Sunday, July 25, 2010

Technology Troubles

Sometime back in the springtime, when I was in Northwest Africa, my Macbook decided it wasn't having as much fun on the Great Odyssey as I was. It initated a 'work-to-rule' campaign, making it a little more difficult to keep this blog up to date, but still possible. While it kept pumping out the stories, it was getting angrier at me by the week. It decided to go on a series of frustrating, rotating strikes, usually when I needed it the most. I visited the Genius at the Apple store in London and we came up with a solution to get Macbook back to work. Unfortunately that solution crapped out on me too. Currently, my computer is only slightly more useful to me than a brick.

Unfortunately, this means that for the few remaining weeks of this trip, the likelihood of my being able to write and post to this blog will be very limited. If I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I may write some stuff on paper, and post it when I get home in August or September or if I find an Internet cafe nearby. Photos will definitely go up in early September.

I haven't written about Sevilla, Portugal, Scotland, or London yet. Still to come on my journey are Budapest (where I am now),  Vienna (where I go on Tuesday), Munich, Black Forest, Rhine River Valley, Bordeaux, Paris, and Brussels. Then I will likely be heading home, unless I figure out how to stick around for a couple more weeks to hang out with some friends who will have just arrived in Italy. We'll see.

So to all my friends and family who have been faithfully dropping by to see what I've been up to, I apologize. It looks like I will be letting you down when it comes to updates. Thank you so much though, for spending some time with me on the trip of a lifetime!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pamplona: The Thrill of Running with the Bulls

 A brilliant Life Magazine photo from the day of my 1st run
En caso de mala emergencia, llame por teléfono por favor a mi hermano, Brion, en Canadá +1 613 555 1234 o +1 613 555 4321. Él habla inglés solamente.
I finished scribbling this note on a scrap of paper, wrapped it tightly around my Ontario Health Insurance and Blue Cross travel insurance cards and placed it carefully in the right front pocket of my new white trousers. Then I tied the red sash around my waist and the red pañuelo (bandana) around my neck, and stepped into the hallway. Was I being paranoid? Perhaps, but as one of my new friends liked to say, “this ain’t no disco.” There was a very real risk that something could go wrong. If it did, no one was here to notice that I didn’t return.

Runners Awaiting the cohete
Today was the day I would run in my first encierro – the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona Spain. This is the event that leads news broadcasts around the world every July 7th, when men and a handful of women dressed in the traditional red and white of Fiesta de San Fermin celebrate life by running with fierce fighting bulls through the medieval cobblestone streets of Pamplona’s old quarter. It’s a tradition that dates back hundreds of years and likely emerged from the way herds were hurried along from the range to market back in the Middle Ages. In modern days, six fighting bulls trample and gore their way from the holding pen on the outskirts of town to the bullring where they will face one of three matadors (and most likely be killed) in the afternoon’s Corrida de Toros (bullfights). Alongside the bulls run six to eight enormous steers whose job it is to keep the herd together along the route. The encierro and Fiesta de San Fermin became famous around the world as the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s brilliant novel, 1926’s The Sun Also Rises.

 One of my bulls in the afternoon

Here they come!
I had been looking forward to this for months. If all went well, Sanfermines would be in the running for the greatest adventure of my Odyssey. I was excited. At 6:30 a.m., there is a chill in the air and the morning dew makes the cobblestones quite slippery. Still, I doubt that the goose bumps that covered my arms and the chill that ran up the back of my neck were entirely a result of the brisk temperatures.

The fiesta from the night before is just winding down (though a new party will start as soon as the bars are swept) and those without hotel rooms are starting to head to the parks or scout out resting places in the myriad of public plazas nearby. Clean up crews are hard at work hosing down urine-soaked alleyways and power-washing away truckloads of broken wine bottles, beer cups and food wrappers that have accumulated over the past 24 hours. I dodge the street sweepers and those still partying and make my way towards the bullring.

 Crossing Mercaderes
__________________

The route starts at the corral on the outskirts of the city, in the shadow of the ancient ramparts. The first 293 yards run steeply uphill along Cuesta de Santo Domingo. It’s very narrow here, and the bulls run tightly in a pack. This is the first time in their lives that they’ve been exposed to more than the handful of vaqueros that tended to them on the range or tested them to see if they had the courage to be fighting bulls. It’s considered a dangerous section, yet some of the most experienced runners begin here by running directly at the bulls when they’re released to get clear of the crowds, then some turn at the last moment and run back uphill with the herd for as long as they can keep up. It’s aptly named the “Suicide Run.”

