Monthly Archives: February 2013

Cadiz – a historic port city where I will return

 

Cadiz Cathedral

Cadiz Cathedral

 

Cadiz Cathedral Plaza

Cadiz Cathedral Plaza

 

During our first visit to Spain and as we made our way from Ronda to Sevilla, a stop in Jerez De La Frontera was planned. A day and a half was all the time we had to see as much as we could here. A  short visit to the old city of Cadiz was also included.

The schedule was a bit ambitious but we wanted to see as much as possible. We came to Jerez to see the Andalucian horses, tour a Bodega, and to take a peek at Cadiz. This hastiness almost ends up costing a lot of money in the form of a very expensive taxi ride from Cadiz to Jerez. After the long bus ride from Ronda into Jerez, we checked into our hotel and rested for an hour before heading out again. The city of Cadiz is only a few minutes away by Cercanias train. I had checked the schedule for the train and made a mental note of the last train back to Jerez. Last run back was at 22:10 hours. We would have to make this last train or who knows how much a taxi would cost.

It was the end of May and the Sun was setting late. As usual, we got hungry early and had trouble finding a restaurant that opened before 20:00. We ate something quickly at a bar and walked along the beachfront toward the historic center of town. We got carried away with this beautiful city and forgot to check our watches. We were down by the Cathedral as the sun was setting and it ocurred to me to check the time. Oh no! – we are going to miss the train. My last photo of the Cathedral was at 21:46 – we had to run for the train station. We had no idea how far the station was located. We had walked in one big loop and returned on a street that was not familiar. I found a taxi and asked him to take us to the station. He informed us that the station was just down the street – “I can take you but…” he said. We did make it with just a few minutes to spare before the last departure.

 

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The most photographed man in Barcelona

Bar Pinotxo is a small Tapas bar right inside the market

It was my first visit to Barcelona and I wanted to see the famous Mercat de La Boqueria.
We made the effort to get up “early” that Saturday morning to come see it and eat breakfast. We were staying at a hotel near Plaza Catalunya so it was a short walk down the Ramblas.
No visit to Barcelona is complete without stepping inside and wandering for a couple of hours.
After suddenly finding the Mercado de Abastos in Jerez during my first trip to Spain a couple of years earlier, visiting these famous markets is a one of my favorite experiences.

The guidebooks recommended this famous food stall and we had watched it on TV also. I could not remember names but I remembered the guy running it.
As soon as I turned right, there it was – I spotted the famous face. Bar Pinotxo is a small Tapas Bar specializing in Catalan cuisine. They don’t have to go far for fresh ingredients. The famous eatery, probably the most famous one in Barcelona, is located in a corner right inside the marketplace. After a short wait and a couple of photos, a couple of stools opened up and we sat down for breakfast.

I had to ask for the famous guy’s name – Juan they said – Juan Bayen.
He has to be the most photographed man in Barcelona.
He is used to posing for photos.
He proudly displays a photo of him with Ferran Adria in a corner of his counter window.
They are close friends – probably the two most photographed men in Barcelona.

I asked one of the guys cooking behind the counter, what did they have?
Everything! – he said – even offering us Lobster.
We settled for more traditional Tortilla, Butifarra Catalana, and Pan amb Tomat.
The couple next to us, suggested we try the Garbanzos en Mantequilla too.
It was a lot of food for two persons but we would soon burn it with all the walking in the city.
The food was good but the experience was more than just the food.

Un lugar muy bueno para comer justo en medio de La Rambla

Era mi primera visita a Barcelona y quería ver el famoso mercado de La Boquería.
Hizimos el esfuerzo de levantarnos temprano un Sábado para ir al mercado. Nuestro hotel quedaba cerca de Plaza Catalunya y el mercado quedaba a solo unos minutos caminando por la Rambla. Ninguna visita a Barcelona es completa sin explorar este gran mercado. Durante mi primera visita a España unos años atras, descubrí el Mercado de Abastos de Jerez y desde entonces busco estos mercados centrales. Sin duda, una de mis experiencias favoritas.

