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

Archive for September, 2009

A Dream that you Dare to Dream

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I love waking up in the morning here, with the sounds of the sea and the Renfe train just below.  Coming from the west coast where the sun sets over the ocean, I love to wake up to it rising over the ocean, instead.  It´s a routine I could get use to. 

There is a elementary school just below us, and this morning we were having our coffee and at 9AM, music suddenly blared (and I mean BLARED) over the outside loudspeakers.  It was Judy Garland singing “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow.”  This was the signal that school was about to start, and we could see all the kids with their backpacks hurrying to the classroom.  I think this is one of the most memorable experiences of my life, right here.  Where ARE we?  Then, at 5PM when school was done, they played a more modern, hipper version of “Somewhere” and then “What a Wonderful World.”  This is the way these kids begin and end their school day.  If anyone can save the world, the Catalans can.

Enamored as I am, I try to differentiate between the dream and the reality.  If I lived here, would the sound of the train make me happy, or would I grow to resent it?  Would the sun rising in my window wake me up and piss me off?  Would the sound of Judy Garland blaring over school loudspeakers at 9AM every day eventually lose it´s luster?

Maybe.  More likely, I would get irritated at the litter, the cat shit, the obnoxious teenagers.  You know, all the stuff that bothers me at home. 

But it doesn´t really matter, because right now, for this moment, I am in the dream.  Reality doesn´t exist.  I might have thought I dreamed that Judy Garland called the children to school, but my mother was there, a witness.  I am more in love than ever.

A Room with a View

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

We are in Tarragona, and I am at once in love, in awe, and in pain.  In love with this unbelievably cool city, in awe with the Roman ruins all around us, and in pain because we have been walking so much.

But let me backtrack a little.

After we left Valencia, we went to Morella for two days.  Morella is a hill – actually more like mountain – town inland and north from Valencia.  It is part of the Valencian community, but they do have a language that seems a bit like the Catalan language.  They are known for truffles and honey there, and have some really incredible pastries.  While is it was clear that it was a bit of a tourist spot, we had a great time wandering around, climbing up (up, up) to the remains of the castello on the top of the mountain, and hanging out in our little suite in a 15th century mansion.  We ate some pretty basic food but discovered cuijada, a pudding made of honey and sheeps milk cheese.  AWESOME.

I do wish I would have had more time up there… there was a lot to see and do but it is a bit of a trek.  Someday, I will go back to this area and really explore it.

Oh, almost forgot.  Got no sleep on Friday night due to firecrackers and partying in the town that started at ONE AM… I think it may have been the beginning of the festival.  Whateves, but don´t let that small town look fool you into thinking the locals can´t party like they do in Barcelona.

Yesterday we drove down here to Tarragona, where our apartment is actually the top floor of what looks like a run down noble house from the 19th century.  From my bedroom I can see the ocean and part of the Roman ampitheatre… from most rooms, ocean views, and you can go up on the roof too.  The place is not fancy by any stretch of the imagination but who cares with the views!  Just a few minutes walk and we are in the old town, built on the ancient Roman town.  Today we had tapas in the Placa de la Font, a long skinny placa which use to be part of the Roman circus.  Just down the street, you can walk in the tunnels of what was once, the real circus.  Everywhere I look I feel Rome…. there are cats everywhere and some of the smells are awfully familiar, too.  It´s a real city at the same time, with families out with the kids and boys playing soccer in the plaza, and butchers and pastry shops and lots and lots of wine shops.  That is the old town, and just a few blocks over is the more modern area.  I found a killer wine shop over there yesterday. (Bonus! I said to mom when I came home with four bottles.)

Last night we had an incredible salad with greens, apples, feta, and manchego (Bonus! Said mom when she took the first bite) and a pizza with chorizo and dates.  Dates!  We loved our waiter who seemed to be auditioning for a Charlie Chaplin movie.

The next three days we will get in the car and explore the area around here.  Tonight though, more tapas, more looking at Roman ruins, and more smells of the sea.  If you have never thought of Tarragona before, think of it now.

The Weird and the Beautiful

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

One thing I have learned in my travels in Spain is, if it is a nice day out, get out there and get some stuff done because the next day, it could be raining like crazy.  We were very lucky our first few days here – it was gorgeous and warm every day and we made the most of it.  Monday we bought tickets on the double decker tourist bus, good for two days, and they really worked out well for us.  I think that in the end, we could probably could have saved a little money by just taking taxis instead, but the good thing about the bus was it sort of got us into a program of what to see and where to go.  Plus it was fun to sit on the top of the bus and be closer to all the tops of the buildings.  There are some uber cool buildings here.