The Route
At the top of the hill, the bulls turn left, crossing City Hall Square and pick up speed as they sweep along Calle Mercaderes. There are no safe places along the route, but the presence of a double set of wooden barriers and a wider roadway leaves some room for escape should things go south here. At the end of Mercaderes there is a sharp right hand turn leading into Calle Estafeta – La Curva del Muerte: Dead Man’s Corner. With a full head of steam, the bulls are often unable to navigate the turn and crash into the wall on the outside of this corner. It astonishes me that year after year, run after run, people continue to get themselves into perilous positions by taking that curve wide and getting trapped between the wall and the bulls.

Heading into La Curva
Estafeta is dead straight with a slight incline running the length of a good Par 4. With buildings acting as barriers along this stretch, there are very few places to escape if the need arises. The herd often separates as the bulls struggle through La Curva, adding to the danger. These lone bulls, called sueltos in Spanish, can be very dangerous. They may get disoriented and when that happens they are highly unpredictable and prone to charging runners.

Old pic of a pileup in Callejón
The final stretches of the run are across the short Telefonica section and through the Callejón tunnel into the ring. Organizers installed some small gaps in the wall at the base of the tunnel a while ago which are just big enough for a man to squeeze through. Even with that, the tunnel can be just plain scary. It’s only 9 feet wide and when someone trips, deadly human pile-ups have been known to happen. Telefonica and Callejón are where the great Basque runners are photographed nearly every day, running gloriously right ‘on the horns’. The Spanish colourfully describe them as ‘Divinos’ – the Divine Ones. The run ends in the ring where the Pastores and Dobladores guide the bulls through a gate on the opposite side and into the security of the pen.

__________________

The mood as I walk from the end of the route towards the beginning is an odd mix of emotions. The booze-fuelled, devil-may-care celebrations of the weary revellers still mingling on the street – many still carrying huge cups of Sangria – contrasts with the excited but serious looks of the corredores – the runners. In an hour there will be pure mayhem on these very cobblestones. As I pass through the streets, I’m visualizing my run, anticipating where I think the bulls will be, and making mental note of where things might go wrong. I look for recessed doorways and other possible avenues for escape, and notice where the bright sun shoots between buildings into the eyes of the runners. My anxiety is higher than normal but to my surprise, I have little fear. Perhaps that is a side effect of my slightly obsessive preparation. I’d watched dozens of hours of video, studied the route in Google Earth, read every article I could get my hands on, and viewed the section that I was about to run from a balcony the day prior. Still, part of the allure of the run is that anything can happen.

Solemn runners before the Encierro
Without a few thousand humans to dodge, running with the bulls would be little more than a simple math problem:
  • Bull leaves Point A, running x km/hr
  • Runner leaves Point B, running y km/hr
  • They intersect at Point C 
  • Therefore, runner should choose Point B so that C occurs in a safe place with lots of escape routes.
With the size of the crowd this morning, you can throw that theory out the window. This is the weekend that the French cross the Pyrenees and come to town so the number of people more than doubles – twice the number of targets for the bulls and for people to trip over. Ending up on the end of a bull’s horn is the most traumatic injury, though it’s all those other runners that pose the greatest risk in the encierro. Sure, the gorings get all the press, but most of the injuries are a result of falls.

__________________

Today is July 10, 2010.

As I wait for the cohete (rocket) to blast (once to warn runners that the bulls have been released, the second to indicate all bulls are clear of the pens and on the route) a man is handing out pañuelos to the runners anxiously gathered along Santo Domingo. They are simple red fabric triangles with text in small white letters on one side. The chap from New Mexico standing beside me says something about it being advertising. I glance at the one in my hand and suggest that he look a little closer. There is a slogan in Spanish with fifteen names below it. The last name is Daniel Jimeno Romero and below it, the date July 10, 2009. One year ago this morning, in the final stretch before the ring, an 1130-pound red-coloured bull named Capuchino took Daniel’s life. He was the fifteenth man to die in this run since they began keeping records in the 1920s and what frightens me the most is that he was no rookie. Daniel had run in over 80 encierros before that fateful day. I later learned that as we were being handed these pañuelos, Daniel's dad was further up the route, tearfully tying a pañuelo around the barrier at the exact spot where his 27 year-old boy entered mortality.

