Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sant Pere Church & Tapas Lunch at Plaza Prat de Sant Pere in Besalu, Spain

One of my side trips when I was holidaying in Girona, Spain last month was Besalu, a very pretty mountain village in the province of Girona in the Catalonia region. On my next post about Besalu, I will show you the beauty of this medieval gem of a village.

While walking around town I came upon this big square with a church in the middle.

Sant Pere Church on Plaza Prat de Sant Pere

Plaza Prat de Sant Pere.

Sant Pere Church (Saint  Peter's Church). The church interior is looking rather austere devoid of glam that we know of Catholic Churches bearing the name of St. Peter.

Tapas Lunch: Tuna + Peppers + Mushrooms

The plaza is ringed with cafes and restaurants so I elected to have my lunch here. After a thorough survey of the area and the restaurants, I settled for lunch at this Tapas Restaurant that I forgot to take down the name or even take a picture of the restaurant's signage. It is located across the church.

I ate here because of a few reasons: (1) As per ambiance, this was the only restaurant that looked quite inviting, and classy. (2) The restaurant served tapas whilst other (relatively busy) restaurants were serving very touristy-like menus. I do not want touristy food. I want the real Catalan tapas for lunch.

And so I ordered real Catalan tapas. The first tapa to arrive the table are fresh tuna chunks in virgin olive oil. They were flavoured with some balsamico and this was very delicious.

Paired of course with a white wine from a nearby region. I forgot the name of the wine region, the middle aged man serving me said it is from another region in Spain.

Then the rest of my tapas lunch have arrived: Fried Pimientos de Padron (green padron peppers), Stir-fry Mushroom Mix and a little basket of baguette bread. I cannot be more than happy with this meal.

There is not much going on in the square, and it does not really matter as I am taking my time. I love slow and relaxing lunches, especially when the food in front of me is delicious. The secret to enjoying our travels is when we go slow and soak in the moment, and that  is what I did.

These residents were talking to each other from outside their windows =)

When you are in Spain, make sure you are not only enjoying the country, their culture and its people, but as well their food. Tapas!

More soon of Besalu.

Travel Period: November 2013
Destination: Besalu (Catalonia), Spain

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Paella Dinner for One at L’Arcada in Girona, Spain

Whenever I am in Spain, I am always hankering for Paella. One evening in November (last month, oh why, time flies!), I was strolling along Rambla de la Llibertat, the main pedestrian walkway of Girona in the old centre looking for a place to have my Paella.

TRIVIA: Did you know that the best restaurant in the world for 2013 is in Girona, Spain?

The restaurant: El Celler de Can Roca. It has 3-Michelin stars and was voted as the best restaurant in the world by The World's Best 50 Restaurants. Their waiting list is going for MONTHS, and as of last month November they were taking reservations already for April. I have no chance!

Last year it was Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark that won the title. They placed second this year. I was in Copenhagen last year as well but unfortunately no chance in getting a table at Noma.

Paella at Restaurant L’Arcada
No Website. Address: Rambla de la Llibertat 38

So with that I just settled looking for restaurants in town, in touristy places, where there is a lot of company and where Paella is being served. Some days I really have cravings.

When travelling alone, there are times when you just have to stick where the people are, no matter how you hate all things touristy, especially in the evening. If you travel a lot you tend to seek off-the-beaten-paths for a more fulfilling travel experience. But I do take heed when it comes to my safety. So I decided to have dinner at one of the busiest areas of Girona, at the Rambla de la Llibertat. On this main street is an arcade with a number of cafes and restaurants. L’Arcada looks promising to me as it is presented nicely (ambiance is important to me) and there are people dining outside on the cosy terrace, and most importantly, they are serving Paella!

My problem with Paella is that this dish is most of the times served for two persons at restaurants. Luckily here, they serve for one person.

My view: two British girls and an empty sangria pitcher =)

I ordered their 3-course menu. This vegetable (pumpkin I think) soup was surprisingly good. However those warm pita breads were much better, I could not get enough of them. 

My main dinner: Seafood Mix Paella. This was nothing mind-blowing but good enough that I finished the whole plate. The portioning is just good.

