Sesenta Minutos en Bargas

Growing up I never understood why my parent´s always said, "´B´ as in ´boy,´" when spelling our last name for anyone. Then again, I thought everyone was white and Catholic until I went to public school. Eventually I found out there was a much more prevalent "V" version ofour name floating around.

Even my Spanish teachers told me that my name should start with a "V." "B´s and V´s sound alike in Spanish; it must have been changed at Ellis Island." I grew up wanting to build a time machine so that I could go back and kick that guy´s ass for sentencing me to life time of "´B´ as in ´boy.´" Fortunately for him, Al Gore invented the InterWeb.

One day, through the power of Google, I stumbled across a web site for Ayuntamiento de Bargas which is Bargas City Council for my fellow gringos. Eat it, Mr. Ellis Island and everyone else. Bargas is a city in the Province of Toledo in Spain.

Guide books such as Fodor´s and Lonely Planet had no dish on the town, but from the looks of the web site, Bargas appeared to be a small town where folks in the know would vacation. I decided to stop in and show off my last name if I was ever in the neighborhood. As it turns out, ending up in the neighborhood is much more difficult than I ever imagined.

I arrived in Madrid on Wednesday and immediately embarked on my trip to Bargas. The map and the bus schedule presented a simple solution to the trip. But, I should have known that it would not be easy.

My migration started well enough. I got directions from Barajas, the Madrid aeropuerto, to the bus station and made the trip without incident. I even found the right bus carrier and bought a ticketwithout incident.

Getting on the right bus was as painful as walking around blindfolded in your living room after someone has rearranged your furniture. Continental Auto runs buses serving Toledo from three gates that are next door to each other. Just because there are only three gates does not mean that there will only be three buses there. And, all of thebus destination indicators say Madrid-Toledo.

The only way to find the right bus is to look for the numero de coche (either uno or dos), which is hanging from the rear view mirror, IF the jackass driving the coche remembers to put it up in the first place. All the ones I saw were dos. I asked the drivers sin numero de coche, and they said, "Dos."

Thanks to this system and my ignorance of Spanish, Spanglish does not count, my coche sailed on without me. Great!

I eventually arrived in Toledo, the provincial capital, just in time to have the doors of the Bargas shuttle shut in my face. Two hoursand seven cafes later, I finally arrived in Bargas.

My anticipation of seeing the root of all Bargases had begun the year before and peaked on the bus ride. I squirmed in my seat each time I saw Bargas on an autovia sign. Dreams of owning a cheesy truck stop hat, and lots of other apparel, with Bargas emblazoned on it were soon dashed in what proved to be a zero horse, (at least) ten chicken town. Bargas does not have an Estacion de Autobus. Thus, there is no bag check for my gear.

Undaunted, I headed off to find a shopkeeper who spoke better English than my Spanish give me directions a hostel. I´m not sure if my backpack gave it away, but the hardware store clerk, who was miscast in her role and should have been a third grade teacher, displayed the first of many "What the hell are you doing here?" faces thrown in my direction. "I need directions and a present for my mom," I blurted out.

"No comprendo," came the reply. I told her that lots of folks didn´t understand why Mom likes stuff from hardware stores, but I thought it was cool and she´d better watch her mouth. Then I told her that mylast name was the same as the name of the town. "No comprendo."

Some kids came in with their mom, probably to buy her something, and did a serviceable job of translating what I´d said. They told me thatthere was only one hostel nearby and it was on the other side of town.

As I continued my quest, I hiked past a butcher shop/fish market that had just opened. The lady inside was super friendly and gave me better directions to Hostal Gran Capitan; she said it was a 30 minute walk from the city center.

Bargas may be small, but new home starts must be at a record high; I strolled past at least ten new homes during my search for Gran Capital. The architecture and urban development was similar to some of the small Italian towns that I have visited. Pharmacies, shoe shores, markets, and auto repair joints lined the narrow, asphalt paved streets. However, the concentration of stores was not as dense.

Hostal Gran Capital is situated on a hill on the outskirts of Bargas just as the butcher lady had said, but the walk only took about half the time. During the trip I had debated whether or not I should get a beer first or take my first phone booth shower of this European adventure. Beer was the answer dictated by the circumstances at hand.

I entered a dark stairwell from the doored marked "Hostal" which was at the rear of the structure. There was no front desk so I followed the noise through another door on the right side of the entryway. Four card players and a spectator seated at a table near the front of the room were involved in some sort of poker game for beer bottle caps. The balance of the occupants were four patrons bellied-up to the bar and the bartender.

The bartender told me that no rooms were being let at the hostel even before the Spanglish left my mouth. "RAT FARTS!" "You think you know, but you don't know" and other choice words screamed through the empty grey space between my ears, but "Gracias. Cerveza por favor," left my mouth since the Restaurante Gran Capital was apparently the only operation in operation here.

I savored the beer, but it didn't make my present circumstance much better. The walk through town, the chance to survey the buildings and meet some nice Bargasians and a few chickens were entertaining enough, but I would have appreciated things more had I not humped my 40 poundsof gear two clicks.

As I sat pondering the difference between my Bargas beer and High Life, "Oh, shit you may be sleeping on the street unless you hook up" flashed on the neon sign in my head. As appealing as some Bargas on Bargasian action sounded, I slammed the beer, paid the tab and hauled ass out the front door in the direction of the bus stop to avoid being relegated to a restless night of spooning with my backpack on a park bench. The Bargas-Toledo shuttle was just pulling up as I entered the main plaza.

As the driver executed a recklessly precise three point turn, I waived goodbye to the butcheress and the hardware store lady. I returned to Madrid via Toledo that night disappointed that my trip had not been as fruitful as I had hoped. I really wanted that truck stop hat and maybe a Policia de Bargas shirt. At least now I could say that I was officially "in the know" about Bargas, Toledo, Spain. That's Bargas with a "B" as in "Better bring a tent if you plan to stay here."

Oh, in case you were wondering, neighborhood hardware stores in Bargas smell the same as the ones in Baton Rouge and Austin.

1 comment:


hi! first of all i'm sorry for your inconvenience in visiting Bargas. A friend o'mine sent me a link to your blog which made me laugh. I'm sure all that i've read it was just as you've written... But i suggest you to give it another try. "Sesenta minutos in Bargas" it's too few to know the town and surroundings (Toledo, la Capital imperial, it's one of the spanish prettiest cities, you can see i improve my spaninglish too). In september there are holidays in the town and you could taste the local wine. So get back, you're welcome but don't forget your tent...