My heart dropped as the significance of this symbolic piece of cloth resonated within me and I thought about the crushing loss that Daniel's family must feel.

__________________

08:00:16

The instant the second rocket is launched, I see absolute, unmitigated terror in the eyes of many of the people who are running straight at me. Others are already cowering in doorways or crowding up against the inside of corners and I ask myself, why are they here? Perhaps they were too cheap to rent balcony spaces or were unwisely cajoled into running by so-called friends who questioned their masculinity. Maybe there are other reasons that I just don’t understand. As long as they stay out of my way, I’m happy.
[If you're going next year, Pamplona Man (San Fermin Travel Central) is the guy to talk to for help with scarce San Fermin accommodations, balcony rentals, bullfight tickets, etc. He was a huge help to me.]


There is literally a stampede of panicked runners hurtling past my spot on Mercaderes. I start to jog, looking back over my shoulder. The screaming of the crowd gets deafening and I can now hear the rapid jangle of the cowbells that are tied around the necks of the steers. I catch my first glimpse of them through a gap in the crowd as they exit Town Hall Square. By now, I’m completely focused and don’t hear or see anything that I don’t need to. I’m running as fast as I can without crashing into the people in front of me and in a heartbeat the bulls are alongside me. They are very fast and no one is stepping directly in front of them to slow them down. I try desperately to keep up and after several seconds beside the beasts, I realize I’m about to be exactly where I said I’d never go – the outside of La Curva! I peel off to the left side and as I watch the bulls careen through the corner, I notice the crowd is still running at me. Otra toro! The herd had already become separated and there were more bulls coming. I scan the crowd, sprint across the inside of the corner, and start running up Estafeta. Seconds later two more magnificent fighting bulls with rippling muscles, shiny jet-black coats and razor sharp upturned horns, are scattering the crowd like Moses parting the Red Sea. They’re right beside me now and I’m committing every ounce of energy I have into keeping close. My thighs are screaming, my lungs are burning and I haven’t run like this in twenty years.

And then they were gone. I slowed to a jog, then a walk, but my spirit is still soaring beyond the clouds. I’m filled with an indescribable feeling of pure jubilation from having completed this legendary run. I feel more alive than I have ever felt in my life.

I was certain I’d never make it to the ring before they slammed the gates shut so I strolled the rest of the way up Estafeta, absorbing the sights and sounds, watching groups of runners start to animatedly describe their adventure to others. The third rocket blast sounded announcing that all the bulls were in the ring, followed 10 seconds later by the final rocket confirming they were all safely locked away in their pens. The entire run took 2 minutes and 53 seconds – a clean and quick encierro.

It takes a couple of minutes for me to reach the top of the street and I pass the spot where yesterday medical crews had been treating a runner in his mid twenties with an angry-looking puncture wound to his side. I’m thinking of heading over to Bar Txoko for a celebratory morning drink, as a few people start to jog past me. I think to myself “forget it guys, the bullring is shut.” Moments later more are passing. They’re running now and again I hear the jangle of bells. What’s going on? I was positive I’d heard the fourth rocket! Suddenly, there they are – two huge steers coming around the bend onto Telefonica in full gallop. The steers are not wild animals like the fighting bulls so they’re less dangerous, but they still carry horns as wide as a compact car and you don’t want to get in their way. If you doubt me, just ask the lad who was knocked unconscious by one at the entrance to the ring during yesterday’s run. The steers had been held back in case they were needed to help guide any rogue sueltos to the ring.


The legendary Miura bulls rntering the Plaza de Toros
I’m running again, right alongside them and they're within reach of the rolled up newspaper that I’m still carrying in my left hand. Across Telefonica we sprint and straight through the Callejón. When we burst out of the darkness of the tunnel and into the blinding sun of the bullring, the ground seems to vibrate with the roar of 20,000 people who have gathered inside to watch the run. With the crowd cheering wildly, I throw my arms up in triumph and suck up the overwhelming glory of my first encierro. It would not be my last. Hemingway would have been proud of me today. I'm sure of it.

Viva San Fermin!

