new background

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sweet sweet Seville

I love this place. It is a dream come true. I thought Italy had a permanent place in my heart for favorite European country, but now Spain seems to have pulled into the lead. I'll have to see after we are no longer in the country if my feelings remain this way.

We took a city bus from our hostel on Saturday morning to the main bus station where we caught a bus directly to the airport in Bilbao a little over an hour away. We got there pretty early, so we each had an espresso and sat and read our books until it was time to board. The flight was short and easy. We sure feel like we fly a fair amount. I used to like it a lot when I was younger, but the more I fly I feel like I like it less. You are just so cramped and there is not getting out or taking breaks like when you are in the car. But you can't beat the speed of flying.

We arrived at the airport and took the bus into the city. Right at the last stop where we got off the bus was a "Festival of the Nations" taking place which runs for about a month and has many different booths offering food and goods for sale that represent countries from around the world. It reminds me so much of Tollwood the festival in Munich that I fell in love with over the summer, which Ryan and I went to with Michelle during her visit. I'd still say Tollwood is cooler though. Oh and get this... they had a booth of American food. Not surprising to see hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken ranch sandwiches, but what I was astounded by was that they had cases stacked six high of DUFF beer. The only time I have ever seen Duff beer to know it exists outside of the Simpsons is when my friend ReneƩ found a six pack in a due out she cleaned and gave me one because she thought they were gross. And they are. Apparently Spain associated America with the Simpsons and Duff beer. They also had a large poster of the Hollywood sign up, and Uncle Sam poster, a Obama poster, and the America Flag. Isn't it interesting to see how foreigners view us?

Ryan and I were really hungry having not eaten in many hours and finally decided on each having falafel tortilla wraps from the Egyptian booth. Then we went to the Brazil booth and thought we were ordering a whole fresh coconut with the top chopped off to drink the coconut water inside but instead the woman made up some gross mixed coconut cocktail drink, so that was disappointing. I managed to walk out of there with only one other purchase which was some Indian tea that we gave one of our three bags to our couchsurfing hosts.

From the festival we walked toward the river and then along it until we headed a few streets in land to the home we are currently staying in. The nice couple Jordan and Sarah are registered on couchsurfing and I contacted them through there. But they also happen to work for the school here in Seville that George Fox Students study abroad at. Our friend Brett was here for Jordan and Sarah's first semester working for the program. We are so thankful Brett recommended them to us as hosts and they have been truly wonderful hosts.

After meeting them and visiting for a little bit we hit the town. We went first to Plaza de Espana which is having their grand opening right now. It is a huge magnificent old building but the moat and grounds in front of the building have been under construction for the whole time Jordan and Sarah have lived here. There were so many people enjoying the beautiful plaza and the perfect weather we've had here in Seville our two days. They were even renting row boats for really cheap to row around on the moat, but the line was way too long for us to find worth it.

From that Plaza we entered a park garden area that was very nice to stroll through. We wandered down the river and across a bridge into a fairly residential part of town but there was a pedestrian street with shops that we discovered and mosied (sp?) down stopping here and there to go in and have a look in certain stores.

We then walked along the river again looking for a good restaurant to stop at and have some Sangria while sitting by the river. On our way though we saw a woman being arrested. She was resisting the arrest and it took two officers to pin her to the pavement to keep her still. Then back up came flying in from every direction and the news media pulled up in a van but never though it was important enough to get out and film I guess. We have no idea what happened but they got her in a police car and drover her to the station that we discovered later in our walk was only about 200 meters further down the river front. There were so many people watching the action though, I just wish I understood some Spanish to try and understand what she had been arrested for.

Eventually we found a perfect spot to stop for a drink. They had seats right up against the river and although I was disappointed to see him get a premade store bought Sangria mix out of the fridge opposed to a housemade Sangria it was still refreshing on a hot day and what the heck, we're in Spain.

