food, glorious (Spanish) food!

I think that one of the highlights of travel is exploring different flavors and styles of cooking. They all seem to taste better when consumed in the environment from which they come, and following the local culture as far as eating times and methods adds to the overall experience of a trip. And then add the people you meet — in the service industry, the local residents, and other tourists — and the reality takes on a deeper meaning.

One of our favorite local restaurants in Bergen is Escalón, a Spanish Tapas Restaurant. We were excited and hopeful to enjoy an even better understanding of tapas during our recent week in Spain because of Spanish surroundings. We did! Not just tapas, but modern cuisine and (Andalusian) Spanish Paella too.

La Sala Puerto Banus

The house in which we stayed was only about fifty meters from a well-known restaurant in that area, La Sala Puerto Banus. Popular, trendy, crowded, reservations recommended … not the type of place we would normally go to, but staying so close we got there early enough to have the indoor seating area mostly to ourselves. And I’m so glad we did! The three times we visited we sat at the same table, next to the visible (behind glass) kitchen where we could watch the experienced chefs prepare the intriguing food. The wine, the atmosphere, the servers — we visited for our first and last meals in Spain, plus one in the middle because it was so enjoyable. Our servers were all fluent in English, and Rudy and Mikel in particular helped introduce us to the warm Spanish welcome, seemed genuinely interested in us as first-time visitors to their country, and suggested wines to try as we weren’t as familiar with them. And after our first visit, Rudy remembered what we both liked for our pre-dinner cocktails. They also knew how to serve a warmed after-dinner cognac! It was a personal and delicious experience.

(Here is where La Sala is located on the map.)

 

La Venencia

Our local “people” connection in Marbella knew we wanted to try different tapas, and recommended La Venencia. We took a taxi to the old section of Marbella and walked on the pedestrian-only section towards the Mediterranean to reach it on a beautiful early Sunday afternoon. Another popular place, we arrived early enough that we could be seated immediately outside under the umbrellas. We people-watched as people walked by dressed for the beach or for church, or for souvenir shopping in the numerous shops. And there we enjoyed our first “true” Spanish tapas, accompanied by a wine we know from finding it here in Norway — except this one was from 2006, probably not found any more in very many places outside Spain, and was utterly fantastic! I was so involved with eating, savoring, and enjoying, I almost forgot I had my camera … but did remember to get it out and capture photographic evidence of **that wine** to prove to ourselves we’d really had it.

August 10, 2014 - Spanish food at La Venencia, Marbella

One interesting observation about this section of old Marbella — the businesses and shops on the street level have many apartments and living areas throughout the upper floors. This particular restaurant has a garage right in the middle of it; the restaurant itself wraps around the garage, and the outdoor seating area is set up on either side of the garage door. While eating, an older couple slowly drove up the pedestrian street, pulled between the two seating areas, opened the garage door, and carefully pulled in. Old Marbella, meet older Marbella … a wonderful (if different!) exposure to tourism and tradition coexisting side-by-side. A few days after our visit, I captured a shot of La Venencia, with our server busy and efficient … and the bright yellow and white garage door sharing the spotlight.

August 14, 2014 - Spanish food at La Venencia, Marbella

(Here is where La Venencia is located on the map.)

 

Andalusian Spanish Paella!

Another fantastic meal — Andalusian Spanish Paella! — was enjoyed here. Small, down a side-street off the main pedestrian area, it looked like just the place for us, as we like to find those out-of-the-way places. Local residents were sitting in groups under the outdoor umbrellas, enjoying coffee and conversation, and others from the neighborhood would stop by to say hello. We’d first stopped about 6:00 pm and been told the kitchen didn’t open until 7:00 (a cultural aspect that took getting used to for us — many places enjoyed that long afternoon siesta, and it’s certainly something that I could also get used to!). So we wandered around Marbella for a while, but although there were many restaurants that catered to tourists that were open, we didn’t find another place that offered the Spanish Paella that (by its menu description) looked as good. So back we went to this little gem that I, unfortunately, forgot to write the name of. We sat at an outdoor table, ordered a bottle of wine and our “Spanish Paella recommended for two” at 7 pm, enjoyed the olives and air and conversations around us …

… and about forty-five minutes later had the most delicious meal placed in front of us.