 The Spanish sarcastically call those who run into the ring far in advance of the bulls "Los Valientes" - the Brave Ones. This humiliated group of first-to-arrive runners was showered with trash and called a very bad name by 20,000 people in the stadium!
 Crowd playing with a two-year old cow in the plaza

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pamplona: ¡Viva San Fermin!

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
—Ernest Hemingway
La Curva, San Fermin Encierro, July 9, 2010

I came. I ran. I'm alive - perhaps more so than ever.

On Saturday July 10th and Monday July 12th, I participated in the famous San Fermin Encierro - the Running of the Bulls. I'll write much more about that when I get a chance.

In the meantime, above is a picture of the Friday July 9th run of the bulls and corredores going into La Curva (aka Dead Man's Corner). I took this from the balcony location I arranged through Pamplona Man, an Irish ex-pat living in Pamplona and a really good guy. His company, San Fermin Travel Central is the one who you should talk to if you ever visit Pamplona.

Also, a little shout out to the Frenchmen I shared the balcony with - hope you had a great time in Pamplona guys!

Stay tuned for more on San Fermin when I get caught up. The experience here was extraordinary.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pamplona: ¡Chupinazo!

I can't wait to get here!

Awaiting the Rocket   (c) Getty Images
Today, thousands of revellers from around the world gathered in Pamplona Spain's main square, most dressed in the traditional white shirt and pants with red sash around their waists. In keeping with the tradition, at 12:00 noon, everyone held up their red bandannas as the mayor declared the official start of Fiesta de San Fermin. The chupinazo (rocket) was fired off to shouts of ¡Viva San Fermin!, everyone tied on their bandannas and the party was on. For the next 9 days, as they have since the year 1591, the streets will be drenched in Sangria as celebrants enjoy this fiesta made famous by the daily encierro and Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.
Hopefully they'll save some Sangria for me. I arrive on Thursday afternoon and have shortened my trip to Portugal so I can be in Pamplona until Monday.

Here are a few pictures that I "borrowed" from the UK Daily Mail of today's festivities:

The Fiesta is Underway!   (c) AP

¡Viva San Fermin!   (c) AP

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Valencia: Paella & Horchata



I’ve been trying to recall why I chose to visit Valencia, the next stop on the Spanish leg of the Great Odyssey. It’s quite a lovely city with its 13th century gothic-style cathedral, the ancient winding streets of Barrio del Carmen populated with open air cafés and restaurants, and the Parisian-style buildings that surround city hall. Apart from the miles and miles of sandy Mediterranean beaches though, it’s not really what I’d describe as a touristy place.


Perhaps I’d just enjoyed a Valencian orange, possibly the most perfect agricultural product on the planet, so sweet, juicy and brightly coloured. That’s probably what you think of too when I mention Valencia. More likely though, I was thinking about where I should go to learn to prepare Spain’s most famous type of cuisine, the rice-based Paella. It was invented here, and during my 5 nights in Spain’s 3rd largest city, I attempted to do a comprehensive review of the local offerings. I discovered that every restaurant makes it, but few have the patience or the skill to do so well. You could name as many different rice and Paella variations as Bubba (from Forrest Gump) could name shrimp dishes. The most ubiquitous, Paella Valenciana, features rabbit, chicken and shellfish as its primary proteins.

Seafood Paella (image (c) Manuel M. Vicente)
 
One of the interesting things I’ve noticed after my first two stops in Spain is the striking difference in attitudes towards their archaeological history versus the Italians. In Italy, their ancient roots are celebrated at every opportunity. Valencia, and to a certain extent, Barcelona, seem to eschew their historical roots in favour of showing a modern face to the world. Where the Italians protect and promote their ancient walled cities, Valencians felt hemmed in by theirs and have torn down most of the 15th century walls that once protected them.


After a devastating flood in the late 1950’s, Valencia completely drained and re-routed the river that flowed along the edge of the old city. With an empty riverbed bisecting old and new parts of Valencia, they filled this huge space with parks and the most modern / futuristic looking buildings I’ve ever seen, the City of Arts and Sciences. These house a music hall, science centre, museums and a fantastic aquarium. The city is home to the Spanish Grand Prix F1 race and crews were hard at work tearing down fencing and grandstands from the race which occurred two days before I arrived. It has also been a major venue for the America’s Cup yachting race a number of times over the past few years.


