Posted by: 2 Travelers | October 13, 2012

3 Days in Portugal….Back to Spain

We are sooooo happy to be back in Spain after 3 days of Portugese food. They love to give you Rice or potatoes with a ton of meat! Yesterday I had 2 thin (thank heavens) chicken filets, heavily breaded and fried with cold French fries….but we did have a nice bowl of soup that came first, and of course a desert. Larry’s entree was 3 pastries filled with shredded pork….along with a ton of rice. Today we drove through the least populated area of Spain (looks like New Mexico and Arizona, it is the region of Extremadura) and wondered where we would have lunch……We saw this place at the edge of a tiny town and a lot of cars….so we “went for it”.

20121013-112002.jpgWhat a surprise! Look at the dining room….

20121013-112103.jpgWe both had the delicious gaspacho and fresh grilled sea bass….

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20121013-112342.jpgWe spent time in an interesting border town on our way to where we are tonight. We had reservations in a Parador (former palace or castle that is now a government run hotel, but they e mailed us earlier this week that a strike had been called for Parador workers…..and this is a holiday weekend here…..so perhaps we would like to change our plans. Got that right! We needed a place 2 hours from Madrid airport as we turn the car in tomorrow and spend Sunday afternoon and Monday in Madrid. If American Airline pilots are being good folks, we will fly home Tuesday.

I really think you need to see what I meant about the Portugal lunch yesterday….each platter is for ONE person…and the cost is only 9.50€ each….$12.35….We do not know how they make a living.

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Posted by: 2 Travelers | October 11, 2012

Portugal

We arrived in Castelo de Vide Portugal yesterday, about 7 miles from the Spanish border. We passed through here (and Mavrão, where we will spend tomorrow) 3 years ago on our way to return our car to Lisbon. So, only had a short time to spend in each town, but knew we wanted to return. Our first meal was salt cod, (bacalao) which the Portugese are crazy about. Here it is in the supermarket….like big slabs of cardboard!

20121011-113708.jpgAnd here is our meal for 2; we could not finish everything. The cod was just boiled and rather tough.

20121011-113753.jpgThe town is lovely. These statues are in the main square (the seated one is playing a flute). Music is piped through speakers in the plaza…..beautiful.

20121011-113933.jpgHere is the castle from the far end of town, and the view of town from a tower window.

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20121011-114149.jpgWe had rain showers this morning so did our sketching from the tower windows in the castle! I felt like Rapunzel. By 1:00 the rain was done and the afternoon just beautiful.

Posted by: 2 Travelers | October 9, 2012

Village Queen (?)

Today is our last day in the Sierra de Francia mountains. There are many tiny villages scattered all around. Most are accessible only by 1 1/2 lane roads, but they are not that bad as there is almost no traffic….today we met 2 cars going to Mogarraz where 327 people live….and their Queen greeted us as we walked down the main street. Her name is San Anton….here she is.

20121009-103626.jpgAfter lunch I knew it was siesta time as I started up a side street.

20121009-103758.jpgAll these villages have buildings that are half timber construction and in many cases the stucco is falling off revealing the stones between the timbers, making for great sketching subjects. What made Mogarraz even more unique was this:

20121009-104017.jpgHundreds of beautiful portraits hanging on the buildings! We counted 190+ just walking from the Plaza Mayor back to where we parked the car. They are on aluminum and after talking to several residents, we found out that the painter is a professor of art from this village and is 47 years old. The place where we had coffee is managed by his brother and the waitress wrote his name for me….after Googeling, I found him….here is a photo of him under 2 paintings:

20121009-104422.jpgThis one is one of my favorites;

20121009-104544.jpgThe sizes vary (depending on what aluminum he had that day???) from 2 ft x 2 ft to larger that 3 ft x 3 ft.

Tomorrow we leave for 3 nights in Castelo de Vide, Portugal. There may not be WI-FI at the casita, so unless we find it in a cafe, there will be no posts for a while. We have to spend Saturday night between Portugal and Madrid where we return the car Sunday. We had a reservation at a Parador (government run old castles, palaces etc that are now hotels). Then we received an e mail earlier this week informing us that Parador employees have called a strike for this weekend….a 3 day holiday weekend for Columbus day. So, we found a hotel along the route that still had a room….won’t be as neat, but it will do. Hasta Luego!

