25.11.11

Is Batman from Valencia?

The answer to the above question is in the negative. After extensive research, I can confirm that Batman is not from Valencia and that the bat that appears in the coat of arms of the city of Valencia in Spain has more to do with James I of Aragon who took the city from the Moors in the 13th Century.
Valencia may then not be known for being the birthplace of Batman but the city does have other attractions and a very rich history. The name of the city has not changed much since 138 BC when the Romans took the city from the original Iberian inhabitants and named it Valentia. It was later occupied by the Visigoths from Central Europe and the Moors. Such mixture of cultures is reflected in different parts of the city. In the Barrio del Carmen built between the Moorish and Christian walls you can find a number of palaces, including the Palace of the Borgia family which is now the seat of the Valencian Parliament; the Cathedral; the two remaining medieval gates to the city - the Tower of Serranos and the Tower of Quart; the Lonja (market); a museum of modern art, the IVAM ; and the main square with the building of the local Council - Plaza del Ayuntamiento - which is where the mascletá takes place every year. The mascletá is part of Valencia´s most famous festivities called Las Fallas. The festivity celebrates St. Joseph´s Day on 19th March, but the city prepares for the week long festivity all year round with associations in the different neighbourhoods raising funds to build the Falla, made up of cardboard and papier-mâché puppets which are burnt on St. Joseph´s Day, accompanied by spectacular fireworks. The theme of the puppets or ninots is sometimes satirical, representing politicians. The mascletá takes place at 2 PM every day of the week leading up to the 19th March and consists of a very loud barrage of firecrackers and fireworks.
In 1998, Valencia inaugurated the City of Arts and Sciences , a complex designed by the ubiquitous Santiago Calatrava, that houses the largest aquarium in Europe.
Valencia is also home to one of the most famous Spanish dishes, the Paella. The name refers both to the dish and to the recipient where it is cooked. You will find a lot of restaurants claiming to serve the original Paella and there are a number of these along the beach. I would recommend a place close to the Colón Market called El Timonel . For a more formal dinner, Ca’ Sento is one of the best restaurants in the city.
Lastly, don´t forget to taste the horchata, a very refreshing drink made from chufas, a ground nut.


18.11.11

Lunch in the city of hills, and it´s not Rome

The port town of Valparaiso in Chile is not Rome but, it does have a few hills or "cerros", forty-two of them, and is built in the form of an amphitheatre. Walking around the city today, you can imagine what it would have been like when it was one of the most important ports in Latin America. The architecture of the colourful houses perched in the different hills is picturesque and so is the way of getting to the top of the hills, which is by way of very old funiculars. The town has been home to the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda and to Roberto Ampuero, the creator of the fictional private eye Cayetano Brulé, who I have no doubt must have had lunch in the Restaurant Bote Salvavidas, translated as lifeboatwhere you can have some great fish whilst contemplating the port of Valparaiso and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

Valparaiso

Port of Valparaiso

Bay of Valparaiso

14.11.11

Miami vice in Montevideo

Before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, the title of this entry refers to the fact that part of the film Miami Vice (2006) was shot on location in Montevideo and Punta del Este in Uruguay . In reality, Montevideo is considered as one of the safest cities in Latin America and it is very enjoyable to walk through Ciudad Vieja, have lunch in Mercado del Puerto and afterwards walk along the beaches of La Rambla, facing the River Plate.
Montevideo is relatively small and most of the sights can be seen in one day: the Cathedral, Palacio Salvo and Monument to Artigas in Plaza Independencia, Puerta de la Ciudadela  and Peatonal Sarandi.
A good choice to stay in Montevideo is the Sheraton, overlooking the River Plate.
For elegant lunching or dining with great views of Montevideo, Restaurante Arcadia on the 25th floor of the Radisson Montevideo Victoria Plaza Hotel and for great fish La Posada Don Tiburón in Mercado del Puerto. For a more intimate atmosphere in what was once a Jesuit convent, La Silenciosa (Ituzaingó, 1430.  Tel: 915 9409) in Ciudad Vieja.

Art Deco in Plaza Independencia

La Rambla

Monument to Artigas - Plaza Independencia

Palacio Salvo - Plaza Independencia

10.11.11

Cebiche and Pisco Sour

Today, I am continuing with the theme of restaurants and for this post, some recommendations for eating out in Lima (Peru). In recent years, Peruvian cuisine has become better known to the world. Dishes like cebiche, tiradito, causa, lomo saltado and ingredients like ají (chili peppers) are served in restaurants across America and Europe. Today´s Peruvian cuisine is a rich and varied fusion of the original Peruvian cuisine with influences from Spain, Japan, China, and even Africa. The world also owes recognition to Peru for being the source of the potato, which was brought to Europe by Spain in the 16th Century.
Here are some places to visit in Lima:
Astrid y Gastón. Opened by the very popular chef Gastón Acurio and his wife Astrid Gutsche. Gastón Acurio has been a driving force in the promotion of Peruvian cuisine inside and outside Peru and one of the main exponents of what has become known as novoandina cuisine. This is the first restaurant the couple opened when they started off in Lima. Since then, Gastón has become a "brand" and has opened other restaurant and restaurant chains under different names (La Mar, Tanta,...) and has also expanded abroad. He is also behind the annual culinary event, Mistura.
Costanera 700. A very good example of what has become known in Peru as Nikkei cuisine, the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines.
La Rosa Náutica. Located on a pier along the beach in Miraflores. A restaurant to enjoy in good company. Very good fish and great views of the Pacific.
Restaurante José Antonio. Traditional Peruvian cuisine since 1972.
Punto Azul. Another restaurant serving traditional Peruvian fare.

