Feb 29, 2008

Madrid-Barcelona-Narbonne



On our way back to France Chess and I spend some more time in Barcelona. Right off the AVE (Spain's high speed train) we go back to La Bodegueta for cañas y bocadillos de atun con aceite. Then back to El Born for more drinks and food. Little detour by El Corte Ingles for some canned "almejas"(clams), "mejillones"(mussels) and chorizo "bellota"(the good stuff that comes from feeding acorns to pigs.) Got a tablecloth for my dad at Zara too. Second drink at La Taverna Basca Itera and third one at Taller de Tapas so that I can sip some of my favorite sangria again. Don't know what it is about their sangria but its smell reminds me of early childhood, back in the days when my parents were still together and partying like happy couples do, living on the African continent between the tropic of Cancer and the Equator. It smells like Martini Rosso. I get my buzz on and then ask what they put in their sangria. It turns out they mix their wine with Cognac and whiskey! I understand why the cloud in my head feels so wide and fuzzy. I tell Chess I don't want to stop by the chocolate museum - don't want to give myself any incentive to eat more of that addictive food. I suggest we pay a visit to the sea when we are done with our drinks. So what do we do after drinking? We head towards the sea, and on the way there make a lil' detour by the Museu de la Xocolata... and I buy me a big piece of dark chocolate with "almendras". It feels so good to go back to those familiar places that we end up zigzagging our way to the beach, passing by Cal Pep and that bar on calle de la Reina Cristina que se llama "la champaneria" that serves cava and lots of cured ham, and that is so crowded that you can always see people spilling out on the street from far away. And what's up with the spring/summerlike winter that has nothing to offer but above average seasonal temperatures? I can't help but think about global warming. It feels like all we are missing is our flip flops and bathing suits. But no, actually at this point there is something else lacking: time to go say hi to the Mediterranée. Back at the train station it turns out the Talgo is an hour late. Nice. Chess is on the lookout for an electrical outlet (seems like they are a constant in our life). She and I are sitting on top of our suitcase, on a cart, between a vending machine and a phone booth - the only place with a random power strip for us to plug in our laptop - watching yet another episode of Prison Break, like total junkies in need of a t.v-series-induced-adrenaline-rush fix. Sick.

Feb 28, 2008

Madrid—Las Meninas y otras cosas



I would have loved it if everybody in the room left so that i would've had the whole painting just for myself. Since my wishes did not get fulfilled i moved into other rooms and delighted myself with Goya's "pinturas negras".
Then we looked in vain for fresh flowers for Gloria. How can you grow pimientos del Padron and strawberries all year long and not have one stand of fresh flowers in sight? Muchas gracias Gloria por tu muy buena comida.
Awesome flamenco show with and by Rojas y Rodriguez at the Teatro Albéniz. Great dinner at El Lacon. Thank you so much Alejandro and Paco for everything.

Feb 27, 2008

Madrid—comida asturiana



El Ñeru restaurante with Maribel y Manolo.
Excellent food from Asturias in this restaurant full of madrileños and absolutely no tourists in sight. Just the way i like it. You walk down in the basement and there's a succession of rooms full of tables and customers, hundreds of photos covering up the walls with well known patrons and each one of them taken with the owner posing with his guests. That's a lot of the owner up on his own walls!
The "pote", the "faves con almejas" and the "merluza al cidra" were the bomb. Manolo y Maribel thank you for taking us out.

Feb 26, 2008

Un viejo con un sombrero negro

An old man on the bus
Holding his cane with both hands
White moustache on tanned skin
In the black ribbon wrapped around his hat
A toothpick neatly put away.

Madrid—paper napkins



Up until today there was VPL(visible panty line), now there's also VMP(visible maxi pad), and today it was OCVMP(off-center visible maxi pad).

Feb 25, 2008

Madrid—churros



Aside from tapas y cañas, there's another thing i cannot not have when visiting Spain, it's churros. There's a really good place for them, in a small neighborhood bar in Orcasitas, but unless you have a very specific reason (other than churros) to go there, it's more likely you will never end up setting foot in that area of Madrid.
I spent a few memorable summer nights over there, sharing a bedroom with my girlfriend, her brother and his girlfriend, and a very loud, out of this world portable R2D2 AC on wheels. God it was hot in that house!

