Sliding home

by the Night Writer
Here are all the slide shows from our trip to Spain, consolidated in one post (including the new slideshows of Cazorla and Madrid). Some of the photos will be familiar from posts I put up while we were over there, pre-slideshow. All the Cazorla slides, however, came from our friends who went through the Pueblo Ingles program with us and kindly put their photos into a common PhotoBucket file. Great job, guys!

CAZORLA

MADRID

SEGOVIA

BARCELONA

Adventures in Eating, Part 3: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly…

by Tiger Lilly

…well, this is the good, anyway. For the bad and the ugly, see my previous Adventures In Dining post.

When in Rome Madrid (or Barcelona), eat what the Madridians (or Barcelonians) eat.

Don't be fooled by the supposed onion rings. They are actually (dramatic pause) CALAMARI!!! Doom.

Don't be fooled by the supposed onion rings. They are actually (dramatic pause) CALAMARI!!! Doom.

This was a delicious pizza. I ate most of it. I was trying to cut it into slices, but then I thought, “You know, this is my pizza, no one else is going to eat it (except Mom. She’ll steal some bites), so I might as well just pick it up and take a bite out of it.”

As you can see, that is exactly what I did. I highly recommend doing that. It’s a liberating experience.

No, it's not my sombreror, it's my pizza!

No, it's not my sombrero, it's my pizza!

Oof, yeah… We walked thirteen miles that day (I think), so I felt completely justified. It was only a nine inch pizza, anyway.

Ahh, pizza...and now for my siesta!

Ahh, pizza...and now for my siesta!

And, one of the best parts of Madrid:

Whenever I'm in Madrid, I always get a Suiza from Chocolat Cafe, Bar & Chocolateria.

Whenever I'm in Madrid, I always get a Suiza from Chocolat Cafe, Bar & Chocolateria. Oh my gooseness, this drink was one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.

That drink was mostly dark chocolate. I think it was melted, then added to heavy whipping cream. Of course, it was topped with whip’cream and had a wafer straw stuck into it. It was pure heaven.
Oh yeah, and, I’m wearing my new Spanish fedora in that picture.

And now for something completely different:

Isn't it beautiful? I saw this while searching for Dodge trucks (research for my book), and fell in love. Daddy, I want!

Isn't it beautiful? I saw this while searching for Dodge trucks (research for my book), and fell in love. Daddy, I want!

I’m not sure if that’s a Tomahawk or a Viper, the website seemed to not be able to make up its mind about it.

Basking in the glory of food and sweet motorcycle-cars, TL out.
Ciao for now!

My hovercraft is full of eels

by the Night Writer

…or, as they’d say in Catalan, the official language of Barcelona, “El meu aerolliscador està ple d’anguiles.”

Knowing that Castillian Spanish wasn’t necessarily welcome in Catalunya (Catalonia) was one of the things that I was aware of before traveling to Spain. There were other things I was kind of aware of, but still more were a complete unknown and I tried to catalogue the cultural differences during our 17-day trip. For example:

Greeting women: In the U.S., the handshake is the common “pleased to meet you” or “good to see you again” gesture for men and women. In Spain, the two-cheek kiss is de rigueur (and yes, I know that word is French, not Spanish) for man-to-woman/woman-to-man or woman-to-woman. This is true even when you’re a man being introduced to a woman for the first time. It goes like this: you meet a friend or are introduced to someone new (female), you both lean in, cheek-to-cheek, and make a kissing noise, starting on the left and moving to the right. The lips don’t typically touch the cheek except with people you’re close to. I’ve also noticed that women are more likely to be louder in making the kissing noise. It’s the common way of doing things here, but the the familiarity is unusual for Americans. I know I’ve seen people from my company’s European offices come to the States for meetings and greet American women in that manner, which usually tweaks the freak-out meter a bit for the women not expecting it. Because I’ve seen that, however, and witnessed other people on our trip doing this, I wasn’t caught completely flat-footed the first time a new acquaintance thrust her face at me, even though it happened right in front of my wife. She wasn’t bothered by the action — only, perhaps, that I seemed so practiced at it.

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Barcelona is gaudy, I mean, Gaudi

by the Night Writer

The last few days of our trip were spent in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, or Catalunya as it is referred to in Spain. It seemed to me that Barcelona has a more cosmopolitan feel than Madrid and is very focused on art and culture. Mere function isn’t enough when designing buidlings here, for example, as even the newer buildings are heavily influenced by the work of Antoni Gaudi and the other modernists and art nouveau designers and architects that stamped the city with their vision in the early part of the 20th century.

