Archive for May, 2010

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“You’d remember drinking horchata…”

I’ve had that Vampire Weekend song going through my head ever since we got our first glass of horchata in Sevilla. In Mexico horchata is made with rice, here it’s made with something called a chuffanut. No, I don’t know what that is either. It’s quite tasty though. Especially with fartons, a speciality in Valencia.

What is a farton you ask? I would describe it as a cross between a croissant and a brioches but long like a breadstick. Very tasty.

Our second day in Valencia started at the Mercado Central, which, it says in the book, is the largest in Europe. I don’t know, the one in Budapest seemed comprable in size plus had three levels. It was fun to browse around though and we did procure breakfast.

Thus fortified we next tackled the cathedral and it’s bell tower. It was our first major climb of the trip (one is required to climb at least one tower on any trip to Europe). As always, the view from the top made it worthwhile.

I thought it would be hard to abide by Spain’s meal schedule, but really we’ve managed to slip into it without too much trouble. When it’s just starting to get dark at 10pm that starts to seem like an appropriate time to eat. And if you are keeping busy during the day (which we most assuredly are), then it’s easy to go until 2pm before having lunch.

And if not, you can always so what we did last night and belly up to the bar for tapas. We went to a place called Sagardi, a place we passed on the street between our hotel and the center of town. It was always hoping when we walked by so we were eager to check it out. It’s the kind of place that, unfortunately, if it were in the US would be shut down by the health department in a heartbeat. All the tapas are lined up on the bar. They give you a plate and you just grab whatever looks good. This can be difficult as theplace is very busy and people are sitting at the bar and you have to reach around them. Fortunately the servers will also bring plates around of whatever just came out of the kitchen. My favorite was the chorizo on bread, and the tortilla on bread, and the goat cheese on bread…

When you are done gorging yourself on tapas, you hand your plate to the person behind the bar and they count the toothpicks on your plate to charge you.

There is a big cider keg in the wall and when you order a cider they open up the tap and hold the glass about three feet away and the cider streams across the bar. We tried to get video of it but something went awry. There are Sagradis in Barcelona as well so maybe we will try again.

The one downside of this place is that it’s very expensive when all is said and done. I would recommend going there for a quick tapas or two, but don’t make a meal out of it or you might suffer from sticker shock.

It was particularly galling because earlier we’d had a very fine lunch for a fraction of the price.

In the afternoon we took the metro out to the beach and walked the boardwalk. It was something like 90 degrees out and people were out in force sunning themselves.

Now we are on the train to Barcelona. We have three full days there and two haf days. Then we fly to Bilbao.

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V is for Valencia!

Today was our first full day in Valencia. Love this place. The streets of the central historic district are paved in shiny marble, which feels so decadent! We’ve encountered fewer tourists here, so the place feels more authentic.

We spent the day at the modern Arts and Sciences complex. It’s huge. Beatiful too. We discovered while there that the traditional thing to have with authentic Valencian horchata is a brioche-like pastry called fartons, which we ordered twice at the complex (and both times we were told they had sold out).

Valencia being the place of origin for paella, we have a couple of foods to try during our final day here (which will be tomorrow). There should be no trouble finding fartons to go with our horchata tomorrow since cart vendors sell the stuff on every other corner of the city near our hotel.

I will say too that we got lucky with this hotel. A steal at 60€ per night, we double-checked our information when we read the sign posted out front that it is a 4-star. I don’t want to sully our reputations by admitting this, but Ken and I don’t typically stay in 4-star accomodations. If we can squeeze in one star, we get to feeling pretty luxurious.

Ken is sacked out as I write this. Of course I’m not bothering him as I am in my separate bed in our double room. I suspect there is some European code that looks unfavorably on matrimonial double beds. We can’t so much figure it out. Only one bed have we shared on this trip so far, and that was the first. After I’ve grown accustomed to sleeping apart, it will be time to get used to sharing the covers again. O the hazards of vacationing in Spain!

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Wedding Day

We’ve only been in Valencia for a few hours and all ready I’m sorry we won’t be staying longer.

