"It's not much but it's ours"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone

As you have probably read my dear Hermano (Segundo) has come to the end of his Eat My Globe journey. But before retiring to his garret to fulfil his contractual obligations he requested one more visit to Dos Hermanos’ second home Spain. After much research and head scratching I thought that a little trip through La Rioja and the Basque Country (neatly side-stepping Catalunya) would provide a small but perfectly formed itinerary at the probably the best time of the year: Clement weather, spring lamb and crucially, no tourista.

Flights were arranged and a meeting point of Madrid (where else) was agreed. I’d booked a train to Valladolid at a time which had a BA screw-up factor built-in but because it was early in the week (or maybe they are getting better at this flying lark) they managed to get me in bang on time. Likewise with Alitalia for HS. The result was we had a couple of hours to kill before our train left Chamartin station for Valladolid. We dumped our luggage and ventured out into the barrio near Plaza de Castilla.

Of course, this being Madrid we were in our first bar after about a minute sucking on cold canas and chowing down on a free tapita. Of course this being Madrid there were about a dozen (probably more) bars within five minutes of the station. Of course this being Madrid we became overexcited and manfully attempted to drink in every single one only giving up when we realised our train would be leaving without us. HS did posit that we could forget about our trip and just carry on bar crawling and maybe stay in Madrid for the week but this idea was vetoed when we realised we had prepaid for a number of hotels and, well, we ought to vary our MO a tad.

Yes, we varied MO so much than when we arrived in Valladolid - the hard-working capital of Castilla y Leon - our first port of call after checking-in was the nearest bar to see what was what. Beer, wine and tapas. In Spain ? What are the odds ?

You can usually tell whereabouts you are in Spain by the bar culture. So for instance in Madrid one orders Canas, or small shots of beer whereas in the South they become just good old Cervezas and in the North, Cortos (or Zoritos in the Basque Country). For food, Canapes or Mondatitos hold sway in the North, Seafood (boiled or fried) is the munchy of choice in the South. Valladolid was of the “bits on bread” persuasion washed down predominantly with wine (it lies at the centre of four major wine-producing areas).

Although not a huge tapas town there are however enough places such that you could visit several bars a day and still not exhaust the possibilities after a year. During a couple of hours we sampled some pulpo, cut into carpaccio-thin slivers and grilled, an odd speciality of a spicy chorizo encased in bread and baked and some simply steamed mussels that were absurdly cheap even with the bad pound/euro exchange rate. Best of all was our final snack of the evening. Some sweet and tender chuletilas de cordero had been perfectly grilled, sprinkled with rock salt and served on a bed of chips cooked in Olive Oil. With a glass of a suitable red it summed up everything we love about Spain: honesty, quality and a commitment to the good things in life. That’ll do us just fine.

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