Shannon’s Super Sexy Blog. Music. Travel. Randomness. And a Lot of Wine.

Archive for April, 2004

Fino. It’s not just for breakfast any more.

Sunday, April 25th, 2004

I know the instant I fell in love with the Spanish wine known as Fino, a super-dry Sherry. We were in a gourmet shop in Cordoba, at about eleven in the morning. They gave out little samples of wine and olive paste and other tasty treats. I’d been served Fino at a few cafes, but it didn’t exactly rock my world. Even though I’d been told to drink it, I wasn’t really seeking it out.

Then, that morning in the wine shop in Cordoba, the salesperson/taster giver handed me a little plastic cup with a shot of cold Fino. I drank it, and the earth moved. That shot, 15.5% alcohol, clean and clear and from the soil of Spain, hit my bloodstream in a violent burst and left me incredibly happy and at peace with the world. The taste of that little sample, and the feeling I had after I downed it, will remain with me forever.

Fino is an acquired taste, and I have acquired it with a vengeance. I bought a bottle of Lustau Fino on Friday (thank you, thank you, San Diego Wine Co.) Saturday, I dipped into it. One sip, and you are transported to a cafe in Sevilla. You are in a place of Spanish dreams. This is a wine that takes you to where it was made. And that is what wine is all about, isn’t it? That is what wine should be about.

It’s Sunday night, and the bottle is gone. I shared a little, but not much. Thankfully, there is more where that came from. I think this will be an addiction, I’ll go to restaurants, and ask if they have Fino, and when they don’t I will storm out in a huff. I want to be the reason restaurants start serving Fino.

The other taste of Spain – Jamon Jamon Ruffles. Two bags came home with me. You only need to eat one, and the ham flavor kicks you in the face. It’s like a crunchy piece of heaven.

Wine and Potato Chips. Like I’ve always said, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.


Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

I am not handling this getting back to the real world very well. Work; guys in large trucks, passing me on residential roads; the election news, just the news in general, all seem to be tidbits of life that seem hard to swallow. Everything is irritating me. Everything is like a lover that you are done with, when there is someone newer and more glamorous on the horizon. When a lover is done with you, they are done with you. That is just the way it is.

Anyhow, one of the really irritating things, even more irritating than normal life things that are like lovers you are done with, is that I am getting a lot of pharmacutical companies advertising in my blog. In the comment area. I keep deleting them, they keep posting them. They seem to be focusing on my entry entitled “Guys Who Drive SUVs and the Women Who Hate Them.” Is there some kind of drug magnet text in there? Golly knows I could use a sedative once in a while, but why are they honing in on this topic? If you can see, please advise.

Other than this sad by-product of travel (my inability to cope with the real world) I am working hard on my trip journal. I am now on day 2 of Madrid, so sometime in August I should be almost finished.

Hope you all are tuning in, the journey is far from over.


Tuesday, April 20th, 2004

Back now, from the whirlwind that was Spain. I find myself insanely jealous of anyone leaving for a trip soon, a trip to anywhere. How hard it is to be back in front of a computer all day, instead of at an outside cafe table on the Darro River!

Oh well, I suppose things will feel normal again soon. Memories will start to fade a little. The memory of shrimps broiled with garlic butter, spooned onto bread. Or the taste of a shot of fino in a wine shop at 11:30 AM. Counting down the hours on the long ride from Madrid to Sevilla, the whiteness of the roses on a Semana Santa Paso. The horns and drums that follow the Paso, the quiet of the empty Mezquita in Cordoba.

The memories may fade a bit, but Spain will always be with me now.

I’ll have some fried worm crisps and a Scorpion vodka chaser, please.

Saturday, April 17th, 2004

I guess it is a sign of a good trip when you don’t want to go home.

Today is our last day in Barcelona, and our last day in Spain. Last days are sad days. So we will try not to think about it.

Yesterday it rained hard most of the day, a strong and slanted rain that made it impossible to walk too far. Thankfully, when the sun was out the day before we realized it might be the last of the Spanish sun for this trip and made good use of it. Yesterday we did not wander far. But you don?t really have to… the area right around the apartment is enough. Every tiny street has something cool to look into or at. We did go into the Picasso Museum, even though we were hesitant because of long lines, and even worse, long lines of school groups. It was stuffy and crowded inside, but I am glad we went. We had an incredible lunch at a sit-down tapas place called 99.9% de Origens. They serve “historic” dishes from the region. This was our second meal there – the first meal I had these incredible cannelonis stuffed with meat and covered with bechamel sauce. They were so good I ordered a second one the first time, and wanted more for lunch yesterday. We also tried a fantastic meat stuffed baked apple… and toast rubbed with garlic and tomato, and a piece of fish with a garlic sauce. A bottle of red wine and Crema Catalana. What else is there to do when it is pouring rain? Then I slept.

