Sunday, April 1, 2007

Balmy Days, Sweet Sangria

I'm not quite sure what took me so long in getting my thoughts together enough in order to write this post about Spain and our Andalusian adventure last month. Maybe I just needed to reflect on it for a while, let some things simmer in my mind, before arriving at a time when I'm actually reminiscing about the whole experience.

But I finally realized that too much time has now gone by, and I want to be reminded once again of those warm, sun-filled days -- which I think we can't expect to have here in Paris, at least for the long term, for some time yet. Real spring days, not these fake, teasing, pull-the-wool-over-your-eyes days we've had recently, enough to get us all sick (well, me anyway).

So I'm now going to wander back down those winding Seville paths... Our sunny séjour started out with practically a whole afternoon spent in what could only be considered the ideal garden, in this case the Alcazar Gardens.

I think we probably could have spent our whole week there, and we both would have been pretty happy campers. We must have spent a good two or three hours there in any case...

Oh, and if I'm not mistaken, there's a Royal Palace on the premises (according to the Guide du Routard), but I don't have very many photos to prove it -- I seem to have spent all of my time outside. But can you blame me when you've got surroundings like these?

This is Mercury's Pool, or Fountain (I can't remember which exactly, and I can't be bothered to look it up in the guidebook again; sorry 'bout that)... There were fish swimming around in that water, and something about the whole setting was so peaceful, in spite of the tourists. I think we didn't have to fight too many crowds this time around anyway, as it was still the middle of the week in early March.

I made a little friend while we were in the garden...

He kept me company while my boy took a nap in the sunshine on one of the numerous benches. I couldn't resist taking the gratuitous duck shots! This is one of my favorites; love those sunning ducks! They've got the right idea...

I did manage to get a few courtyard photos, and some of the famed patios, of course. I was transfixed by the architecture all week as well, which should come as no surprise.




















Oh, and looking back through the photos, I managed to find a few taken inside -- but oddly enough, not of the interior architecture. Seems there was a collection of all sorts of éventails in the royal palace, including French, Spanish and Japanese...

Of course, one of the best parts about Spain is the saveurs... Wouldn't you agree? Quite different from those in France, and a completely different approach to cuisine in general, at least from what I saw (and tasted!) in the short time I was there. I knew our trip was starting off on a nice culinary note when we enjoyed bull's tail, Spanish ham (jamon iberico) and a scrumptious dessert of lemon cheesecake with cinnamon dusted on top our first evening in Seville... I later learned (pretty much the night before we left, in ice cream form) that these are the flavors in what is better known as crème de Seville -- and I think I could get used to that flavor combination myself! [Sorry, I'm not very adept at the Spanish language, so unfortunately most of my references here will be either in English or French, as it would take me forever to figure things out in Spanish! That was one of my handicaps while there, of course -- and the little I did know, I couldn't seem to get out as I would freeze up anytime someone spoke to me in Spanish! I've pretty much decided to stick to French...]

A few of our other food favorites on this trip included the wonderful, well-known tapas, in endless varieties. The ones that topped my list were the garlic-infused mushrooms, the spinach with pine nuts, the many types of ham (of course!), and basically anything with cheese. Although I have to admit that after 6 days of eating all that ham, I was no longer in a charcuterie mood, if you catch my drift!

We actually had this set of tapas in a great place right near the Mezquita in Cordoba. From top to bottom that's of course a slice of Spanish omelette, or tortilla, some creamed tomatoes, the wonderful garlicky mushrooms, some sort of meat dish (I'm blanking out on this one -- probably veal) with potato slices, and the spinach. I had an excellent glass of rioja with this meal, so good that we decided to bring a bottle back with us. It was reasonably priced, and if it weren't for those airline restrictions with regard to liquids on the plane, I probably would have brought back a few more bottles. But I couldn't see us trying to stash a half a dozen in our suitcases without all the bottles broken into bits on our arrival in Paris.

I think we must have had paella a few times as well, and I got to taste some gaspacho once. I wish I had had a few more bowls of this ice-cold tomato soup, because it's one of my favorites. But it just wasn't on that many of the menus. The one time it was on the menu in Grenada, the waiter told us it wasn't available that day. Oh well!

Of course, a discussion of Spanish cuisine wouldn't be complete without mentioning the beverages... Now, we didn't actually imbibe all that much on this trip, given my boy has a pretty low tolerance (I'm the one with the reputation of having a bonne descente around here), but we did manage to taste a few versions of sangria, of course, as well as the aforementioned rioja. But the one drink that became our constant companion on this trip was the fresh-squeezed orange juice -- and I guess it goes without saying that it was fabulous! I still regret not having just a few glasses more before leaving... Given that you've got orange trees on every street corner, and hundreds of them on the squares and in the patios, I guess it makes sense that it becomes the drink of choice!

We had a wonderful afternoon in Cordoba as well, although we split up at one point because I wanted to wander through the back streets and take shots of the Spanish patios hidden down back alleyways, further off the beaten path. Although granted many of them were closer to the cathedral itself...

I have so many shots of the interior of the Mezquita, but only a few of them turned out really well. The lighting inside was obviously not easy to capture, particularly for a photography novice like me, and then there were so many people it was tough to get a shot that wasn't overloaded with other tourists taking shots of their own. And one thing that frustrated me throughout the trip was my hesitancy to ask others to take our photo -- I don't know what my hang-up was, but I never wanted to bother people long enough to get a few photos of us together. And of course that's the least of my boy's concerns, so he's not going to push for it either. As a result, I have more shots of him on his own, and very few of the two of us. Oh well, we'll always have our memories...
























