It is Time for Tapas

Torrevieja is a resort town full of parks, plazas and an array of restaurants and shops... and beaches.

Our home town of Torrevieja is a resort town full of parks, plazas and an array of restaurants and shops… and beaches.

Spring in Torrevieja is a delightful time of year. The crisp breezes blowing off the continent and the brisk on-shore winds have given way to the bright sunshine and warmer days that demand we leave our jackets behind when we take a walk. People are heading to the beaches with their folding chairs and beach towels ahead of the crowds still to come when people seek refuge from the blazing heat of summer. The seasonal shops and restaurants are opening all over town. It is a time to celebrate spring. It is time for tapas.

Our first stop was Las Salinas, a favorite stop for families.  Their Magra de Ibérica was like a delicious stew.

First stop – Las Salinas, an open air favorite spot for families. Their Magra de Ibérica was a delicious stew made with veal.

This year Torrevieja, Spain, is celebrating its 10th Rutas de Las Tapas, or what we English-speakers would call a ‘Tapas Crawl.’ What are tapas? Tapas can be practically anything from a chunk of tuna, cocktail onion and an olive skewered on a long toothpick to a hot meat with sauce served in a miniature clay dish – or anything in between. Tapas are served day in and day out in every bar and café in Spain. They are so much a part of the culture and social scene that the Spanish people invented the verb tapear which means to go eat tapas!¹

Tu Aroma offered a piece of fried cod served over a zucchini wrap of peppers and onions; also a grilled meat in a chocolate mole sauce.

Tu Aroma offered a piece of fried cod served over a zucchini wrap of peppers and onions, plus a grilled meat in a chocolate mole sauce.

Fifty-six restaurants are each offering two tapas from which to choose during weekend one and two different tapas during weekend two. The weekends run from Thursday through Sunday and are available at either lunch or dinner time. The tapas are offered in addition to regular menu items and are advertised as standard or gourmet as determined by the restaurant. Standard tapas sell for 2€ and gourmet items sell for 2.5€, equal to $2.80 and $3.50, and include a choice of beverage. I ordered beer. Florence chose bottled water.

The Mediterranean Café offer this baked dish made with chicken and potatoes.  The second tapa was skewered 'sepia' which is Spanish for cuttlefish - similar to squid.

The Mediterranean Café offer this baked dish made with chicken and potatoes. The second tapa was skewered ‘sepia’ which is Spanish for cuttlefish – similar to squid.

No one has to pay an entry fee. All that is required to participate in the Tapas Crawl is a few Euros, a good appetite and good walking shoes. Even though there are participating restaurants are all over town, most are concentrated downtown near the ocean shore. People are allowed to vote for their favorite tapas once they have sampled at least ten options at no fewer than five restaurants.

Taj Mahal offered tapas Indian-style - deep fried vegetable mix that put onion rings to shame, and a shrimp roll made with sweet potato that was our favorite so far.

Taj Mahal offered tapas Indian-style – deep fried vegetable mix that put onion rings to shame, and a shrimp roll made with sweet potato that was our favorite so far.

We visited four restaurants on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and we ordered both of the tapas offered at each stop, so that was about 5€ times four, a total of 20€ for the two of us to sample eight varieties of Spanish cuisine including tips and beverages. That was a pretty good deal. We are already thinking ahead to weekend number two, and one stop we passed on our way home is already at the top of our list. We were too full to sit at La Mila-Grossa, an Argentine restaurant. However, we ordered some of their empañadas to take home for dinner, and that was a fantastic gastronomic conclusion to our first Tapas Crawl.

¹From ‘What are tapas?’ by Lisa and Tony Sierra on About.com
Note: All photos are the copyrighted property of Florence Lince.
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Cruising the Hidden Waterways of Croatia

The inland waterways near our hometown of Šibenik are scenic and peaceful, at least in the off-season.

The inland waterways near our hometown of Šibenik are scenic and peaceful, at least in the off-season.

Today was a day of discovery for me.  Nothing was disclosed ahead of time about where this excursion would be going.  My friends have been plotting to surprise me with an outing hosted by diving boat skipper, Emil Lemac.  It was finally revealed that our boat trip was to take us into the fjord-like waters near the mouth of the Krka River.  What did not come as a surprise was that I was offered a shot of rakija as we started off. 

