Where to Find the Best Food Around Uruguay

Best Food in Uruguay

More great tips from Kate of We Travel We Eat!

Uruguay. It’s understated, underrated, and completely under the radar, at least for those outside of South America. Uruguay is a total hidden gem, a country both simplistic and passionate at the same time. The land is one of wide beaches, green valleys, and thinly scattered palm trees. The food is colorful, creative and rich with fervor and flavor.

I love Uruguay. I would go every year if I could.  

When I first visited five years ago, I fell for it almost instantaneously. Going back again, in a different phase of life but still as a person who looks for the same characteristics at the root of my travel, I wondered if I would be met with a feeling of inflated memory and potentially, disappointment.  

What I found instead was a consistency in Uruguay’s offerings just as I had remembered, as well as a still steady feeling of excitement when there. In 2012 I went only to one area, Jose Ignacio. This time around I embarked on more of a road trip, setting out to see more, and to go deeper.  

Here are a few of the can’t-miss food places in Uruguay!

Perla in Uruguay

– Perla –

Cabo Polonia is a protected national park with limited electricity, less than 50 full time inhabitants, and no cars. What it does have are breathtaking sand dunes, beaches that stretch for miles, and an epic restaurant called Perla. After a two hour ride on horseback spanning nearly the entire length of Cabo, lunch was up next.

My guide Mauro, a young born and bred Uruguayan informed me that some locals call Perla the best restaurant in the country.  

Intrigued, I took my seat steps away from the sand at the open air facade, and quickly learned that the caliber of Perla matched that of a top restaurant in New York City. An amuse-bouche of gazpacho was first, followed by mixed seafood ceviche and a full piece of fish places on top of a swirl of capers, olive oil, pesto, thinly sliced zucchini and baba ghanoush.

Somehow still it all felt easy and completely unpretentious, exactly as it should.

– Fasano Hotel –

A ridiculously extravagant hotel high in the hills of Punte del Este, Fasano Hotel was an amazing place for a welcome lunch after a redeye flight into Montevideo. The property is massive, taking advantage of the natural beauty of the land and building right into it.

The style is modern architecture takes on meticulously curated ranch, a thematic found in many places across the country. Indulge in the BBQ from the grills being worked by staff alongside the pool, or go for the octopus carpaccio and caprese salad.  

Garzon Food

– Restaurante Garzon –

I have a running tally of the best restaurants around the world that I have so far been lucky enough to have eaten at. Restaurante Garzon, by famed Patagonian chef Francis Mallman, is now on that list.  At the heart of Hotel Garzon, in the incredibly small and equally charming town with the same name, lies a place with immense beauty displayed through all of its details.

The color scheme is largely green, black and yellow.  There are trees and leaves and plants everywhere, and dozens of lemons on all tables.  A rectangular pool resides in the center things, casting a deep color to compliment the surroundings.  It looks like a painting.  

The food comes in welcomed waves, a well stocked complimentary tray of four types of bread, olives, babaganoush and chili almonds out first.

Appetizers are an octopus crudo adorned with lavender petals and dots of basil, a beet and goat cheese salad, and a zucchini, lemon, parmesan and peanut salad that goes to the top of another list I keep similarly titled Best Dishes Around the World.

A quick break ensues followed by eggplant and pappardelle pasta with piles of parmesan so soft it melts in the mouth.  

Dessert was a decadent and unforgettable heaping pile of chocolate!

The food in Jose Ignacio is centered widely around a few key dishes; grilled octopus, ceviche, some sort of seafood pasta, a whole fish of the day, and a dulce de leche centric dessert.  Zucchini and sweet potato are often in the rotation in some way, too.

 These three places really hit that mark here!

 

La Huella Food

– La Huella –

La Huella is why I loved Jose Ignacio almost instantly five years ago. Back then, as an excited 30 year old at the beginning of a journey around the world, this restaurant hit me hard and swallowed me whole. It was one of those traveling moments that you never forget.  

The second time around, the same pretty much held true. I’ve now since had dozens of additional experiences and knock the wind out of me moments, but La Huella did hold steady and continue to impress, so much so that we ate here twice for dinner, and once again for lunch.

La Huella produced probably the best, and the largest, of the pulpo piece of puzzle.  

The pastas too were impressive, especially coming from a country you might not necessarily associate with this sort of food.  Pasta number one was unique, an orrochetie mixed with charred salmon pieces, zucchini, chili flakes and breadcrumbs.  The other was a spaghetti in a tomato based sauce, with shrimp, mussels, spinach and again, zucchini.  

– La Oleda –

La Oleda was another restaurant I had gone to originally, but I’m not sure I appreciated the specialness of it back then. It’s completely small and simple, but has the structure, the charm and the food that make it memorable.  

La Oleda is open air, sectioned into two parts; half inside under a thatched roof, and a bar on one side. The other half is completely outside, centered alongside a burning fire pit and underneath rows of drooped edison lights. If you want a quieter, yet still absolutely lovely night, this is your spot.

La Susana Food

– La Susana –

The beach is my happy place.  Put me on it and I am effortlessly content.  Put me in a restaurant with excellent food built right on said beach, and I’m done.  

La Susana is the beachclub cum restaurant located on the side of the spectacular Bahia Vik hotel, where I was lucky enough to stay while in Jose Ignacio.  There are dozens of tables, over half of which are sprawling out onto the sand itself.  

