Friday, October 21, 2016

Fregola with charred onions, snap peas and fresh corn
2C fregola (or orzo), cooked al dente, drained
3 ears corn
1C snap peas, blanched
2 red onions, thickly sliced, peel left on
1/3C toasted pine nuts
1C arugula
1/2C basil leaves
1/3C olive oil mixed with 1 tsp. spice rub

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
6 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Shake the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.  Brush the corn, red onions and snap peas with olive oil mixture and grill until charred.  Cut the kernels from the cobs, remove peels and chop the onions and cut the snap peas in half lengthwise.

Mix the fregola and vegetable with vinaigrette to coat.  Add the pine nuts, basil and arugula, salt and pepper to taste.
MAKES:  6 servings

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona – September, 2016
After spending a couple days in Santiago it was time to move on.  It’s a great old city and I hope to return someday…Caught the 10:06 a.m. train to San Sebastian which arrived at 9:00 p.m.  I had plenty of time to think about my trip so far and enjoy seeing more of Spain as it passed by my window.  Picked up my roller bag at Hotel Parma and walked to my airbnb on Francisco about 15 minutes away.  Met Ana who was delightful.  She showed me my room, gave me the keys and off I went to Casa Urola in old town for my 10 p.m. dinner reservation!!!

Tapas bar is downstairs and the more elegant restaurant is upstairs.  Restaurant was pretty full as the Spanish eat late.  Ordered tuna with red and green peppers with caramelized onions in a light broth which was delicious followed by a chocolate hazelnut coolant, warm with a soft center.  Got back to Ana’s about 11:30 p.m.

Got up rather late in the morning and had a delicious pastry and coffee at Arstigan bakery across the bridge.  Wandered around the market which is below ground and then around the old town, in and out of beautiful churches, along old streets and to Placa Buen Pastor to visit the famous church.  As it was a Monday most of the restaurants were closed so I had a cream tart and delicious coffee at a little outside café and later a chocolate gelato.  Saw where the San Telmo museum was and will visit it tomorrow.  It was raining on and off but wasn’t cold so later in the evening I walked along the beach as the night was lovely.  Delicious 3 course dinner at La Fabrica which included a glass as wine, i.e. mushroom ravioli with foie gras cream sauce, grilled tuna with green pepper puree and roasted tiny green peppers and chocolate three ways for dessert.

In the morning I left my roller bag in old town at Hotel Parma, had a pastry and coffee at Arstigan, sitting outside as the weather had cleared.  Went into the market downstairs to pick up some cheese/ham and fruit for the train ride to Barcelona later that day but actually was too full after lunch to eat!  Took a lovely walk along the water and then spent almost three hours in the San Telmo Museum which was very interesting.  It showed how the Basques lived, i.e. tools they used, houses they lived in and even videos of older people who had lived in a time before telephones, running water, etc. 

Walked into old town to Alejandro Bodegon where I had eaten 5 years ago and it was as wonderful as I remembered.  I had the tasting menu which took about 2 hours so I had plenty of time to enjoy it and still catch the 4:00 p.m. train to Barcelona.  Lunch was watermelon gazpacho, anchovy lasagna with vegetable ratatouille and gazpacho cream, soft egg with crisp mushrooms, potatoes and peppers in a light broth, tuna with roasted peppers and caramelized onions, steak with garlic cream which was so tender and delicious and chocolate lava cake with chocolate ice cream finishing with mango dice, mascarpone cream and strawberry sorbet.  Little wooden box filled with cookies and candies also appeared as I paid the check.  No wonder I wasn’t hungry later!! 

Caught the train which arrived in Barcelona about 10:30 p.m.  Took another quick train to Estacion Francia from which I walked a couple blocks to Casa Marcelo where I had stayed the last time I was in Barcelona…Great location near the old town and the metro.   I was greeted warmly and shown into my room and was happy to be back in Barcelona.

