Saturday, February 28, 2009

Barcelona - Two

Since our apartment is right next to the Old City, we chose that part of town for our next days tromps. The one thing you will find in just about any European city is old stuff - buildings that date back to the Middle Ages and older. If you have any interest in history, these are very fascinating. It is also just neat to see things that hold that are still a part of day to day life compared to our attitude here of if it is 30 years old rip it down and build anew.

The Old City is marked by numerous small and twisting streets and alleyways so navigating them can be a challenge - especially if your partner decides that we are going to do the walking tour backward. This means you have to do everything in the guidebook in the inverse.

Walking across La Rambla to enter into the Old City

One of many many courtyards inside the Old City
Don't get the impression that this is a museum.
People live and work here. There are tons of shops and cafes and restaurants.

To be honest I don't remember where this was but I think it was near the Cathedral

Side door to 13th Century Cathedral

Ok now I remember, Wife was taking a picture of this covered walkway along a road between the 14th Century City Center Buildings - Again these are still in use.

No wait, this is the picture of Wife shooting the covered walkway. I still don't know what the earlier picture was.

We stumbled on this even though it was not in the guide book. It is the ceiling of a courtyard to another 14th Century building used as the Ministry of Culture. There were a couple big tour groups going through this when Wife and I stumbled in. This very nice security guard saw Wife with her camera and pointed this out. Click on it to see just how much detail there is.

Barcelona actually dates back to Roman times about the first century BC. This is part of only remaining segment of the Roman City walls and dates to around the 4th Century BC. We also saw this old synagogue that had been in use from Roman days to 1492 when the Spaniards expelled the Jews.

We went down to the waterfront (Barcelona is a seaport) for lunch and then strolled around it. Wife was taking these shots because I had been carry around the tripod for two days and I insisted that she use it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Barcelona Apartment

We had this neat apartment in Barcelona. I am a great believer in renting apartments rather than staying in hotels. There is greater security for leaving your valuables. You can make your own breakfast and dinners if you want saving lots of money and eating less in the process since the meals tend to be large at restaurants. And you get a lot more room to spread out in. Most of the time they cost no more than a reasonable hotel and frequently are less.

Our hotel was located smack dab in one of the most popular parts of town with very easy access to various things we wanted to do. But because it was just a block away from the main drag, La Ramblas, it was much quieter. Another great virtue was it was just a half a block from Barcelona's huge and famous food market, La Boquetiera. Although it was in an old building, the apartment itself had been renovated recently.

A tour of the apartment

Walking into the apartment looking toward the living room and kitchen. There are two bedrooms on the left as you go up the hall

Looking into the main bedroom. See that heavy looking bag? It is heavy. And I carry it most of the time we are sightseeing. Why? Because it has Wife's camera stuff and it's my job. I carry the tripod too.

Inside the bedroom they had a floor to ceiling built in wardrobe

To the right at the end of the hall and through the door, the kitchen/dining area

To the left is the living room area

And looking out from the couch, you look right into the market.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Barcelona - One

Sorry for the radio silence. We rented an apartment in Barcelona that was supposed to have internet but in spite of much effort by the landlord we've not been able to connect to it. We left for Barcelona on Monday morning and got there in the late afternoon. Our first day of visiting was devoted to seeing architecture, in specific the school known as Modernisme and that of its prime master worker Antoni Gaudi.

We think of Paris as a great city of architecture and it is but Barcelona is also an incredible place. Not to bore you with a detailed discussion of Gaudi but his style, thought process and accomplishments were incredible including the use of broken tile as an ornament on buildings to create tableaus of color which were also practical as they were water proof - innovations in structural design which created flowing movement, always providing access to light and air, etc.

Here are just a few shots that give a sample. Hopefully Wife will get her much more full collection on Flickr and I can put a link in for those who have more interest.

Park Guelli

This was originally designed to be an exclusive housing developement with the shots below from what were to be the entrance and public areas. It ultimately became a public park owned by the city.

Entrance Way

Staircase up to the Market Place

Above the Market Place
Next we went to La Perdrera, a building that was designed as an apartment complex. It is still in use today though they have turned some areas into a museum.

Through the entrance way to the inner open core of the building so that all rooms had access to light and air

Another part of the inner court yeard

The roof is not only fanciful but practical - a park for the residents. All these things that look like sculptures are actually chiminey covers and exhaust covers.

