Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Barcelona Day Three… Evening fun

After viewing sites on Montjuíc and a rest, we are off for one of the highlights of our visit… Casa Batlló, a house he redesigned in 1904. Two prominent elements of his life may have led to his famed architectural career. First, he was rheumatic as a child, so he spent many months each year studying nature’s form and structures. He didn’t copy them, but used the principles of the structure and designs in his creative, undefinable work. Second, he came from a family of boilermakers, so he worked with structure, form and space all of his life. Outside his youth, the iron frameworks for the construction of skyscrapers were in formation. Put it all together and perhaps you begin to understand his genious. Here are a few pictures to ponder. .

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Casa Battló, located at Passeig de Gracias and Avunudo d’Arago, Barcelona, Catalon, Spain
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Gaudi always includes a light well in the center of the house to allow light to flow throughout. The tile work at the top was dark, where there was more light. Lower down the tilework was lighter to reflect more light.

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Rooftop fun and beauty.. Chimney coverings… Broken tiles rearranged and the backside of the façade.
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Backside of the façade
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Broken tiles arranged into beautiful designs cover the chimneys. Sometimes these also held water in case of a fire.

We stayed in the area until nightfall so Norm could get some night shots when the house would be spotlighted. Then we walked down Passeig de Gracias to see the fountain at Centelles and …

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the dual fountains at Plaça de Catalunya. They are very beautiful when lit in a variety of colors.

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Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Barcelona – Day Three

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Our mission today is to see some key sites on Montjuíc, a hill with a castle overlooking Barcelona, that has hosted the 1992 Olympics. We set our sights on three specific sites: Museu Najcional d’Art de Catalunya, the Jóan Miró Art Museum, and the cable car ride from the top of Montjuíc to the Barceloneta beach area. We grabbed a taxi and were off for another long and invigorating day.

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The Catalan Art Museum is at an exceptional location for an eagle’s eye view, as seen in the photo above from the front entry landing.

The Catalan exhibit is exemplified by the following work that is an excellent example of the size of the works and the quality from the middle 15th century.

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We spent a long time visiting the exhibits and touring the beautiful building. We rested on the uppermost deck, in the photo below, to enjoy the views, as seen in the picture below. These fountains are beautiful at night, but with preparations underway for the Spanish Gran Prix, we had no hope of getting near them after dark due to the crowds and festivities.

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We then enjoyed the view from the landing at the top of the grand stairway where we could enjoy a cold drink along with the view.

We both enjoyed this beautiful knight, the emblem for the Ritter name.

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The next stop is the Fundación Joán Miró. It was surprisingly crowded. Miró was a contemporary of Picasso and seemed to want to set the art world on its ear. Here is one of his works entitled “Smile of a Tear”.

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Now onto the scenic cable car ride. It seems there is a cable car ride to the castle at the top of Montjuic, but there is not one from this area of Monjuic to the Barceloneta beach area. We had seen it swinging gaily over the bay, so we asked for directions and walked and walked looking for the access point. After much grinding of teeth and stomping of feet, we called a cab and returned to Hostal Grau for a rest break. Such is the life of the language challenged American tourist.

I immediately had the hotel check to see if we could get tickets for Casa Batlló later in the day, which was quickly accomplished. We rested and then took a cab to the greatest home designed by Antoni Gaudi. There will be many pictures, so I will continue that tour with the next blog.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Mother’s Day and more…

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Doing laundry. My choice, so no complaints.  We returned from Barcelona last night, so I want to get us ready for the transfer back to Madrid on Saturday. We definitely needed some down time to rest. Later in the evening we played another round of hearts. For the 4th time, Norm has won by getting exactly 100 points. Doug, is that really a legitimate rule?

Norm selected La Spaghetteria for a special Mother’s Day midday meal (around 4PM).

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Al and Ingrid joined us for this special meal. Norm and I shared a deliciously fresh caprese salad, as did Al and Ingrid. He had the best lasagna he has had while on our trip, and I had the carbonara sauce on tagliatelle noodles. I’ve had it twice at this restaurant because it is so good. Al had gnocchi and Ingrid had spaghetti with basil pesto sauce. We both finished off with ice cream sundaes (helado), along with Al. Ingrid topped off her meal with a crêpe drizzled heavily with chocolate sauce. This is a very good restaurant only about four blocks from our condo which Norm and I have enjoyed three times now. Why didn’t we take pictures? Five more days until Madrid.

Monday, May 11, 2015
Norm and I had a quick breakfast of toasted croissants and jam, with orange juice, at the corner El Cafe de Camilo. I have developed a way to make my own cafe Americano con leche, so I drink it at the condo where I can have multiple cups. No free refills in Spain… Several cups of coffee a day at a cafe takes a bite out of our “dining out” budget, although we tend to order the same priced meals no matter what. Let’s say I just enjoy making my own coffee with good ground beans from the mercat!

We caught the #80 bus to El Jardi Monfort-a beautiful garden. What a peaceful place.

imageThe blooming bougainvilla made us homesick for Aiea, Hawaii, where our daughter was born. I sat and read in the archway while Norm, the botanist, explored the gardens with his camera.

image Then we headed for Plaça de Ayuntamiento (Government Center in down town Valencia) to check out a highly recommended restaurant, El Navarro. It passes inspection, so we ate our main imagemeal of the day here at 4PM, the customary time. I had cheese and walnut stuffed ravioli with pumpkin sauce, and Norm had vegetable penne. My wine glass held Rioja red wine, but since Norm must limit his red wine (no white) to no more than one glass per day, along with no caffeine, he had té verde (caffeine free). The waiters always want to give me the tea, but I stand my ground! We hope to return with Al and Ingrid to order a farewell paella. The chef makes it on the spot, so we must allow 50 minutes if we order paella. Can’t wait to return to try the paella. Soon.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Barcelona – Day Two

Barcelona, Spain – Day Two
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

After a good night’s sleep at the Hostal Grau (hotel), we stopped for a quick breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, whole wheat croissant warmed with cheese and ham, and a cup of coffee and orange juice. We are ready to face the day which finds us off to tour La Padrera, an Antoni Gaudi apartment designed for the Mila family, thus called Casa Mila.

