Tag Archives: vacation

Sketches of Spain

imageHave you ever listened to this album by Miles Davis? It’s one of my favorites and sets the mood for so many things – a romantic dinner, a quiet conversation, time alone with your special someone. Add it to your playlist and thank me later, ok?

Now that you’ve got that going, let me share some of my impressions of Spain, or more accurately, Barcelona.

  • The dogs here are rarely on leashes, although their owners always seem to have one slung over their shoulders. The dogs are very well behaved and never run into the street or approach strangers even when a stranger is missing their own dog and more than willing to give a pat.
  • Fashion observations: women wear tights and stockings far more than at home.  They also rock tight, little leather jackets, while people of all ages have those super light down jackets in a rainbow of colors. Happily, I haven’t seen a single pair of Uggs.
  • Far too many people smoke cigarettes, just like in Paris.  The only other unpleasant aroma has been a vague sewer smell that wafts around in a mild, yet noticeable way.
  • Speaking of smells, it’s weird – the Mediterranean doesn’t have that briny smell that announces its presence like the Atlantic.  There’s no “sea air” that I could discern.
  • Children seem to be very well loved here.  Parents are affectionate and attentive without resorting to that helicopter approach which is so prevalent in the U.S.
  • Everyone has either a scooter, a bike or a soccer ball.
  • Scarves are oversize and wound repeatedly around the necks of both men and women.
  • Running seems to be a pretty big activity here and I got lucky with a boardwalk of sorts and parks super close to our apartment. I ran every day.
  • Chefs use a generous amount of salt and pastry is far more delicate than I imagined.
  • I’d like to come back here again.

 

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Filed under Europe, Food, musings, Observations, running, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Eating up Barcelona

image.jpegIt’s been amazing how quickly I’ve adjusted to Barcelona’s late night schedule. I can only explain it as a magical alignment of being an early person and having the advantage of a six hour time difference. Whatever the reason, it’s working for me and I haven’t struggled at all with this temporary life of sleeping until 10:00 a.m. and beginning dinner at 11:00 p.m.

We’ve been doing our best to try new things and eat as much traditional food as possible. For Griffin this translates to jamon, while I’m more inclined to sample as much seafood as I can get in my mouth. Here are few particularly tasty items we’ve enjoyed – and one we determined was not for us.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

The wisdom of Antonio Banderas

imageAfter spending my first day in Barcelona, I can say I understand exactly what Antonio’s talking about. This place just stimulates the desire for languid pleasure and beautiful people and food are everywhere.

With blue skies above our heads and cobblestones below our feet we wandered around quite a bit yesterday. When it came time to eat, we approached the task of finding a restaurant with an attitude of nonchalance. It all looked pretty good and we were willing to try something new. For Griffin, it was a plate of meat for a late breakfast. He shared a bite of the brightly colored and flavored sausage, but gobbled the rest, saying that the tiny ribs were his favorite but everything on the plate was delicious and cooked perfectly.image

For dinner, which we began eating at 11 p.m., we wandered into a neighborhood spot that contained only 6 tables, although it appeared that the large table filled with either regulars or family, may have been a couple of small tables pushed together. Not being able to read Spanish wasn’t really a problem because we wanted traditional fare – jamon and paella.image

The ham was phenomenal and buried any other ham I’ve ever had. It was sliced beautifully thin with the perfect meat to fat ratio. It was tender, yet firm and had an overwhelming rich flavor of butter. Fantastic. The paella was exactly what I’ve always imagined paella to be – presented in a beautiful low pan and served to us at the table, it was an eye pleasing medley of shrimp, langoustine, mussels, slivers of squid with rice and small bites of red pepper. The fish was mind blowingly fresh and the shells on the shrimp were incredibly tender as we picked them up with our hands to suck every single morsel of deliciousness out.image

Good food was had and the wine I sampled – an intense rose in the afternoon and a simple white of unknown origin with dinner, was pretty damn good, too. From what I observed as we walked around, it seems that romance and sensuality is very much present with young and old couples showing affection and passion freely. Good sex seemed a distinct possibility. As for me, there was good sleep in the form of an hour long nap and a longer overnight rest. Antonio Banderas, and Spanish people in general, are on to something. Viva Espana!

