Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

It is fun to cook an elaborate and huge feast once in a while. It is memories like these that lingers in the mind and bring joy all the time. So on Wednesday I started to work on the feast. I read about feasts abroad and it is so fun. I like to find out how other people celebrate but what's even more fun is to celebrate right in my own home.
The mess in the kitchen, cooking means a lot of cleaning up but I don't mind. Sometimes cleaning up is fun just like unloading the dishwasher. It is fun putting all the things back into the pantry and using everything that I have accumulated over the years.

This restaurant size stove was working overtime, cooking sometimes two things at once, other time cooking one thing right after another. It was a matter of coordinating the cooking time, different dishes cooked at different temperature setting.

The flowers have been bought, some narcissus 'paperwhites'. Where are the 'orange' colored things? Orange is not my favorite color so there are no 'orange' anything in my house not even in Fall and at Thanksgiving.

The house is cleaned and the beds are made.

Don't forget the bathroom...

The table is set and ready.

Here a melange of berries for the mixed berry clafouti.

The mixed berry clafouti, a recipe from Donna Hay. Thanks Donna, it was good.

I need to work on this presentation. I always set the buffet on the preparation table in the kitchen but still it can be spruced up. This definitely needs work.

Time to eat, everybody got up for seconds and thirds, a compliment to the cook. The only thing missing was the popovers, they came out hot from the oven, was passed around and eaten so fast that no picture could be taken.

The feast was so well worth the effort. Here I am left with the clean up and the putting away of the leftovers. One dinner down and there's another one coming up, Christmas. I'm working on the menu right now. It's been a great year and I'm looking forward to the the next year. The question thrown around these days is 'is your life better after 8 years?' Mine is, very much better. While others have great trepidation about the new year, I have none but excitement. I'm truly thankful....

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I love the subway in Barcelona, it's huge and clean and not as crowded as in Rome. The subway in Rome is so crowded. Rome has a very small system and every one's there. We arrived in Barcelona from Perpignan, France and was greeted by throngs of people on the streets around Placa Catalunya. What's happening? It was a holiday and all the locals and tourists were out in force. It had this incredible fiesta atmosphere which was so thrilling. A party? Wow! What luck! We arrived at one of the 2 main railway stations of Barcelona, Estacion Sants which was thoroughly impressive. It's huge, clean and efficient. I thought to myself, I love Barcelona already.
The throng of people on La Rambla, a pedestrian friendly street with lots of restaurants, street vendors and street acts. There were people from all over the world, some were so incredibly dressed. It is definitely a place to see and be seen.

Later that evening there was a parade, here the crowd is gathering.

The anticipation...we didn't know what was to happen, we just hung out and then it started... there were marching bands and larger than life size puppets parading down this street. The crowd went wild, there was dancing and a lot of merry making. People carrying babies were shaking their booties, even elderly people were dancing to the beat of the music. It was a lot of fun to participate.

Here they come, the marching bands, it was so crowded, we couldn't get a better view, most of the time we held our cameras up above our heads and just click away, hoping to catch something on it.

The king of the parade, a larger than life size puppet of a 'king' coming down the street, the people inside it would twirl it around and shake it, the crowds loved it. His 'queen' is right behind him.

The 'queen' coming close behind...

There they are, turning for all the crowd to see.

There were a lot of other puppets and marching bands. What luck, we arrived and there was this reception... for us.

The other acts following soon after...
The place we stayed in is so cheap, 50 euros for double occupancy. It is near Placa Catalunya, but slightly away, so it is still close to where all the action is. It is so old and moldy and kind of smelly but we soon got used to the bad smell. It had a common area where we can hang out and watch TV and even order drinks. Three nights there and we soon called it home, the people were really nice, there was a TV there but it only played Spanish programs. As I write this I was watching 'Bones' in Spanish! It's like being in college again and is kind of fun. There's not much in ancient monuments in Barcelona. That was one reason why I resisted visiting Barcelona for so long. There are other things to excite and wow even the most jaded traveler like me. I was wowed by Sagrada Familia. I was wowed by Gaudi. I didn't think I would be but I was. Barcelona has become one of my most favorite cities to visit. I will post on Gaudi next.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm struggling in the kitchen trying to make a 'Charlotte'. At first I planned to make a blueberry Charlotte but they were so expensive. There's an offer on Raspberries so I'm making a Raspberry Charlotte. It is a lot of work and the kitchen looked like a tornado went through it. It better be good. I guess they don't call 'piece de resistance' for nothing. Last night I watched the best episode of Spainontheroadagain yet. They went to the Asturias. I've taken the train through there and it is absolutely gorgeous. Spain is so beautiful and understated. They also went to a few Gaudi buildings in Barcelona. Wow! What can I say.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On our way to Barcelona

