Monday, April 27, 2020

YummY! - Spanish Tapas/Pincho @ Els Pinxus Barcelona

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SPANISH TAPAS / PINXU @ EL PINXUS

Barcelona, Spain - November 2019
On a cycling tour at the Iberian Peninsula and Barcelona was one of our main destinations. 
Spain is renown for it's tapas, and we had our fair share of very good tapas at the different towns and cities we visited. And here in Barcelona, we will get to savor pinxu (or pinchos), they are sort of a kind of tapas but are called pinchos because many of them have a pincho (Spanish for spike), typically a toothpick —or a skewer for the larger varieties— through them. Pinchos are usually a small snack, typically eaten in bars, traditionally in northern Spain and especially popular in La RiojaCantabriaAsturias, the Basque country and Navarra.


At most restaurants, pinchos are served as an appetizers but here in Barcelona; a place has made them into an art-form; beautifully crafted and appealing to both the eyes and the palate. The place is called Els Pinxus, a tapas bar that is a class of its own - bright and decorated with a touch of class .....

Seating is cozy and at the far end is a private room called the "Liberia Catlonia" (Catalan for Catalonia Bookstore) with larger tables for bigger groups..... but it does look like a bookstore or even a library; perhaps it's both and a restaurant too!


On one of their wall was a simplified pictorial guide to help us tourists understand the pinchos and make it easier for us to order. The board played on their name PinXus with the X in a different color thus hinting that we should Pin them.
Basically, it list some of the pinchos and states in Catalan that now these can be taken away too.
From left the pinchos are:
1. Tartar de fuet - Fuet (thin Spanish pork sausages) with tartar sauce.
2. Foie, higos y pato - Foie, figs and duck.
3. Salmo fumat - Smoked salmon.
4. Mini burger
5. Secret Iberic - Iberian Secret (okay, I guess have to order this in order to find out the secret).
6. Txangurro - That's Basque for Crab.
7. Formatge de cabro - Goat cheese.
8. Formatge blau - Blue cheese, this was our favorite.
9. Xistorra - Chistorra, a type of Basque fast-cure sausage from Aragon.
10. Ou de guatlla - Quail eggs.
I guess this ten would be a quick introduction to their wide range of pinchos.


Ok let's kick off our meal.
The best part is, the cool looking Sangria seen above was only at €1/- per glass!
In front of the Sangria are pinchos from their their tasting menu, from left: shrimp, mince meat, and on far right is goat cheese.


Each of the pinchos was finely crafted like a work of art, often the main item lies on a carpet of tomato and topped of with green or red chillis. For the above, from left; ham, bacon, Chistorra, minced meat and Fuet.


A close up look of the above.


More lovely creations, including one of a lovely shrimp hugging a combo of something (Sorry, I can't recall the names of the different types, but they were delicious 😄).


A close up look of the shrimp pinchos, with some caviar rolling down. Yes, this is definitely a work of art..... too bad it will be going down my mouth soon.


(Photo from Els Pinxus Facebook Page)
Let's pop over to their bar, it's a long counter with two or three glass cases that displayed the different types of wonderful creations. One can see (while drooling) and choose the pinchos to one personal liking; one can eat at the bar counter too, too bad there's no moving carousel/conveyor like those in Japanese shushi bars.


Bacon with green and red chili pepper.


 Ou de guatlla i Xistorra, i.e. sunny-side up Quail eggs and Chistorra sausage.


Hmmm.... I think this was Goat cheese sitting on a slice of pork.


Formatge blau - Blue cheese, don't look like much, but it's our favorite!


For those who love sausages, this was a double barrel of Chistorra sausages.


This is some kind of meat loaf with a dollop of cheese cream above, sprinkle with chili powder.


A closer view of the bacon with green and red chili pepper.


Txangurro (Basque for Crab) patties with the renown Spanish Padrón green chili pepper.


Salmo fumat (Smoked salmon), another of our favorite!


