Taking Time for Tapas… Eating Our Way Across Spain

What would a visit to Spain be without sampling the tapas? Incomplete we’d say.
But then tapas are a culinary style that is right up our alley…

CONTINUE READING >> 

What would a visit to Spain be without sampling the tapas?

Incomplete we’d say.

But then tapas are a culinary style that is right up our alley. It’s as if the entire nation adopted our idea of appy crawling, a system of eating appetizers in several different places instead of a sit down meal.

Barcelona

Our introduction to the Spanish version of this concept was in Barcelona.

Here we learned that the word tapas comes from the Spanish verb tapar, to cover, and there are a few versions of why.

One legend claims it stems from King Alfonso being served a glass of wine that was covered with a slice of ham to keep the sand and/or bugs out, while another speculates that tavern owners served sherry with strong cheese or salty meats to “cover” the poor quality of the drink.

Either, or some other, may be true, but the practice of snacking fits into the Spanish afternoon schedule perfectly because dinner usually doesn’t happen until after nine.

With our partying days well behind us we knew we might not even make it that long, so we decided to make a meal of the tapas.

Classic tapas range from as simple as mixed olives, to meticulously prepared bites of seafood, cured meats, veggies and baked cheese.

In addition to these delectable bits our quest included an olive and pepper medley on toast that was reminiscent of Italian bruschetta, roasted hot peppers, and a bomba which, as the name implies, is a type of gut bomb made with mashed potatoes and meat.

As we got more adventurous we expanded our culinary horizon to try calamari, chorizo al vino, mussels, and blood sausage.

We were determined to get our mitts on every type of tapa we could, and believe we achieved greatness.

Madrid

The mobile meal model moved forward full speed in Madrid.

Here the tradition seems to also include escaping from the harsh afternoon sun, so cool beverages are a big part of the experience.

Ducking into the shade at a sidewalk café, we opted to blindly order a combination plate of five tapas and take our chances as to what might show up. Classic Iberian ham, fish with garlic, crab, salmon, and some ridiculously strong blue cheese arrived, so we were thrilled.

Well, maybe not so much with the blue cheese.

Oh, and I almost forgot, they brought out some of the best olives we have ever tasted. Seriously, ever! Those easily made up for the cheese.

In order to prove to ourselves that Spanish food can be more than tapas, our big plan for the next day was to make like Ernest Hemingway and have lunch at Sobrino de Botín.

In addition to being mentioned in his novel, The Sun Also Rises, Botín is certified by Guinness as the oldest continually operating restaurant in the world. They haven’t missed a meal since 1725.

It was imperative that we have their signature dish, cochinillo asado, which is roast suckling pig. After all, that is what Papa ate and wrote about.

Another house specialty is sopa de ajo, a garlic soup laced with sherry and sporting an egg poached in the broth. Both were more than worthy of their fame and accolades.

For good measure, we also added some artichoke hearts with Iberian ham, which could have been a tapa, and were unbelievable. They must not have had this dish back in Hemingway’s day or it would have deserved a whole chapter.

This also led to us learning the valuable lesson that absolutely everything is better, no, not just better, fantastic with Iberian ham.

Basque Country

The Basque may have perfected tapas with what are locally referred to as pintxos, and THE place for pintxos in the Basque Country is San Sebastian.

These typical snacks are generally made with small slices of bread topped by a mixture of ingredients, with a toothpick to hold things together. That is where the name comes from, “pincho”, meaning spike, and the “tx” spelling is Basque for the “ch” sound.

Since San Sebastian is by the sea, shrimp, crab, tuna, anchovies, and even caviar are commonly incorporated, but our hands-down favorite were the pimientos de Padrón.

These pan fried peppers are to die for. Most are mild, but every now and then a hot one sneaks in. As an added bonus, they were made off the charts incredible by adding crispy, fried Iberian ham.

Our visit also included a truly unique experience when our guide Txaro (pronounced Charo, there’s that Basque tx again) took us to a txoko (choko), which is a members-only private gastronomic society that in the past was only open to men.

The idea is get together to cook, and of course eat, while trying out new recipes and ideas along with a healthy dose of socializing.

When Basque culture was suppressed under the reign of Francisco Franco, txokos became safe havens where members could share their language and traditions as well as their love of cooking.

We all pitched in making dinner, sticking to fairly simple dishes, beginning with salad. Then tortilla de patatas, egg with potatoes, which is much more like an omelet than what we think of as a tortilla.

We finished with two main courses, chicken with carrots, leeks, and garlic, along with salt cod in a cream sauce.

None of this required being a gourmet chef to prepare, but like the old Shake-N-Bake commercials, it was better because we helped.

Bilbao

In Bilbao we realized that we’d been in Spain for two weeks and hadn’t had any paella. The city doesn’t have any historic connection to the dish, but this was our last chance.

So with nothing more than luck to guide us, we picked one of the many eateries available in the old city center and happened upon a good pan of the classic seafood and rice dish.

