Category Archives: Dining

Rockslides, Ramblas, and Real Spanish Food

Rockslides, Ramblas, and Real Spanish Food

We stopped in at the casa and were happy to find everything in order there. Grocery list in hand, we drove over to Zurgena to get a few things from the grocery store. We have a grocery store within walking distance from our house, but the one in Zugena sells a few items that we like. Brand familiarity is key, and once we have found some things we like, we are happy to keep buying them.

While back in the States, we have been keeping updated on the local goings-on by checking in on the Arboleas Forum, and had heard about a rockslide in Zugena. When we read about it, we knew exactly where it had happened because it was just across the way from the Cayuela where we like to shop for groceries. Word was that the damage had been cleaned up, but that the homes that are built up against the mountain were not habitable at the moment, because it was still dangerous. Driving over to Zurgena would give us the chance to see how bad the rockslide was, and find out if things were back in order.

Zurgena rockslide

The rockslide in Zurgena

It looked as if some of the damage had been cleaned up, but from what we had read on the forum another slide had taken place. Zurgena is a cute little village. It seems typically Spanish and at the plaza where we parked there were a lot of children out and about — playing and enjoying the nice weather.

Zurgena

Children playing in the Zurgena Plaza

Speaking of children, this made me laugh… I thought it warranted a photo.

Baby on Board!

Bebe a Bordo!

We love being back in España! Where else can we walk into town and see a farmer walking through the rambla followed by his herd of sheep and goats? No sheep dog necessary! They just follow him along…

Sheep and goats in the ramba

Baaaa!

After a power nap, we went to the restaurant El Castillo in El Rincon. I was craving some fresh vegetables, so I ordered ensalada mixta (media.) This turned out to be a fantastic (and huge!) salad that Curt and I shared. We followed this with calamares fritos and lomo. To finish off the meal, the waiter brought a nice digestif.

El Castillo pan y alioli

Pan y alioli

El Castillo ensalada mixta

Ensalada mixta

El Castillo dinner

Calamares fritos y lomo

Digestif El Castillo

Digestivo

 

 

 

Un día normal

Un día normal

We were really getting into the swing of this relaxed Spanish lifestyle. On this morning, Curt got up and met his cycling buddies. I was always interested to hear about which new place they would show him, because that usually meant we would be investigating it later. While he was gone I worked on my blog, but I was still so far behind at posting because we have no internet connection. (Bob was so kind to give me his password, but in all of my craziness, I somehow lost the piece of paper, and am too embarrassed to ask for it again.)

When Curt came back, he said that they had cycled by what seemed to be an interesting restaurant. The funny thing was that as he described it, I knew exactly what he was talking about. While back in the States and researching for places in Arboleas with free wifi, I made a list of several restaurants and bars in the area that had been recommended. Just because I’m so thorough (!), I also would scope out exactly how to find the place, even to the point of checking it out on GoogleMaps street view. As soon as he started to describe this restaurant which sat high on a hill overlooking the valley, and talked about its cement balustrade along a large patio, I said, “Oh I know that place! El Castillo! In Rincon!” Sure enough it was the same place. We decided to take a drive out there for a clara and some free wifi.

El Castillo Arboleas

Every restaurant has
a cute little napkin just like this

El Castillo bar

El Castillo has a nice little bar area where
just hanging out and using the wifi is normal

El Castillo views

What a beautiful view from the patio
of El Castillo Restaurante!

Does it get any better than this? A gorgeous sunny day with blue skies, a short drive to a great place to eat and relax… the aggravating events of yesterday were on the back burner… this is what it’s all about!

We stayed there for a while, made a quick stop at the store for a few groceries, then made our way back home. When we arrived, we found Pepa outside with her husband Antonio. We had not met Antonio yet, but after some quick introductions and a bit of conversing in “caveman Spanish” we were invited into their home next door. I was really sweating it out trying to keep up with Pepa’s rapid speech, and andaluz accent, but Curt thought I did really well keeping up. They showed us around and talked about how they are renovating this home, but live in another home in town. Pepa was so cute and would get excited and talk faster and faster. Antonio would laugh and pull me aside and say it all again much slower so we could understand. They are seriously the cutest little couple. (And when I say little, I do also mean that they are short in stature — I felt like a bit of an Amazon, although I am but 5’6″.)

We chatted for a little bit and then went to our house next door. The rest of the day was spent puttering around until we went back over to that other bar in town, El Campillo. This is a definite hangout for some of the locals — mostly British, but also some Spanish. They play cards, watch TV, and can basically hang around as long as they like. We decided to do the same, and then ordered some tapas.