Posted by: 2 Travelers | October 7, 2012

SPURS!!!

So, here we are, spending Sunday in this small village in the Sierra de Francia mountains in western Spain, San Martín del Castañar, population, 276….

20121007-113111.jpgand this handsome young man walked in….

20121007-113228.jpgWhen I told him we lived near San Antonio, he was as excited as we were! He lives in Salamanca, a city about 1 hour from here. Small world, huh?

We are staying in a hotel located above the village; the photo of San Martín del Castañar was taken from our balcony as was this one of last night’s sunset.

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And, yes we are still eating well….so well that today neither of us could finish our main course and we shared one desert.

Posted by: 2 Travelers | October 5, 2012

Foodie Report

“Dining” in Spain with the menus of the day has been quite an experience since I do not cook Spanish dishes and do not know the vocabulary. Sometimes we just sort of play roulette with the choices, other times we have told the waiter to choose for us. We had a delicious bean stew last Saturday (they love beans of all types) and it was my first time to have blood sausage. Not bad, but it will not be at the top of my “must haves.”

20121005-105533.jpgHere in Simancas, the daily menu consists of 6 choices for first course and 6 for second course!!!!! Most of the time there are 3 choices per course and I can handle that in an oral menu, but here, I had to ask to see the waiter’s pad to sort out anything familiar. Very good food and only $12.35 each and we are stuffed. We eat about 2 o’clock and are done for the day!

20121005-105936.jpgThis is the place in town where everyone eats. Yesterday the men next to us had an appetizer/tapas that looked like a brownie topped with pimentos. I asked today what it was….morcilla….still no clue. googled it and guess what?? Thick slice of blood sausage with pimentos on top. The Spanish seem to be obsessed with pimentos….whole ones stuffed with cod, sliced ones as a side dish or on top of anything.

20121005-110902.jpg And 2 other obsessions…a lot of salt on salads and it must be a law…..every mixed salad has been topped with tuna. I have had more tuna in 3 weeks than in the last 3 years!!…..and green olives must also be required….oh, yes, and white asparagus!
20121005-111615.jpgThis is an example of a typical mixed salad. Tomorrow we move further south to the Sierra de Francia mountains. We were in the area 3 years ago, but are staying in a different place this time. San Martin del Castañar, near La Alberca where we stayed last time.

Posted by: 2 Travelers | October 3, 2012

Dining surprise

Yesterday we ate at a small place along the north coast. The Menú of the Day is on the chalk board. We both had the warm goat cheese salad….they are always wonderful and different ingredients from one kitchen to another….we followed the salad with a small grilled sea bass and the best fries of the trip.

20121003-113723.jpgAnd here is the great salad.

20121003-113859.jpgAll that plus a bottle of wine, water, bread and desert for $13 US each!!!!
Today we took the little ferry across the bay to the city of Santandér. We finally found a district in Spain with International restaurants….3 places right in a row….French, Italian AND this one.

20121003-114155.jpgSee that bottle of Corona???? Yes! We found a Mexican restaurant and after 3 weeks of no Tex-Mex, it was a no brainer! The chef guessed us to be French, then English and when we said we live in Texas, she was so excited as she is from Chihuahua! We think the waiter/host was her husband. We had chicken tostadas, tacos al Pastor and Nachos…delicious. When we left, it was with hugs and kisses.

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20121003-114738.jpgAnd yes, the kitchen is open to the dining area.

Posted by: 2 Travelers | October 2, 2012

Coast Visit

Today we moved to the town of Pedreña…small place across the bay from Santandér….on the other side of the “bump” from Laredo. We had planned to go to the Picos de Europa Mountains, but decided it was too far out of the way. Sooooo, we found this apartment in a hotel on the Internet….nice to have lots of room AND a washing machine (jeans really need a good washing) AND, the huge bonus….there is a DRYER!!!! rare find.

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20121002-102432.jpgBrand new in 2011…..there is also a small bedroom with another “uni-pillow,” but for 2 nights we will manage. Now the terrace with a view of Santandér.

