Archive for the ‘vacation’ Category

Our last day in Spain

May 26th, 2012 by knitnzu

We discovered that flying from Barcelona to Madrid early in the morning was the cheapest way to go, and so we went. We caught the bus from the airport to the Atocha Railway Station, a lovely restored iron and glass rail station. Here are a couple pics of the inside plaza! (better pics at the Wikipedia link)
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We had no real plans for the day, so we wandered around town a bit.

One of the walls at the Plaza Mayor,
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Looking west and north behind the Royal Palace. In the foreground, Campo del Moro, behind is even more greenspace, the Casa del Campo, and in the distance, you can see the mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama.
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Everything had really greened up in the two weeks we’d been traveling. Here’s the Paseo del Prado, one of major roads through Madrid.
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I was very impressed at how “green” Madrid is. But it is also a big city,
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Probably it’s so green because a lot of the park space was for the royalty, and then came Franco.

We relaxed about the Botanical Garden by the Prado. Though I don’t have allergies, at one point I started sneezing and sneezing. And then I saw this,
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What is it? Giant oak pollen!
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And these,
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Olive, Yew, and Hazel (filbert) pollen.

There were things familiar and not in the garden,
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Flowering Dogwood and some crazy spiny shrub.

And there were the formal gardens with tulips in a riot of color.
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I got myself a pair of hip new shoes at Elena Hernández Zapaterias. They make me taller!
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Actually, they are last fall’s style, so as usual, I am out of fashion. El Naturalista Ankle Boots, and they were almost half the price that Amazon is selling them for. Worth a trip, wouldn’t you say?

When we got on the plane to come home, it seemed empty. And then 100 boarding school students (in uniform) between the ages of 8 and 15 got on and filled the plane. It was like being in a middle school lunch room. They were mostly up and out of their seats, switching seats, chatting and loudly chatting and very loudly chatting. The girl who sat with us was not. I think it’s because she didn’t like flying (based on her exclamation when we landed). Other than that, she seemed put out that she wasn’t sitting with her friends. In the end I thought she was probably shy, a little sullen, and most likely spoiled. She briefly answered the few questions put to her (in Spanish, she also answered in Spanish), but didn’t elaborate or volunteer anything.

When the plane landed the swell behind us pushed forward. I pushed the young man right back and told him to wait for the rest of us in the front. And then I stood and let the mom and her two teenagers on the other side get out first. And then the kids started pushing the button to call the flight attendant. She came up and told them not to, that it was for emergencies. These kids were heading back to a private boarding school near Dublin for the last part of their term. You’d think they’d understand English well-enough, and I suppose they did. But they kept pushing the buttons. “¡Oye! ¡Maleducados! No se puede tocarlo” (Hey, you rude little beasts, you’re not allowed to touch that). A bunch of them looked at me in shock, stopped doing it for about 3 minutes. And then started up again.

We complimented all the flight attendants and told them they surely deserved time off or a bonus or at the least a good drink. And the mom next to us? She said (in perfect nearly unaccented English, though she was Spanish) “No wonder their parents ship them off to boarding school.”

I got sicker and sicker as we traveled home. Though I was sneezing the day before, I’m blaming those 100 boarding school kids! Luckily for me, it was just a cold like normal people get colds, so I didn’t miss any work and, more importantly, got well pretty quickly.

We’ve been home over a month, and I miss Spain (the coffee, the wine, the language, all the sights, the people)! Maybe another trip is in order, though for the next trip, I’d like to spend more time in one area and just take day trips from there, to really settle into a place for a while.

Barcelona – ¡Gaudí, otra Procesión, la Sardana, y All You Knit is Love!

May 20th, 2012 by knitnzu

Good Friday Procession

There were two processions on Good Friday, and we caught one of them along La Rambla. It was smaller and more somber than the one we saw in León. The floats looked smaller. They are carried by fewer people, and these people are hidden under the float.

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Crowd behavior was pretty fascinating here. Folks started lining up along the road before the procession came through, and we found a good spot to stand at the end of where the mass of people already were. More and more folks came to be along the street… there was plenty of room to spread up and down the street, but it quickly became pretty tight. I was more than willing to give up my front row street side spot to older people or to make way for them, but I started getting peevish about people my age and younger shoving their way around.

