Toastada con Tomate

While in Spain I ate a type of breakfast I never would have tried without a recommendation. So, let me begin by saying
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To my friend Yan that I met on trail.
Since having this breakfast I wanted to know everything there was to it and was pleased to find it was quite simple.
Toastada con tomate or tomatoes on toast is:

• Toasted bread
• Grated tomato
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

That truly is it. Now, it may not sound like much but it is wonderful.
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I drizzled maybe a teaspoon of olive oil per piece of toast. Because it is oil you won’t need much. 

If you want a proper recipe check out A Painter of Modern Life’s blog recipe.
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Spain Series: Cityscapes and Countrysides

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One of the great peaks we climbed in two weeks. The Alto de Perdon can be seen in the movie about the Camino. The view and cool breeze from the top was fantastic.

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Many of the large cities took pride in creating their own spin on the shell way marker. These in Estella were quite fun to walk beside, if a little overkill in frequency.
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When we began hiking we would look ahead and pick a hill we thought we would be climbing soon. Of course, there were a few hills I let out a sigh as we passed because I enjoyed the scenes and didn’t have to climb each one.

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There was a large recreational park we hiked through at the edge of Logroño and it was a breath of fresh air after so much city slogging. We passed many families fishing off the bridge, hiking, biking together, and having a good ole barbeque.
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I almost forgot to take a picture of these super freaky trees. Near as I can tell, they are sycamores, but they have been cut and trained so many ways they look a little sad and sparse. In some cities, they trained them to grow across the sidewalk into an arbor. Eerie considering how towering and majestic these big water loving trees can grow.
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This town square was packed the night before with children and adults. Only hikers and those who had to work were up before 9AM. Strangely quiet in the city, but it made breakfast at the cafe quite nice.
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There were several areas with a big shade tree and wide open, super green field. Every once in a while my friend and I would stop at a place of beauty like this and say “Holy cow! We’re in Spain!”
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Looking down at the little French border town of St Jean Pied de Port. From this perspective it looked like someone’s dollhouse collection.

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When we hiked through wine country we saw grapes as often as you’d see tobacco, corn and beans here in Kentucky.
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France had funny little streets. Old, old towns that were used more bt horses and walkers than the cars that zoom down them today. You had to jump on someone’s front stoop if two cars tried to pass each other.

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Wine country was fun. I was thankful for the wide open fields and the promise of good local wine at dinner each night.
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I must say we didn’t didn’t pass nearly so many of these olive trees nor almond trees (not pictured) but when we did they were always interesting. Olive trees are fairly squat and wide–likely trained that way as well. Almond trees looked similar to peach trees.

Spain Series: Pilgrims

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Tables chock full of pilgrims eating supper. We hike, eat and sleep together, but saw vastly different people everyday.

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Both on trail and off I don’t think I have ever seen so many friendly and exurberant people.

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One of our trail friends even made supper for us! Much cheaper to throw in euro for groceries and applaud the skills of our chef from Holland.

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One gal from Canada met the chef from Holland on trail and they started dating! They had even made plans to visit each other after the long hike. Found out the gal from Canada is YouTube famous. Jess recognized her immediately as Lindsey Cowie and praised her for how much help she was. I hadn’t seen her videos, but she was a wonderfully friendly human being to be around.
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Even though we saw some people almost daily–breakfast or we stayed at the same hostel–others we only saw once or twice. We hiked a half day with a nice guy from Italy and we swapped vocabulary.

There were many other wonderful people that I wasn’t able to take photos of during my time on trail. Some guys in their 40s from a country town about two hours from Liverpool. They cracked me up and we kept trying to get them to say things in their adorable accents.

Supper was always fun or interesting because we kept meeting people from Europe and all over! They would tell stories of previous trails they had hiked, blisters (ampollas).
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At the end of my hiking time we got a photo with Jess and two good friends we made on trail. Daniel of Sweden and Yan of China. Good cats in their own rights.

The pilgrims were by far one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

Spain Series: Food pt. 2

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After our first long day of hiking we enjoyed a big Pilgrim’s meal at one of the two cafes in Roncesvalles. The pasta, wine and bread was gobbled quickly, but Jess and I both had to pause before digging into our fish. Neither of us were experienced with eating too many fish bone-in. Luckily, we had awesome dinner mates at our table. They were patient and encouraging while we fiddled with forks and fingers. After our first few bites we needed very little encouragement to continue.
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Like I mentioned, the pasta was typical part of the pilgrim’s menu. Some were better than others. After hiking all day, we ate every bit and slept well with full bellies.
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We had several different types of pre-packaged desserts. The cup of flan was on a quality on par with the snack pack pudding cups. A Spanish couple at our table taught us how to flip the cup and hit it against the heel of our palms before opening. This knocked the sugary caramel syrup down so it blended better.
image Museo del Jam on was a chain fast food joint. It was a novelty to us in that everyone stood at the bar or around the shop-there were no seats. During busy times, you couldn’t stir them with a stick. It was a mingle, eat and drink type place. The most popular menu choices were dirt cheap. We bought bocadillos (boe-kah-dee-ohs) and glasses of beer. The bocadillos were thick, crusty sandwhiches with a thin slice of Spanish style ham in the middle.
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I wish I had gone back to this cafe when I wasn’t jetlaggin’, but it was still good. We had fresh churros, coffee and hot chocolate.
We could see the cook pulling the dough, twisting it and dropping it into the fryer.
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The hot chocolate was a bit of a surprise. It was perfect for dipping churros, but was almost took much of a pudding conaistancy for drinking.
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The fun Spanish and English menu for the Churros y Chocolate that we went to in Spain. After looking at the menu, I pretty much wanted everything.
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This part of the meal was a surprise to us. We ordered it, I loved it. Then we looked it up on my phone back at the hostel.
“Sepia plancha” is grilled cuttlefish. Cuttlefish are boss at camouflage so I felt a little bad, but it tasted so darn good. The consistancy was similar to scallops or squid.
image We also split an empanada for our first meal in Spain. It was yummy too. Perhaps I could make empanadas here at home. Anyone know an easy version of this?
image At the same meal were some veggies in a light vinegar. They had a good flavor and a nice crunch. Much like a salad served before the meal and along with the bread.
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Along the Way, we stopped at a cafe that had an outdoor oven where they baked pizza, tortillas, and other good things. A tortilla in Spain is an omelet. Believe it or not, even the Fanta soda tasted different.
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Fell in love with an adult beverage while I was in Spain. Apparently this is a thing in USA too, I just didn’t have a clue.
In Spain it is called a pica or clara and in the U.S. it is called a Shandy.
Whatever you call it, it tastes awesome! Fill a glass half full with light beer and fill it the rest of the way with lemonade. Best cocktail ever. I have been drinking them at every opportunity since I have been home.

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