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20121002-102809.jpgOK, I know you are curious about the cost…..$85 US dollars a night!!!!! Can you beat that???? Tomorrow we will take the tiny ferry across the bay to see what Santandér holds…..and I will post our amazing lunch from today….food has been so good.

Posted by: 2 Travelers | September 30, 2012

Odd Things and Texas Stuff

First there was the “uni-pillow.” We had a king sized bed with ONE pillow in a hotel 2 weeks ago. Never heard of such a thing, but every time the other person moves their head, there is a ripple effect. Fortunately we have not had another like it!

20120930-122646.jpgThen, yesterday we were walking back to our hotel by a field of sheep; they were very spread out for sheep as they are usually together in a clump. Larry spoke to them, in sheep, (baaa-baaa). I do not know what he said, but he created a stampede! They all came running and the just stared at him.

20120930-122953.jpgToday we had planned to take the train to Bilbao, but rain was forecast there, so we headed a bit west for a sunny day in the mountains and on the coast. It was a Texas day, as we had lunch in Laredo and told them we did not live far from Laredo Texas. You may notice the big vat….that is right, 1liter of wine for €1.20 or about $1.50! they even provide the bottles (notice the empty soda and water bottles in the box below.) Also, notice the hanging hams ( like prosciutto in Italy)….THEY are $130 each for the whole thing! But they last a long time…We each had a half chicken and a mixed salad for less than $7.00 each!….and it was very good.

20120930-124052.jpg Then we went to Castro Uridales (lovely town) and HAD to have a coffee in this bar. The barista was so excited that we were from Texas that she would not let us pay for the coffees.

20120930-124214.jpgAll in all it was a very nice Sunday and tomorrow we will go to Bilbao.

Posted by: 2 Travelers | September 27, 2012

Various Things

We headed for the Rioja wine country from the Pyrenees on Wednesday cutting through some beautiful country……then traffic came to a complete stop. Not the smartest animals and they were out without a shepherd or dogs. We think they just got loose. They were bumping the side of the car as they passed. We have noticed that some herds have their behinds spray painted….these were of the Pink Behinds Herd.

20120927-135628.jpgToday we visited a few of the small towns in the area including Elciego where there is a very expensive hotel ($500 + per night). Frank Ghery is the architect and owner. This place just looks terrible in contrast to the sandstone buildings that are typical for this area.

20120927-140015.jpgTwo food items to add today. Just another beautiful bakery……

20120927-140433.jpg……and this is ice cream we had today for desert; LUSCIOUS!

20120927-140618.jpgTomorrow we head close to Bilbao for a few days and plan to visit the Guggenheim Museum….another of Frank Ghery’s buildings.

Posted by: 2 Travelers | September 25, 2012

Basque Food, etc.

We have enjoyed some wonderful meals here in Basque country and none of it the foo-foo food one sees in San Sebastian on Food TV. In Elizondo Sunday we had the most wonderful tomatoes on our salad and I had slices of Chicken in a roquefort sauce with fries….delicious. Larry had Calamari. The “bestest” part was desert….Natillas….thin vanilla pudding topped with whipped eggs whites and sugar, but not baked like meringue. The daily menus in Spain are such a bargain…you get a choice of a first course, a second course, desert, water, bread and a Bottle of good wine all for a total of 10 €- 13 € ( $13- $15!) It is the way the locals eat so really, the restaurants should just skip the menus.

20120925-103200.jpgToday we went over to France on a scary road….came back on a longer, but much safer road. This photo is of the Spanish side (Basque South) as we climbed a lane and a half road to the pass over the Pyrenees.

20120925-103315.jpgOur lunch in the French Basque area (Basque North) was $17 each but did not include wine. However the portions were huge! we both had the pimentos stuffed with cod in a tomato sauce, Larry had a chunk of fish and I had the pork…grilled sausage this time. We shared a piece of Basque cake and slices of sheep cheese with marmalade. No photo of that.

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Only problem today was a French roadblock just as we crossed the border….had just gotten to a better road on that side of the pass, and then this…

20120925-103929.jpgTomorrow we leave the Pyrenees and go the the Rioja area. Mmmmmm, great wines!

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