Sunday, March 19, 2006

Eating Well in Spain

On my first day in Madrid, I passed by this window and stopped to admire the fresh seafood on display. Then I noticed the menu and after checking it, I decided to stay and eat lunch. The restaurant is called Tres Encinas and it is on Calle Preciados, a short walk from Plaza Callao. I chose mixed vegetables for the first course and grilled salmon for the second. The waiter brought me a big plate of what I considered, overcooked vegetables, a typical European way of serving vegies. The salmon steak was big enough for 2 people. Desert is selected from a tray brought to your table. This is a pricey restaurant but worth it.

The decor at Museo de Jamon tells all. Legs of ham hang all around the restaurant. Not surprisingly the menu includes ham soup, ham sandwiches, ham tortilla (omelette) and sliced ham appetizers. They also serve 3 course meals for less than 10 euros. For 9.95 euros, I had paella for the first course, cochinillo asado (roasted suckling pig) for the second, and flan for dessert. Choice of beverage is included. Museo de Jamon has branches throughout the city including Plaza de Mayor.

For great views of the red rooftops of Madrid's city center, El Corte Ingles on Plaza Callao offers quite a selection of dishes. I ordered a fish entrée, Emperador a la plancha served with potatoes and crusty bread. I cleaned my plate. A la plancha means grilled.

In Granada, I thoroughly relished the grilled swordfish served at the restaurant at Hotel Dauro II. No wonder there was never any room during lunch but I ate dinner early and had the place to myself.

One thing I learned to do in Spain was arrive early at the restaurant for lunch. This means arriving before 1 p.m. Restaurants get crowded at 2 p.m. and waiting in line is de rigueur until 4 p.m.

No time to sit down and eat lunch or dinner? It's easy to order sandwiches called bocadillos at Museo de Jamon. For less than 1 euro, you can order a small bocadillo with Serrano ham or salami with french bread. A regular size sandwich with choice of sliced meat and cheese is 1.95 euros. If you don't like smoked ham, be sure to ask for jamon cocido, cooked ham.

I love to eat sweets and there are many pastry shops all over town, be it Madrid or Granada. For one euro, you can buy a neapolitana or hojaldre at La Mallorquina at Puerta del Sol. Water or cola is only 50 euro cents. You can stand by one of the counters to eat your pastry or sip coffee.

Good food in Spain
is all over the plain.

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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Spain Travel Literature

Books are not only great travel companions especially on those long flights and sleepless nights, they also give a good background of the places you are visiting.

On my recent trip to Granada, I was pleased to have read Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving. Irving wrote details of his stay at the Alhambra which was then occupied by bats and rifraff. He also recounts the legends he heard surrounding the former occupants of the palace which entertain and enchant.

While in Granada, I had the chance to visit the summer house of playwright and poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. Lorca was also an artist and among the memorabilia are his sketches and paintings as well as a painting by his friend, Salvador Dali. Lorca was executed by government forces in 1936. Here are some beautiful lines he wrote:
El aire llorό
al ver las penas tan grandes
de mi corazon.

No visit to Spain would be complete without reading Don Quixote. At Plaza España in Madrid, the statues of Don Quixote on horseback and his faithful servant, Sancho Panza seem ready to "to run where the brave dare not go".

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Images by Rosario Charie Albar

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spain - Live the impossible dream!

Just returned from Spain where temperatures were muy bajo and snow blanketed the sierras from Madrid to Granada. And with the perseverance of a Don Quixote, I didn't let anything stand in the way of exploring Madrid, Granada, Segovia and Avila. The bitter cold, the rain, the snow, the wind and jetlag couldn't keep me indoors.

What's more I found the family crests of my paternal grandmother and that of my great grandmother. I felt a real connection with Spain after reading the history of my forefathers and the role they played to reconquer Granada.

And talk about wardrobe malfunction! Wearing layers of clothes is alien to me blessed as I am to live in the California sunshine year-round. Thank goodness though for long coats, few people saw me pulling my runaway hose back in place. Whew!

More on Spain when I've had some sleep and rest. Hasta luego!

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Photos by Rosario Charie Albar