El libro de viajes recomendaba este lugar y tambiéen lo había visto en la TV. No traje el libro y no me acordaba del nombre del lugar pero sí reconocería al hombre que lo corre.
Tan pronto entramos y a la derecha, ahí estaba el famoso personaje. Bar Pinotxo es un pequeño bar de Tapas situado en una esquina dentro del mercado. Sirven comida Catalana muy fresca. La verdad es que no tienen que ir muy lejos en busca de ingredientes. Luego de una corta espera, pudimos sentarnos a tomar café y desayunar.

Tuve que preguntar por su nombre. Era Juan me dijeron – Juan Bayen. Juanito tiene que ser la persona mas retratada en toda Barcelona. El acostumbra posar para las fotos. Muy orgullosamente mantiene una foto suya junto al famoso Chef Ferrán Adriá detras del mostrador. Son buenos amigos. Quizás sean los dos hombres mas retratados en toda Barcelona.

Les pregunté que tenían para comer. Me dijeron que había de todo y si no, lo buscaban enseguida por el mercado. Terminamos probando una Tortilla Española, Butifarra Catalana, y Pan amb Tomat. Tambien nos sugerieron los Garbanzos en Mantequilla. Era mucha comida para dos pero quemaríamos todo caminando por la ciudad más tarde. La comida era muy buena pero la experiencia de visitar el mercado y conocer a Juan fue mejor.

Mercat de La Boqueria

Mercat de La Boqueria

 

Pinotxo Bar

Pinotxo Bar

 

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Juan Bayen – the most photographed man in Barcelona

 

Garbanzos a la Mantequilla

Garbanzos a la Mantequilla

 

Butifarra Catalana

Butifarra Catalana

 

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Atacama desert and the Altiplano de Chile

Chile is a long thin country

 

As the guidebook said, Chile is a long thin country with an incredibly variety of landscapes and natural resources. If you want to see most of these landscapes, you will have to fly a lot inside the Country. One area that I would highly recommend is the San Pedro de Atacama region in the North. This is the gateway to the Chilean Altiplano. To get here from Santiago you will take a short flight to Calama – about one and a half hours. Followed by a transfer into San Pedro de Atacama which will take around one hour.

Arrange for the transfer at the airport’s service desk once you land in Calama. We were trying to save some Pesos and avoided the airport transportation desk. However we found ourselves stranded at the airport when all buses and vans left for San Pedro and the airport closed until the next flight from Santiago a couple of hours later. A taxi was out of the question as San Pedro is too far for a taxi.  Luckily a local taxista reacted quickly and took us in the direction of the Calama bus station. He knew the bus headed for San Pedro had already left the station but he was going to flag the bus down on the road so we could get on. Sure enough, he saw the bus coming up the road and he flashed his lights and signaled for the bus driver to stop. We were able to transfer quickly into the local bus headed for San Pedro. We managed to save some money after all. Once we arrived at San Pedro, we took another local taxi for a couple of Pesos for the short ride to our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Kimal. Very centrally located in this small town, good service, and with an excellent restaurant it turned out to be a very good choice.

The plan was to sign up for excursions but nothing had been arranged. I remembered reading a blog recommending an outfitter in town but I barely remembered their name or location. I was lucky to find them on the main street about 2 blocks from the Hotel. The outfitter was Cosmo Andino. They specialize in small group excursions to the Atacama desert and the Altiplano region. They were patient and explained all the possible excursions – I opted for 3 days of activities. I cannot recommend them enough – very friendly, efficient and delivered a lot for the money. We took tours for the Valle de la Luna, the Lagunas Altiplanicas, and the Tatio Geysers. Each day was full of adventure and there was never a dull moment. Altitude sickness did not set in as we gradually climbed higher each day. We had already experienced the Andes when we traveled to Peru but this landscape was different. The second day excursion was an exhausting all day affair that included a stop at the Salar de Atacama where we could observe the Flamingos. I will not bore you with bad bird photos. Let me just say that you really need a long lens in order to capture even relatively large birds like Flamingos.