Wife taking time out from her photographing to be my model

This is actually another building by Gaudi just down the street where he modified and existing building
La Sagrada Familia - One of the most incredible buildings of the modern period. A cathdedral started by Gaudi at the turn of the 20th century it is still under construction. These pictures hardly do justice to the scope of the work or its innovativeness.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Hague

Or Den Haag more properly in Dutch.

We decided take a day trip to The Hague - home of the national government and such fan favorites as the World Court and the Chinese Embassy. It was another 'beautiful' day but a tad on the windy side so we ended up in a great museum that featured the 'Dutch School' painters (duh). We got the audio tour which made it a lot more fun.

The Trust Crew enjoying the 'beautiful' weather waiting for the train in Amsterdam
I've been getting on Wife about all these risque outfits she's been wearing here.

Below - Many Building Pictures from The Hague

Questions Answered

Why am I not picking up 'coffee' to bring back to Nonna in Tennessee?

Because in spite of Weasel Momma's evil ideas, I do not want to end up in the slammer - besides N would have to come to New Mexico to pick it up because I don't do deliveries.

Why is daughter A actually in Amsterdam?

Alexis, following much of her family (grandparents, father, sisters) was exposed to travel at a young age and ended up studying in France in high school and Spain in college. She loved those experiences. She set her sights on getting a job that would allow her to live in Europe and ended up working for a Chicago based company with offices abroad. She ultimately scored a job in Amsterdam. She has lived there for 3 years now.

The apartment is on the third floor and you would not believe how steep these are. This is pretty typical in Amsterdam because the buildings are very narrow. As Wife said, "I don't think these would pass code in the US."

Daughter Sitting Forlornly on Steps Outside Own Apartment

"I didn't think they actually take me up on the offer to let them move in?"

Will you post pictures of buildings in Amsterdam?

Buildings in Amsterdam

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nice Winter Day in Amsterdam

We got up bright and early today at around...10 AM. OK not so early. Actually, I was up at 6:40 AM and said to myself, "I'll just see if I can doze another hour or so because I need it" knowing that I rarely can get back to sleep once I'm up. Next thing I know it's 9:40. So I bop up and get going because who knows when the daughter is going to call us. I need not have worried. She and Boy Friend are taking Friday off and didn't get back to our (her) apartment until 11.

As they arrive, they are very upbeat because as they tell us it is a very nice day. By that they mean it is a very nice day for Amsterdam in the winter. Here's some point of reference.

Nice Day In Winter - Amsterdam
High - 40 degrees, Grey Overcast Skies, No Rain (by definition No Rain = Nice Day)
By contrast -
Nice Day in Winter - Albuquerque, New Mexico
60 degrees, Brilliantly Blue Cloudless Sky, Rain? You've got to be kidding me.
AinA and BF enraptured and enjoying the beauty of a Nice Day in Amsterdam in Winter
Terri, how do we keep from turning into butterballs with all our eating? We walk like maniacs. We went out about the town. The center of Amsterdam is very walkable. It's flat and compact so with some effort you can really see lots and like many European cities you don't want to be driving or finding places to park. After a quick lunch, we are tromping about. We visited Rembrandt's house.

What does it say about the Dutch when the main exhibit in the Rembrandt house is of another painter they call Rembrandt's opposite?

Of course canals are a major part of the Amsterdam cityscape
Nine times out of ten if there is any color on a building it is a sign it is under construction.
This one was an exception.
Retailing in Amsterdam

I don't know what the economics or demographics that make this so but there are an incredible number of stores that are incredibly specialized. Of course one finds the cheese store or the wine store. But how about...

The Foot Stool Store???
Also seen were the -

  • Men's Sock store (I kid you not)
  • Snowboard store (only board stuff - no skies please...And where do they board in a place as flat as the Netheralands?)
  • Dental Care store (toothbrushes, floss, etc.)
And yes Nonna there were plenty of "coffee shops" selling legal weed around.

Actually, you find these almost exclusively in the tourist areas at the every center of town. They are much more used by out of towners than by locals.

So we walked around town all afternoon getting back to the apartment around 5 PM. We chilled for a while because we had a dinner reservation at a nice place at 8. We changed and walked to the restaurant as it was only 1o minutes away. The food was excellent and we had a couple of bottles of really good wine. AinA has ranted about the bad service in Amsterdam and in spite of this being a more expensive place, the service was pretty bad.

