Monday, July 29, 2013

Priego de Cordoba, Spain

View of gardens and olive groves from the city wall of Priego de Cordoba. 
From Grenada we traveled by bus (Alsa is the main bus service) to Priego de Cordoba, a small, walled city tucked into miles and miles of rolling, olive tree covered terrain.  Our primary reason for visiting this town was to see some friends whom Ben and his sister, Angela, had met in 1996-97.  We had a wonderful visit in their home and I appreciated their great patience with my Spanish.  In the evening we took a walk around Priego and ate a typical Spanish meal: tortilla espanola, olives, bread, salmorejo, watermelon and grapes. 
Paqui in her kitchen making dinner.
She let me help with the salad: tomatoes, garlic, onions and olive oil.
In Priego, it is quite easy to believe that nearly 50% of the world's olive oil is produced in Spain.  The view from the city wall consists of thousands of neatly ordered olive trees. 
In the plaza there are many fountains. Manolo & Paqui included this on the walking tour of their city. It is one of the nicest parks I'd been to in Spain.  Ben remembers this plaza from his first visit to Priego. 
The following morning, Paqui insisted on sending a bottle of local olive oil with us.  We left Priego with oil in our backpacks and happy memories in our hearts.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Granada, Spain: Alhambra, Pension Austria, etc...

We took the bus from Murcia to Granada.  The most famous site in Granada, and perhaps one of the most famous sites in the world is the Alhambra. It was originally built as a fortress in the late 800's and in the 1300's became a royal palace. It has gone through many conquests and reconquests and what remains is a fascinating mixture of architecture.  We had tickets to visit the Nasrid Palace, which only allows a certain number of visitors in each hour.  Our tickets were for 7:00 in the evening and we were able to visit the other parts of the Alhambra the two hours prior to going into Nasrid Palace.  Ben had been there before and after seeing it myself I could see why he (and clearly many others :) are impressed.  Pictures really don't do it justice, but of course, we make an effort. 
View from the balcony of the inner court gardens.  Lots of citrus trees.
If you are like me, you recall the name Alhambra from the card game, "Authors" (which Shane, Kate and I played with both our Myers and Teixeira cousins :).  Yes, Washington Irving really did live here in the Alhambra back in 1829 when he wrote that book.
If you are like Ben, then you knew that the Alhambra was a really neat place and you spent your free time constructing an award winning replica of the Court of Lions (see photo below of the actual court) for high school Spanish festival competitions.
The interior décor has unbelievable detail.
The Alhambra is not the only thing interesting about Granada.  The photo above was taken in the ancient "water treatment plant" (I'm sure Ben's dad, Ron, will appreciate this :) in Granada.  We happened upon the historic site and noticed that they gave free tours.  The guide spent an hour and a half telling us about the history of the area, explaining the scale models of the water systems and giving an overview of various cultural perspectives. 
We ate a nice lunch in this restaurant somewhere in the narrow streets of the Albayzin section of Granada.  There are several Turkish, Iraqi and other Middle Eastern-type restaurants in Granada.  The "menu del dia" specials are pretty good--a "3 course" offerta for about 8 euros.
Ben in front of Pension Austria, Granada
We spent 2 nights here in Pension Austria, a hosteleria we read about in Rick Steve's Travel Guide.  It was very clean, comfortable, convenient and the cost was extremely reasonable. We could walk up the hill to the Alhambra (caution, it is not an easy climb!). (By the way, we don't automatically recommend every place we visit.  One in Seville won't get a bad review from us, but neither will it get a recommendation.)  Here's the link for Pension Austria.  The photos on the website very accurate and this site is quite user-friendly.;label=pension-austria-QYeaBEPDLvlEWoiTF1PRCwS19528251553:pl:ta:p1:p2:ac:ap1t1:neg;ws=&gclid=CNvwq8ijsrgCFTMRtAodWEYAFQ

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Murcia, Spain: wonderful hosts and excellent tapas @ La Tapadera