Took a walk in the morning and then had breakfast at 9:00 a.m. which was beautifully set out, i.e. whole grain bread, homemade jam, fresh figs and other fruit and strong coffee!  I booked a tour of the Hospital Sant Pau for 10:30 a.m.  It was a fully functioning hospital until June 2008 and is now a museum and cultural center.  Built between 1901 and 1930, it was designed by Lluis Domenech I Montaner who also designed the Palau del la Musica.  The buildings are covered with mosaics and the insides are beautifully crafted. 

Walked to the old town for lunch at Taller de Tapas and had grilled octopus with potatoes and arugula salad.  Took the funicular over the ocean to tibidado mountain and the mirador overlook.  Walked through Montiuic park to the jardins de laribal where I saw some beautiful fountains and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the National Museum of Art de Catalunya, an exceptional museum!!!  I especially enjoyed the modern art section and 2 hours was not enough to see everything.

Walked down to the placa de espanya and had dinner nearby at Petit Pau which was fabulous!!!  A very small little restaurant with only one very friendly server, it was relaxing to be there and the food was really good.  I had clams and cepe mushrooms in cream sauce, duck breast with orange sauce and plum crumble tart with mascarpone cream.  Took the metro back to Casa Marcelo.

My last morning in Barcelona I took a walk around the old quarter before having a leisurely breakfast.  Walked to the estacion francia where I caught the renfe to passig de gracia where I transferred easily to the train to the airport.  Took about an hour total.  Flight was delayed so my arrival in London was also late.  In my haste to catch my flight to LAX I left my roller bag on the conveyor belt after going through security!!!  Think I was so used to just having my little back pack while walking the camion for so long that I forgot that I had another bag.  By the time I realized I didn’t have my bag it was time to board my flight… I spoke with a very nice lady from British Airways who told me to go ahead and board and that she would find my bag and make sure I got it.  After many e-mails from lost property at the LHR airport, a fee of $200 and more e-mails to customs and DHL in LAX my roller bag was delivered to my door a little worse for wear and clearly very thoroughly searched.  I was happy to see it!

The highlight of my trip, of course, was walking the camino.  Perhaps I’ll walk another part of it someday…

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Camino de Santiago, September, 2016
Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela has become very popular over the years.  One can do the whole camino by starting in St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France or wherever you like.  There are many routes ending at the same place.  In order to get your Compostela certifying that you have walked the camino, you have to have walked at least 100 km, i.e. starting in Sarria where a great many people begin.  You need a Pilgrim Passport which allows you to stay at pilgrim hostels and receive your compostela which you can obtain in your first hostel.  You will need to get at least two stamps a day in this pass in order to prove that you have walked along the camino.

The traditional pilgrim way is on foot, carrying all your “worldly goods”.  Some people have their backpacks transported to their respective hotels which might be a good idea if you are planning to walk for the 30 or so days it takes from St. Jean to Santiago.  What you take depends on how long you will be walking and what you feel you will need.  There is a wonderful book that almost everyone on the camino seems to carry with them called “Camino de Santiago” by John Brierley which outlines everything you need to know about walking the camino.

MY camino started in Piedrafia Cebreiro at As Miguinas do Cebreiro about 4 km from O Cebreiro, a little pueblo on the camino.  I had taken the 7:30 a.m. bus from San Sebastian which stopped for 1-1/2 hours in Valladolid where I walked into the center to get some lunch.  There was an open air market that day with food trucks, craft tables, etc. which was fun.  I picked up a tuna skewer and wandered around a bit before getting back on the bus.