Afterwards, the plate piled with shells indicated that our mission had been accomplished.

Not a bad way to end our time in Spain.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Spain!

Post-Parting Depression: Saying Good-bye to My Adult Kids

Having just returned from our first visit to our eldest’s new home in Paris, we felt that this is a good time to take another look at this story.

I’ve got an issue and I need help! I’m hoping I’ll get a lot of suggestions on this post from our amazingly insightful readers… CONTINUE READING >> 

Having just returned from our first visit to our eldest’s new home in Paris, we felt that this is a good time to take another look at this story:

Veronica WritesI’ve got an issue and I need help! I’m hoping I’ll get a lot of suggestions on this post from our amazingly insightful readers.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” -Dr Seuss

This past holiday season, we had a lot to celebrate.

In addition to our typical yuletide festivities, we were blessed to celebrate my in-law’s 60th wedding anniversary two days after Christmas and our own anniversary a week after the new year started.

As wonderful as it was to have such momentous events smack-in-the-middle of the holidays, it led to more good-byes to our adult kids than I’m normally used to.

Having The Spawn come and go in such short and hectic celebratory spurts gave me some interesting insight into how I deal with my empty nest good-byes.

Not well, it seems.

No matter how long they’ve been out of the nest, no matter how happy they are, no matter how I prepare myself, no matter how much I write about it – I can’t seem to keep myself from being head-over-heels depressed every time I have to say good-bye to my young adult offspring.

It hits me like a ton of bricks. Seriously, I cry like Tammy Faye Bakker on the second day of her period — a regular air-sucking, mascara-dripping, please-God-nobody-see-me sob fest.

One would think I’d be used to good-byes by now. Or that I’ve somehow figured out how to prepare for the letdown. After all, The Spawn are all finished with college and it’s been over six years since we’ve had a full time, live-in offspring.

Prior to a visit, I’m obnoxiously ecstatic. Bouncing off the walls happy. I certainly don’t want to tarnish that feeling with the planning of the inevitable pit of despair at the end. So instead, I’ve been leaving an open void of time — just waiting there for me to fall into, dragging self-pity in behind me.

Seeing The Spawn never fails to fulfil me. I am always surprised at how easily I can slip fully back into Mommy mode, it’s a huge part of who I am. When I’m around them I smile bigger, laugh harder and feel so comfortably myself. The heartstrings sing — and dig in hard.

Having to let go from those good-bye hugs at the airport is literally physically challenging. I feel like I’ve just run a marathon (okay, I’ve never actually run a marathon, but it looks really difficult). I can’t catch my breath, there’s a tightening in my chest and exhaustion soon sets in.

I have to force myself not to take to my bed with my smelling salts.

On the plus side, I’m finding that I have a quicker recovery time. What used to last weeks is now a matter of days.

Growth, right?

Does this mean it gets gradually easier until the post-parting depression goes completely away? Or do I need to learn to brace myself for the inevitable and learn new ways to cope with it?

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Do you have similar experiences? Any advice on how I can avoid post-parting depression? Suggestions, please!

Wheels and Waterways Across Normandy

We are off on an adventure across Normandy with our friends at Backroads Travel. This phenomenal French journey will take us along the Seine River combining two of our favorite activities, biking and boating…

CONTINUE READING >> 

A big thank you to Backroads Travel  for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

Follow all of our adventure with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

We are off on an adventure across Normandy with our friends at Backroads Travel. This phenomenal French journey will take us along the Seine River combining two of our favorite activities, biking and boating.

Here’s the latest:

Day 8 (back to Paris):

Day 7 (van Goghing for it):

Day 6 (Monet Can’t Buy Me Love):

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Day 5 (getting a boost through the French countryside):

Day 4 (food for thought, and biking!):

Day 3 (remembering D-day):

Monuments at the American Cemetery at Normandy. Lest we forget.

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Day 2 (how ’bout them apples?):

Day 1 (getting started):

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We are Heading to Paris for Our Own Cycling Tour de France

Our friends at Backroads Travel will once again be hosting us, this time for a phenomenal journey through Normandy along the Seine River. And since it’s summer travel time, we will be combing two of our favorite activities, biking and boating… CONTINUE READING >> 

Follow all of our adventure with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Our friends at Backroads Travel will once again be hosting us, this time for a phenomenal journey through Normandy along the Seine River.

And since it’s summer travel time, we will be combining two of our favorite activities, biking and boating.

We most assuredly will NOT be doing any racing (or doping for that matter) but by day we will pedal pathways that lead to many of France’s most famous historic sites, as well as the homes and inspirations for many of her renowned artists.

At night we will board our AmaWaterways ship, which will serve as our luxurious home away from home for the week, to be transported to the next incredible destination.

Highlights of our two-wheeled touring will begin with a ride from Paris to the Palace of Versailles, where we will once again fall head over heels for Louis the Fourteenth’s fabulous château.

