Spain: What We Did

Okay, we did more than eat…

MONDAY

Sir LAA had a private car take us from the airport up to the Mountain where Montserrat (a monastery, museum and small village are) is situated (first pic) The views are amazing. Christian, our chauffeur, suggested the ride down the gondolas (see last pic)…oh dear Lord, the height! People buried here from the 1500’s. The large religious draw is to see The Black Madonna idol (second pic) . Despite us being Christians, the line was for SERIOUS CATHOLIC FOLLOWERS. Sometimes spending hours in line to see the tiny idol in the second pic below…the third picture shows you exactly how small it is, as the red square is actually around the whole vestibule (think confessional sized area) that The Black Madonna visitors walk through to see her. She’s about (guessing by eye only) a yard tall and a foot and a half wide….but YOU CAN buy her in the gift shop.

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Colonia Guell/Gaudi’s Crypt/Etc…  – our next stop is to a Colony (think “Master Planned Community of Olden Days” – Gaudi was creating their church for them and it went unfinished due to his early death (by being run over by a train)….his math rivaled other engineering techniques via computer today.  Gorgeous and pictures don’t do it justice as the lights were out when we went. Think like Frank Lloyd Wright to the midcentury, Gaudi is to “Gawdy”…..in a great way. He was known for mixing styles and textures. So you see all types of rock, brick laying techiniques (scallops, sprials.) and a ton of tile work.

He did math and engineering so before the time – hyperbolic and parabolic arches and spires that come within an inch of what a computer drafter can do today…

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The Dragon Gate of Guell Pavilions: “The great architect Antoni Gaudi performed some improvements in 1883, in the farm of E. Guell, in the Carts of Saria, a place over Roman’s principal road – Via Augusta,. There are two pavilions, one open doorhandle, one kiosk, one fountain and one threshold. The main door is an iron dragon.”

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Then finally a very COOL and unexpectedly SHOCKINGLY FANTASTIC dancing performance by the Flamenco Dancers at Tablao Cordobes (good video!!)

I didn’t doubt him, but we both left in AWE! And he had a mental love affair with his new Spanish girlfriend he saw dancing…

TUESDAY

Sagrada Familia – this is the masssssssssive structure that Gaudi designed and will be under construction til “at least” 2030. The entire outside is a work unto itself but the inside….is unbelievable. Look at the second picture alone just for the scale of the heights. ….what you don’t even begin to see is the height of the towers that sit around the church (in the second pick you can see about the 1st (guessing here) fifth of those stairs…”if that”…they are the corkscrew going up in the background…. Husband got us tickets to go walk up in them….while  I was in awe of the views (last pic), my heights fear got me a little rubbery legged – and I was heart broken when the terrifying ride up in the elevator to get us partially upward didn’t have me in the same car as the dozen nuns who made it in line just before us. (One can never be too careful)….later on our walk upward, the hubs and a woman in front of him were looking down the turrets (something I’d never do!) and the bells rang so loudly that he jumped and screamed, and the woman nearly fell in her own fear. I found myself giggling, and it made quite the memory!

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Gaudi House at Park Guell  – this was Gaudi’s personal home (pic one) and while the hosue is very small (they were originally asked to do a small community in the park, where each of the houses would only take up 1/6th of the land to preserve natural surroundings, however, only two houses (his and one other’s) sold in the community….the rest of the park are fantastically tiled and rock walled gardens…what I remember laughing at several times were the POSERS.  My goodness do the Europeans enjoy posing. Multiple times. And they follow each other like each is a Vogue shoot. Not just here, though it was very prominent, but it just seemed EVERYWHERE. One English couple was mocking them by doing a “subtitle” conversation across the way, I got to laughing with them “Okay, now look this way. Okay, now kiss me. Okay, now peace sign. Now lounge back with arms out. Arms behind head….yes, that’s good.” Hahahaha.  The park itself, outside the paid monument part (pics two and three), was stunning as well, views all over Spain.

