Adieu, Algarve

We’ve been enjoying some small towns around the Algarve coast. The ilha Deserta, a short boat ride from Faro, is likely our favourite spot though. The channels in Tavira, the gypsy market in Loule, the bike ride through the salt pans of the reserve area of the Ria Formosa, and the boat tour out to see Ponte Piedade were all remarkable.

On our last afternoon, we are laying low in Faro and enjoying bifana, steak sandwiches, and a view of the Ria Formosa from O Castelo.

Tomorrow, M is heading home. I’m off to PhD camp aka a summer intensive seminar in Tilburg, Neatherlands.

Two months gone in a flash!

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Lisbon is for lovers

I never really understood the t- shirts that said (name a city) is for lovers. What does that sentiment mean? what city discourage love? I have a strange fondness for the ’70s typography that usually accompanies that wonky slogan.

We love Lisbon. So much that we’ve neglected updating this blog. If in Barcelona we sought after tradition, in Lisbon we are steeped in it. Tins of seafood are not the only things preserved here.

Last weekend we went to the thieves market, a huge outdoor market with antiques, factory seconds, junk, and cheap goods. It was enormous! Huge! The biggest open market that I have experienced. We were tempted by vintage meat grinders and 100 year old tiles, but in the end we walked away with two smurfs for my sister and a vintage Portugese Communist Party change purse for my brother.

We walked, quite far, to the north end of the city for the ultimate seafood treasure. We had watched the episode of No Reservations about Lisbon (since M does research for tv it made sense to trust their researchers), and were determined to find O Ramiro. Thankfully we did. We ordered a dozen oysters, a plate of barnacles, a whole crab and had the traditional steak sandwich for dessert. It was incredible! Every morsel was amazing! The barnacles resembled a compound of shells, bone and electrical tape, more art project than food, but inside was a crimson almost fuchsia soft ocean flavoured morsel. Not to mention the ridiculously delicious thinly pounded garlicky steak. All that food, and we paid 55eu, our most expensive meal yet!

Sintra was perhaps the coolest of our experiences. The castle was interesting, but the walk up to the height cross took us into the clouds. My ears popped as we walked up the winding passage ways. The view was amazing, but perhaps the video speaks for itself. (Sorry, it costs $60 to add video, I promise to show you when we get home or you can see it via Instagram )

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Gluten Free in Barcelona

Here are some suggestions for eating gluten free in Barcelona, in no particular order:

1. Gocce di Latte. El Born. All of the ice cream is gluten free, most of it is egg free, and they make a gluten free pancake. AMAZAmazingING!

2. Dusa. Carrer D’Avinyo. El Barrio Gotic. A dedicated gluten free section filled with bread options, etc.

3. Bread and Circuses. Blasco de Garay 59. Poble Sec. A great gluten free sandwich bun. I’ve been twice, and they ran out of buns and made me an enormous salad instead. Wonderful.

4. Gelateria D’Asturies. Carrer d’Asturies and Cerrer del Torrent de L’Olla. Gracia. Fresh horchata, and gluten free cones! Try adding a scoop of ice cream to your horchata.

5. Mercad de Santa Caterina. El Born. This food market isn’t too busy, and most of the stall owners will gladly take their time to chat with you. Lots of products listed sensa gluten or sin gluten on them, but everyone was happy to direct me to the best products. There is also stand featuring organic food, and gluten free dry goods near a side exit (sorry, I don’t recall the name).

6. Just passed the intersection of Via Laietana and Aviendo de la Cathedral on the east side of the street is a huge organic shop that features gluten free options. I can’t recall the name, sorry. But, you can’t miss it.

All in all, most of the waitresses have been super helpful in picking out the right options. On more than one occasion, fish has not been battered before its been fried for me. Though, its been rare that we’re encountered batter fish at all.

Barcelona!

Only a half day in Barcelona and I’m already a fan. We are staying on the 4th(5th if you count floor 0 as 1) of a gothic walk up. The stairway is incredible! I absolutely went through a German expressionist film phase in undergrad, and this stairwell excites that part of me so much. I guess it’s hard to walk up, but it’s so cool. Our apartment has a garland of vintage postcards, and some framed vintages photos, including one of John and Yoko . We had a good laugh with the girl we are renting from about the photo, another funny coincidence.

I reread the culinary backstreets entries on Barcelona, and found Andorra. I sounded perfect for us. It was a short walk over from our place down past the little Gaudi palace. It looked great. The doors, bar and booth were original to the place from the 1930’s and it had cute DIY details like woven lamps. The menu was pretty extensive, and featured, of course, fish. I’ve given up on eating veggies out, so I eat a few servings extra at lunch. We ordered our new fave salad: red peppers and tuna, but this one came with olives, sardines, and roasted peeled eggplant. I stay away from nightshades, so M ate the eggplant, but from few bites I had it was smoky, and the added honey was nice. The sardines were about half a foot long, and so salty. I used to never eat salt, but I’m learning to love it. We also had a tapas of tuna poached in cava which was so delightful, light, and kind if earthy. And, we had some horse covered in fois gras. This was a tricky thing for me. I do eat meat, and I do have sympathy toward animals, I don’t take eating meat lightly. M reminded me about the owners comments on ethically sourcing food. I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. It was not gamey like caribou or moose. It was soft, and tasted nutritious ( if that makes any sense). I often avoid beef because if the sustainability of it, but also the flavour. This was actually yummy. I’m not yet sure how I feel about this discovery, but I’m not worried about it either.

Our street is filled with bars, including the greaser bar across the street with a heart made of doll heads.

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Valencia/Balenthia

I love Valencia. Everything is close. Biking doesn’t take long and there are valenbisi ( their bixi) stations everywhere. It’s never crowded… Though this crowded thing is actually an issue. I was reading an article before we arrived about all the money was put into modernizing the city (nearly a billion for the city of arts and sciences) and given the lack if employment, the city is a kind of ghost town. Actually, it feels a little like St. Catherines only a billion times nicer and without the drunken street fights.
We’ve eaten so well! I emphasize this, of course, because I was worried. A girl can only eat so many rice crackers. But, the regular grocery store has loaves of gf (sin gluten) bread for 2 EU, and cookies too. And, it actually tastes good! Even better than my $6 loaves back home. Would I consider moving for cheaper food? Maybe.

Uh oh… Train time! Back soon.

Right. So, the food was amazing. The market featured so many varieties of cured pork. This of course reminded me of snacking on prosciutto (plain, baked with dates and goat cheese or otherwise) and sipping in sparkling with Marina, and then I noticed that they had a cured meat called Marina. Strange coincidence.

We pretty much fell in love with a restaurant called Garibai. We had fish upon fish; tuna on red pepper, bacaloa pil-pil, squid in their own ink; and, local wine. Plus, the walls were lined with vintage posters.

The city of arts and sciences was filled with tremendous white mosaic buildings. When we first rode through the park near it several bright green birds were flying in formation, and lots of fit people were hanging out or jogging. It definitely resembles a utopian future. At least in this future there are two horchata stands! We saw an IMAX film about the Nile, and i discovered a competitive sport that I’m actually good at (I never thought that would happen): mindball! Mindball monitors your brain functions, and the more relaxed person had their ball moved into the net of the other person. I won twice, easily. All that meditation finally paid off. 🙂

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