Plazas and Paella

On the big bed in our hotel room, the baby bears played tug-of-war--with me! "Come on, Perry, this way!" said little Merri Bear, as she tugged on my paw. "Go, Perry, go this way!" said little William Bear, as he pulled hard on my other paw. Poor Perry Bear! I was the rope, pulled this way and that by the baby bears’ morning game.

It was a sunny, happy morning in Madrid. At the desk, Miss Cynthia tapped steadily on the computer keys. Doctor Steve talked on the phone. William and Merri wrestled and tumbled and pulled on my paws.

Rap-rap-rap! "Housekeeping!" called the voice at the door. Miss Cynthia opened the door to two hotel maids, here to straighten and tidy our room.

"Buenos dias! Buenos dias!" said the maids. "Buenos dias! Buenos dias!" said Miss Cynthia and Doctor Steve. William, Merri and I flopped on the bed, panting from our game.

"Here," said Miss Cynthia, "let me get these bears out of your way!" Miss Cynthia gathered us into her arms as the maids began to make the bed. It was very badly rumpled from our game of tug-of-war!

Miss Cynthia put William and Merri in their suitcase playpen. The maids smiled at me as they tossed the sheets high in the air between them. I thought hard to remember how to introduce myself. Oh, yes! Now I remembered: "Me llamo es Perry Oso!" I said.

Both maids looked at me with big, bright smiles. "Perry Oso, Perry Oso!" they said, nodding. Miss Cynthia looked at me. "Why, Perry!" she said. "I didn’t know you knew so much Spanish!" She turned to the maids and added, "Si, Perry Oso!"

The maids smiled shyly, and pointed to the baby bears. "William Oso," I said, "Merri Oso." The babies looked up when they heard their names. The maids giggled. "No, no es ‘oso’," said the tallest one, pointing to little Merri. "Es ‘oscito’!" she said, smiling.

Miss Cynthia and I looked at each other, puzzled. "’Oscito?" I asked. The maid laughed. She pointed to me, and in a deep low voice, said "Oso!" Pointing to Merri, she used a tiny, high voice to say "Oscito!"

"I understand!" said Miss Cynthia. "Perry, you’re a big bear, so you’re Perry Oso. But Merri is little, a little bear, so you say ‘oscito!’" Oscito! It meant "little bear"! Everyone nodded and smiled. We had understood!

With a pat for William Oscito and Merri Oscito, we left our hotel room for the streets of Madrid. Today we would walk to the center of Madrid: the Plaza Major.

From my tote bag, I tugged at Miss Cynthia’s hair. "Miss Cynthia," I asked, "what’s a plaza?"

"It’s a square, Perry," she said, "a big open space. More than that, the plaza is the center of the town’s life. It’s where people gather to meet, to shop, to hear speakers. The Plaza Major has been a center of Madrid for hundreds of years."

Madrid's Plaza MajorAs we walked, I looked around eagerly. It was the weekend. Happy people crowded the streets. Two young women walked by, arm-in-arm. Their long hair swung free behind them. A group of boys laughed and called as they passed. Little children in bright jackets held tightly to their parents’ hands. Everyone was going to the Plaza!

We were there! Tall buildings lined a huge, brick-lined open square. What a happy afternoon! We looked and looked. Everyone had something to see or do at the Plaza.

In one corner of the square, stamp and coin dealers were having a show. We walked between the lines of tables, looking at colorful old stamps and shiny coins.

In the center of the square, a speaker had gathered a small crowd. He stood on the rim of a fountain, to be heard. Men in long coats stood in a circle and listened gravely. Vendors sold snacks and toys and treats. Whole families, grandparents, parents and children, walked slowly around the bustling square.

What did the children do? They watched the pigeons! Hundreds of pigeons swooped and wheeled around the Plaza. Here, a little boy fed them some crusts of bread. There, a little girl ran and chased the birds high into the sky.

What was the best thing to do at the Plaza? Eat! It had been a long time since our morning meal, and now it was time for lunch. Doctor Steve led us into a nearby restaurant. We stretched and settled into our chairs, ready for some good food.

"Perry," said Miss Cynthia, "in Spain, people eat their main meal in the middle of the day. Today, we are going to try one of Spain’s most famous dishes: paella!"

"What is paella?" I asked. I looked around at the other tables, hoping to see something good to eat. My tummy was very empty!

"You’ll see!" said Miss Cynthia. "Here, have a piece of bread if you’re so hungry!"

I nibbled my bread and watched the busy restaurant. Next to us, a young family was having lunch. There was a mother and a father, and two little boys. I smiled and waved at the littlest boy. He waved back—until his mother tapped her finger on his plate. It was a sign to pay attention and eat!

Hungry Perry digs into his paella!Oh, good! Here was our waiter, with a very big dish. In it was rice, lots of rice . . . and was that the good smell of fish? Yes! With a flourish, the waiter divided up our dish of paella: a plate for Doctor Steve, a plate for Miss Cynthia, and a plate for Perry Bear. There was a big helping of saffron rice, rich with bits of vegetables and fish. Next to the rice came the shellfish: a little lobster, crayfish, and shrimp. Oh! Was that a mussel there, and some clams? Make sure there’s lots of fish for Perry Bear, I thought!

Miss Cynthia saw my hungry look. She looked at Doctor Steve, and they laughed. "Here, Perry," said Miss Cynthia, "you’re going to need your napkin today!" She tucked my napkin into my bow-tie, just as the waiter set the delicious paella in front of me.

Plazas and paella! Spain is a very nice place to visit, if you’re a little oscito!

Your oso amigo,

Perry Oso Ewer

Perry's Travels: