The Little Match Girl

It's mid afternoon, surprisingly warm considering it was 3C and frosty this morning, and I'm more or less keeping up with DrC as he strides through a medieval city somewhere in central Spain. I am listless, tired, and -- let's admit it -- a little bored. The narrow cobblestone streets suddenly widen into a grand central plaza and the sounds of human voices, church bells and someone playing flaminco rather badly in a far corner drift towards us. There are happy chattering people sipping beer and wine and eating tapas in every direction.

I groan. Another gauntlet.

We are halfway through the second day of our two day fast. Somehow I must cross this plaza, coo appreciatively at its charm and history and inevitable central statue  glorifying some important royal personage and then march my sorry hungry butt out the other side. Without stopping.

DrC, knowing the struggle is real for me, draws my attention helpfully to a unique painting style on one of the buildings...then points to the far side and talks about how the central arch appears to be slumping and how the hell does it stay up anyway. Nek minute we're out the other side, once again safe in the purity of our starvation.

This is the second time we've fasted in Europe. The first time was in France. I haven't forgiven my husband yet for making me fast in France. I may never get over it. Boulangeries. Patisseries. Charcuteries. Oh my. One morning on the last fast in Chartres after standing awestruck in the cathedral for an hour listening to the organ music, he had to drag me past a cafe serving petit religiouse (basically a cream puff on steroids) and authentic cafe au lait. It's really a wonder we are still married.

Now, just metres from a church dedicated to Saint Therese containing, no shit, her desiccated preserved finger complete with ring, I come to a grinding halt. My senses are assaulted by the odour of a jamon iberica y bollos shoppe. This business is baking smoked pig and cheese in a golden brown bread and piping the redolent aroma straight on to the street. It's like putting drugs in front of a crack addict. I can't move my feet. I start to feel dizzy.

"I can't. I just can't," I plead with my loving husband.

DrC takes my arm, tugs me gently but firmly towards the church, and starts the same damn speech he gives me every time this happens. "Fasting is good for you. When you go into ketosis, your body does all sorts of things that actually make you healthier. You'll lose weight, your cholesterol will improve. There is a good chance it will even help fight off cancer!" Mr. Cancer Boy ends cheerfully. Yes, he's that evil. He played the cancer card.

I stumble forward, weak in every possible sense of the word, miserable and convinced I am going to be the only tourist in history who starves to death in Europe. The church was interesting. Catholics, I'll apologise to you now, but it's pretty clear your church does not take that commandant about craven images and idol worshipping seriously. Have even the slightest doubt, I submit for your consideration the great cathedrals of Europe. Good Lord. Like... literally good lord in every possible shape, size, material and all of it over the top.

Which serves to distract me for about 2 hours. However, my attention returns to my stomach as we head back to Dapple through an ancient stone wall and ... god d* it... right past a store selling every available variety of condiment, bean, candy, pastry, sausage, and cheese known to man. It too chooses to advertise its wares by pumping the smell of ripe cheeses and meats onto unwary fasters who would just as soon NOT be reminded that this day will not end with a tawny port, but with some nasty-as chamomile tea.

I hate this place. I hate my husband. I hate little tapas bars in market squares and endless narrow streets lined with speciality shoppes selling every conceivable tasty thing it is possible for a united Europe to sell. I hate the wine shoppe and the cerveceria (a bar dedicated to selling beer) and I especially hate all these happy healthy SKINNY god d* Spaniards parading around as the evening air cools on their way to a delicious 9pm snack.

Until tomorrow. Our fast ends tomorrow. Thank you thank you thank you. Who is the patron saint of eating? I'll light a candle for that guy.




Unless you are in the middle of summer, dress for Northern Europe cathedral viewing as you would for a day on the ski slopes.