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Archive for the ‘What’s Happenin’ in Spain’ Category

Sueno Mojado

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I am settling into my life here in the little apartment near the Reina Sofia museum.  I had my first Spanish tutoring today, and I fear I will not have too much time for anything else!  I was not totally lost, and this is due solely to my introductory lessons in Italian many years ago.  (the verb “essere,” anyone?)  I have been trying to understand people’s conversations but it is impossible.  The only thing I understood today when eaves dropping was “pan con mais.”  (Cornbread.)  If everyone could just speak in food terms I would probably be OK.

I’ve also been trying to learn from watching American movies and show on the TV but I think this is not the way to go.  I think that a big part of understanding is reading lips, and obviously you cannot read lips this way.

Tomorrow I will meet my tutor in another part of Madrid.  Apparently the area near the river Manzanares used to be kind of ghetto, or merely boring but now it is kind of cool and hip.  My tutor is maybe 20 years younger than me (maybe more) so I will take his word for it. Though if you take the teacher/student dynamic into mind, I am eight years old, while he remains the same age.  Cool.

My first lesson did not help me with the minor plumbing problem here in the apartment.  Last night I was doing dishes and the floor was suddenly all wet.  Like, uber wet.  So I wrote to the owner because lord knows I do not want the people downstairs to get flooded out.  (Remind me to tell you how, just a few days ago, the rains in DC created a whackadoodle situation in my guest room at Casa Fischer.  Suffice to say, am a bit freaked about rain, and water right now.) So today the owner sent a plumber but of course, when he is here there is no problem.  As soon as he leaves, I wash dishes again and of course, vwoosh, a bunch of water coming out of the wall.  Anyway I think I figured out the problem.  I have a better command of plumbing than Spanish, that is for sure, and I know eff all about plumbing.  But try, just try, to explain, in Spanish, a flood besides saying “mucho aqua.”  Not to mention I got Suelo (floor) mixed up with Sueno (sleep? Dream?) Argh. The dude just didn’t believe me. Honestly it is kind of funny this happened the very day I started trying to figure out Spanish.  There is water in the dream!  No kidding, Sigmunda.

I like it here, this neighborhood.  My long morning at the Carrefour is just a distant nightmare; turns out, just down the street is an indoor market with all manner of fresh seafood, meat, veggies and fruits.  And I have been looking for a wine shop – the other day I hauled three bottles from the freeking Mercato San Miguel.  Friday, and also Saturday, and of course Sunday, everything was closed due to the holiday of Friday.  I just knew there was a cool wine place right under my nose, but if something is closed here it is like it does not exist.  There is a blank where the shop would  be.   A metal shutter, no signage, niente.  OOPS.  I mean nada.  Today, walking home from getting a glass of overpriced verdejo and doing my Spanish homework at some cafe near the Prado (I’ll let you know how that went) I pass this little tiny store.  It is not a wine shop per se, but an alimentari with a killer wine selection.  A wall o’ bottles, with little tags with the regions, grapes, etc.  Of course I spent some time in there, and while I was there people from the neighborhood were coming in to buy their evening pan (bread) plus quizzing the owner down about the wine for the evening.  Seriously, we are talking AGUJERO EN EL MURO.  I bought two bottles and the owner put a flyer in my bag, a sort of magazine called Mi Vino. This is my new favorite store.  I am only going to stay here in this apartment when I am in Madrid so that I can shop every day there.  I can also get crackers, water, and detergent, along with my fab vino de Bierzo.

And this is what I love about staying in one place for some time, you may never know a place like that is even there, unless you are around for awhile.

There is a channel in my apartment that shows non stop Sex in the City episodes. I am watching trying to figure out what the hell they are all saying.  “Si. Vale.” (coughs.) I am a bit scared that I went a little overboard on my homework.  I was suppose to say stuff like “my plant is green” but I went a little hardcore “mom and I are traveling here 3 weeks, we love Spain and enjoy our time together.”  I truly hope I was maybe 50% close to the actual Spanish.

Anyway, onward.

Leavin, on a Jet Lag

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Time flies, doesn’t it?  People that read my blog complain that I don’t write very much which is absolutely true.  These days, or years I should say, I write when I am traveling.  Actually, I need to get even more specific than that, because I am, in this moment and even before this moment, basically always traveling. So I guess what I really need to tell people is, I write in my blog when I am traveling on a sort of vacation and/or to new places, and in addition I must feel, at the moment, like writing.  Narrows it down just a bit.