Yesterday we packed a lot in – the history museum, the City of Arts and Sciences (just to walk around) and the Las Fallas museum.  With the way the times work here, it takes some planning, because even a lot of the museums close in the afternoon.  The history museum is short on artifacts but has these cool interactive movies with some pretty funny acting.  Dudes gossiping about the Borgias in Renaissance garb.  Moors (who don’t look too Moorish) hanging around making up really weird poetry.  Anyway, it was really fun and I did learn a lot about the history here.

The City of Arts and Sciences… wow.  Everyone has probably seen the pictures of the place but they just do not prepare one for actually being there.  It is MASSIVE and it is weird and it is beautiful.  (There is a dude next to me sucking on a popsicle really loud – it is messing with my concentration.  Anyway.)

It is going to take me some time to get my mind around all I have seen and done here but it is truly a magnificent city with a heck of a lot to do… the gardens and the parks are amazing!  And I love it everytime I enter the Plaza Ayunamiento, a triangle shaped plaza with gorgeous buildings all around, including the most beautiful post office I have ever seen.  Just down the street, the bullring is next to the train station (also very beautiful with a lot of colorful tiles and mosaics inside, and the ticket windows are all wood…)

The only thing that has not been so perfect for us here is the food.  (Now the popsicle dude is watching skateboard videos.)  We had one earth-shaking meal, our lunch on Sunday, which was so random and unexpected that it made it all the more glorious (stopped for a tapa, stayed for five courses).  Other tapas have been meh and expensive.  Last night, we stopped in a tapas place and ordered tomatoes topped with bechamel and baccala that were pretty good, but we also ordered (because we wanted to do something a little different) pimientos de Padron “relleno” – presumably stuffed with cheese and sauced with something.  But they came out fried and they were… FROZEN inside.  Nasty!  They were like jalapeno poppers from Applebys or something.  I had a Gordon Ramsay moment.  I tried to figure out (from my mom) how to best express that these suckers were frozen and I was NOT paying (learned the word for ice – hielo) but Mom just told the server they were frozen and she whisked them away and then we heard her yelling in the kitchen.  Clearly this was not the first time.  Today we went to a recommended vegetarian tapas place and ordered some vegetable croquettes that came out cold.  This time, mom had the GR moment.  But they reheated them and they were fine.   Tonight we are going to go and eat a pizza.  Oh, and all the food we have bought and ate at home has been great.

Last night a big storm came in and there has been crazy thunder, lightning and periods of heavy rain here.  I woke up in the middle of the night and seriously, it sounded like that part of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the nazis open up the ark and everything goes crazy.  We had a nice day just walking around but we got pretty wet.  I bought a phone, too – mission accomplished there.

Tomorrow we head out of Valencia to a town in the mountains called Morella for a little down time.  We really loved Valencia and I definitely want to return someday – even with the frozen tapas.

On Top of This World

Monday, September 21st, 2009

It is about 6:30 in the evening on our third day here in Valencia… a city unlike any place I have ever been.  We are staying in the Barrio del Carmen, a funky, hip, sort of grungy maze of streets.  There is a lot of street art and a lot of bars.  There are renovated buildings, and squats.  Or at least I think they are squats, since they don´t have any windows but people seem to be living in them.  It is edgy, and cool here.  

Make your way out of the maze (not easy, let me assure you, even with a map) and you arrive in a much cleaner part of the city with a lot of marble and baroque architecture.  Then head a little farther and you get to the La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, the Calatrava complex of stunning modern buildings.  All of this is accented with some icky 1970´s apartment buildings and a lot of greenery, since the entire riverbed that runs through the city is now a public park.  Then you get to the sea, with a long promenade running along the beach.

It is a lot to take in and a lot to see, but we have been doing our best.  I can’t stop taking pictures of graffiti, signs, buildings… it is one of those places where you just want to look at EVERYTHING. 

Our apartment is amazing – on the top floor of the building, with views over the city rooftops.  We have two decks, one of them not unlike a ship´s deck complete with loungers.  Mom is up there right now, lounging.  We are only a five minute walk from the Mercato Central, a huge indoor market with dozens of stalls.  Don´t like the ham at this stall?  No worries, there are twenty more stalls with twenty more kinds of ham each.  There is a stall that sells snails, one that has Asian foods.  One that has a bunch of different prepared paellas.  It was the first place we went on Saturday, right when we got here, and we went back today.  I have to stop going there though, it is dangerous.  I can try but I doubt I will be able to eat a kilo of cheese in the two days we have left.  Even with four bottles of wine to wash it down.

It has been amazing so far.  Tonight we are staying in for dinner – I want to drink red wine and look out over the rooftops, and we’ll eat eggs with mushrooms, spring onions and sausage from the mercato.  Cheese and chocolate, too. 

My time here at the internet cafe is about up – more later.