One tallish couple stood right in front of me (they stood on the street as we were at the edge of the walk), so I tapped them on the shoulder and indicated “to the back”. They did. Another did this and after a few minutes (they were shorter, but I was still peevish) I did it again… They asked “why is everybody standing here? what is happening?” We told them it was the Easter procession. They suddenly got a disinterested look and left. And of course there was the tall guy with the camera who made it hard for everybody to see…

The best part was the woman who broke out in a saeta (serenade to the Virgin on the float). She’s the woman in the photo on the right, carrying a white bag, with a hat and some funky white heels. At the time we had no idea if she was just a bit nuts, it was a gypsy thing, or a procession thing. It’s a procession thing. Click the link, there’s a video there of a teenager singing the saeta… sounded much the same, but put an older whiskey voice in it… it was fabulous!

Barcelona is the city of Gaudí

Gaudí was an architect who broke a lot of molds and left some crazy and interesting buildings and such.

  • La Sagrada Familia, his final work, the unfinished cathedral.
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    Even though we got here early, there was a huge long line to get in. We were in line (around the entire block) for about an hour. Just as we were funneled in to some area, this couple just walked in front of us. I gave her the tap, told her it was a line, and she looked at me like I was some alien bug and berated me in some language that I didn’t recognize. We thought maybe Polish, but didn’t sound like it, or maybe Romanian… but now I’m thinking Czech. Anyhow, she was young, taller than me, super skinny, and attractive. I just thought oh honey, you are going to be so ugly when you are only a little older.

    The cathedral was under-impressive on the inside, which was kind of nice. I liked all the weirdness that Gaudí did, but not so much the newer stuff added on since. I also really liked the apse, where you could see the basement and how it was neo-gothic, and how he changed and morphed it.

    We paid the extra to go up one of the towers. But the elevator was broken and the line was also humongously long, so we skipped it. I felt bad for the museum person staffing the elevator, she was getting grief from all sorts of people.

    We can’t figure out why, with over 2,000,000 visitors each year at 13-16 euro each, this thing is not finished (since 1882!)

  • Parc Güell, the unsuccessful housing site that is now a park open to all.
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    We were here on Easter. With all of the rest of Spain. Nice park, but way, way too many people that day. Though it did make for some great people watching, especially along that long sinuous bench.
  • La Casa Mila (The Quarry), I think it’s apartments now.
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    We didn’t visit this, just walked by it several times.
  • Casa Battló, designed as a house, now open as a museum on several floors (offices on others).
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    We took the tour… this is a crazy house! I especially was intrigued by the ventilation system he built. There are vents along all of the windows, and the attic is really amazing. You can really feel the air moving through the building.

    I was also amused by photos of the family he built this for. Here you have this wild, crazy, very modern house, and the people look just like everybody else in the Victorian time. And they put doilies on the furniture, much of which was made to match the house. Doilies!

All You Knit is Love

All You Knit is Love is a lovely knitting shop in the old part of Barcelona, run by the charming Jennifer (from Tuscon!).
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I picked up some lovely cotton viscose (I’ve used this before, but I never see it for sale here), and some sock yarn dyed by Marga!
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The other well-recommended shop in Barcelona is Llanarium, but we didn’t make it there (holiday schedules).

All You Knit is Love is not far from the Wool Plaza! We asked directions of a couple of young cops, and they were rather amused… and after we found the place, they also came by to check that we did indeed get there.
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La Sardana

We spent Easter Monday doing just about nothing. It was great. We wandered over to the cathedral, where there was a small crowd on the steps…. musicians! And the next thing you know,

Spontaneous dancing of La Sardana! This is a Catalan folk dance, and I even got somebody to explain to me the rhythm… the dancers all seemed to be counting.
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The group in the espadrilles danced with more precision, toes in what I imagine were more proper point, hands higher… BUT everybody, especially the older people, in the pick-up groups were definitely having much more fun.

Just other stuff

We came upon a group playing music on the street… They were FABULOUS. The guy with the Didgeridoo-ish horn would toot once, they’d all move, and then freeze… for a few of these, and then they went all out with some great Cuban/Latin music. They are Buenas Costumbres, and the musicians are from Cuba, Peru, Germany, maybe Venezuela and Ecuador… I forget now.
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Of course I had to buy a cd, for DH. But in truth, the street music was better than the cd. Oh well, how would you know?