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Gaudi has been hailed as the world’s greatest architect, and we are hoping to discover how he earned the title. We hailed a cab and were on our way. Here are some of the features of this apartment. He designed the otside of the entire building as well as the inner courts and stairs.

There are still residents, both private and commercial housed in this building.

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The rough trim on the forward chimney is broken champagne imagebottles. He uses forms and images from nature in his designs and engineering formulas.

imageHe also designed furniture for the apartment; this is a sofa he designed. Looks like two joined chairs to me. Still, quite beautiful!

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This is one of many beautiful vases.

The design for the door is simple with an intricate border.

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Below is the front window based possibly on a honeycomb design.

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Norm caught a little shut eye while I rested my feet. Smart man!

After touring La Padrera, we had a snack in the adjacent café, grabbed the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus and found two seats in the upper roofless cabin. We traveled all around Barcelona, gaining a foothold on where we were.  One interesting sight was this bullring which has been converted into a shopping mall. Barcelona has outlawed bull fighting as too cruel to be a sport.

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When we returned to our starting point, we grabbed the second tour bus and saw the other half of the city.

Then we hopped back on the first bus and took it to the Picasso Museum. No picture taking allowed here, so if you don’t know Picasso’s work, it’s time to google him. I especially like his work entitled “Guernica” because of the historical story it portrays. It envisions an attack on a little town in the northern Basque Country called Guernica. The Spanish dictator, Franco, gave Hitler permission to practice an aerial bombing run on this little town at the request of the Spanish Nationalists during the Spanish Revolution. The results were horribly predictable, and Picasso painted this graphic depiction of it as a war protest, but also as an historical record for the people of this village.. We have seen the painting in San Francisco, and may see it again in Madrid at the modern art museum there. This museum was interesting in that the range of Picasso’s work could be followed from his early years of representational perfection to his experimental years with abstraction and surrealism to the last years of simplicity when he presented the simple “Dove”, so familiar to many.

From the museum, we walked through the El Born section adjacent to the Barri Götic section with its Ramblas. El Born has a higher percentage of Barcelona residents than tourists, and has many quaint shops and sidewalk cafes.  From there, we walked to the largest Barcelona Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. I’ll only post a couple of pictures as its style is so similar to others.

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imageFrom there, we grabbed the bus again and headed for the beach front area called Barceloneta where we are eager to see Frank Gehry’s sculpture, “The Fish”.

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Then we stopped to eat our evening meal at a boardwalk restaurant while watching the volley ball players on the beach play a game of soccer-style volley ball. I had tempura prawns and vegetables, but neither of us can remember what Norm had. Madrid is also facing off  with Barcelona in Barcelona in a very important “football” match tonight. The whole city is excited about that. The restaurant has four TV screens showing the game, and our waiter eagerly gave us play by plays. Barcelona won, but we didn’t stay to see it. We had been out and about from 8:30AM until 10:30PM, so we grabbed a cab and went back to the hotel for some shut-eye. This tourism stuff is hard work!!

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Barcelona – Day 1

Tuesday, May 5: Barcelona Day 1

We are off for five days in Barcelona, a part of this trip that I have been awaiting with great anticipation. We used all sorts of transportation today- a local Valencia city bus to get to the train station; a Renfe train for the three hoimageur ride to the Sants Train station in Barcelona; a local Rodalies train took us so near to our hotel (for free) that we could walk there; and later in the day, after being out and about, a taxi to get us back to Hostal Grau.

Before leaving the Sants train station, we bought our timed entry passes for two Gaudi houses, La Pedrara and Palau Guéll, as well as a museum pass for entry into possibly six museums.

We settled into Hostal Grau at Remeller 28, an environmentally awarded hotel, situated in The Raval district a short walk through old, narrow, but with active and busy character, streets to The Ramblas. The Ramblas is a wide walkway through a touristy, but “interesting in its own way” part of town.

We have our first timed pass at 4PM to tour Palau Guéll so we headed down The Ramblas to find some midday food and happened across the central market place, The Boquería Mercat. We took in all the delicious choices as we walked through it, like kabobs of chocolate covered strawberries. I bet you can’t eat just one!

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Seafood!

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Fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts!

imageWe settled at one tapas bar for a plate of patates bravas (fried potatoes with mild salsa and mayonaise) and a plate of chorizo sausages, along with two beers.

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Most locals order several courses of this type of food along with seafood like octopus, squid, mussels….hmmm. We are not fond of such a wide variety of seafood as we find here, but many are.

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Then, we headed off, on foot, to visit our first Antoni Gaudi site, a home he designed and built for a client. It is called Palau Guéll. The rooftop chimney covers are the best part of this site, predictive of his further works.

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After the tour, we walked The Ramblas from the Plaça Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Statue. Columbus landed here after the voyage where he discovered North America. He is highly honored here, but Barcelona faced a downturn in their economy for decades as ships detoured past the port of Barcelona on their way to the Americas.

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Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

A Garden and some Tapas…

Wednesday, April 28, 2015

We took the #90 bus from Centelles/Suaco bus stop to the stop just past La Jardin de Turìa (riverbed) Then we walked along the pathway in La Jardin until we reached the Jardi Botanic. We enjoyed the quiet, shaded, well-maintained areas. I especially enjoyed the succulents- the yuccas, prickley pears and the cacti, many of which were blooming. I’ll limit myself to posting just three pictures as I took far too many.

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Then we walked through the ancient towers and wall, into the old city and met up with Al and Ingrid at Reina Plaça for a delicious mid-day meal at La Commissaria, hidden deep in the old narrow streets behind the Cathedral.