Tapas Bar Campillo

Tapas from El Campillo

I almost forgot about taking a picture, but managed to remember before we ate all of the tapas. We chose the Spanish tortilla, patatas bravas, albóndigas (meatballs) with tomato and peas, and mushrooms with shrimp — all served with bread, of course. We stayed until well after dark, then made our way across the bridge back to the casa for a good night’s sleep.

Just un día normal in our Spanish village…

On the road again….

On the road again….

This time when we got on the road, we had an easier time navigating out of Granada… after all we had driven around and around so many times the night before, that we almost knew it “like the back of our hand,” as they say. A quick map recon, and we were on the open road. This would be an easy ride, and we were excited to get to The Casa and see if everything was okay there. The house had been closed up since the end of January, and we had no idea if we would find any surprises when we opened the front door – we hoped not!!

On the road to Arboleas

On the road to Arboleas

Driving to Arboleas

Timing is everything when you are traveling, and we had to plan ahead: We wanted to get some groceries to have on hand for tomorrow’s breakfast, but we knew that stores would be closed by the time we got to Arboleas. So we stopped in Baza, which is about an hour from the house and right on our way. It was perfect. We stopped at the Lidl
and picked up things like coffee, bread, butter, peach jam, milk and cereal. We also needed some creamer for the coffee, but I have to say that was quite the challenge. There is no “creamer section” in the grocery stores in Spain. Most people use regular milk, I believe, but we are partial to the creamy goodness (read into that: fatness) of half and half. This put us in a real quandary. They had some cream for whipping and then some for cooking. We chose the one for whipping and hoped for the best! Then we were back on the road.

The next thing to think about was the fact that we were getting pretty hungry. We assessed the grocery situation and decide to eat before going to the house. You may be thinking we were crazy driving an hour and then going to eat before putting our groceries in the refrigerator, but the thing is that milk products are pasteurized differently in Europe. They undergo ultra-high temperature pasteurization in which the milk is heated to around 280 degrees but for a really short time. This process allows the milk to be shelf stable and can be stored unrefrigerated for a long period of time. Once it’s opened, you do want to refrigerate it, but it stays fresh longer. I was reading that some people say the milk doesn’t taste as good, but we found it to be real tasty. You can buy whole, low fat, or fat free. It seems that the low fat milk is 5% so it is creamier than low fat milk here in the states. I was already familiar with the whole unrefrigerated milk product situation, so it wasn’t weird to me, but I guess some people think it’s really strange… whatever… I think people who are super finicky are really strange, so touché! The ironic thing is that people here in the states especially those buying organic milk, have already been drinking UHT milk, but it’s sold in the refrigerated section so as not to creep out the Americans. (That’s my fun fact of the day!)

So because of the unrefrigerated milk products, the only thing we had to worry about was the butter. No one wants to return to a big melted mess, but we had purchased real butter (not margarine, people!) and it is sold in a single rectangular block, not four sticks, so knowing what we know about science and larger solids holding temperatures for a longer time, we were able to have dinner and not worry about the butter melting.

We drove over to Albox and visited the restaurant Triana for the usual 5,50 euro chicken meal. We  have done this now each time we arrive in town, and it’s a good safe bet as far as a filling meal for a decent price. We were eager to get to the house, but things do move slowly in Spain, and we likened our waitress to a turtle, moving slowly… very slowly. You have to understand that in Spain, people don’t rush into a restaurant, shove the food down their gullets, and leave — it’s a slow process — you sit, you chat, you eat, you chat, you have a coffee, you chat…. keep in mind that the wait staff do not expect tips, so honestly it does not matter how long you stay. No one is rushing you out the door so they can turn the table over for the next customer. It’s very nice actually, to feel no pressure to finish your meal. Not like here in the States where a waitress once asked me, as I had my fork midway to my mouth on maybe the third bite of my main entrée, if I had “saved room for dessert.” I told her I’d have to let her know after I actually had a chance to eat my main course… sheesh. As I said, no worries about that in Spain, but on this occasion we were chomping at the bit to get to the house!

Good meal finished, we said “adios” to the waitress, and drove home. You have no idea how glorious it was to NOT be lost! We found the house in perfect shape. No big surprises! We just had to plug in the refrigerator and we were ready to hit the hay!

