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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Valencia, Spain - A Trip to the Market

Dear Family and Friends,

We arrived in Valencia, Spain yesterday afternoon around 4:00 pm.  It was sunny and hot....maybe 85 degrees.  We are staying in a large hotel and when we got to our room the room was very hot.  The sun was coming through the glass window and the room was quite hot.  I tried to get the air conditioner up and running....but it didn't work.  Chuck went to the front desk to find out how to make it work.  The desk clerk informed him that there is no air conditioning until May 1st.  Ssshhsh!!!!

We waited until the sun was setting and went on the street for dinner.  After the sun went down the outside air became much more pleasant.  Unfortunately, when we returned to our room it was still very warm.  We tried to open the window, but it would only open about two inches.  Not enough to cool things off.

We slept with no covers. There is one of us who does not do well in the heat and she can get cranky without air conditioning.   Luckily we were both able to sleep.

This morning, we dressed in short sleeve, light weight tops, slathered ourselves in sunscreen  and headed to the historic city center.

It was a great walk because it was early enough that the sun was not too hot.  We ended up at the big old market and that is what the post today is going to be about.

The market building....

This enterprising guy was outside the market.  From a distance, he looked like a statue of a street sweeper.  In reality, he was a mime.  Check out the money he could sweep up if he'd just move that broom.

We thoroughly enjoyed walking around and gawking at everything in the market.  We were amazed by the similarities we found to our Cuenca markets.  We also found some new (to us) food.

Here is a shellfish new to us.  They look a little like shrimp, but they aren't.

Sardines...packed to go.

Here are live snails. It looks like they are trying to make a break for it.

We would would not be surprised to see this guy in our markets in Ecuador.

New to us mushrooms..

and these too....

New to us produce....

The sign says "Sea Asparagus."

These are funny looking tomatoes....only they cost about three times what the regular tomatoes cost.  I saw one cut open.  Looks similar but different.  I wonder how they taste?

I have been coveting the style of shopping cart this lady is pushing.  They are everywhere here in Spain.  They have four wheels and push like a stroller.  Really nice when the load gets heavy.

How about some cheese?

or some ham?

or olives?

how about olive oil?

Here is Chuck checking out some jam.

Here are some spices.  Those are dried red peppers hanging in the air. Reminded me of a trip to New Mexico.

There was a shoe repair man and also these couple of guys who repaired clothes.....just like in Ecuador.

Even outside the market building reminded us of our Ecuador markets.

They had vendors selling plants.

and vendors selling all sorts of goods.

Check out these paella pans.  All sizes.

We didn't see a man with goats and selling milk or  a vendor selling horse or donkey blankets or a vendor selling fresh cut flowers.  And of course we didn't see cuy.

After checking out the market we were hungry so we went across the street to a sidewalk cafe and had a snack.

Chuck had fried Camembert cheese.

and I had calamari

After our snack, since it was such a nice day, we decided to take the two decked bus tour of the city.  Just like in Cuenca, the clouds came in, covered the sun and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees.  There we were on the top of the tour bus, in short sleeves, freezing our a**es off.

Tonight we should sleep nice and cool.


Friday, March 30, 2012

A Bit more Barcelona before we Leave

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I spent today driving to Valencia, Spain.  Since we stayed on the toll way, there was not much of a chance to take pictures.  We saw some vineyards, some olive trees and tons of orange trees.  We also saw glimpses of the Mediterranean and castles on the tops of mountains as we sped along.  It is a bit hot here, so we are going to go out after the sun sets. 

Todays post is still about Barcelona.  It is in two parts:  Nancy's part and Chuck's part.

Nancy's part

Two Items:

  1.  Barcelona Bull Ring Renewal
  2. 1929 International Exhibition

Bull Ring Reform:

This was a historic Barcelona bull ring. It is now a shopping center and 12 screen cinema.

The last bull fight was held in this bull ring in 1977.  Since then it had become in bad disrepair.  Instead of tearing it down, it has been transformed and given new life. It re-opened in 2010.

In the picture you will see what appears to be a saucer sitting on top of the arena.  Actually it is a large terrace with restaurants and outdoor eating.

1929 International Exhibition

From the top of the bull ring we had a grand view of where the Barcelona 1929 International Exhibition was held.

Here is a postcard from 1929:

Here is how it looks today:

Pretty close, huh?

Chuck's Part

Roger, the wine guy lives in Cuenca, Ecuador. I volunteered to fetch him a bottle of Spanish wine. He asked for some wine from Bierzo or Ribera del Duero. I was overwhelmed to find 10 lineal feet, 6 feet high of Ribera on display at the supermarket. Then I found a wine shop across the street from our apartment.

It was never open (I later learned that the shop owner's mother was ill) until the day before we left Barcelona. What a find.  Look at all the wine bottles.

Many bottles were on sale.

So I purchased a 5 Euro white wine for consumption while we are in Spain.

But, I figured that Roger deserves something special. The shop keeper did not have much good to say about the Ribera del Duero wine region. I suppose it was as if I were asking a Napa valley wine shop to recommend a good Oregon wine - that's not going to happen!

However, she did recommend a good 17 Euro bottle from Bierzo, which I will take to Roger.

It is a 2001 Reserva, and I hope it travels well.

Chuck and Nancy

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Down Day Timed Perfectly

Dear Family and Friends,

On Tuesday I told Chuck that before we leave Barcelona, and continue our journey, I need a down day.  A real down day, a day that I could just lounge around and really get rested up.

We knew we wanted to go to the Sagrada Familia Basilica before we left Barcelona.  The choice was to either take Wednesday or Thursday for the down time.

We decided to visit the basilica on Wednesday and rest up on Thursday.  Our timing was perfect because as it turns out everything is pretty much shut down around town today.  The metro is closed, buses are not running, most of the shops we have seen in our neighborhood are closed due to a nationwide strike that is taking place.

