Monday, May 11, 2009

Next stop.... España!!!

.....tidbit on the run ..... culinary stop in Spain......


There are times in your life where you find a good opportunity and all the pieces fall into place. Which leads you to a wonderful journey, connecting the past with the present and preparing for the future. That is exactly what happened when I found a last minute flight to Madrid for less than $500 (minus taxes of course). After proposing it to Nic and to my astonishment, he didn’t even hesitate. He said “Yes”. Our first steps were in place. We consulted his father in Italy to see if he and his wife would like to meet up in Madrid and spend some time together. The next day, they had found a five day “Tour of Andalusia” that they were excited about. Even though I had lived and studied in Sevilla for 6 months during undergrad and I wanted to see other parts of Spain that I was less familiar with, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to visit some of my old haunts from college. I was still very eager to see how the city had changed, if at all.

Now that the plan was starting to take shape, I had a lot of planning to do with the restaurant. I had to make sure that everything was covered for the time that we were gone. Since we are a small restaurant, we do a lot of the day to day tasks. These daily tasks would need to be delegated and the larger tasks (payroll to name a big one) needed to be perfectly timed. If not, there would be some angry employees and a big mess to clean up when I got back.
At this point, the planning started full force. Questions like, “Where do we go, when we are not on the tour?” or “What do we want to see in Spain?” or “What is our goal with this trip?” all come to mind and need to be answered and well thought through. Then, the big day arrives!!!

...... tidbit is underway .......

Day 1 (Thursday)- Depart Seattle, next stop Amsterdam
Our first flight from Seattle takes us to the beautiful city of Amsterdam (9 ½ hours later). I have been to this city a handful of times and each time I enjoy it more and more. I love the look, the feel and the ambiance of this city.

Day 2 (Friday) – 8 am Amsterdam, next stop Madrid
We arrived around 9 in the morning, at the airport, after clearing customs we needed our first espresso of the trip. After that we headed toward the train station to make our way into the City. We started in an area of the center that we hadn’t been before, the Jordaan. We were strolling our way to the very famous “Anne Frank House”, which once we saw the line to get in down the street, we decided against going inside. We would have waited our whole 7 hour layover just to get in. Along the way, we stopped at a Kaas shop, where the shelves were lined with cheese after cheese after cheese and some baked breads. As the sign says: “Loads of Cheese”, it truly lived up to its title. Of course, we had to try some baked bread with cheese and marinated black olives. Delicious!

After making our way past the flower market (lots of tulips and bulbs), we were in the shopping area. I tried to get Nic to try a croquette from a vending machine but I did not succeed. The “fast food” restaurant, called “FEBO”, is a very small room with vending machines that line the long wall. Inside each door is a small delicacy. It may be a croquette or a sandwich or a hardboiled egg or something easy to eat. There is a counter where you see people making the food and you can order French fries (with mayo, delicious). We spent the next 2 hours enjoying the sights and sounds of the city on a Friday.
It’s sad how fast a day can go by, before we knew it, we needed to head back to the airport to catch our next flight to Madrid.

We finally made it to España at 8 pm. We retrieved our luggage, found the Metro, got our tickets and headed in to the center. After turning a few wrong corners, we finally found our hotel. After a relaxingly calm check-in, we headed up to our room. The elevator door opened and we saw approximately 50 people waiting to go down the elevator. There must have been some party on the roof, because they were all dressed up and they were chatty! The last thing you want to do, especially in a foreign country, is after a 24 hour trip, feeling dirty and unshaven, is talk with 50 drunk strangers who are having a great time. The only way to enter your room, is in front of them and have them joke about the party moving to our room. After entering the room, we were glad they didn’t come in, it was way too small, we wouldn’t have fit!

Now, all tiredness aside, we were hungry, let’s go look for tapas or “raciones (larger portions of food)!” We were recommended a place around the corner on Gran Via (one of the main streets in Madrid, where shopping eating and the center of the city is). It was called “Mercado de la Reina”. After finding it, we went in. It was a little after midnight and the place was packed full. There was a bar in the front that we waded past, then we found the host stand. After waiting for a few minutes, we were greeting by one of the servers, who told us that it was “completo”, meaning full. We had to go explore and find somewhere else to eat. Here we were thinking that it was too late to have dinner, nope not in Spain.
After two more blocks, we found a cute small bar/pub called "Taberna odre y hogaza", which was also packed; luckily a table just left, so we waited a few minutes then were told to sit down. Let the food begin. We tried the patatas bravas (something we make for happy hour at tidbit), fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce, which was very yummy! We also got a bottle of white wine from Rueda, which was delicious and only 10€. I was amazed at the prices of the wines. They had bottles for 7€. It was so tasty, dry, a little tart and crisp. We also pigged out on some grilled meat plate, which included regular sausage, lamb chops, chorizo (one of Spain’s leading sausages, it’s cured with paprika and other spices), morcilla (blood sausage from Albacete, which uses onions instead of rice, which is the way that I’ve always had it), lomo (pork loin), chicken, pancetta and a few other varietals. Everything on the plate was tremendous and grilled perfectly. After being away from Spain, all my taste memories flooded back to me. We also sampled a crostino with sheep’s cheese.

... before we headed back to the hotel, we stopped at a very famous Cuban bar, which was frequented by Hemingway. It also specializes in mojitos! Yes, we had, I can honestly say the best mojito ever. The mint was wonderful, the sugar was perfect and the rum (which was "Barceló" a Dominican Republic dark rum) was delicious. As I watched the bartender wack the ice cubes in his bare hand then place the broken pieces in the glass to be muddled, I wondered what the health department here would do to such a place... After the first sip, I wanted more. I can still taste the flavors. After having eaten and had a nightcap, it was time to head back.

When we finally go back to our hotel it was close to 2:00 in the morning.

Were we ever going to wake up in the morning?

...stay tuned....

1 comment:

DrKoob said...

Thanks for sharing your travels. I love reading about travel and you have done a great job so far. Can't wait to read the rest. Don't forget to tweet again when you post the next part.