Emil welcomes us aboard his comfortable powerboat.

Emil welcomes us aboard his comfortable powerboat.

Emil was our skipper back in September for our island boat excursion to Kornati National Park.  Summer is when he takes scuba divers to the islands for amazing underwater exploration.  Winter, when there is not a commercial diving job, is when Emil and his brother maintain an oyster and mussel farm they just seeded this year. 

Some villages hug the hillsides near the shoreline

Some villages hug the hillsides near the shoreline

There are only a few villages clinging to these sheltered shores.  The area remains quiet and unspoiled, at least at this time of year.  Emil informs me that as many as 800 boats per day cruise in and out of these inland waterways during the summer months including fancy yachts.  The townspeople of Skradin seem unduly impressed by the rich and famous celebrities that vacation there, and that, of course, gives the town its appeal.  Famous people can escape their busy lives here with some degree of anonymity.

The water is like glass as we enter the Gudića estuary.

The water is like glass as we enter the Gudića estuary.

Our cruise takes us to a quiet estuary at the mouth of the Gudića (GOO dee sha) River.  No Entry signs are posted in Croatian and English along the shore.  I am told the area is a bird sanctuary.  I can see by the reeds crowding the shore that this is an ideal nesting area for migratory waterfowl. 

A swan swims by to see if we have any food to give away. (We don't.)

A swan checks us out while we stop for lunch.

This tranquil spot was our lunch stop.  Emil and his friend, Boris, readied fresh fish for the frying pan.  I helped make a green salad.  A fresh loaf of bread and a bottle of wine appeared and we feasted while basking in sunshine and listening to pop music playing softly on Emil’s onboard sound system. 

Standing at the mouth of the bat cave

Standing at the mouth of the bat cave

On the return trip Emil led me up a hillside scramble to a bat cave he knew about.  It is not visible from the water below, so not many people visit this cave.  There were plentiful signs of bats which Emil informed me were numbered in the hundreds and were sleeping somewhere another 200 yards deeper into the cave.  There were also signs of wild boar which are common in this habitat.

The surrounding countryside is beautiful.

The surrounding countryside is beautiful.

As we headed back to the dock, we meet up with an interesting older gentleman named Zivko.  He rents apartments in his modern building near the shoreline.  He has created sculptures in his garden which symbolize our galaxy and Earth’s fragile place within it.  His site serves as a message to all who visit that we are stewards of this beautiful place, and he warns us we must all tread lightly to keep from destroying the planet for future generations.  Having just spent the day in the garden-like setting of this stunning landscape, I also hope this place retains its unspoiled beauty for all the generations of visitors who may pass this way.

 

Market Day in Šibenik, Croatia

Overlooking the first fruit vendor booth at the fresh market

Overlooking the first fruit vendor booth at the fresh market

The fresh market in Šibenik, Croatia, is open every day.  However, Saturday morning is when shoppers turn up in large numbers and the most vendors are set up to serve them.  This is one occasion where I make no effort to avoid the crowds. 

I embarrassed the bread lady when I asked for a photo.

I embarrassed the bread lady when I asked for a photo.

Surrounding the open air market is an array of meat and cheese shops and my favorite bakery kiosk where my preferred baguette of whole grain bread costs $1.20.  I have returned so often that the lady no longer needs to ask me what I want. 

There is a fish market and several butcher shops.  However, I am eating mostly vegetarian these days, so I peruse these shops mostly out of curiosity.   I will say it is a good thing I no longer have a barbecue grill, because I cannot envision this vegetarian lifestyle if there were a grill on my deck.

The vine ripened tomatoes look awesome.

The vine ripened tomatoes look awesome.

I love the hum of the crowd and the animated vendors encouraging shoppers to take advantage of their great deals.  And most of the fruits and vegetables are great deals.  I bought a pomegranate for 60 cents.  We mix and match a variety of apples for about 40 cents/pound, and we get pears for about 65 cents/pound.  Carrots, broccoli and cauliflower are about the same.  Potatoes and onions are quite inexpensive.  Bananas are over 90 cents/pound because they come from Ecuador or Costa Rica.  However, we save so much on other produce that we do not mind paying extra for bananas.  The eggplants, which are not my favorite vegetable, look amazing.  They are thin and firm with few seeds, perfect for the way Florence cooks them and the way I most enjoy them (recipe below).

