out to be the nine Azores Islands. Santa Maria, the southernmost of the Azores, was the first to be settled, unfortunately, we saw very little of the Azores on our short stopover.
As soon as we deplaned, armed guards with machine guns “escorted” all the passengers into a high wire compound and kept us there until the plane was refuelled and serviced at the airport, likely a military procedure.
Once we reached Madrid everything was different, vegetation, buildings, climate, people, food, language and so on. In the air there was the ever-present smell of olive trees. The one thing that I remember is that Europe does not smell like North America at all. We spent about a week in Pamplona with Alban, who shared an apartment with one of his former professors from a Canadian university. They had gone to Spain to master the language, further their education, and learn a new way of life.
The educated professor, a good guy who shall remain nameless, was from a well-bred United States family. His family had old money, prestige and education, a combination that made for living with a touch of class, a standard that Raymond and I knew nothing about. However, we caused some embarrassments for the professor when we persuaded him to play the pinball machine at a nearby bar.
Miguel’s bar next door was called Bar Alycris, it was a typical Spanish bar with all kinds of herbs and spices hanging from the ceiling. It also had pinball machines.
We challenged the American professor to a pinball game, which he accepted, only to be discovered by a high-ranking official from his college. The professor put all the blame on us for bringing him in there. The Spanish educator was more interested in the young Canadians and could have cared less about the pinball machines.
One day the professor brought in a hippy-type hitchhiker, who he had picked up on the highway. We had hardly been introduced when a telephone message indicated the local priest was at the door calling on his friend, the professor. Panic struck…the professor rushed Raymond and I along with the Spanish traveller into an empty bedroom and locked the door and told us to remain quiet. I guess our standards were too low to entertain with the man of the cloth.
Picking up a hitchhiker may also have been viewed as rubbing shoulders with undesirables … love thy neighbour.
Time dragged on. The priest was not leaving. Minutes turned into hours as the professor was in deep conversation. My cousin and I tried to communicate with the Spanish hiker, but speaking a foreign language in whispers got us nowhere. Being on the fourth floor with no fire escape we had no choice but to wait, and waited we did. Eventually the priest left and the professor let us out.
The better part of half a century went by since those days, I often wonder what became of the professor, what the Spanish hitchhiker was thinking and if he still remembers waiting the hours away while being a prisoner in a Spanish bedroom with two young Canadians.