These are all excuses of course.  The bottom line is, I should always be writing, even if I am in elfugue bumfuqua.  (Just made that one up.  What do you think?)

Enough of that.  I am in Madrid for just over a week and then I have five more weeks here in Spain, some of them with my mom.  I am going to Try to Write.

I landed yesterday, in the morning after a really, well, trying flight.  After which, a most precarious entry to my apartment from the airport.  None of this is anyone’s fault.  I guess that flights to Spain are such that you may as well reckon on No Sleep.  So, no sleep, whateves… but then get into the airport at Just Beyond the Crack of Dawn (and we arrived LATE) and neither my Spanish or AT & T phone will work.  So, after some serious fretting I just get into a cab and go.  Somehow, the guy who is suppose to meet me got a text message that someone was trying to text him and he called me in the cab.  It’s a holiday, and the fare of the cab is a little shocking. But then I can basically pass out until 2:30 PM.  There is a god.

First days in Europe after the journey are always a little rough.  Having said that, I do believe that jet lag is like a hangover.  You never really know how that insane night of drinking or that totally horrible night where you were squished into a little box for eight hours is going to affect you.  It is a kind of crapshoot, Sometimes you feel fine and other times, you mostly want to sit at a cafe table and sweat.  And it is funny because everytime I come over here I don’t really remember the horribleness of the first, and sometimes second day.  Because one of the best things about jet lag is that you forget.

Yesterday, what I remember, is also what I have almost forgot.  Walking around in a daze for a few hours, passing out at 10 PM.  Waking up at 4 AM to people having sex in what seems like my very bed. Are there walls in this building?  Thin ones.  It goes on for a couple of hours. I cough really loudly a couple of times, to no avail.  It occurs to me much later (like 12 hours later) that maybe I should have started moaning really loud.  I am not sure though, that this would have done much good.  In between moans they talk a lot.  Honestly, it was kind of horrible because I would start to drop off to sleep, thinking it was all over.. as soon as that wonderful fall into unconsciousness would happen VOILA. Moaning, and or talking.  Finally they stopped at about 6 AM, and I slept, like a rock, until 10:30.

I guess this is kind of boring.  I’ll be brief about the morning (needed to buy food, found a Carrefour YIPPEE love love love Carrefour, buy groceries but have to stand what seems like 5 hours in line because shopping in any Carrefour on a Saturday is akin to pouring firewater on all your nerve endings, come home to study Spanish vocabulary which is what I came here for, feel a sudden and impossible to ignore desire to sleep, sleep hard for some time, wake up and study vocabulary.  Then it is 6 PM.)

I left the apartment.  I needed to get out.  I started to walk, and let me tell you, walking around in Madrid is one of the most pleasurable things in the universe.  In the heart of the old city, there are many pedestrian streets, or maybe they are not really pedestrian but suffice to say there are not that many cars.  On other streets, an insane number of bars and restaurants.  It is a city for walking, and for hanging out drinking and eating.  It is also a city of art.  Madrid is a CITY.  It is where the young people move to.  There are a lot of tourists.  There is a lot of bleached hair.  There are short skirts, bad shoes, tour guides talking loudly with Australian accents.  I am invisible.  Not that I have really cool shoes or anything.  I don’t.  It is just that I am invisible.  I always have been, and I always will be.

I park myself in the Plaza de Santa Ana at a wine bar I really like.  The air is warm and I love my waiter because he smiles at my very bad Spanish.  The light changes, it glows pink and orange on everything.  Kind of like a California sunset, but with cheaper wine.  I walk home but don’t really feel like cooking even though I have food at home, so I stop in a pizzeria near my apartment.  The owner is young and really Italian; he makes Spritz con Aperol for a couple of girls and says “adesso” a lot.  First they play Sting and then the Police, so of course I have that conversation with myself.  Why is solo Sting so lame compared to the Police?  It was like he went McLight but so quickly, that he lost all punk rock cred.  Anyway no one really cares about that anymore.  It was the 1980s.  Suffice to say that “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” makes everyone from 2 to 200 years of age bop around all happy.  The four people hanging out at the bar in the pizzeria were bopping, I was bopping, we were all bopping.  Solo Sting = the Great Silence.

Anyway.  The owner brought me a limoncello and I am truly happy that I travel so much these days that I could give a fig whether I eat at home, or pizza or something local.  I am happy that I can walk around content that I am, well, content.  I am happy that I am here, and that soon I will be somewhere else.  I am happy that I am in Spain.  I am, well, happy.  What more can I say?  Boy, this is kind of boring.  I’ll try to give it a bit of a kick when I get over my jet lag.