Our friends from Lexington, Alejandro & Carolina (she is a teacher at Ben's high school) and their son, Santi, are spending the summer in Murcia and they invited us to visit them.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and Alejandro's family.  They gave us a great tour of their city.
When you go to Murcia, you might not be lucky enough to have Alejandro & Caro as your personal guides, but you should certainly go to La Tapadera~Cocina Mediterranea for tapas.  Victor & Elena, the friendly owners, offer classic as well as creative options.  One of our favorites was eggplant topped with goat cheese and a honey glaze.  Gazpacho, croquettes, duck, quiche...the list goes on. 
La Tapadera is conveniently located just a short walk from the center of town:
Calle Saavedra Fajardo, 2,  30001 Murcia. 
Victor & Elena
 Croquette w/ sauce
Dulce de leche :)
Alejandro & Carolina
Breakfast on the patio of Alejandro's parents' home.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Aldaba Residencia Universitaria, Calle Monroy, Salamanca, Spain

This blog wouldn't be complete without a post about our "home" for the past 2 weeks: Aldaba @ Monroy. There are two locations for Aldaba here in Salamanca, both owned and operated by the same ladies, and we hear good reports from the teachers staying in Aldaba Rector as well.  Our experience here has been excellent and we would recommend this lodging option to anyone.  The rooms each have a private bath.  They have single and double rooms.  No smoking is allowed in the building.  Internet is available in every room, and WiFi is available in the dining room.  The photo above is of the main entrance, and if you look closely, you'll see we are adjacent to a Carrefour, which is a convenient place to pick up necessities, and it accepts foreign credit cards.  We actually have stayed in 2 rooms here, since when we arrived the larger room was still occupied.  Below are some photos that were taken in both rooms, as well as a single room.
The foyer just inside the entrance is cozy and clean.  The door is locked at all times and we feel very safe here.
This is the room (on the main floor, just off the dining room) we were in the first few days.  It is a very nice room and opens to the balcony.
This room is on the 3rd floor, a bit larger and more suited for two people.
Some of the double rooms have bunk beds. 
Ben, doing homework. 
This dear lady is a wonderful cook (and also a kind and patient Spanish teacher for me :). The homemade meals are satisfying and offer a variety of examples of traditional foods.  Lunch is served from 1:30 - 2:45.  Dinner is served from 8:30 - 9:15.  Breakfast is self serve and available around 7:30 in the morning.  Breakfast in Spain is fairly light--coffee and a small muffin or croissant, but then they eat a "2nd breakfast" around 10:45 in the morning at one of the many cafes.
This is the dining area and the terrace pictured below, is adjacent to the dining room.

The 2 rooms on the main floor (where the dining room is) open onto this balcony.

The staff here is very friendly and they have patiently allowed me to practice my Spanish. This is one of the ladies who does some of the cooking and also cleans the rooms and common areas.  I snapped this photo in the 3rd floor sitting area. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mester Academy, Salamanca, Spain

I've not mentioned too much about Ben's classes.  Yes, we've had a great time visiting various sites and meeting folks, but the original reason we came to Spain was so Ben could take some classes at Mester, a Spanish language school here in Salamanca.  He has really enjoyed the classes about technology, culture and language.  Additionally, he's met some great teachers from all over the U.S. as well as other countries.  They are working on a group project for class and spend a pretty high percentage of time talking about teaching strategies and experiences when they are not in class.  For more details, you'll need to ask Ben, of course, but I thought I'd post a few photos.
III Congreso Internacional del Espanol was last week, and the Mester group attended various presentations, including one by Dr. Blake and Gabriel. 
   And, as you know from other posts, the group has had several out of class cultural experiences as well!  The ruta de tapas (above) and cooking demonstration (below) are 2 examples.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Churros con chocolate @ Valor, Salamanca, Spain...

Certainly photos of antique buildings should be balanced with something more palatable. :)
We were advised by many wise persons that the best churros con chocolate could be found at the Valor shop.  Churros are like fresh doughnuts.  They are dunked in melted dark chocolate.  They are exceptionally delicious.   They are not low calorie.  We'll stick with carrots when we return to KY :).

Ben, doing his best to pretend he's happy.