Monday, February 20, 2017

Cordoba to Torremolinos

Cordoba is often a study in contrasts: Moorish, Christian and Jews. A stroll through the old Juderia (Jewish Quarter) consists of a fascinating network of narrow lanes.
At the centre of the quarter is the Synagogue in Calle de los Judios. one of only three originals remaining in Spain. A Mudéjar construction dating from 1315 was converted to a church in the 16th century and rediscovered in the 19th Century. The interior includes a gallery for women and plaster work with inscriptions from Hebrew psalms and others with plant motifs on the upper part.
Its main beautifully restored wall has a semi-circular arch where a chest with the Holy Scrolls of Law used to be kept.



Maimonides, a Sephardic Jewish Philosopher and Astronomer, was born in Cordoba in 1135 or 1138. A statue of him stands in Plaza Maimonides near the Synagogue. Moshe ben Maimon (his name in Hebrew) became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars and physicians of the middle ages. I did not pass up the opportunity to rub his foot since it is supposedly considered good luck and gains some of his wisdom. 

The ride to Cordoba and to Torremolinos is picturesque with mountains and a hilly landscape packed with olive trees and some almond trees. This photo is an almond tree in bloom. 

Torremolinos is a municipality on the Costa del Sol of the Mediterranean, immediately to the west of the city of Malaga. Once a poor fishing village before the growth in tourism began in the late 1950s, Today it is particularly popular with British, Irish and and Scandinavian tourists and there is also a large British expatriate population living here. A real plus for us English is spoken with menus in English. The weather was in the 60's and oh my, the waves were huge when I took this photo. Not a good boating day but I wondered where the surfers were with some waves maybe as high as 9 feet. The beach, Playa de Playamar, also known as El Retiro, is along the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun). The city beach has dark colored sand and is well visited.


I must say they have a really good handle on the garbage. Garbage goes in these metal containers and goes underground where it is picked up and then recycled into organic material. A morning side trip took us to a small beach town called Mijas Costa in Costa del Sol in southern Spain. It's a typical Spanish village with whitewashed buildings with blue flower pots in facades. The residential life of Mijas Costa is very much 21st century. Holiday rentals available range from small studio apartments for rent to major villa developments with Mediterranean sea and mountain views everywhere.


I loved meandering along the narrow winding streets, checking out the stores and  burro rides.



Exploring the Spanish culinary scene and Malaga.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cordoba Part One

Córdoba is a city in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, and the capital of the province of Córdoba. It was an important Roman city and a major Islamic center in the Middle Ages. 
Photos shows an old Roman bridge and water wheel. 

Today Cordoba is best known for its most famous landmark, La Mezquita (Great Mosque). It is the third largest mosque in the world dating from 784 A.D. It is jaw dropping experience as you enter the mosque through the courtyard filled with orange trees and fountains. Inside there are 850 stunning granite and marble arches of various colors that are illuminated by the sun streaming through the cupolas. At the center of the mosque is a 16th century Renaissance cathedral with mahogany pulpits and choir stalls. The mosque remains largely untouched since the 11th century which reveals the finest Islamic architecture in Spain. 
In AD 929, the Cordoba region broke away from the Islamic center, Baghdad, and formed its own independent kingdom, falling into anarchy shortly afterwards. 
The city was conquered by King Ferdinand, a Christian who had the mosque consecrated and constructed a cathedral in the middle of it thus three cultures, Jew, Moors and Christians have merged together. Daily masses are held there.  
I must say it was difficult to capture the beauty and uniqueness of La Mezquita in photos. It's one of those experiences you need to see first hand as it is what I might call "off the charts." 


  • La Mezquita is about 250,000 square feet and 40 feet high.
  • Spain leads the overall global rankings for the first time, scoring highly on a wide range of factors from its beautiful heritage sites to conferences for business travelers, infrastructure for tourists and the extent to which the government prioritizes the industry. It is one of the most online-searched countries for tourism and the third most visited country in the world, with over 60 million international arrivals – an increasing proportion of whom are coming from emerging markets such as China, Brazil and Mexico.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

On the Road

Traveling Through Spain
So far after 6 days on the road I am surprised that...
How few people speak English making communication difficult.
Every town seems to have a Burger King, Mc Donalds and many Starbucks. 
The daytime hours seem relatively quiet in most places but by 8:00 PM each town seems to be ready to party with cafes, restaurants and sidewalks brimming with people.  Many restaurants closed for a large portion of afternoon and don't open up until early evening.  
A chilly 50 degrees does not deter Spaniards from al fresco dining.
A few more words about Madrid
I was intrigued by this marker in the Madrid Plaza. It's the central point to which distances are measured to other cities from Madrid. 
According to Guinness Book of World Records Sobrino de Botin Restaurant located in Madrid was founded in 1725, and is one of the oldest restaurants continuously operating in the world.
Toledo
A medieval town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and capital of Spain until the 16th century. It's a picturesque town set on a hill overlooking the Tagus River. Toledo proudly preserves its 2,000 year history in more than 100 buildings and monuments. At its peak, between the 11th and 13th century, it was known as the "City of Three Cultures" for the harmonious co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish Communities. 
It was a charming partially walled city with narrow cobblestone streets  and a stunning cathedral.  The Toledo Cathedral is ranked among the greatest Gothic structures in Europe. Inside, the cathedral contains important masterpieces, including a spectacular baroque high altar, two paintings by El Greco  and 750 stained glass windows. 