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Night walking the Rambla before dinner – the aerial pic below shows the green trees lining the Rambla –t he main street where folks and cars alike walk places. The Boqueria market and TONS of restaurants line the streets and in the middle esplanade there is a pedestrian walkway and florists and tourist shops and gelaterias, etc….OPEN ALL THE TIME, PACKED ALL THE TIME! Around town there are vendors who sell mouth whistles to sound like birds…..by day 3 we were tired of hearing them…everywhere on the Rambla for tourists!  Speaking of tourists, I have to admit I love that myself and my husband are both sickeningly big fans of museum gift shops, tourist traps and stalls. Anything and everything post card, coffee mug, magnet, etc…related, we’re there. Every time. Every where.

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WEDNESDAY

The husband REALLLLLY outdid himself on this one. For four hours on Wednesday he paid for a private tour of the food markets and surrounding area of “Old Town” Barcelona. Esther met us on the Rambla and took us to Granja de Viader where we had a small breakfast and learned about Catalonian history. Then she took us on a Food Tour at La Boqueria where she spoke about how to shop the market, what they eat, importance of different foods to their normal day and all the meals.  On our way to our second stop, Santa Caterina Market –  she tooks us to (first pic)  St. Mary of the Pines Church  and then later to the Barcelona Cathedral  (second pic)…I’ll have tons of the market pics on facebook, too many to choose!

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Beach Playa del Bogatell – spent half a day at the beach after our food tour. (eating makes us tired!) Yes, it was a topless beach. What we were most amazed with though was their handicapped program that not only had lifts and water chairs for anyone coming in a wheelchair to have a dedicated staff and equipment to enjoy the ocean…but who were actually there and very active in helping these people – extremely impressive! I will say that Spanish men and women really take pride in themselves, no matter age or size. Everyone thinks they are the best looking gift ever. No problem there, not once did I feel self conscious on the beach, it just seemed like everyone there was ready to have a good time – something that “bikini season” work outs in America don’t realize – was definitely a different culture.

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Tour Casa Battlo very intimate house for being so huge. (first two pics were the main room of the family and the opening staircase) Really, itw as made into a very small set of apartments (8 or 9 if memory serves!) with two on each floor – doors that faced each other, that walked out onto a huge sky light tiled in a gradient of blue to look like the ocean. Textured glass around a central elevator brought the ocean even more inward.  Even more interesting was the laundry and attic (third pic) area. the roof even was decorated with tiled chimneys and dragon scaled roof (the St. George and the dragon/princess fairy tale is a theme here)…we went to Magic Nights dinner after our Tour, while Sir LAA wasn’t happy that some sort of “priority seating” cue took us off the patio on which we were to sit, I was happily inside at our private table next to a bay window.

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THURSDAY

We started our day off to find the hidden Picasso Museum – ever the art buff, I thought this was one of the most well thought out museums in terms of size and layout. They started from the beginning of Picasso’s career to the end and really documented well the transitional periods so you could see how his artwork literally changed in periods. Many European museums are billowing over with art on every wall and to read and really look at each one within a non-tiring time period doesn’t always happen….Strange to note though, the museum itself was rather hidden down a street, very inconspicuous until you walked through this arc (first pic) and it was rather beautiful. A lot of Barcelona’s architecture just POPS UP on you.

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After that we made our way to the Boqueria (yes again) for some tapas at a place that Esther had suggested the day before…plus add a bit of gift shopping then back over to Contemporary Art Museum   — admittedly, we both agreed this place was a good laugh. There were random rooms of “abstract art” videos running. Model/Actress making faces and being submitted to smoking a cigarette with glass in her mouth, strange naked men crouching in snow and then jumping up in summer weather off of mountains, a techno music room, a tv filled room where different videos played on old tv sets (one was a puppy falling off a bed with red satin sheets, other was a video with a car showing both sides of the street, and entire exhibit about the Nitrate mining business, very……….VERY……..ODD.  So, in the second pic, the husband is making art of his own.  That said, many props to him for lugging olive oils and vinegars over half  (or more) of Barcelona. Once they landed safely back at the hotel, he claimed that his time with a murse (that’s man-purse) is over.

We also backtracked along the way and saw the inside of the Barcelona Cathedral and back into some of the squares that dated back to the Roman inhabitance of Spain.  Outside they were having (what seemed to be) an impromptu parade and flag throwing. Amazing sportsmanship….all done in tights. The husband definitely considering this for his next sport after running gets boring. ;)

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While during all this walking, I did notice that families and people in general get into each other’s personal zone and are affectionate way more than we are. Mothers and teenage daughters were holding hands. Friends kiss/hug upon meeting and talk VERY close to each other (half as much as the average conversation I have here…)…the Spanish folks are very willing to help, don’t mind photography (which was great because I have been meaning to do more “people of…” photography but get bashful) …so that said, yay to Spain peoples.

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FRIDAY

Tour at Camp Nou – an amazing experience (and I know that someone on this trip had this tops on his list of wants!) a Tour of the Barcelona Soccer team. We even got to see their very FANCY hot tub in their locker room. From the ground level to the press box we saw all the trophies, read the history and saw just about anything and everything Barcelona Football club related. VERY interesting! And despite being a Chelsea FC fan, we both got jerseys with our last name and our wedding year (14) stamped on the back.

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Parc de la Ciutadella  – Picnic in the Gardens near the Zoo – as you can imagine, by the last day our feet may have been a little tired. So we spent a beautiful afternoon taking advantage of the Boqueria (yes, we’re regulars now), getting a picnic and ending up at the city park.  We had several dogs come up around us, missing our own puppies a little, Sir LAA hand fed a sparrow, one lady came on her lunch break, basically flopped down on a hill, lifted her skirt to her “VERY MINIMAL” undergarments and got herself a tan, we drank wine from the bottle and laughed like crazy at people coming through.

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So before we move on, there’s a bit of intermission that happens here.  On the way home from the Parc we start to wander. And “all of a sudden”…..we have shopped more than we should have. 10 pairs of shoes came home (3 were not for me…ahem.) and more outfits than I think we both came with….thank goodness we checked an empty piece of luggage, there was NO way we were getting home with carry-on bags. So  we returned to our hotel, packed up all the goodies, “had to” drink that champagne that I got from the Boqueria earlier in the week…and then went off to our last dinner. I decided to blow a candle out on the way out of the restaurant, which may have gotten me called out by the restaurant bouncers (? Is that what they are?)….but meh, all in good times….I was kissing the honeymoon goodbye!

Home to wearing muu-muu’s, rollers, green face masks, and fleece pajama pants all the time from now on….

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Spain: What We Ate

Okay, so continuing on our Spain tour this week, it’s all about the eating. Let’s admit it.

I know this is overkill, and don’t even ask how I remember what we ate everywhere, but I did. And it was delicious.

A thing to note about meals.

· Most of them eat five times a day.

· In the morning, 7-8 they will have coffee, maybe a pastry.

· Around 10-1030 they have a smaller breakfast

· 1-3 is lunch time for them

· 4-6 is wine time. Tapas and nap time. (Tapas are small plates of food, so when you see my lists AND LISTS! Of dishes below picture you eating a custard cup or 1.5 custard cups of food on each plate.)

· 9-11 is dinner time – ususally tapas (3-7 plates depending on size) served with pan tomate , and …you guessed it, wine.

· AFTER dinner is drinks, not before.

A word on Ham (Spanish: Jamon!)

THIS IS THEIR “THING”! – If nothing culinarily else exists, these people do nothing but love ham and live to make it the best ever.  

· There are several terms to note: “Bellota” – which means acorn, which is found on the ground where essentially “cage free organic” pigs roam and eat as they would like produce the best ham. Also Iberico – which indicates that it’s Iberian, and only 7 sorts of pigs make up this type of ham. Then the third note to take is how long they age it , usually between 1-5 years, and the older, the better, and more expensive.

