Uninvited Dinner GuestsWhen do uninvited dinner guests turn out to be the highlight of the day?  When they’re short, cute, and Spanish.

We took a stroll through one of our favorite parts of Dénia a couple of days ago  — the oldest area, where some of the streets are so narrow, it’s impossible for a car to pass.  Only foot traffic is allowed there now, and the street level of most of the buildings have been turned into restaurants and bars.  Ambiance, anyone?

We wandered slowly up the street, stopping to read the menus posted beside the open doorways, and chose a table outside a Sevillan tapas bar.  I turned to put down my things and before I was even seated I heard giggling and laughing and turned back to see Al surrounded by 3 miniature Spaniards.  Patricio, 7, the budding gastronome;  Andreu, 3, the heart-breaker, and Andrada, 4, the curly-headed princess.

Loreto StreetThey were all laughing and talking (all at the same time) to Al — that would be my husband who doesn’t speak Spanish.  He was smiling from ear to ear, nodding his head, and throwing in the occasional  “si.”    Their parents were seated inside the restaurant, and the kids were free to run around and play and interact  with anyone they chose to.  For that night, they chose us, and we chose them.

Patricio was clearly playing the role of oldest and wisest, sharing with us his unique take on everything, but especially the food.  All 3 of the kids were running in and out of the restaurant, grabbing bites to eat from time to time, but always carrying their “chupa chup” — lollipop.

Patricio stuck his chupa chup in front of Al’s nose and said “Guess what flavor this is!”  Al obediently answered “si.”  And Patricio declared “It’s WATERMELON!”  And then died laughing.   But the best pronouncement of the evening was when our Albondigas (meatballs) came and Patricio was inside grabbing a bite to eat.  We were oohing and aaahing over the meatballs and  trying to figure out what spices they had used.  Patricio came barreling out to our table, came to a screeching halt just before he would have taken us all out, and with a very serious look declared.  “Wow!  Did you taste the Albondigas?  They are SUPER DELICIOUS!”  What more can I add?

AndreuAs for Andrada and Andreu, they did much more giggling than talking, and both presented us with flowers they found growing between the cracks in the stone streets.  Andreu, who will break the hearts of many girls one day, with his big green eyes and constant smile.  And Andrada with that beautiful curly hair and quieter manner than the boys, but still right in there with them.

I couldn’t stop thinking what an amazing place this is for a child to grow up.  A small town, beside the sea, where they can run around freely among strangers, making friends and enjoying incredible food in beautiful surroundings.  I always say — in my next life I want to be Spanish.