Tapas & Jamon!

When I arrived in Spain for a three weeks stay, in January, I couldn’t help but smile! There was sun, the nights were not freezing and to go from the hotel to the company’s office we would drive every morning close to the sea with the sun just rising besides us. This is that kind of things that not only sound very special but they also are. It made me feel some nostalgie of my life back in Lisbon.

This 3 weeks in Spain where all about food & tapas.
We had lunch everyday in a workers restaurant where we ate very well for very little money (10 euros for 2 plates and dessert).
For nearly all the dinners in Rubi (a city close to Barcelona), we ate Tapas! We tried every kind of tapas from sea food to vegetables and meet.
Tapas are small typical spanish appetizers which are normally served in spanish bars and eaten while one is having a drink with friends before dinner. However, it became also common to go to bar or a restaurant and order different tapas to share as a main dish. And that’s basically what we did, for the three weeks we staid in Spain.
From the tapas we tried, the most typical ones (some mainly in Catalonia) are: pimientos de piquillo (grilled mild red pepers), butifarra catalana (a kind of a black sausage), sobresada com huevo (another kind of sausage with egg), tortilla de patatas, croquetas de jamon, calamares à la romana (fried squid), patatas bravas (potatos with paprika), pimientos de padron (small mild green pepers grilled), anchovies, and pan com tomate (bread with tomato and olive oil). We tried as well other tapas as pan fried aubergine, navallas (razor clam) – which looks a bit discussing but it’s just delicious – catalan cheese, mini hamburguesas and pulpo à galega (grilled octopus with boiled potatos typical from Galizia’s region).
From all this tapas, I strongly recommend the croquetas de jamon, pan com tomate (mandatory), pimientos de piquillo, calamares à la romana and tortilla de patatas.
For dessert you should definitely try the flan (egg and caramel puding) and the creme catalana which are some very typical sweets from spain and mainly from Catalonia’s region. Last but not least, to drink: sangria (of course!), red wine (from La Rioja or from Ribera del Duero were my favorites), and specially from catalonia, Cavas (sparkling wine) and Vermute.
My favorite place for tapas in Barcelona is Cerveceria Catalana (close to the famous Gaudi house, La Pedrera). I have been there two years ago and again this time, and it’s never disappointing! It’s true it’s a little touristic, but also frequented by local people (both times it had been recommended to me by local people) and although you have to be ready to wait for a table, for me it’s more than worth it! And here also the sangria and the creme Catalana are excellent.
For a good vermute, but which I would not recommend for tapas, we found a very nice and typical place – Cala Del Vermut in Barrio Gotico – where you can have a cheap Vermut in a friendly atmosphere.

During my stay in Spain, I also spent one week in Alicante and although I didn’t have time to visit the city, we also ate excellent food! Of course, tapas, mainly in a bar recommended by my spanish colleague – El Portal. However in Alicante there is more than tapas and no one should miss the typical paella – fried rise with sea food, meat or fish. Although this is not my favorite dish, it is definitely worth a try. A small note for another local speciality which is fiducea and it was surprisingly good. This are kind of noodles, presented almost as paella and at least the one we tried, with small octopus, it was incredibly tasty.

And, finaly, the most important thing in spanish food tradition: JAMON!!!!
It’s really unbelievable how much the Spanish people love jamon. In evey bar, every restaurant, every house you will definitely find it. And you will find a whole bunch of difference qualities and prices, up to a hundred euros a kg and any true spaniard can tell you exactly the difference between the different kinds. I have to admit, Spanish jamon it’s outstanding when compared to the normal smoked ham we can buy in the supermarkets but still, the roots of the love that the spaniards have for the jamon is still a mystery for me.

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On my way to work…

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t’s true… It has not been easy to find the time to write. I just realized these last weeks that it is not easy to write when I am busy absorbing a new culture, simultaneously focusing on my work and constantly fighting against the jet-lag. But at least I will try to catch-up once I am back home.
The next post will be about Spain but, for now, a taste of Yen Bai, Vietnam..

Napoli!

As soon as you get on the airport bus you realize one thing: you are back to Italy!
The bus driver speaks loudly with someone I assume it’s his colleague. They argue for some reason in their Italian dialect I am totally not able to understand. I look outside the window and see that typical chaos: vespas everywhere, the whole family on a scooter (of course without helmet) and people selling “Louiss Vuiton” bags on the streets. I think this means: welcome back.

Napoli is not beautiful. Streets are dirty, there is far too much garbage around and the houses are falling into pieces. Still this is an enchanting place.IMG_2692 Naples lies at the foot of the Vesuvius, and that just pushed me to go there sooner than later as this might be one of that trips that you don’t want to postpone. So I did it. Even if for very short and even if I still think that I have to come back. But I have walked on the city’s tiny streets and tasted its wonderful food.
The old center of Naples is tiny and chaotic with the views of laundry hanging from one apartment to another just enhancing its character.