In the following days we will ride deep into the history of the region with stops at numerous Norman villages, such as Les Andelys, home to Château Gaillard, the ruined medieval castle of Richard the Lionheart, and Rouenx, the historic capital of Normandy.

The stop at Rouen will certainly be unforgetable, as our tour will take us past a soaring Gothic cathedral and immense clock tower, then on to The Old Market Square where Joan of Arc was tried for heresy and burned at the stake.

The historic highpoints of the trip are capped off with a stop at the site of the D-Day landing, Omaha Beach. It is hard to imagine a more important World War II site and emotions cannot help but be running high at this poignant remembrance.

To fulfil our artsy side, we will also stop in the towns of Giverny, best known as the location of Claude Monet’s garden and home, to see his Water Lilies come to life and Auvers‐sur‐Oise, where van Gogh and Cézanne once lived.

Of course, no visit to France is complete without food, and there shall be ample supplies. Normandy is best known for dairy products and apples, so we will visit a local farm and taste delicious ice cream made by the Norman cows.

Wait, these cows aren’t that talented are they? Perhaps we should say produced with their milk.

We will also pedal through quintessentially Norman scenery, reveling in the scenes of thatched roof farmhouses sprinkled among the orchards that provide our bountiful snacks.

As for when we are dining aboard the ship, the chef always endeavors to capture the essence of the area while creating locally inspired specialties.

All in all we expect a fantastic French encounter, just as much as our Backroads Bike tour in Cuba.

While we will be too busy having a blast to report every twist and turn of the journey in real time, though we will certainly be updating as often as possible across all of our social media channels, so be sure to follow all of the adventure along with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Then check back here for in-depth coverage after the trip.

Viva la France!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A big thank you to Backroads Travel  for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

Bicyclists: Stay Cool In Hot Weather

Summers in the city can get very hot, very quickly, and are also notoriously humid and muggy. Fortunately, there is plenty of stylish bicycle clothing that you can get to look and feel cool as you cruise the city’s streets from morning through evening… CONTINUE READING >> 

As a cyclist in New York City, you want to look hip and stylish–but you’re really a hot mess because you’re panting and drenched in sweat.

Summers in the city can get very hot, very quickly, and are also notoriously humid and muggy. Fortunately, there is plenty of stylish bicycle clothing that you can get to look and feel cool as you cruise the city’s streets from morning through evening.

The folks at Bike Rental Central Park shared some tips to help you have the best experience possible biking around the Big Apple. “The right clothing can make all the difference,” said Blair Nicole of Bike Rental Central Park.  “You want to be comfortable, but yet stylish and safe.”

Plan For The Weather–Sort Of

Since you can’t predict the weather in summer, plan for a variety of conditions. When riding in the cooler hours of the day, such as morning or evening, consider dressing in layers.

Layer On Top

The wind can be surprisingly cool on a bicycle in New York City, particularly if your skin is damp with sweat. An easy and stylish choice for layering on top is a zip-up hoodie. Most zip-up hoodies designed for riding are windproof, and some are also waterproof. The advantage of a zip-up hoodie is that you can take it off quickly and safely when needed.

If you’re planning to commute or go for a longer ride, look for a lightweight hoodie that will fold away easily in a bag or fit in your bike’s basket.

For something lighter weight than a hoodie, a long-sleeve shirt is a good option; make sure to get one with moisture wicking material, such as mesh and built-in UV protection.

If you don’t want layers, a biking jersey will do just fine. Jerseys designed for women have a close fitting cut that is both flattering and safe, as excess fabric moving around can be distracting and dangerous. Bike jerseys also have a deep back pocket where you can stash items that you might need to reach easily, like directions, granola bars, or a cell phone.

What You Wear On The Bottom Is Equally Important.

Traditionally, the standard item to wear in the summer has been padded biking shorts. The built-in padding on bike shorts prevents uncomfortable chafing and rubbing, which can quickly make any Bike Rental Central Park experience miserable.

Luckily, many brands have heeded the call to make more fashionable shorts, which has led to more options on the market, so you can find anything from knee-length capris to fashion-length shorts with discrete but still effective padding built in.

Some also have two layers with a fashionable outer shell and padding on the interior, zip pockets and even strips of reflective fabric to enhance visibility.

Cycling Kits

Another alternative to mixing and matching summer bike clothing is a cycling kit. Cycling kits are one-piece outfits with integrated shirts and shorts. They’re typically worn by professional cyclists, and they’re also ideal for long-distance riding.

Don’t Forget The Hands And Face

Sunglasses are vital for cyclists in the summer. In addition to shielding your eyes from the sun, they also keep debris out of the eyes. Some even have padding on the nose and around the ears so they really stay in place throughout the ride. Multi-lens glasses are a popular choice, as they enable maximum visibility in all lighting. To keep your hands protected from chafing, consider getting a pair of women’s fingerless cycling gloves with plenty of padding to prevent blisters and sores.

Now that you have your new stylish summer biking “uniform,” you’re ready to ride!

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.