Spain Series: Food pt. 1

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This was the main course of the meal in a small town called Obanos (Oh-bahn-nose). If it looks like a mystery meat drowning in a peculiar sauce then you’d be spot onto how it tasted. It was supposedly chicken, but the other folks who ordered beef got a similar murky looking plate. Thankfully, I had filled up on the previous soups and starters before the main course. No pix of the starters—that’s how good it was!

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The dessert at Obanos was good, but I wasn’t sure where to put it. I believe they called it tiramisu? I can’t recall. It was a good cake with super sweet raspberry sauce and fluffy whipped cream.
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The meal we had in Cirauqui. Although the Spinach soup doesn’t look like much it had a phenomenal flavor! It also warmed us straight to the bone. The dining room was a little odd as we went downstairs to the basement underneath the hostel to eat. It was a very nice dining area.
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In Estella, we checked into our albergue and went in search of food. Yan (our friend from China) knew a good place to eat and we did eat well!
We had sandwhiches and gobbled our weight in patatas bravas. Brava has many meanings, so I assume the translation would be hot potatoes. Fierce potatoes sounds more awesome though.
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Yan–ever brave–ordered this to share with us. I was shocked that i liked it. I ate it, but was quite hesitant. This was squid and the sauce was made from its own ink. The sauce and meat were both good. I ate it on a crust of bread. Too fishy for Jess’ taste.
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Ice cream or helado (el-ah-doe).
Mango flavored! It was so good! Very creamy with that unmistakable fruity mango flavor. It wasn’t a super common flavor, but we did find it in many of the ice cream shops we went to.
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Green soups seemed to be a common starter when we ordered the Pilgrim’s menu along the way. Although the presentation was better than some we ate the flavor was not as complex. The hostel was being run by two couples from Holland. They spent 3-6 weeks working there then another set of people would come run the hostel.
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Pasta was the typical second or main course in the Pilgrim’s menu. This was some sort of bolognaise sauce–or so I was told by my more traveled eating companions.
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A custard was a typical postre (poe-strey). It was a surprise when we got bread pudding. I make bread pudding so I am a bit particular. I was satisfied with the quality–the whipped cream was yummo too. The people from Europe at the table were more wary of it than I expected.
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My coworker told me I had to try paella (pie-eh-yah). Which, near as I can tell, is a baked skillet of saffron rice and some sort of meat. I wish I could have found some grandmother to make it for me. Homecooking always wins. This was quite good and makes me want to experiment with saffron.
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This was an adventure of a meal. Yan, Daniel (hiker from Sweden) and I met our new friend and hospitelero (hostel host) for supper in Logroño. He decided to order for us and we all ate family style. This is how we ended up with a salad that included a goat cheese (I think), a balsamic vinegar dressing and thin slices of cooked duck. The duck is what looks like the purple slices of meat. It was an awesome salad. I ate mostly that.
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Blood sausage. Despite its terrible appearance and name. It tasted much like liver; that high in iron taste. It was mixed somehow with rice so I’m not sure what order they did things in to make it taste the way it did.
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More of the fancy pinchos (similar to tapas) we ate wers octopus on bread with other veggies. It was delicious and I would have gotten another one if they had more. can you see the tentacles!?
The ordering style at the bar involved pointing and stating a quantity. Because of that, I have no clue what they called this type of food. It was pulpo something. Pulpo just means octopus.
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Along the Way we ate at an outdoor oven cafe. It was lovely and their food was flavorful. Jess got the asparagus pizza and she was lucky I didn’t steal it from her.

There was too much good food for one blog post! I am splitting this into two parts so I don’t make my readers too hungry. So wipe away the saliva, fix yourself a PB&J and wait for another post about food that is coming soon.

Spain Series: Bread, Coffee, and Wine

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If anything can be the staple of a country it must be the bread in Spain. Followed closely by the local wine and coffee.
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This was a snack or light breakfast that I discovered by way of the lovely Chinese woman I met on trail. Yan has lived in Spain for several years. During her time there she learned language, worked and found all the awesome foods.

Tostada con tomate means toast with tomato. The unlisted ingredients makes it delish too. Diced or mashed up tomatoes mixed with olive oil and spread on toast. Sprinkle with black pepper. Maybe it doesn’t sound too special, but I can promise it is good. I can’t wait for my garden tomatoes to come up so I can make this for my hubbster.
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Red wine (vino tinto) was another common sight in Spain. Every single town had their own brand of wine. I don’t just mean the wealthy towns either. I mean the po-dunk of the bunch with a population of 200 or so. You want to know what comes from the town of 350 where I grew up? Mullets.
The folks in Spain have as many bodegas (wineries) as we have cricks around Kentucky. Crazy frequent.
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Like I said, bread is a staple. We had some sort of bread with every meal. The particular meal (pictured above) is a breakfast made up bread, bread, and bread, with coffee and juice.
Really. There were two sweet breads and a toast for breakfast.
Other meals were usually served with a crusty French bread.
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Some wineries took their business very serious. This huge form of advertisement was along side the Camino and invited a photo.
Link to Irache free winery

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My first night in Madrid I had to try to wine. It surprisingly helped to settle my stomach, if just for a little while from the gawdawful jetlag. I swear the jetlag felt like a hard night of drinking that left one feeling hungover and unable to sleep it off. So I figured, why not have a glass of wine–
I could feel as though I had earned that sickness.
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I’m normally an anytime of day type of coffee drinker, but this espresso I had to be careful with. Typically, I drank the cafe con leche. Not cold milk, this was heated and sometimes frothy.