I’m glad that I learned to cook Paella in a workshop I took in Barcelona, as I was unable to find one in Valencia (unless I was willing to pay for a private session.) I did try a “bebida muy tipica de Valencia” called the Horchata, made using locally grown Tigernut. I would describe this local favourite as tasting of watermelon, damp straw, and boot leather. I didn’t have a second one. Ah well – part of the travelling experience is to experience the specialties of the places you visit along the way.



If I were to return to Valencia, I would plan it for March during Fallas. This is one of the biggest celebrations in all of Spain and is the only one that can give Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermin a run for its money. I might also use it as a base to visit the nearby small village of Buñol that, in late August, hosts La Tomatina, the world’s largest food fight. Thousands of revellers, creating one hell of a beautiful mess, fling tons of very ripe tomatoes at each other.


I cut my stay in Valencia short by a few days to add Sevilla to my agenda.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Barcelona: Modernism & Rock n Roll

Barcelona Harbour

Boom. BOOOM... boom. KABOOM. Crackle crackle BOOM crackle… boom BOOM.


Nope. Those are not the lyrics to a Sly and the Family Stone song.

You are also forgiven if you thought this was the sound of the locals celebrating my arrival in Barcelona (I assumed this was the reason for the ruckus too.)

After a memorable adventure in Switzerland, I arrived in this Catalan city on the eve of the Feast of Sant Joan holiday when the entire city was celebrating the summer solstice – the shortest night of the year. This is a major holiday in this region of Spain, where the Catalans see the sun as a symbol of abundance, purity and fertility. On the greatest day of the year for Sun, the people seek to give it strength to sustain itself throughout the year. To “feed” the sun, bonfires are lit in the plazas of the city and along the playas of the waterfront while the never-ending explosion of fireworks constantly shatters the day and night sky. There was a palpable feeling of excitement in the air – an electricity that was as welcoming as the explosions were unsettling. Fiestas broke out in the plazas (town squares) while young and old, Spaniard and tourist, gathered from sundown to sunrise to enjoy Nit de Sant Joan and to cleanse their sins by burning offerings to Sun.

Who needs sleep anyhow? After all, a party not joined is a party not enjoyed.

Columbus Pointing the Wrong Way to the New World (a statue near Barcelona harbour.) Not surprising, since at the time of his death he still believed he'd sailed to the east coast of Asia and not America. Barcelona is where Columbus landed on his return to Europe after 'discovering' America.

My arrival in Barcelona for nine nights also coincided with the halfway point of the Great Odyssey. While it is hard to believe that I've been on the road for nearly eight weeks already, Morocco does seem like a long time ago. Everywhere I've visited along the way, people have gushed about how much they loved Barcelona. With expectations set so high, I was thrilled that it didn’t take long to feel at home here. After a few days, I was even feeling more comfortable with my meager Spanish, successfully getting through reasonably challenging conversations with people who only stared with blank faces when I spoke English. It felt particularly good when, after a few days, the shopkeepers started responding in Spanish when I spoke to them in their language (as opposed to responding automatically in English, which pretty much indicates what they thought of my skills in Español). A small victory. The trickiest part is that many Barcelonans speak Catalan, which sounds somewhat like Spanish at times but mentally translates in my English brain as complete gibberish.


Catamaran Sailing on the Costa Brava

If they spoke Spanish in Florence, I think it may have held onto its spot as my favourite city so far. It is a little sleepier than this city though so the honour now passes to Barcelona. It reminds me a lot of Toronto. It’s cosmopolitan, a great sporting city (except Barcelona’s teams win), and similar in size (approx 5.0 MM in the metro area.) It’s also an example of how incredible Toronto could be if it had courage and a little vision. It was already great, but when Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympic Games, they leveraged that investment into a revitalized city, a world class, accessible waterfront, and a massive growth in the region’s tourism industry. Toronto’s hapless politicians and the visionless imps that whined, protested and likely caused the failure of Toronto’s last Olympic bid in the name of poverty and other similar causes would do well to look at the prosperity the Olympics brought to this city and invest in some duct tape to cover their mouths next time such an opportunity comes Toronto’s way.

Gaudi's Parc Guell  
(part of a commercially unsuccessful upscale housing development that Gaudi was hired to design)

With the Feast of Saint John the Baptist being an official holiday in Barcelona, most of the shops and businesses were closed or on shorter hours. I used this free day as an opportunity to learn a little more about the work of Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi was an architect and one of Barcelona’s most famous citizens. His buildings, designed in his own unique take on Catalan Modernism, pepper the landscape and are a key part of the character of the city. His is a style where curves are always preferred over straight lines, and most of his ideas directly reflect what he sees in nature (there are few straight lines in nature.)