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One of our host’s sons, Joel, works there. It came highly recommended by them and it didn’t disappoint. We had three starters to share: shrimp in a pop-crunchy rice coating, empenadas, and pot-sticker-like Asian dumplings. Al, Norm and I had Argentian steak and Ingrid had shark. We all found our entrees to be tasty.

We walked to back to La Reina Plaça and took the #7 bus back to the condo where we enjoyed some quiet time and a siesta. Then we headed out for a dinner of Tapas at Meua near the condo.

“Haz tu pedido en barra te lo servimos en la mesa.”
“Get your order on bar we will serve it to you at the table.”

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Choose a tiny crock of potatoes with sausage (hotdog), a tiny pan of paella with black olives on top, or an open face sandwish of brie and fresh tuna. They heat it in their oven and bring it to you, but you can see what you are ordering to make your selections. It is also easy to share a few bites.

More open face sandwiches to heat or eat cold.
More open face sandwiches to heat or eat cold.

More open face sandwiches to heat or eat cold. The red meat is Iberico ham with cheese… Very favored here in Spain.

Chocolate heated on crusty bread is really quite a satisfying dessert.
Chocolate heated on crusty bread is really quite a satisfying dessert.

Chocolate heated on crusty bread is really quite a satisfying dessert.
Norm and Al shared a chocolate with raspberry sauce piece of cake at La Biscita, a bakery where you can watch the items being made that is across the street from the condo. Ingrid and I plan to share a piece of coconut pineapple cake soon.

Norm and I are off for a “vacation from our vacation” tomorrow. We will take the train to Alicante, a beach town about 2 hours south on the coast, and spend just one night there, possibly taking some beach or pool time to read and relax. We are also hoping the fresh sea air will clear the pollen from the fresh Valencian blossoms out of our heads.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Up, Up, and Away!

Friday, May 1, 2015
Aaah. Today is the day we climb to the top of Castillo Santa Barbara…good thing there is an elevator! We started with a hardy European breakfast with unlimited cups of cafe Americano con leche, caliente, aparte. Love my coffee with cream, so many fewer syllables in English.

It was a short walk to the elevator, but first we had to walk through a sleek, metal tunnel, far into the rock.

imageAfter determining that we were pensioners (older than 65), we were admitted free of charge as is every pensioner in the world! What a country!

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The elevator whisked us to the top of the rock which is Castillo Santa Barbara. Hey! This place is going to be fun! Watch out for the knight-style archers.

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And it is going to be crowded soon as this cruise ship has just glided into port.
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Here is a gull’s eye view or the view the defenders of this fortress have had since the 6th century.

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The canons were not added until the pirates or foreign attackers had artillery on their ships. It reminds me of the Marin Headlands on the far side of the Golden Gate Bridge where we used to take our fifth-sixth graders on a weeklong camping trip. That artillery was a bit more modern, but still old to them.

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It’s a very special day for this young Spanish girl… Probably a first communion? Not everyone is a tourist like us.

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This wall is riddled with pock marks from cannon balls, and one cannon ball remains embedded on the lower right side.

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Watch out Norm! The archer has you in his sights!

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I’m glad we did not have to descend via these steps.

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The bullring is within our sight from up high.

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Norm has made friends with this archer, but the one up high is taking aim! There is also an interesting juxtaposition between the modern digital tower and the ancient defensive tower. I think that little tower on the left is where they kept prisoners, if my Spanish translation is correct. Only thin slits for windows and nowhere to land even if you could escape and jump!

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A lovely British gal offered to snap this photo overlooking Alicante harbor for us. Good thing we coordinated our outfits today. Riiigghhtt!

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Time to stop for coffee and a soda. It’s getting warm up here.

imageLa Playa de Alicante- the beach at Alicante, Spain. We spent a short time there yesterday.

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We’ve loved our two days in Alicante. Soon we will board the train and take a short ride back to Valencia, our home base.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

A Medieval Festival… Come on along!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

We are on an overnight at Hotel TRYP in Alicante, Spain. We left the condo at 8:30AM and caught Bus #90 to the Juan Sorolla Train Station. Our train to Alicante arrived on time and promptly left as scheduled. We do love the public transportation available in Spain… Clean, timely and everywhere. During the two hour trip, we noticed the land become more dry and arid. This is a good sign for those like us who are hoping to escape from the pollens of the beautiful blossoms in Valencia.

imageWhen we arrived and taxied to the Hotel TRYP Alicante, we immediately noticed the ancient Castillo Santa Barbara rising above the coastal city. The beach stretches around a circle of established buildings, and all varieties of tourists were enjoying the sun, water, drinks, and foods. Notice the interesting tile design on the beach promenade.

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After grabbing a quick lunch at a beach side cafe, we meandered around the Ramblas and coastal shopping areas. Las Paseo Esplanade de España is known for the unusual design of its tiled surface.

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We discovered that a Medieval Merchant festival begins today through Saturday. It looks to be like a county fair of sorts, set in this medieval setting. Setup of food booths and vendors has begun, and tonight should be interesting. We plan to find a food booth that interests us for dinner this evening., and that did not take us long. Take a look!

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All the time we would look up at the ancient castle and wonder if people had to climb the endless ancient steps careening up the mountainside to get to the top. Upon returning to the hotel, Norm asked the desk clerk and was told there was “a lift” or elevator we could take. We plan to do that in late morning tomorrow after the coastal fog has cleared.

Every day seems to bring so much fun! Glad you can join us!

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Quiet Days…

The last two days have been days to do the laundry and accomplish some basic tasks.

Monday, April 27,2015

Norm and I went to Corte Inglés Department store to find a map of Barcelona and some pens. With that task accomplished on the firat floor, we were curious about what other treasures could be found in this USA style department store… with very few US products. We rode the escalator up to the top floor, #7. Each floor was dedicated to a different product…. Clothing for men, clothing for women, clothing for children, appliances, household furniture, dishes and china, and finally, patio furniture and a cafeteria (remember, the first floor is #0). We ate in the 7th floor cafeteria… cheeseburgers, fries, and coleslaw, our first American-style food since March 16 when we left on our extended trip.

