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Hemingway Adventure

Valencia, Spain (second day)

Valencia, Spain 
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At a local tiled bar - a mesón - I meet bullfighter Vicente Barrera. He's a trained lawyer and as clean-cut as a choirboy. Difficult to square his appearance with the fact that he kills over two hundred bulls a year. His grandfather, also Vicente Barrera, appears in Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon (1932).
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureVicente Barrera, grandson of Vicente Barrera the matador whom Hemingway takes to task for his killing technique in Death in the Afternoon, is, it goes without saying, slim and good-looking. These seem obligatory qualities for a bullfighter.

He's also thirty years old, a couple of months older than my eldest son, which is considered, in his profession, to be getting on a bit. Everything about him is neat and restrained, from his taste for plain expensive clothes in autumnal colours to the formal but immaculate cut of his jet-black hair. He looks like a choirboy.

We meet in a very ordinary mesón, a local bar with tiled walls and hams hanging from the ceiling. There is a bit of a hiatus as our director, always a stickler for veracity, had been assured that criadillas fritas ­ fried bull's testicles ­ are a speciality of the mesón, and wants me to nibble one or two on camera as we talk. It turns out that, like the Monty Python cheese shop, they have lots of them normally but today the van broke down. Robert is out combing Valencia for fresh testicles.

Whilst we wait, Vicente, in a soft voice and with continual apologies for his English, tells me about his background. He only took up bullfighting six or seven years ago, and like Fabian in Madrid, against his father's wishes. He had trained as a lawyer, though he adds, with a self-deprecating laugh, that it was lucky for all clients that he never practised. He is now among the top ten fighters in the country, appearing at something like a hundred corridas a year, in Spain, France and across the Atlantic, in Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Valencia, Spain (second day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Valencia
  • Book page no: 120

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