 

El Valle de La Luna, Lagunas Altiplanicas, y los Geysers del Tatio

 

Tal y como el libro guía explicaba, Chile es un país muy estrecho y largo con gran variedad de paisajes y recursos naturales. Tendrán que volar mucho dentro del país para poder ver algunas de estas zonas naturales. Una de estas zonas que les recomiendo es San Pedro de Atacama en el norte. Desde aquí pueden tomar excursiones de un día que suben al Altiplano Chileno. Un vuelo corto desde Santiago los llevará hasta Calama. Es un vuelo interesante si consiguen un asiento en el lado derecho del avión al volar hacia el norte. Así se disfrutan los Andes cuyas cimas parecen estar a la misma altura que vuelan. En el aeropuerto de Calama consiguen un mini-bus a San Pedro de Atacama el cual les tomará alrededor de una hora.

Les recomiendo acercarse al escritorio de la compañía de autobuses en el aeropuerto para concertar la transferencia a San Pedro. Como siempre he hecho, trato de ahorrarme unos pesos y creía que iba a poder conseguír otro bus más barato fuera del aeropuerto. Pues sí, mas barato lo hay pero no en el aeropuerto. Hay que llegar hasta el centro de Calama a la estación de buses primero. Esperando un taxi o un bus, vimos como el aeropuerto cerraba hasta que el próximo vuelo llegara desde Santiago. No apareció un taxi hasta media hora después y gracias a su rápida reacción pudimos conectar con el bus en medio del camino. El bus ya había salido de Calama pero el taxista pudo hacerle señas desde el carríl opuesto en medio de la carretera y logró detener el bus. Nunca en mi vida había hecho una transferencia tan rápida y loca. Los pasajeros locales no acostumbran ver turistas en estos buses y luego de la parada de seguro que no estaban muy contentos. Ahorramos algún dinero pero hubo que correr y perder tiempo.

San Pedro de Atacama tiene una gran variedad de hostales. Yo les recomiendo el Hotel Kimal porque tienen un buen restaurante y se encuentra cerca de la calle principal. Me vino a la memoria un blog donde recomendaban un centro de excursiones llamado Cosmo Andino. Solo teníamos tres días completos aquí y quería explorar al máximo. Luego de la maroma del aeropuerto ya se estaba volviendo tarde así que salí corriendo a buscar la oficina de Cosmo Andino sin saber como se llamaban o donde estaban. El primer sitio donde entré no me pareció que fueran ellos. Seguí por la calle principal y ví la oficina y halgo me resonaba, tenían que ser ellos. Pude organizar tres días de aventuras que incluían el Valle de La Luna, las Lagunas Altiplánicas, y los Geysers del Tatio. Les recomiendo esta oficina de excursiones. Creo que el precio era muy bueno y ofrecen muchísimo. Tuvimos la suerte de tener el mismo guía los tres días. Oscar es un chileno que vivió en Londres unos años y es un guía estupendo. Resultó muy cómico oirle hablar inglés con un acento británico. Chile atrae muchos turistas y entre ellos conocimos Chilenos, Franceses, Alemanes, Surafricanos, Brasileños, Británicos, y Españoles. Cada día se sube más y más alto así que se aclimatizan a la falta de oxígeno y no les ataca el soroche o mal de altura. También les recomiendo ponerse en forma antes de un viaje a las alturas. Arrancar desde el nivél del mar y una vida sedentaria frente al ordenador para caminar montañas a 3000 metros al día siguiente es una receta para un desastre.

Aqui les dejo el link a Cosmo Andino por si algún día quieren explorar Atacama.

 

Laguna Altiplanica

Laguna Altiplanica

 

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Tatio Geysers shortly after sunrise

 

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You can walk right up to many of the Geysers, just watch the boil-overs.

 

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The Tatio Geysers are the highest Geysers in the World.

 

cactus flower chile altiplano

Cactus flower found on the way to the Tatio Geysers

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