Sunday, May 25, 2014

Free food and more

We’re back on New Mexican soil on a day with cool temperatures and light rain that has just turned to bright sun. We were so beat after the flight from Hell that started in Barcelona, on to Madrid and then to Albuquerque via DFW that we drug our sorry selves to baggage claim where we declared ourselves unfit to drive and spent the night near the airport. The toughest thing about being in the rural Southwest is the epic effort it takes to go back and forth to Europe.  It is, in a word, a bitch.

Today’s little effort is supposed to be a short look back at beautiful España from the perspective of the remarkable hospitality we received there. But, alas, I’m dealing with a pesky PC to hard drive problem wherein my computer reads my 2TB portable only sporadically.  My biggest worry, of course, is that I’ll lose several thousand images taken over the course of a month in a place that's 5,000 miles away.  I pray, in the figurative sense, that it’s only a faulty cable for which Western Digital is famous.

And so, there may be a paucity of pics to support this treatise. Right now the hard drive does not read so it doesn’t look promising in the short term.  So you’ll get no pics at all or ones that have the barest relevance to the story at hand, Spanish hospitality.

The lasting memory I will have of Spain will be its welcoming people. The joyous way they live life is both instructive and inspirational.  Nowhere in the world have I felt as befriended as I did in Spain. The heartwarming trend began at Xampu, the little tapas bar in Barcelona that we visited on nights one and two and where we were welcomed back as old friends Thursday night.  Because we wanted a more upscale dinner on our last night we chose a two week old seafood restaurant called HaHa!Mariscos. No entiendo el nombre.  I had seen some glowing reviews of the place on the net and quite by chance we had noticed its beautiful seafood display when we were walking home from the beach in the afternoon.  At the unseemly hour of 9PM we were greeted by the proud owner Kai Finkener, an expat German who had been in Barcelona 35 years.  As he told us, “I’m more Spanish than German at this point.” The engaging service would support his belief.

We shared tuna carpaccio, each had whole seabass that Kai carefully deboned, a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Rioja and finished with the eggiest flan ever.  Our tab was 46 Euros or about $65.  Double that back home.  More importantly we left with a new friend who asked us to consider his establishment our home and meant it.

First View of Gaucin
In our pueblo blanco, Gaucin, Lola Colon welcomed us to the wonderful La Lateral.  And on our second visit Lola called her partner Carlos Patilla out from the kitchen to meet us.  I was a rare kind of hospitality that exemplified the ‘Mi casa. Su casa’ attitude we experienced throughout Spain. At the spanking new La Granada Divina also in Gaucin and where we dined three times owner Neal Brown and I exchanged restaurant war stories and parted with big hugs and the shared disappointment that we wouldn’t see other again.

San Jose Waterfront

Free Food
In tiny San Jose on the arid Cabo de Gata we chanced upon a little bar near the yacht harbor.  It was filled with thirsty regulars at least one of whom was a certified barfly. We sat down for a simple vino blanco and a beer and as if by magic a tapa of sautéed prawns appeared, just a hint of curry in its buttery sauce.  It was just like the Anthony Bourdain segment in Granada.  You really do get free food. With the second round came Patates Bravas, kind of like spicy home fries. The third round came with some fried chicken wings, the universal bar food.  There was no fourth round nor was there dinner.  Dinner, shmimmer.  We don’t need no stinking dinner.

More to the point, proprietor Claudio late of Milan made us feel like long lost friends. That place could have become my new favorite bar in world if I could just remember its name.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

First Night

No trip with the Immels would be complete without a little food commentary.  So here’s a taste.  Get it?
First tapas happened the fashionable hour of 10pm on a day that wound up being a 48 hour stint with a total of four hours of sleep.  You’ve heard my whining already.  We had enjoyed a hearty menu del dia at a restaurant with the ignominious name El Glop.  Glop is was not but was three enjoyable courses of appetizer, entrée and desert and which included a glass of wine, beer or sangria.  The price was something like 11 euros which is typical, economical and filling.  It is absolutely the way to stretch your dining dollars in Spain.
In the evening we walked around L’Eixample looking for the perfect tapas venue.  Most were commercial and unprepossessing but after two passes we entered Xampu on the lovely Gran Via.  We had good luck over the years picking places on gut instinct.  The puns just keep coming don’t they?
Our repast was entirely basic on the night, thin slices of Jamon Iberico, queso in olive oil, good crusty bread and copious quantities of Rioja. We liked it so much we had a second round of little plates and returned the next night.  I had worried about ten o’clock meals and if old people could do that and here we were accomplishing the impossible of nights one and two.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fair warning

Monday’s post was uninspired methinks.  I suffered mind numbing computer gremlins and so many images that I clicked Publish out of pure desperation. Lo siento.

Today’s photographs, too many you may think, come from a street photography perspective and from my more or less 5’11” person's eye level.  These capture the shear vitality of Barcelona more personally than Monday’s postcards. At least I hope they do.

For what it’s worth we’ll be back in Barca for the last four days of our grand tour of España.  Steel yourself for even more from my new favorite city in the world.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Step by Step

Never have I been in such a quandary about what to post.  Not only am I dealing with the array of locales to share but I can’t even get out of Barcelona.  Two days in that place and I’ve got a brain cramp not to mention my mouse hand. I guess that’s the bad with the good.

As suggested last time, Barcelona is a city that is richly enjoyed and one best seen on two feet.  Here is the barest glimpse of the Catalan capital from a stroll from our L’Eixample hotel to the bustling waterfront by way of the city’s Arc de Triomf and adjoining park and back through the canyons of the old town. Blessed little copy this time, sports fans.


Sunday, May 04, 2014

No Doze

As reported, our first day in Barcelona was a sleep walking blur. Yet, despite a combined four hours of shut eye in the previous 48, I pronounced Barcelona to be my new favorite city in the world. Not that I’ve seen them all by any stretch so perhaps I should amend the accolade to “my new favorite city in the world so far.”

The crux of the claim lies in the robust and natural way folks use the place.  The city absolutely vibrated with youthful energy, accent on youth.

I was so whipped that body and soul demanded a nap when we were granted a glorious early check-in at the Ayre Hotel Caspe in Barca’s tony L’Eixample neighborhood.  Pronounce it Luh Shahm Pluh in Catalan. But Frau Gerta my German sleep therapist insisted that “Der vill be no shleepink!” and that I had to remain upright till at least 6pm or, failing that, my zees must be had in the bright light of day.  And so, we walked the eight blocks to the chock a block Placa Catalunya where I crashed on a soft pallet of cement for a sweet hour of sleep.  Vantage point as shown below.