Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spain: Paella in Valencia!

Where else to have paella other than in Valencia where it's from! That's right, paella is a Valencian rice dish which is quite popular here in the Philippines. They say the traditional Valencian paella is not made with pollo (chicken) but with conejo (rabbit). Yes, you read right, rabbit!

We were looking for a great value restaurant to savor paella in Valencia since it's quite pricey given that rice here is expensive. And we finally found our restaurant called NECO Buffet de Cocina Mediterranea. Not only did they have two kinds of paella served in humongous paelleras in their buffet. They had a host of other Mediterranean dishes and desserts as well, all for the price of 10€, not bad given that in most restaurants, paella could go as much as 15 to 20€. And that's just one serving! So the buffet was a great deal.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Spain: Have you tasted Filipinos?

It was amusing to find out that in Spain, there is a commercial brand of biscuits called Filipinos! The standard Filipinos biscuit is ring-shaped and coated in either white, milk or dark chocolate. It is said that the biscuits were inspired by the rosquillos of Iloilo and Negros hence the name Filipinos. Its manufacturer added a twist by coating it with different kinds of chocolate.

They also sell Filipinos Agujeros or the holes of the biscuits coated in dark or white chocolate, as well as Filipinos Bigsticks. I found it equally amusing that Filipinos are sold alongside popular cookie brands such as Oreo and ChipsAhoy! But it was not amusing that a former administration made a big fuss out of it by filing a diplomatic protest saying that the use of "Filipinos" for a commercial brand was insulting. The Foreign Affairs secretary reluctantly filed the protest saying that he saw nothing wrong with the use of "Filipinos" as a brand name and pointed out that Austrians don't complain that small sausages are referred to as Vienna sausages! I'm actually happy they chose the name Filipinos since the biscuits are really good! What do you think?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Spain: Cuenca, Spain and its casas colgadas

We ventured into the land of Don Quixote, the region of Castilla-La Mancha! We were off to the city of Cuenca, Spain a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in between two gorges, this fortress city is perfectly integrated into the marvelous natural landscape around it. Thus, the character of Cuenca is dictated by this breathtaking harmony between architecture and nature. The trip from Valencia was close to three hours.

Be prepared for a lot of walking up and down the narrow roads of this fortress town. Cuenca is actually divided into two areas, the low quarter which is the modern area that sprung up in the 19th Century. And the medieval city located on top of the rugged promontory between the Huécar and Júcar Rivers.

We started our walking tour at the Huécar River Gorge which offers dramatic views of the Convento de San Pablo and the Casas Colgadas, the hanging houses which Cuenca has become known for. There are accounts which say the houses have Muslim roots. Others say that they date back to the medieval period. We got to cross the San Pablo Bridge built high on top of the gorge, linking the convento to the rest of Cuenca.

In the center of town is the Plaza Mayor, the town square which is actually a triangle bounded by the Catedral, Convento de Las Petras, and the Ayuntamiento. The current ayuntamiento dates back to the 18th Century and was designed by Jaime Bort in 1733. What is unique about the design is that it isolates the plaza and yet makes it accessible with the incorporation of three arches at the base.

The Catedral de Santa Maria de Gracia is an exquisite example of early Cuencan Gothic architecture. Construction began at the end of the 12th Century and was completed in 1271. Just like the cathedral in Valencia though, there was a fee to enter (3€ per person).

We walked down Calle Alfonso VIII, enjoying its colorful row of buildings, on the way to the restaurants in the lower part of Cuenca. For lunch, I tried the grilled lamb chops; they say the lamb chops in Cuenca are the best. I spent 6€ for it but I wasn't satisfied with the serving size and it had a lot of fat! Maybe it wasn't the right restaurant for it.

After lunch, we made one last trek up the old city, this time to the Júcar River side where we were treated to a stunning view of the low quarter of Cuenca.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Spain: Jávea in Costa Blanca and more from Spain's Mediterranean coast

Jávea (Xàbia in Valencian) is a coastal town in the province of Alicante, Spain. It's about an hour from Valencia and we went there for our first out-of-town excursion. There was a fiesta in town today since every May 3, Jávea celebrates the feast of the Nazareno. It's the day when the image of the Nazareno is returned from the San Bartolome Church to the Calvary Chapel. But we weren't able to watch the procession since it was still in the evening and we would be back in Valencia by then.

The streets of the town were also decorated with bright and colorful crosses made of flowers since Spain celebrates the Cruces de Mayo (Creus de maig in Valencian) also on May 3. I enjoyed walking around the narrow streets of the town since they gave you the feeling of age.

Listed as a National Historic Monument of Spain in 1931, the fortress-church Church of San Bartolome (Església de Sant Bertomeu) dates back to the late 14th Century and is one of the finest examples of Late Valencian Gothic architecture. But parts of it may be much older than that. Beside it is the town hall which is as old as the church.

We also dropped by the municipal market where we got some snacks and the Palace of Antoni Banyuls (Palau d'Antoni Banyuls) which is now the municipal museum. We didn't stay long though since the group was excited to go to Arenal Beach.

Platja de L'Arenal is located in Costa Blanca which forms part of Spain's Mediterranean coast. The beach is flanked by a promenade of shops, bars and restaurants which was a perfect place for us to have lunch. But just like the other day, it was a bit cold for a swim. So we were just content lazing around under the sun.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Spain: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is Valencia's city of the future

We decided to visit the museum complex of Valencia, the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, today since May 1 is a holiday here in Spain as well. This wonderful collection of futuristic architecture by Santiago Calatrava is a showcase of modern Spain. A complex of monumental beauty, it was built in the old riverbed of the Turia and is the largest cultural-educational complex in Europe.

The complex has several component structures, the newest of which is the Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts or Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, inaugurated in 2006. The structure which looks like a ship sailing in the ocean, has been a venue for events related to the arts.

For today, we visited the different museums namely the Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe, L'Hemisfèric, and the Oceanográfico. It was good that we were able to get the student group rate which is 15,50€ for the three attractions. The regular package rate is 30,60€ while if you enter them individually, it's 7,50€ for L'Hemisfèric, 7,50€ for the Museo de las Ciencias, and 23,30€ for the Oceanográfico.

Our first stop was the Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe which is one of the largest museums in Europe. Covering a total area of 42,000 square meters, the structure is 220 meters long, 80 meters wide and 55 meters high. The concept of the museum is "touching permitted" with thousands of interactive modules and experiments for visitors. Although the museum is targeted at younger kids, it's also a learning experience for older people.

We then proceeded to the Hemisfèric for the 1:30 p.m. film showing of Secrets of the Titanic using the large-format cinema, IMAX Dome. IMAX Dome uses the largest frame possible with today's technology, more than 10 times that of the conventional 35 mm film. The headsets they gave out translated the film into four languages namely Spanish, Valencian, English and French.

By the time the film ended, everyone was hungry. So we proceeded to Aqua, a popular shopping mall beside the complex, for lunch. Since it was a holiday, shops were closed. But many restaurants were opened.

After lunch, we visited the last attraction, L'Oceanográfic. It is the largest oceanographic park in Europe, housing 45,500 examples of 500 different species of marine life in nine thematic underwater habitats. The park was designed by Felix Candela. I enjoyed the exhibits, especially those from the Arctic and Antarctic. We watched the dolphin show before calling it a day.
Related Posts with Thumbnails