Granada is a city in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It's known for grand examples of medieval architecture dating to the Moorish occupation, especially the Alhambra. The city has over 70, 000 students as there are many academic institutions, Since the sky was quite hazy this is the clearest photo I could get. 

The La Alhambra is Granada's most popular tourist destination. When the Moors crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in AD 711 they claimed this hillside city. Construction of the Alhambra began in the 13th  century and continued over centuries. It is a complex of palaces and courtyards in a deliberate effort to create paradise on Earth. From my perspective they did accomplish that goal. There are patios with stunning views, gardens, cupolas, fountains, pools, and the Royal Palace that are jaw dropping. 
I stood in the room where Queen Isabella signed the royal agreement giving Christopher Columbus ships and money to discover and acquire new lands. 
Amazing craftsmanship-a demonstration of inlaid wood and metal.
Ending the afternoon with a Spanish culinary tradition tapas. I thought they were going to be small sampler plates but each one was like a meal in itself
 Fried Eggplant Drizzled with a Honey Roasted Syrup
  Paella
Potatoes with Spanish Chorizo Sausage 
A bit of flamingo music added to the ambiance of the eating experience.
Next stop: Cordoba
  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Paella

This RAK inspiration came from a placement today at a restaurant.  
Write or tell someone thank you. Two small words can make a difference.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of healthful eating and living.   
Paella with Green Beans, Pork  and Mushrooms
Cook's notes:Paella is a Spanish rice dish that includes different combinations of vegetables and meats, characteristically seasoned with saffron, but also has other spices depending on the recipe and area in Spain it comes from. The dish Paella is said to to be a perfect union between 2 cultures from Spain: the Romans for the pan and the Arabs who  brought rice.
The Paella pan is characterized by being round with a flat bottom. The pan can be anywhere from a LP record 12 inches in diameter to several feet. The one thing that doesn't change is the height. It is about first joint in the thumb deep as the Spanish would say, so that the rice has maximum contact with the bottom of the pan.

How about this giant size!
Speedy Paella for Weeknight Cooking 
This recipe looks manageable for the average household. Recipe adapted from http://www.bhg.com/recipe/seafood/speedy-paella/ and serves four. 
Ingredients:
  • 1-10 ounce package frozen long grain white rice with vegetables (peas, corn and carrots)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup diced red pepper 
  • 4 TB. green onion, diced
  • 1/2 LB.fresh sea  scallops (halve large scallops)
  • 1/2 LB. cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • pinch of a saffron thread
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh parsley
  • lemon juice for drizzling 
Directions:
  • Prepare rice according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, in large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Saute garlic, onion and pepper for 2 minutes. Stir constantly.  Add in other teaspoon of olive oil (make sure its hot) before adding in scallops to skillet. Cook 3 minutes or until scallops are opaque. Add in shrimp and tomatoes; heat through.
  • Transfer rice to bowl; stir in turmeric and saffron. Spoon seafood-tomato mixture over rice; lightly toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh parsley. Drizzle with lemon juice. 

UP NEXT: Madrid to Toledo to Granada


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Out and About in Madrid

Before we step out and about in Madrid-here's a recap of the soccer quarter finals championship game from last night between Real Madrid and Napoli teams. The following photos and comments are supplied by Wes, a member of our group who achieved celebrity status by attending the game.   He is much to be admired going to the game by himself and mingling with some other 95, 000 soccer fans. 
Security was very tight with the following measures in place: Security guards on horseback and guards with dogs, a mesh net erected between the stands and field so fans couldn't throw things down onto the field, no alcohol sold inside the stadium, bottles brought in could not have caps on to deter using them as missiles to throw, food could only be purchased outside the stadium but could be carried in and fans were separated by teams. It all seemed to work and happily there were no riots with a good time had by all. The final score Real Madrid winning 3-1.
  
So if you care to dress like the locals for your sightseeing trip around the city here are some of my observations:
Need skinny jeans, boots, a dark jacket and don't forger your scarf. It was a chilly 46 degrees so even having gloves was a good idea. 
The morning was spent visiting El Escorial, an imposing 16th century architectural masterpiece. It was completed in 1584 as a residence for the King of Spain and a monastery for the Hieronymite monks.  Well the King of Spain Phillip the II is long gone but the monastery is still active with the Benedictine Order residing.  The palace was not heated so quite cold in the places where toured but certainly stunning with tapestries, frescoes and paintings. The most interesting thing about this palace is that all the Spanish kings from the last 500 years are buried there in a crypt, a chamber room.
Moving on to The Valley of the Fallen where Francisco Franco is buried. An imposing statue is erected on the hill and a church that he designated to be built in his honor. The country is quite divided with personal opinions regarding recognition of Franco's achievements and his reign as a dictator.  
Photo observations while out on an early evening walking tour of downtown Madrid. 
It took me 3 days but I finally found my first clock. 
Lots to see on the plaza with human forms taking on new shapes to entertain the crowds.
Who would ever guess this gorgeous floral display was flowering kale. 
Great architectural features everywhere. 
Perhaps there may be some who may have wondered how Bella is getting along without Mr.C and Mrs. S . This recent photo says it all. I am told she has decided whatever Mulligan gets she wants too. 
Healthy Friday with some Mediterranean Eats and a visit to the town of Toledo with a stop to UNESCO World Heritage Site.