Last night we entertained, my mom’s friend Isabel and her husband Javier, and their two delightful children (and anyone who knows me knows I don’t throw around words like “delightful” too often when it comes to children.) I roasted a couple of chickens and some potatoes and onions, and fried some little green peppers and cherry tomatoes in butter. We had cheeses and chocolates and strawberries. It was great to cook for people in our cute Barcelona apartment. We are having lunch with them today, then they have to go home to Montpellier, France where Javier is working as a scientist. They come from Seguenza (near Madrid) and just spent the holidays there. Having those kids around will take the edge off a bit as I am really feeling quite sad that we have to leave.

This morning we got up early and went to La Boqueria, the huge food market here. As a foodie type, it is pretty embarrassing that I waited until my last day to check this place out. It was so colorful it made me dizzy. There was so much to look at, it made me anxious yet wanting more. There were snails and skinned rabbits and roosters hanging from ropes. There were crazy fruits I have never seen before, and plastic cups of exotic juices. There were strings of multicolored peppers and chocolates and bars with guys drinking wine at 9 in the morning. And let’s not forget about the Cheddar Cheese flavored worm crisps and Scorpion vodka. Just when I am getting into Barcelona, I have to go.

The sun is attempting to come out. We will try to see the Sardana dance tonight, have a few farewell tapas. I have really fallen in love, so I imagine each bite will be accompanied by the threat of tears.

Spain! What took me so long.

Don’t forget to look up…

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

I think I did Mr. Pep a disservice. His voice is not so much like Barry White’s, instead perhaps more like Richard Burton’s. Sorry, Pep.

Today we walked and walked and walked. We saw lots of Gaudi. We saw lots of cool buildings. We saw millions of French schoolchildren. We were going to take the tourist bus, the one that stops everywhere, but the lines were long. So we mostly walked. It is hard not to look like a tourist walking here – you want to keep looking up at the buildings, into the pastry shops, even down at the ground. Even the sidewalks are interesting here!

But, I must admit that I am getting tired. It’s been close to three weeks since we left, and I am feeling a bit weary. Tomorrow, we are entertaining – some Spanish friends of my mothers are coming into Barcelona to see us, so we are going to cook for them. Then Saturday, our last day, I just want to go to the park and drink wine and not think about getting anywhere.

Tonight we are going to hit some tapas places around the apartment – we may even go back to Cal Pep because last night, we went there to see what everyone was eating (which was mostly the same stuff we ate the night before) and we discovered a menu! So if we go back we will be prepared.

There is so much to see here in Barcelona. I need at least a month (but first I have to recover from this trip, before I think about that one.)

I wish I could be a professional traveler.

There are lots of suckers born every minute

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

So, here we are in Barcelona. After Granada, which for the past couple of days has been a green and relaxing place of magic, with chirping birds and cherry blossoms flying through the air, I need to shift into big city mode again. We’ve walked a lot today and discovered, to my delight, a couple of great wine shops and a kick-ass cheese shop. Two cheeses (WHOLE cheeses, not hunks o?cheese) for 4 Euro! Good cheese too – a great mild goat cheese with pepper and a cylinder shaped Brie type cheese. I’ve already bought several bottles of wine causing my mom to have a furrowed brow… hmmm, how will we drink all that? Whatever we have left I will sneak onto the plane to drink on that longass journey home. We have been a bit shocked at the price of wine and tapas in the bars here so far. I think we got pretty spoiled. Which brings me to the point.

Cal Pep. This tapas bar/diner is in every tour book and also, has been written about plenty on internet sites I trust (like Chowhound and EGullet.) So, I was practically peeing my pants to go. So we went and were the first to get in. It was 8 P.M. They open the big metal door and everyone goes in and sits at a long counter that seats about 20 people I’d say. All the seats were immediately taken. Mr. Pep came over, and since I knew you just tell him if you want fish, or veggies or meat, I just said, “Pescado.” I didn’t even finish that one word before he shoots out this volley of words in whatever trippy language (Catalan? Basque?) AND in his ultra weird voice (a cross between Barry White and Mr. Magoo). So, we figure let’s just see what happens. First one of Pep’s helpers (and there are a few) pours red wine for mom and white for me, and the bottles remain – they will keep refilling as we drink. Then the food starts coming – rapid fire. First a couple of toasts with tomato (boring.) Then some fried artichokes. (Just OK.) Steamed clams. Tortilla, which was runny – I liked it but mom hated it. Fried fish. All the diners were being served rapid fire like this. It was like, McPeps. We were starving and ate fast, and all of a sudden we were done – in TWENTY FIVE MINUTES. Some diners left before us! And we were in and out in under thirty minutes.