Hobbits and Saints

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Our trip is winding down.  I am in that depressed state I always get into a couple of days before departure date.  It will get better but right now, I really don’t want to leave Spain.

Girona is a breathtakingly beautiful city.  The heart of the city is divided by the Onyar river, and there are a bunch of bridges across.  Every time you cross a bridge there is a cool street, nice cafes, and lots of shops.  Every time I cross a bridge, I have to stop in the middle of it, because it is all so beautiful.

Right by our apartment there is a forest with these little ancient stone bridges, and I swear there are hobbits and fairies in there.  You can feel them.  There is something very otherworldly back there, another reality existing alongside our reality.  Like Avalon.  A few meters away and you are walking in an amazingly well preserved medieval village.  With one of the largest cathedrals in Europe on the hill.

There are trees and greenery and cafes everywhere.  I didn’t think, after Tarragona, I could be so blown away by Girona, but I am.  This has got to be one of the most liveable cities I’ve ever been to.  Of course, with all the cafes it would be difficult to get any work done.  But for an artist, or a writer, or a trustifarian – perfect.  It is perfect for me.  But my mother asked me what I would do if I were here a few more days, and she is right – what would I do?  Just don’t make me seperate the dream from the reality yet, por favor.

We had a lot of plans for daytrips from Girona, but unfortunately we both got sick.  Tuesday, we both had scratchy throats and hoped it would not progress.  But Wednesday we woke up feeling really crappy.  My brother and his band came through that day, so we weren’t going anywhere thankfully except to meet them for a little while.  Yesterday, again, no energy, coughing fits, no voices… I have never been sick like this on vacation, and let me tell you, it SUCKS.  But I made myself drive to Besalu and then, to France where we ate toast with tomato, ham and cheese and it was awesome.  I keep trying to push myself because I am already sad I have to leave, like REALLY sad.  So I don’t want to be sick, too. 

Anyway this has put a major damper on our siteseeing excursions.  I just walked 15 minutes to get to this bar with internet (which I just found out about from the tourist office, this morning) and it pretty much wiped me out.  The white wine is helping with the depression and this nasty bug.  Mom even went to the pharmacy this morning and spent 9 euros on mystery pills.  I am scared to take prescription drugs when I know what they are, so I’ll stick to wine, I think.

It was really fun to see my brother and his band here.  Our apartment is right down the street from the church of Sant Feliu, which has a funny spire (due to a lightning strike) and also, two cafes right below it.  So, since I have got here I have been wanting to stay “meet me in the cafe in the shadow of Sant Feliu.”  Weird, I know, but I am weird.  I admit it completely.  I didn’t say this exactly to my brother but I did tell him to look for the spire and then park and we would be at the cafe.  Whoo hoo!  Someday I will say it exactly like it will be in my head, forever – at least I have promised myself that this will happen. 

I guess I should mention the saints.  They are everywhere.  On the bridges, in the tiny dark streets, in the chirping of the crickets that I listen to every night in our apartment.  The nights here are sultry, and every 20 minutes a train goes by on the elevated track 20 feet away from us.  I love the trains and the crickets, too.  We went to Dali’s house on Tuesday, and in his bedroom he had a cage for canaries, and a tiny cage for a cricket, because he loved the sound they make.   So, there is the hobbit dimension, the saint dimension, our dimension, and then Dali’s dimension.  All existing side by side in this unbelievable place called Catalonia.

It has started to rain and I am once again fighting tears because I have to leave.  I hope we are better by tomorrow, because we will be in Barcelona and we will need some energy to deal with that.  Home Sunday, and I am lucky, cold and tears and all – I am simply trading one beautiful place for another.  It could be a lot, lot worse.


Pork Dreams

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I’m feeling a little emotional… maybe it is the amazing lunch we just had here in Vic, an absolutely beautiful, clean and interesting city.  But let me go back a little.

We left Tarragona yesterday and I had a hard time leaving.  It is just so…. BEAUTIFUL there.  Tuesday we went to Montserrat and to be honest, we didn’t enjoy it too much.  Mostly it was a lot of tourists taking pictures and videos of some really special things and experiences (like, for instance, the black Madonna which is the patron saint of Catalonia. Click, click.)  Somehow I thought it would be a little more mysterious there, but all the gift shops, cafeterias, che ching che ching (that means $$$$$ in Shannon speak) sort of took any mystery or spirituality away, for us, at least.

