Churros con chocolate

Odd fact about me: once or twice a year, I am struck with a debilitating craving for churros con chocolate. (The same thing happens to me with raw oysters.) I get really picky about it: the churros must be perfectly crisp and the chocolate hot, thick and not too sweet.

When I was living in Singapore, I couldn’t find any churros that passed muster. After enduring this craving for two long years, I finally had the chance to travel to Spain and enjoy them there. I haven’t had much luck with churros in Amsterdam either, so I pounced upon the opportunity to have them on my last day in Granada.

I’m starting to think perfect churros only exist in Spain. Maybe, like Icelandic horses, genuine Spanish churros aren’t allowed to leave the country.

Churros

Expecting graceful little loops of dough, Marlon and I sat down at a churreria on the Plaza Bib-Rambla and ordered two servings with chocolate. Boy, these churros gave me the shock of my life. They were immense. Like two huge bunches of bananas!

They were so big that we started giggling in embarrassment when the plate was served. People actually turned to stare; I’m sure they thought we were complete pigs. And we were. We finished every last one of those churros, because they were perfect: golden, crisp, light and airy.

Don’t even get me started on the hot chocolate.

Churros con chocolate

Goopy, rich, and perfect for dipping—the Spanish sure know how to make hot chocolate. One decadent cupful can almost make one forgive them for centuries of oppression. I kid, I kid.

This ends the week on a sweet note, but be sure to drop by on Sunday for this month’s installment of Let’s Do Brunch. Till then, have a great weekend!

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The Alhambra: Colors and patterns

From yesterday’s post, you would think the Alhambra is all pale stone and gleaming serenity. But in reality, it’s full of two of my favorite things: color and pattern!

The most eye-catching surfaces are tiled with rich colors, and the Nasrid Palaces are full of them.

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Alhambra tiles and leather chair

I’m loving these many-pointed stars; I’ve been obsessed with stars lately and this is an unusual way to do them.

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Color and pattern are everywhere: on the walls, ceiling, floors, doors, windows. I can’t be sure, but it almost seems like no two patterned surfaces are alike.

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Even without much color, the carved surfaces compete for attention. Including inscriptions in praise of Allah, repeated over and over, the level of detail is just mind-boggling.

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To think that these were carved by hand, before there was a way to light spaces sufficiently—more than one master carver must have gone blind creating these works of art.

Alhambra niche carvings

Of course, why do just tiles or patterns when you can combine both?

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I mean, if you have an empire, more is certainly more.

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And heck, if that that’s not enough, just throw in a few kickass doors with an awesome nail-head pattern. Just because you can.

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Graceful serenity on the one hand, an explosion of color and pattern on the other. Can you see why the Alhambra is one of my favorite places in the whole world?

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Granada: The Alhambra

Alhambra is one of those magical places that never fade. Built as a defensive bastion in the 10th century, then transformed into a palace by both the Moors and their conquerors, the Catholic monarchs of Spain, al-Qalʻat al-Ḥamrāʼ , the red fortress, has truly lived up to its name. Standing proud throughout history, unbowed by time, and defying all forgetting, it is one of my favorite places in all the world.

I first visited the Alhambra in 2006 and have been unable to forget it since. That’s why I insisted that Marlon and I make the uphill trek (okay, I might have forgotten about that part) to see it despite forbidding dark clouds…

Granada view from Generalife

and later, despite pouring rain. But even the elements couldn’t diminish the Alhambra for me.

Patio de los Leones Alhambra rain

The dark gloom of storm clouds, the clatter of raindrops dripping off tiled roofs, the slick shine of water on marble floors, even the weak light of a rainy day may not be ideal for sight-seeing. But for memory-making, these imperfections are the catalyst that make a place come alive… and somehow, your own.

So you take it all in, damp scarf, cold hands, foggy camera lens and all, and vow to remember.

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Granada: Carrera del Darro

Right on the doorstep of our hotel in the Albayzin, a UNESCO World Heritage district with a medieval Moorish past, was the Carrera del Darro—a narrow, scenic path that runs along the Rio del Darro.

Granada Rio del Darro

Lined with centuries-old buildings, punctuated by picturesque stone bridges and paved with cobblestones, the Carrera del Darro is a lovely place for a stroll—especially in that magic hour before sunset, when the sun bathes everything with a sheer golden coat. As you can see, quite a few people seem to agree.

Granada Carrera del Darro

Remember this dress from my first trimester? Something about the colors and print just made it seem like something I should wear in Spain. Thankfully, it still fits and the peplum falls right over the bump.

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So, come walk along the Carrera del Darro with me! And let’s see what we can find along the way.

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People-watching in Granada

For me, the best trips have the luxury of time: time to do nothing and soak up everything. In Granada, I could have gone to a museum or visited the Capilla Real to see the tombs of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella (and Juana and Philip—yes, the one they named the Philippines after). Instead I chose to just sit down, walk around and watch people.

Oh, and photograph them, of course… with my new 60mm lens! Every shot is a small victory in my war against shyness; maybe one day I’ll actually be bold enough to ask someone if I can take their photo. For now, I stand from a distance, fascinated by people and charmed by the many surprises of daily life elsewhere…

… such as a retro-cool jazz ensemble singing dixie and swing hits from the 1920s and 30s, right in the middle of Plaza Bib-Rambla. Listening to them felt like being in an episode of Boardwalk Empire. 

Granada jazz ensemble

So much fun, and so stylish too!

Granada jazz singers

In the streets of the Albayzin: the Hogwarts Rondalla.

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I kid, I kid. I don’t know what else to call a band of merry old men in long black capes, playing the guitar and singing with such gusto that they attracted an impromptu street party around them, with lots of laughing, dancing…

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… even advertising. This enterprising fellow was waving his signboard in time to the music, hoping to draw the street party into his bar. Funny.

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Some of my favorite subjects, after the jump…

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