August 12, 2014 - Spanish food in Marbella

It was a feast for the eyes and the palate! We were the only ones ordering food that early; the owner/chef probably opened the kitchen promptly just for us, and it was the most flavorful paella I’ve ever tasted. Fantástico!!

 

CasaLola

One more restaurant experience to share from Marbella, and I’ve saved the best for last. CasaLola! We’d seen it in our walks on the pedestrian street, a charming and cozy small structure among the high-rise buildings around it. A welcoming home environment and vivid shade of red is the first thing you notice … and then you take in the delightful flowers, tables, upstairs seating, and overall atmosphere.

August 12, 2014 - Spanish food at CasaLola, Marbella

Being our (typical by Spanish standards) early selves, we walked under the umbrellas to see if they were open and serving lunch, and were greeting by a vivacious woman who, of course, spoke Spanish to us, motioning for us to sit anywhere. Jan and I said about three words to each other along the lines of “…. where do you ….” and she immediately switched to flawless English, helping us find the most comfortable seats, chatting about our visit and experiences in Spain and Marbella, answering our questions of her. Lola is our generation, spent lots of time in England to perfect her English, came home to open her restaurant, and seemed genuinely delighted to welcome us. I saw her offering that same personal attention to every diner who stopped by for lunch. Such stamina she and her equally energetic waiter have!

When she brought our wine, I asked if she’d be willing to pose for a photo for my blog. Like me, she prefers to *not* be in front of the camera … but she did it to please a customer.

August 12, 2014 - Spanish food at CasaLola, Marbella

(Lola, I know you won’t see this until after the tourist season is finished … but I think your photo turned out beautifully! Your joy in what you serve and give your guests is evident in your smile, and your warm personality shines.)

AND THE FOOD. Oh my. Homemade tapas that are better than any others I’ve experienced. I had my first gazpacho. Jan and I shared many other small dishes. We consumed wine. We got another bottle of water. And we allowed ourselves to be convinced to try the homemade desserts. And I remembered my camera for some of it, most images cast in the warm red glow of the Spanish sunshine through the CasaLola umbrellas.

(Here is where CasaLola is located on the map.)

There are so many areas of Spain we want to explore and I’m not sure we’ll get back to Marbella next time … but I’d take a side trip there just to eat at CasaLola’s again.

How about you? What memorable restaurant experiences have you enjoyed during your travels? I’m so hungry for Spanish food after editing these images and writing my thoughts, I’d love it if you’d distract me with your *own* memories of yummy experiences!

a trip on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl: the beginning

I’ve been sitting here barefoot on a rainy Bergen-area Sunday — no Uggs in site! I don’t think I’ll be wearing them again anytime soon, but they were needed last Wednesday (along with the layers we wore, and the hats and scarves we took): Jan and I enjoyed a four-hour trip on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl!

It was a breezy, sun-and-clouds-and-wind-driven-rain trip. It was beyond gorgeous. The only thing that could have made it better is if it had been a longer trip and we’d gotten far enough south to see the familiar surroundings of Lysekloster (and maybe even sailed past our apartment) … but as it was, we traveled in fjords that I’d seen from airplane windows on take-off and landing, under bridges where we’ve driven, saw the familiar mountains that surround Bergen from different angles, and experienced bright sunny moments, wind-driven rain moments, and a complete colorful rainbow.

I’d planned to present the adventure as one post, but I took so many photos and experienced so many different weather events and emotions to my *finally* being out on this beautiful lady it’s a little overwhelming to present in one go. So this post will focus on our arrival in Bergen from Lysekloster, walking around the ship in port, and first explorations once we boarded.