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It tasted pretty good, but not as good as a hamburger at Eddy’s Interlachen Inn in Alexandria, MN.  We ate dinner later, with Al and Ingrid, at El Fredo Italian Restaurant near the condo. They treated us to grilled artichokes prior to our 3 course menu de dia: salad, lasagne, crepe with chocolate sauce. All very good.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Norm and I found our way to the Joaquin Sorolla Train Station by bus. We bought round trip tickets for our day trip to Alicante on April 30 and returning on May 1. We also bought our return trip from Barcellona on May 9 as we are staying an extra day longer than the Moldes.

After relaxing in the afternoon, we ate dinner at Kana Makan, a Syrian-Lebanese tapas bar. Every one ordered their own drink, but then all four of us had to choose the same tapa for each round of service. We had 4 rounds of tapas:

Round 1: Chili in a wrap brought because we ordered drinks

Round 2: Pollo- pechuga de pollo especiada y queso manchego / spicey chicken with manchego cheese.

Round 3: SFIHA-carne de ternera, verduras, aceite de oliva y reducción de granada. En masa fina/ beef, vegetables, olive oil and pomegranate reduction. In thin crust.

image Round 4: Kufta- mini kañaburguesa de ternera, perejil, cebolla caramelizada, y queso manchego/ mini beef burgers in a wrap, parsley, caramelized onion, and manchego cheese. (These were delicious and were our favorites.

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Round 5:  Baklaua- Baklava for dessert

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Here’s the menu front and back from which we made our choices. I’m a word person so I like to study the menus to help learn the language. The first side has Mondaitos (tiny tastes) and Tapitas for €1- 1 EURO; Ensalades (salads) for €3.50.

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The back side of the menu has Bocadillos (sandwiches) for €4.00. Bebidas – Drinks (see the bar for prices) or Aromatic Teas and €1.80; Postres (Pastries) €1.00

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Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Come along for the ride!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

This was a city bus day for Norm and me. First, we took the bus to the Old Town area hoping to find an advertised craft and flea market. When we checked at the tourist information booth, we were told it had been moved to an area too far for my feet to find. So we picked up a bus route map, and selected the Bus #4 route which would take us toward the port on the Mediterranean, like turtles drawn to water. Here are some photos in the order I took them on the bus ride… Common “everywhere” types of sites.

Hop on and come along for the ride!
Hop on and come along for the ride!
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We started out at the Plaza de La Reina in the historic Old City. Not your ordinary skyline…the lion in the distance marks the government offices.
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This could be a one-way street anywhere.
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Another common looking street and skyline in any big city… Except for the palm trees! Very nostalgic for us.
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There are always outdoor eating areas by cafes, even in very common neighborhoods.
Across the Jardin de Turia, the Turia riverbed park we catch a glimpse of the Ciudad de las Atres and Sciences buildings.
Across the Jardin de Turia, the Turia riverbed park, we catch a glimpse of the Ciudad de las Artes and Sciences buildings.
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Here by the port, the River Turia resurfaces before flowing into the sea.
As we turned to start the route back to center city, the neighborhoods are those not usually on a tourist's route. This building with the grren cross is a pharmacy.
As we turned to start the route back to center city, the neighborhoods are those not usually on a tourist’s route. This building with the green cross is a pharmacy.
A view of one of the streets in the port neighborhood.
A view of one of the streets in the port neighborhood.
Every day is laundry day!
Every day is laundry day!
Tagging is everywhere. Hope the translation isn't X rated!
Tagging is everywhere. Hope the translation isn’t X rated!
This tagging was planned and advertised a children's playground.
This tagging was planned and advertised a children’s playground.
Bus Stops look the same here as anywhere.
Bus Stops look the same here as anywhere.
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In every one of the bus stops in the port area, this advertisement is featured. The girl is showing an emergency phone number to call if you (a woman) are experiencing violence. I don’t think Norm even noticed it. Vive la difference… C’est la vie!
The skyline starts to get interesting again.
The skyline starts to get interesting again.
There are alwayslaces for,children to play.
There are always places for children to play.
Beautiful skylines start to appear again as we near the main city.
Beautiful skylines start to appear again as we near the main city.
The sreet signs are posted at the top of the first story of the buildings.
The street signs are posted at the top of the first story of the buildings.
Norm wanted to photograph fro the "old bridge" so we exited the bus there.
Norm wanted to photograph from the “old bridge” so we exited the bus there.
Love how these buildings were designed to curve allowing for plazas in front of,them.
Love how these buildings were designed to curve allowing for plazas in front of them. And, of course, the tall palm tree is a good idea too.
W ambled down the wide boulevard towards our "trendy" (so we're told) and artsy neighbor
We ambled down the wide boulevard towards our “trendy” (so we’re told) and artsy neighborhood.
There wer ame tables and a picnic area, or so we,thought. After sitting there for quite some time, a waiter came to ask us what we would like to order. Nevermind!
There were some tables and a picnic area, or so we thought. After sitting there and relaxing for quite some time, a waiter came to ask us what we would like to order. Nevermind!
I've decided I will buy a condo in this building... when I win the lottery.
I’ve decided I will buy a condo in this building… when I win the lottery.

 

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Seville, Spain… Day 1

April 10, 2015 Sevilla, España

We are off for a two day trip to Sevilla, staying right in the Old Town with easy walking distance to the historical sites. (Alcantara Hotel). We metroed to Malaga and took the Renfe AVE train to Sevilla. After settling in at the hotel, we walked to the Santa Iglesia Catedral de Sevilla, the largest gothic temple in the world and built over a 9th century Alhadro mosque. We took a basic tour, crossing El Patio de Los Naranjos, a patio of orange trees and an ancient brick patio, crisscrossed with tiny canals for irrigating the trees, also remaining from the ancient mosque.