Gaudi is of course the most well-known, at least to the casual observer, with the signature private mansions (such as Casa Milà and Casa Bailló he designed, the creation of the distinctive Parc Güell public park and his still unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia cathedral. Parc Güell was originally envisioned as an exclusive housing district with as many as 60 private estates, a winding park, an open-air theater that overlooks the city and it’s own gothic market beneath the columns and decorated ceilings of the plaza. Only three homes were ever built and the enterprise failed but those few homes and the imaginative landscaping survived and were donated to the city for a public park. Once you climb the steep street to get to the park it makes for a very pleasant evening walk among the often whimsical landmarks along with spectacular views of the city.

I’ve created a slideshow (with musical accompaniment) of our visit to Barcelona, which can be found HERE.

While I like our photos, and the music I selected for the slide show, here’s a better collection of photos and another nice song about Barcelona:

Adventures In Dining, Part 2: Squid, Liver, and Seafood, Oh My!!!

by Tiger Lilly

While we were in Spain, I had some … interesting, shall we say, experiences in food.

We went out with a few of Mom and Dad’s friends from their branch of Pueblo Ingles. It’s usual for restaurants in Spain to serve complimentary bread. Bread is good. Bread is very good. One of the people we were out with then ordered a bunch of tapas for us all to try. The first tapa (tapas? I’m not certain what the rules are for grammar concerning that word)  was some slab of something I had never seen before. Dad identified it as foie gras. I immediately backed away (I’m a picky eater. Liver is not on my list of palatable foods, not to mention duck liver). Dad ate a piece of it and thought it tasted pretty good.

“You should try it, it doesn’t taste like liver at all. It’s very sweet,” he said.

“No thanks, I’d rather not,” I replied, trying to keep my mouth closed for as long as possible against the doom-food. Dad gave me a look that said, ‘Eat. The food.’

“Mom even had some,” Dad nwheedled. Mom hates liver.

“I really don’t want to.”

“Eat it,” Mom says, plopping some onto my plate. I could have cried. I took a large piece of bread, big enough that I hoped it would block out the taste of the foie gras. I scooped the liver onto the bread and, after a moment of contemplation (i.e.: Is it really worth my life to eat this?), popped it into my mouth. Big mistake. The bread hardly did anything for the taste, which was indeed sweet, but sickeningly so. My stomach was churning as I swallowed the food, and I fought to keep my face straight.

Next they brought tuna. The tuna was delicious. It seriously tasted like chicken. The tomatoes were pretty good, too.

Then they brought heavenly artichokes that had been roasted in butter. The were warm and had a very rich flavor. I ate three or four, they were so yummy. And I don’t usually like artichokes.

Then, another horror. Black beans. In squid ink. With little whole squids. I gave Mom a pleading look, ‘Please, please, please don’t make me eat this.’ My stomach, which had settled down a little, started up again.

“Just one bite. You have to have an opinion about it,” said the lady who was sitting next to me. I looked uncertainly at my plate with the liquidy, black mass of supposedly edible food on it. I closed my eyes, scooped up some, and put it in my mouth. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as the liver, but I still did not like it at all.

Thankfully, that dish was taken away fairly quickly, and then came the best part (in my humble opinion): dessert.

The waiters brought out plates with three desserts on them: flan, chocolate mousse cake, and some fried tube of delicious sweet cream. That made up for the foie gras and squid inked black beans.

So that was my horror/bliss adventure in dining. Ciao for now, TL out.

Segovia, the magical kingdom

by the Night Writer

One day while we were still in Madrid we decided to take a day trip to nearby city of Segovia, once the seat of the Spanish kings and the site of an ancient but still functioning Roman aqueduct. Segovia is a little more than 60 miles from Madrid and can be reached by high-speed train in about half an hour; as we got off the train I remember thinking how the trip lasted about the same amount of time it takes me to ride the Minneapolis light rail from Fort Snelling to downtown. It is a beautiful, walled city that features a beautiful gothic Cathedral in the central plaza and the incredible Alcázar, the castle that was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s trademark magic kingdom.