 

Dining in Granada

Dining in Granada

Before leaving Granada, we stopped in at the Hotel Guadalupe, which is literally across the street from the Alhambra parking. The hotel looked very nice and had been renovated during the winter of 2010-11. This would be a place to stay when we visit Granada again for a second look at the Alhambra. We sat in the bar and had a clara and some tapas. Unfortunately this was not true tapas eating time, so what we were served were just snacky things like chips, olives, bread, etc, but we enjoyed being in the air conditioning and taking a rest after the long day at the Alhambra.

Hotel Guadalupe

Hotel Guadalupe

 

Hotel Guadalupe bar

A typical sight:
jamón hanging in the bar.

 

Hotel Guadalupe, Granada

Snack time!

 

Hotel Guadalupe tapas

Chorizo, olives, and breadsticks

After our snack, we went back to the Hotel America to pick up our luggage. While we were loading our car, we saw more spanish gatos. This time a puny mama cat with her baby (who was almost as big as she was) and the papa gato who was sitting on the windowsill of the hotel.

Mama and baby cat, Granada

Mama and baby

 

Cat at Hotel America, Granada

Papa keeping watch

 

Papa cat at Hotel America

“¿Estás hablando a mí?”

While having the photo shoot with the cats, we started chatting with some fellow travelers who were from Canada, but after a minute or two the Alhambra security guard came up and told us to hit the trail. There is no parking in that area in front of the Hotel America, and he was peeved that we didn’t throw our luggage into the trunk and leave right away. Ah well, “Adios, Alhambra! …luego, Granada!”

Hotel America, Granada

Hotel America, Granada

The Hotel America was really a beautiful place. The hotel had an interior courtyard where they had  tables set up in a gorgeous patio garden atmosphere complete with a fountain, lots of plants, and cute tiled tables. It was the perfect example of a melding of outdoor and indoor living space.

Hotel America courtyard

The courtyard at Hotel America

Hotel America patio

Where we had our breakfast

Breakfast at Hotel America

Our breakfast at Hotel America

The Hotel America breakfast was a typical Spanish breakfast, and what might be considered “too light” for most American tastes, but eating the way they do in Spain is really nice, to be honest, and we get used to it more and more each day. This was actually a pretty big breakfast; coffee, orange juice, croissant, yogurt and kiwi. They also served two breads, but we were too full to eat them.

This was a beautiful hotel. I would definitely recommend staying there. The people were super friendly and the accommodations were so quaint.

We left our luggage in an unused front room of the hotel, took a few pictures, and left for the Alhambra.

Hotel America

We kept our luggage in this front room

Hotel America living room

Living room of Hotel America

Entry of Hotel America

The entryway into the hotel

Hotel America

Hotel America

 

Dining in Gibraltar

Dining in Gibraltar

Before leaving Gibraltar we wanted to get something to eat. We had about a three hour drive to Granada, so we went back to Casemate Square and stopped into a pub called Lord Nelsons. It was decorated with a ship theme (the bar looked like a ship’s hull and there were masts and sails decorating the ceiling.)

We had shandys and, of course, fish and chips.

Lord Nelson, Gibraltar

Lord Nelson Casemates

Lord Nelson Casemates decor

Lord Nelson fish and chips

Yummy! Fish and chips

Dinner at Hostal Meson

Dinner at Hostal Meson

After getting our things all sorted out at La Casa, we were hungry for dinner, so we took the 5 minute stroll over to the Hostal Meson. We were the only people in the restaurant. There were some people in the bar area, but the lady actually had to turn on the lights to the restaurant for us. We chose the menu del dia, so we had to choose what we wanted for each course. Before we got our first course, the waitress brought us pan con tomate y aioli. This was so simple, but D-lish! The slices of bread were nice and crisp and were served with two small dishes of pureed tomato and garlic mayonnaise. It was a nice starter. I want to find a recipe for the aioli so I can make this at home.

Hostal Meson appetizer

Simple but soo tasty!

Next we had our first course. We had several different things to choose from. I chose a chicken soup and Curt chose entremeses variados which the waitress explained was some sort of assortment of cold meats and cheeses.

Soup and entremeses

Soup and entremeses variados

The next course that came out was our main dish. Curt chose a pork chop and I thought it would be good to try out some fish. There were a couple of types of fish to choose from and I honestly didn’t know what type they were, so the waitress did her best to describe them. I had to choose from merluza or cazon. Really I had no idea which to choose, but in the end I picked the merluza (I found out later that merluza is hake and cazon is dogfish, or a type of shark.) I apologize for not having a picture of the meal, but it was not so fab. The fish was full of bones and it had some fatty skin… bleh. And I’m not a picky finicky eater! I really wished I had chosen something else. Curt’s pork was fine, but like I said I was so traumatized by the plate of bony fish that I didn’t even think to take out my camera.

