The Playa-Pit-Stop to Elche

I had the luck that my wife bought me a new computer, mainly for writing my PhD on it, but Im going to abuse it for writing a text from time to time. It also helps me kill the time I spend commuting – I like travelling, but travelling to your job every day kills the joy in it a little, so you have to spice things up a little bit from time to time.

We went on a short trip (4 nights) to the south of Spain at the end of April, you could call it a playa-pit-stop, as we wanted to refuel on some Vitamin D. My wife has a friend with whom she studied together, so we had a place to stay, and we just bought the plane tickets and found some time for travelling. There was an upcoming holiday in Germany and D. used her god-given talent for finding cheap tickets and everything was set up.

We were staying in Elche (or Elx as it is written in Valencian – trivia time! Spain has one official language, Castilian or as we know it, Spanish, but there are other co-official and recognised languages, and Valencian is one of them), which is a City in the province of Alicante in the southeast of Spain. It isn’t directly connected to the coast, but if you rent a car, you will be able to get everywhere as the roads are pretty good (just watch out for roundabouts, they went crazy with them while building the streets). The buses will also help you out a lot, but the public transportation in Elche and Alicante can be confusing at times, as the bus stop are not labeled that well.

Elche Museo
The Museo Arquelógico y de Historia de Elche

If you can’t speak Spanish, it can be a bit problematic, as some people don’t speak English, but there will always be someone who will translate something for you (or translating apps are also pretty helpful). The people are friendly, sometimes to a degree which I maybe found a little bit weird, but it sure is refreshing and a welcome change.

For example, we witnessed a drumming festival in the streets, and it was loud and vibrant. Everyone (people came out on their balconies) was having fun and danced, kids were throwing confetti, you know, the whole Spanish Salsa thingy everybody stereotypically thinks about what happens in Spain. To be honest, I needed a little time to get into it, as I found it strange for everybody to have fun just because they decided to. Finally, as I realised that I was the only weird dude standing under a passage in the street, looking at people having fun, while not leaving the comfort of my grumpiness, I also took it upon me to enjoy myself a little.

After some time, an older, really skinny Spanish lady approached me, and started talking something Spanish into my ear – mind you, I don’t speak Spanish – and rattled on about some stuff for 5 minutes, without even needing a word from me. As it goes, she really enjoyed the conversation and my efforts to nod my head in the most Spanish way possible. She ended the conversation with something about the “culo del mundo”, and a rather maniacal laugh. I think she either complimented the looks of my behind (in which case, gracias lady), or talked about hers, or got somewhat political in her rant – who knows, guess I will never really find out.

Elche is, as told to us from our friends (our hosts), the city with the biggest concentration of palm trees in the world. Im not gonna fact check that, because it sure feels like it, and I didn’t even know that things like palm forests/ palm groves exist. You should really visit the Parc Municipal, which is outstanding. It is a little Oasis in the middle of the city, where you can seek some refreshment in the palm shades and the water dispensaries in the park.

The food is also great. Some of the most known dishes in the world (for example Paella) come from this region (in and around Valencia), so you know they have a long culinary tradition to show. The paella naturally is a must try, but my favourites were the caña y tapas, which usually cost around 2,5€. The caña part is nothing else than an ice-cold, mostly local beer in a little glass (0,2l), and the tapas part is self-exploratory. The twist is that you can’t choose the tapas you will get, so it is a surprise everytime.

Considering the beaches, we visited 3 different ones. The one I found nice was the Cala Racó del Conill, a beautiful nudist beach, which I would really recommend. I don’t know how the nudist community feels about non-nudists at their beaches, but we were clothed and nobody seemed offended or bothered by it. It was also the only beach where we could really swim, so if you are there, and you are not bothered by naked bodies, it is worth a visit.

Racó de Conill
The Platja Racó del Conill

We also visited Alicante, a rather popular touristic place, with a lot of Food-Chains (It is the first European Taco-Bell I ate at), Restaurants where the servers try to lure you in and a beautiful stone-paved plaza. If you go west on the plaza, you will eventually bump into the Platja del Postiguet, a rather long sand beach. It is unique, because you have a two-way view: in front of you you will find the sea, and if you turn around, you will see the Castell de la Santa Barbara, a Castle dating back to the 9th century.