You can pretty much walk through the city in four or five hours, depending on how much time you take to view the cathedral and the castle. The stone buildings lining the winding city streets date back to the Middle Ages or earlier and are interesting in their own right, though most have been turned into upscale clothing stores and other shops that cater to the thousands of tourists that stream through the city every day. Despite the glitter of modern commerce you can still feel the history that seeps through the old stones. The highlight, however, has to be The Alcázar, a dominating but lovely presence that commands the promontory on which the city is built. Originally an Arab fort, most likely built on Roman foundations, the castle was repeatedly added onto by several generations of Castilian kings beginning in the 1100s. The Alcázar (I’d pronounce it Al-Kazaar, separating it between the first and second syllables, but the audioguide I rented pronounced it alCAZer) is nowhere near as large as Stirling Castle or Edinburgh Castle and the great rooms are really rather intimate; the throne room itself would just about fit inside my living room, but it is intricately decorated, including many of the ceilings that have their own distinctive motif, and the Hall of Kings that features nearly life-sized carvings of the rulers of Castile circling the upper walls of the room. Follow Tiger Lilly Jones below to view a series of photos we took of this fascinating city.

Tiger Lilly Jones is ready to lead you on a tour of Segovia. Click below to follow.

Tiger Lilly Jones is ready to lead you on a tour of Segovia. See below.

Click here to follow. (Note: select “Gallery View” in the slide show to view without music and to view slide show controls. In “Overview” mode, you can freeze an image by hovering the cursor over it.)

Achmed, the Good-As-Dead Terrorist

by Tiger Lilly

We went to the Mediterranean Sea today. The water was warm, surprisingly enough, and the waves were… happy. In fact, they inspired a poem:

Ah, the blue of the sea
I am floating in a cloud of dreams
I am one with the– WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!

Okay, so Dad wrote most of that one. I just paraphrased. However, I had an… interesting experience, shall we say. There were some people in the water who were waiting until a wave was curling in on itself, and then diving headfirst into the wave. This usually ended up with them being tossed about in the water and washing up a few yards (meters) away closer to shore. Not that they were very far out anyway, probably just 15 feet into the water. I was wading, picking up nice rocks, when one of these wave-divers was swept towards me and managed to stop by hitting my legs. I saw it coming, but couldn’t exactly move out of the way, considering the water that was swirling up around my shins. The man was in his late-thirties and had long-ish hair, with a bald spot. He apologized, I asked him if he was okay, yadda yadda. I probably shouldn’t have encouraged him by saying that, though. He went back to his waves. I waded in a little deeper, letting bigger waves hit me, until 15 minutes later he noticed me again, just as a large wave came up and smacked me in the face. I went back to retrieve my towel to wipe my face off, and he beckoned me farther out to sea (we were in a set swimming area, so you couldn’t go out past a half-mile). I managed to make my way past the waves that were trying desperately to push me back. Finally I got to the point where the waves were swelling, but not actually breaking. It was fun to jump just as the crest of the wave comes up to you and then slide down the other side of it. It’s kind of hard to explain, and not really relevant to the story, so I’ll just shut up about that and move on.

ANYway, as we were moving with the waves, this same guy asked me where I was from, what my name was, and where I was going. He said his name was Achmed, and he was from Pakistan. My first thought was, Achmed? As in, the terrorist? As in, the Dead Terrorist? Then he said, “You look very beautiful.” Then my thought process changed to, Okay, a little creepy, what kind of person randomly says stuff like that? Maybe this is what passes for small talk in Pakistan. But I just smiled and said thank you and that was that. I lost track of where I was floating, and when I looked back to where Mom was standing and holding my towel, I saw she was waving her arms dramatically in some ancient form of communication. I surmised that she wanted me to go back to shore, so, thinking that it was time to go, I said good-bye to Achmed. His response:

A: “Do you have a mobile phone number?”

Me: *thinking* Oh yeah, it’s 612-232-1638 (which is actually the rejection hotline number. Call it, it’s a hilarious recording to listen to). *to him* No, sorry, I don’t have a cell phone (ah, the all-too-convenient truth).

He said something else, but I couldn’t understand what it was, so I just shrugged and went back to Mom. Mom simply said to watch where I was swimming, because the waves had carried me about 10 or 15 yards away from where I had originally started. Then she said,

RM: That guy (meaning Achmed) in the black shirt likes you.

Me: *thinking* No, really? *to Mom* I know. A little creepy.

 Back in the water, he again came up to me and started up some other conversation.

A: Will you marry me?

Me: *didn’t hear him correctly* What?

A: You’re just so beautiful.