Oh well… we headed back to the house because we were pretty worn out. Keep in mind that this was January and the stone house had been empty for a bit. It was COLD in there! The owner had left a gas heater, but we weren’t going to turn that on and go to sleep, so we chose to plug in these ceramic heaters that we found in the upstairs lounge. Each of the rooms can be closed with curtains (the owner only put interior doors on the bathrooms) so we brought the ceramic heaters into the upstairs bedroom, plugged them in, and closed the bedroom curtain. I have to say I was glad that at the last minute I decided to bring the big, fluffy comforter because it was, as I said COLD. The ceramic heaters are like big tiles that get warm and then radiate heat, so it took a while, but thankfully the room got warmer and we were ready for a good night’s sleep.

Ceramic heaters

Brrrrr!

We were meeting Lucas and driving to the foreigner’s office in Almeria the next day, so we had to get up right and early. We needed to get my NIE sorted out!

Traditional ceiling

Ready for sleep!

In Arboleas

In Arboleas

We checked in to the Hostal Meson, and wanted to walk over to the house since it was literally a five minute walk from our hotel. It was getting dark, but we were eager to snoop around. We got to the house (Thank you GoogleMaps for allowing me to memorize the walk to the house!) and we were surprised to see lights on, and the shutters open.

Before continuing your read, I’d like to invite you to click this link to open up a new window and enjoy some background music… it will add to the experience.

As we walked up to the house (and I hope you are listening to the music!!) We heard drumming. Yes, drumming. You have got to be kidding. We buy a house in Spain, in a small village in SPAIN for goodness sake, and someone is practicing the DRUMS at night?? It was coming from the house directly in front of us. I was ready to scream. How could this BE?? Would we be tormented by the drumming every day? Every night?? We tried to block it out of our minds, but much like this Iron Butterfly Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo that you should be listening to, it just seemed to go on forever.

We had been curious as to what the owner was leaving with the house, because although we had an inventory list of all the furniture, we really had no idea if he was leaving small kitchen items and what not. We peeked in the downstairs bathroom window and could see that he had left all necessities (even toilet paper, hand soap, and a clean hand towel hanging on the rod!) This was exciting to see because we knew then that we might not have to buy everything under the sun for our stay. No one was in the house, so we were curious as to why the lights were on and the shutters open, but we were happy that we got to peek into the downstairs bedroom and bathroom! It was really getting dark, the drumming was continuing, and our stomachs were starting to growl, so we decided to take a drive over to Albox, which is just a few minutes away and get a bite to eat.

Triana is a little restaurant that was recommended to us when we stayed at Casa Olivos in September. It is open late and you can get a chicken dinner for right around 6 Euros! That’s a super deal.

Meal at Triana in Albox

Yum!

The first time we were there, Curt tipped the waitress, and I think she was super excited about that because she brought us an after dinner drink afterward. In Spain, it really is not customary or expected to tip. If you do leave a tip, it is typically your change to even out your tab, but it isn’t like here in the States. The server is not miffed to not receive a tip, but of course tickled pink (as our waitress was, because we were clueless.)

One thing we were tickled pink about was that it seemed as if the smoking ban in restaurants was now being enforced. There was a sign stating that there was no smoking allowed in the restaurant. Like I mentioned before, there are A LOT of smokers in Europe, and we are quite spoiled here in the US to be able to eat in a smoke free environment all the time.

We finished our meal and made our way back to the Hostal Meson. Lucas, our Spanish lawyer, had managed to get the notary to agree to do the closing with Curt’s NIE and not mine, as long as we would go to the foreigner’s office in Almeria and get my NIE and file it with the notary within 30 days. This was a huge relief because we would not be rushing tomorrow and stressing about getting the needed documents in time for the completion. Andrea was meeting us at the Hostal Meson at 10 a.m. and would be driving us to the bank in Vera to sort out our funds. We needed a good night’s rest because tomorrow was going to be a big day!!

An evening out in Madrid

An evening out in Madrid

Madrid is such a beautiful city, and we had only explored a tiny portion of it, so we decided to take a walk east of the Hotel Victoria and see what we could see. We walked to the Museo del Prado, one of the most famous museums in all of Europe. It houses the largest collection of Spanish art, including some of the best works by El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya.