As you can plainly see, this was a midmorning snack of champions. Chips and coffee. There were some bread crusts and chorizo.

Just remember, if you end up in Spain and it is not during one of the strangely late meal times you can always have bread, coffee or wine.

Spain Series: Lodging

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After our first (long) day hiking around the Pyrenees mountains a long haul with perhaps 100 bunk mates was a welcome sight.

The ancient beauty of the albergue was not to be outshone by the many pairs of bunkbeds. The converted churches and monasteries made the prettiest ceilings for sore and tired pilgrims.

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One thing I could hardly believe were the frequency of warm and hot showers. The picture above is the Jesus y María in Logroño and with over a hundred people on two floors in bunkbeds I got a hot shower. Spain must have magical water heaters.

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Not too surprisingly, toilets were more hit or miss. From the toilet/handsoap quantity to the Easter egg search that had to be performed on the flush handle almost every visit.

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The basic formula of an albergue (Al-bur-gay) was a room with double bunk beds, shower and toilet combo (not always split for sexes), a kitchen, possibly a laundry area and a shoe rack designated for dirty shoes that were not allowed in the dorm rooms.

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Some of the private hostels veered away from the dull white on white color scheme. We were always a little shocked when we came upon bright pink or orange sheets. What a treat!

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This was a very visually appealing albergue along the way. Although it was very plain it just had a good feel. Deep brown ceiling and floor with the lighter colors on the bunks themselves.

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Ciraqui (sear-raw-key) had some freaky art and dripping paint effects in the process.

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Although one night we worried about finding an inn with room. We never had to worry about staying in one of these wild looking rock shelters.

So, what can be said about shared living spaces?
• Don’t gawp in the bathrooms.
• Wear earplugs and an eye mask.
• Don’t be easily offended by smells.
• Stay in a hostel when you go to Europe—the experience was very enjoyable.

Spain Series: Travel

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During our time in Europe we used trains, planes and automobiles of various sorts. (Sorry, I had to!)

Our first leg of the journey involved driving to Louisville and getting through airport security.
We were ready and left on time but got multiple updates texts saying our flight would leave two hours earlier and then only one hour earlier….of course by the time we arrived at the airport (breathless!) the flight was delayed 30 minutes.

After around 12 hours on a plane and arriving at breakfast time in Madrid we were dragging.
Security was shockingly simple, the uniformed official did not even say ‘hola’. Strange compared to the questioning we get on the U.S. side.

And stumbled to the curb to find a taxi. One horrendously expensive cab ride later we made it to the Barbieri Hostel near Puerta del Sol. I recalled my Spanish teacher going over the differences in floors after we got turned around. Ground floor and first floor are the same thing in the USA, but the ground floor (planta baja) comes first then the first floor (primera planta) comes second.

Barbieri was great and Ana was super patient with our groggy minds. The only downer we experienced was while we were exhausted we could not check into our room until 2:00PM.

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The train station that we scoped out the day before we left Madrid had an epic entrance. However, we had to walk around the side to see this because the construction blocked our view. Inside it was sunny, noisy and housed a garden with reaching palms and a big turtle pool.

Sitting and waiting for the train to come was a little odd. We had absolutely no clue which platform ours would arrive at and listening for an echoing voice in Spanish announcing platforms was a little nerve wracking.
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However, like most of our other travels it was easier than I had guessed. There were screens everywhere with times and platform numbers and the PA was announcing in English as well.
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I was halfway hoping for a whoosh! of air or a rushing crowd to push me between two platforms but this was not a Harry Potter adventure. Finding our correct coche and seat was just as easy.
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We had much more room and comfort than our airplane seats but the feeling was much too familiar. Thankfully the ride was fun and I forgot I was in a confined space again.

I liked the rhythm of the ride and the sights we enjoyed during our 3.5 hour train ride. The only part that was uncomfortable was when the train went through the numerous tunnels and the pressure changed rapidly. Even the travel toilets were nice.

The experience of getting back to Madrid by bus at the end of the trip was quite enjoyable. I don’t have any pictures but if I had taken one of myself all you would have seen were my huge eyeballs.

Catching the bus was a bit hard because there were about five buses at the tiny station when mine should have arrived. There were some other Spanish pilgrims that helped me (thank goodness!).

A quote from my trail journal regarding my bus trip:
My eyes were as big as platters while [the driver] cut thru the construction zones and tiny streets of Najera. I think my stomach and anus have unclenched.
Once I reached the highways and countryside I relaxed, but every small town sidestreet we maneuvered was a miracle. I was truly amazed at his driving.
We also a enjoyed English and Spanish pop music, including this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC9Uz7x7pXM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Day 363: Jet Laggin’

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Look how beautiful and cheerful we are!!
Yeah…that didn’t last.

We were at airports from 11AM on the 29th to 3AM on the 30th if you don’t count the time changes.

I can’t quite explain how miserable jet lag feels. We walked around and chugged water but because we got zero sleep on the 8 hour plane ride we felt like super poop.

Thankfully, the effects are not long lasting.