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We walked up the 35 ramps to the top of the La Giralda Tower, the only portion that remains of the 9th century mosque. It has ramps rather than steps so that the muezzin could ride his donkey or horse to the top in order to call the moslems to prayer. It was the tallest structure in Europe until  the French built the Eiffel Tower.

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An upper structure was added to emphasize the Christian takeover of this mosque, a belfry, with the giradillo, a weathervane type woman.

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One of the 25 bells pealed while we were up top; some of the bells date from the 1400s.

Then we had tapas at a place along our walk. I had pork cheeks in gravy… Very good, small portion. Siesta in our room while Ingrid and Al relaxed with wine, explored some more, had tea and coffee. We met up for the excellent Flamenco Show in our hotel, and then went to El 3 (Tres) del Oro for a late dinner at 9:30PM so we could experience the late night life Spain is so well known for.

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*11 de avril: (sabado) Torremolinos- Castillo de Santa Clara with overnight trip to Sevilla. Ate our pre-purchased breakfast at the hotel… Usual cold cheese and ham sandwich-dry. Blah. Norm and I walked through some of the old town. Stopped for coffee, tea and a sugared churro. Took a horse carriage ride that covered many of the sites to see… Excellent narration. Walked through more of the old town, stopping at Vinela Tapas y Vinos in Plaza de Elvira for a tapa lunch. We ordered a racion of Iberic Ham, sheep cheese and sausage, blood sausage (marcilla) with bread and a tapa of sheep’s cheese and orange marmelade. Then we returned to Sevillarte-Ceramica Antigua Sevillana (www.sevillartecollection.blogspot.com) to purchase a Sevillian ceramic platter with cobalt/manganese blue trim and a lemon design. Created and painted by ROMA -Ramon and Manuel. After getting lost, we found our way out of the old town. We will soon return by AVE and metro by late evening train from Seville to Torremolinos. The Alcántara has been an excellent, but basic place to stay. It’s location is its best feature, but it is clean and comfortable as well. Just be sure to go out for breakfast!

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

The Palace…

Thursday, April 23, 2015

After a taxi ride to find a recommended restaurant, we discovered that it was full… No tables available. So we reserved for a future date and found another spot to grab a bite on Reina Plaza downtown. Norm and I found an Irish pub for traditional fare, and Al and Ingrid tried Paella Valencia (rice with chicken and rabbit). We had tried paella with chicken the previous day. Then we walked to Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, a beautiful place to see.

2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain Taken with my iPad

There is a collection of ceramica so prevalent in designs throughout history on the 3rd and 4th floors of this spectacularly refurbished palace, including the charmingly decorated kitchen.

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2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain. Panoramic Photo by Norm Ritter

I love all things pottery and ceramic and crystal and china, but I will include just a couple designs that I liked.

2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain. Taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain. Taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain Taken with my iPad
2015-4-23 Marques de Dos Aguas Palace, Valencia, Spain Taken with my iPad

We caught a city bus to return to the Rusaffa condo, picking up some snacks at the street cafe or market nearby, and retired to catch up with the rest of our world on our digital devices.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Just plain cute!

A start of a collection of opportune moments. I hope this blog will have some additions over time.

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2015-4-24. Train Ticket Negotiators. Notice the beauty of the train station. Estación du Nord-Valencia, Spain
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The Ticket Buyers! 2015-3 Malaga Maria Zambrano Train Station
The Map Readers 2015-4-23 Valencia, Spain
The Map Readers 2015-4-23 Valencia, Spain   Photo by Ingrid Molde
Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Valencia, Oh Valencia!

OK! So we have been here four days and we are beginning to get our “Valencia legs”, and our “feet on the ground”! Al took the helm today, and did a good job of shepherding us around the city. That is not easy, even for a coach, when leading two elementary school teachers and one USAF Lt. Col. We decided to catch one of the city buses that roars down our street, Calle de Cadiz! Every 10 minutes! Speaking of our street… We have made quite a change from our oceanside condo to a busy city street in Spain’s third largest city.

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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. Standing on our 3rd floor balcony and looking south down Calle de Cadizk
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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. Standing on our 3rd floor balcony and looking north down Calle de Cadizk

As we sat in a corner cafe eating tapas and drinking cañas (small beers) last night, we noticed the #7 bus roaring past us every 10 minutes. Its lighted placard said it would take us to the central mercado-the large open air market downtown. Since he was up early, Al researched a bicycle rental near the central mercado, and today’s adventure was sealed. He led us from the bus stop through narrow streets between very tall old buildings, and we soon had four bikes rented, two with baskets, of course. Then we headed off, mostly on bike paths that are designated along the narrow streets, but closer to the sidewalks than the streets.

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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. Norm, Al, Ingrid, Mary

Soon we were on a wide bike path along the Turia dry river bed where all sorts of amenities for the people have been built. We rode the bike path all the way to the Mediterranean coast, (10 miles round trip) to the beautiful beach near the ferris wheel that I wrote about last blog. In a little seaside cafe, we all ate paella, a dish for which Valencia is famous.

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2015-4-23, Valencia, Spain. YUM! Calamari, shrimp, and calamari in safron-seasoned rice.

We rode near all of the Ciudad Arts and Sciences buildings that we had viewed from the Hop-on/Hop-Off bus tour Norm and I took  a couple of days ago.

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I was able to get a snapshot of one of the horticultural buildings from a different perspective. You can see the beautiful cobalt blue and manganese ceramica that frequents Spanish design and architecture over the centuries, except this shows a modern usage.

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Here are Al and Ingrid.

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They stopped for a quick caña after our bike ride. I snapped a picture of them from our balcony! A pleasing end to another adventure in España!

