New York City snapshots- Brooklyn to Upper East Side

I loved my four days in NYC. Both great quality time and fun do nothing time with my son and plenty of plodding around the city on my own. Each of my five of my senses, often simultaneously stimulated, could give you a recount of how we spent the days. Here is a visual recap with some support from the others.

I had a fun morning in Brooklyn visiting with my niece who pushed about eight pounds of fruits and vegetables through a juicer to produce two large gorgeous glasses of fresh juice. Sweet from the apple, with a bite from the kale, plus a hint of lemon, a reprieve from my days of indulgence. This deserved a photo but I was to wrapped up in the moment. So nice to have a few quiet moments face to face to catch up a little. Before wandering from her apartment we watched a NYPD traffic van illegally back up and rear end another car. Ouch. Also wrapped up in that moment, the cars were clearing as I thought to get my camera. Auditory… check.

From her apartment I wandered down Myrtle Ave, past Fort Greene Park in the direction of Pratt. As I mentioned, my grandparents met at Pratt Institute in 1924, fell in love and produced my father. Tragically, my grandfather, out for a spin on a buddy’s new motorcycle, died in an accident on that spur of the moment trip around the block. He left behind a small toddler and a woman who I believe lost her true love. But all events lead us to today and here I am, grateful.  Willie Thomas, my father, jazz musician and a legend in his own mind, also spent many years in this same neighborhood as a doorman by day and a fierce horn blower by night. I snapped shots of interest as I walked.

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Rosen Montag, Shrove Dienstag & Pancake Day

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.

Late bits….

So thanks to John Bryan Hopkins at Foodimentary, I learned yesterday was World Nutella Day. So I had to repost these ginormous food service size Nutella jars we saw in the little beach town of Tarifa, Spain.

I love nutella as much as I love raw meat…(still not judging me- right?)

The other thing I became moderately aware of….ha ha… due to gorgeous party food spreads (really the only reason I would ever consider a Superbowl party), was indeed the Superbowl.  I’m pretty sure it was yesterday but we are celebrating with nachos today and watching Stepbrothers (note opening scene of nachos). Yes, I do enjoy a pretty broad spectrum of film genres. Ok, the Giants won. Really it was a pretty small article on the NYTimes online homepage. Geez… hope I’m not offending anyone out there!

So you could buy about 5 of those jars of Nutella for the cost of one jar of salsa and one jar of jalepeños here in Deutschland. But it’s worth it. I wish I could get a case of jalepeños. We love them too.

Trick to good nachos is keeping the heat down. I do about 325-350 degrees so they are hot and melted but the cheese doesn’t burn.  And I put the peppers on just a couple minutes before they are done so they are warmed up but still juicy. Just don’t multi-task when you are making nachos!

Last of Spain

Last of Spain

So I’ve reached the final post for Spain. Wie schade (German), quel dommage (French), qué lástima (Spanish), what a pity (English). Although we missed friends and family over the holidays, it was a wonderful experience, and the memories will last a lifetime.

The first pics are of our last day trying to make our way to the Macarena barrio. As I mentioned previously, I didn’t quite hit the desired target but the route we did take, amused us immensely. We found several craft markets as it was days before Three Kings Day, Dia de los Reyes Magos, which falls on January 6. The epiphany is as celebrated if not more that Christmas and New Year’s and you see many of these guys dangling from balconies. Combined with the crafts were always food. Great, right?

 

 

 

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Seville part 3 – tapas & streetlife

Seville part 3 – tapas & streetlife

The atmosphere and vibrancy of Seville, influenced I’m sure by the sun and warmth, is something to behold.  It’s one of those places I plan to return. Someday, I’ll spend a month reading, writing, walking and eating….. and blogging.

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People enjoy being outside day and night. Who wouldn’t when the sun shines and the air is cool. I’ll remind you I did grow up in Florida, and too much of anything, including sun, has its downside. But my life with sun was like 2+ decades ago. So at this point sun everyday sounds dreamy.

And how about a little street music?

 

 

 

 

 

Or iceskating?

And they are still out at night…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly, I couldn’t get enough of the fresh oj and coffee. I like my coffee strong with a little milk and pretty sweet. The sugar packets in this country were fat with about 3tsp of sugar/pkt.

 

 

One morning we bought churros for a euro at a little mini booth, took them next door, sugared them up and ate with… you guessed, sweet coffee. Once again, a photo after being half eaten. I just can’t get the camera out before I start chowing.

And lastly, as I’m all jazzed up about this video option… a parade clip.

Seville Pt. 2 New Years Eve

Seville Pt. 2 New Years Eve

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.

 

 
 “Flamenco, Andalucia’s soul-stirring gift to the world of music” (from Lonely Planet guide to Andalucia)

 

“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.

Seville Pt 1

Seville Pt 1

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?

brains exploding with information

Varieties of jamon. I want to put one in my suitcase.

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.

Tarifa

Tarifa

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

Ronda rocks

Ronda rocks

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No pun intended. The rock formations here are outstanding, but I like the feel of this place for some reason, even better than Granada. It is smaller, but no less touristy with the history, museums, incredible bridges built into the cliffs and its status as the home of bull fighting. We stayed in the lovely guesthouse La Boabdil .

The fact Hemingway and Orsen Wells spent many summers here, inspired by Ronda leads one to believe there is something to this place that evokes “the just something about this place” feeling. Possibly the natural beauty, cobbled streets or views seen in the shots below on one of our walks. I am also a sucker for agriculture and farms. I have an ongoing dialog in my dream world of living in the city for culture and stimulation, by an ocean, or back on a farm. One that might now include olive trees and citrus.

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How about fields of olives harvested between November and December within hand’s reach…Did you know Andalusia has over 40 million olive trees? Here’s a great site for basic facts on Spanish olive oil.

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I’m back now….got way side tracked on that link. I look forward to a full post on olive oil.
We also had the fortune to cross paths with friends from Orcas Island…go figure! We shared the morning with Lydia and John Miller and their three homeschooled boys, out on a 9 month European adventure. Check out their travels here- The Camel Ate My Homework.

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Now we head back to the coast…next stop Tarifa.
I thank you in advance for patience with mistakes here. Am learning mobile WordPress with dodgy wifi. But blessed with such a full head of hair, I can rip some off my head and you won’t even know. I’ll leave a few more photos here.

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Granada

Granada

 

Plaza Neuva above… We parked our car just outside the old city streets and took a taxi here. Felt like we were miles and miles away. Actually, Granada is only about 1.5 kilometers square. We are a fifteen minute walk from our car!

On our sunny drive to Granada, we made one unscheduled stop in Estepa…. Keep the spontaneity alive I say. Wikipedia states it being founded in 1241, but there seems to be about another 1000 years of history dating back to Romans. I’ll let you continue that history lesson. It’s also famous for producing 45,000 pounds of Christmas biscuits made with lard, in 30 factories, with about 60,000 employees, of which about 90% are woman, from Sept to Dec.

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First meal in Granada a bit heavy on the mayo but I love it.

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Our days have been spent walking, exploring and eating. We spent a lot of time walking in one of the barrios near us, an area originally settled by gypsies, dwelling in caves, where we visited the museum here in Sacromonte.

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Another afternoon spent in the Arabic Hamman baths gave us all a new lease on life. The world an even better place after 2 hours spent here

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