· There’s even a restaurant called “JAMON EXPERIENCE” for Americans. Golden hams decorate the windows:

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Other Major Foods Glossary:

· Bread with Tomato: (Spanish Pan De Tomate, Catalunyan: Pa amb Tomaquet) as stupidly simple as this sounds, I’m hooked. Take good bread (any kind, but usually focaccia), sometimes toasted in oven on broiler sometimes not. Drizzle with garlic and olive oil and put grated fresh tomato on top. clip_image002

· Bunuelos de Bacalla – Salt Cod Fritters – I don’t care what fish you think you liked, these are deep fried rolls of pastry and cod – they aren’t salty, Mr. Fish Hater could barely taste fish – they are AMAZING. I’m going to try and make them. Salt cod is cod that has been preserved in salt, like dried fruits let’s say, and then you soak it in water to “revive” it…this recipe looks similar… 

· Manchego Cheese – like a softerish version of parmesan, it’s their only cheese just about.

· Crème Catalan – flan + crème brulee = heaven

· Drinking Chocolate – this is not hot cocoa. This is their version though, it’s like heavy cream meets a dark Hershey bar. WOW.

· Butifarra – Spanish country sausage, originally roman, it’s pork and doesn’t have much spice, but it’s most like Italian sausage without the fennel seed.

· Gazpacho – cold tomato soup. Which sounds yuck, but is amazing.

Okay, on to what we ate….and where….

Breakfast:

Was at The Hotel for breakfast every day – bread with tomato/garlic and olive oil, yogurts, peach/orange/apple/multi fruit juices, brie, manchego, HAM, assorted sliced charcuterie/salamis/sausages, bread of every shape and size, coffee til your brain hurt, drinking chocolate,

Almost each evening before dinner:

Terrace Bar at our Hotel

                Ate (on different nights): homemade potato chips, foie gras, gin and tonic, capirinha, caprioski, mojito, mango mojito, coconut mojito, pan con tomate.

MONDAY

Dinner:  Flamenco Show at Tablao Cordobes:

Ate:  EVERYTHING. Hahahaa. Including 7 desserts (for Mom of course): two small fried bananas, catalan crème (mix between crème brulee and flan), flan (to compare, duh), chocolate with orange, chocolate truffle, coconut pie, their homemade wine (when in rome…), stewed veal, octopus salad, ham (always), manchego cheese, Paella, Brave Potatoes, Garlic mushrooms, potato and onion omelette.

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TUESDAY

Lunch: A little dive pizza place/bar (every restaurant seems to be a bar!) Ate:  Jamon Iberico and a Pizza D’Queso…even at a place that cost us like 22 USD to eat at, it was amazing!

Dinner:  Taller De Tapas 

Ate: Sangria, Bread with Tomato/Pan de Tomaquet, Foie Gras with Caramelized Onion and , Cod Fritters, Egg/Potato and Cured Ham Scramble, Mallorcan sobresada sausage with garlic mayonnaise, arugula salad with fonteta goat cheese, quince jelly and toasted almonds.

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WEDNESDAY

Lunch: We started at the restaurant Granja de Viader to learn about Barcelona, and had chocolate milkshakes that were first started in this in 1870. The next part of the food tour we did for La Boqueria and the Santa Caterina Markets, the largest open air markets in Barcelona. 

Ate: Manchego cheese, Catalunyan sausage, Sheeps cheese, Goat cheese, several types of Spanish olives, wild strawberries

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Dinner: Magic Nights at Casa Battlo (built by Gaudi!) 

Ate:  Sangria, White garnacha, champagne, Jamon de Iberico aged 5 years organic (goes $400 for the leg!) from Cinco Juntos, Cheese and Olives and Snacks from their catering company

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THURSDAY

Lunch: Tapas at Pinotxo (Said Pinocchio, like the movie, that it was named after as it premiered in the same year)

Ate: fried goat chops, salad with butifarri, gazpacho

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Dinner: Cachitos  on the strand area of patio restaurants, we ate upstairs near the bar 

Ate: Sangria (see a pattern here?), several “Monteditos” which are one bite pieces: we did two quail egg and caviar, we did one foie gras and fig jam, and one quail egg and ham., then tapas for the evening were Bravo Potatoes, two egg dishes one with egg/potato and butifarra (Spanish country ham), and then the other with slightly spicier sausage called sobrasada and Mabon cheese.