Museo del Prado

Museo del Prado

When we got to the Prado, there was a HUGE line that literally wrapped around the building! We thought that this was a line to see one of the temporary exhibits or something, but it was just a huge line of people waiting to get into the museum for FREE. (Yay for free stuff!) It turns out that the Prado museum is free to enter from 6 pm to 8 pm Monday through Saturday and from 5 pm to 8 pm on Sundays. We had no idea, but it saved us from spending the 10 euros per ticket!

After we browsed around all of the paintings and sculptures in the Prado, we walked over to the Cheuca neighborhood to check out El Tigre, which is a bar well known for generous servings of tapas provided with each round of drinks. El Tigre is located at Calle de las Infantas, 30. This is a fairly small street, and at first we weren’t sure if this was a “nice” neighborhood or not, but it actually seemed to be fine in the end. On our way over we did pass by a small plaza that looked like it was the hangout for neighborhood teenagers… and I mean ALL the neighborhood teenagers! There were a lot of people hanging out there!

El Tigre, Madrid

El Tigre for tapas!

When we walked in, the place was fairly crowded. It is a narrow space, with a small entry area and then a long bar directly on the right. We wanted to scope it out and then decide where to plant ourselves, so we squeezed through the crowd past the bar. Beyond that there was a sort of “hallway” with long, narrow, wooden bar tops attached to either side of this narrow room. No chairs here. Just sidle up to the tabletop and someone will come take your order. It used to be customary to get free tapas with any drink all over Spain, but this is more of a rarity now, so we were really interested to check out El Tigre and see what this was all about. We ordered a beer and a sangria (6 euros each for larges) and this is what we got:

Tapas

Yum! Tapas!

It got more and more crowded as time passed. People were really friendly and seemed to enjoy chit-chatting, especially when they found out we were Americans and from Texas. (yeehaww!) A lot of university students hang out a El Tigre because, as some of them told us, they are almost always broke and with free tapas you can get a decent meal. Some nice girls took a picture of us.

Us at El Tigre

On the way out we were baffled because someone had just come in with a BABY. Curt had to help hold the door open for them to get their stroller back down the steps and out the door. That was pretty weird because it wasn’t like they just popped round the corner and *poof* found themselves in the middle of a bar. They had to get that stroller in the door and up a few steps to end up in the entry area. Ah well… who knows what those people were thinking? At least I’m guessing they didn’t stay long…

All we knew was that we we had a great time at El Tigre. The people were friendly and the food was decent. It was a fun place to hang out, and we would definitely go back again!

Madrid at night was really pretty! The walk back to the Hotel Victoria was nice.

Madrid at night

Madrid at night

Madrid

Gran Via

Madrid after dark

Metropolis Building

Eating in Madrid

Eating in Madrid

Going straight to the Plaza Mayor after checking in to our hotel when we arrive in Madrid seems to have become a bit of a tradition (okay, okay, so we were only on our second trip, but maybe I should say we were starting a tradition), so we walked on over and had a seat at one of the tables outside the same restaurant where we ate at last time.

Cerveceria Plaza Mayor

We ordered two bocadillos jamon y queso and two coffees. This is a really “simple” meal, but so awesome! The ham is paper thin and slightly fatty. It’s hard to describe just how good the ham is, but trust me — it’s amazing! The bread is perfectly crispy on the outside and just soft enough in the middle and the Manchego cheese has this distinct “sheepy” flavor. It’s a mix of being creamy yet sharp at the same time. It makes me hungry just remembering about it!!

Bocadillo Plaza Mayor

Enjoying a bocadillo at the Plaza Mayor

Yum! Bocadillos and coffee!

You’ll notice that the Plaza Mayor was not anywhere near as crowded as it was when we were here in September. That is because it was a whole lot colder. As the sun was going down it was getting downright chilly!

We walked around a bit more and saw this interesting fella. This was at a tapas bar window, but we weren’t brave enough to try out this dish!

Madrid Octopus

Maybe next time…

Paella

Paella

During this time of waiting and waiting, we decided to try our hand at some paella making.

Homemade Paella

Our first try at paella!

We went to Half Price Books and picked up a copy of Perfect Spanish, a great cookbook. I love cookbooks that have pictures of each recipe because you can look through it and salivate over the possible meal-to-be. This particular paella recipe was one of several that we could have chosen from, and was called Outdoor Paella. We did not, however, make it outdoors, nor did we have an actual paella pan, but we made it in a large, shallow, circular roasting pan. It turned out quite tasty!