The menu is lunchtime only, but if you’re there at the right time of the year, the party is known to roll well into the night.

READ NEXT: 10 Incredible Adventures to Have in South America

 

Where to Find the Best Food Around Uruguay is a post from: The Blonde Abroad

Updates on Giving Back (and an Ask for Help!!)


Today I want to talk about FLYTE, this website’s nonprofit arm.

Over the last few months, I haven’t kept everyone as up to date about the organization as I would like. I apologize for that and promise that, starting today, that will change.

Though quiet, we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, improving our website and strategy, and creating new partnerships so that FLYTE becomes a more integral part of this website and community.

First, as a refresher, what is FLYTE?

The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE) provides logistical, planning, and financial support to high schools and teachers who want to take their students overseas to give them a real-world context for what they are learning in school — think visiting the D-Day beaches in France or learning about sustainable development in a rainforest in Costa Rica. I started it in 2015 because I believe not enough kids get the chance to travel, see the world, experience other cultures, and realize the practical side to their education!

While many wealthy school districts send students on overseas educational trips, schools and teachers in underserved areas have little or no opportunity to offer their students this experience. Their schools and communities lack the resources to make such a trip happen. I wanted to create an organization that helps people in forgotten parts of the country, because everyone deserves a chance to see and learn about the world!

Thanks to you, FLYTE has raised over $88,000 USD. Last year, we sent a group of students from Atlanta to Mexico and another group from Washington, DC, to Cuba (and we’re preparing for a third trip in June). These students had an amazing time and the trips had a profound impact on them. Here’s what a couple of the students said about their experience:

“This trip means so much to me because having the opportunity to travel outside of the country and my community (an opportunity a lot of peers don’t get to have) is amazing and it really helped open my eyes and see that there is so much more outside of Atlanta.” – Nokio, BEST Academy student

“I would’ve never thought I would have gotten out of my city, where people hurt and do bad things to one another. It makes me want to travel and learn the history of every country in the world!” –Tija, junior at Anacostia High School

So, today, I want to talk about a few other changes with FLYTE:

First, we’ve created a volunteer section on the FLYTE website.
Now we’ve created a space where volunteers can help grow the organization with us. I love the passion this community has for FLYTE and I want to better channel that into action. You can visit this page to see our current volunteer needs.

Second, we’re looking for interns. We need help. We’ve tried to do it all alone, but we need some help growing FLYTE. If you live in the NYC area and are fluent in social media, we’d love to have you! We’re a licensed 501(c)(3) and you can get an internship that counts for college credit. You’ll work in my office in NYC with my executive director and the rest of the Nomadic Matt team. You can apply here!

Third, this website now has a dedicated FLYTE page where you can see all the updates and information about the program, school trips, and anything else FLYTE related. Moving forward, FLYTE is going to become a more integral part of this website. Let’s work together as community to show more kids the world (especially in today’s environment where people want to close borders rather than open them)! This page is a work in progress and we’ll be expanding it over the next few weeks!

Fourth, we’re starting weekly emails to donors that will update them on the school, kids, organization, and everything in between. This is something that should have happened a long time ago, and I just never got my act together. My executive director and I are now making it a priority to send out weekly emails to you, so that you will always know what is going on in the organization and the kids, and how your donation is being used.

Fifth, we’ve moved to a new donation platform that will allow us to host donations right on our website (no more going to another website), reduce fees, and accept recurring donations. This new system will ensure that it’s easier to donate and that there are fewer fees when you do! It will be live by tomorrow!



Finally, I need your help again.
We’re sending a group of students from Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, NY, to Quito, Ecuador in June! The students will volunteer at Casa Victoria, a grassroots community betterment program located in a struggling section of Quito, and work with local students in an after-school program. Not only will they get to experience another culture, country, and continent but they will also give back while there.

Please help us finish raising money for the students at Excelsior. We’re a little over $20,000 from our goal. I’ll be matching donations up to $10,000, which means that if the community can donate at least that much, we’ll hit our goal and send the kids on their way (any extra money raised will go to future trips)! For most of these students, this will be their first time out of the country so this is a chance to really make an added difference!

Newburgh, once a thriving manufacturing center on the Hudson River, has faced deindustrialization and failed urban renewal attempts that have left the town struggling both financially and socially. Complicating the matter, the Newburgh school district is located in what the FBI has repeatedly named one of the ten most dangerous cities per capita in the United States.

As Excelsior teacher Christine McCartney says, “At Excelsior Academy, we strive to create global citizens who recognize their power to enact change at both the local and global level.”

Here are the students talking about why this is so important to them — and what this trip means to them:

Donations can be made via our Crowdrise page (minimum $10) or via the widget below. Those who donate more than $10 will get some awesome swag:

$50 – For donations of at least this amount, I’m offering my e-books How to Teach English Overseas and The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking, and my guides to NYC, Paris, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

$100 – For donations of at least this amount, you will get the e-books and city guides PLUS a signed copy of the print book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and a FLYTE t-shirt (US shipping only).

$250 – For donations of at least this amount, you will get all of the above PLUS an hour of travel planning with me, a souvenir from Ecuador, and a thank you card from the students!

