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Granada II

Where were we? Oh yes…

Caroline headed off towards the Generalife and Summer Palace and I got more and more engrossed in the book I was reading on my iPad’s Kindleapp. My phone was off as usual, but on checking my watch, I realised that I hadn’t seen Caroline for quite a while.

So the phone was booted up and I found that there’d been a missed call, a voicemail message and several texts in the last quarter of an hour…

Caroline had taken a wrong turn and had ended up outside the entrance to the Alhambra complex. She’d also misplaced her ticket too, so she couldn’t get back in to come and find me.

We did find each other once I’d booted up my phone and a spot of shopping in the Alhambra souvenir shop was called for and then a coffee and cake stop back down in the city centre.

We’d spotted Cafe Lisboa earlier in the day, our order was taken and coffee and some rather cake was delivered to our table. As we’d been out for nine hours, we headed back up to White Nest for a siesta, shower and change and then a search for an evening meal.

There were a few places open on our last night in Granada, but we wanted a change from tapas or even shared dishes like those served in the Moroccan place the night before.

An Italian restaurant was spotted and food and drink was duly ordered. I’d love to tell you the name of the place, but the receipt was misplaced and it wasn’t in a guidebook, but the food, drink, desserts and coffee all hit the spot.

There was once place left to go though on our way back to our room. I’d misplaced the bag containing the things I’d bought at the Alhambra shop and there was only once place it could be – Cafe Lisboa.

It took a while to get myself understood, but it was there and was handed over. As we left, a pact was made with Caroline. If we needed second breakfasts the following morning, I was buying and we’d have our second breakfasts down at Cafe Lisboa.

The mini market around the corner provided us with some soft drinks, bottled water and a bar of chocolate before we headed back to do some reading and then chase some zzzzs.

Although we were up early and packed, we didn’t have to check out until much later, so we wandered down to White Nest’s dining room and found that yes, the breakfast choices were limited again (White Nest to their credit did post a reply to my review on booking.com which apologised for the limited breakfast fodder due to the school group).

So there was only one thing for it – down to Cafe Lisboa for second breakfasts! Coffee and croissants were ordered and duly arrived – but the croissants were huge, and just as good in their own way as the pieces of cake we’d had the day before.

It wasn’t just the croissants that were huge. An American family with a father who looked like he went to the same barber as Gibbs from NCIS had ordered a cooked breakfast and it looked like the size of that cooked breakfast had defeated them.

As we still had time on our hands, some shopping time was called for, but we also needed a cash machine as the two of us needed a few more € to cover any purchases in Granada, in Malaga the following day and any final snacks or drinks in the airport before the flight home.

As Caroline wandered around one shop looking for things to take home for her grandchildren, I picked up one item and could hear Caroline groan in the distances as I walked to the cash desk with a blue and white plush bull.

The groan turned to a longer groan and an extended eye roll when I pushed the plush in the right place and a bull sound came from within the toy’s innards… Nothing was said though, either by Caroline or the lady taking my cash to pay for the blue and white bull.

It was now approaching check-out time, so we headed back, picked up our bags and wandered down to the nearest taxi rank to get a cab back to the bus station.

Yes, it wasn’t something we’d normally do, but as we’d noticed that it wasn’t a straightforward route to the bus station, it would save us a whole lot of time.

Lunch that day came courtesy of Aldi. Their store was just a few hundred metres away from the bus station, so that was the stop of choice for both food and drinks for both lunch and the bus ride to Malaga.

Coffee levels were topped up in the bus station cafe though, but when I bought a beer too, there was a small tapas plate as part of the deal. We’d heard about the free tapas plates in Granada, but this was the one and only time we’d experienced the custom.

Apparently it’s the thing to do in Granada – buy a beer in a bar and you get free food. For those without beer intake limits, it’s a bonus, especially if you’re on a bar crawl, but for those like myself who are on beer intake limits, it’s an interesting snack attack.

When the bus arrived and we headed inside, we swapped notes and agreed that we’d use buses again on our next trip around Andalucia.

Yes, the bookings had been done a few months before we travelled as a means of saving money, but we’d been impressed by the comfort levels and the on time nature of the journeys, even though we hadn’t been on the best buses on the fleet or had paid full whack for the four bus rides we’d been on.

On Saturday – Malaga in festival mode and time to go home…

Father’s Day in Cordoba…

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Another day, another queue!

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It did fill up, honest!

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No, not a queue, just a party heading for the gardens

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One of many vistas in those gardens

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Columbus, Fernando and Isabel. Fernando wasn’t hearing the drums…

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More of the gardens.