Fish and meat, cheese, honey and condiments - there is much more than produce available at the market.

Fish and meat, cheese, honey and condiments – there is much more than produce available at the market.

Florence’s Recipe for Baked Eggplant Wafers

Mike has never been a fan of eggplant, especially when it is cooked in thick slices that become mushy when baked.  However, when I bake thin wafers of eggplant so that they come out of the oven with the texture of a cookie, there are seldom leftovers.  He even requests them if we have gone a long time without having had some.

Ingredients: 

2 or 3 small to medium-sized eggplants
Approximately 1 cup of bread crumbs
¼ cup olive oil
1 egg or egg substitute

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spread a layer of olive oil across the sheet.

Peel eggplants and slice into thin wafers no more than ¼” thick.  Bathe in whipped egg and then coat both sides of eggplant wafers in bread crumbs. 

Lay bread crumb-coated eggplant wafers on oiled cookie sheet and bake about 20 minutes on one side or until they begin to brown.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and flip eggplant over to bake on second side also until lightly browned.  They will come out of the oven with the texture of a cookie that is crispy on the outside and still slightly moist inside.  Serve hot. This recipe will yield two or three sheets of baked eggplant wafers depending on the size of the eggplants.

Save leftovers to snack on either cold or reheated.  Try using some leftovers in a sandwich.

If you try this recipe, let me know if you like it or any variations you may have tried.

The Most Influential Blogger Award

Who won an award? Seriously?

You won an award?  Well, congratulations.  No, seriously.
Photo credit: Matt Pereira

My first blog award was such an important affirmation that somebody was actually reading something I posted. Within a few months, I began to feel like I was part of a community – the blogosphere. Another award or two came in and I soon found myself preoccupied with acknowledgements and questionnaires.

I stopped posting stories like ‘Look, I got an award!’ I am not one to hang certificates or wear lapel pins that announce accomplishments, although I posted the awards on my About page. I also did not know enough bloggers to pass the award forward to ten or fifteen people according to the rules of the awards. It began to feel like I was posting an electronic chain letter. Remember those? Now Facebook does stuff like ‘share this if you love your mother.’  So what, people do not love their mothers if they do not share a link?

most-influential-bloggerNevertheless, I like this award. I like the questions in the ‘Tell us something about yourself’ portion. I like Robin and her blog Witless Dating After Fifty who sent me this award. And I like some deserving writers out there, especially the newbies that are worthy of recognition. If you do not see your name on the list below it may be because I recognized you recently. Or if you just want another cool award, email me and I will add you along with some nice words. You know who you are.

Here is the questionnaire:

If you could create your own planet what would it look like?
I am quite fond of the planet we are on, although I would add more trees and fresh water, and perhaps a few more glaciated peaks with lots of waterfalls – big waterfalls!

If you could visit one nation you have never visited before, what nation would that be?
This is funny since I am embarking on a mission to accomplish exactly this – to visit lots of nations I have never visited. Instead, I will say my favorite nation so far is Chile because right now, if I were asked to choose one place to live it would be Chile. Or maybe Canada. Or Germany. Or Italy? Or…

Have you ever taken a long distance train trip?
Yes – in 1973 my fiancé and I reserved a Pullman sleeper compartment for a 48 hour trip from Chicago to Seattle.

What is something you would collectively change about humanity?
I would make bartering the only standard payment so that people would be rewarded for how hard they work at whatever skill they chose. I think I would also require term limits for every politician and appointee.

Huey LewisWhat is your favorite song?
I occasionally change my favorite song. After my divorce it was The Eagles’ Already Gone. I am in a wonderful relationship now, so my favorite song is Some Kind of Wonderful co-written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and first released in 1961 by The Drifters. I prefer the versions by Huey Lewis and the News and Grand Funk Railroad, which are quite similar. And I love anything a cappella.