Excelsior Academy Goes Global on Crowdrise

If everyone donated just $10, we could fund the entire trip – and many more like it – right away. The more we raise, the more we can help these students and others like them.

Ten bucks isn’t a lot — it’s one less Chipotle meal, a couple of beers, one Old Fashioned, one Uber ride. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things.

If you can’t donate, you can also help by sharing this campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and by emailing your friends, family, cousins, pen pals, coworkers – anyone – and letting them know about this. Help us spread the word about this cause so we can change as many lives as possible. The more people know about this, the better!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your past, present, and future support of this program!

P.S. – Here’s a super awesome and shareable Adobe Spark page that has all the essential information you want to know about FLYTE! You can share this page with your friends, family, and on social media! Please help up spread the word!

P.P.S. – If you’re in the NYC area, I’ll be hosting a meet-up next Thursday at Solar at 7pm. Come down, have fun, meet other travelers, and let’s toast the world!

The post Updates on Giving Back (and an Ask for Help!!) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

#JollibeeSummerTreats Now Available! Beat the Summer Heat with These Unbeatable Desserts

Out of Town Blog
#JollibeeSummerTreats Now Available! Beat the Summer Heat with These Unbeatable Desserts

#JollibeeSummerTreats Now Available! Beat the Summer Heat with These Unbeatable Desserts

The bad news is that summer 2017 is set to be one of the hottest in history. The good news – #JollibeeSummerTreats are now available to help you cool down even as you enjoy all the sweat-tastic activities summer has to offer.

The #JollibeeSummerTreats are here!
The #JollibeeSummerTreats are here!

The country’s number one fast food brand, Jollibee rolls out the big guns starting April 24, 2017 with their summer treats. Get ready for two cool additions to the menu: the Halo Halo Sundae and the Blueberry Float.

These two additions join the ranks of the classic Coke Float and the recently introduced Salted Caramel Choco Sundae.

Halo-Halo Sundae – Purely Pinoy

Halo-halo is a uniquely Filipino summer treat adapted and refined by Jollibee to make it even better for the Pinoy taste buds. Everyone’s favorite vanilla soft-serve is topped with much-loved halo-halo ingredients for a sweet, creamy, and fulfilling flavor. No need to sweat your arms out crushing the ice as the Halo-Halo Sundae is made available all the time for just Php39.

Jollibee Halo-Halo Sundae
Jollibee Halo-Halo Sundae

Exotic Blueberry

Now, if you’re looking for something a little different from the typical Pinoy flavors, you can always check out the brand new Blueberry Float. It’s a unique combination of favorite fizzy drink Sprite combined with blueberry syrup and the classic soft-serve vanilla ice cream on top. Offering a mouthwatering combination of creamy vanilla and a quenching drink at every sip, the Blueberry Float may be bought as is for Php29 or have your regular coke upgraded to this brand new dessert.

Jollibee Blueberry Float
Jollibee Blueberry Float

Revisit the Classics

If you’re a lover of the classics, however, you can always choose to order the ice cold Coke Float or perhaps revisit the recently new Salted Caramel Choco Sundae. Coke Float comes with a classic drizzle of everyone’s favorite chocolate syrup. On the other hand, the Salted Caramel Choco Sundae offers up a scintillating combination of sweet and salty on top of soft-served vanilla. Both are available a la carte for Php29 or you can just add Php20 to your Value Meal for a satisfying upgrade.

Note though that prices may vary depending on which Jollibee branch you’re buying from. What’s sure, however, is that no matter what branch you’re getting your dessert fix, you can be sure that ALL these #JollibeeSummerTreats will be available to satisfy your cravings.

Jollibee Summer Treats - Unbeatable Desserts
Jollibee Summer Treats – Unbeatable Desserts

As Jollibee Marketing Manager Kay Segismundo says, “with Jollibee’s’ latest dessert line-up, we’re sure that there’s a flavour experience to satisfy every craving.”

#JollibeeSummerTreats Now Available! Beat the Summer Heat with These Unbeatable Desserts
Melo Villareal

Zero Halliburton opens its first store in the Philippines

Out of Town Blog
Zero Halliburton opens its first store in the Philippines

Zero Halliburton opens its first store in the Philippines

S Maison at Conrad Manila welcomes the only luggage brand in the world to have landed on the moon.

Zero Halliburton Philippines Store
Zero Halliburton Philippines Store

After having had the honor of flying to the moon and back, you can’t find fault with this brand’s quality. Backed up by 80 years worth of fine-tuned engineering and design, This luggage brand not only maintains an excellent reputation for classic beauty but is also praised for its space-proof durability.

NASA’s Choice Launches in the Philippines

Chosen by no less than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a Zero Halliburton luggage was picked for the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar mission. It was given the all-important task of carrying stored rock and soil samples collected from the moon. True to its excellent quality, all moon samples came back to Earth whole and beautifully preserved for scientists to study.

Zero Halliburton Manila
Zero Halliburton Manila

In its Philippines’ launch, Zero Halliburton brings out the same iconic aluminium briefcase for the Philippine public. Together with this legendary briefcase, the brand introduces a lightweight aluminium and polycarbonate luggage, perfect for those who want to travel light without worrying about their valuables getting lost in the process. Accordingly, the brand will also be launching a Greenwich Collection which is a line of lightweight cordura nylon luggage. Responding to the security needs of the travelling public, all bags from the Greenwich Collection come with built-in smart features and a padded design.