This would have all been fine and good, but the bill was 32 Euro. We walked back home saying, what the hell was THAT?

When we left there were at least twenty people waiting to eat. I am not so sure Pep was asking us/telling us what to eat. I am thinking, Pep was saying:

“Ha HA! I have not seen you before. Suckers! I will give you the McExperience you are used to, but the Basque way! And for a nice price! Nice for ME! Ha HA!!!”


“Ha HA! I am needing to put a second wing on my beach house in (enter pricey Mediterraean town here). I think you will help me to pay! Suckahs!”

At any rate, it was fascinating to watch Pep and his crew working and all the diners snarfing everything down really fast.

Barcelona is fast, I am trying to catch up. Our apartment is fantastic – the owners have taken special care, I think it is the nicest vacation rental I have ever rented. We are on a cool street with lots of shops and bars. There are two Japanese restaurants on our block! Also, today something very special happened. I found LIME POPSICLE COLORED LUGGAGE. Sadly, I no longer need luggage. But I did buy a Lime Popsicle backpack, because it exists. I think Barcelona is one of those cities that has many of the things you have always been searching for. So, in the next three days I could be finding alot.

That Mountain Air

Monday, April 12th, 2004

Granada, in the Spring! It is fantastic outside. Yesterday we walked up to the top of Albaicin where, in a little campo, a bunch of hippies and singing gypsies were hanging out. This is the Granada I love. The colorful plaza, the colors of the hippie clothes, the arab sounding flamenco from the gypsy singers, the snow covered Sierra Madres and the Alhambra in the distance. We are going back up there today.

I just bought acorn liqueur and chocolate covered figs. We are leaving for Barcelona tomorrow, and I have a serious problem, I have bought Too Much Stuff. Will work it out, I am sure.

Our trip is winding down and so is my time here at NavagaWeb. More from Barcelona…

Easter Greetings and Random Thoughts

Sunday, April 11th, 2004

Well color me shocked. It is Easter and I thought that after all the Processions and Masses and Religious stuff on the streets and on TV Spain would be locked up tight today, but everything seems to be open. We even laid in a bunch of supplies just so we would have plenty to eat and drink. We are cooking at home tonight – a vegetable stew that I make that is sort of an arabic ratatouille served over rice, jamon and melon, lots of Rioja, a crazy Easter cake that we bought in Toledo, it is a serpent twirled up into a circle, with candied fruit on top. Interestingly enough our Granada apartment is not really set up for too much cooking, but I am pretty good at working with whatever tools are at hand.

One thing our apartment DOES have that I love, love, love is a TV with mega-channels. We have MTV with German subtitles that is showing the Osbornes all weekend, BBC Primetime, Arab weather girls, and much more. There are a few Spanish movie channels that show American movies dubbed in Spanish. I watched Almost Famous the other night, and a little bit of Steel Magnolias and Roxanne yesterday. They sure got the Dolly Parton and Steve Martin voices wrong. We also have a couple of Arab stations that show American movies and even soap operas in English, with Arab subtitles. The only bad thing is that I am missing out on alot of bad Spanish TV because this other stuff is better. Although, all the Spanish TV is 24/7 coverage of the Semana Santa processions.

On to my next thought – ham. The Spanish love of ham is beyond any love of a specific meat I have ever seen. They even have ham flavored Ruffle potato chips called “Jamon Jamon.” They are soooo good. The first bite is overwhelmingly hammy. So you could really have your Easter dinner this way, the ham and the potato in one little salty package. We are trying to figure out how to get some Jamon Jamon Ruffles home.

Granada is lovely. There are alot of hippies here and much smoking of hashish and drinking of quarts of Cruzcampo beer in the plazas. We went to the Alhambra the first night, it sort of sucked. It was pouring rain and the combo of mega flashbulbs and loud talking in the very crowded Palace did not work in our favor. I wanted to scream “Basta!” the whole time. I wanted to use a people evaporator. We went back yesterday and it was not nearly as crowded, though the Spanish seem to have a serious thing about photographing themselves. I am glad we are not staying up there. Our neighborhood is near the Carrera del Darro, a very busy riverside street with lots of bars and cafes and hippie shops. At first I thought I was smelling incense but then I realized, it was something else entirely….

We are off to the Cathedral, where Isabel and Ferdinand are buried. Then for a walk around the Albaicin…

Bella Cordoba

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

Ahhh, Cordoba… after the craziness of the train thing and the madness of the festa in Sevilla, we decided that we would take Cordoba slow, and spend lots of time walking slowly and sitting in cafes and stuff. Lucky for us, it is a perfect city for this. I love it here. Something in the air invigorates me. Cordoba is all white, heat and dust. Tourism and day to day life mingle well together here. I can walk slowly and breathe deeply. It is that kind of place.