After that siesta we headed back to the other side of the river and just walked and walked and walked in the direction Jordan had showed us on our map (which they kindly gave us) that they like to go get tapas for dinner sometimes. On the way we found some tents selling lots of cool things I like to look at and Ryan was nice enough to let me stop and do so.

We made it to the area he'd recommended but we hadn't asked for any specific recommendations so really we had no idea where to go. In the end we just went into a place that had lots of people, since that is usually a good sign. Tapas in Seville is very different from pintxos in Donostia. For one thing the portions are much larger. We ordered three different things and were stuffed when we had finished them. One was potatoes with a slightly spicy red sauce, the next spinach with garbanzo beans and lots of olive oil and garlic cooked with it (I think this was both our favorite), and lastly chunks of cooked tuna with onion in a broth. All three were good but not quite as gourmet as Donostia. It didn't make me want to keep eating forever even when I was full.

And from there we headed back to Jordan and Sarah's because we weren't sure their schedule and when they like to go to bed and didn't want to be rude guests who come back way late at night. Yet when we arrived back they were just about to have friends over, Wesley and Emma (also Americans who just arrived to teach English through a different organization). They had made brownies and then had plans to go to a bar where there was going to be flamenco dancing. They kindly invited us to come along, or did I ask and they kindly said of course, anyway, I was so excited because I had really hoped to find some random flamenco show while we were here. It even got better because I got an email from Brett this morning and he told us to check out this one totally hidden place that you can't even tell is a bar unless it is open at night with lots of people and music. And of course it is the same place we went last night. The unfortunate part was that the bar was really crowded and we couldn't see the dancers feet which is a huge part of flamenco and it was also really smokey and I don't think any one in our group liked that one bit. So after while we left and Jordan and Sarah walked us around a bit on the way back pointing out places of interest and things we might be able to do the next day.

When we got back we checked our email, got ready for bed, and at least Ryan fell asleep really quickly because I could hear him snoring like an animal. We haven't seen Jordan and Sarah yet today to ask them, but I really really hope he did not keep them up. I love their apartment. It is so cute, but also very small. You enter into the living room/kitchen. There is a door off that to their bedroom and the bathroom. And then there is a loft over the kitchen where we are sleeping. So all that being said there is not much space or many walls to drown out the noise from Ryan's nose. And I stayed awake for a good portion of the night hitting him trying to keep him quiet so they didn't wake up. I guess we'll see them later tonight and hopefully they slept alright.

Of course I have all of today to tell you about too, but I think we better head out for dinner at the place Brett claims is the best tapas in Seville. I'll let you know my review later. And in the morning we already have our bus tickets to Tarifa where we will cross to Straight of Gibralter to Morocco. We looked up ferry prices and are not thrilled with what we see we'll be paying for each of our round trip voyages, but at least we are saving money with couchsurfing here in Seville and we have a host waiting for us in Morocco as well.

Adios Amigos!

Chocolate y Churros

I'm sort of disappointed. :( And I hate to disappoint the numerous people who told Ryan and I to try this delight. But I think we have both been disappointed to find that the churros here are very different than anything we've ever had. Our guess is that the churros we are used to eating are more of a Mexican style. The ones here don't even have cinnamon and that is one of our favorite parts. The first place we tried them (of course we didn't give up after only the first place) the chocolate was a bit too thick and kind of lumpy. It is definitely not normal drinking chocolate. I would say it is like a thinned out version of homemade chocolate pudding. The second place the chocolate was better. Both those places were in Donostia. Now we are in Seville and tried a really thick short churro filled with cream and already covered in chocolate. That was pretty good although it wasn't warm and we wish it had been. Today we tried a churro that was really long and curled in a spiral- again it was not warm and we wish it had been but the chocolate was probably my favorite for dipping this last time. All together I can't really give rave reviews about these Spanish treats. In fact it sort of just makes me want to go back to costco and get one from their food stand. I never though I'd be desiring food from the food stand at Costco but that is where I find myself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What a beautiful day!