Chris Berman, ESPN Commentator Extraordinaire

Chris Berman, ESPN Commentator Extraordinaire

If you could meet one person who is still alive who would you choose to meet?
I would pick someone with whom I could talk sports for hours. That would have to be Chris Berman, one of ESPN’s original announcers. He still does “The Fastest Two Minutes in Football” during the Monday Night Football halftime show, with his iconic saying, ‘He – could – go – all – the – way!’

otterIf you could choose one symbol to represent you, what would that symbol be and why?
I would be represented by an animal – the river otter. They are adorable creatures who know how to play and have fun, have beautiful fur coats, and they are incredible swimmers. Throw in some fresh fish and life is good!

Blogs I wish to acknowledge in alphabetical order:

Aja’s Northwest Life  – Aja’s stories and photos make me to think about my home.

A Lifetime’s Exploration – Sarah Ryan makes me appreciate how much she has traveled at such a young age.

Cô Kerri – Kerri makes me think about her profession as a teacher who chose to teach English in Viet Nam. My mother was a teacher. Enough said.

I’ve Got Some ‘Spaining To Do – Nancy makes me to think about living in different cultural settings.

Gallivance – James and Terri have already won every conceivable award and I hope my blog will one day be as successful. I also mention them because they have been many places I hope to go, and they are damn good writers.

Honk If You’re Vegan – Celeste is a friend and she has influenced how I eat. I cannot imagine a greater influence in one’s life.

Tales From The Motherland – My list of influential bloggers would be incomplete without my friend, Dawn, who reminds me about parenting, the Pacific Northwest and lots of other stuff.

The Perth Saturday Market

Vendors set up awning covered booths for the Saturday Market.  Hundreds of people flock to King Edward Street to create a fair-like atmosphere.

Vendors set up awning covered booths for the Saturday Market. Hundreds of people flock to King Edward Street to contribute to a fair-like atmosphere.

Vendors from around the region set up booths just off High Street in Perth from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month (and twice in December).  So we grabbed our re-usable grocery bags (which are needed here) and set out to beat the midday rush.  There are about 30 canopies along King Edward Street, few enough that we can stroll by each one and then go back to our favorites.  And that is just what we did.

Seafood

The seafood table had cooked lobster, crab, and fresh salmon. Haddock and sole were the top sellers. The was the busiest booth at the Market.

Jellies

This fellow’s apron reads ‘I Love Hot Pepper Jelly.’ As it turns out, so do I, so I got some. The back label reads ‘After opening store near your plate.’ I love that!

Beer

Paul, the beer guy from St. Andrews told us his company was owned by an American who came to St. Andrews to play golf.  When he asked what the local beer was, he was told there wasn’t any.  So he funded a brewery.  His name is Peter Coors.  After sampling a few I bought some to take home.

Breads

These breads were amazing.  We bought loaves of whole grain sourdough and hazelnut bran. We also got some scones and some of that cake you see in front.

Cheeses

Let’s see, we bought ginger cheddar, cranberry cheddar, grilled onion cheddar and cheddar with chives.  Do you see a pattern here?  She got us with the samples!

Berries

Fresh berries are still in season, so we got some raspberries.

Candyman

Homemade candies – what do you think?

Food Booth1

We could have eaten at the Market, but we had already purchased enough.  We saw much more, too.  The people were open and friendly.  They even seemed to like our “American accents.”  Hmm – I never knew I had an accent. 

There is Nothing Like Home Cooking

The historic Perth Theatre is just down the street from our flat.

The historic Perth Theatre is just down the street from our flat.

A look up the spiral staircase three stories to our apartment

A look up the spiral staircase three stories to our apartment entry

Now that we have our own kitchen, I have begun preparing meals at home. Celeste, if you read this, I want you to know that I am working on a plant-based diet, although I have not given up eggs and cheese. That may come as I find more sources where I can purchase the ingredients I need. I will also be reading the vegetarian and vegan blogs for more ideas. There are mouth watering recipes posted daily, and I look forward to trying lots of them.

A mixture of fresh vegetables served over a bed of basmati rice

A mixture of fresh vegetables served over a bed of basmati rice

Last night’s dinner was a stir fry. We found green, yellow and red bell peppers which added appealing color to the dish. I added zucchini, onion and snap peas plus a fresh mix that included bean sprouts. Stir-fry has to be the easiest veggie dish in the world, and it cooks quickly. The only thing missing was some cashews or sliced almonds to add some texture and flavor. You should not be surprised to learn I added some jalapeño peppers to my serving to spice it up.