Arrived about 7:30 p.m. and my host drove down to pick me up.  I checked in, got my pilgrim’s pass and took a taxi into O Cebreiro where there was a festival going on.  That is why it was suggested to me that I stay out of town a bit as it would be a very noisy night for me.  I wanted to visit the Santa Maria La Real Church and the cemetery and was fortunate as a service was going on as well.  The town is very old and quaint with handsome stone buildings.  I enjoyed the festival and then had a tuna empanada in a little café before returning by taxi to my hotel.  I took a hot shower, unpacked my little belongings and got a good night’s sleep, ready to begin my long walk towards Santiago in the morning…

Caught the 6:30 a.m. bus into O Cebreiro which stopped in front of a little café which was already open even though it was still dark out.  Had some toast, jam and delicious strong coffee while I waited for the sun to come up.  Checked my camino book which told me where to start my walk and followed the yellow arrows and scallop shell camino signs to Tricastela.  I walked through old villages, into churches and cemeteries, etc. stopping along the way to eat my peach, get my pilgrim’s pass stamped and use the WC.  There are many bars and cafes to stop in along the way if one gets hungry or thirsty or just needs to sit awhile. 

After 5-1/2 – 6 hours I arrived at Albergue Complexo Xacobeo on the camino where I spent the night in a quiet little room with hot shower and comfy bed.  Had a delicious grilled salmon/salad in the restaurant next door and then walked to the church nearby dedicated to Santiago.  Took a shower and a rest before coming out later to walk through the little town and pick up an orange for the next day.  Traditional torte de Santiago for dinner at the outside restaurant next door.

I got myself on a schedule after that, i.e. up at 7:15 a.m., breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and on the road by 8:00 a.m. when the sun was up.  That morning I had toast and jam/coffee before taking the Samos road leading to the monasterio founded in the 6th century.  Took an hour tour (in Spanish) and enjoyed what I saw very much; although I didn’t understand everything that was said.   Well worth the extra hour’s walk.  Continued on until the road caught up again with the traditional camino and arrived in Sarria about 3:30 p.m., stopping, as was my schedule, about 11:00 a.m. to eat my orange/peach at an outdoor café.  Casa Baran was on the Calle Mayor on the camino so as I walked up towards the churches there it was.  A very nice hotel, perhaps a bit too expensive for a pilgrim…Had a peach and ice cream for lunch.

Sarria is the second largest city in Galicia and it is where the majority of pilgrims start the camino so it was pretty busy.  Visited some of the churches and the monastery before taking a shower and relaxing a bit.  Walked into the center for dinner at Roma Restaurant, a great bustling place packed with people having fun.  Had to wait a bit for a table but it was well worth it.  Had some delicious grilled vegetables and grilled salmon before heading back for a deep sleep…

There are many accommodation options in the cities we stop in, i.e. dormitory-style rooms with 3, 6 and 9 beds, elegant hotels and simple rooms with or without baths which is what I booked.

Croissant and coffee at a nearby café in the morning and then back on the camino up towards the Monasterio de Madalena, to the Ponte Aspera and on to Portmarin where I stayed at the Ferramenteiro Hotel.  Had booked a single room but it was too noisy so I upgraded to a double room which worked out fine.  Walked into town to have lunch on the plaza and then visited the Romanesque fortress Church of St. John and walked around the town.  It was supposed to rain the next day so I picked up a waterproof cover for my backpack.  Had dinner later that night at O Mirador next door to the hotel, i.e. platter of grilled vegetables and grilled tuna – both delicious.  I sat outside on the terrace and enjoyed the evening.

Had a croissant and coffee for breakfast in the hotel’s café and started walking in the pouring rain.  Had my waterproof jacket and luckily had bought the waterproof cover for my pack so I just ploughed along.  Stopped periodically to get in out of the rain and finally stopped in A Brea at Meson A Brea for some delicious cream of vegetable soup and torte de Santiago and café as I was getting pretty cold.  Took another 30 minutes or so to reach Palas de Rei and Complejo La Cabana where I was staying.  Really nice little “cabin” facing the green parkland and very quiet.  When the rain stopped I walked into town, stopping by the church and some monuments and also picked up a poncho for the next day “just in case”.  Dinner was included so after taking a nice hot shower and resting a bit, I enjoyed a delicious baby greens salad with white onions, tomatoes and hard cooked egg and nicely grilled salmon on the bone, finishing with a flan for dessert.  Washed out a few things which dried by morning.

