Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mercado y Clara

Mercado, or the weekly open-air market, happens every Wed. from 10AM to 2PM on the street where the church is.  I met one vendor, Clara, the second day we were here.  I told her that I wanted to learn how to make the signature dish of Asturias (our province).   She sold me the ingredients and explained how to make it.  (Vegitarians, skip the next sentence!)  Fabada is made with dried fava beans, onions, garlic, olive oil,  chorizo,  murcilla (blood sausage) and bacon similar to pancetta.  It turned out fabulous!  It was so much fun and I was so happy, given the Castillian accent in Spain, that I could actually understand Clara.  She told me to come back next mercado and she would teach me all about the Asturian cheeses.
The best watermelon we have ever had - from Clara's mercado stand.

Mi fabada.  Muy deliciosa.
Odd picture of our tablecloth taken through a chair back.

Our apartment - Ribadesella

Our courtyard - plantings by our landlady, Isabel
Louis and the front of our apartment

I think Louis is happy to be here!  Just down the hill at the bottom of the street is where the town church is.

The town church.  Bells ring every quarter hour from 8AM to 10PM.

Our landlady, Isabel, chatting with us in the evening.

Our own private beach in Ribadesella

We have arrived!  After unpacking we headed straight for what felt like our own private beach, Atalaya.  This beautiful, rocky beach is less than 5 min walking from our apartment.  This was the moment that we felt we could live here forever.

The beach and environs remind us of N. Calif and the Oregon coast.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


We took the train from Madrid to Oviedo, leaving from a different train station than the one we arrived at.  Oviedo is in north-central Spain but not on the coast.  Given that we had an early train, we were very excited to find out that our Eurail passes entitled us to take a communter train, Cercanias, at no charge, from Plaza del Sol.  This took a mere 10 minutes to get to the Chamartín train station versus an hour on the metro.  These early trains do not jibe with the hours we have been trained to keep in Spain!

Tired boys waiting for the 7:30 AM train at Chamartín.

 The train to Oviedo took about 5 hours.  Not an AVE fast train but still an enjoyable ride.  We all "slept" and then the boys watched Despicable Me in Spanish so it was like a mini Spanish lesson.  When we arrived at Oviedo we had to purchase tickets for the local train to continue on to Ribadesella.  These were dirt cheap as the Eurail pass got us a 50% discount on them....15 Euros in total!  The catch, we had a 3 hour layover in Oviedo.  The plus, just up the stairs from the train station is a beautiful square with a coffee shop where we planted ourselves, with all our luggage, and took turns exploring the neighborhood.  Oliver, Louis and I set off to explore and find a tobacco shop so I could buy postcard stamps.  Stamps are sold in tobacco shops, I figure, because the two things must be state controlled.
A church just up the hill from the train station.

 Oviedo is very hilly with very windy streets.  I think I would have either gotten lost or walked a lot further if I hadn't had Oliver with me to navigate me back to the train station.  :)
These buildings next to the train station in Oviedo look like you could take them apart and put them together in a different way.

Louis says, "When we first saw this statue of a person standing on a duck dolphin thing we thought it was weird and funny but when we got a closer look at it we thought it was creepy."  Sculpted by Dalí.  Imagine having a work by Dalí in the middle of Boulder!
On to Ribadesella we went after our very enjoyable layover.  The FEVE trains in the north are less cushy and there is not much room for luggage but we managed.  We did have to switch trains after about 20 min,  for unexplained reasons.  Hauling our luggage onto the next train, we settled while watching all the locals stare at us.  We were definitely a spectacle.  August's backpack, with the laptop in it, did fall from the rack above onto the floor with a loud thud.  Luckily no one's head broke it's fall!  This train was hot and not as comfortable but I loved watching the countryside and small towns pass by.  There was also a man on this train that had been on our train from Madrid.  He actually smiled at me when we saw and recognized each other on the Ribadesella train.  When we got off of the train, I even got a little goodbye wave from him. 
Two hours later we arrived in Ribadesella to be greeted by our landlady's husband, Carlos.  He drove us and our luggage, in two shifts, from the station to our apartment, where we were very enthusiastically greeted by Isabel.  She showed us around and told me that her cleaning woman would clean the apartment when we wanted, at no extra charge.  She also told me that she could hang my laundry for me if need be.  Had I just landed in heaven?  We unpacked and headed the few blocks to a beautiful, rocky beach, Atalaya.   We loved all of our touring in Barcelona and Madrid but it was so nice to realize that we had finally arrived and could settle in for a bit.

Madrid neighborhood

Just a few pictures from our neighborhood in Madrid.

Madrid Opera House.

Church on Gran Via.

On Gran Via.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Harsh Madrid Policia

All this behind barricades.  More official buildings that were off-limits.  This was right across the street from protesters camping out at Plaza del Sol.

These Madrid police are so harsh! 
Oh wait, they aren't arresting that baby they're cooing over it.