For fresh churros there is a place that serves them all day, called Chocolateria San Gines (Pasadizo de San Ginés 5 Madrid 28013).
The tradition there is to dip your churros in hot chocolate, a drink i personally don't particularly relish at that place.
Aside from the servers, nothing has changed there in over 40 years.

And for dinner, back at Bocaitos on calle de la Libertad.

Feb 24, 2008

Narbonne-Madrid via Barcelona







A few hours to kill in Barcelona before going to Madrid. We jump on the subway and head to a bar to quench our thirst with cañas and fill up our bellies with basque tapas. Walking around our old neighborhood, el Born, passing by our favorite around-the-corner bars: Taller de Tapas for its sangria, la Taverna vasca Irati for its cidra and La Vinya del Senyor across Santa Maria del Mar church for its wines.
And then there was the mandatory stop by my favorite candy store: Papabubble where you can stand and watch confections being made for as long as you want.

It's good to see the older spanish ladies again, with their big shoulder pads and hairdos that seem to have gone through decades without any kind of alterations. Loving the typical blue or green eye shadow covering most of the eyelids, like a monochromatic rainbow across the face.

One of my favorite landscape stretches between Barcelona and Madrid: endless miles of a red and ochre rocky barren land, a dust bowl reminiscent of spaghetti westerns in the heart of Spain.

Feb 22, 2008

Paris-Narbonne on the TGV

I asked the train bartender if she knew where i could... "smoke?" she interjected. "No, find a plug to recharge my laptop!" i said. She didn't know and turned towards her coworker for help. The dude seemed in a rather merry mood and jokingly answered me with "in my pocket? Maybe in my underpants?". "In your behind?" i added.

The answer is: in 1st class.

Feb 21, 2008

Queer

A seven year old british boy asked his dad what a homosexual was when he heard the word on the BBC. His father answered: it means your wrist is soft, your name is Cecile and you like sailors.

When a seven year old boy (not the same as the one aforementioned) is sent away for adoption because he's gay and his parents can't handle it, you really know the problem isn't homosexuality but homophobia.

Feb 19, 2008

Old ladies



If your grandmother gets up from a nap with her hair still parted like the red sea, do her a favor and bring it back to the middle and fluff it up a little.

Feb 16, 2008

Music

And now go listen to Claudja Barry and shake your booty for me while i go out for some sublimissime mouthwatering french pastries!

Paris—La Joconde



How sad is it to have to look at a famous painting from so far away and be disturbed every 5 seconds by the boomeranging reflections of camera flashes off the thick glass that protects Mona Lisa from such harmful disturbances? The Louvre "en nocturne" is a pretty sweet time to visit the museum. I thought it wouldn't be too crowded because it was on a Friday evening... I was wrong. Little did I know that Friday evenings are free to people under 26 (it makes sense why they all looked so young around me) and that those youngsters actually represent 40% of the museum visitors. Right across the room from Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, we had our personal guide tell us all about "The Wedding at Cana" by Veronese, the biggest painting in the museum. Keep an eye out for the monk who doesn't belong in the painting, the one who asked to be added to the scene after the painting was finished. Once spotted, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

I love the red/turquoise color combination in "Le Sacre de Napoleon" by David, the 2nd biggest painting of the Louvre. These are the hues that are often found in parisian plush interiors. And in pastries too (i.e: raspberry-lychee macaron from Pierre Herme, pistachio-cherry tart from Le pain de Sucre, etc.)!

for a private or groupe tour (chateau de Versailles, chateau de Fontainebleau, Paris museums and more) in french, english or spanish, contact Marie-Christine at: christine@mchtours.com

Feb 12, 2008

Chromatic (part II)







Paris—BHV (Bazar de l'Hotel de Ville)

Trapped in an elevator. Chess and I are on the 5th floor of the BHV and decide to go downstairs in the elevator. The doors open, we get in, it stinks. There's a sweaty overweight guy who is standing near the door and who, thank god, gets off at the top floor. Then a massive amount of people get in and the two of us find ourselves sort of squished against the back of the elevator. And then the unimaginable happens: someone breaks wind! It might've stank earlier but this time it smelled like someone sold their ass to the devil. Halfway between the fifth and the fourth floor I said to Chess, out loud, "we are getting off at the next floor!" As I tried to wade through the crowd I said "ce n'est pas gentil!"(that's not nice). The old lady I passed by said "il faut savoir supporter" (one has to bear it). mmmmhhm... HELL NO, I ain't inhaling no fart! I ain't sharing no old lady's "good manners"!