Other than the pinchos, we had several other good dishes such as egg plant Cannoli (stuffed with beef and with light truffle sauce), squid legs, and these succulent mussels steamed with olive oil, garlic and lemon.


For desserts: Chocolate with green tea cream.


..... and glasses of La Sueca Sangria.

     BON GANA!     

Els Pinxus is highly recommend and not to be missed when in Barcelona.
Take a virtual walk-through of Els Pinxus.
Els Pinxus Menus & Promotions (at time of our visit)
Pinchos @ €2.05, Pichos + Canyeta @ €3.60, Assortment of 5 pinchos  + Canya + glass of wine @ €12.00.


Today's Special @ €15-90:
"Aperitivo + primero + segundo + postre o cafe, Bebida incluida"
Aperitif + first + second + dessert or coffee, Drinks included.


Els Pinxus Starters, salad, fish & seafood, and Meat Menu.



Els Pinxus Fried Eggs With Potato, Bread, Dessedrts, Omelets, and Tasting Menu.

Els Pinxus Wine List, this is the first page of their extensive wine list.


Els Pinxus
Carrer de Marià Cubí, 81, 08006 Barcelona, Spain.
Phone: +34 932 52 75 45
Hours: 12:00pm to 1:00am
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elspinxus
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/elspinxus/
GPS & Direction Map : 41.39750, 2.14850




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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps YummY! Western Food / Spanish Tapas/Pinxu @ Els Pinxus Barcelona
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sites : The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps / Cycling Europe 2019- Sites / The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
                    Footsteps - Jotaro's Travels                        
Granada, Spain - November 2019
During a cycling tour of Portugal & Spain we had to opportunity to visit one of Spain's most notable sites - the palace-fortress of the Alhambra in Granada. The name originates from the Arabic word الْحَمْرَاء"‎", romanized as Al-Ḥamrāʾ, meaning "The Red One", which refers to the red sun-dried bricks of which the outer wall is made from.


The Alhambra is a favorite among tourist and it is better to booked ahead online to avoid any disappointment of not be able to see the place while in Granada. Even then, the inner sanctum, the Palacio De Los Nazaries (Nazri Palaces), has a strict specific time frame of an hour for each visitor. Presently the entrance fee is €14.85 per pax.
Oh yah, part of the reason we had to visit this place is because of the K-Drama series "Memories of the Alhambra".


The best way to get to the Alhambra from town is by the Alhambra Red Minibus, using either Bus #30 or Bus #32. Click here for the Alhambra Red Minibus routes. and here for the different fares & travel cards.


Before we proceed further here's a map showing the different sections of the palace for better orientation.
Highlights:
1. Jardines del Generalife (Generalife Gardens).
2. Palacio de Generalife.
3. Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel).
4. Torre de Ismail (Tower of Ismail).
5. Palacio de Carlos V (Palace of Charles V)
6. Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra.
7. Jardines del Paraiso (the Gardens of Paradise).
8. Jardines del Partal (Partal Gardens).
9. Jardín de los Ardaves (Garden of the Ramparts).
10. Alcazaba palace buildings.
11. Palacio De Los Nazaries (Nazri Palaces).
12. Jardines de Daraxa (Daraxa's Garden).
13. El Partal, (The Portico).

Here's another plan showing the different sections and also services available.
The Alhambra is divided into two main sections; the western section with a complex of buildings, and the eastern section with less buildings and more gardens. This eastern section is called the Generalife.

THE GENERALIFE
The Generalife seems to be an odd name for a palace, sounding more mundane than regal. Being English educated, to me it sounded so generalized when read in an English way.
But the name comes from the Arabic word جَنَّة الْعَرِيف‎ Jannat al-‘Arīf, which literally means "Architect's Garden". The name becomes very appropriate as the Palacio de Generalife was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid rulers of the Emirate of Granada.
Enter via the lush Moorish Jardines del Generalife (Generalife Gardens).


Walking through the gardens is so refreshing as the planners have done a good job of planting with different colors to play with one's eyes and touch one's heart. One moment it's a splash of red on the walls (see the prior photo) and next it's a pergola of yellow tugging one to move along.