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Sometimes you’ll hear a lot of people (for example most of my work colleagues) saying that these short trips are more stressful than useful because, as they argue, you have to prepare for them, plan everything beforehand and find some time in-between to relax. This is may be true, but even then just to some degree – for us, travelling somewhere doesn’t need to be relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condemn you for always wanting a chill long summer vacation somewhere, but I think just changing the setting a little bit gives you head that long awaited change, which you oh so longed for while sitting in your office, with the same boring task you have to work on for the past 5 hours. And while maybe I won’t be as relaxed as someone who stayed at home, I would argue that the experience is more worth it to me.

The Culinary Exploration of Lisbon (Part III)

Long time, no see. It has a couple of reasons: we moved and just had a lot on our minds, but in the end, as always, the most obvious reason is pure laziness. And we were feeling a little bit guilty about not doing something that was pretty fun for both of us, so here I am trying to sparkle up an old (almost) habit by finishing the first series we tried writing.

We visited Lisbon a little more than a year ago, but as creepy as Google Maps can be, in combination with pictures and our memories, it helps you with reminiscing about things and places you visited. I’m gonna write about three things: The Time Out Food Market Lisboa, Wine Not? and our supermarket experiences in and around Lisbon.

The Time Out Group originally started with a one-sheet pamphlet with listings for London and eventually expanded into Time Out Food Markets in 2014 with the Time Out Mercado da Riberia in Lisbon. Since then, it is a tourist attraction (in 2018 3.9 million visitors ate at the market!), which you can find located directly opposite of the Cais do Sodré Metro Station (and also a station for the westbound trains towards Belém and Cascais).

If you think you will grab a peaceful lunch there, you can forget about it – it’s heavily crowded (but hey, it’s a market – it should be crowded), and you will have to search for a place to sit (a lot of tourists also put their bags onto the chairs in the dining area and take up double the space they need). So bring patience and a little more money on you: firstly you have the possibility to choose between 40 different food and drink stands and the prices are a little bit higher than on a traditional market.

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I find the prices justified as you eat on a market where everything was chosen, tasted and tested to have the flavors of Lisbon under one roof. The only thing that bugged me was the lack of sitting possibilities. I ate some fresh grilled sardines on toast served with salad and olive oil, and it was amazing. I considered sardines as these tiny fishes that naturally occur in cans, are bathed in oil and always taste as a lack of motivation to cook something else. Boy was I wrong.

Toasted Sardines
The toasted sardines are prepared in front of you

D. had some prawns and rice, and she wasn’t really blown away as the rice was really dry and the prawns sauce could not compensate for that.  Her favourite was the Jamón Ibérico which comes served stuffed in a fig. Simplicity is the motto here. Paired with the local beer (Super Bock) and a cocktail for D. we had a pretty good lunch which I would recommend.

Drinks
The local beer and a tasty cocktail

We didn’t really have luck when it comes to the weather – it was pretty cold and windy and it was raining every second day. One such day was the 14. March and, of course, we didn’t have an umbrella with us. We tried to find a shelter to hide from the rain (it was pouring like out of buckets), in some of the nearby restaurants/bars, and we stumbled upon the tapas bar “Wine Not?“. Its located near the Baixa-Chiado Metro Station (3 Minutes by foot) and you have a lot of touristic attractions nearby (Elevador de Santa Justa, Rua Augusta, Praça do Comércio), so its a pretty accessible place to grab lunch at (or drink a glass of wine – they have a neat wine card if I remember correctly).

We were surprised by the interior, because the bar is designed more as a restaurant than a tapas bar (they had a really good-looking chandelier made out of empty wine bottles, I can remember wanting to make it myself). We were also only surrounded by locals grabbing something to eat on their lunch break, so I was really excited to eat there, as  these two combined usually guarantee a good eating experience. The prices are cheap to moderate, and everyone should find something to eat on the menu.

Prawns in Lemon Sauce

The best thing about Wine Not? was the service and a brave kitchen that tries to dish out new ideas instead of clinging to the classics. The waiter we got was really friendly and spoke amazing English. I was also a little taken aback how patiently he described everything to us (and how much information he had about the food), which told me two things: firstly, they are really proud of what they do and put a lot of detail in running the restaurant, and secondly, they don’t cater towards tourists as it is a bit more of a chill, laid-back atmosphere where you can sit a couple of hours and just take your time.

I had some puff pastry filled with goat cheese and drizzled in honey, which tasted great, while D. had some weird looking twist on the classic caprese salad. Whilst I didn’t really like the presentation (you get the whole mozzarella stuffed in a peeled tomato and all that is laying in a basil sauce) it was ok to eat, and I found it interesting.

