Written by Elle
My favorite story to tell is this one. It astounds me, it makes me smile, and it forces me ask those “how is this possible?” questions that fuel my curiosity and wonder with this world.
It all started in August with our trip to the local Factoria Starbucks to pick up our visas (you can read all about our Spanish visa process here). It’s here that we met our new favorite person, Fernando. The sweetest old man you felt connected to in a matter of minutes. Within our short but substantial 20-minute conversation, we learned that he is retired from working for a large Spanish airline, and that he volunteers as an “Honorary Consulate” in Seattle simply because he “loves his country and wants everyone to see it”. We told him about our placement in Logroño, and he told us it was the “very best of Spain”. He likened Logroño to Seattle and Madrid to Los Angeles. “The people are friendlier, the pace is slower, it’s just better” (his words!). We felt validated in our northern choice and wanted nothing more than to badger him with questions, but we remained as cool as possible and let him fill us in. He asked what we did for work, and told B, “it’s too bad you don’t have a work visa, I know the hiring manager at the airline” (and I mean THE airline). He asked us if we enjoyed wine (you can guess our answer), and told us he knew a young couple, in their late twenties like us, who have a winery in La Rioja and who were going to move to Walla Walla (a small city in Eastern Washington) to open up a branch of their winery there in the next year. He simply said, “You should meet them. They are lovely, and it’s good to have a winery connection in Logroño”. We agreed and said we’d love to meet them. The conversation moved on and we hung on his every word. He charmed our pants off with his accent and charisma and we didn’t want to leave! But alas, we had to be on our way, and he had to meet with more eager young Americans. With a quick “thank you” and a hope that he would maybe contact us about this other young couple in La Rioja, we were on our way, not really believing that we would meet this couple without some serious emailing and finagling once we got to Spain.
Jump forward to our second week in Logroño, getting keys to our apartment, realizing that one night of sleeping on a pile of clothes was enough, and googling van rentals in our new city for an epic trip to Ikea. I found a handful of van rental places online, compared prices, and was ready to book one when B got on his phone and said “How about this one? It looks like a smaller local place and the rates are about the same.” He had found one that never even showed on my searches, and we agreed that it would be nice to go through a local company over Enterprise or some other big business. I called the number the night before we needed the van, and in my broken Spanish was able to confirm the price and understand that the owner would bring his daughter to help translate at 10am the next morning when we could pick it up.
We happily went on the 20-minute walk to the rental place only to find it locked. We looked for an open door or a call box, but had no luck. Thankfully, an older man with a daughter and young granddaughter playing on her bike were nearby and asked if we needed help. We gestured to the sign and the door, and he got out his keys and opened it up! We had no idea that he was the owner and had simply been waiting outside in the sunlight watching his granddaughter bike while waiting for us to show. His daughter introduced herself as Conchita and her English was excellent. She had come along just to translate for us and we were so grateful! As we worked out the details of the rental, she asked us where we were from, and when we answered Seattle, she exclaimed, “Oh! I can’t believe it! My husband is going there tomorrow! We know Seattle very well”. She asked us what we do for work, how we ended up in Logroño. We asked her about her daughter and laughed while watching the three-year-old ride her little bike around the shop. Once the paperwork was complete, we left with a quick goodbye and were on our way to the Bilbao Ikea. On our journey, B and I shared the same thought: Do you think Conchita and her husband are the couple Fernando told us about? They seem to be the same age, and he is going to Seattle tomorrow…? That would just be crazy, but we should try to find out tomorrow.
We had the van for 24 hours, so B returned it the next morning on his own while I stayed home to start unwrapping the many layers of cardboard separating me from my new furniture. Once he got there, he was happy to see Conchita, and they quickly got to talking about Seattle. B asked if she happened to know a guy named Fernando, to which she replied “Yes!” B couldn’t believe it, and they shared their excitement over this amazing discovery. She told him that she had gone home the day before and told her husband, Jesús, that she met a couple from Seattle, to which he replied, “Let me guess, a pilot and a teacher?” She was shocked and learned that Fernando had told Jesús that he needed to meet “a great couple from Seattle who are moving to Logroño”. The fact that our meeting occurred in her father’s van rental shop was too strange for words, and left us stuttering the cliché: “it was meant to be”.
B and Conchita exchanged numbers and I excitedly texted her as soon as B came home and told me the whole amazing story. We made tentative plans to get together once Jesús was back from his trip to Walla Walla in two weeks. Thanks to great female communication, Conchita and I arranged a get together for wine at a local bar two weeks later, and we of course brought along K and M since they were a part of this incredible story as well. We all hit it off that night and ended up staying out for more drinks and pinchos on Calle Laurel and a memorable first hang. The next week, we visited Jesús’ family’s amazing winery for a beautiful tour and tasting of honestly my favorite wine I’ve had here in La Rioja to date.
We are so happy to have these new friends in our lives, and can’t wait for more fun together in the next months before they leave for Walla Walla in the summer. Thank you Fernando for putting out the vibe, and thank you universe for the most random of connections!