Outdoor Paella

serves 4 to 6

5 1/4 cups fish stock or water

12 large raw shrimp in their shells

1/2 tsp saffron threads

2 Tbsp hot water

3 1/2 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2″ pieces

3 1/2 oz pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2″ pieces

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 1/2 oz Spanish chorizo, casings removed, cut into 1/2″ slices

1 large red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1 red bell pepper AND 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

generous 1 1/2 cups medium grain paella rice

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

salt and pepper

1 lemon AND 1 lime cut into wedges, to serve

1. Put the stock in a pan and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside. Let the stock simmer. Put the saffron threads and water in a bowl and let infuse.

2. Season the chicken breast and pork to taste. Heat the oil in a paella pan and cook the chicken, pork, and chorizo over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until golden. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, and saffron and its soaking liquid, and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers and tomato halves and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.

3. Add the rice and herbs and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute to coat. Pour in about  5 cups of the stock and bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Do not stir during cooking, but shake the pan once or twice and when adding ingredients. Season to taste and cook 10 minutes more, or until rice grains are plump and almost cooked. Add a little more stock if necessary. dd the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes more.

4. When all the liquid has been absorbed and you detect a faint toasty aroma coming from the rice, remove from the heat immediately. Cover with a foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon and lime wedges.

*We had a tough time getting the rice on the edges of the pan to cook. It was as if our pan was too large for the burner. Maybe getting an actual paella pan would make a difference, but we were cooking on the largest burner of the stove, and it seems like a paella pan would also be too large for the burner. Short of getting an actual outdoor paella burner (I’ve seen a cool one at La Tienda online) we will have to do some more experimenting.

 

 

Mojacar

Mojacar

Mojacar Playa is a popular tourist vacation spot. It was definitely more crowded than Garrucha or Vera. We zipped through the beach-side part of Mojaca to get to Mojaca Pueblo which is a whitewashed hilltop town. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was taken in the car through the windshield as we drove through the winding road on the way to Mojacar Pueblo.

Mojaca Pueblo

The buildings seemed to just hug the mountainside and the views from the top of the town were truly incredible!

 

View from Mojaca Pueblo

This was a cool little house built right along the road. “Casa Media Luna” (The half moon house)

Casa Media Luna

We were hungry and decided to get something to eat while in Mojacar. One thing that we were having to adjust to was the eating times in Spain. In the States anyone can eat anything at pretty much any time. Not so in Spain! It was late afternoon and I really wanted to try an authentic Andalucian gazpacho. We went into this restaurant which was at one of the highest points in the town and sat out on the terrace to soak up the views.

Unfortunately the waiter told us that gazpacho was only served in the summertime (and therefore out of season) and the kitchen was serving only either tapas or pizza. We chose the pizza and coffee. The views from the terrace of this restaurant were beautiful, but we were surrounded by a lot of smokers. We are definitely spoiled coming from the US that has banned smoking in dining establishments. We had heard that there was a similar ban in Spain, but it was not being strictly enforced.

View from Mojacar Pueblo

 

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor, MadridDuring the Middle Ages, the Plaza Mayor was a market place outside the city walls; eventually it was made into a real square. There is a lot of history that goes along with this plaza. Its surrounding buildings used to be wooden and actually burned down and were rebuilt multiple times. The Plaza has been used for all sorts of festivities: from bullfights to soccer games to the crowning of kings! It was also the location of more gruesome activities such as executions during the Spanish Inquisition.

The Plaza Mayor is surrounded by beautiful red buildings. Apparently, after Franco was no longer in power, a vote was put to the city and the people were allowed to choose the color for the buildings. Some of the buildings also have really beautiful murals and there is a large statue of Felipe III in the center of the Plaza.

Along the perimeter there are many restaurants with patio seating and this is where we had bocadillos con jamon y queso, sangria, and a great cup of coffee.

Bocadillo!

This was  a fantastic spot for people watching! The Plaza Mayor is closed to traffic (there is parking underground.) It was fun to watch the tourists, and there were many street performers for our entertainment as well. Actually, I use the term “performers” loosely, because while there were some true entertainers, like these musicians:

Musicians, Plaza Mayor, Madrid

there were also some strange people dressed in costumes in hopes of having people pay for candid shots with them. Surprisingly enough, many tourists did pay to have a picture taken with the less than svelte Spiderman and the psychedelic cabrito.

Spidey at Plaza Mayor

Cabrito at Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor was packed with people, but it was a great place to sit back and relax…

Spiderman at Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Even Spiderman needed to take a load off