After finding our way around Cordoba without an Apple Map on Saturday night, we had a fair idea of where we were going on Sunday morning.

The breakfast at Hotel Serrano was OK, but the coffee and non-serrano ham left a bit to be desired.

Something Caroline noticed though was a couple of blokes adding four sugar sachets to their glasses of orange juice. Yes, we like sweets and chocolate, but neither of us have taken sugar in tea or coffee for years (it’s over forty since I last put sugar in tea or coffee).

I can still remember my reaction when I’d been given the wrong cup of tea at work a few years ago (Hi Carole!) and a cup of sugared Nescafe in Cyprus ten years ago, so putting sugar in orange juice was definitely a no-no!

Anyway, the coffee in the hotel ensured that we had a cafe stop on our way to the  historic part of CordobaMezquita was open for services on a Sunday morning, so we decided to head there in the afternoon once we’d been to Cordoba’s Alcazar and had lunch.

Yes there was a queue to get into Alcazar de los Reynes Cristianos (to give it its full name) and guess who was in that queue? The couple who had been decidedly frosty in the restaurant we’d eaten in on Saturday night…

Although there were rooms to see in Fortress of Christian Monarchs, the main attractions on this bright and sunny day were the gardens.

Which were busy as families were out to celebrate Father’s Day.

Once away from the entrance to the garden complex, there were ample opportunities to just wander around and admire the gardens, fountains, flowers, shaped trees and what looked like giant stone chess pieces placed on top of plinths. They were in fact depicting the Spanish Royals meeting Christopher Columbus at the Fortress back in 1486.

Our wanderings were tempered by a few opportunities to sit down, top up the fluid levels from our water bottles and top up the sun protection from pocket packs of Nivea SPF 30 sun cream.

After a while though, our thoughts turned to Sunday lunch. No, not roast and veg style, just something more in keeping with the surroundings.

The Father’s Day crowds ensured that most places were full – even Burger King. A short beer stop quenched the thirst and we headed off and found a place that looked inviting and had plenty of covered seating.

We sat down at one table and were promptly moved to another. Choices were made from the menu, but a brusque waiter made it plain that we couldn’t have tapas, so I made do with a bowl of gazpacho soup and pondered the word on the wall outside the restaurant’s front entrance.

Tapas.

With food and drinks consumed, we asked for the bill. The requested bottle of water hadn’t turned up and wasn’t on the bill, but the unasked for (and not consumed) bread basket was.

Given the brusqueness of the waiter, I ended up querying the bill with just one word using the inflection of Manuel from Fawlty Towers

“Que?”

I reverted to English to explain that we hadn’t ordered or eaten any bread, so the waitress went inside and brought us a new bill that was bread-free and a few € less than the original.

As Mezquita didn’t open until 3pm on a Sunday, we still had plenty of time to wander around some more, so a beer break was called and followed by an ice cream break. With the electronic ticket machines labelled as being out of action, we had to join the queue to get tickets. Once bought, the law of sod was invoked once more as guess what happened?

Those out of action labels were taken off those ticket machines…

As we made our way to the entrance queue proper, we did notice an interesting example of Girl Power as a couple of armed police officers were stationed nearby.

And it wasn’t the bloke who was toting the machine gun…

More tomorrow!

Bye, bye Seville, hello Cordoba!

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After one last tapas meal at The Seven Bull’s Heads

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Queuing for the Alcazar? That was so yesterday!

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Time for breakfast…

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We’ll be back…

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Seville’s bullring – we gave it a miss

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Cordoba by night, and yes, that’s Mezquita in the floodlights

If it’s Saturday, it must be the day to move on.

We’d enjoyed our few days in Seville and another good night in a tapas bar, but it was time to find breakfast and then the bus station so we could make our way to Cordoba.

One of the topics discussed during our previous night’s meal was whether we’d go back to Seville on another trip. As ‘Yes’ was the answer to that one, I suspect that we’ll have another night or more in Bar Pelayo (the real name of The Seven Bull’s Heads), more time wandering around the Alcazar and more of those posh ice creams we had on our first full day in Seville.

And more breakfasts in Taberna El Papelon.

We will however look for another place to stay as we weren’t overly keen on the pension that I’d booked us into. Where will we go? I suspect that there may be some consulting of guidebooks and asking questions on travel forums as well as a closer perusal of the comments made on various accommodation finding sites.

The walk to the bus station gave us a chance to stretch our legs before hitting the bus station and getting the bus to Cordoba. This was the most expensive bus ride on the road trip, but as it was a Saturday and we’d got bargain tickets for other journeys we had, we weren’t complaining.