Window Shopping

We good shoppers put together our own little library for under $20.

We good shoppers put together our own little library for under $20.

Our casual walks through Perth have revealed some treasures we overlooked previously. We found a frozen food store, Farm Foods, which also offers fresh foods during the growing season. We also found some used books bookstores. This is important to us since we do not have a television. We visited Thornton’s, a UK-based chocolatier, and we picked up a couple of handmade chocolate creams for 50 cents apiece. We checked out the Perth Theatre just down the block from us, the perfect venue for some live entertainment in the weeks ahead. We have a bit more exploring to do. There is supposedly a branch library within a couple of blocks of our apartment, and there is still the Performance Center and cinema to check out.

The historic steam train through Scotland's West Highlands Photo credit: visitscotland.com

The historic steam train through Scotland’s West Highlands
Photo credit: visitscotland.com

I am currently looking over the train schedules to plan our trip along the west coast aboard the historic steam train that goes over a picturesque bridge featured in the Harry Potter movies. Like everything in Perth, the train and bus stations are about six blocks away, and where the trains do not go, the buses do.  There is much yet to see and do.

I look forward to our daily walks.  I look forward to finishing another book and starting a new one.  And I look forward to writing whatever my next story will be.

Cheers from Scotland!

Another Sunny Day in Glasgow

We found a health food store with a great selection of vegetarian fare.

We found a health food store with a great selection of vegetarian fare.

With some time on our hands, we purchased all-day bus passes and headed downtown. I know Florence wanted me to have me model a kilt, and we did go into a clothier to look at kilts. These custom made all-wool garments start at about $450 US, and that does not include the jacket, tartan sash, shirt and tie, socks or matching socks. These formal Scottish outfits can be rented for around $100 just like renting a tuxedo. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to dress up in full Scottish regalia.

Scottish with an Italian flair

Scottish with an Italian flair

The fun part of the shopping experience was meeting Jessica, an energetic young lady working at Slanj, a men’s clothing store. We talked about her experience living in Colorado for a number of years and the contrast between the United States and Scotland. We hit it off with her, and like many people we have met, she provided us with her email and told us to contact her if we had any questions during our time in Glasgow.

Spicy chicken tikka and vegetarian rolls at Café India

Spicy chicken tikka and vegetarian rolls at Café India

We went in search of an Indian restaurant in the nearby district known as Merchant City. We strolled through a few blocks of restaurants and businesses and discovered Café India. I was able to satisfy my desire for spicy food and Florence found the vegetarian fare quite delicious. It was the cook who served us. He came out to check on how we liked our meal as a special courtesy. Our high praise for the food delighted him, especially when I told him how much I enjoyed the hot spices. He showed me an item on the menu and said, “If you come back I would love to cook this for you. It is the hottest dish we make.” Whether or not we return is not important. The important thing is how appreciated we felt.

Inside the Kelvingrove Museum is even more impression than the outside.

Inside the Kelvingrove Museum is even more impression than the outside.

We rounded out the day with a walk through the Kelvingrove Museum, a legacy of the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition. The art galleries are impressive. I was able to view works by Rembrandt, Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh. The highlight for me was Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross. Unlike Dali’s surreal paintings, this image of the crucifixion is quite vivid. It lacks the crown of thorns, nails through flesh or any depiction of blood. The body of Christ forms a triangle suspended in the sky that points like an arrow to a fishing boat on the Earth below.

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali Photo credit: www.europefortourism.com

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali
Photo credit: europefortourism.com

The exhibits covered much and in no discernible order. The Old West was displayed next to antiquities from Egypt. Medieval armor was roomed next to Scottish wildlife. A World War II RAF Spitfire fighter plane was suspended over an evolution of life on earth exhibit. Perhaps that was what a guide meant when she announced the museum had something for everyone. And generally, that is our impression of Glasgow. It is an unpretentious city with something for everyone. Perhaps we will make a return trip during our stay in Scotland.