Finally, the long promised and awaited Rosenkuchen. Ok. Maybe that is an exaggeration. This Rosenkuchen, a yeasted cake with hazelnut and apple filling, has quickly climbed the ranks of my cake list. We loved it. The neighbors loved it. Honestly, we would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been on the heels of the macarons. I’m glad to have made this before our trip to share it with you prior to the holidays. This would be a PERFECT Easter brunch item. Easily made the day before. I actually made the yeasted dough on Saturday and held it over in the fridge till Sunday. Not a problem. I just couldn’t bare the thought of finishing it the same night as those Macarons and I was losing my natural light. I finished it Sunday afternoon but after a dinner of take out Indian food, we barely touched it till Monday.
I don’t have loads to say today except thank you to the weather for the glorious sunshine and smiles we saw this weekend. From year to year, there is truly nothing new in this first wave of warmth. But each spring when the sun and air combine to evoke that feeling of relief and gratitude, a cloud lifts and people join together in the streets in mass welcome. We packaged up our last few cupcakes and spent Saturday afternoon at a neighbors.
For those of you who don’t follow Foodimentary… you should. Then you, too would be reminded of the fact it is Fat Tuesday (party folk), aka Shrove Tuesday (praying folk), aka Pancake Day (foodie folk). Pancakes were made to rid the pantry of the good stuff before Lent. If I was giving it up, I’d better make chocolate chip pancakes with nutella.
After our paella, we were out the door to Plaza Santa Cruz, about an 8 minute walk from our apartment, to watch a flamenco performance in a little place called Tablao Flamenco Los Gallos. A first for all in our party, I myself, had no idea I would love it so much. I’m ready to plan a trip entirely devoted to flamenco. I’m dying to look up love stories between dancers, callers and guitar players. Inspired, I even wrote ideas of love stories down in my little notebook after the show. I’m sure completely original.
“Between 800 and 900 A.D., a large exodus of people occurred from the Punjabi region of India. These people are believed to be members of the Untouchables, a group within the Indian caste system comprised of animal traders and trainers, acrobats, dancers, musicians, palmists and metalworkers. These nomadic groups, generally referred to as Roman and/or gypsies, divided into two major migratory routes, the most traceable moving west across Asia and the European continent, including Spain. The first recorded account of Spanish Gitanos “Beticos” dates from 1447 in Barcelona.”
Read more: Flamenco Dance History
After the flamenco show, we walked round and round trying to figure out the “place to be” at midnight. We had almost given up when we noticed a general movement in one direction and decided to follow the herd. Sure enough we ended up in front of the town hall clock with the rest of those who chose to expose themselves to the public masses (well not that kind of expose…). As I was saying, there is a grape eating tradition on New Years. When the clock strikes twelve in Spain on New Years Eve, for each stroke you eat a grape. By the time the clock has finished chiming, everybody has to have finished their grapes and the New Year starts. If you manage to eat the 12 grapes before the 12th stroke, then you will have 12 months good luck.
Grapes and yet to be popped champagne in people’s hands, in the last 20 minutes of 2011, we inhaled the sights and sounds around us… the good and not so good. People were selling horns, party favors and grapes. Finally, a few firecrackers went off just before the second hand moved to join the big hand at the 12…. We all stood waiting for the clock to chime but when the little hand started continuing on, we all realized shit, this things not ringing- people checked their cell phones holding them up displaying 12:01/12:02 to each other. We stuffed 12 grapes in our mouth, kissed while chewing and passed around happy new years to our loved ones and strangers. Only in Spain could new years be late.
We headed home back to our rooftop, lit small pieces of tissue paper containing our hopes, wishes and concerns on fire, giving them up to the universe, opted not to open a bottle of champagne but celebrated as if we had.
We arrived in Seville without problems, dropped the car rental off at the airport and taxied into the Santa Cruz barrio near the cathedral. Again in awe of the unknown we stared out the car windows grasping the newness of another city. Traveling with 5 now, required us to take two taxis and they clung to each other, front bumper to back, straight for 20 minutes through streets so small you could spit from one side to the other.