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Valencia, Spain… Day 1and 2

Valencia – Tuesday-Wednesday, April 21-22, 2015

Our first morning in Valencia, we settled into the condo and met with Gina, our host, to find out where things are and how we could organize our lives. We found a large Mercado – market only a block away and stocked the larder. It felt good to get settled and have a quieter more restful day. We decided to buy salad ingredients and have a salad bar for dinner here in the condo. We repeated that idea the second night also as there were enough salad ingredients for another meal. Norm and I fixed cod with our salad the first night and salmon the second night.

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Today, Wednesday, April 22, Norm and I hiked across the old city to the Hop-on, Hop-off bus stop and rode both routes in order to see a bit more of what Valencia is all about and how it is laid out.  As we walked we came upon the Apple Store. I was looking at the super modern building, thinking that looked most like the vision of Steve Jobs. But no, it is the old decorative building where Apple has established itself. Notice the black and white Apple signs on the narrow end of the building. I may need to visit them, as my mini iPod slipped off the bus seat and now has a crack in the screen. Still works, and hardly shows, so … Moving on…

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The most interesting to me is the Turia River bed which runs all across the city. It used to be a full-fledged river that frequently flooded. The last time it flooded in 1957, the city fathers re-routed it underground, and following the wishes of the people, used the riverbed for parks and entertainment facilities.

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The green strip is the riverbed. The blue is the port area on the Mediterranean Ocean.

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This is a more formal park area on the riverbed.

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This areamof the riverbed is allowed to be more natural. Some had sports fields with bleachers etc.

Near the port end by the Mediterranean, they built a complex of arts and sciences facilities. They are beautiful facilities. Here are some photos taken from the top side of the bus… Moving at a pretty good clip with a lot of bounce thrown in for good measure.

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Before we headed out on the bus for a look at the western end of town, we shared an order of chicken paella. Then climbed aboard to see the residential, business, and collegiate area of Valencia, all very attractive with wide avenues and much floral color, as usual.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Córdoba – Day 2

Córdova, Spain – Monday, April 20, 2015

After the breakfast buffet in the hotel dining room, we quickly crossed the street to the Mezquita, the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, whose ecclesiastical name is Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Prior to mass, we could tour it free of charge and the organist was rehearsing. Hear the music and watch a video here:

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2015-4-21 Córdova, Spain. Compared to many cathedrals, this one is plain on the outside because it was first built as a mosque. Muslims seek privacy so windows are not prevalent. Usually windows would look to an indoor private patio. Photo from a rooftop terrace with my iPad.

Here, briefly, is its history.

1. Originally built as a Catholic christian church by the Visigoths.

2. In 711 the Muslims conquered Spain, and the two faiths SHARED (for over 7 centuries!) the building until 784 when the Caliph purchased it, demolished it, and built the grand mosque of Cordoba on its ground.

3. After the Reconquista, a period of about 700 years during which the Muslims ruled and the Catholics fought and finally reconquered Spain, King Ferdinand led Spain to reconquer this area, just prior to the discovery of the new world in 1492. The church was a Muslim Mosque at the time.

4. When King Ferdinand claimed all of Spain as his, it was converted to a Roman Catholic church. Instead of destroying the mosque, he added a Roman Catholic Christian nave, and converted it back to a Christian church.

5. Despite petitions and pleas from the Muslim leadership, they are not allowed to worship in it.

The interior architecture is phenomenal, as you can see in the pictures below.

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2015-4-21 Córdova, Spain. Muslim section. Photo with my iPad.
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2015-4-21 Córdova, Spain. Muslim section. Photo with my iPad.
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2015-4-21 Córdova, Spain. Muslim section. Detail. Photo with my iPad.
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2015-4-21 Córdova, Spain. Christian Nave added along with Altar, Choir and Pipe Organ. Photo with my iPad.

After some wandering… Back to the sculpture garden and to Calles de Las Flores, we headed off to Aldomodar’s Gate, one of the sections of the wall that once surrounded this city.

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2015-4-21 Cordova, Spain. Aldomovar’s Gate with irrigation system engineered by the Moors. Taken with my iPad.
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2015-4-21 Cordova, Spain. Aldomovar’s Gate entering the Jewish Barrio.. Taken with my iPad.

We wandered through Aldomodar’s Gate and into the Jewish Barrio for lunch at Restaurante El Choto – Norm had these tapas: potato omelet and creamy gaspacho with a slice of hard boiled egg. Mary’s tapas: brie with honey on toast and croquettes langostino (actually shrimp). Both of us had una copa de tinto (one glass of Rioja red wine).

Norm returned to Calles de Las Flores to get a picture of the geranium-walled street with the Mezquita Bell Tower in the distance. I did the only sensible thing… Bought a coconut and mint-chocolate chip gelato and returned to the hotel lobby until it was time to grab a taxi and board the AVE train to Valencia.

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Calles de Las Flores -Street of the Flowers. Photo by Norm Ritter

We arrived in Valencia at 10:30PM and were picked up by our host’s son, in two shifts due to all our baggage, and delivered to the Russafa Barrio condo where tomorrow (Tuesday, April 21, 2015) will find us getting settled and acquainted with our new home and neighborhood. Right now, we are all a bit bleary-eyed and ready for rest.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Cordova- a one night stop

Córdova-Sunday, April 19, 2015

We said a quick and early good-bye to Torremolinos, grabbing a cab for the Malaga Maria Zumbrano Tren Estacion at 7:30AM.

imageWe ate a quick breakfast at our usual spot, the Orient Express Cafe in the station, and then boarded our Renfe Avance train for Cordova, on our way to Valencia which will be our launching site until May 15. The public transportation here in Spain has been clean, prompt and efficient. When we have only ourselves to transport we use the metro or the bus service, but today we were loaded down with all of our luggage and purchases. In order avoid the mule-packing system of our younger years, we enjoy the taxi services, which have also been easy an efficient to use. We arrived in Cordoba for our one night stay at the EXE Conquistador Hotel and were thrilled to find it directly across the street from the Mesquita, the Mosque-cathedral of Córdoba, the focus of our stay here. We will tour it tomorrow as it is open while most other sites will be closed on Monday.