Staying True to the Original Goals, With a Twist

It’s not really surprising why this brand holds a well-earned reputation for durability. From the start, the luggage was designed with safety and security in mind as it was created by oil field engineer, Erle Halliburton. His design was specifically made to withstand gruelling travel as he pursues his profession in the unforgiving Texas weather. The durable luggage was built to protect not just his personal belongings but also essential equipment needed for the collection and safekeeping of samples collected in the rough.

Zero Halliburton Luggage
Zero Halliburton Luggage

Soon after, the aluminium design became commercially available as manufacturers saw the impressive possibilities of the brand. Earning a glowing reputation in various places like California and Europe, the brand slowly took over Asia and now sets up one of its branches in the teeming capital of the Philippines.

Today however, Zero Halliburton is more than just a durable aluminium choice for luggage safety. Combining the top-notch quality of a seamless cast and unbeatable protection, the brand is now a favorite for many travelers, whether for leisure or business.

“We are excited to bring over the classic and reinvented designs of Zero Halliburton. Our premium line of luggage provides unequalled protection for travellers’ valuables across the world. Now, we get to share these fine pieces with Filipinos…” says Zero Halliburton Chairman, Mr. Hiroaki Morishita.

Adding Style in the Mix

With a wider range of clients now contemplated by the brand, Zero Halliburton now offers more than just a basic aluminium design. Luggage products now include different sizes, design, materials, and features – all while still maintaining the undisputed quality of the product. Veering from the typical luggage, Zero Halliburton extended their line to backpacks, business bags, duffel bags, and pilot cases. Perhaps one of the most recognized luggage brands in the market today, Zero Halliburton is backed up by some of the most proficient travelers in the world including Brazilian football star Ronaldinho, who is currently the brand endorser.

Zero Halliburton Shop Manila
Zero Halliburton Shop Manila

Exquisite in its sophistication combined with a quality that’s tough to refute, Zero Halliburton happily makes itself available to Filipinos this year. Check out its official boutique at S Maison, Conrad Manila near the corner of Coral Way Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City.

Zero Halliburton opens its first store in the Philippines
Melo Villareal

Young Foodies Fire Up the Stage for Zamboanga’s Savores 2017

Out of Town Blog
Young Foodies Fire Up the Stage for Zamboanga’s Savores 2017

Young Foodies Fire Up the Stage for Savores 2017

For two years now, Paseo del Mar bears witness to a thriving food culture as some of Zamboanga’s most adventurous young foodies take the stage in introducing brand new flavors for the public. In this year’s Savores 2017, the Gastronomic Event grabbed the attention of thousands as the young chefs introduced a unique mix of Malay, Chinese, and Spanish in their food offerings.

DOT Region IX Director Antonio Fernando Blanco (middle) led the opening ceremony of Savores 2017 last Saturday at Paseo del Mar in Zamboanga City
DOT Region IX Director Antonio Fernando Blanco (middle) led the opening ceremony of Savores 2017 last Saturday at Paseo del Mar in Zamboanga City

New Generation Trendsetters

Even as the event gives due acknowledge to the old generation restaurateurs, one can’t help but pay close attention to the offerings laid out by the new generation.

Jomari Alfaro of Zamboanga’s Alavar Restaurant
Jomari Alfaro of Zamboanga’s Alavar Restaurant

Starting the line up is one Jomari Alfaro from the well-known Alavar in Zamboanga City. At just 21 years old, this young foodie firmly cemented his position in Savores 2017 by presenting old favorites with a twist. Some of the dishes presented hailed from age-old family secrets including sumptuous sauces with curacha and mangrove clams with garlic sauce.

Bay tal mal, one of Zamboanga's Halal restaurants, serving Moro cuisines like tiyulah itum, piyassak, beef kulma, chicken piyanggang
Bay tal mal, one of Zamboanga’s Halal restaurants, serving Moro cuisines like tiyulah itum, piyassak, beef kulma, chicken piyanggang

There’s also Rob Patania who was trained in US and raises the flag for local names such as Tribeca Modern Kitchen and Bar and Fellini Pizza. His background in one of the most food-forward countries in the world guarantees the introduction of new flavors to tease the palate of the gastronomically adventurous Pinoy. Since this is their first time taking part in Savores, Patania hopes to make an impact in this year’s celebration as well as participate for more of the same in the coming years.

Seafood skewers by Evan Fernando of South Avenue Grill are always first to get sold out every year
Seafood skewers by Evan Fernando of South Avenue Grill are always first to get sold out every year

Topping up the list is Martin Go from Chinito’s Asian Kitchen. A graduate of Sports Science, the young restaurateur undoubtedly has several ideas on how to move forward when it comes to the Zamboanga food culture.

Food, Youth, and Travel

The close attention to food given to this year’s celebration is more than just acknowledging Zamboanga’s enduring romance with everything edible. According to DOT Region IX Director Antonio Fernando Blanco, the evolving foodscape is bound to invite people in the province as it adds to the multitude of attractions Zamboanga has to offer.

One of Alavar's best sellers, imbao (mangrove clams) in their signature garlic sauce
One of Alavar’s best sellers, imbao (mangrove clams) in their signature garlic sauce

In any place you go, people will always look for the best distinct local flavor to taste. And when people start talking about your food that is the time they will start coming in and visiting your place,” he adds.