As we strolled through the plazas that surround the cathedral in the center of town we saw not one, not two, but eight pairs of brides and grooms with photographers (and sometimes whole wedding parties) in tow. We even saw one pair being photographed in front of a fountain featuring Bachus in the Plaza de la Virgen (insert your own joke here).

Something cool we haven’t seen before: in front of the cathedral is a small scale model with signs pointing out all the relevant bits in Braille. There was also one behind the cathedral for the L’Almoina, the roman ruins under the Plaza del Arzobispo.

We just had the beat meal of the trip so far at the Cafe Paris, which, despite it’s name, had nothing to do with French cooking. It was as Spanish a meal as we’ve had so far.

One last thing before I go to bed: Valencia has some great street art.

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Ylang Ylang and Jacaranda

In the Prado de San Sebastian park surrounded by the blooming purple Jacaranda trees there is lovely little oasis where one can get a drink and recline on couches like a sultan in days gone by.

Today was our first day alone as my parents set out for Barcelona in the early hours of the morning. We slept in for the first time this trip and headed out late for another first: churros and chocolate. We will be having it again.

We strolled along both sides of the river venturing into the Triana district across the bridge.

Our main tourist activity was the Flamenco Museum. Very high tech but I’m still not sure what all of it means. The Flamenco show we attended last night was actually pretty good. Even if it was one of the seemingly hundreds put on around the city for the soul purpose of entertaining tourists. The performers were all very good and enthusiastic except for one portly bearded singer who seemed bored by the whole affair.

The only male dancer in the show was an extrememly tall, lanky fellow who seemed to take it all very seriously. Now having visited the museum I see that that is the point. Intensity and passion and a serious expression inclusive of an arched eyebrow.

In the evening we again met with Estefania, this time with her boyfriend Pedro. They took us over to the Triana for tapas. We stopped a couple of different places. The first was so popular we were lucky to grab a standing table out front. We had a Solomillo on toast. Very tasty.

At the next atop we had tortilla al whisky, solomillo al rocquefort, and huevos frittas with chrizo.

When we were in Italy I would do a daily Gelato flavor update. I feel like in Spain I shoul do a daily tapas update.

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Bitter Fruit

Sevilla is repleat with Seville orange trees, a bitter fruit not fit for consumption. They are instead harvested by the city and sold for the making of marmalade. Right now some of the trees are burdened with full ripe oranges and some just with little green pre-oranges that fall on you when the wind passes through.

These oranges can also be found in the local sangria we found out today at lunch.

So you know how in movies and tv shows when someone goes to a bar and orders a beer they never specify which beer they want, as if the bar only had one kind? Well in Spain it really seems to be like that in most places. You say “una cerveza” and you get whatever they serve. Usually you don’t have anyway of knowing. Fortunately none of it has been Bud or Coors so it’s been working out ok.

Last night we met with Estefania, a friend of a friend who had spent a year living and studying in Sevilla. She was kind enough to meet with us and show us around even though she hadn’t spoken to my friend in 16 years. He’d tracked her down when he heard we were coming through. She took us to a good bar for tapas and ordered us a wide variety of very tasty dishes. It was the kind of tapas experience you are supposed to have in Spain but can be surprisngly difficult to have if you don’t speak the language and don’t know where to look. After, we went to a place for dessert that had the most amazing looking (and tasting) concoctions. We ordered some to share and I ordered one made with the local oranges. It had a slight bitter edge off set by the sweet merangue and cake.

Today was laundry day and a bit of a revelation. The place that our hotel sent us to had a drop off and pick up service for the bargain price of 6€. Considering the time saved (and the fact that in Venice we spent more than that just trying to get our clothes dry) it was more than worth the price. I’m never going to do my own laundry in Europe again if I can help it.

In the afternoon we took a guided tour of the Alcazar with Concepción Delgado (suggested in Rick Steves). It was well worth it. Simmilar in styling to the Alhambra but not moorish. It was mujahideen. That is: remodeled and built atop a 10th century palace by arabic workers left behind after the reconquista at the behest of Christian king Pedro I.

The extensive gardens were quite lovely.

Tonight we are going to a flamenco show (because that it what one does when visiting Sevilla) and tomorrow my parents head off to Barcelona while we stay here for another day. Saturday we fly to Valencia.

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