After a quick Spanish pizza for an early lunch, Norm and I grabbed a horse and carriage ride to get an overview of the main attractions. Luckily, the ride ended very near one of the sites we wanted to see up close, the Roman Bridge.

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Córdova, Spain, Sunday, 4-19-2015 The Roman Bridge. Photo by Norm Ritter

Before we crossed it, we enjoyed the views of the Guadalquivir River which also flows through Sevilla and Granada. An ancient waterwheel and remains of a mill, Aldolafia y Molinos, can be seen from the upper walkway. A nature park and walkway has been developed along the river.

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Sunday, April 20, 2015. Aldolafia y Molinos, waterworks and mills. Photo by Norm Ritter

Across from the bridge is the Alcazar and the Triunfo de San Rafael Tower. The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Spanish for “Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs”), is also known as the Alcázar of Córdoba. It is a medieval palace, a long time residence of Ferdinan and Isabella, supporters of Columbus.

2015-4-20 Tower. Photo by Norm Ritter
2015-4-2, Sunday.  Triunfo de San Rafael Tower. Photo by Norm Ritter

Nearby, is a sculpture garden. “Sanafor de Letras” is a favorite.

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Córdova, Spain, Sunday, 4-19-2015 Sanafor de Letras Sculpture. Photo by Norm Ritter

While I rested at the hotel, Norm took an extended walk on the edge of the Old Town to view the Roman Temple. We viewed the impressive pillars on our carriage ride, and he wanted to get up close and personal with his camera in hand.

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Cardova, Spain, Sunday, 4-19-2015 The Roman Temple. Photo by Norm Ritter

While he was on his walk, I enjoyed a coffee on the beautiful patio in our hotel. Cordova is renown for its patios and has a festival approaching in May which will showcase dozens of them.

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2015-4-19 Córdova, Spain. EXE Conquistador Hotel Patio. Taken with my iPad.
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2015-4-19 Córdova, Spain. Patio Example. Photo by Norm Ritter.

As Norm was exploring, he came across a restaurant that we had been looking for, so he made reservations for us. It has a terrace eating area, so at dusk we made our way to the Pairi Daeza, it was a mild evening so we could watch the sunset over the Mezquita. Life is good!

Sunday, April 20, 2015. Rooftop Terrace Pairi Daeza Restaurant view of the Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral.
Sunday, April 20, 2015. Córdova, Spain: Rooftop Terrace Pairi Daeza Restaurant view of the Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral. Taken with my iPad.
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Sunday, April 20, 2015. Córdova, Spain: Rooftop Terrace Pairi Daeza Restaurant view of the Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral after sunset. Photo by Norm Ritter
Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Torremolinos… 2 more days

Today and tomorrow are the last two days we will spend in Torremolinos, Andulucia, Spain before moving to Valencia, Spain for a month. After shooting out from here to Malaga (3 day trips), Ronda (1 day trip), Estepona (7 days), Gibralter (1 day trip), Seville (2 day trip), and Granada (3 day trip), we are all finding things we would still like to do, or places we would like to EAT!!! So after doing a bit of laundry and starting a bit of packing in the morning, Norm and I headed out on the Paseo Maritimo (walkway along the beach) to enjoy what has been our neighborhood for almost one month. Where has the time gone? When we are in town, we usually head out onto Carihuela Beach – a pleasant area of tourist shops and restaurants…. the area you see in this picture from our condo.

imageToday, we are heading in the other direction to walk a bit further than we have in the past.  Today we are going away from this area along the beach to the north. We didn’t get very far before seeing a sign for a tapa and drink for €2.50, so we stopped for lunch… I did say it was lunch time, didn’t I?

Time for some sun!
Time for some sun!

We have eaten at El Gato in the evening, so we placed an order, got some rays, and then…

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took a selfie.. Of course.

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Now our order arrives.. 2 beers and 2 tapas for €5. We will miss these prices, and the food is very tasty.

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El Gato (The Cat) has a section of the beach where you  can rent a beach chair and umbrella. We find we get enough sun just walking on the Paseo Maritimo!

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Not long before we find some sand carvers… This beast is a popular subject!

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This topic is a new one! Clever!

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This grill in a boat-shaped carrier is fired up for the mid-day service. From 1PM until around 3PM is the busiest, with some folks eating their mid-day meal at 4 or 5PM. Then businesses and stores will reopen until 8 or 9PM. The restaurants pull down their open-air doors until 7:30-8:00PM when they begin their dinner service which runs late into the night.

More beach umbrellas…

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This little beach is called Hawaii Beach, and thev’e done a nice job of creating a Hawaiian welcome.

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There is a welcoming park shaded by palm trees… Need to relax here tomorrow.

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There is always a tree… Or a plant … That we wonder about. Might as well take a picture to see if we can I.D. it later.

Walking on…

imageThis is what I was hoping to find… Las Casas de Las Navajas! It is a museum and reception hall now, but was built in 1925 by its homeowner who donated it to the city. Unfortunately, it is closed for siesta until 6PM. One of the few frustrations of Spain… hours of business are very irregular. We decide to return at 6PM for a visit, and then go to dinner at El Gato. But first, we stop for gelato on our way back to enjoy siesta

Here is its story translated from Google:  The House of Knives is a property of the municipality of Torremolinos, Málaga, Spain, declared of Historical Interest by the Ministry of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía in 1991. It is a small residential palace, begun in 1925 by Antonio Navajas, entrepreneur from Churriana dedicated to the cultivation of sugar cane in the land today that is occupied by the Málaga Airport. The property is situated on a cliff overlooking the beach of El Bajondillo and has two floors with balconies, with the ground floor for housing the family. His aesthetic corresponds to neomudéjar style that flourished in Spain-and particularly in the province of Malaga-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, being inspired interior decoration by the Alhambra of Granada.