God has definitely answered my prayers for good weather in San Sebastian. Although the leaves on the trees are changing color and drifting from the branches to the pavement it still feels more like summer than fall- thank goodness. Yesterday was superb and today there is supposed to be a high of around 75 degrees, however right now a cloud cover came in and is hindering the sun's ability to really heat things up.

We had another lazy morning not getting out of the hostel until about noon. Then we tried to go to a recommendation of the reception for some tempura prawn pintxos, but Pacco Bueno was closed. :( Instead we tried a couple other pintxos bars that were very busy last night, which we took as a good sign. The things we had were pretty good as everything has been in our time here.

From there we headed to the beach to soak up some rays. Oh how I wish everyone could be here to enjoy these beaches. The sand is so fine and soft and beautiful and perfect. If I felt like getting really sandy I would not even bother with a towel because I think it would feel great to just be fully emersed in this stuff. As soon as my toes bury in the sand any worry I had seems to just melt away. Ahhhh it is so nice. We lay on our towels for awhile and then read the Bible together for awhile. Eventually though the cloud cover kept growing instead of moving on, so we packed up our towels and headed back to the hostel.

We just got some good tips from reception on where to find the best churros and chocolate (as many friends have recommended we try) so that is where we are off to next.

OH and I must tell you about dinner last night. Another bar crawl as that is just what people seem to do here. We started at A Fuego Negro one of Brett's recommendations. It is very innovative. We had a cold tomato soup over bread crumbs that came in the form of a ball. I do not know what the shell was made out of but when you bit into it there was the soup made thick with the bread crumbs. It was very good. We had a mini (slider style) burger with chips. It was kobe beef which is the beef raised in Japan. It is fed beer and they massage the cows to make it supposedly the most tender meat you'll ever find. If you are wondering if I tried the meat, yes I did. The cow is massaged... being the foodie I am I had to judge if this really makes the meat that good. And my review....drum roll please.... yeah the burger was the best I have ever tasted and cooked pretty rare but perfectly done. WOW! Who would have thought I would give such a review on meat. Not that it will change my eating ways- no worries. :) We had some cod with cauliflower and curry. It was a small square of cod with grated cauliflower and dusted with curry powder, so different but oh so good. Oh and for Brett we tried Hongo. It is mushrooms with a egg on top of them. I do not know how to describe the egg. When Brett was hear and asked people around him how the cook got it to do what it did they all told him MAGICO! It was unique. Sort of poached but not slimy and the outside seemed almost broiled. Unique but not my favorite as far as flavor.

After that we were just walking along looking for another busy place to try. We ended up a a place that had a lot of mini croissants with different raw fish in them. We had one with salmon lox. If you like lox go buy some with croissants. The falky butteryness of the croissant with the full flavor of the lox is delicious. We also at olives, peppers and sardines on a toothpick. And millions of fish eggs encased in I probably don't want to know what on a toothpick topped with a square of onion and sprig of parsley. Interesting, fishy, glad I did it, probably would not do it again.

On our way back to the hostel we stopped for a crepe filled with apple compote and cinnamon. Delcious as crepes always are. :) Then we shared out bottle of sider from the grocery and hit the hay.

Ok we are all up to date. Now I have got to go find those churros and chocolate!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thank you Brett Tallman!

My friend Brett studied abroad in Spain last Fall. While he was there he visited the Basque region where he fell in love with the town of San Sebastian, known as Donostia to the Basque people. He sent me an email saying he guaranteed I too would fall in love with this gem of a desination on the Northwest Coast of Spain. So since the moment I knew I would be living in Germany San Sebastian has been on the top of my list to vist. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to visit Spain, but the wait has been well worth it. And Brett was right, I am in love with this very special place.

We flew from Munich to the island of Mallorca. And then from Mallorca to Bilbao. We took a bus to the city of Bilbao to check out the Guggenheim Museum. We did not go for what was inside the museum though, we went for the exterior. The only other building remotely similar to this is the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle. I cannot upload picture here but I promise I will when I get back. Yes, I know I never upload pictures but I really am going to get some up SOON. The building is a collaboration of so many shapes and is mostly made out of titanium. It is just fantastic to look at. We walked over a bridge and then along the river across from the museum taking oh so many pictures.