We got back to the apartment around midnight. AinA and BF bicycled back to his apartment and we crashed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

In the Netherlands

After taking about a 3 hour nap, Wife and I went for a walk. AinA lives very centrally in downtown Amsterdam so it is pretty easy hike to the main 'tourist' sections of the city. We walked to where we stayed the last time we visited her. On the way we had our first Ollebollen - a round Dutch doughnut sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Two visions of travel:

de-I - "Isn't great. There was practically nobody on the plane. There are virtually no tourists now. Much better than the summer.

Mrs de-I - "It's @&%! cold and wet. If you think we're ever coming here in February again you're going to be a castriotti."

We were out for about 3 and half hours. On the way we stopped at a cafe for a beer and some soup (yes, MR a side of fries was necessary - fries in the Netherlands are great). When we got back to the apartment we found we were tired still and had another nap. Daughter AinA was working late but she and boyfriend got here around 7:30 PM.

She wanted to cook so we walked to the local supermarket. She made for us a Dutch specialty called Stampot which is potatoes and greens mashed together served with meat on the side in this case some smoked sausages. The fat from the meat is used to flavor the stampot. Very Germanic hearty fair and very good. Being a really sweet girl she opened up for us a bottle of 1997 Sait Julien which we a enjoyed with some fabulous cheese.

Boyfriend and Wife enjoying wine while AinA does her Dutch cooking thing

"Hey, I know what the hell you're going to do with that - you damn blogger you"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Now In Amsterdam

The de-I show has arrived in Amsterdam on time and with no problems. The flight attendants on our flight from Washington to Amsterdam were saying this the calm before the storm of spring break travel then summer travel because business class was only about a third full.

Wife and I just got up from naps. We're trying to get on schedule. It's around noon in Amsterdam which is 4 AM Albuquerque time. We were able to sleep a little on our flight from Phoenix to Washington and again on our flight from Washington to Amsterdam.

What is it about cabbies that they just have to try to rip you off no matter the country or the city. Our cabbie "forgot" to turn on his meter. I had a vague idea of price and when he tried to hit me up for 45 Euros I just told him I'd pay 35.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If you are in New Mexico

You are usually a long ass away from most places you want to go to. Wife and I are on our way to Amsterdam. In order to score business class frequent flyer mile paid for tickets we have go to Phoenix, then Washington DC then on to Amsterdam. 17 hours plus of travel if all goes smoothly.

We caught a 6:15 AM flight to Phoenix and are there now waiting for our next segment. You figure the math of when we had to get up. Boooooo.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

If You Are Leaving...

...On a trip, you know things are going to go bonkers. Work is really busy. I completed a job keeping three business owners together who had the most antagonism towards each other I have ever seen. Yay me! And I'm working on this (for me) over the top deal helping a guy who is trying to buy a $350 million a year public retailer that is tanking. Not my usual gig by a long shot - but it's fun and I'm being paid by the hour so no risk. Yay!

Wife is going crazy trying to make all the last minute decisions on the house because on Wed we're off to Amsterdam to visit daughter, AinA. We're also going to take a quick trip to Barcelona since she has to work during the week. Mrs. de-I is fretting that we haven't done a bit of planning for the Amsterdam part of the trip. I told her to not worry. This is visiting the kid, not a real vacation. The kid just happens to live a third of the way around the world.

Latest home remodel pictures:

The whole new entrance way has been dry walled and textured. Painting is soon on the way

View from the Living Room toward the front door

View from the Front Door looking up and the "Grand" foyer

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spanish Cooking

I went for my winter training hike this weekend with Wild Bill and while we were in the heights I had the inspiration to invite he and wife (Wild Jill?????) over for an impromptu dinner. I had already put my mind on making Paella so I augmented that with a couple of Spanish appetizers - Tortilla, an egg and potato omelet and shrimp in garlic sauce


Sauteing potatoes and onions for Tortilla

Fortifying canned chicken broth with bones, onions and saffron for Paella

Chicken cut up for Paella

Eggs for the Tortilla

Rice and lemons for Paella (tomatoes are just hangin around for the hell of it)

Shrimp marinating in garlic, sherry, and pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)

Sauteing chicken in Paella pan

Making flavor base with onions, garlic, roasted peppers and chorizo sausage

Cooking the Tortilla (the cooked potatoes and onions are mixed in the eggs then put in the pan)

Paella with rice, chicken and stock added

Tortilla flipped over


Tortilla and Garlic Shrimp First Course

Finished Paella

Wild Jill brought this totally phenomenal homemade cherry pie (my favorite and she didn't even know it!)