View from the front door
View from the front door

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Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Spain

Wine tasting…

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Immediately following the olive oil tasting, Violetta provided tapas to supplement the wine tasting – mild goat cheese slices, serrano ham thinly sliced, olives, and bread chunks. Ingrid chose to not participate and went out into Niguelas seeking a cup of hot tea. What is wrong with that girl???

Huelva, a region known for its strawberries, is making a comeback, producing lighter table wines (Condado de Huelva Blanco Joven). This a crisp delicious white wine. I don’t often drink white wine, but this one was refreshing.

Rioja, a classic region of northern Spain, produces some of the best wines in the world, some ready to drink young, others spending years in barrel and bottle before hitting the shelves. I have been drinking at least 1 glass of red Rioja every day since we arrived. It is used for the table wines and house wines in the restaurants and can be bought in the grocery stores at more than a reasonable price. Just order “una copa Tinto”, and you will soon have a generous glass of red wine in front of you!

Sherry or jerez is the Spanish wine from the southern region of Cádiz, and is enjoyed all over Andaluimagecia. I was eager to finally sample sherry from Jerez as we didn’t make the trip to Jerez that we had wanted to do. This sherry is so sweet, being made from dried grapes (raisins) that it is frequently served over ice cream. It tasted delicious. Norm and I later ordered it over ice cream and loved it. There is a gelado flavor with raisins called “malaga”. I intend to try it soon, as I think it may derive from the raisin sherry over ice cream idea.

I did not get one single picture! Too busy drinking wine… I wonder? So I’ll just throw in this one from Granada. It shows the grand four enjoying the sunset view of the Alhambra from atop San Nicolas ridge. There’s a glass of wine nearby, I assure you.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Fiber Arts · Spain

Wine and Olive Oil…

Thursday, April 16, 2015

After two wonderful activity packed days in Granada, I decided to get out of the big city of Granada to explore a small white-walled village nestled in the snowcapped Sierra Nevadas, while Al and Norm hit the shops in the lower Albaycín Moorish area of the city. Ingrid agreed to accompany me, so we were off with a tour group to Niguelas to learn about olives and olive oil with a little bit of wine and sherry tasting thrown in.

Niguelas is only about a 30 minute drive south of Granada.

Our first stop was at the olive grove where our guide,Violetta, showed us a 300 year old olive tree, as well as showing us the flower buds that will soon open. It seems that the different colors of olive are determined by their ripeness, with black olives being the most ripe. They ripen in November and need to be picked and processed right away. To pick them in early times, the farmer laid a net or cloth under the tree, and then shook the tree to make the olives fall. He’d roll up the net, fasten it to his donkey and go to the mill to process the olives.

In modern times, the farmer has a machine that grabs the tree and shakes the olives into an inverted umbrella shaped gatherer. The olives are transported to the cooperative mill, where the loose leaves are blown away, and the olives are washed with water no warmer than 85 degrees and then pressed. This is called cold pressed extra virgin olive oils, the only kind you want to buy. The remains of this process are pressed again and used in soaps, lotions and food for animals. Forty percent of the olive produced in the world is produced in Spain and 80% of that is produced in Andalucia.

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300 years old Olive Tree…the older the tree, the better the olive oil.

From the olive grove, we were driven to Niguelas to tour the old mill. The mill operated in the 1500s, powered by a donkey. The water system used to irrigate the mill was developed by the Moors in the same fashion as used in the Alhambra. Water still rushes through viaducts under the town, directed by sluices opened and closed by the various farmers to direct water towards their groves.

A pomegranate tree also grown in this region, along with apple trees. The Spanish word for pommegranate is granada.

A pomegranate tree (in bloom) also grown in this region, along with apple trees and almond trees.  The Spanish word   for pommegranate is “GRANADA.”

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A grinding stone from the 1500s that was pulled by a donkey to grind the olives, pit and all.

The ground olives were spread on each of these mats, the mats are stacked, and then pressed so the olive oil flows out into a conduit which delivers it to a ceramic reservoir.

The ground olives were spread on many of these mats, (behind his boot), the mats were stacked, and then pressed so the olive oil flowed through them, leaving the grit behind, into a conduit which delivered it to a ceramic reservoir.

The oil would flow from the press into this type of receptacle.

The oil would flow from the press into this type of receptacle.

imageThe oil was then scooped into dark ceramic storage jugs securely covered to keep the light out. Violetta’s advice was to buy olive oil in dark glass bottles and to store it in a dark place. After touring the old mill, we walked through the town, sampling the fresh flowing water on the way, and entered the tasting room.

The tasting room had a charming ambience... Always important to me!

The tasting room had a charming ambience… Always important to me! 😜

We sniffed, warmed the cup in our hands, sniffed again and sipped a bit of each oil in turn. Then we dipped bread in it and enjoyed the flavor. The 4th one was basil infused-yum! The 5th one was infused with orange flavor from the oranges we saee hanging from the trees which are too bitter to eat-Yum!

We sniffed, warmed the cup in our hands, sniffed again and sipped a bit of each oil in turn. The oil had a creamy, buttery taste on the tip of our tongues; then a sharper taste on our inner cheeks, and finally,  a peppery, bitter taste as we swallowed it. The peppery taste made some people cough, it was so distinct. Then we dipped bread in it and enjoyed the flavor. The 4th one was basil infused-yum! The 5th one was infused with orange flavor from the oranges we see hanging from the trees which are too bitter to eat straight out, but are used in the production of other products. The orange flavored oil is sprinkled on bread along with sugar as an after-school treat for children.  Yum! I thoroughly enjoyed this tour that took us into the reality of Spanish life and away from the historic and tourist centers for a part of this day. I will look for more opportunities like this.

Read my next blog to learn about the wine tasting… Soon to come.