An important note.
Don´t forget to try the national coktail - the Pisco Sour. Any of the above restaurants will serve it but should you want to make it at home:
- 4 fl oz of Pisco Quebranta
- 1 fl oz of fresh lime juice
- 0,25 fl oz of egg white
- 1fl oz of jarabe de goma (sugar syrup)
(If you don´t have jarabe de goma, you can make it yourself by mixing water and sugar in equal proportions and warming over a low heat until you obtain a syrup texture. Let it cool before using).
- 4 ice cubes
- 2 or 3 drops of Angostura bitters as decoration once the cocktail is poured in the glass.

Mix the ingredients in a cocktail shaker by pouring the ingredients in the shaker in the above order and shaking for 8 to 12 seconds. It is served in a chilled glass.
You may also use a blender. In this instance, blend all the ingredients except the egg white for about 1 minute. Add the egg white and blend for another 5 seconds.


Cheers!!!!

9.11.11

Sushi and other fare in the land of the beef

Most people identify Argentinean cuisine with beef, and to be sure there is a lot of it about, but when visiting say, Buenos Aires, you will find a varied culinary offer. A few restaurants and cafes that I have visited in the past:

In the hip district of Palermo Hollywood
DashiJapanese cuisine. Eating and learning how to make it.
In the traditional  district of Recoleta
Café Victoria. A pleasant cafe close to the Recoleta Cemetery and Buenos Aires Design.
Café La Biela. Opened in 1850 and an institution in Buenos Aires. The writers Jorge Luis Borges and Ernesto Sabato were regulars, as was the famous racing car driver Juan Manuel Fangio. Great cakes.
Sorrento. The branch in Posadas offers Italian cuisine in elegant surroundings.
La Rambla. A small neighborhood cafe. The beef sandwich is recommended. (Posadas 1602, in the corner with Ayacucho).
In the modern district of Puerto Madero
Itamae Sushi. Lunch "al fresco" with views of the river. In Olga Cossenttini 1553.
La Cabaña. Beef, beef and more beef.
Café Amma. Nice modern cafe with papers, magazines and free wi-fi. (Juana Manso 1626).

Bon appétit!!!!


5.11.11

Blogger error messages and (maybe) a solution

For the past couple of weeks I have been having problems when trying to edit entries in my blog. Yesterday, I realised that some of the links I had in one of my entries were not working. I found that the HTML was wrong, though it had been right before, so I corrected and tried to save. I began to get the, by now familiar, bX error messages, plus another saying that my explorer (IE8) was no longer compatible with blogger. I could not find a solution in Blogger or anywhere else, so I did the following:
- Installed Chrome. Nothing happened still didn´t work.
- Changed the template to one of the ones supplied by Blogger. I had an imported design. Still nothing happened.
- When I decided to go back to my old template I went back to the classic Blogger view, since it has an option to import a template, something that I haven´t found in the new Blogger interface.
- Once I did that, I just stayed with the old interface and tried to edit my entry again. This time, the error message was clear: I had too many label entries and the entry would not save. I just eliminated some of the labels and it worked!!!
It seems that you can only add a maximum of 200 characters under labels for each entry.
Why doesn´t the new Blogger interface tell you this clearly, instead of the annoying bX messages?
Hopefully everything will now work and I think I shall not move over to the new Blogger interface.

A couple of days in Barcelona with a madman or a genius

When Antoni Gaudí received his degree in architecture, the director of the college said: "Today, we have given a degree in architecture to a madman or a genius, only time will tell". That was in 1878 and the buildings of Gaudí are not only still standing, but have become a worldwide symbol for Barcelona.
There is a wide choice of places to stay in the city but I tend to choose somewhere around Passeig de Gracia, which is within walking distance of a lot of the places you may wish to visit. Look at the Renaissance Barcelona Hotel and Claris Hotel . Further away, the Hotel Princesa Sofia at the end of Diagonal and the design conscious - and expensive - Hotel Arts , just by the sea. There is also a new arrival in town which I have yet to try: the new Mandarin Oriental . It looks fabulous and has a restaurant run by Carme Ruscalleda.
If you do happen to stay near the Passeig de Gracia, you are close to La Pedrera  or Casa Milá, one of the main works of Antoni Gaudí and prime example of the local variant of Art Nouveau, known as Modernismo (modernism). Just across La Pedrera there is another house built by Gaudí, Casa Batlló .
There are many wonderful modernist works around Barcelona but the largest and most famous is the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia , begun by Gaudí in 1882 and not yet finished, that is located at one end of Diagonal.
Coming back down Diagonal, take a left into Las Ramblas, full of cafes, stalls, and shops. Close to Las Ramblas, the market of La Boqueria is worth a visit.
The concert hall of El Palau designed by another modernist arquitect, Lluís Domènech i Montaner is impressive. Not far from here you arrive at the Picasso Museum which houses a large collection of the artist´s work. And to end the tour you can continue walking until you come to the marina of Port Vell, full of cafes and restaurants. Talking of restaurants, here is a list of some of my favourites:
- The romantic Neichel
- A restaurant frequented by Salvador Dali, Via Veneto
- The classic 7 Portes , opened in 1836
- The place to go if you want seafood in abundance is, Botafumeiro
Enjoy!!!!


 
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