Fried curacha has always been a hit each year
Fried curacha has always been a hit each year

The tourism chief is of the strong opinion that the innovative dishes doled out by these new blood of culinary entrepreneurs will offer an additional boost to the province while at the same time enforcing their connections to home, family, and friends.

A Unique Slice of a Unique Archipelago

Food frenzy at the Savores 2017 in Zamboanga City
Food frenzy at the Savores 2017 in Zamboanga City

Philippines are unique in itself when it comes to food. An archipelago of more than 7000 islands, tourists will find that one province is unlike any other when it comes to food preferences. In Savores, Zamboanga takes that all-important step towards further cementing the uniqueness of their culture from the rest of the country, creating a food experience that is undeniably their own. While Savors 2017 may be over, many restaurants in Zamboanga no doubt will be serving their brand new culinary discoveries until the next Savores Event comes along.

Also Read:

Young Foodies Fire Up the Stage for Zamboanga’s Savores 2017
Melo Villareal

Dinner in Madrid: Paella at La Barraca Restaurant

Out of Town Blog
Dinner in Madrid: Paella at La Barraca Restaurant

La Barraca: Dining in the Best Paella Restaurant in Madrid

Madrid is a place that has an alluring combination of old and new. When in the city, one would be able to see an old-fashioned book store in one corner and another fancy-looking café in the other, but it wouldn’t look strange at all. Aside from its sights, however, the food of Madrid also has an amazing combination of all sorts, and I was able to personally appreciate these dishes.

La Barraca Restaurant
La Barraca Restaurant

After having a long and interesting walking tour of the Spanish capital, we returned to our hotel for an hour’s worth of rest. We had a reservation at a place called La Barraca Restaurant. I read online that it is one of the most famous paella restaurants in Madrid.

La Barraca Restaurant
La Barraca Restaurant

It was exactly 8 in the evening when we left our hotel, and I can’t believe the sun is still up! It’s not something I see back at home, so it was amazing and surprising at the same time.

Our dining table at Restaurante La Barraca
Our dining table at Restaurante La Barraca

We reached the restaurant in less than five minutes or so. The restaurant had a large “Restaurante La Barraca” sign that greeted us. Since the place was founded in 1935, I imagined that the same old-fashioned sign had greeted generation after generation of paella-craving diners.

When we entered the building, the receptionist immediately welcomed us and guided us to our reserved table. It was a rather busy place, and I was glad that we had a reservation. The restaurant was elegantly lit, and the atmosphere of the place was very inviting. There are other dining areas aside from the one where our table was located. The interiors were decorated in a very local and traditional way.

We ordered from the restaurant’s menu after settling in. While the menu featured several Spanish seafood dishes, I had my eye on their list of paella varieties. After all, the place was renowned for serving the best of the sort. I wanted to personally sample the paella.

Mariniere of the House Paella
Mariniere of the House Paella photo by Mark Angelo Acosta

There were more than 10 different types of rice dishes in the menu. One can choose from mild, strong, seafood, vegetables, and varying consistencies.

While we waited for our meal to be served, we met a group of Filipina flight attendants of Saudia, or the Saudi Arabian Airlines. We got into a brief conversation and they told us that they decided to dine in La Barraca Restaurant because it had positive reviews online.

Freshly Baked Bread
Freshly Baked Bread

After a while, our table was served freshly baked bread for starters. They don’t serve butter so I asked for olive oil instead. My request was granted immediately.

Sangria
Sangria

Our drinks came in afterwards. We ordered sparkling water, still water, and the restaurant’s special Sangria. I thought the Sangria was mild because it tasted like normal grape juice, but I felt its potency after I finished my first glass.

Desgarrat with olive oil red peppers with flakes of Cod Fish
Desgarrat with olive oil red peppers with flakes of Cod Fish

For our appetizer, we were served Desgarrat, a salad with red peppers, olive oil, pimiento, and stripped cod fish.

Mariniere of the House Paella
Mariniere of the House Paella

For our main course for the night, we ordered the restaurant’s signature dish, the Mariniere of the House Paella. The seafood paella featured clam, king prawns, a giant red prawn, squid, mussels, and tender grouper. La Barraca has been voted for having the best paella in town, and I finally understood why. The plate was very satiating, and the flavors of the topped seafood complemented each other. The rice consistency was just perfect, and the burnt-to-taste crisps added texture to the dish.

We were served Prawns Orly for side dish. It was a Spanish version of shrimp tempura, and although it is not as crispy as the usual tempura, the batter was very tasty. It is very similar to our own Camaron rebosado.

Prawns Orly
Prawns Orly

Crema Catalana and Sorbete de Limon were on our plates for dessert. The Crema Catalana was served in a small ceramic bowl, and is one of the best crème Brule I’ve ever tasted. There was a perfect balance between the sweetness and the crisp of the burnt sugar on top. The Sorbete de Limon, on the other hand, served as a good dessert to cap off our flavorful, seafood-y meal.

