August 19, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Spain

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Last weekend we stayed in Spain, and I say “Spain” because it was hardly possible for us to stay in Madrid. We intended to have no plans on Saturday and to just take it easy, getting things done, running errands, but we ended up going out to Segovia with Garen and Heather. Heather had been there the first weekend she arrived to Spain, but back then it was snowing, and was hardly the way to enjoy the city. So, since Heather was in the mood to see it again, and Garen hadn’t been, we offered to take them.

The trip was full of the usual stops – the aqueduct, the cathedral, the alcazar. Although I’ve been many times now, I never seem to tire of such a charming city – there’s always something new to discover.

On Sunday, we went out to Valladolid to visit Jacob’s Aunt Ana Maria who stays there during the summer. She stays in a small city called Medina del Campo, which, as she told us, used to be the heart of Spain. Medina del Campo is where Queen Isabel spent a lot of time and also passed away. She is the Queen whom, with her husband the King, evangelized Catholicism in Spain – a time in history that the Spaniards consider true Spain to have begun.

Ana Isabel proudly showed us the city – the Plaza Mayor which is as large as Madrid’s, the Roman bridge near her house, the palace where Queen Isabel passed away and so on. Oh yes, and most important, the stop at the panaderia/pasteleria with the most heavenly breads and pastries!

After checking out the town, we headed to the castle for a tour. It was there that we were able to see Roman ruins of a village that was outside the castle some several hundred years BC. We learned about the castle walls, the durability of the brick of which the castle was made of (who would have thought that brick is far more durable than just good old rock – apparently it can handle more impact!). We were actually quite surprised to see such a massive castle made of brick, partly because we’d never seen such a thing before, but also because we didn’t realize that that was something used that far back (in the 1400s).

Inside the castle, Ana Maria pointed out the room to us which she stayed in as a young girl when she went to learn how to knit, sew and cook (I need one of those courses – in a castle please!). We were also able to go behind all of the canon windows/holes and learn how they would run such a defensive effort – high ceilings to withhold the smoke, holes in the roof for light and to let the smoke out, white ceilings to help make everything brighter, and so on. It was really quite fascinating.

After the tour of the castle, we headed out to another small pueblo, Olmedo, for a much needed lunch. We ate at a charming little restaurant where we enjoyed clams and jamon – everything was delicious as usual.

It was a lovely weekend, albeit busy. I must admit, I need a weekend to just recover and prepare for our next big trip to Florence the following weekend.

Check out a few pics at: http://gallery.me.com/erin.ridley#100546

August 14, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travels in Spain

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, I totally haven’t been keeping up with this thing, and it’s not for lack of continued adventures. The truth is that my job is draining me of all my will to even think, so the blog has been a victim of that. I’ve got some busy weeks and months on the horizon though, so I better get caught up before I fall so far behind that it becomes a lost cause.

In the last month we’ve had a couple of fun adventures. One included us heading out on a determined search to find a place to go wake boarding. There are lots of reservoirs here where apparently, at some point or another, you could rent wake boards and go out on the water. Well, we found out quickly that this was no longer. We headed out to the Pantano de San Juan and learned right away that our only option would be to go kayaking…..but really, how is that a bad option? So we rented our 15 Euro kayak and took to the calm waters of the reservoir. It was so super relaxing, especially when we parked it on a beach of the lake and just laid out in the sun.

A couple of other highlights in the last month included a trip out to a friend’s ranch (which we visited in the past, and I wrote about in an older blog) and also a visit from some friends of my good friend Molly. Her friend Julie, and Julie’s husband, were visiting Madrid from Texas, so we hosted them for an evening and had an fantastic time. Now I just need to work on getting Molly out here!

Our other recent trip was to Valencia – one of the few places in Spain that I had yet to visit. Another reason why we were eager to go is because my friend Heather’s boyfriend, Garen (who is an American), lives out there. We headed out two weekends ago to enjoy the beach and lots of paella.

We were so lucky to have a host there though – Garen knew the best places to take us. The highlight was certainly our trip to the Albufera (a large fresh water preserve right near the mediterranean) and to a little pueblo on the canals in the middle of rice fields. It was stunning – fields of green rice, canals zig zagging through the town and the smell of rice in the air. We parked ourselves at a charming little restaurant right on a canal with an expansive view of the fields – if these people didn’t know how to do paella, then no one would. And it didn’t disappoint. We all enjoyed a massive pan of heavenly paella in the best place in the world to eat it. What a day!

The next day we enjoyed another Valencia specialty – fideua. It’s similar to paella in that it is cooked in a pan with many of the same ingredients – the big difference, though, being the use of these macaroni like noodles (called fideos here) instead of rice. That was every bit as delicious, and the fact that we had a view of the beach didn’t hurt one bit.

Now, as usual, we’re busy planning our next trips – after all, we need something to look forward to! Up next (which we literally just decided today) is a trip to Florence, Italy in two weeks to meet up with my good friend Robin. A few weeks later I will be heading home to the States…..and then a few weeks later, off to Venice for my birthday. I obviously hate to travel 😉