It's a long but nice garden path filled with fountains .....



..... which brought back memories of the Gardens of Kashmir that we saw on a 2014 trip to India.


The similarities are not coincidental, both Moorish Architecture of the Alhambra; and Moghul Architecture of Northern India, has their roots in Islamic Architecture.


From here there is a clear view of the Pueblos Blanco of Granada below, and the western buildings of the Alhambra on the other side.


We leave the open gardens and enter a courtyard garden, the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel) where a central water channel with small intermittent fountains run along the whole length of the courtyard.


At the far end is the Torre de Ismail (Tower of Ismail), although just a three-storey building, sitting at the edge of an escarpment gives it a good panoramic view of the city below. It's probably named after Ismail I of Granada, a cultured and refined man,who significantly added to the Alhambra complex and the palace of Generalife.


Arched windows opens out to scenic views, and the interior wall lined with beautiful carvings.



A close up view of the scenic views.



Each window offered it's own distinct view, this one looks out to the Palacio De Los Nazaries (Nazri Palaces).



Another view of the Patio de la Acequia, this time from the Torre de Ismail, at the far end in the entrance building into the Generalife.


A beautiful arched window, carved with Arabic calligraphy.



We take stairs down to corridors that will lead to .....

THE WESTERN COMPLEX
The western complex have more buildings, equally or even more beautiful. 
Again, entry is through the gardens - starting with green arching branches of the appropriately named Jardines del Paraiso (the Gardens of Paradise) .....



..... and leading through the Jardines del Partal (Partal Gardens) with it's castle rampart style hedges .....



Which leads out to a nice building, the Parador de San Francisco.  It looks like perhaps a church, but it's not; it's a hotel sitting right in the middle of the Alhambra complex - the guests are so blessed.



But it's the views from the gardens that excels, like this one of the hotel framed within the arch of a hedge.



From a nearby garden, another scenic view of Granada with the Sierra Nevada in the background.



Leading us into the Western complex are more gardens, some even though simple gives postcard quality photos, like the above. Those red leaves of the creepers are real ones but looked like they were painted on. Surreal, yah? Salvador Dali, Spain's famous artist son would be happy.



The garden weaves and open up to another large building, the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra. This was a mosque that was converted into a Catholic church in the early 17th century. The external walls built of red bricks with thick white pointing exudes a pinkish tone; in between are panels filled with light brown pebbles. Inside there is an elaborate baroque-style altar.

Here too is a peep view of the pyramidal roof of the Nasrid Palaces, the jewel of the Alhambra.



But we won't be seeing the jewel yet, there is a allotted 1-hr time frame for each visitor to enter the Nasrid Palaces and it's not our time yet. Instead with time to spare we visited the Palacio de Carlos V (Palace of Charles V). This Renaissance building, located on the top of the hill of the Assabica, was commanded by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who wished to establish his residence close to the Alhambra palaces. However, the building has never been a home to a monarch and stood roofless until 1957.


Although looking squarish and stocky on the outside, the interior conveys a different atmosphere and a totally different architectural style. Inside is a circular space called the Patio, and running around are the rooms of the places in a two-storey structure held up by a Doric colonnade at the lower level and stylized Ionic colonnade at first level.

Across the road, cast iron old canons lay quiet, pointing towards the city as a decorative mascot.


While waiting they turn, most just hang around the Placeta de los Aljibes (Square of the Cisterns) which is so named because cisterns were built in the gully between the Alcazaba and the palaces. These cisterns (34 meters long, 6 meters wide and 8 meters high) together with the surrounding streets and squares were buried to form the current square.


Others will climb the nearby towers to get another good view of Granada. This one here is the Torre del Cubo de la Alhambra.



From there more panoramic views of the Pueblos Blanco below.