Train station

After searching for and never finding the devil, we walked over to the old part of the train station.  This, by the way, is attached to the train station we arrived at from Barcelona.  I digress...we got to take an AVE train from Barcelona to Madrid, traveling at a top speed of 180 mph.  That was really cool, and it was cushy too.  I digress more....when we first got on the train to Madrid, after having used the first trip on our Eurail Passes I needed to fill out the passport info on them.  I couldn't find Louis' passport.  :0   I figured I must have dropped it when I got them out in the Barcelona station.  We were told that we did not have time to get off the train to find it.  It was a minor panic for about an hour. I say minor because I reasoned that it was more an inconvenience than anything.  We were carrying two photocopies of our passports, it wasn't Spencer's or my passport, and it would be a pain to replace, but do-able, since we will be here for 2 months.  Spencer was amazed at how calm I was.  I was more pissed at myself for losing the passport than anything and I couldn't fathom how I had done it.  It didn't seem like something to freak out over though.  Then I found it in another pocket of my bag, scrounged around until I found a rubber band and finally got them all tied up together (as I had been meaning to do since we left Boulder). 

Now, back to the old train station...  This portion of the train station has been converted into a tropical greenhouse, complete with small ponds and turtles.  We hadn't even seen this when we first arrived in Madrid.

By now, we were hot, tired and definitely ready to head back to the apartment.  We hopped on the metro here and headed back to Plaza del Sol.

Searching for the devil

We read of a statue of the devil in the Parque del Buen Retiro.  I became so obsessed with seeing this statue that Spencer began referring to him as my friend.  So after Caixa Forum we went walking (again) in search of mi amigo.  According to our guide book there are very few statues of the devil...not surprising in a Catholic country.  We never did find him but we did see this Ministry of Agriculture building.  Just more beautiful architecture to behold...  Maybe we will find mi amigo when we return to Madrid.

Caixa Forum and vertical garden

Aaand...after Sofía Reina and lunch we walked several blocks to the Caixa Forum building.  It looks like it's floating and next door, there's a building with a beautiful garden growing up the side.  I had read about such vertical gardens years ago so I was very excited to see it.  In the peak of the Madrid heat I could feel the cool air coming off of the garden. 
We saw a very interesting exhibit of Russian revolution-era architecture inside the Caixa Forum.  The whole building was just too cool!  August says the building is "psycho."  Spencer says the building was as interesting as the art within.

Side-view, vertical garden.  I want one on the front of my house, but it would just bake!

Water feeding the vertical garden drains into a small rock-lined trench beneath it.

Caixa Forum on left.
Auditorium in the Caixa Forum. 

Sofía Reina

After cookies we went to the Sofía Reina museum, blocks from Parque del Buen Retiro. 
In the museum we got to see Picasso's Guernica, which he was commissioned by the Spanish Nationalist forces to paint, in protest to the bombing of Guernica, Basque region, during the civil war.  It was created for the World's Fair in Paris; from there it went to NYC.  Not until after Franco's rule ended did Picasso allow it to be brought to Spain, where, he said, it belonged.
We also got to see works by Miró, Dalí, Man Ray, and a few great silent movies.  The boys disliked this museum less than the Miró museum in Barcelona; however, they are still not keen connoisseurs of art.  Afterwards we had lunch in the courtyard outside the museum.  Our waiter told us he had played futbal (soccer) for Barcelona for 10 years.

Sofia Reina

This giant shake is off of the Menú Infantil (kids' menu)!

Apartment in the Sofia Reina courtyard.  High rent, ya think?

Cookies from sequestered nuns

We read about a place in Madrid where sequestered nuns make pastries and sell them through a revolving door so as not to be seen.  It took about an hour of winding through the streets and several stops to check the map before we found the right door.  This was Sunday and there was a note on the door that said there were no more pastries until Monday.  sigh...  Well, at least we knew where to go the next morning.
So, Monday morning we set out for pastries.  A woman hanging around showed us, for a tip, which bell to ring for pastries.  We were buzzed in and made our way through a few hallways and doorways to the wooden window with revolving door.  The voice behind the revolving door was very scratchy and sounded about 100 years old!  There was only one type of pastry available so that's what we bought.  The little door spun and pastries appeared in the window.  We put our money in it's place and spun the door. 
On our way out of this little adventure we met a couple from Austin, TX.  They were also looking for pastries so we told them the routine.  They came out as we were sampling our cookies and we chatted a while.  Turns out they used to live in Boulder (Boulder connection number three in our first week in Spain! - Julia in Barcelona, Hector and now this couple!).  We never did get their names but the woman used to teach at Columbine...I kid you not...about 20 years ago.  I mentioned Jan and Ellen but she didn't know them.  They were spending a few days in Madrid before heading home.  They had just come from the N. coast and were extremely jealous that we were going to spend 7 weeks in Ribadesella.  This was the second group of people we met in Madrid who told us what a great place this area we were getting very excited to see Ribadesella and the N. coast.

The front door.  Notice the video camera.
The first doorway inside the building.
The second corridor/courtyard and doorway.

The menu and window with the revolving door where cookies appeared and money disappeared.

Almost out the door.
Yum!  Anise and lemon flavored hearts.