Until we got to Cordoba. Exiting the bus station and finding our way out onto the main road via the railway station was the easy part.

Following the printouts from Apple Maps wasn’t…

We’d got into the right street, but could we heck as like find the street that Hotel Serrano was on. We walked, we looked and we walked some more, but it wasn’t until around 30 minutes later did we realise that we’d missed it, so we backtracked, found it and headed in.

After getting up to our room, there a plan was hatched. Shower and change, do the clothes washing that we needed to do and then head out to stretch our legs once more and find a drink or two.

That set us up quite nicely for the evening. Once the siesta was out of the way, it was time to head out and see what was out there.

Darkness had fallen, and as we headed out, we decided that we were just going to go with the flow, so we did as a steady stream of people headed down towards the river.

Whilst we spotted a few likely places to eat, we headed down to and over Puente Romano. Whilst there was no luck finding an eating place on the other side of the river, we headed back into the centre, took a few photos and then spotted a sign regarding night tours of Mezquita.

We hadn’t heard about these, but a door opened to let some people in so we asked the lady at the door about the night tours, but this one was full.

We did find a restaurant eventually (at one point there was a running joke about having a romantic Saturday night meal in the branch of Burger King that we passed a couple of times), but we hit gold.

No notes were made and I’ve misplaced the receipt that bears the name of the restaurant we ate in, but it was cool (in more ways than one!), the food was good and so was the ambience – apart from the rather frosty faced couple we’d been seated next to…

Once fed and watered, it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep in readiness for what was going to be a fairly busy Sunday wandering around Cordoba, another Alcazar and the Mezquita.

On the Spanish version of Father’s Day

More tomorrow!

Lisbon food…

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Yes, we like Lisbon – and Terra!

The food piece is already online, but there will be more on Lisbon in this Saturday’s edition of The Guardian here in the UK…

Why am I mentioning it?

My review of Terra, a fine vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the Principe Real area of Lisbon is included in that food piece…

There were forty-odd entries for this, so all due regards to other entrants and to the judges at The Guardian and Lonely Planet…

Thanks!

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/jul/06/great-restaurants-lisbon-portugal-readers-travel-tips-seafood-tapas

TTFN!

Seville II

We may have stumbled across the Metropol Parasol (middle picture on the top row), but after half an hour of wandering around under the structure and exploring the market hall, we had yet to find the entrance hall and the lift to get up onto the walkway up top.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’d walked past it as the entrance hall is underground and we’d missed the signpost at street level that would have put us in the right direction.

At €3 each, the admission charge wasn’t going to break the bank, but there were a couple of add-ons that made it even more worthwhile.

Apart from giving us access to the walkway, we also had a free beer each from the tapas bar at the top and a free postcard to collect from the shop in the Parasol’s basement area.

We spent a fair amount of time on the walkway. Some of that was just taking in the views and taking the occasional photos whilst the rest was having to wait for a bunch of hipster beardies to take what appeared to be their obligatory selfies on their mobile phones.

Not only were they taking a lot of selfies, but this flock (or should it be herd?) of beardies were also rather oblivious to the fact that there were quite a few people trying to either look at the view from the viewing section or trying to take their own photographs of the view rather than shooting themselves…

After free beer, postcards and plenty of time spent soaking up the sun and the views on the Parasol’s top deck, we headed back down and found a cafe for a light lunch and more wandering around.

More of the Metropol Parasol plus a whole lot of bull going on…

We weren’t using street maps to get around Seville as we found it easier to just roll the dice and see where we ended up. This first day in Seville was like all of the others spent in Spain – free and easy without any real need to hare around all of the sights listed in the various guidebooks we’d read before we got on the plane to Malaga.

IF we wanted to wander around, we wandered around, if we wanted a coffee or a beer then we stopped for refreshments and if we wanted to stop for rather good ice cream, sorry, gelato, we did – at a shop cum cafe on Avenida De La Constitution.

€9.20 for two ice cream cones? You’d better believe it, but they were probably the best ice creams that we’ve had and they also came with a pretty high standard of presentation too…

So what next? A mooch back to the digs, where we opened our room and initially thought the worst as none of our bags, clothes or other kit was anywhere to be seen.

When we found out what had happened, our shock turned to something else. Our kit had been moved back to the room we’d been in originally and whilst it was all in order and nothing was missing, we’d have appreciated it more had the owner waited until we got back and allowed us to move our kit ourselves.