Another doggy friend, a Catalan Shepherd aka Pastor Catalán aka Gos D’Atura
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We met him walking back from Parc Güell, in a lovely plaza in the Grácia neighborhood. (the accent on the a goes the other way, but I don’t have it on my Spanish keyboard…)

This crazy building is directly across from the optician’s, which still cracks me up.
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There were lots and lots of really interesting buildings, not just Gaudí’s stuff. It was really typical that buildings on the corners had the corner cut off… this made the streets much wider. It’s a nice effect in a busy city.
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Anba Bed and Breakfast, we just liked the outside walls… the inside looks pretty nice at the link too!
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Antoni Tapies Foundation
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The Plaza Real, smaller than the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, and more charming.
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Casa Ásia, with St. George killing the dragon on the outside (look to the left).
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St. George is big in Barcelona, though now I forget why. Here’s another place where he’s killing that dragon,
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We saw this all over, in sculptural relief, in mosaics, etc. etc. I think this one was on the side of the Casa Serra aka witch hat house
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There is so much to see and do in Barcelona. It’s a big city, with a lot of tourists, which was kind of a down-side to us. I also found that I felt like I lost my Spanish somewhat here… you hear so many other languages… Catalan, German, Romanian, Italian, French, and who knows what. We also saw a lot of American tour groups and cringed at most of them… so unfortunate. Either because it’s a bigger city, or because there are more tourists, it didn’t seem as friendly, though individual people were indeed very friendly. I’m glad we went, and would be glad to visit friends here again, but it’s not high on my list of places I want to return to. Really, what I think I would enjoy, is spending 3 months in Spain, in only one place and maybe venturing out for day trips.

Only a quick post about the last day in Madrid left to go!

Regular blog news

The snowpile is indeed mostly gone… but the last guess was May 13, so Brenda wins! She’ll get some fiber to spin. I imagine by sometime this week it’ll be truly all gone (I usually go down to see if all of the ice is also gone from where the pile was).

Gilead Fiber Farm Shearing!

May 7th, 2012 by knitnzu

The recap of the Spain trip is being interrupted to tell you about the fabulous weekend I had with some friends in Bethel, VT. We were hanging with our pal Kristen at her farm. There were newish babies and a very new baby (born the evening we arrived)! Lots of snoggling with said babies and the bigger sheep and goats too. Lots of talking and laughing and playing with fiber. Doesn’t get any better, right?

But now I want a drum carder.
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(Sara’s thinking, “I don’t know, man, that’s some orange”)

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I ended up with a lot of “before” sheep and goat pics, but very few after. This is Anna (the ewe) with Atlas (her lamb), before and after.

ETA: Anna and Atlas on the left… Sophie and Stella, the lamb born the evening we arrived, on the right! Skippyjon is dad to both.

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Yep, she ended up on her butt… but a few minutes later his feet were trimmed!

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Sorry for the word-light post, but there’s no other way I’ll be getting these things posted if I don’t just do it whatever way I can.

We had a fabulous time!

And I still want a drum carder.

¡Barcelona!

May 2nd, 2012 by knitnzu

We were in Barcelona for six days, and it probably deserves at least two posts. When I was in Spain, I saw so much that was blog-worthy, but at this point, I’m ready to start talking about fiber again! So, grab a cup or glass of something, sit back, and wander through the Barcelona with me…

The bus from Bilbao had signs all over that we shouldn’t eat on the bus, in contrast to the other buses we were on. I think it was this bus that had 3 university students sitting just in front of us, and they kept me pretty well entertained. It was a young couple and a guy friend. And who ended up sitting together? The two guys, who never stopped talking. She slept for a bit.

We were in the next to last back seat, and at some point I moved to the very back, because it was very hot in the sun. Not long after, we took on three younger riders, whose seats (assigned) were in the back. They were actually pretty entertaining too. Clearly a very different accent, more local, less “educated”. But the youngest (maybe 13) was so curious about where he was, and the oldest (maybe 16) was giving him quite the geography and cultural education.

After many hours (at which point we were very hungry and thirsty), we pulled into a truck stop off the highway, in Zaragoza (lisp the z’s!)

It was a very busy place, and at the bar we had the most fabulous chicken and roasted red pepper sandwich, along with a cheap but tasty glass of wine. I think there was a full-service restaurant, as well as indoor sitting for the bar, and outside picnic tables, and I’m not sure what else. Car parking was under a metal shade. And, like in most places we visited, there were large school groups there.