I invite you to join me on the first part of our trip. And since it’s through your computer screen, no Uggs are required no matter where in the world you are. :)

Driving into Bergen, there she was waiting in her berth just at the end of Bryggen. We parked and walked around Bryggen, waiting for 5:00 pm when we could officially board. After our recent time in Spain, it was nice to be back home and watch other tourists enjoying my adopted city — especially as, with the threatening rain clouds, cooler temperatures, and only one cruise ship in port, it wasn’t too crowded:

 

It was exciting to be standing so close, knowing I’d finally be experiencing her very soon:

 

Once on board, I explored a bit of her open areas before we were scheduled to leave, taking it all in.

Down the steep stairs found me looking where we’d be served shrimp and herring once underway:

 

I also peeked through to her berth in port, and thought the sign for the recent Tall Ships Races 2014 in Bergen made an interesting perspective through the window:

August 20, 2014 - Statsraad Lehmkuhl trip

 

Wandering around back up on the main deck, I kept craning my neck upward. I’ve always been fascinated by the Tall Ships’ masts, and standing under the mathematical perfection had me mesmerized:

 

I walked up steep stairs towards the stern and looked to the heartbeat of the ship where the captain is in control, understandably blocked off from us landkrabbes crawling around (but I’d seen the previous setup in the Maritime Museum, so had a slight understanding of what was hidden):

 

Back down the stairs I went, to the main area of the deck under the protection of the canvas (for us landekrabbe’s protection from the elements):

August 20, 2014 - Statsraad Lehmkuhl trip

 

I walked around a bit under the tarp:

 

And before we began the trip, I stood hanging over the side, drinking in the sight of Bergen from a different perspective — in the harbor. I stitched together six images to create a makeshift panoramic view (click it to open a larger version):

August 20, 2014 - Statsraad Lehmkuhl trip

 

And I also captured a few individual shots of Bryggen, Fløyen, Ulriken, Løvstakken, and out towards Byfjorden:

 

And soon after capturing these images, we were off! There was rain and sun throughout the journey. Do you think I stayed under the canvas the entire time? Absolutely not! :) Look for a post next weekend where I’ll share images and a video I took during the journey!

Have you ever longed for an event … and then were able to fulfill that dream? Was it as good as you’d expected?

What a difference a week makes!

Last week

August 2014 - Marbella, Spain difference

 

This week

August 2014 - Bergen, Norway difference

 

You know the reason for last week’s bare feet. Can you guess the reason for the warm Uggs on my feet this past Wednesday?

Hint: that’s a combination of rain drops and sea spray in the last image … and this post’s tags probably give it away, too. ;)

Photos of the journey coming soon!

Marbella and Salvador Dalí

On occasional Thursdays I’ve published various “paintings and photographs” posts, and showcased a photo that I’ve taken of a Norwegian view along with a painting in which an artist captured a similar perspective.

Today’s post is somewhat within that theme, except it’s not a Norwegian painter or photo. But it *is* an artist and it *is* a photograph(s) … but not a perspective. It’s photos of sculptures created by the Spanish artist Salvador Dalí.

Dalí. Just saying his name brings up a vision of bizarre dreams and melting clocks … but there’s so much more to his life. A synopsis, from Biography:

Salvador Dalí was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, Spain. From an early age, Dalí was encouraged to practice his art and would eventually go on to study at an academy in Madrid. In the 1920s, he went to Paris and began interacting with artists such as Picasso, Magritte and Miró, which led to Dalí’s first Surrealist phase. He is perhaps best known for his 1931 painting The Persistence of Memory, showing melting clocks in a landscape setting. The rise of fascist leader Francisco Franco in Spain led to the artist’s expulsion from the Surrealist movement, but that didn’t stop him from painting. Dalí died in Figueres in 1989.

(Visit his page on Biography to read the complete story and view several interesting videos.)