When we had seen the structure from I think every angle possible except from the air we took the bus the rest of the way to the main bus terminal to catch the hour and 15 minute bus to San Sebastian. It was perfect timing because we boarded the bus just before it pulled out.

We were not sure how to take a city bus to the old town where we are staying, so we had a lovely walk along the river board walk. It was a perfect night and I am so glad we were able to walk. Once in town we struggled to find out hostel at first, but eventually with the help of some other travellers we ran into and a nice lady in a pastry shop we found our hostel that was right under our nose just with limited signage.

After settling into our room and getting some great directions and a map from our reception we headed out to dinner. Brett also gave me great advice. The main fair here is Basque tapas known as Pintxos pronounced peen-chose. Many restaurants have these things out on the counter of the bar. It costs less to stand and eat at the bar rather than at a table. You can also order things from the kitchen but all of it is in small portions. I LOVE IT. You get to have so many different things. So perfect for me.

First we went to a place and were sort of getting the feel for what to do. We ordered a sider which is famous here. It is made out of fresh apples without added sugar or carbonation. It is poured from high above the gladd and in small amounts so you consume it in only a few drinks because the longer it is in the glass it looses the little bit of natural carbonation it has. I really like the unique flavor of it. We ate five different pintxos on baguette and then ordered a shrimp skewer that was mmmmm so good. It was a recommendation of the receptionist.

Our next stop was one of Brett's favorite places and now I know why. We each had a glass of the white wine special to the region that was very good. Then I asked for three fish pintxos whatever he decided. My tastebuds have seldom been in a grater state of pleasure than eating those three dishes. A scallop, fish with onions under it, and octopus. I don't know what they did to them but WOW!

After than we wandered a little but were pretty tired so we headed back to bed.

This morning we got up pretty late and it felt so good. :) We left the hostel around noon and headed toward Gros on the other side of the river where we were told is not touristy at all and has a nice beach that many people surf at. For a couple hours we just wandered around. We saw the craziest dog that I think the lady dreaded it's hair. We have a picture of that too because I really wanted it and so we ran after the lady for blocks until Ryan got a good shot. Good thing she didn't notice her stalkers. We also found this awesome store that I treated myself to a few new clothing purchases because they had a whole rack of items for only 5 euro each. I was loving it. Then we went to a grocery store where Ryan got a couple snacks and a bottle of sider that is currently chilling in the fridge for later. It was only 1,50 euro for the bottle. What a deal. We tried to find a pintxos bar the reception told us about in the morning but we could not find it and they were hesitant on the street and the name so who knows if we were even in the right place. But we went somewhere else and enjoyed what we had especially the big green olives that he poured some garlic and olive oil on. Mmmmmmm And after that we went to the beach for over an hour just sitting, reading, splashing in the waves, taking pictures, and enjoying God's magnificent creation that has been named Donostia.

After the beach we walked all along the water on the board walk for hours. Eventually we stopped and each had a drink at a sea side outside restaurant. I tried the red wine cola combo that they drink here. I always like to try what the locals do. Can you believe it I did not hate it? I am going to start mixing all sorts of things with wine and beer after the combos I have tried in Europe.

And now we have been back at the hostel for a couple hours having what Ryan is calling our siesta. He has been sleeping mostly and I have been reading about Spain and now look at how productive I am on my blog. A treat for all my readers and also for me because now I am one step ahead of where I normally am. Even though I have a lot of catching up to do from my last few trips.

Well that has been everything so far. Now I need to go get Ryan up so we can go pleasure ourselves wtih more pintxos for dinner. Adios amigos! (trying to learn Spanish and oddly I am telling Ryan Spanish words even though he is the only one of the two of us who studied it haha)