After that we went back to Tarragona and bought fresh swordfish and veggies and cooked at home.  At 5 the next morning, I woke up and stayed up for the next two hours because this CRAZY storm blew in… constant lightning and thunder, for TWO HOURS.  And not just thunder, but an eight ton steel drum being pushed off El Capitan.  The house shook!  I am not kidding.  It SHOOK. I watched out my window as bolt after bolt of lightning hit the water.  I was, I admit, kind of scared.  Finally I laid back down and tried to sleep but even then I could see the lightning go sideways across the sky.  WIth eyes closed, it was like trying to sleep with a black and white TV on in the room.

I mentioned the storm to the woman at my favorite wine shop in Tarragona and she said, “we don’t have a lot of storms here but when we do, you had better run!”  Hehe.

Anyhow, that is not all of the rest of our time in Tarragona but I do want to get to yesterday, and to today, and to our lunch.

Yesterday we headed northwest to Vic, by way of Cardona because we wanted to see the parador there.  When we went to Montserrat we went down to Barcelona and then inland, so we did not see the mountain range from afar – we sort of just arrived and drove up.  Yesterday, we drove past it froma distance and it is truly amazing seen from a distance – a mass of otherworldly rocks sticking up straight out of the earth.  One can only imagine pilgrims headed there, they must have been completely blown away by the sight of it. 

It was a beautiful drive though, it seems to take longer to get THROUGH a city than it does to get TO a city at times. 

We are staying at the parador some 15 kilometers out of Vic.  It is very nice and has a view of some  craggy cliffs and a lake.  Today we came down pretty early, and walked around this awesome town… there is a Roman temple here plus a lot of really great modernistic and Gaudiesque architecture.  We had a tasty coffee, and looked in a lot of charcuterie shop windows (they are known for their sausages and other meat products here.)

In our walking, I had noticed this place called “El Merlot” that had a bunch of wine barrels in a long hallway in the front, and then a rustic looking dining room in the back.  It looked kind of cool, and we were up for an adventure (the menus are in Catalan not Spanish, so basically… forget understanding too much, even with my food dictionary I printed off the internet.)  So, we went back there for lunch.  We walked in and a woman greeted us.  OK, so I had heard that Catalans were reserved and distant. Uh, not this woman.  She said she could speak French or Spanish, and we mentioned English and she said “yeah, my English is PERFECT.”  This was with total humor and warmth.  She brought us into the dining room where an older woman (probably Mama) was grilling meats (pork, also lamb) and sausages (several pork kinds) over a wood fired antique iron grill.  Then there was a table with beans (with pork,)  fideos (noodles) with meat sauce (pork), potato salad, lentils, green salad, rice salad, pasta salad….  and a big bowl of potato chips. Basically you just help yourself to whatever you want, as much as you want.  Our jolly server brought over a carafe of white and one of red, the kind of carafe with a little pour on one side for direct in-the-mouth pours and a larger pour on the other for the glass. Our server demonstrated for us, the direct pour.  She was so awesome.

The food was fantastic.  Now, I can barely breath because my pants are so tight but it was oh so worth it.  Later in our meal, our server took, to a table of five guys next to us, four candy bars and a bottle of some amber liquid.  I was like, what is she going to do with that candy and alcohol? 

Mama came over from the wood fired grill, with two long pieces of grilled bread on a big platter.  Then she unwrapped the candy, and put it on the bread and made a sandwich.  A chocolate sandwich.  But that’s not all.  After she covered the chocolate with the bread, she took the palm of her hand and THWACK! hit the bread, smashing it down.  Several more hits (THWACK! THWACK! THWACK!) followed.  I pity the mugger who tries to rob this woman.  She practically broke the table, to the total delight of all in the room.  Then she cut up the sandwich with scissors and gave it to the men.

We just had a flan.  I totally wanted some of the chocolate sandwich but I was scared to have her make it at our table.  Well not really, but you know what I mean. 

The lunch cost us less than ten euros each.  On Saturdays they raise the price to 16 euros. I want to come back for that someday.

Off to relax at the parador… Girona tomorrow.

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.




What I Ate

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

I woke up at 3:30 A.M. and couldn’t get back to sleep. Jet lag sucks. Finally I decided to get up and look at my pictures. Then I started to get hungry, so I decided to post all my food pictures. So. Here are just a few of the items I ate in Spain.