Me: Thank you. *Dad, please get the shotgun…and shark repellent.*

Then, conveeeeeeeniently, a large wave came rushing up. We both went under and were being carried around by the waves. I’m not sure if this was an accident, but I think it probably wasn’t: under the pretext of trying to get back on his feet, I felt his hands wrap around my shin and climb up. Much farther up than they should have been (Ach-med, Oct-opus, not very much of a difference. They’re both grabby). I refrained from killing him violently (I have a katana that fits in my bikini, you know), for fear that the blood in the water would attract sharks. That’s me, always thinking of other people’s safety… Thankfully, the wave settled down just as another came up and I was swept away from him and his probably lecherous grip. After a couple futile attempts to get back into the middle of the swimming area, and a few mouthfuls of sea water (it was very very salty, and I thought I was going to throw up), Mom did her waving thing again, and this time it was actually time to go. As I waved good-bye (forever, I hope), he blew a kiss. My eye twitched, and I considered doing something rude. I settled for another half-hearted wave and turned away, to see Dad standing much closer than the action than I thought he was. Dad told me that he also waved to Achmed, only his wave was much more threatening.

All through the night now, I’ve been having weird little twitches and shivers, feeling like Achmed’s hands were still there, just begging me to chop them off…

Apparently, the reason Dad wasn’t at the scene sooner was because he was taking a picture of Achmed to wire to the Department of Homeland Security.

Guess which pervo is Achmed...

Guess which pervo is Achmed...

 

Okay, okay, I know you guessed wrong on that one (don’t try to lie to me, I can read minds through computers), so here is the correct answer:

Ta daaa!!! I know, it's really detailed. Is this enough info for a tag team effort with you and Dad, Kevin?

Ta daaa!!! I know, it's really detailed. Is this enough info for a tag team effort with you and Dad, Kevin?

 

Ciao for now!

Madrid is the Mall of the World

by the Night Writer

Minnesota may be home to the Mall of America, but Madrid at night has to be the Mall of the World, especially on the weekends. Dinner is served very late here by American standards, often not until 9 p.m. (and may go on for a couple of hours) and when dinner is over the party is only beginning. Many of the streets of this old and historic city are narrow and fill with people once the sun goes down as everyone hits the cobblestones to move between the pubs and clubs in the quest for tapas, canas and a good time. Meanwhile, the music pumps from each establishment and the still warm night air is frequently punctuated with shouts and singing. The number of people moving in both directions of streets lined with open establishments is just like at a mall and the enthusiasm is catching.

This photo was taken at about 1 a.m. Sunday morning, just as things are really getting going. This street runs past the apartment building where we are staying and there are several bars and restaurants along this way and in the surrounding blocks.

This photo was taken at about 1 a.m. Sunday morning, just as things are really getting going. This street runs past the apartment building where we are staying and there are several bars and restaurants along this way and in the surrounding blocks.

Even in the heat of the day there is hustle and bustle in this very cosmopolitan city, though the pace would drive a New Yorker crazy as nobody seems to be in too great a hurry.

These turtles are denizens of Madrid and perhaps represent what it can be like to move along a sidewalk here at times. These turtles, however, live in a lush pond inside of Atocha Station, one of the hubs of the city.

These turtles are denizens of Madrid and perhaps represent what it can be like to move along a sidewalk here at times. These turtles, however, live in a lush pond inside of Atocha Station, one of the hubs of the city.

The heat probably contributes to that, but while the temperatures have been well into the 90s in both Madrid and Cazorla while we’ve been here, the humidity is pretty low. If you are in the shade it is really quite bearable, so strategic positioning is a must as you move from place to place.

"Come ye who are hot and heavy-laden and I will give thee shade." Ok, that's not a direct translation, but in this photo the Son of Man beckons one to the shady and pleasant side of the street.

Come ye who are hot and heavy-laden and I will give thee shade -- Ok, that's not a direct translation, but in this photo the Son of Man beckons one to the shady and pleasant side of the street.

This tree-lined apart immediately in front of the Prado is an attactive and comfortable place to stroll.

This tree-lined apart immediately in front of the Prado is an attactive and comfortable place to stroll.

The affects of the sangria from the Menu del dias are evident, but the shady boulevard in front of the Prado is a good place for a crash siesta.

The affects of the sangria from the Menu del Dias are evident, and the shady park in the boulevard that runs in front of the Prado is a good place for a crash siesta.

What we haven´t been telling you

by the Night Writer

While the Reverend Mother and I are keeping busy at our Pueblo Ingles program, we have assumed that Tiger Lilly was similarly occupied at her own PI venue with other teen-agers. It´s impossible to keep things from getting back to your parents, however, and kingdavid at The Far Wright brought the image and details below to my attention:

That’s right, Tiger Lilly is off to the left of this scene, hot on the heels of the bull. She’s been in Spain for less than a week, and she’s already creating havoc with the ninja bovines over there.

El toro

Apparently, I also have secrets of my own:

Run!