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FRIDAY

Lunch: Picnic in the Park using La Boqueria food

Ate:  jamon, wild strawberries, manchego cheese, focaccia bread, a 4 euro bottle of Spanish garnacha, black truffle potato chips and olive oil and vinegar for everything.

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Dinner: Boca Grande/Boca Chica

Ate:  Bread with Tomato, TWO DRINKS TEA AND MINE, foie grasand mango crepe, foie gras with bread, Octopus with Pork and Cheese, Gazpacho, Olives

Boca Grande is the main part, but we sat in the “cooler chic-er hahaha”, Boca Chica, which is the bar side. The first pic below is where we sat, the second pic was quite possibly the best bathroom I’ve ever been in. The pics don’t even do it justice, as there was techno music, strobe lights and laser shows playing

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WOTD: Busy

 

The state of being right before “requires a break”

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RePost: A Slice of Love | In Search of Pie in Julian, CA – White on Rice Couple

The next time you find yourself out in San Diego, I highly suggest you take the time or a few days in Julian. It’s different from wine country, it’s a little slower, a little better for the soul and nestled in the mountains.

There are great B&Bs, a few good cafes and of course, Pie. I’m a Mom’s fan myself. :)

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These moments for us keep us sane, focused and re-energize to keep doing more of what we love!

http://whiteonricecouple.com/photography-travels/julian-ca-apple-pie/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+worc+%28White+on+Rice+Couple+-+Full+Feed%29

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Spain: Where We Stayed

Since Wednesday always seems bucket related, I strayed for the next month on running (It’s 100+ degrees here people!) and thought I would share about the amazing surprise honeymoon my husband took me on.

So, the first in a three part series on Barcelona is about our home away from home. We stayed at the Royal Hotel on the Passeig de Gracia.

From the looks of the clientele, this is an upscale European hotel who caters to UKers and business people. What an amazing set up – especially compared to other European areas (my place in Italy was a single bed and I could touch both walls with my arms outstretched above my head….breakfast was at 730AM (and yes folks, they had coffee on demand! And in the room!…actually, you’d have loved it, coffee maker PLUS a second espresso maker in room, you weren’t going anywhere without caffeine, Sir LAA (a non believer!) even started having it!!)  The staff was nice, despite having a bit of a tough time at English and the Terrace Bar was nicer with amazing views, but a slightly slow bit of service – Hubsy and I had to learn how to relax, a welcome lesson.

The breakfast room was beautiful and colors were lovely, but we ended up eating out on the outdoor patio that you see in the pics. The room was super comfy, and the shower was see-through to the street, I’ve never seen anything like it, but it was designed to basically use natural light to light the entire room. Very cool.  I think I loved our patio best though….after a whole day of walking, despite it being hot, it was wonderful to walk out and put my feet up and listen to all the city noise. Something is going on every second there. It was great.

Hotel: http://www.royalpasseigdegraciahotel.com/default-en.html

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Our Room

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The shower looking through to the bathroom on the other side

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Our Room’s Patio

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Views from our Patio

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Our Breakfast Area for eating:

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The Terrace Bar/Views

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RePost: Spanish Breakfast | Spanish-Style Toast with Tomato (Pan Con Tomate) – Saveur

Seriously. Eating in the Spain. Omalord.

and while I’ll be going over every place and thing we ate in a blog soon, I couldn’t believe it when Saveur posted this the other day, it was a gift.

As simple and easy and forgettable as this dish sounds, it isn’t. It’s fresh and amazing and just simply perfect. You know when you sit down to a perfect cheese and glass of wine and that didn’t take any cooking and you just wonder how heaven like that came together? Well, same here, get some sangria or a nice Spanish Garnacha…or even a nice coffee in the am with a beautiful slice of Spanish ham, and this…THIS.

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This snack calls for good-quality olive oil and a ripe tomato.

http://www.saveur.com/article/-/No-Cook-Tomato-Recipes

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WOTD: Skeptical

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Skeptical: a state of being unsure that what you thought was sure isn’t so sure anymore.

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