I hope this link is still working by the time you click on it.

Here are some pictures of our visit to the basilica yesterday.

As other sights we have seen here in Barcelona, Gaudi designed this cathedral.  He died in 1926 but left instructions on how to finish it.  It is still being constructed.  The plans are to get it finished by 2026 for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Here is the outside of the basilica. The line to buy tickets went all the way down the front of the basilica and around the corner. We took a deep breath and went searching for the end of the line

Here is Chuck patiently waiting in line.

The line moved along pretty fast.  We only took us about 30 minutes to buy our tickets and begin our tour.

The inside is spacious and open, unlike the other cathedrals we have been in.  Like Gaudi's other designs, it is very modern inside.

Some of the columns branch out like tree limbs.

I especially loved the stained glass windows.

Here is a picture we saw in a store window nearby of how the basilica will look when finished.

Across from the church there were vendors selling palms for this Sunday.  It reminded me of what we see in Cuenca...only their palms are yellow and ours are green.

They were also selling laurel and something else. Don't know exactly how this is used but we will find out, I am sure, on Palm Sunday.

They were selling candy too....sort of like Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi rolled into one.

I asked the lady, "Why the beans?"

She said the candy was for the children and the beans were for women.

It is an assumption of mine that the beans are for fertility.

Hope the strike is a one day thing.  We'll see.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Our Short Term Rental in Barcelona - Passing on a good find.

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck did a fabulous job of shopping for the apartment that we would rent for our week in Barcelona.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here.  Actually we want to return and rent here for a month or more.  There are many things we did not see or do, even though we were here for a whole week.

Our apartment is fully furnished.  It has two bedrooms (one with queen bed and one with twin beds).  The owner is an architect and has completely modernized this apartment.  Chuck enjoyed the balcony every day for smoking his pipe.

This apartment has all expected amenities (dishwasher, clothes washer, modern kitchen with even an espresso maker.)

The apartment is located one and a half blocks from the metro.  Very, very close.  The tourists section of Barcelona is only three stops away.  Actually, we have walked to the tourist center several times.  It is downhill and an easy walk.  The beauty of living here is that we are close to all the good stuff, but yet we are in a quiet neighborhood.  This is great for getting a good night's sleep.

The neighborhood has many restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores and produce markets nearby.  

The condo is on the fourth floor and there is a good dependable elevator.

The wi-fi is terrific.

If you are planning a trip to Barcelona, we highly recommend this apartment to rent.

Here is a link with a lot of pictures.  The pictures are true....just as advertised.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Furnished Apartment and Playing like Kids!!

Dear Family and Friends,

I did not post the pictures of the apartment early this morning as I said I would.  Chuck and I decided to play the day away.

So, first of all I will share the apartment pictures.  This is an apartment from around 1912, with furniture and fixtures just as they were back then.  I found this exhibit to be very interesting.

Obviously, this apartment belonged to very wealthy people.  Even so, I was quite amazed at all the conveniences they had 100 years ago.

Here is a cool cast iron hall tree.

The living room reminded me of many I have seen in Ecuadorian colonial homes.

The dining room.

Here is the hall way.  It is well lit from the windows that open to the courtyard.

Here is the study.

The master bedroom.

What I found amazing is that this bedroom had it's own bathroom.

Here are some pictures of the kitchen.  I was impressed.

Chuck standing by the stove.  Oh, in case you are wondering, Chuck is not with child.  He has his backpack on backwards.

How about this.....a double sink.

AND, this really neat breakfast area off from the kitchen.  Notice the pocket door.

Of course a house this grand would have a live in maid.  Here is her bedroom.

Her uniform hung on the wall at the foot of the bed.

Here is a workroom.  How nice!

And the main bathroom.  Large enough to be called a ballroom in today's apartments.

Also in this bathroom was a great tub for washing little more bending over the tub for this mom.

I wanted to share these pictures with you because it made 1912 not seem so long ago.  I was quite fascinated.

Now for what we did today!

I didn't wake up this morning until 9:00am.  I am really getting into the spirit of a vacation.

Over breakfast we discussed what we should do today.  We wanted to do something that was not centered around Gaudi.  His stuff in interesting but we wanted a change.

Chuck suggested that we take the funicular up to an amusement park.  The amusement park is on top of Tibidabo mountain.  Here is a link:

The adventure started out by us taking the metro to the funicular.  The funicular is 100 years old (refurbished in 1998 thank goodness!)  

From the funicular we took a shuttle bus to the amusement park.

One of the first things we saw was a big church.  Not expecting that!  Here it is from the ground.  I will share how it looks from the air in a moment.

We were very high and had a view of the city.  It would have been better but is was quite hazy.

There were several old rides from years past that are still in use.

Here is a two story merry-go-round.

What about this old ride.  Two cages that you stand in and slowly rotate around.

Of course we had to try it.  Here is what that church looks like from the top of the ride.

One ride we were both intrigued with was an airplane.

The propeller went around and the motor sounded just like the plane was actually running.  The fun part was that half the ride was out over a cliff, which made it seem like you were really flying in the airplane.  Seventy or eighty years ago I am sure this ride was a big hit because not many people had experienced flying.  Chuck said that the airplane was really propelled by the propeller.

Chuck and I decided to give it a go.

When we got inside we realised that we were in a real airplane.

And yep, just as we thought...when it went out over the cliff, it was felt like we were really flying.

After we got back to earth, we learned that this airplane is an exact replica of the first commercial airplane to fly from Barcelona to Madrid.  The year, painted on the tale of the airplane was 1928. 

We went to the historical amusement park museum and had lunch at an outside cafe in the park.  All in all, it was just what we needed.  Just a fun day!!