We liked the place, so we decided we’ll stay there and just enjoy the moment. I mean the whole goal of a vacation is to feel good, and we were already feeling there, so why ruin the moment? We ordered another round of drinks (I was drinking beer, D. was drinking Sangria out of a pitcher) and I had some pimientos de padrón and D. ordered some prawns in olive-garlic-lemon sauce. Also amazing. The whole time the waiter was really friendly and came to check up on us every 20-30 Minutes. We left Wine Not? a little bit tipsy but really happy, and the next time were in Lisbon we are 100% going to visit this place again.

I’m gonna wrap up the series on a really egoistic note – I am going to describe my experiences cooking in Portugal (as said a year ago, we booked a flat over. Airbnb, so we had a kitchen we could use). But not from the standpoint of recipes and techniques, but more so out of the perspective of buying groceries. Everybody that travels somewhere and is interested in the local cuisine and their food should jump in some local supermarket and obviously the farmers markets – that’s the places where you get the authentic tastes of the culture. And Lisbon has two tastes that stayed with me: plain white toast bread and fish. As already described white toast with cheese and ham is a staple in the Portuguese breakfast routine, but it is wild how much they like it.

Living in Germany for a couple of Years now you get used to their bread. I don’t really like the German cuisine, but they know their way around bread (and sausages!). And getting to Portugal where you get these huge slices of toast bread (like really huge, you eat two of them baddies and you are good until the noon) was something I had to get used to. But it wasn’t really hard. I forgot how tasty some fresh, hot toast can be when you spread a little salted butter over it. Add some cheese and thinly sliced ham and you have the perfect snack (also pretty anachronistic, you can eat it for breakfast, as a snack or after a heavy drinking night – it tastes delicious anyway) which is easy to prepare.

And fish – You will find it everywhere. Frozen, fresh, processed, in all sizes and shapes – almost every grocery store has produce right out of the sea. And the most shocking thing for me was that it is considerably Cheaper there. When you think about it, you don’t get to pay for the transportation costs and all that stuff that happens on the way, so you get the best, freshest products for much less. Amazing!

The day we spent at Cascais we were getting back to our accommodation pretty late, and we were exhausted because of all the walking and the sea air (you know the feeling of exhaustion that you get after a long day at the sea or in the mountains?), so we decided not to go out that night. While waiting for a train we walked into the Hypermarket Jumbo in Cascais and bought some stuff, so I can cook a dinner for us. We fetched some prawns, olives, vegetables and the famous Sandeman wine. The result is shown in the picture!

Home cooked meal
A little snack

P.S. a little note and a contract with myself online:  I killed my commuting time writing this, which helped me distance myself from my job after a day of work and it was really fun, so I am going to do it more often.

Cherry crumble cake 🍒

Hey guys, here goes our second recipe for you – our cherry crumble cake.

Even though I am more a chocolate cake kind of person, I have to admit this cherry cake is definitely worth preparing and eating it! 🙂

The first part of the recipe refers to making the cherry cake and the second part is for making the crumb topping. A Crumb topping is not obligatory, but the cake feels simply unfinished without it, as it adds some crunchiness.

Continue reading Cherry crumble cake 🍒

The Bad Dürkheim fairytale🧚‍♀️

Earlier this year we received a weekend trip getaway voucher as a gift from our friends for this spa town called Bad Dürkheim. To be honest, after searching the Internet I wasnt amused at all. The information you can find online is quite modest and uninteresting.

However, after spending two days there I am sooo glad I had the opportunity to see and enjoy this lovely city. In this city you will see bananas and lemons, everything smells like lavender and lime, and you can even see palm trees everywhere. They call this region Germanys Tuscany. So, lets find out why. 😊

Continue reading The Bad Dürkheim fairytale🧚‍♀️

Breakfast lover(s)

Hey guys, this post is for all you breakfast lovers out there! 😊

I just loove breakfasts and I believe it is the most important meal of the day. Do you know where ´breakfast´ name originates from? Breakfast = breaking the fast! After a long, good night sleep it is your first meal that provides the body and your brain with fuel after an overnight fast. You wouldn´t start a car with no petrol, would you? Then don´t do it to your body even, don´t skip breakfasts! 🙏 Continue reading Breakfast lover(s)