I begged off for dessert but ordered coffee instead. Since I ordered the 3-course menu and did not take the dessert, they did not charge me for the coffee. They also did not charge me for the bottled water. Muchas Gracias =)

I have read bad reviews about this restaurant as well but my experience was actually quite okay, but then again I did not have high expectations and perhaps I ordered their good dishes.

In summary, due to the location of the place, this is a perfect restaurant to have a drink during the day where you can sit back, relax and people watch. Good place as well to have lunch in the outdoor terrace. Thus my review rating: 4 stars out of 5.

Travel Period: November 2013
Destination: Girona (Catalonia), Spain

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Charles Dickens Festival (Dickens Festijn) in Deventer Part 2: Walking the Dickens Route

Last 14 December I went to the Charles Dickens Festival (Dickens Festijn in Dutch) in Deventer in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It is a two-day event held yearly every second weekend of December. You can find some background information about this event and tips from me in my previous blog entry: Charles Dickens Festival (Dickens Festijn) in Deventer Part 1: The 3 hours wait

Yes, we queued up for THREE FULL HOURS. That is an amazing feat for someone impatient like me.

Finally, Bru and I are inside the Dickens Route! So happy we need to pose for this milestone achievement of waiting 3 hours, haha.

Charles Dickens Festival Route (Dickens Festijn Route)
Route in PDF: Route Dickens Festijn

And so Bru and I, like little girls were so giddy to follow the route filled with a chock-full of Dickensian characters along cobbled brick-stone streets adorned in festive Christmasssy atmosphere. It is so gezellig here!

The route is through the Bergkwartier, a very picturesque quarter in the centre of Deventer. First going through the Waalstraat - to the Bergkerkplein - then Roggestraat - Bergstraat - and finally, Menstraat. See the route in pink colour in the PDF document.

A Victorian Period lady, one of Dicken's characters in his book posed for a picture with us, and naturally Bru blinks just as I click the camera. Why am I not surprised? lol! Don't worry Bru, you still look pretty.

I think this is Miss Havisham, the wealthy spinster living in a huge mansion in the 'Great Expectations' novel.

These two dames were really acting their characters out! The left older woman is a rambunctious drunk lady with boils in her face.

Bru and I posing in front of the doors of the three ghosts who visited the old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge in the 'A Christmas Carol' novel.

And oh, I managed to capture this lively group of carolers singing!

The jolly Christmas Carolers =) Ah, beautiful voices!

Oh dear, these children cleaning the chimneys and roofs were really up the roofs! Careful now kids.

A little shop selling Dutch Pea Soup (Ewrten Soup, sometimes called Snert).

And I was quick enough as well to capture this on video. Jacob Marley's Ghost calling out to the old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge: S-C-R-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-G-E.......................!!!

Are you scared? Hehe!

This is our lunch: Sausage buns on the street.

This is by the way a lovely Jewish Synagogue.

Are they now Scots Guards or British Guards?

As you can see it is very busy along the Dickens Festijn Route.

Very elegant couple, aren't they?

Chestnuts a roasting, always a staple during winter and in Charles Dickens stories as well.

These twin ladies were just stunning, look at their frumpy dresses, the dark intriguing colours and their lovely faces! Bru and I must pose with them, and we did =). I have no idea though which characters they play and which book. Help?

Kissing under the mistletoe in the 'Pickwick Papers' novel =)

Votes for women! This is after all the Victorian Period, early 19th century, the rise of women's rights.

The Bergkerkplein (Mountain Church Square) in the Bergkwartier.

Boy was I surprised to see a flock of sheep and some donkeys!

I could not find Scrooge amongst the flood of Dickensian characters so this beer bottle with Scrooge's picture on it will suffice. The other man though in the other picture was such a great actor portraying his character flawlessly. Anyone know which character he played?

The Saint Nicholas Church in the Bergkwartier is also called the Mountain Church (Bergkerk).

The homeless children in the 'Adventures of Oliver Twist', they say they do not have money to go to school, so they must beg for alms on the street for food.

Who is this slick character again? This couple have a real baby in the baby carriage =)

And I managed to take another video, my last before exiting the Dickens Festijn Route:

It is very fun, gezellig, here!

Hope you enjoyed my pictures and videos of the Charles Dickens Festival in Deventer.

Travel Period: December 2013
Destination: Deventer (Overijssel), The Netherlands

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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