Have you ever been with someone who had absolutely no sense of appropriateness?  They’ll ask for anything, while you’re trying to hide behind the nearest tree?  Well, that’s my new friend Merche.  Thank goodness.

Merche picked me and Salli up, with the plan of driving us over to see Cadiz.  We piled in the car on Sunday,, when pretty much everything is closed, and headed out of town.  I was asking what the beautiful gold-trimmed white buildings were and Merche said they were bodegas – wineries.

Suddenly the car swerved to the right and I realized that Merche was pulling in the gate of a bodega, Grupo Estevez, right behind a tour bus.  She exclaimed “Hey! Maybe they’ll let us go in with that group!”  Oy VEY!  My stomach jumped up into my throat as Salli obediently rolled down the window and Merche leaned across and said to the gatekeeper “Listen, these are my friends from the U.S. and they don’t have much time, so how about you let them join that tour group there?”  OMG!  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  I expected the guard to tell her to get the hell off the property, when he looked at her like Obi Wan Kenobee had said “Nothing to see here.  Move along.”  And so he said “Just a minute, let me see.”

He came back 2 minutes later and said “Well, I don’t know, that’s a group of Russians.”  Merche, completely unaffected says “That’s OK, we’ll just follow them around.  Somebody can talk to us in Spanish. Where should we park?”

The next thing you know the Spanish tour guide, Felipe, is talking to Merche and all the arrangements are agreed upon.  Felipe explains that the tour is usually 15 Euros, but since we’re friends, he’ll give it to us for 7.  But we’ll have to be patient with him because he’ll have to divide his time between us and the Russians.

Let me get this straight.  You’re letting us in on Sunday, we’re crashing a private Russian tour, AND you’re giving us a discount?

So we do the tour with Felipe leaving the Russians to their tour guide, who speaks both Spanish and Russian, and he tells us all the stuff about the winery.  Then he says “Well, we don’t usually do this, but let’s go in here.”  It’s an art gallery.  With Picassoss on the wall.

And THEN he says… “This way to the horses.”  Horses?  Oh, just a few purebred Andalusian mares that meet their strict standards — that they train, compete and win major events with, and breed, and oh, by the way, there are our 4 horse-drawn carriages that are worth goodness-only-knows-what.

After we get done soaking up all the great stuff, he says “The Russians will be doing their wine tasting out here in the big courtyard.  You guys are with me.”  And we go into a private room with gorgeous paintings on the walls and a big polished wooden bar and he gets out 6 bottles of their finest sherry. Not what he served the Russians.  We taste and compare and laugh at how in the world we got here.  Dios mio!  La vida es dulce!  (OMG!  Life is Sweet!)