For me a big part of this trip was to visit one of the old cities which have been totally destroyed by the last big eruption of the Vesuvius almost 2000 years ago.

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The ashes have preserved the buildings and some frescoes can still be seen. Its’s incredible to imagine how life was in these places by that time. As I was short of time, I have visited Herculaneum instead of Pompeii. More than the place itself, what really impressed me was to see that Naples (and the villages around) are built on the ashes of the last Vesuvius eruption and therefore facing the huge threat of the next major eruption.

Coming back to the Italian lifestyle, food is, of course, an important topic. Basically I ate twice at the same trattoria: Da Donato. As always when I am in Italy I followed the suggestions of the Slow Food Guide. I can’t say that the food was superb but it was really traditional cuisine like an Italian grandma’s food. I was just a bit disappointed that my linguine were far too salty but the Carbonara couldn’t have been better. Also the pizza – born in Naples – was perfect. Mainly the pizza with mozzarella di bufala and fresh tomatoes was divine.

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A last note for the great surprise of this meal: souffle di pistachio! I think this desert makes my top 5! A petit gateau, warm and melting inside, with a flavor impossible to describe! This restaurant is worth a visit even only for this dessert!

Antigua – A look into a coulorful country

This was not my last trip. It was also not the longest. In fact i spent 34 hours in Guatemala!
So why start by this one? Because I loved it and because I will definitely come back to this lovely country.
At 11pm on Friday me and my Spanish colleague landed in Guatemala city  hoping for a smoothly car ride to Antigua. Well I think we were just too optimistic. Although I know that I am scared of many things I didn’t know that asking for directions to someone who had a higher number of guns in his hands that the number of guns I have seen in all my life, it is definitely one of them.
But against all the odds, and after almost 2 hours we arrived alive in Antigua.
And what an amazing place we found!
When I woke up on Saturday it was a beautiful and sunny day, we stayed in a very nice hotel and from my room I could see the hills that Surround Antigua. I was just feeling so happy. I run to Antigua streets and while I was strolling i could just feel marvelous by the color of everything: the houses, the chicken buses, the people’s clothes.
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Knowing that I am a market lover, I couldn’t help but going there – actually to my first market in central America! And again, it was so colorful!
Even though Antigua is a very touristic city in Guatemala, packed with American students who want to learn Spanish, at this time of the year I did not really feel it. The market had nearly no tourists but instead it was full of local people who where making their weekly shopping.  For me it was just amazing – the colorful fruits everywhere, the chickens amounting on the top of each other in a way that would shock all the alimentary hygienic institutes in  Europe, the butcher, the friendly women making tortillas, the three men on the corner playing traditional music… Somehow I just felt again so happy because I had the chance to see this simple and beautiful world.
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In fact I was just so amazed by Antigua that I just wanted to stay longer in the city and I almost felt tempted to skipped one of the activities we had planed for the weekend – climbing the Pacaya! I am glad I didn’t.
The Pacaya is an active volcano located just outside the city of Antigua and easily reached with a day tour departing from Antigua.
When we arrived In the village we met our guide who guided us during 1,5 hours hiking.
The hiking is really nice with amazing views and nice vegetation which will be gradually substitute by volcanic rocks as you get closer to the volcano. As we climbed, the weather got darker and darker and all of sudden it started to rain cats and dogs!! In the beginning I felt annoyed but after a minute I just decided to enjoy! We walked for about one hour under heavy rain, which in the end made me feel quite well and refreshed (and not only because my clothes were totally wet).
As we reached the top, besides the beautiful views, What really impressed me was the sounds you hear – it sounds like a thunderstorm but in fact it is the sound of the continuous explosions inside the volcano.
At the time of my visit you couldn’t see anymore the lava rivers (and therefore there was no chance to heat some marshmallows) but trip itself is well worth it and to sit in a warm rock and listen to the power of the volcano is just priceless.
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What a difference a year makes!

One year ago I was living in Lisbon, Portugal, working day and night on an excel sheet and dreaming about moving abroad.
With some effort and a lot of luck I live now in Paris, i struggle to learn French, I have a small (very small) studio and I travel (almost) all over the world. I have a very nice job that should make me travel maybe to the least touristic places in the world for the next two years. There I will meet the local people and from there I might travel somewhere else or just stay to wonder at how local people live.
Besides my work, I spend all my time moving from one place to another..  This year will be passed between Paris, Brussels, Lisbon and, of course, the rest of the world.
So, I decided to start this blog. To share memories, tastes and images of the most diverse countries and cultures in the planet.

The next few posts will be about my last trips of 2013 and also about some of the best memories from last year.
Next month I will start with the post from this year adventures. It will start with Spain!

I hope you will enjoy my posts and that you will come back!