Crema Catalana
Crema Catalana photo by Mark Angelo Acosta
Sorbete de Limon
Sorbete de Limon photo by Mark Angelo Acosta

After finishing our meals and resting for a while, we left the restaurant happy and satiated. We had a wonderful evening. The food was superb, and the atmosphere of the restaurant was perfect for the occasion. It was rather busy when we arrived but the staff were all very courteous and responsive to our needs. If you haven’t tried out paella yet, La Barraca Restaurant is the best place to have it in Madrid. Make sure to get a table reserved because the best paella restaurant in town is mostly always busy. On average, a main course meal will cost 16 euros. A 3-course meal, on the other hand, will cost around 37 euros.

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This Spain Street Photography and Food Tour was made possible by Spain Tourism Board, Turkish Airlines, Madrid Tourism, Visit Barcelona, La Rioja Tourism, Donostia San Sebastian Tourism and Convention Bureau and Turismo Bilbao.

La Barraca Restaurant
Address: Calle Reina 29, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Telephone: 915 327 154
Metro: Gran Vía
Official site in English: http://www.labarraca.es/?lang=en
Click here to make a reservation online.
Opening hours:
13:30 – 16:15
20:00 – 23:45

Dinner in Madrid: Paella at La Barraca Restaurant
Melo Villareal

Camino de Santiago Day 8: Astorga to Ponferrada, Spain

Out of Town Blog
Camino de Santiago Day 8: Astorga to Ponferrada, Spain

Camino de Santiago Day 8: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Day 8: Astorga to Ponferrada, 65 kms.

Previous Posts:

I left Astorga at first light. The road started to ascend at the outskirts of town and though it was well-paved, it got steeper and harder as the kilometers wore on. In the few and far-between level stretches, I occasionally stopped to catch my breath. I was passing thru the highest point in the Camino and it was pretty isolated and exposed.

This concrete Camino post marks the start of the ascent through the high mountain pass across the Montes de Leon. Astorga to Ponferrada, Spain
This concrete Camino post marks the start of the ascent through the high mountain pass across the Montes de Leon. Astorga to Ponferrada, Spain

Astorga to Ponferrada, 65 kms.

Signage pointing the way of the Camino at a small town after Astorga.
Signage pointing the way of the Camino at a small town after Astorga.

When I got to Rabanal, 20 kms. away, I was dead tired! I thought of stopping for lunch and resting my legs but rain clouds started to converge on the horizon so I thought it would be better to leave before it opened up. It proved to be a mistake!

This slippery descent down the mountain pass is where Compo and I went careening down under pouring rain.
This slippery descent down the mountain pass is where Compo and I went careening down under pouring rain.

The climb over the Montes de Leon mountain range began in earnest and all signs of habitation disappeared to be replaced by sparse vegetation that grew thicker as the elevation rose higher. It was here in this isolated spot that the rain began in earnest. They were huge drops that later turned into white sheets of water that blocked out everything in sight! Frantically, I looked for shelter but save for the few trees around, there was none except for a rocky outcrop on the side of the steep mountainous slope that was good enough for me to squeeze in but not the bike. I made sure my camera was snug inside its case before hugging the backpack between my chest and legs as I huddled under the plastic poncho which I bought earlier.

I took a breather here to appreciate the view overlooking the town of Molinaseca.
I took a breather here to appreciate the view overlooking the town of Molinaseca.


The picturesque Puente de Peregrinos, an arched stone bridge in Molinaseca.
The picturesque Puente de Peregrinos, an arched stone bridge in Molinaseca.

It took over an hour for the downpour to taper off to a light drizzle but the sky was still an angry, dark mass of grey. I decided to press on, after eating a sandwich and my last Granola bar, passing by the small abandoned village of Rabanal where houses were boarded up which gave me the creeps. I started wondering what to do if I ran into zombies lurking around!

Savored my dinner which started with this tasty sopas.
Savored my dinner which started with this tasty sopas.

At Foncebadon, I could not find the turn to where the Cruz de Ferro was located so I continued on fearing another heavy downpour. This was supposed to be the highest point in the mountain range where a tall iron cross was planted and pilgrims for hundreds of years have placed stones taken from home as a symbolic way of leaving their burdens behind. They said that the stone size should be commensurate to one’s sins – mine would’ve been likely a good-sized rock!

A pilgrim's painful souvenir: bruises and cuts on my sunburned leg.
A pilgrim’s painful souvenir: bruises and cuts on my sunburned leg.

The steady climb lasted for another dozen kilometers or so until the small town of Manjarin where the steep descent began down to El Acebo. I had to be extra careful to pick my way down through the slippery road where rivulets of water appeared out of nowhere. With two hands gripping the hand brakes, I freewheeled for several kilometers until for reasons I can’t remember, I suddenly found the bike sliding beneath me and myself hurtling through empty space! Landing on top of a pile of dirt with Compo a few meters ahead of me, I picked myself up and saw that my knee had a bad gash and there were cuts on my forearm. Thankfully, nothing seemed to be broken and my helmet saved me from a bad knock on the head!

I felt I deserved a good night's rest after all the travails of the day.
I felt I deserved a good night’s rest after all the travails of the day.
The steep descent through Al Acebo had claimed some cyclists' lives so I had to be extra careful here.
The steep descent through Al Acebo had claimed some cyclists’ lives so I had to be extra careful here.