While walking around Marbella during our trip to Spain last week we discovered a little gem: the Avenida Del Mar. It was unexpected and delightful, and I enjoyed walking and photographing. Sculptures, flowers, benches, shade, views of the Mediterranean: an oasis of calm in an area of tourists. It was so peaceful.

Except, as I looked closer at the sculptures I saw they were created by Salvador Dalí depicting a few of his surrealistic visions. Not calm at all! But the overall effect was. For me, the representation of disturbing dreams against the larger, more present backdrop of seagulls, warmth, color, sunshine, water, people, and real life created a unique and interesting mixture. I could have wandered there for hours.

Once home, I researched a bit about the Avenida Del Mar. This is what I found on the Arts & Culture section of Expatica:

The Avenida del Mar, which is the main walkway between the town centre and the Paseo Maritimo, is home to a collection of 10 of Dalí’s sculptures, cast in bronze and signed by the man himself. With its fountains, cafes and fabulous sea views, it’s the perfect place to admire his work and while away a few pleasant hours. … It wasn’t always like this though; several years ago the old Parque de la Alameda was a run down and virtually abandoned area, which was crying out for redevelopment. As part of his programme of improvements around Marbella, former mayor Jesus Gil arranged for the purchase of the collection of Dalí statues. They were to form the centrepiece of the newly redeveloped park, along with a series of fountains, landscaped areas and benches. A gleaming marble floor was then installed and the result of the work is what residents and visitors to the town now enjoy every day. Each of the sculptures bears a name plaque and a Dalí signature … and has all the surrealist hallmarks of his most famous works.

I meandered down the plaza for quite a while, camera in hand and eyes taking in the statues and surroundings. Although, because of the bright sun and my limited point-and-shoot camera my photos don’t show the detail very well, perhaps they’ll give you an impression of the area?

The first statue from the town end of the park is Perseo, depicting the beheading of Medusa by the mythological Greek hero Perseus:

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

As you walk towards the Mediterranean past Perseo, the next one is Gala Gradiva, thought to be one of the loves of Dalí’s life:

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

Continuing on, you’ll find Mercurio:

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

… and Trajano a Caballo (Trajano riding a horse):

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

Next, Gala Asomada a la Ventana (Gala at the window):

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

… and Caballo con Jinete Tropezando (Horse and jockey stumbling):

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

Continuing, you’ll find Elefante Cosmico (Cosmic elephant):

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

Mujer Desnuda Subiendo La Escalera (Nude woman walking up stairs):

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

… and Don Quijote Sentado (Don Quixote sitting down):

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

… and finally, the last of Dalí’s statues, his Hombre Sobre Delfín (Man above dolphin):

August 14, 2014 - Salvador Dali on Marbella's Avenida Del Mar

 

Referring to my earlier post where I mentioned “planned and focused” vacations vs. “let’s see what happens,” this was a little of both. It was definitely an unplanned discovery … but once I did see it during a quick Marbella walk exploration, I planned a visit back to absorb and take photos. Has that ever been your experience on a vacation? I’d enjoy reading your thoughts!

(Here is where this part of the world is located on the map.)

Spain: Andalusia, Málaga, Marbella

We are home after a week in Spain. Friends have a vacation house in Marbella, and we had the place to ourselves: Relaxing hours spent by the pool, interesting hours spent walking in old Marbella, satisfying hours spent exploring different traditional tapas and paella restaurants as well as those that featured a more modern menu, delicious hours sampling new Spanish wines, exploring hours spent driving in the Andalusian mountains … the week went quickly and we didn’t dive into any deep historical exploration, but for a last-minute opportunity to go we felt we absorbed as much of the local cuisine, culture, and experience as we could.

It was wonderful.

Even with just a week’s visit, I have (of course … ;) ) way too many photos and thoughts. To begin sharing a few of them, I decided to first focus on the autonomous community (Andalusia), Province (Málaga), and especially city (Marbella) in which we stayed.