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Filed under Eating, Europe, Food, Observations, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

New York in Bloom, 2016

You know with a last name like “Lilly,” I love me some flowers. If you share a similar appreciation for things which bloom, this is your lucky weekend. get yourself down to the New York State Museum and inhale some of the gorgeousness that is currently on display. $5 gets you in and helps to support the museum’s after school programs benefiting children across our fair city.  Here are a few images to help your interest blossom!

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Events, favorites, Flowers, Local, Recommendations, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

Taking tips from bartenders – Motown Mondays at the 5 Spot

kom-nashville-2015-poster_webHaving a good guide book when you visit a new city is generally not a bad idea if you’re looking to become familiar with where to eat or shop. Making friends with a bartender or two, though, is an even better idea if you’re interested in hanging out where the locals do. Case in point – the excellent tip we received from Kenneth at Husk about where the cool kids go on Monday nights – East Nashville’s 5 Spot.

Now, we really didn’t know all that much about Nashville when we decided to make it our girls’ getaway destination. We certainly didn’t know anything about East Nashville. Well, it seems that this area east of the Cumberland River is an upcoming neighborhood populated, as we learned from our Uber driver, with hipsters. This isn’t my assessment, just what we learned from the locals, my friends. I have to say, judging from the facial hair, plaid shirts and smart spectacles, it seems a pretty valid conclusion.

We arrived at the 5 Spot somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00, it’s kind of blurry. We anted up $5 a piece and joined the healthy crowd inside, already nodding our heads to the music and the scene. This was not a place for posers – just a whole bunch of people who wanted to have fun and dance. I love a good dive bar and this place has the vibe down – a little gritty, a lot dark with cheap beer and a small back “patio” to escape to when the need to cool down trumps the need to boogie down. If this place was in Albany, I’d make it my home away from home for good, clean fun.

This might be a fine time to note that I DO NOT dance generally. I’m not sure if it was the pre-game shots of Maker’s Mark, the anonymity of being a stranger or just that damn Motown beat, but I couldn’t quit moving on the dance floor. For three roughly mid-century girls, we were spun around with enthusiasm by an array of partners, but there wasn’t any handsy gropping or grinding going on. It was just about the music and dancing without any aggressive, cruisy bullshit. It was ultimately the perfect girls night out. The 5 Spot on Monday night is a game changer when it comes to the Monday blues

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Filed under friends, Music, Nashville, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Shopping Nashville

I went to Nashville with the thought of buying myself a Christmas present, most likely a pair of cowboy boots. I mean that’s what you get when you go to Nashville, right? What I came home with was two vintage inspired dresses, a super cool poster, a couple of Christmas ornaments and a straw cowboy hat that I plan to rock on the beach this summer. Read on to find out how I came to purchase these seemingly disparate mementos from my most recent girls’ getaway.

I kind of liked the red ones on the left...

I kind of liked the red ones on the left…

Downtown Nashville’s strip is filled with stores filled with a dazzling selection of cowboy boots in every color, texture and height imaginable. All the major brands, Dingo, Tony Lama, Lucchese, Ariat, to name a few, are well represented and the prices that I observed ranged from about $125 – $800 a pair with some stores offering a buy 1 get 2 free deal. I’m pretty certain we went into every single boot shop, some more than once, without my finding a pair that I needed to own. As usual, my champagne taste reared its pretty head and each pair of boots that I considered buying was priced beyond what I was willing to pay, even the gorgeous Lucchese boots which spoke to me with a charming “y’all want to take me home, don’t you?” I consoled myself with a glass boot ornament for next year’s Christmas tree along with a cute guitar ornament bought to honor my guitar playing guy.

Evening-In-Paris-480x720As we went in and out of boot stores, which are open relatively late when compared to other shops, I noticed a clothing shop, Tatyana,  which screamed my name with its windows filled with frocks and such. We made our way there and I was completely taken by the sweet dresses beautifully displayed in the two room store. The clerks were adorable with their vintage, pin up style and tattoos and I quickly grabbed a couple of items which were placed in a dressing room for “Miss Silvia” by a helpful employee. It was with great restraint that I selected only two dresses to purchase, both at 50% off the regular price. I’ve worn both already and received numerous compliments, particularly on the green dress which I think of as my Judy Jetson dress.