THE NAZRI PALACES
Right on cue of our time slot we were allowed into the Nasrid Palaces; together with the entry ticket, some form of identification (usually a passport) is required to be shown to the guides there. Entry is via the Puerta del Vino (Wine Gate), which is supposed to be one of the oldest constructions of the Alhambra, it could date from the period of Mohammed II.



Right after the gate are not the palaces yet, but a garden called the Jardín de los Ardaves, or the Garden of the Ramparts - an appropriate name as it's a narrow and long garden that run along the terrace formed by the castle rampart walls.



It's a beautiful garden with a mixed of planting, stonework and fountains; at the far end, which lead to the Alcazaba palace buildings.



Right at the entrance into is a guide with a recommendation of the route to follow in this area, i.e.:
1.  Sala de Mocárabes (Muqarnas Room),
2. Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions),
3. Sala de los Abencerrajes (Hall of the Abencerrajes),
4. Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings),
5. Sala de las Dos Hermanas (Hall of the Two Sisters), and
6. Mirador de Lindaraja/Daraxa (Lindaraja/Daraxa viewpoint).

Entering these rooms, do look up and admire the fine workmanship done to the column heads, and arches.



The walls are finely lined with carving, and more interesting are the cornices which are lined with carvings known as mocárabe/muqarnas. These are a form of ornamented vaulting in Islamic architecture and are sometimes called "honeycomb vaulting" or "stalactite vaulting". Muqarnas is significant in Islamic architecture because its elaborate form is a symbolic representation of universal creation by God.


Smaller muqarnas seen at the column headers.


A beautiful ceiling created in Islamic geometric pattern.


Finely decorated horseshoe arch entrance.



Beautiful arches framing timber lattice window.



From here we can view out to the Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles).



More fine carvings, from walls upwards to the high windows.



More muqarnas seen at this sharp arch.


A dome formed with Islamic geometric pattern and Arabic calligraphy.



Inside the Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions) is the Lion Fountain, with ten lions supporting a large basin fountain.

The Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings) is so named because of the the paintings on three ellipse-shaped, leather-covered wooden domes. The middle painting represents the first ten kings of the Nasrid Dynasty.


At another dome can be seen the Spainish Royal Coat of Arms.

The last section is the Mirador de Lindaraja/Daraxa (Lindaraja/Daraxa viewpoint) with views on one side overlooking Granada and a gazelle silhouette standing in contrast to the background behind. The gazelle is the symbol of the Alhambra.

On the other side, windows with intricate design overlooks .....


The Jardines de Daraxa (Daraxa's Garden) below.



One last place to see before leaving the palaces: the El Partal, "the portico" - which is the remains of the residence of Sultan Yusuf III, the northernmost of the Nasrid Palaces. Seen here is the picturesque arcade, tower and pond of El Partal.



As we leave we turned around and looked at the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra, its steeple tower slowly catching the setting sun's rays and,


..... a serene reflection at a nearby pool welcomes a peaceful evening.



To one side green, red and pink creepers crawl over an archway.



And now the sun shines right onto the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra, bathing it with glorious orange rays!


We exited at the Puerta de Siete Suelos .....


And took a walk down a wide ramp that will lead to the Alhambra - Generalife 2 Bus stop, from where we took the Alhambra Red Minibus back to town.


Post Script:
One of the best place to view the Alhambra in entirety is form the Plaza San Nicolas located at the Albaicín (Albayzín) neighborhood. It is reachable by the Alhambra Red Minibus too.



But it is better to view from here in the late afternoon or evening. We went there in the morning and the glare from the sun came shining glaringly into our eyes.

The Alhambra
Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain.
Phone: +34-958027971
Entrance fee: €14.85 per pax
(Click here to purchase tickets on-line)
Click here for Opening Hours for day or night visits to gardens and buildings.
(with a fixed one hour time slot to visit the Palacio De Los NazariesNazri Palace)



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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps / Cycling Europe 2019- Sites / The Alhambra, Granada, Spain
If you like this, view my other blogs at Jotaro's Blog
(comments most welcomed below. if you like this pls share via facebook or twitter)