This time, I gingerly pedaled slowly until the town of Molinaseca where I stopped for coffee, cleaned myself up in the cafe bathroom and bandaged my knee from the First Aid kit which came with the rental bike. It was still quite early and since the weather had cleared up, I thought it better to push on to Ponferrada, 8kms. away where I found a nice hotel. For once, really exhausted and miserable with the condition I was in, I decided to splurge on some luxury. God knows I needed a wide and comfortable bed with soft 400-thread count sheets to ease the aches and bruises my tired body felt. Plus music to soothe my nerves.

The Cruz de Ferro (Courtesy of http://camino.bsewall.com/wordpress/)
The Cruz de Ferro (Courtesy of http://camino.bsewall.com/wordpress/)

I dialled room service and after a sumptuous dinner of sopas de gallego, bacalao and Cava sparkling wine, I felt rejuvenated once more but immediately drifted off to sleep the moment my head hit the king bed’s mattress….

Note: This was my daily journal throughout the pilgrimage route which took all of 12 days from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago Day 8: Astorga to Ponferrada, Spain
Al P. Manlangit

A Day in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain

Out of Town Blog
A Day in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain

A Day in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain

We started our second day in Madrid later than usual. We had breakfast in our hotel and left at around 10 AM. Museo del Prado is the only place in our itinerary for that morning.

Museo del Prado in Madrid
Museo del Prado in Madrid

The weather was beautiful in Madrid. Because of this, we decided to walk to the museum by following the directions in Google Maps. We reached the place in approximately 25 minutes.

Walking in the streets of Madrid
Walking in the streets of Madrid

Museo del Prado is a world-famous museum that is located on Paseo del Prado in central Madrid. The building was originally constructed in 1785 for the Natural History Cabinet. The building was soon turned into the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures, and was opened to public in 1819. By then, it had already taken the name of Museo Nacional Del Prado.

Statue of Goya in front of Museo del Prado entrance
Statue of Goya in front of Museo del Prado entrance

We met Fernando Coronado, our English-speaking tour guide, by the entrance. The museum’s main wing had a commanding bronze statue of a Spanish painter named Diego Velazquez that overlooked the columned entrance.

A huge painting replica infront of Museo del Prado
A huge painting replica infront of Museo del Prado
Entrance of Del Prado Museum
Entrance of Del Prado Museum

We left our bags and cameras at the counter before starting the tour inside the museum proper. Taking pictures inside of the museum is prohibited. We were only allowed to take photos of the museum façade, entrance, lobby, and the souvenir shop outside. Nevertheless, the collections displayed inside the museum left me breathless, and I did not need a camera to remember the beauty of the paintings in the galleries.

Paintings for sale in the streets near Museo del Prado in Madrid
Paintings for sale in the streets near Museo del Prado in Madrid

One of the first places that we went to was the main exhibition hall on the first floor. The hall seemed to stretch infinitely, with high arcs and domes for ceilings. The painting on display that caught my attention the most was “The Adoration of the Magi” by Pieter Paul Rubens. It was one of the largest paintings in the hall, and standing so close to it to see all the details was an honor. The artwork was painted on 1628 to 1629. It depicted the Nativity.



Peter Paul Rubens, The Adoration of the Magi, 1609/1628-1629
Peter Paul Rubens, The Adoration of the Magi, 1609/1628-1629 By Peter Paul Rubens – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16282790

Our tour guide told us that the museum housed more than 7,000 paintings, but only 1,500 are put on exhibit. Some of the artists whose works are on display include Raphael, El Greco, Pieter Paul Rubens, Diego Velazquez, and Francisco de Goya. The museum featured artworks that depicted Biblical events and characters, mythological Gods, portraits, and everyday life. The oldest painting in the collection dates back to the 12th century.

Albrecht Durer Adam and Eve, 1507
Albrecht Durer Adam and Eve, 1507 By Albrecht Dürer – Galería online del Museo del Prado de Madrid: Adán y Eva, Public Domain

Some of the most iconic artworks in the museum’s vast collection include “Adam and Eve” by Albrecht Durer, “David and Goliath” by Caravaggio, the idyllic “El Embarque de Santa Paula” by Claude Lorrain, “The Virgin and Child” by Francesco Traini, “Las Meninas” by Diego Velazquez, and the rather bloody and dark “Saturn Devouring his Son” by Francisco de Goya.

Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas, between 1656 and 1657.
Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas, between 1656 and 1657. By Diego Velázquez – The Prado, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22600614
El Greco, The Knight with His Hand on His Breast, c. 1580
El Greco, The Knight with His Hand on His Breast, c. 1580 By El Greco – The Prado in Google Earth: Home -, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15195953

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We took our time appreciating the displays in the galleries. It was truly an amazing experience; putting it into mere words will not do it justice. I felt as if I got lost in the walls and travelled back in time. The huge displays and the spotless, white halls made me lost my sense of space and time, for truly, I was able to appreciate the history and culture of Spain a tenfold more.

In the main exhibition hall, first floor
In the main exhibition hall, first floor By Schnäggli – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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This Spain Street Photography and Food Tour was made possible by Spain Tourism Board, Turkish Airlines, Madrid Tourism, Visit Barcelona, La Rioja Tourism, Donostia San Sebastian Tourism and Convention Bureau and Turismo Bilbao.