We're here in Barcelona, I wrote Wednesday September 24, 2008! We left Perpignan train station at 9 in the morning after a hearty breakfast at our hotel and in less than 3 hours we were in Barcelona. Wow! It was a nice train ride with stops at Girona and Figueres, both places are mentioned in Spainontheroadagain TV series. In hindsight we should have gone to visit these places but there just wasn't enough time. Definitely we will come back to this area. I'm glad I cut Perpignan short by one day and gave that extra day to Barcelona because even with 2 and 1/2 days, we were no where near seeing all that we want to see in Barcelona. I'll be back. We arrived in Barcelona at Estacion Sants, a huge train station, more like an airport, it's new, clean and absolutely efficient. I'm so amazed. I've been to Southern Spain and Northern Spain and have loved all the places in Spain that I have visited so far. I've heard the raves about Barcelona but have till now no interest to visit because they do lack ancient sites. No ancient sites withstanding, the spirit of Barcelona makes up for it. It's lively, fun and carefree. It was a public holiday and when we emerged from the underground and arrived at Placa Catalunya, it was so crowded. There were people everywhere, there were street acts everywhere, there was music everywhere, it was like a huge party going on and everyone is invited. Everyone who's been to Barcelona loves Barcelona and now I know why. I, too, love Barcelona.

A South American group, every one's stopped to listen and do a little dancing, it's one big party on the streets in Placa Catalunya and La Rambla. Here we are lugging our luggage looking for our hotel which is nearby.

The subway is so big and clean, I've never seen anything like it before. There are no dog poop anywhere, a nice change from France.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

villefranche de confluent

The Pyrenees, the natural border that separates France and Spain. We are in France, head up those peaks and the other side is Spain. How did I even know about this place? From Amy Oakley's books, she wrote, 'next to walled cities, perched villages are also her favorite.' I feel the same way. She records her trips 'made before and after the war'. This war she referred to was the first world war, not the second. At that time when the only way to get to Europe is by steamer ships. You don't take a camera either because they don't have the kind of portable cameras we now have. She brought her illustrator with her which happened to be her husband and the black and white sketching she has in her books are so beautiful. I have all the 4 books that she wrote around the 1923-1930. In one of her books she wrote extensively about her trips to the Pyrenees and one day I will follow exactly her itinerary. There is definitely a structure up in those peaks, it is the Fort, Fort Liberia. We wanted to get up there, there's supposed to be an easier way other than climb but we never found out how and therefore did not visit Fort Liberia.
We were dropped off by the bus here.

Then we walked down another path along the railway tracks, cross a medieval bridge and over to Villefranche de confluent. I don't think this is it, this is the new village where the people live and this is a new bridge over the river, Tet.

The Tet river which flows from the Pyrenees all the way to Perpignan. This is the new village.

Now we can see Villefranche peeking through the lush bushes. We had to cross the railway tracks where a warning sign says, the tracks are electrified and be careful not to step on it, step over it. You think I'd run out of photos by now, not by a long shot. After years of travel and experimenting, I've got things more organized. I remember those days when I don't have enough space on my memory cards and when one battery pack is not enough. These days I have 2 memory cards with enough space, an extra battery pack all charged up and ready to go and a charger. But I still have to contend with new equipment. This was a new camera I was breaking in. I agonized over buying a DSLR and by the time I decided to bite the bullet and buy it, it came just days before the trip and I didn't have time to learn how to use it. Now that I have kind of mastered using it, I'm ready to take it out again for my next adventure in a few months. I can't wait to use it's full potential.

This is the medieval bridge that takes us over to Villefranche.

Villefranche de confluent.

Wow! It is another delightful medieval village, a walled city. It was another very pleasant afternoon spent wandering around medieval villages. Can I get enough? I don't think so.

This was where we met this enterprising French lady who sold us the blackberries. I knew she picked them from the nearby hedgerows, so I left sightseeing and went in search of blackberries. I found some and began picking and eating them. They were so good, small and sweet, quite unlike their cultivated cousins which are huge but a little tart. It's memories like this that have made an indelible impression in my mind and still gives me so much pleasure.

It is a very tiny village, it's just shopkeepers and tourists that are found here now. It's touristy but still enjoyable.

The rugged peaks of the Pyrenees ever in the background. We were at the beach in Collioure that morning and in the late afternoon that same day, here we are, up in the Pyrenees. It takes a lot of hard work and motivation to do this kind of trips. I thank Sophie, she keeps the pressure up so we keep going......

Compared to the medieval village, this old Renault is modern.

After crossing the bridge you'll come to this narrow covered alley way that leads to the main street of the village. It reminded me a little of Carcassonne which I also love.

A peek at the Tet river from an opening in the covered medieval bridge. It is so beautiful, so magical.
Wow, I won't soon forget this place. One can pretend to be prisoner here, locked up and have the key thrown away and pine away..... it's OK if one have the Internet, that would make this place less can still be in touch with the outside world......
Pretty soon after this we would take the return bus and head back to Perpignan for our last night. The next day we press on to Barcelona.