Parts of the scenery between Bilbao and Zaragoza reminded me of the Badlands in North Dakota. And the hills right outside the truck stop were also fabulous.
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We arrived late in the day, and tired, to a much smaller room than we had expected. It was, without doubt, the worst of our accommodations, and the second priciest (100 euros; the parador was only 40 euros more a night, and we got an incredible breakfast buffet with that). There was not room to walk on either side of the beds. My pillow looked like a sanitary pad. There wasn’t room to put both suitcases on something. And it was 75 steps from the street to our room.

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We managed to use the ipad to call my friend Alba who was over at Llanarium‘s Stitch and Bitch. We were too tired to figure out how to get there before they closed, so she came and met us! And we went out for a lovely Indian dinner. I must’ve been sleep deprived, because I have no photos of this! She gave me the most lovely gift, yarn dyed by her friend Marga (you can also find her on etsy).
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lace-weight baby alpaca and silk! yowza!

Honestly, I don’t remember the sequence of what we did in Barcelona. We were staying in the Raval neighborhood, which we learned (after we got there) is also known as Barcelonastan due to the many Pakistani immigrants living there. I think there were 10 halal butchers in the two or three blocks of Carrer Hospital (Hospital Street), as well as 5 vegetable/fruit markets and two pastry shops.

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It was extremely noisy there. Our windows looked over about 5 dumpsters, and they got emptied twice during the night. The first night we thought the neighborhood was primarily Arabic (but it’s primarily Pakistani, with a large dose of Arabic), and so in the morning we exclaimed “and that was without alcohol???!!!!” There was lots of loud talking and arguing all night long, and about 5:30 am the women came out and yelled at the men, and the kids started yelling too. But the next night was worse, some guy yelling “help help” and the sounds of things crashing into dumpsters and “doctor doctor” (in English, though much of the rest was presumably in Urdu or who knows what). A morning or two later, I heard loud noises (8 am or so) on the street, and peeked out from the balcony. I think what was happening was pressure from outside the neighborhood, harassing the people who lived there. We got one hour sleep one night. And then I started wearing the earplugs. And life improved dramatically!

Anyhoo…

The first day was rainy and we took the funicular up to Montjuïc. We visited the Fundació Joan Miró and just wandered our way back down into the city. Miro’s art amuses me… it is playful and colorful (no photos allowed, check out the link). We had a great lunch at Le Font del Gat, where I learned the waiter was from Peru, and the diners next to us were from from Italy.

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On the way back down into town, we stopped at the Caixa Forum, where they had a Goya and Delacroix (and others) exhibition. We saw Goya’s Clothed Maja/La Maja Vestida, which was fabulous, because at the Prado we saw the Nude Maja/La Maja Desnuda. In Madrid, I thought I liked the nude better, because she has such a lovely glow to her skin, but in Barcelona, I decided I like the clothed maja (gypsy) better… maybe it’s the glint of gold in the fabric, maybe it’s the suggestive tease.

We managed to visit La Bouqueria, but it was closing as we arrived and we never managed to get there when it was fully open (we arrived on Good Friday, I think). I was shocked at a stall that was selling dried mushrooms… yikes they are expensive! We must have some serious wealth stocked in jars at our house (dried porcini, reishi, chagga, black trumpets, bluets, hen of the woods, chicken of the woods, and more)… I recognized some of what we have in the market, most of it around 80 euros or more a kilo.
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We walked over to La Barceloneta and I put my feet into a new body of water, the Mediterranean Sea!
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The natural gas building was a lovely surprise, it was gorgeous. Hmmm… for some reason I thought Spain had banned hydrofracking , but I may be wrong. It’s a huge problem in NY and PA, and if you live there and don’t know about it, let me know, I’ll hook you up with a friend who can tell you a lot about this (and why it is a very bad idea).

View of Montjuïc in the photo with boats in the foreground. There’s a cable car that goes from Barceloneta to there, but we didn’t take it. The last photo is public art, La Cara de Barcelona, Face of Barcelona, by Roy Lichtenstein.

I think my favorite part of Barcelona was the Barri Gotic/Gothic Quarter. Here are a bunch of photos of this area from somebody else.