 

Andalusia

Wikipedia highlights about Andalusia:

- Most populous autonomous community, it covers 17.3 percent of Spain

- Located south in the Iberian peninsula and north of the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, the main mountain ranges are the Sierra Morena and the Baetic System, and the average temperature throughout the year is over 16 °C (61 °F)

- Rich culture and a strong cultural identity; many phenomena that are seen internationally as distinctively Spanish are largely or entirely Andalusian in origin: flamenco, bullfighting, and certain Moorish-influenced architectural styles

 

Province of Málaga

Wikipedia highlights of Málaga:

- Area of 7,308 km² and 2012 population of 1,639.127, concentrated mainly in the metropolitan area of Málaga and throughout the coastal area

- Climate is a warm Mediterranean, with dry and warm long summers and short mild winters

- Main industry and claim to fame are its tourist resorts

 

Marbella

Wikipedia highlights about Marbella:

- Part of the region of the Costa del Sol (Sun Coast) on the Mediterranean Sea in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca

- Has a significant archaeological heritage; some historians believe the first settlement on the present site of Marbella was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, the Roman population center was in what is now the El Casco Antiguo (Old Town) area, the Caliphate of Córdoba fortified the coastline and built a string of several lighthouse towers along it, and so much more

- Between the old town and the Mediterranean is a garden with fountains and a collection of ten sculptures by Salvador Dalí

- Particularly noted for the presence of aristocrats, celebrities and wealthy people, it is a popular destination for luxury yachts (which Jan and I made a conscious decision to NOT go see)

I have specific “themed” photos for future posts, but thought I’d share a few random images from Marbella now — most are my own but, as with those above, a couple are from the Interwebs and I’ve credited their sources.

 

How about you — when you only have a brief time in a new area, do you try to absorb and experience as much as possible overall, or do you focus on one or two aspects of the trip to experience more fully?

(Here is where this part of the world is located on the map.)

From my Archives: Tuscany travels

(I’ve lived in this amazing country for seven years. Buried in my blog’s Archives are many emotions and experiences from my first years as an expatriate. I’d like to let them see the light again! So, on occasional Fridays, I’ll share my favorites in a “Flashback Friday” type of reblog format.)

Instead of a specific early-expat experience, this week I thought I’d dig up the experience of being a tourist in a foreign country — one with a third language that confused my language-challenged brain (and the people with whom I was trying to communicate): Italy! Nine months after moving to Norway and beginning to learn the language, we vacationed in Rome and Tuscany for three weeks. In seven years of expat life and travel, it’s the only place we’ve visited that didn’t have English or Norwegian as the native tongue.

I thought this was appropriate to share today because Jan and I are on our way to Spain! We’ll be in the Málaga area for a quick week.

Although I studied Spanish in the mid-70′s, it’s long gone from my speaking abilities. I’m sure I’ll be confusing the local population with the random Norwegian/German/mispronounced Spanish that finds its way out of my mouth. I hope they’re patient with this tourist! :)

I’ll be “off the grid” and relaxing with my iPod, Kindle, a pool, the beach, tapas, camera, sunshine, and trips to visit historical sites in a new part of the world for us. I look forward to catching up with you and your new posts when we get back!

So, about Italy …..

Tuscany travels
September 30, 2007

Jan and I were in Rome for a week, Tuscany for two, and traveled all over that area in our rented car experiencing the wine, the olives, the food, the culture, the sites (including the ruins of an Etruscan settlement from IV-III B.C.), the people, the history …

I recently wrote “Being a foreigner in ANOTHER foreign country brought up mixed emotions in me;” I often found myself wondering just where in the world I was! I also occasionally found a Norwegian word popping out when I was trying to say something in English or in one of the few Italian words I was struggling to remember. Recognizing the humor in those moments was a private joke with myself – the Italians certainly had no idea what I was saying with my American accented Norwegian word!

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