Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 4 - Drive to Barcelona

Woke up early and headed to the airport to pick up our rental car. Woo hoo! I'd never driven in a foreign country (other than with my parents) before this. And actually I never really drove....but close enough. I certainly worked my tail off navigating! At the pick up counter another couple was trying to get prices on a car for ONE DAY from Madrid to Toulouse France. And they wanted the Mercedes. The price they were quoted was nearly triple the price we paid (via expedia) for a car for a week. Crazy.

On the road, things quickly got relatively flat and boring. Except for the exciting bulls on the hills, as seen above. My favorite part about driving in Spain is the plethora of "rest stops" along the way. Every 2-10 minutes there is a sign for a gas station & restaurant, hotel, etc and they are right on the exit ramp. You can literally exit, get gas or food and then get right back on the freeway. None of the "Dairy Queen at this exit!!!" which is actually 5 miles from I-5 and impossible to find. Loved it.

But then the question became....which of these fifty bazillion rest stop restaurants is going to be good? Some looked great, some looked shady...and you could never get a visual until it was too late to stop.

Finally we saw a cute town in the distance with a historical marker sign and decided to try eating there. 10 minutes later and a drive through an very quiet, very dusty town with no parking spaces, no apparent restaurants and a strong muslim population, we were back on the freeway. For some reason my travels in the middle east kicked in when I saw women with head coverings and I realized I was wearing a strapless tank top. I just couldn't bring myself to get out and try to find something remotely resembling a restaurant when I was dressed like a complete hussy.

Finally we "just picked one" and had a boring bland lunch. Oh well.

So. Wind power. Really? Have you ever seen a wind generator like the one above? Talk about blight on the landscape. They are obnoxiously huge. Ginormous. Not so sure I want 100's of them dotting our landscape, but that would depend on the alternative I guess. (probably better than oil pouring into our oceans?) Just tell me one of them powers and entire town and I'd be fine, but I have a feeling that's not the case. (if you look really close, there are the those "huge" power line poles in the foreground, completely dwarfed by the windmills)

6 hours later, we arrived in Barcelona. Actually more like 7 with lunch, 8 by the time you reckon finding our hotel in rush hour and going the wrong way several times. Luckily we had Kyle's iphone map working, otherwise we may have never found our hotel. Never ever.

For some reason there are no street name signs in Europe. Yes, there are cute little ones plaqued onto the side of buildings, but they are impossible to read when you are driving. (but adorable when you are walking) So I was basically counting intersections to figure out when we needed to turn. Hellish I tell you. But we made it and got our hotel room. A room whose balcony did not lock and had flies. So we got a new room and free cava. Thank you Hotel Regina.

Now I really have to rant. This part of the trip made Kyle and I so incredibly angry. It was the luscious farmers market in Barcelona, the Boqueria. Never in my life have I seen such an abundance of amazing food. Such a selection. Not at Pike's Place, certainly not at the Bellingham farmer's market and maybe, not even at the fabulous San Francisco farmers market.
Look above at that picture. There must be at least 30 different kinds of cured pork products. THIRTY!! If not 50 or 60! And that is just pork - sausages, salames and jamon. Then things got really nasty. First Kyle spotted this below:

But I was much too busy catching my breath and nearly fainting over the amazing scene across the isle:

It was pretty funny, neither of us would even turn to look in the other direction.
Kyle: Oh! Look at all that candy!!!! It's amazing!
Kari: WOW!!!! I've never ever seen like 1/3 of those fruits and there are fresh mushrooms I've never seen and sea worts and all sorts of crazy things I would DIE to cook with!!!! IS THAT A FRESH PORCINI!!!
Kyle: That's like 150 kinds of candy!!!!
Then the seafood...oh the seafood. Nine kinds of shrimp alone. 15-20 types of fish. Razor clams, crabs, cockles, three kinds of squid.... How can they possibly have double or triple the amount of seafood that Pike Place Market does?
It seriously made us sick, especially since we didn't even have a kitchen to take advantage of it. How did America ever get so poor in the selection of foods we have available?
It went on and on. Butchers with every type of animal part. I thought I was doing well looking at 1/2 racks of baby, BABY lamb and tripe, but then I spied the skinned heads with eyeballs still in them and had to quit looking. Ex-vegetarians still do have a few standards. And everything looked so fresh, plump and wonderful. SIGH.

We finally tore ourselves away and walked through the Raval neighborhood that Rick Steves warned us not to visit. It was amazing. When we stumbled upon a street of plump prostitutes, we finally turned back. Once we were safely in the Barrio Gotic, we went to Taller de Tapas (Translated "the Tapas Workshop") and stuffed ourselves silly with delicious goodies. Grilled squid, apple cider braised chorizo, more padron peppers, roasted pepper & eggplant w/ anchovies....


Kelsie said...

Oh yes...gotta love the tiny plaque street names. They had those in France too but it seemed like they only posted them at random, every few blocks or so. Wish I would have thought to count intersections... I too loved the rest area/gas station/restaurants along the autoroute. I finally learned to pick the biggest stops i could spot-the odds of having a toilet seat were better! :)

~beautyandjoy~ said...

I keep sneaking peeks at these posts and then waiting to read them all at once. I am saving them up like a good book. :)

Shauna said...

I wish I was standing next to Kyle looking at all that candy - you know we would have bought a huge bag full and would have been really stingy with it. :) So...my question - did he buy a bunch of candy??

amy said...

i'm loving reading your posts, kari! so glad you and kyle go to go on this adventure together!

Anonymous said...

ahh, the lg wind machines, we have some towards Vantage, in E WASH. The coast of Ireland had them in the water & the kicker was we actually saw one attached to a boat powering it along in the bay, weird. Deb