Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Alicante Wines

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe had planned to visit Granada but it was closed. Actually, we discovered that the Alhambra palace was sold out. One cannot get tickets at the last minute. Seeing the Moorish palace will have to wait for another trip. Instead, we decided to taste some of the local wines in the Alicante wine region. We visited Novelda, Monòver and El Pinós.

All three towns are part of the wine region where the main red-wine grape is Monastrell (Mourvedre). In El Pinós, we thought we would have lunch, but like Alhambra, it was sold out. (The reason was that that Sunday was the last day of a week-long gastronomic festival in El Pinós and the restaurants were all booked.) We headed back toward Alicante with the idea of eating in Monòver but found no restaurants open there. The same was true in Novelda. We ended up having a nice home-made lunch back at the apartment. It seems that few establishments are open on Sunday in villages far from the tourist towns. A waitress in El Pinós told us that we would have little success in finding wineries open on Sunday; everything was closed on Sunday. (Luckily, we proved her wrong and had fun tasting wines at a wine cooperative near Monòver . She was right in that none of the vineyards were open. As I think about it, the wineries that we passed did not seem to have tasting rooms as the wineries in France have…)

In Novelda, we visited the Gaudi-inspired church Ste. Maria Magdalena at the site of the castle de la Mola.

The church was designed by José Sala Sala and finished in 1946. Novelda is known for its stone quarries and the organ loft is built with local marble.

One other thing that I have noted on this trip is that one can buy a whole leg of air-cured pork.  In the wine coop they were selling a leg of pork for 7.95€ per kilo. (In Madrid, the lowest price I saw was 13 € per kilo.) I am sure that I never saw a leg of air-dried pork for sale in the states…

Which is the ham?

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe left Vaison la Romaine and came to Spain to visit our neighbor and to spend a few days with friends in Alicante.

As we crossed the border into Spain, it became clear that the border was not only a political boundary; it was also an architectural boundary. I don’t think that I can pinpoint the differences but the buildings in Spain are different. (It is like driving to Toronto from MI. As soon as you get across the bridge, you start noting that the houses and buildings are different. Different colors, different bric-a-brac…)

Even though the Romans spent a lot of time in Spain and all places Mediterranean, it is clear that the Moors had a huge influence on what has become Spain. On our way here, we stayed at a hotel in Tortosa that was originally built by the Romans. At the fall of the Roman empire, it became/was rebuilt as a Moor castle and then the Crusades changed all of that ending the four hundred years of Moslem rule and bringing Christian rule to that area of Spain. The castle is now a “Parador” hotel – a very nice hotel – but no religious overtones to it.

We ate at the hotel restaurant and had wonderful meals. The entrées and main courses were beautifully presented and perfectly prepared. The wait staff was very attentive but never intrusive. (This is starting to sound like a TripAdvisor review.) The wine I chose – a “Muga” Rioja reserve – was excellent. Rioja wines are usually a blend of tempranillo and Grenache grapes. I did not know this wine. I chose it because it was from the 2010 vintage which was rated very well. (I can hear my friend John commenting on me tripping into the outhouse and coming out with a new suit… or similar expressions to underscore my luck in choosing wine.)

Last night we arrived at our destination. We will be in Alicante for about two weeks. The sun, the sand: we could get used to this. Tomorrow our friend from Chicago arrives. I plan to make Cioppino and take advantage of all of the fresh fish one can get in the fishing village just north of Alicante. – and serve the Cioppino with some good Rioja wine…

Now I need to learn how to say “Life is good” in Spanish.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Greetings and Salutations

Add to Google Reader or HomepageI am struck by the number of ways the French greet each other and the equally numerous ways in which they offer departing words.

Bon or bonne (good) figures in many of the phrases. There are the usual expressions that we have heard:

·         Bonjour (hello – not to be confused with ‘bonne journéewhich is more closely aligned with our  ‘have a nice day’. One would say for instance,  ‘bonjour’ on entering a shop and bonne journée when leaving the shop.)
·         Bon après-midi (good afternoon)
·         Bon soir (good evening – there is also bonne soirée – similar to bonne journée in inference. )
·         Bonne nuit (good night)
·         Bon voyage

There are also:

·         Bon anniversaire (happy birthday, happy anniversary)
·         Bon appétit (enjoy your meal – literally ‘good appetite’ [I know that, according to the lexicographers, ‘literally’ no longer means only ‘literally’ but can also be used when figuratively is the correct word – but that is another topic])
·         Bonne chance (good luck)
·         Bonne année (happy new year)
·         Bon weekend (yes, the French use ‘weekend’ as part of everyday parlance.)

I also hear: bonne continuation (happy rest of the day).

This week, it snowed. On Wednesday, we woke to about 10-12 cm of snow on the ground. Snow is rare in Vaison. I think that this snowstorm was the third time in the seven years that we have been coming here that there was enough snow to close the schools and many of the shops. Throughout the day, I heard people saying: “bon courage” (hang in there, take heart, good luck) as encouragement.

I wish all of you: Bonne journée! Bonne continuation and, for sure, bon courage.