We spent almost two days in Grenada, but I have to admit that aside from the Alhambra, I didn't enjoy the city as much as Seville. I guess in all honesty we didn't have enough time to soak up the ambiance there. The view from the hills above the Alhambra was breathtaking, of course, and it felt incredible just to be there, in that moment. I was really glad at that point to have bought my new digital camera.
And of course the Alhambra is the one place where I took the most pictures -- in spite of the fact that, disappointingly, the Cour des Lions was missing the main attraction: the lions! They had been removed for restoration, so no beautiful shots were taken in that courtyard. I did manage to capture some amazing lighting inside of the palace, as well as a few in the gardens. I'm quite pleased with these... And it's tough to choose only a few to include here.























I also ran into one of our animal friends inside the palace, and I thought it was adorable how they had little bowls with water in them throughout the site -- especially for the cats!























I love the fact that he's right in front of a gorgeous wall of Alhambra azulejos...























I'm so glad we got to the Alhambra early enough to take in the whole experience in less than a full day; we headed back to Seville afterwards for our final night, and wrapped up the end of our trip with one last great breakfast in a typical Spanish cafe, topped up with some of that fine fresh orange juice and some joint postcard-writing; my boy gave me a helping hand as we wrote out messages to our friends and families... It was funny how my notes were a bit typical, conventional and nothing out of the ordinary, but his were quirky, cute and a reflection of his good sense of humor.

All in all, a really nice trip. 'Nuff said. I'll leave you here with one last shot -- some of the ceramics through a Spanish window...

21 comments:

amy said...

What a nice taste of sunshine!

Beautiful photos, Alice. Thanks for sharing.

The Late Bloomer said...

You forgot to add "finally", Amy! Ha...

Thanks en tout cas.

Wendz said...

What stunning photos..and the food! I am sitting here at 5.50am (can't sleep) and positively drooling over your descriptions...I love garlicky mushrooms too...but it ALL sounds fantastic. I'd love to visit Spain. It's on my list, along with Italy.

martin said...

You have my award for one of the most interesting posts...... nice pictures, nice words. Cool.

Emily said...

Wonderful post. What a wonderful trip. I miss Spain. Such an amazing country. Thanks for bringing back the memories of my own trip over there. :)

maitresse said...

looks like a great trip! I love your little ducky friend...

so good to meet you last week, hope you're feeling better! à tres bientot! xxL

ColourMeCrazy said...

I've been hanging out for those photos and they look great! You've put me in a holiday mood now!

The Late Bloomer said...

Thanks to all of you -- Wendy, Martin, Emily, Lauren, CMC -- for your nice words. And I'm glad you like the photos -- I'm pretty pleased with them overall, but you know how it is: you're always thinking of the things you should have or could have photographed AFTER the fact! It's good to see them on the computer too, but I'm going to try to have a few of my absolute favorites printed out to make a small album. I'm a bit old-fashioned that way...

It really was a nice trip, even if my boy was not always feeling so well during our time there. But we shared some very special moments.

And Lauren, I was so happy to finally have the chance to meet you too! I'm sorry once again that I was so under the weather and really not myself; I hope I'll be in better spirits -- and shape! -- in the months to come. I'm still fighting this cold/sinus infection/allergies -- whatever it is -- and it's about driving me nuts, but I'm hoping I can fight my way through it. I probably need to get some better medicine though.

Incredible this icy cold spell again today, huh?

Mike said...

Great pictures. Your post makes me want to visit Spain. Now.


Mike
http://somethingaboutparenting.typepad.com/

jchevais said...

What lovely photos!

I love the cat one.

The Late Bloomer said...

I really need to work on getting a Flickr link on my page as well -- 'cause I have lots more pics! These are just a few of my favorites.

little fugitive said...

Thanks for being so generous with your photos and descriptions. I think they brought out the sunshine (at last)!

Gabrielle said...

WONDERFUL photos! Glad you had a good time. I'm dreaming of a sky that blue. Spain is a gorgeous, gorgeous country. I especially love the cat photo--and now I'm fanging for some tapas!!

The Late Bloomer said...

Hey gals (oh, er, and guys, o'course), did anyone pick up on my Tori reference? ;)

Linda said...

I enjoyed viewing your trip through your photos and comments. It has gotten me thinking about making a trip to Spain. I was there many many years ago and loved it.

Kate said...

Glad that I wandered over to your blog ... great pics from Spain. Lovely architecture and the tapas looks delicious. Ah for a slice of lemon cheesecake!

scribbit said...

I feel warmer just looking at your photos. How beautiful. EVeryone in my family has been to Spain but me it seems. How fun it must have been.

Pam said...

Just found your blog...does that make me a Late Bloomer too?
: )

Gorgeous photos and fun read!

The Late Bloomer said...

Linda, Kate, Michelle, Pam -- thank you so much for the kind words. I'm really glad the photos of our trip brightened up your day! It has been warm here in France overall for the past few days -- is it possible that spring may truly have arrived? Or is this just another global warming switch-up? I won't be putting away my winter coats just yet, in any case. You never know, and I've been too sick to have to catch another bug now.

But boy, is this sunshine ever so nice...

capucine said...

Just visiting your blog from a comment you left at Frenchless in France. I loved, loved the photo of the stainglass doorway with the rising sun in this post. It's very beautiful!

ruth said...

looks like our paths crossed recently. shame you couldn't make it to one of our concerts!