Our apartment, actually divided into 2 separate places, spewed charm and authenticity with a small central courtyard up through the 3 stories. The kids in one and O and I in the other. Plenty of privacy but we could check up on when they went to sleep at night through the random glass tiles in the floor. We enjoyed a rooftop terrace where the sun beat down in the day. Two straight, heavenly weeks of sun. Feel like I’m charging up a trunk load of D size batteries with sun to take back to hamburg.
Our days in Seville have been mixed with sightseeing, loads of walking and hours of reading. This is a place I’d like to return. I love the bells every morning at nine that chime long enough to wake the dead. They start at 9am and like a puntual snooze button again at 9.10 9.20 and finally at 9.30. The city wakes up.
The Alçazar palace on New Years Day was a highlight, but for me just walking, absorbing the vibrancy of this city, standing at a bar in the morning for cafe con leche and churros, standing at a bar at night for cerveza and tapas….brilliant. Our barrio (neighborhood) is probably the most popular for tourists, but I don’t mind. We did walk about 2 hours one morning north near the Macarena neighborhood, wandering the streets seeing a little more real daily life.
The Alçazar, originally a Moorish fort and now a Unesco World Heritage site is a royal palace that still serves the royal family in the upper quarters. I tried to imagine little children here. I could not. But I could see them in the beautiful garden chasing the peacock.
I preferred the Alçazar over the Alhambra partly because it was easier to take in and partly because we took it upon ourselves to tour and learn, instead of a guided tour. Wouldn’t you have liked to be the one to come up with the hand held guide in 13 different languages?
Following our tour of the Alçazar, our next stop was the grocery store for New Year’s Eve dinner. With the kids and costs, we weren’t particularly interested in the set menu options offered by restaurants. All I can say is wow. I love visiting food stores in foreign countries. Highlights were legs of jamon, an entire aisle of jarred olives, peppers and asparagus that you didn’t have to take out a second mortgage to afford, loads of crazy fish options, and enough tuna and anchovies to feed a pescatarian platoon. Love it.
New Year’s dinner was a simple paella with shrimp and chicken, then we headed out for the evening. I know I’m not winning any awards here with the pics but the tiled table was pretty.
We spent over 2 hours winding through the mountains. Never ending views of white washed villages, houses posed on sides of mountains, terraced almond and olive trees…. and me trying unsuccessfully to snap photos from a moving vehicle, hoping to catch one tenth of the beauty we witnessed.
We drove southwest from Ronda and as we approached Algeciras, we could already see Gibralter and its infamous rock. Oh how we wanted to stop. But it was already inching towards 4pm and if we made another stop… monkeys or no monkeys, I think the teens might have rebelled. Traveling with two teens, albeit lovely and respectful, fun and adventurous to a point, you must have some limits of how much you fit in. As our necks craned behind us, the rock got smaller, and we decided in wasn’t in the cards this trip, and we put it on the list for next time. The girls were happy knowing after 2.5 hours driving, we’d be in our next destination for 2 days. (So no, we really weren’t going to squeeze in Gibralter. Period.)
Tarifa, located at the southern most tip of Spain is only a 45 min fast ferry to Tangier. (also being saved for next trip)
Arriving in Tarifa, the first thing I saw were the wind energy generators. You know, those big 3 armed white steel things sticking in the ground. My picture wasn’t so hot but check out this photo of a wind farm. Spain is the 4th largest producer after China, US and Germany. Then we came round to the ocean… yes still from the moving vehicle. Continue reading
We woke Christmas morning to bells in a frequency unrelated to time..and they were beautiful. It’s been a lovely few days, noticeably lacking in the commercialism of Christmas. I appreciate that fact. I certainly feel less stress. And, if I’m honest, do I maybe miss the santas, poinsettias, and decorations a little too? I think so. Coming from the mouth of the German Christmas markets, lights and serious tannenbaums, it is a bit of a shock. But a good reality check of the point of December 25th. It’s given me something to think about.
Our presents were very minimal this year, and no stockings filled with candy and more bits. Here’s our tree and gifts. Notice innovative use of TP.
