Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spain - Granada

The second part of my Spanish Adventure consisted of spending four days in Granada.
I stayed with my friend in her super cool Spanish-style apartment that's actually part of one big house - thanks for being such a great host, tour guide, and translator, Lara!

The view of the Alhambra from Lara's balcony

We took a bus from Seville to Granada, which was about a three hour drive.
It was really nice to see the Spanish countryside. It was very hilly and mountainy and there were lots of farms and lots vegetation I've never seen before. It was quite beautiful and very different from anything I've seen before.

The Pomegranate Fountain
('Granada' means 'pomegranate')

Granada is quite different from Seville, which was surprising given the fact that they're not that far apart.
There's quite a bit more greenery and it's situated in a more mountainous region. You could technically ski and go to the beach all in one day!
The architecture is also very different, probably because Granada has a very strong Moorish influence.

See the snow-topped mountain in the background?

One thing about Granada that I really loved was the FREE tapas!
Yes, that's right. Whenever you order a drink (at a tapas bar) you get a FREE tapas. Admittedly you don't get to pick what they serve you, but that's all part of the fun.

I nibbled on snacks such as...
  • Croquettes - spinach, ham & cheese
  • Deep fried fish
  • Deep fried octopus
  • Sauteed mushrooms - which were the best mushrooms I've ever eaten
  • Paella - which was very tasty, but I accidentally ate liver or kidney or something yucky like that :(
  • Pork stew
  • Spanish sausage

And anyway, even if you don't like it, it doesn't really matter because it's FREE!
So, Canada, you better get it together and not only lower the prices of your drinks, but also give me free food with them.

I also developed an affinity for 'tinto de virano', which is basically just red wine mixed with fizzy lemonade. SO good.

Sorry for all the blabbing, here are some pictures to balance it all out:

Sacramonte, which is known for its caves.
Yes, those building are caves.

This is a SERIOUS cave


A flamenco school in Sacramonte

The Alhambra from Sacramonte

I played tourist and went to the Alhambra, the Moorish palace and fortress complex from the 14th Century.
It was really impressive, especially the beautiful view and the ridiculously ornate carvings.

The view from the Alhambra

The view from the lookout tower

Inside the Palace
Look at all that carving! Every room was like this!

Inside the Palace

I also went to Motril and Salobrena, which are about an hour from Granada.
Lara and I went because I was itching to go to the beach and develop at least a hint of a healthy glow.
Look at how beautiful Salobrena is!

On my last day in Granada there was a Gypsy Festival, so we went to watch a free flamenco show down by the river.
It was great to see a show with a singer, guitarist, flautist, and two dancers.
Flamenco is a very beautiful, intense (and very loud) art form.

And here are some miscellaneous pictures from my trip:

A BIG dish of paella

Moroccan tea

Steph the Tourist
(with churros and Spanish hot chocolate - mmm!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spain - Seville

I recently got back from a week long trip to Spain.
I was visiting a friend from back home who's studying flamenco in Granada.
We met up in Seville and spent two nights with her friend, who was a wonderful host and excellent tour guide, before moving on to Granada.
It was my first time in Spain, and I loved it!

The architecture in Seville is really beautiful and the houses are so cute and colourful.
The streets were lined with blossoming Seville orange trees, which were not only pretty, but also smelled amazing.
I had my first taste of tapas, which were delicious! And, a Spanish-style Menu del Dia, which was really good, but sooo filling - 3 courses is too much for lunch, no wonder things close down between 2:00 and 5:00.
I also saw a flamenco show. It was just a singer and a guitarist (flamenco doesn't always have to have a dancer), and was really good. Flamenco guitar is really impressive!

Here are some of my pictures from Seville:

On the way to the Cathedral

The Cathedral and the Giralda

Outside the Cathedral

Hotel Alfonso XIII

A biiig church

A recycling container - yay recycling!

Plaza de Espana, which was
built for Iberian-American Exposition '92

Each province in Spain depicted in tile
(at Plaza de Espana)

The Archeological Museum of Sevilla


A cobbly, colourful street

LOTS of books

Flamenco outfits

Friday, April 8, 2011

Baking Withdrawal

A couple of weeks ago I got a serious case of baking withdrawal.
I couldn't take it anymore.
I needed to make cookies.
Store bought cookies just weren't cutting it.

So, I made some Martha Stewart chocolate chip cookies, but with a chopped up Dairy Milk bar instead of chocolate chips - om nom nom nom nom!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies - Martha Stewart

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
2. Beat butter with both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. 
3. Add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed.
4. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. 
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Cookies should be golden around the edges, but still soft in the center,
8. Om nom nom nom nom.

Then, a couple of days later, since I already had all the ingredients, I made smiley chocolate chip pancakes!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jamie's Italian

To continue with the birthday festivities, Paul and I went for dinner at Jamie's Italian last night!
I tried to take photos of my food (how Asian of me, I know), but they didn't turn out that well - sorry!

The restaurant is in a beautiful old building that was once a bank.
While waiting to be seated, I got to watch the chefs work their magic through the open kitchen located next to the bar. It was like watching live Food Network with the boss (not Jamie, unfortunately) shouting orders at the cooks and inspecting the food before letting it go out to the tables.
I also got really hungry while waiting, and even more indecisive about what I wanted to order.

We got a cozy booth in a corner of the restaurant, which was really nice.

So, the food!
The food was super good. Suuuper good.
We had...

Crispy Squid with Garlicky Mayo
Prawn Linguine
Turbo Fusilli Arrabiata 

We also had Tiramisu and a slice of Baked Walnut Tart for dessert, but those photos really didn't turned out well, so you'll just have to imagine what they looked like.

I definitely want to go back to Jamie's.
Maybe for some Bucatini Carbonara or Monachelle Puttanesca or Wild Truffle Tagliatelle...or all three...