There are walls built by the Romans that are about 2000 years old!. The walls still stand and have been repaired in places.
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The courtyard at the cathedral,
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The angels visiting somebody… I thought this was at the cathedral, but I’m not sure we went in there.
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We found a stone in Hebrew in an alley near the Ancient Synagogue. Here’s a link to the synagogue’s page. It is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe, and I thought I read that since the synagogue in Jerusalem was destroyed, it may be the oldest in the world. Apparently that is up for some debate. It was closed when we were there, and we didn’t get back to go for a service or a visit. I saw a great website while I was in Spain that showed images of the place as it was “rediscovered” (I think in the 1970′s) and as it has been restored (of course I can’t find them now).
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Giant coat hanger art at Plaça de Sant Miquel
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Walking around the old quarter,
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The Barcelona Franca Train Station, a lovely old-fashioned iron and glass rail station,
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Just some things that amused me wandering around,
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I think I have to save the rest for another post…

fiber updates

I am going to VT this weekend to hug baby goats! (and hang out with friends…)

The snow pile at work is still there.

Bilbao en el País Vasco

April 28th, 2012 by knitnzu

Another bus ride, from León to Bilbao with a half hour stop in Burgos. Sadly I didn’t have my camera handy when we saw a shepherd walking his sheep over the highway just outside of León… he was leading maybe 80 of them! The bus pulled through several villages, with quick stops in each, and half an hour in Burgos… enough time for a coffee (on the left, some village, on the right, a view of the cathedral in Burgos).

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We had some great views of the Cantabrian Mountains… they are crazy!
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Bilbao was really a great city. It sits on the Nervión River and because of its industrial background, it seems the city sometimes gets a bad rap. It shouldn’t. It is beautiful! For some reason it reminds me a bit of Boston.

The Guggenheim is here, and is supposedly partly responsible for the city becoming something new. Jeff Koons‘ Puppy is here (the Spaniards say “POO-pee”). I’m not a huge fan of his, but Puppy is great!
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The museum is crazy looking. I especially liked the Richard Serra exhibit “The Matter of Time” (there’s a pic on the wiki link). It was so disorienting to walk through his sculptures! Outside, on the river side, mist would rise in front of the museum.
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Here’s some views around the city….

The Zubizuri footbridge (Basque for “white bridge”). That glass snail-looking thing is the subway entrance!
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We met our first Pastor Catalán (aka Gos D’Atura in Catalan, or Catalan Shepherd) along the river under those lovely trees. She was very sweet! And don’t you love that the stairs all make it easy for wheels (wheelchairs, strollers)?

People in Bilbao (the Bizkaia) speak a unique language, Euskera aka Basque aka el vasco, which is not related to any other language in the world! Luckily they all speak Castellano (aka Spanish) too. They also keep what feels like more regular hours to us… dinner is from 8-10 pm rather than 10-midnight, and you can get breakfast 8-9 no problem. Our typical breakfast was croissant and coffee. In Bilbao, they liked to stab the croissant with a fork!
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We also had the best and most fabulous lunch in Bilbao… menu del día for 12 euro, enough to make dinner pretty much unnecessary. Complete with a bottle of water and a bottle of wine!
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Salad of escarole and baby eel substitute (gula), bacalao al pil pil (cod), some wonderful duck and mango thing, and profiteroles. It was so good, we went here the next day, which was also good, but not quite so fabulous.

There was a cathedral in the old part of the city. We didn’t visit the inside, but it was interesting to note that there are lots of shops built right into the back side of it!
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Window shopping was fun, as everywhere. (We did a lot of window shopping during siesta hours)…and, as everywhere, there were these shops that had rather unattractive (and really expensive) baby things,
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And in the silicone kitchen shop, you can get all sorts of things…
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The cars everywhere were intriguing, and this one on the Renault showfloor was especially so… the Renault Twizy,
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Skunkfunk… I mean, who thinks of these names? I did love the wall of live ferns and mosses though…
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I also liked that this shop put newspaper on the mannequins…
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Holy week wasn’t as big a presence here, but we did see a bit of it…
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We went grocery shopping at the Super BM!
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We bought red nylons at Boutique de la Media… they are all the rage this year. It is a lingerie shop, with lots of lovely things, and so, given that I am on the “ultimate bra quest”, I asked the lovely (and very tiny!) Rosa if she had something in a size 30H/32G… Her eyes bugged out a bit, she said let me see your tag, and then she proceeded to bring me really lovely bras that all almost fit. I didn’t want to spend too much time, and they were hugely expensive (as in 140+ euros), but I was impressed. She said her shop specializes in the hard to find sizes… small bands and large cups as well as larger bands with smaller cups. So, if you’re in Spain and need a bra, go here!

Apparently while I was in the dressing room, the other woman told Ginny “she’s a little crazy“. Ginny asked which one. And she said, “well, it looks like the both of them.”