Buffet breakfast was also included so had a chocolate croissant, coffee and a pear.  My longest walk, i.e. 7 hours, was from Palas de Rei to Arzua but, although it rained off and on, it wasn’t all that bad... Stopped to visit the church of Santa Maria de Melide and cemetery along the way.  Decided to take a break for lunch at Café Manuel near Ribadiso about 3 p.m. and enjoyed a delicious salad of tomatoes, lettuce, onions, hard cooked egg and nice local soft cheese plus torte de Santiago and café. 

Arrived in Arzua and checked into Casa Teodora where I stayed which was in the center of town.  Even though it was raining, I wandered around the town, finding a pastry shop for breakfast the next day and also Café Nene recommended by trip advisor just around the corner.  Made a reservation for later that evening and had a wonderful dinner.  Started with a grilled vegetable platter with eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, followed by a half portion of grilled octopus with potato puree and finished with a warm chocolate “coolant” cake with ice cream – all fantastic!!!  Perhaps the best meal I had on the camino.
Chocolate croissant and café at the nearby pastry shop and on
to O Pedrouzo which only took about 4 hours.  Beautiful day for walking through the trees, up and down hills, etc.  Lovely…Arrived in town and stayed at 9 Avril Pension.  My room with private bath was very noisy so I opted for the room without bath across the hall which was quieter and I could open the window for some fresh air.  Walked along the main street to Galaicos which trip advisor had recommended for a salad and then walked to the church on top of the hill.  Returned to Galicas for grilled octopus and potatoes later that evening, finishing with a warm chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream, both delicious.

Chocolate croissant and café and then headed to Santiago de Compostela, my last stop on the camino…Before I reached the cathedral I found A Tafona do Peregrine, my hotel and checked in.  Later I continued walking into the old town towards the cathedral, stopping first for a delicious cream of vegetable soup and arugula salad with goat cheese, pears and walnuts at La Flor. 

Spent a couple hours in the cathedral in all its glory.  Walked up to the high altar to ascend the stairs and hugged the Apostle, who presides over the main nave, thanking him for a safe camino, as tradition requires.  Beneath the altar, in a silver reliquary, which you pass as well, lie the relics of the saint.  Wandered the streets of the old town, enjoying its uniqueness.  Went to the 7:30 p.m. pilgrims mass at the cathedral and saw the famous swinging of the giant incense burner and heard the words from the priests from around the world.  It was very moving.  Had dinner at a tafona restaurant which was a bit “out there” but the chef was well acclaimed so perhaps I just didn’t appreciate her cuisine…

Breakfast in the hotel wasn’t particularly exciting, i.e. peasant toast and fruit but the coffee was delicious.  Walked to the Pilgrim office to get my Compostela, i.e. a certificate proving that I walked at least 100 km of the camino.  Walked back to the big market housed in and outside of an enormous building across from my hotel and enjoyed seeing all the fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc. on display.  Picked up some cheese and jamon for the train trip the next day and then walked to the train station to see how long it would take me…

Went to the 12 p.m. pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral and then had a wonderful “celebration” lunch at Casa Marcella, where I had eaten about 5 years ago and it was just as wonderful as before!!!  It is now more casual and all seating is at the counter or a communal table but the food is remarkable.  I had bonito skewers with marinated olives and peppers, maki roll with spicy tuna, duck with pear chutney and finished with coffee and a “tiramisu” shaped like a little ball filled with mascarpone cheese – too good to believe!!!  Wandered some of the main streets, i.e. o franco, novi, villar, etc. and then went back to rest up for the evening.

About 7 p.m. I went back into town to enjoy the evening’s wander.  Stopped at La Flor again on my way back for the delicious arugula salad with goat cheese, etc. and a chocolate dessert.  A really cute little restaurant where I sat by the window and enjoyed being there.

Took a nice walk in the morning around the old town, passed by the cathedral and then back for breakfast.  Walked to the train station, arriving in plenty of time to board the train which departed for San Sebastian at 10:06 a.m.  Won’t arrive until late that night so had plenty of time to reflect upon my camion and savor the experience…