Parc Guell
While I’m not sure that I love all of Gaudi’s work (some of it is a little too fairy-tale-esque for me), seeing it is like opening your eyes to something completely original (which doesn’t happen that often anymore.) I admire his courage and more so, the courage of his clients to buy such avant-garde ideas. Layer in the fact that he did all this in the Barcelona of a century ago and it becomes even more impressive. I visited his most significant sites in the city, including Parc Güell, Casa Batlló, and the impressive La Sagrada Familia cathedral, which was designed 130 years ago around sculpted facades intended to visually tell the story of Christianity (to communicate with the many who couldn’t read at that time). Barcelona has embraced Gaudi as their favourite son, despite the fact that Sagrada Familia, which he started in 1882 and worked on for 44 years until his death, has still not been completed or hosted a single service. El Pope is coming in November to consecrate the building – they have a long way to go. This explains the flurry of activity on the site, which made getting a good photograph nearly impossible. If all goes well, it will finally be completed by 2026. What's another sixteen years when it's been underway for 128 years already? As Gaudi is famously quoted as saying “my client is not in a hurry.”
La Sagrada Familia

Casa Batllo
A "townhouse" remodelling project undertaken by Gaudi

There is much to see and do in Barcelona, and I took advantage of the many cultural activities that were available, from a visit to the Picasso museum (where I discovered that not ALL of Picasso’s works involve ears painted on foreheads at disturbing angles), to a couple of Flamenco shows, and a Spanish guitar concert at the incredible Palau de la Musica Catalana. I have to admit, I was also missing North America a little bit so I took in a couple of good old-fashioned American classic rock concerts, seeing both Kiss and Aerosmith at Palau Sant Jordi on the Olympic site. I wasn’t sure if Steve Tyler would ever be back with the band so I had to go to see him perform – I Didn’t Want to Miss a Thing.

Palau de le Musica Catalana
(image copyright Josep Renalias) 

Flamenco Dancers

KISS

 Aerosmith!

Like any great city, Barcelona has adopted the best traditions of the surrounding regions and country as its own. Every restaurant (and the cooking class I took) features Paella, a rice-based dish originating further south, in Valencia (my next stop.) If you’re looking for a night of entertainment (the g-rated kind), there are several Flamenco shows available, which is an art form native to the Andalucía region of southern Spain. The city was a little late in embracing the Tapas-style of cuisine, which is likely from Madrid but popular all over Spain. Fortunately when they did get in the game, several places did it very well.

Alberto Adria's Inopia

My efforts at finding suitable gastronomic experiences during my journey have not all been successful. I failed in my attempt to rent a Truffle pig during my time in Tuscany. With a two-year waiting list, I also knew it would be futile to even attempt to get into the nearby Catalan restaurant, El Bulli, where Chef Ferran Adria’s €250+/person tasting menu has earned him three Michelin Stars and put his restaurant at the top of the list of the World’s best restaurants. The restaurant is only open for half the year and can accommodate just 8,000 diners a season. They gets more than two million requests. Since I was in Barcelona and El Bulli wasn’t going to happen, I took a stroll over to Adria’s brother’s tapas-style restaurant, Inopia. By 7:00 pm when it opened (Spaniards don’t eat until MUCH later) there was already a line up. It's a lively place, with friendly servers and a slick operation that delivered perfect dishes with exceptional timing, more than living up to my expectations. It was easily the best €50 I spent in Barcelona, and an amazing tapas experience. My only disappointment was that I waited until Saturday night to try it – Sunday and Monday they are closed and I left town on Tuesday so this was my only chance to enjoy it. (BTW, thanks to Michael who I met in Fes, for the great recommendation!)

Tinto de Verano
Trouble in a Glass.

Tasty Spanish Olives

Smoked Salmon with Honey on Yogurt

Oyster with Caviar and Ponzu Sauce

(Half Eaten) Anchovies in Vinegar with Olive Oil

Seared Rare Tuna with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Iberian Ham Potato Croquettes

Mini Hamburguesa

Patatas Bravas con Salsa Mixta

Flan de huevo de la casa

Off to Valencia!