After sleeping in, O and I were up squeezing a dozen oranges, scrambling eggs, and getting the jamon on the plates. Coffee, sweet crumbly cakes and olives were set on the coffee table serving as our dining table. Kids wallowed out of bed to more church bells. We ate, opened our gifts and all donned new fuzzy socks.
Despite a plethora of churches, one of which we might have attended, if the service started at 1.30, we chose the Sierra Nevadas as our place of worship. We drove into the mountains and said happy birthday from here…
After 4 days of seeing the Alhambra (above) from our porch, our final day in Granada was spent visiting this monument, a Unesco world heritage site and one of the most visited in Spain. The construction of the original Moorish palaces of the Alhambra began in the 9th century and continued through the 16th century. Its beyond description here, so I won’t even try. Here are a few photos.
We left our pink little apartment and headed south through the mountains to the coast. We drove along the Mediterranean to Marbella then back north in the dark, up a very curvy, tummy turning one way in only road to Ronda…. to be continued.
There are loads of sites to get all the latest and newest, and the traditional holiday flicks and music. Here are our family (and adult only- ok… not that kind of adult) favorites.
Although Charlie Brown Christmas show is classic and we love it, we don’t always watch it. But, the soundtrack officially kicks off our season. This year it accompanied our holiday sugar cookie baking and decorating. I LOVE this CD and usually OD on it the first day because we listen to it over and over for about 5 hours. But then I’m ready for it again in just a few days.Cookie extravaganza… They didn’t quite look like the magazine ones….they were better:-)
Here’s a couple more fav’s…
Then for films… I’m going out on a limb here and starting with the naughty/nasty. Don’t watch Bad Santa with the kids! It’s raunchy funny and only for the thick skinned. Then comes nice…..Nativity, A Christmas Story, Elf and the classic Miracle on 34th Street. Not pictured- A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life… (of course)
And lest we forget these classics….. Here’s the original 1966 Grinch (with Boris Karloff, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolf, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman.
Ok. That’s it for now. We head to Spain tomorrow for 2 weeks. I’m hoping to get a couple posts and pics out while we are on the road. I mean those tech savvy peeps are doing it. Why can’t I. umm… because I’m a wee bit behind that curve. But I’m adding that to my 2012 resolutions. Get on top of that curve!
PS – Here’s one more Tim Allen film that’s fun.
Saturday night we partook in a very traditional German event, the Bach Weihnachtsoratorium. Here’s the wiki entry for Bach’s Oratorio. And here is a little idea of the 2 hours spent at St. Petri Kirche, downtown Hamburg. (this is a Dresden choir)
Granted 90% of the time, well at least 75% of the time, I listened intently, feeling my cultural integrity expand by the minute. I even read along with the German passages in the program. Though I will say, there was the tendency to repeat the same 3 sentences over and over to stretch out the show.. go Bach.
The other 10-30% of the time, I thought about blog posts and what I would order at Cafe de Paris. I quickly came to Steak tartare and Frites. Really though I don’t mean to sound like a cultural cow. It was beautiful.
We also spent the evening with 5 other couples. This was our first real couply social event. Yeah us!
Our choir sang today at Santa Fu prison in Hamburg. We all met with smiles at the S-bahn (train) in Blankenese and made our way north about 45min. We stepped off the train in Ohlsdorf into a light slushy rain, randomly cursing the weather amongst ourselves. We walked 15 maybe 20 minutes in one large group to the facility. We stepped inside the first entrance, handed over our passports and placed all our possessions in lockers. We sang a few warm up notes while waiting to be led in small groups through the scanner to another room. Each time, the door closed and locked behind us. All but one of the choir were chatty and a little nervous, unaccustomed to visits to correctional facilities. The exception was Stephen, a defense attorney who works with some of these inmates. He set up the gig for us. I would say the majority of our conceptions of prisons had been provided by the media and movies. About 30 minutes later, after each of us had been separately taken behind a curtain to be searched, we walked back outside across an inner courtyard, up another set of stairs and locked doors to the hall and dining room. We were debriefed with a little history about the prison and inmates and the fact that these men were only allowed to see their children in an open setting once a year at Christmas. This is what struck my heart. Continue reading