I think I tried on even more hats than boots on this trip but was unwilling to spend a lot of money on an item that I didn’t imagine myself wearing with any regularity. There were some really handsome hats to be had, but I thought that my inexpensive ($20) straw version was the most practical choice for a girl who doesn’t really do rockabilly with any frequency. I’m looking forward to shielding my face from the sun with my low budget selection.

As for the poster, that’s another story in itself that I’ll share later in the week. ..

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Filed under Fashion, friends, Nashville, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Sunday supper – Husk, Nashville

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When the girls and I go away we each have a role to play – Mary Lynn does research on music and shows to attend, Lisa is in charge of outdoor activities and places to visit and I arrange dinner reservations for an indulgent meal out. The Times Union’s Steve Barnes had mentioned Husk to me a couple of months ago and, after doing a bit of research, I was convinced that this was our spot for Nashville. I did my thing and made a reservation.

We arrived about 20 minutes before our 7:15 reservation to enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Husk is a very pretty restaurant, located in a historic house on a hill up above the Cumberland River. The hostess station is anchored by an enormous chalkboard listing the menu’s ingredients and their origin. Not being from the area, we were unfamiliar with most of the farms and producers, but hat in no way diminished how impressed we were with extensive list.

The bar was downstairs and the walk there took us past the open kitchen, an area populated by both kitchen and service staff. It was a cool opportunity to witness the controlled chaos that is the kitchen of a busy restaurant and I struggled against my wish to tuck myself into a corner and just observe the professionals at work. There were cocktails to be had, though, so we moved on.

My initial impression of the bar was mixed. It was attractive and cozy with low ceilings and windows peeking out to a patio, but the bar itself was a little unapproachable. After a couple of minutes of awkwardness we were presented with a lovely cocktail list and placed our orders. As expected, the drinks were meticulously mixed and beautifully presented – and tasty. The single high top table in the bar area became available and was offered to us prompting a change in our plans. We decided to eat in the bar instead of relocating to our table, a pretty remarkable choice since 20 minutes earlier we were feeling less than welcomed.

With some assistance from our bartender, Kenneth, we ordered opening with the available-only-in-the-bar, cut to order cured ham. This perfect starter was accompanied by the definitive version of freshly baked Parker rolls and a lard-butter spread. It was a wonderful introduction of what was to come – best quality ingredients respectfully prepared and presented. Delicious.

We followed with 3 items from the First course menu – Shrimp and Grits ($16), Gourds Roasted Over the Fire, Benne, Arugula, Aged Gouda ($12) and a Seafood Johnny Cake with Kimchi Purée and Benne ($15).  The Johnny Cake was the only one we didn’t enthusiastically finish, it was very good, not that I’m an expert on johnny cakes, but kind of heavy.  The other two were eaten with gusto.

For entrees we went with the Bear Creek Farm Pork with Barefoot Farmer’s Sweet Potatoes, Sassafras and Pecans ($34) and the Field of Dreams Duck with a Chestnut, Pear and Cornbread Dressing with Giblet Gravy ($37).  Just as you might intuit by the titles, these meals celebrated the ingredients and cuisine of the south. The pork was tender and flavorful and was accompanied by classic whipped (mashed?) sweet potatoes presented in a fresh, untraditional manner as thick squiggles painted on the plate, topped with a modern riff on marshmallows.  Very visually appealing.  The duck was hyper-rare and a bit chewy, but very tasty.  I wonder if my palate is so accustomed to large production meats, that maybe that chewiness, accompanied by rich flavor, is the hallmark of more consciously raised meat.  I do think another 60 seconds of cooking time would have elevated the duck even more.

My favorite item was an item which appears on many menus, yet was lifted to a previously unexperienced level – the shrimp and grits.  The grits were creamy and a little toothsome and the shrimp was firm and fresh.  What really pulled it all together was the lightly cooked egg which topped the dish, inviting the serving spoon to mix it all together in a blend of textures and flavor which was outstanding. In a restaurant which seeks to honor and present the local cuisine, their interpretation of a southern staple really scored perfectly.

We didn’t eat dessert but we did get a sweet tip about where to go for a good time on Monday nights.  More on that later. Dinner total for 3: Approximately $200 with a generous tip, including three cocktails, one glass of wine, four smaller plates and two entrees.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Food, friends, Nashville, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation