Week 8: Tapas, Sangria, Paella, OH MY!

By the title of this post, you can see that we have totally been lovin' on this Spanish menu! I know it might seem like all we do it eat, eat, eat but you would too if you were surrounded by delicious foods all day long! No, but seriously - we see lots of other things too AND we walk everywhere so it kind of cancels out, right? Side note: if you ever plan a long trip, bring a pedometer. We don't have one but we would be so interested in seeing how many miles we will have walked by the end of this year.

Valencia, Spain

From Barcelona, we ventured a bit south to Valencia, Spain. The home of Paella and Valencia oranges! I definitely did not make that connection until we crossed over from Catalonia to Valenciana and saw the millions and millions of orange trees! And want to know something really sad? We never got a taste of the sweet orange juice while we were in Valencia. Rookie mistake!

Our AirBnb in Valencia was on a really beautiful street lined with cafes, restaurants and orange trees. Our host, Ana, was born and raised in Paris but moved to Valencia 35 years ago - she did not speak too much English but we didn't mind because she had the most beautiful French/Spanish accent! We talked to her about her grandchildren, her favorite cities in France and how she loves blending Spanish and French flavors in her cooking (doesn't that sound like the best cuisine ever?) Her home was warm and cozy and I will venture to say that we got the most amazing nights sleep in that bed. Why? Because the bed had real pillows! Who would have thought that would be a hard thing to come by while traveling?

So remember in my last post, I mentioned that we went to the same restaurant 2 times in a row in Barcelona? Well, to be honest - that is pretty unusual for us because we love trying new things. BUT, oops...we did it again! (Sorry, that was super lame.) we found this really cute tavern called El Camino Taberna steps away from where we were staying and had the most wonderful time our first night. We are usually hesitant to eat any prix fix menus because most of the time, the quality of the food just isn't that good and you end up spending way more just for the convenience of a prix fix menu. But, when our server read off the 7 course meal (tapas style - not full plates!) which included unlimited drinks, dessert, tea and coffee for €20/pp - the cheapo's in us was like "heck yes." The absolute cherry on top? The food was absolutely outstanding! We could tell that everything was freshly made to order with high quality, local ingredients. We sat there for about 3 hours just enjoying all that was around us and the extremely friendly service. So, needless to say - we went back again the next night. Not for the 7 course meal, but just a pitcher of sangria and a tapa. Once again, it blew us away. When in Valencia, don't miss this place!

We had heard from multiple people that we needed to try Paella Valenciana. Defninetly not ones to turn down reccommendations, we found a local place called Bodega de la Sarieta and, yes...you guessed it! We ordered Paella Valenciana. Now, I am going to start off by saying that it was pretty darn tasty. But, was it the best paella I've ever had? I mean, granted I have only had about 4 paellas in my life I guess I am not the best judge but one thing is for sure - Sean's mom makes the best Paella ever so this one just did not compare. However, we definitely enjoyed it because like I said, it was delicious and full of flavor! Also, the service was great and we had a wonderful experience while we were there.

Oh also, ya know the horchata that you get at Mexican restaurants? That's good and all but your life will change when you have REAL horchata in Spain. Did you know it's a Spanish thing, not a Mexican thing? We didn't! But we stopped at Santa Catalina Horcheteria where they ladled fresh horchata into a cup and it was the most creamy and delicious horchata we've ever tasted. We enjoyed it with a fartones (hehe) which is a traditional Spanish pastry meant to be enjoyed with the tasty rice drink!

We didn't really know what to expect when coming to Valencia other than it was sort of a beach town. It was so much more than that! It had lots of history that was displayed by all their beautiful cathedrals, old markets and small alleyways. We happened to be in Valencia during National Spain Day which we tried to figure out exactly what that meant, but all we came up with is that it is a day that Spain celebrates with fiestas all over the country. Go Spain! The Fiesta that we stumbled upon was small, but full of life with lots of pop-up shops and places to get paella, empanadas and other traditional Spanish foods.

We took an evening walk with the intention of ending at the beach but we definitely did not realize how far we actually were from the beach until it started to get pretty dark. Knowing that we wouldn't even be able to see the water, just hear the waves...we decided to ditch our plans of feeling an ocean breeze, and instead, walk through the park that runs through the whole city. It was beautiful! So many people were out running, walking their dogs, having birthday parties and enjoying the sounds of the creek while viewing the city lights. The park looks like it used to be a riverbed that ran through the whole city but someone smart was like, "hey, let's make this a place for everyone to enjoy!" And let me tell you, these tourists definitely did!

Our only regret is not having more time in Valencia (and not having Valencia orange juice!).

Granada, Spain

Ok honest talk here: when we first got to Granada, I had my first bout of anxiety in a long time. When we walked into our AirBnb which was kind of like a hostel, it smelled like weed and body odor. I didn’t realize that we had booked a hostel like place, which was totally fine – it was just not what we were expecting. Everything was shared, except for the bedrooms which were so nice and comfortable but the shared bathroom thing was a bit new. Then, Sean had to leave in a tizzy to find parking because we were illegally parked at the moment. For the first time since we left, I was alone. No one was there – just me, myself and I. At first, I was like “huh, this is interesting…haven’t done this in awhile. How are you, self?” but then, when Sean didn’t come back for like 1 hour, I started panicking a little bit. I had no idea where he was, let alone, where I was. So I did what anyone would do and stood on the balcony looking like a lost puppy, scanning every single person that walked by. And when I finally did see him, walking up like nothing had ever happened...I screamed his name as if I hadn’t seen him in 5 years. Then, I said to myself, “Lisa, you are pathetic.”

…With that being said, our 2 days spent in that AirBnb were totally fine. Great location, clean, super nice host and at the end of the day, we had a warm bed to go back to and a roof over our head – what more do you need?

Our host, Nico, recommended this restaurant that was about a 10 minute walk from our apartment called Los Diamantes (The Diamonds). We walked up to see a line gathered in front of the closed doors whilst all the surrounding restaurants gave us the stink eye because they had about 5 people in their dining room. When the doors opened, it was a mad dash to the bar where people just gathered around and started calling out drink orders. We took the cue and ordered 2 cervazas and seconds later, a hot plate of fried sardines were in front of us. We looked around confused because we hadn’t ordered that deliciousness but then realized that everyone had them. Being total nubes, we ordered a mixed plate of fish and then were shocked once again when we ordered another cerveza and a plate of fresh clams came out with the beer. “What the heck is going on here? Are we getting someone elses food?” and then we made the connection. Each drink CAME WITH an appetizer! What a concept! So, we really didn’t need to order the plate of mixed fish because by the time the sautéed mushrooms came out with our last drink, we were more than full. We left that place so full, so happy and so shocked that it only cost us €20 for our feast.

Remember when I said to get a pedometer? If we had one, I think it would have tapped out while we were in Granada. We walked, and we walked, and heck…we walked some more! The architecture, the small alleyways, and the Moroccan influence gave us heart eyes every turn we made. We never really have too much of a plan when we set out for a day of sightseeing, and Granada was no different. We just made turns whenever we felt like it while also using a map here and there to help us see some famous sites. We walked up up and up to the Alhambra where we saw beautiful views of the city from above, but did not get to go inside the actual palace because tickets sold out weeks ago. We stopped for a kebab in the old jewish district and perused the bazaars in the arabic neighborhood. While walking aimlessly, we admired the many buildings that were covered in the colorful tiles and beautiful designs that Granada is famous for. I am pretty sure we covered about 99% of the old town and we've got the achy muscles to prove it!

We took the recommendation to go to Granada from an Australian guy that we met at Oktoberfest and without hesitation, we added it to our itinerary. Looking back, we thought to ourselves, “we knew that guy for like 5 minutes yet trusted him enough to tell us where to go without him knowing who we are, what we like and what we wanted to see.” Well, word to the wise: trust the Australians and go to Granada!

Sevilla, Spain

Yes, this week has been a very busy one. I can’t believe we started this week in Valencia and now ending it in Sevilla. On one hand, time is going by so fast but then at the same time, the weeks feel really long! Anyways, back to our time in Sevilla.

We were so excited to visit Sevilla because we have heard from multiple people that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. One of those people was Sean’s mom: the flamenco dancer! She would spend weeks in Sevilla going to flamenco workshops and living a Spanish lifestyle so she had lots of wonderful recommendations for us that we were anxious to explore.

Our AirBnb was located in the old neighborhood of Triana. Not knowing that Triana was historic and a very treasured part of Sevilla, we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived! We were surrounded by lots of local cafes, bars, markets and really friendly people…including our hosts! The apartment was only about a 15 minute walk across the Triana bridge to the city center of Sevilla so that made transportation very easy!

Let me start by saying: TripAdvisor is an absolute gem. We never really use TripAdvisor back home but it is very very popular in Europe and basically can make or break a business. Not really knowing much about local restaurants, most days we would ask our hosts wherever we were for their recommendations or just hop on TripAdvisor and search what was close to us. Sevilla is such a big city so finding a good restaurant was a bit daunting but we ended up finding some great places!

We found this little neighborhood restaurant called Trianilla just a few minutes away from our apartment on the first night. The décor was simple, yet inviting but the restaurant was pretty empty. I have this weird thing about going to restaurants where no one is inside, but I got over that and we made ourselves comfortable. The husband and wife couple who owned the restaurant were some of the friendliest people we've met! They recognized that we were having trouble understanding the menu so they did everything they could to translate it for us...until taking to Google Translate. They typed everything on the menu into it for us so we knew what we were ordering! We learned that the husband was laid-off from BMW a few years ago and in his time of trying to figure out his next step, he realized that his dream of owning a restaurant could be made a reality. So they took a leap of faith and followed their hearts and that is where Traianilla was born! The menu focuses on a lot of fusion dishes made fresh with the best ingredients. We enjoyed the chicken curry, a yakisoba dish with Spanish flare and a cheesey enchilada that had us missing Mexican food back home! Everything was delicious and tasted so fresh. I think I could have eaten there all 3 nights!

Light, local beer is nice and all – but being from California, we were starting to miss good, craft beer. Down a small alleyway (like most good restaurants), we found Maquilla + Son’s Brewing Company. Still keeping with Spanish tradtition, this little micro brewery had some really amazing tapas. As we sipped on our Session IPA in the very simply decorated bar, we enjoyed their version Patates Bravas, Creole Croquettes, and their Bar Burger. Everything was so great! And the whole neighborhood seemed to think so too as more people began to pile in, hoping to lock eyes with the busy bartenders.

Our last night in Sevilla, we decided to do a mini “Tapa-Hop” (if that’s not already a thing, we TOTALLY came up with the name and will accept royalties when it becomes famous). We started at Bar Alfalfa and what was just supposed to be a quick stop for a small beer, quickly turned into ordering 2 appetizers after taking sight of the open kitchen and all the fresh items they were preparing. We began with ooey-gooey baked provolone (recipe at the bottom!) and then “ribs” with a barbacoa marinade. There were so many other great things on the menu that it was hard to leave but we made our way to the next stop: Bodega Santa Cruz. This place was BUMPIN’. People were everywhere, trying to find their way to the bar to order a drink and some tapas. Thankfully, the bartender saw our wandering and hopeful eyes so he guided us to the corner of the bar where there was just enough room for us to squeeze and close enough to the kitchen where we could smell the amazingness that was wofting out of there. Because the place was nuts and the menu was only in Spanish, we panicked and just told the bartender to get us his favorites. He brought us this brisket looking thing which was so tender and juicy and a long fried thing (this is what happens when we have no idea what we got to eat – they become “things” which do not sound appetizing!) that had chicken? Proscuitto? Maybe some cheese. I really have no idea. But it was tasty! Our “Tapa-Hop” ended there because even though all the portions were so small, they were mighty. Thank goodness we had about a 2 mile walk ahead of us!

Knowing that Sevilla was full of history and beauty that our curious eyes would not do justice, we sought out another free walking tour. Success! A company called “Feel The City” had a free walking tour everyday at 10:30am that focused on all the monuments in Sevilla. We learned so much about how Sevilla became the beautiful city it is today and where certain traditions were born, like Flamenco. Flamenco was made up by a mix of cultures: Jews, Muslims and Gypsies, as a form of emotional expression. They were made to keep their beliefes to themselves if they were not Christians so this form of dance was created to get through hard times. As beautiful as flamenco is, the true beauty lies in the emotion and the story of the dance which we got to witness at an authentic flamenco show at La Carboneria. The sweat was literally spraying off the dancers face which was kind of gross, I know – but, the emotion was there. It was as if the singer, the dancer and the guitarist could start crying at any moment because of the passion behind their craft and appreciation of those who created flamenco. We also took a walk through the Santa Cruz district which is where the wealthy Jewish Quarters used to be. A lot of dark history took place within the walls of the Jewish Quarter but I must say, it was beautiful. We walked on the orginial roads that were built during those times and housed old markets, homes and the people of the time. We learned so much more about the history of Sevilla but it's one of those “ya gotta see it to believe it” things so I’ll leave it up to you to visit the beautiful city!

Sevilla, according to many, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With its lovely people, great food and incredible history, we see how they might think so and I must say, we do agree!

Week 8 has been a busy one. We are looking forward to 2 days in Lagos, Portugal where we will take in the beaches and relax our legs and our brains. Until next week!


The Call's