|Hauling paella to Concha y Chimo's apartment in Valencia|
- Reina and Mike wih Concha
|The Mueller clan|
There are so many tales to tell about our fabulous 11 year anniversary trip to Span and Italy, but lucky for you, I don't have much time now as we prepare for our travels south.
We had the great fortune to spend 4+ days with my family in Wisconsin. It’s my annual trip, which I always enjoy, celebrating the visit to see my siblings and their families. Early October, we drove down to Chicago then flew to Madrid. We spent 4 glorious days there, where we experienced a Flamenco dancing extravaganza, sangria sipping, tapas of all flavors, plazas, museums, destinations old and new, the metro, beautifully dressed women, great window shopping and oh, by the way, no shortage of great food and drink.
|Beautiful Spanish dresses and shawls|
|Outside the Prado, walking the neighborhood|
|Main plaza in Madrid|
|Small shop with amazing armament|
|Small shop in Madrid|
|At the Prado Museum|
|Restaurante Botin - oldest restaurant |
according to Guinness
|There's a story here...|
|Pigs ears, can you dig it?|
|With the owner of Anter cafe|
|Anter cafe's great mural with Anter at the center, of course|
|Back streets of Madrid, great lunch and people watching|
|Fast action foot work|
A couple of balmy evenings during our long walks, we stopped at a streetside café and ordered a typical Spanish dish, the tortilla, an egg and potato frittata cooked with yummy olive oil. It’s served by the ‘pincho’ or slice. We ordered a pincho with our inexpensive and tasty vino de casa/house wine. Our friendly waiter comes back and reports they are sadly out of tortilla, but how about ‘orejas de cerdo’. I clarify, do you mean pigs’ ears? And he enthusiastically retorts, oh si si si, le gusta, le gusta (you’ll like it)! So we order this not-so-direct substitution for an egg pie and get a plate of gnarly chunks of, well, pigs ears. Even after squeezing on the lemon provided, it was a memorable treat but one we won’t repeat. Of course, the waiter watched us across the way, thumbs up and smiling, just knowing we are digging the pig’s ears and waiting for our gleeful smiles (which we provided for obvious reasons). Luckily, our table was curb side so a few of the nastier tidbits made it to the gutter, to a peaceful repose better than gnarling up our stomachs.
Other nights, we were talked in to local specialties: sepia(cuttlefish), fried anchovies and dogfish. Some tapas are great, others not so much but we try them all (well, most of them).
|and fast action flamenco dancing|
|Concha and Mike enjoying our boat ride in Valencia|
|Marzipan treats on Valencia Day|
|Moros y Cristianos parade and great costumes!|
|The parade was long and colorful|
|Valencia Day parade route|
|Celebrating Valencia Day|
|Concha's grandsons at church|
|The marina at Ancona Italy|
|Fisherman working on their nets - Ancona harbor|
|Getting ready for the bride and groom at an Italian restaurant|
|They call this a single serving!|
|Venetian glass - nothing more beautiful|
|Vista from the new shopping |
center in Venice
|Farmer's market, cleaning artichokes|
|Old model gondola|
|Venice at night|
|Great dining down the stairs from Plaza Mayor, Madrid |
with our wait staff - check the sign
|Making a shoe statement|
|Nighttime market in Madrid|
|Where to next?|
|Medieval market shopping|
|Concha and her daughters, Reina y Roser, showing off their |
new purses handmade by my sister Joanne
We took the train to Valencia, where we passed 4 magical days with Concha and her family. Concha was our family’s foreign exchange student for a year in 1962 (she was my sister’s peer, I was 7). We stayed at a lovely spa hotel they recommended in their Alboraya neighborhood. Concha’s husband Chimo was also super friendly and engaged, and they both wanted to ensure our happiness at every turn. They drove us on a long and informative city tour to share a small portion of the history in Valencia. Chimo has a true twinkle in his eye and tells a great tale, sharing merrily about the city and its history, talking in his fast-paced Castilian Spanish. He proclaimed everything we passed – his university, first street where he lived, where Concha lived, worked, where their daughter works, the construction date of various structures and historical data to put things in perspective.
Mike nodding occasionally to say, yes, that’s amazing but not able to follow the Spanish. I was catching some of it, sitting in the back seat with Concha, but were carrying on our own conversations.
|St Dionis - Valencia's Valentine's Day - with Concha|
We were fortunate enough to share the entire day and evening with their family on the special holiday, Region of Valencia Day. This event commemorates King Jaime I's victory in 1238 over the occupying Moorish forces. The celebration includes an elaborate parade featuring Moorish and Christian costumed "troops," and coincides with the Day of Saint Dionisio, the Valencian version of Valentine's Day, when men give their girlfriends or wives sweet marzipan wrapped in a traditional scarf. This day, noted their gracious, English-speaking son-in-law Salva with a smile, is the only day when the Moors and Christians get along. We walked the city at night with most of Concha’s family, passing along very crowded streets. We followed the route of the colorful parade filled with traditional music and great costumes of fighting Moors and Christians in tremendous regalia, horses, camels, the works. We continued our walk, and went to the cathedral where the Chalice of Jesus is enshrined.
With the entire family of 15, we enjoyed a boat ride on a large lake after our incredible holiday meal featuring paella. Yummm! We also walked through a special medieval market another day with a light rain that turned wet and dark, and required a cab ride back.
After our 4 days there, we flew on to Roma, rented a Renault ‘Kadjar’ with 6 on the floor which Mike loved, especially on the highways and through the mountains. We headed directly south to Ercolano and the ruins at Herculaneum, located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic flows in 79 AD. Very worthwhile and recommended to us. While in general, driving in Italy is exciting, driving in Ercolano was gnarly. The roads are very narrow, no room when you need to pass a car on a slim stretch. We turned on our phones for internet a couple times when we needed GPS and in that town, that led us into the old streets where the market was going on and construction in process. It was a bit of a mess, and thankfully, we paid dearly for full insurance so the marks along the side of the car were not even noticed at Hertz.
Whilst in that town, we stayed at a B&B with incredible vistas of the bay and lovely gardens, and other guests, a newlywed couple from Turkey and some Aussies who we swapped European driving tales with.
Traversing Italy, we chose to cross through mountainous national parks in Abruzzo, staying in the capital, L'Aquila, to reach the Adriatic Sea and our chosen destination, the richly historical city of Ancona. We spent a couple of great exploratory days there, visiting all 33 of their historical sites, monuments, the Roman ruins, the Arch of Trajan build in 115AD and of course, the waterfront.
We went on to Venice, our final destination where we dined with our Stormwater Italia friends, Francesca and Stefano. A great reunion since our visit in 2005. We visited museums, the art exhibit of Tintoretto at the Doge's Palace, saw a traveling da Vinci exhibit featuring some of his mechanical genius inventions and walked a million steps – the only way to get around. We sipped aperol along with everyone else at canal and streetside cafes.
The timing of our visit was perfect, weather was dry and mild, only occasional light rain. We were glad for that even more so – as the following week, torrential rains hit and the city was thigh deep under water. We just heard back from Francesca that things are calmer in Venice now.
We arrived back in Portland to continued marketing work for Judy and addressing the issues associated with the potential sale of our rental home. Thankful once again, our home sale closed on 11/7 and we are happily and busily gearing up to head south. It’s time to experience our Pura Vida.