The famous Pimientos de Padron, my new favorite food. Only we can’t get them here. The peppers look like jalapenos, but they are not hot, except once in a while you get a hot one, so it’s like playing Russian Roulette in your mouth. They fry these quickly in olive oil and then sprinkle them rather liberally with coarse salt. These peppers are on almost every menu in the northwest, but we sadly couldn’t find them anywhere else. Actually we did see them on a menu board in Sevilla on our last day, but the menu board did not seem to belong to anyone. It was just sitting in the street, driving us crazy.

If Brian had these at The OB Vine I would eat them every single day. I am serious. WAIT! They ARE grown here in California. BRIAN! If you start making these I will come in every day instead of only five days a week. Check it out. Shannon’s Favorite Vegetable in the World.


Our favorite tapas bar of the whole trip – O Bispo in Santiago de Compostela. We ate there something like twenty times in four days.


This is not a food picture, but a picture of a bar called O Cortello in Pontevedra. It was one of the craziest, weirdest bars I have ever been in, and we had incredible fried calamari there two nights in a row. This place is not for the squeamish. It is dirty, there is a dog in the kitchen, and there are some pretty strange goings-on. I loved it in there.


We always ordered coffee in our room when that service was possible, but one time Mom accidentally ordered a complete breakfast (to the tune of about thirty-five bucks.) This is what we got. Check out the pile of bread-type items. Thankfully we had plenty of zip-lock baggies and we were eating muffins from this breakfast for weeks. Also, I caught a slight cold around that time, so we figure St. James was responsible for the slip-up, so that I would drink some orange juice. St. James was always looking after us after I hugged his statue, I think.


Mmm… a bottle of Ribeira del Duero, looking at a castle keep, in our room in Vilalba. Later I ate the freshest piece of fish I have ever had in my life, but I forgot to take a picture of it.


A fat plate of Cabrales cheese (zip-lock bag came in handy here as well) and chorizo cooked in hard cider, at the Parador in Cangas de Onis near the Picos de Europas mountains.


Probably our favorite meal of the trip and we had the same thing two nights in a row – room service in our fantastic room in Cervera de Pisuerga. Potatoes, tomatoes and peppers baked in a clay pot, a steak sandwich, wine, and German MTV. I was in heaven.


The breakfast room at the Parador in Cervera. Please take note of the bottle of Syrah for the people who like a little strong red wine with their cereal.


On night, on a whim, I decided to order a room service meal of many bottles of wine and some different baby foods. Just kidding. This was a display of possibilities though, of which Spain has many.


Spanish stews kick ass. This one is potatoes and chorizo, and I ate it in the Rioja with a fine bottle, of, uh, Rioja.


Just so you don’t get the idea that eating is Spain is perfect, voila, a misfire in Bilbao. The wine was off and the chorizo squirted me when we finally had the balls to ask the bartender for a fork. The two old dudes drinking big-gulp sized brandies and singing tunes from the pre-Franco days were kind of humorous though. Someday I want to go back to Bilbao and go to all the bars there, which could take a couple of years, even if you visited a few a day.


Then we got to the south, where Clive and Sue fed us lots of healty food which at that point we surely needed. Clive, now known as Man of La Plancha, cooked up all these vegetables for us the first night on his grill. They grow all their own vegetables, watched over, at the moment, by Guard Bunny.


Another delicious dinner from the creative minds of Clive and Sue. Pork kebabs, rice, mushrooms and lots of wine sure tasted good after a day of spelunking and uber hiking.


Red peppers stuffed with a seafood mixture and topped with two cream sauces (carrot and asparagus? I think.) A lovely presentation and a tasty dish, in a quiet restaurant in El Bosque. There was a little boy in there that was kind of tripping on my hair though. He came around and stood by the wall near me for a while, to try to figure out how purple was possible.


After I had to say goodbye to the Czech architects from the Sherry tasting, I decided to go for some Spanish boys instead. Just kidding, this is just a picture of a picture, silly.

Don´t Mess with the Guard Bunny

Friday, October 6th, 2006

This is Guard Bunny, the rabbit that watches over the road to Clive and Sue´s place.


I kid you not.

We are packed and ready to head to Sevilla tomorrow, to get our flight home. I have that icky feeling in my stomach, the one you get when the journey is almost over. We have had such an awesome trip and the last week with Clive and Sue was like hanging out with old friends (that know all the best places.) Tonight we are going out for a last meal with them. Last, I guess, until the next time. This has been a real adventure and I feel I have seen parts of Spain that tourists rarely see. I have been in the middle of a movie, in the middle of a painting, and in the middle of a song. All on this trip.

It will be strange to be home, but it is always good being back home in OB. I´ve got Albarino and Jamon Jamon Ruffles that will bring me back, at least for a minute.