Feb 10, 2008

Paris—France

I have no word to describe how beautiful Paris is. Mind-blowingly stunning. Breath-takingly gorgeous. Strolling with loved ones along the Seine, on a street that is closed off to traffic for most of the day on weekends, and passing underneath a succession of bridges that all tell a different story while the light casts its golden glow over the city, leaves me with one word only, JOY.

Saturday. There was a bunch of us, brother, girlfriend, cousins and friends, walking across the city, trying to wade our way through an uninterrupted flow of people and traffic, stopping here and there in different neighborhoods for a drink or two and enjoying each other's company in a city like no other. The springlike weather made us feel like the world belonged to us. Too late in the evening to find seats in the neighborhood's Japanese restaurants, we ended up sipping a few bottles of Billecart Salmon champagne at the Hotel Costes before satiating our hunger with cheesburgers and fries(really good ones) down the street at Cafe RUC at one in the morning. And when the metro no longer runs we have the Velib to take us home.
We'll save Kai restaurant for another night (Sushi Ran, i miss you so).

Feb 7, 2008

Paris—a wolf in the city

So here we were, walking down the street in the Marais; we got close to two guys and a dog. Chess told me it was a wolf. Yeah right, no way Josey. She insisted it was a wolf so i decided to ask its owner. Chess said he was on the phone and i told her i'd wait until he gets off it or go ask the guy walking by his side. So i asked and it turned out my girl was right. Again. The guy told me it was a Czech wolf and the wolf owner pulled his cell phone away from his ear to tell me it was 65% wolf. Chess informed me that wolves were illegal in the states. I asked if it was legal, he answered that he had all the papers to prove it. Tonight i saw a white wolfdog walking down the streets of Paris, it looked really quiet and mellow, and was held by a broad metal chain.
Wait, so this whole time i've been slaloming between dog shit i might have also been dodging wolf excrement!

Feb 4, 2008

Ten things I like about France



-Some really unsophisticated t.v commercials that are so bad they are good (a baby's arm sticking out of its mother's belly, flipping her the bird, and looking like some alien erection...!?)-i mean bad.

-The 30 year old (cute)guy who gets his afternoon pain au chocolat (kid)snack when buying his evening baguette. I see the child in him.

-More than a decade after i left home, i can still see naked women on yogurt/shampoo commercials. Some things never change — home sweet home!

-Dog owners have started picking up after their pets, albeit not enough.

-Velib

-Smoke-free bars, cafés and clubs (apparently clubbers have been complaining about body odors since the cigarette ban!)

-Good wines under 10€

-TGV

-Securité Sociale

-Profusion of boulangeries/patisseries/chocolatiers

When color photography takes my breath away



The whole Yangtze river series is amazing!

Feb 2, 2008

Paris—book exchange



Circul'Livre is a book exchange activity that was started in 2004 by one of Paris' neighborhoods. Started with the idea of promoting reading, and bringing back some vitality to neighborhood life, it consists in people gathering in order to exchange books and then bringing them back into circulation once read. It's totally free and open to anyone interested in reading and sharing books.

Feb 1, 2008

Sarkozy-Bruni tie the knot



The two are now married. I hope Sarkozy's into the idea of having more than one partner since Carla seems to be into polygamy/polyandry. I'm sure he wouldn't mind another woman at his side, but what if Carla brings another man at home...?
Sarkozy on Saturdays, Sundays and Monday nights, X on Tuesdays, Y Wednesdays and Thursdays, Z on Fridays. Nice. "Alternance" at the Elysée Palace (the official residence of the president of France)-not in the bipartisanship sense!