Monday, January 31, 2011

Eating my way through Spain

Dear Citizens of the World,

Tourism in Spain is equivalent to eating. Most destinations are known for their gastronomy as much as their monuments. Morella, a mountain village in the North of Castellon (along the Med between Barcelona and Valencia), is no different.

During our visit to Morella we did spend some time walking around the area and checking out the monuments; however, the focus of the day was really the lunch and specialty shopping for local foodstuffs.

The day did not come without it's challenges. We ate so much for lunch that it was tough to complete a proper cheese tasting -- we ended up with three types of cheese... and we normally avoid lactose!

Reflection of the sky and street in a large decanter full of red wine

Remember, when visiting a Spanish village there are three rules to follow:
1. Get advice on a good restaurant (expensive is not always better!)
2. Reserve space as far in advance as possible.
3. Wear comfortable clothes and make sure your belt has another notch...

Buen viaje,

-The United Statesian

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Breathing in a fresh? New Year -- Part II

Traditional Chimneys from the Aragón region of Northern Spain -- smokeless in July

Dear Citizens of the World!

The new year has started and the ban on smoking seems to be holding up -- but not without some problems.

I am happy to report that we were able to go out for dinner last week and we got home without smelling like smoke! This is no small feat in Spain. On a cold Saturday evening, the sidewalks were packed with smokers... a good sign that the ban is working.

Most bars and cafes seem to be following the rules, but the first time I went into a café in January (partly to support the ban by spending more money in cafés and restaurants... and partly because I just wanted a coffee) was a no-go. As soon as I entered the cafe, a women lit up a cigarette and practically blew the smoke at me. Slightly shocked and frustrated, I turned around and left.

Like all changes in society, it will take time to take root and for the holdouts to accept the change. Not so far in the past, teachers used to smoke in class and trains were travelling clouds of smoke. However, these measures, which were met with lots of resistance in the past, are considered normal now. The same will happen with the restaurants.

As restaurants adapt (outfitting terraces with heaters), so shall society adapt.

May your dinner and coffee be smoke-free!

- The United Statesian

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Breathing in a fresh New Year

Dear Citizens of the world!

2011 has started with a breath of fresh air, both indoors and out. As of January 2nd, it is illegal to smoke in any bars or restaurants in Spain! Now I can finally go out for a drink or coffee and not come home smelling like a musty ashtray!

We decided to start our newyear by going cross-country skiing and hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees. We were blessed by sunny weather, great snow and fresh mountain air -- the only smoke being the soft, sweet smell of ceder coming for the village chimnees...

As of 2011, you can only smoke at home and in the streets

Enjoying the sun and snow in Benasque

Whispy, smoke-like, clouds over a mountain that apears folded like a duvet

Thanks for listening,

The United Statesian

A parting shot...