Once we’d raged silently against the machine, it was siesta time, reading time and then wash and change time before heading out in search of our evening meal. Although we’d looked at a few places during the day, we wandered around for a while as most places were relatively empty, even though by now it was around 8.30pm.

One place had caught our eye, but we’d wandered on and then retraced our steps until we got back to Bar Pelayo – we took to calling it The Seven Bulls Heads – yes, seven bulls heads on the walls and plenty of memorabilia relating to bull fighting and bull fighters.

Bull fighting may not be to everyone’s tastes (it’s not ours), but it is a way of life in Spain and has been for a heck of a long time. I remember my aunt visiting Spain in the 1960s and talking about El Cordobes and bull fighting whilst a regular film at my local cinema’s Saturday morning film club was Tommy The Toreador starring pop star Tommy Steele.

Beer and wine were the drinks of choice for the night and whilst a couple of tapas dishes were the same as the night before, there were two that I indulged in that really hit the spot.

The first was gazpacho and the second was baked goats cheese. With ratatouille, spinach, tortilla and chorizo also on the menu, we didn’t need a sweet course, but did indulge in another beer and wine each before wending our way back to the digs that we don’t mention the name of for some light reading and a couple of soft drinks before we turned in for the night.

More on Seville next Wednesday…

Hola Seville!

Some of the many faces of Seville – which is why we’re going back!

Our wish list for Seville was a short one – see the Metropol Parasol, visit the Real Alcazar, have tapas for the first time, take in at least one flamenco performance and (in Caroline’s case) pay a visit to the Cathedral.

Our bus from Malaga reached Seville in late afternoon and it should have theoretically a half hour walk to our digs for the next four nights.

We checked in sixty minutes later and were shown to our first floor room. Simple? Yes. Basic? Yes? Budget friendly? Yes.

Following a brief siesta,we  scrubbed up and then hit Seville. The district we were staying in – Barrio Santa Cruz – had a few roads through it, but the more interesting parts were linked by narrow footpaths flanked by shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.

So we wandered and did more of the same as a means of getting our bearings and trying to find a place to eat later on. After investigating a few places, we settled on a tapas bar just a few hundred metres from our digs.

Ordering beer and wine was easy, but choosing which tapas was a different matter. Sea food was out as neither of us partake, but it wasn’t that hard to find seven tapas choices.

Ratatouile was one, spinach topped with an egg and small ham chunks was another, but as the dishes kept on coming, we weren’t all that worried as we’d only had a snack lunch on the bus from Malaga. Seven empty bowls later, we were done. Or were we?

Although I’d had a couple of beers and Caroline had had a large glass of wine, I decided that we should have a glass of manzanilla to round off the evening instead of coffee.

We were fed and watered later than we would normally be at home, but we were still a couple of lightweights compared to locals who were just heading out as we headed back.

After a side visit to a small shop for some bottles of water and chocolate we started to unlock the room door, but were stopped by the pension owner.

He explained in broken English that the room above us was getting some emergency work done on it and that this was starting early on the next morning. We could have the downstairs en-suite instead, so we collected our barely unpacked bags and accoutrements and headed downstairs.

A bit of clothes washing was done before we turned in for the night, but fortunately most of the stuff had dried when we noticed the ‘No clothes washing‘ sign on the back of the room door. Oops…

With just washing and dressing to do the next morning, we got an early start.

Which is just as well as we needed to find somewhere to have breakfast and the first coffees of the day. Help was at hand though as a guy doing some touting for a walking tour tried to do his thing and tempt us onto the tour.

When we explained that we were looking for breakfasts, he pointed us in the direction of the place he had his breakfast every day – Taberna El Papelon (see the pic above). “Look for the red canopy” were his parting words as we headed off after thanking him.

We were the only Brits in the place, but we got our fresh orange juice, coffee and toasted croissants and jam without any difficulties and ended up with a sub-€8 bill for everything. And it was a pretty good way to start the day.

Although we weren’t heading anywhere in particular, we found ourselves outside a civic building that was the scene of a worker’s protest. We never found out what the gripe was, but we did get approached by a couple of Americans who were eager to talk to us and find out some opinions from us.

Yes, you’ve guessed it – Southern Baptists on a mission from God…

After answering their questions and Caroline commenting on the deck of cards they were using to help them in their quest, they realised that we’d got thoughts on religion that didn’t tally with theirs (both of us have been there, seen it, done it and walked away from different religious backgrounds) and we agreed to disagree.

With that settled in a very friendly way, we continued on our meanderings and then realised that we were almost upon the Metropol Parasol. After crossing the road to it and exploring the structure from the ground and the market at that level, only one question remained – how the hell did we get up to the walkways on the top?

More on Monday!

To Malaga – and beyond!

Malaga – not what you might expect!

“Why are you spending so much time in Malaga?’ was the comment Caroline’s eldest made when he found out that we were spending three nights in the city – two at the beginning and one at the end of our recent trip to Andalucia

The answer was simple – we’d spotted comments years ago that Malaga was an interesting place to visit and to wander around.

There are arty connections, museums to visits and sights to see – providing that a) you’re not planning on going on a Monday and b) it’s not raining….

Although we’d left the house and started our journey around 9am, we didn’t actually check into the Ibis in Malaga until after 10pm Spanish time.

Our plane was leaving Manchester Airport in the afternoon, but by the time we’d factored in getting a bus to the railway station, getting to Manchester Piccadilly and then transferring to the replacement bus service to Manchester Airport, we thought we’d better leave early, just in case.

The RyanAir flight went smoothly on the way out as we’d reserved seats on the plane and had opted for Priority Boarding so we knew where we were heading towards once we’d boarded the 737 and that we could have our packs in the locker and be sat down and resting way before the rest of the passengers got onboard.

At the Malaga end though, we had to wait until we could actually get off the plane, hit passport control and then find the railway station to get a train into Malaga – to the end of the line as that was apparently about ten minutes walk from the Ibis.

Getting the tickets was easy. Getting the train was easy. Using the printouts from Apple Maps wasn’t, but fortunately Caroline spotted the Ibis lights and that put us in the right direction – almost.

Pavement works meant that there was a detour to take rather than using the direct option, but we got there in the end, checked in, dropped the bags in our room and headed down to the bar for drinks and a snack or two.

Getting the breakfast option in the hotel did save some time (but not money!) the following morning before we headed out to explore Malaga on foot.

I’d booked the Sunday flights before I’d looked closely at the opening times for the places we wanted to explore  – big mistake as most of our potential destinations were closed on a Monday according to both of the guidebooks we’d used to plan the trip.

So we wandered around, aimlessly at first and then with a little more purpose as we found Teatro Roma, spotted the Alcazaba, famed tapas bar El Pimpi and stumbled across the Museo Picasso as we strolled up a side street.

What was unexpected was the fact the the guidebooks were wrong and the Museo Picasso was open. The other surprise was that the admission charge was less than that quoted in the guides as the number of works on display had been reduced.

With Caroline taking two spins around the museum, I headed to the cafe after one to sort out where to go next and to partake in a coffee and the second beer of the day.

One thing we didn’t use on our strolls around Malaga was our map. Yes, we were misplaced a few times, but it all added to the fun as we explored!

We’d found a cafe for lunch, a couple of places for coffee or orange juice and had bought one or two things too – Caroline had bought a leather belt and had had extra holes punched into it whilst I’d bought some Axe deodorant (aka Lynx in the U.K.) plus some bottled water (we’d heard about the quality of the tap water in Malaga – allegedly!) and some wipes for those times when finger food beckoned and there wasn’t a wash basin in sight.

The other place we’d stumbled across was the Mercado Central – a market the likes of which I haven’t seen for years.

Bread, cheese, cooked meat, fish, fruit, olives, raw meat, seafood and food of all kinds to go (along with drinks too) made for a wish that we’d booked into a hostel rather than a hotel.

Our evening meal also led to furthering that thought. After mooching around looking at menus, we settled on a small place where we were the only Brits among the customers.

The menu was in English though and whilst I picked a favourite meat dish, Caroline went for the tuna option. The pork & veg and accompanying beer went down well , but Caroline and I hadn’t realised that the tuna was going to be served raw.

It was well presented though and it went down the same way as the wine, even though Caroline would rather have had it cooked than raw – her youngest son is the sushi fan, not her! Or me…

The walk back to the hotel was interesting, because we ended up walking for more than we we needed to in order to get back to the Ibis.

A stop was made to stock up on bottled water and to get a bar of chocolate, before we spotted the Ibis once more and headed back, but not before taking a look in the window of the local KTM dealer.

I’m not a biker, but Caroline’s youngest is and whilst he’s expressed a few interests in KTM motorbikes in recent months, he’s still got his 650cc Suzuki.

As I’ve mentioned before, the following morning was a washout for wandering around as the heavens opened and we ended up killing time in the hotel lobby before getting a taxi to the bus station in readiness for our bus to Seville and tapas, breakfasts in a local cafe plus flamenco, time on the Parasol, chats with religious types from the state of Georgia and possibly the best ice cream, sorry – Gelato – we’ve ever had.