There are Easter processions here also (as there are all over Andalucia and Spain.) I have learned the name of the religious floats, they are called Pasos. In Sevilla, you watch the procession from afar. In Cordoba, you are part of the procession. From our hotel, which is steps away from the Mezquita/Cathedral, we can hear the drums coming so we run out, and the procession passes. Then we go back to the hotel, until 10 minutes later we hear drums again. Yesterday the first Paso was accompanied by sober young soldiers who protect the Paso with machine guns pointed towards the sky. This was very moving to me in a way that I could never explain. It takes them a while to get the huge Paso around the tiny corner and when this is accomplished, everyone applauds. Last night we went to dinner, a large meal for us because Cordoba has so invigorated us that we can eat three courses after walking all day. During our dinner a Paso passed down the tiny street, and everyone, including a waiter with an offering of red carnations, runs out to see it pass. After we are done eating we leave and there is another Paso coming, this time the Madonna with a flowing cape and fresh white roses all around her. We cannot move and the Paso passes an inch from our heads. Then there is nothing to do but join the hundreds who are following the marching band and the Paso down the street. There are tiny kids, older people, everyone seems to be eating sunflower seeds and spitting out the shells. Too bad I just ate three courses because I love sunflower seeds.

We are in this procession for a long time, because the procession stops often, for someone singing a hymn from a balcony, or maybe because the guys carrying it need to rest. At first these long stops are OK; but after three we are ready to move. We duck up a side street and run smack into the long line of Nazarenes (people with cone heads and candles), this means there is another Paso coming. Somehow we know where we are going, and circle the old city completely, and coming back through the city walls there is another procession! They are everywhere.

Today is Thursday and most of the shops are closed, and will be tomorrow also. We are leaving for Granada tomorrow supplied with wine, olive paste, crackers, coffee, milk, and cookies, in case we cannot find an open store tomorrow. We will spend Good Friday Eve at the Alhambra, and relax on the terrace of our apartment on Easter…

Religous Processions and Mating Rituals

Tuesday, April 6th, 2004

Sunday was the first day of the week long festival Semana Santa here in Sevilla. On Sunday, the whole city was out, dressed in their very best clothes. This could be classy or tacky, depending on which side of the tracks you live on I guess. The bars and restaurants were packed, and for the first time since we got here I saw a few scam artists. All the streets were filled with wooden chairs to view the processions. We tried to get close to some of the processions but unless you had a ticket for one of the seats it was pretty hard. Also you are trying to get close with about 500,000 other people.

Besides religion and hanging out in the bars with your friends, this festival seems to be a time for young people to “hook up.” So, for the girls get a boyfriend, and for the boys, to try to get as close to sex as possible for an unmarried Catholic. I can group the festival goers into several groups.

Married Couples with Young Children Dressed up Like Dolls
Young People Who Have Been Hooked Up for a While (Holding hands.)
Young People Who Have Just Hooked Up (Swallowing each others tongue, butt grope-age)
Young People Looking to Hook Up (They travel in packs)
Old People (Also travel in packs, but mostly sit at cafe tables.)

Sunday was a big day. By 11 PM we were exhausted but I could hear the festival going until very early in the morning.

Yesterday (Monday) was a big quieter. We wandered all over and there were not many people out. (Recovering?) By the late afternoon though we could see hundreds of people coming in for the processions. I’ll try to explain the processions – there is something like a float, but guys are under it and lifting it. You cannot see the guys underneath. These are practically structures with life-like figures on them, candles, fresh flowers. When the men underneath walk it looks like the figures are walking, too. In front and back there are little kids and adults with the cone like hats in white, black, purple. There is a lot of incense and sometimes people carrying crosses. Behind each float there is a marching band. We saw one come straight out of the door of the big Cathedral here and that was pretty remarkable. Then I decided I wanted Albondigas from this bar I like (henceforth known as that fateful meatball.) So we started over and got caught up in a big crowd. We saw one float come towards us with Christ on the Cross. Then we got a bit further down the tiny street and could move no more. Then a procession went right by us on the tiny street. It was a Mary float. Totally wild. We then made it to the bar but the bar was too crowded and we could not get in to get my fateful meatball. In fact all the bars and cafes were totally packed and both Sunday and Monday we had to eat in touristy places in our neighborhood. But, they both had excellent food…

well I had better go because we are going to Cordoba and Mom will kill me if we don’t get to the train early. More from Cordoba…