When I was in college, I did my fair share of bar hopping. It wasn't unusual to go to three or four bars in one night, taking in the 'ambiance' of spilled beer and sloppy drunks. To make the evening a success, all I needed was a pitcher (or two) of beer and a good supply of quarters. Happily those days are behind me now as I would much rather spend the evening in one spot, quietly contemplating the finer points of the local cuisine while sharing a bottle of wine with 'The Admiral.'
Okay, so I will admit it right off the bat. I am boring. There. I said it. Give me a comfortable place to sit for the evening and I am happy as a clam. I don't need to work the room anymore. I hate being in a place where you have to shout to be heard and where everyone there is so much younger that you look like you are visiting your college kids during Parents Weekend. Its quality over quantity for me. I can nurse a 10 year old Pinot all night long and never get up once.
That being said, a significant amount of our 'on shore' boating experiences have either begun or ended at a local establishment. I am not sure why that is so. I would like to think that when we first arrive on the scene, a quick drink gives us a chance to chat up the bartender a little so we can find out if anything is happening in town. Maybe we are just thirsty from all the work of dinghying ashore. Who knows?
Anyway, we go to a few bars now and then. Who cares right? We are old enough.
There is just one small problem.... and its with me. I have started this slightly strange habit of photographing our food and drink. I know its weird. I know its embarrassing. Kim doesn't particularly like it either as flashbulbs going off inside a quiet and darkened bar seems to draw attention to us. But, I like it anyway.
I think this all started when I was flying the international routes at Delta Air Lines. We went to a lot of pubs/bars/cantinas/beer-gardens back then and I wanted to share the experience with those back home. Every bar had its own personality. Unlike the places we have in the States, European bars have a lot of character. Visitors can get away with almost anything over there. You can do the dorkiest things and the locals will just look the other way and mutter to themselves, "toursits!" I routinely would take a few shots (photos) at every place we visited and now have a pretty good collection of my favorite hot spots.
So, we are in Saint Augustine and we stumbled upon the neatest place. It was styled as a Spanish Tapas bar but decorated in early Ernest Hemingway. Sort of Antonio Banderas meets Old Florida. I thought it was really neat, as did Kim. On top of that, it was 100 degrees outside and they had the a/c on full blast. It was heaven to be inside.
We could sit anywhere we like as the place was deserted. It had just opened for the evening and we were the first to arrive. I immediately saw these huge overstuffed couches that ringed the lounge area. Those soft cushions had my name all over them. I was going to settle in for the long haul at this place.
They had a terrific wine list, lots of imported and local brews and a menu that was out of this world. On top of that, they had live music scheduled for later in the evening. It doesn't get any better than that. So we worked our way down the menu ordering a little of this and a little of that. Being a tapas bar, it was set up for little portions meant to be shared. Perfect.
So the server starts bringing out all this wonderful stuff and I can't help myself but whip out my camera and take a few shots with every new dish. Each plate was more interesting than the last. The colors were vibrant. The presentation was a work of art and the taste... well you'll have to take my word for that. I am not sure what they were thinking back in the kitchen. Was I a food critic? .... an author researching his next cook book? ... a chef, scoping out the local competition? They didn't know. All they could tell was that there was a strange person out there, taking lots of photos of the food.
We spent three or four hours there that night and I must have rolled off about 30 pictures. I was like 'Rainman' with that camera. No crouton got off digitally uncaptured. Finally Kim told me to knock it off as I was becoming a pest. Enough was enough.
"One more picture," I said.
"Tourists!".... must have thought the waiter.