Also Read:

A Day in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain
Melo Villareal

Visiting Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa

Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa

Zebras in the grass

Water buffalo

Gondwana Pool

Lions in Gondwana Reserve

Sunrise over Gondwana

Hippo in Gondwana

Sunrise game drive coffee break

Beautiful bath in Gondwana

Breakfast at Gondwana Game Reserve

Gondwana Game Reserve Restaurant

Just a four-hour drive from Cape Town, the Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa will give you an authentic African safari experience.

Home to the big five — African lions, African elephants, African leopards, Cape buffalos, and rhinoceros — you’ll have the chance to see tons of wildlife.

This trip was actually my first ever African safari and nothing could have prepared me for the excitement of my first game drive. When you are up close and personal, these animals are absolutely breathtaking.

With wildebeest sprinting past and giraffes towering over you, an African safari is truly a once-in-a-lifetime excursion…

here’s my experience at Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa!

Lion chasing buffalo

– The Reserve –

Gondwana is a private game reserve, which means that it’s grounds are limited to guests, and you have knowledgeable and reliable guides at your side. The main difference from a private game reserve to a public, is that anyone can self-drive through a National Park and you’re limited to only animals you can see from the main road, during daylight hours.

Traveling from Cape Town to Kruger also require a hour flight (to Nelspruit) and potentially a second bush flight, versus a four-hour, scenic drive to Gondwana.

At Gondwana, safari vehicles can go off road at any time (night or sunrise drives), and you can stay as long as you like at a wildlife sighting. It’s one of the only big game parks within a close driving distance of Cape Town making it the perfect destination for those traveling to South Africa with limited time.

From my research, Gondwana is really affordable to have an all-inclusive game drive experience compared to many other lodges throughout Africa. And the luxurious accommodation and top-notch food make it an incredible experience.

Gondwana is a dynamic place.

Gondwana Game Reserve is managed by Gondwana Conservation Foundation (GCF). This foundation was set up to help conserve South Africa’s threatened and endangered wildlife while improving the lives of locals.

The reserve itself is very eco-friendly, aimed at reducing their potential impact on the environment, helping to reintroduce endangered species, and creating their own water sources.

Gondwana Loge

– Accommodations –

Hello, eco luxe! Gondwana Game Reserve is the kind of place where you can get back to nature without leaving your comforts behind. From glamping-style eco huts to luxury villas, there’s something for everybody here.

I stayed in a Kwena Lodge, a modern and luxurious twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling. They have 14 open-plan suites are nestled into the breathtaking landscape, which also house sky lights for star gazing, fireplaces and deep baths– perfect for relaxing after a game drive!

If you really want to treat yourself, check out the Ulubisi House.

It accommodates up to six people and is the ultimate escape. With your stylish African villa, you’ll also get a private field guide, chef, and butler.

Fascinated by African bush life? If you’re as captivated by this area as I am, I recommend going to the eco camp. It has three- and five-night conversation experiences that’ll teach you all about reserve management and give you the opportunity to volunteer in the local community.

Food spread at Gondwana

– Food & Dining –

The Gondwana Lodge offers delicious Pan African Cuisine on property– a mixture of elements from the European and African art of cooking. From African boma breakfasts, to colorful lunch platters and picnics, to evening boma barbecues, you won’t be disappointed.

The wine list has a variety of local, South African wines from the Cape area that you can pair with any meal.

Safari Outfit

– Activities –

There’s so much to explore at the Gondwana Game Reserve! Of course, it’s all about nature here, so you will want to fill your days with game drives, birding, and hiking. The guides will show you all of the best spots and make sure you’re getting the most out of every moment.

This is a beautiful spot for golfers. It also gives you another reason to stroll around and take in the natural beauty of the region.

The Gondwana Game Reserve is an epic adventure for kids too. It offers educational game drives, interactive activities, junior ranger packs, and completion badges to keep your little one constantly busy and learning.

When you’re ready to kick your feet up, be sure to check out Gondwana’s Spa.

It has an extensive spa menu and its Africology product range uses indigenous plants, so it’s a prime chance to check out unique beauty products that you won’t find at home.

Helpful Tips

 

How Many Nights Should I Stay?

2 nights was perfect. We arrived the first day in the early afternoon, had a game drive in the evening, and then two drives the second day. We also were able to squeeze in a drive the morning before departing. You could easily skip one of the game drives to take advantage of one of the other activities or enjoy time at the spa.

How Much Should I Tip?

I had a great experience during my stay and wanted to tip because of the great service I received, however I found that it can be a bit difficult to benchmark “what is a good tip?”.

After talking more with the property,  a minimum tip for good service would be about R100 for game drivers (from each guest) and the same for general staff, per day you stay. So if I stayed 4 days, I would want to tip a minimum of R400 for my game driver + R400 for staff total.

SHOP my favorite Safari essentials!

READ NEXT: Why South Africa May Be the World’s Best Wine Region

 

Visiting Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa is a post from: The Blonde Abroad

Camino de Santiago Day 7: Leon to Astorga, Spain

Out of Town Blog
Camino de Santiago Day 7: Leon to Astorga, Spain

Camino de Santiago Day 7: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Day 7: Leon to Astorga, 45 kms.

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Leon to Astorga is only 45kms. on well-paved roads but I wanted to keep this stage short for I was conserving my strength for the difficult mountain climb starting tomorrow. So far am doing okay but I’m worried about my legs if they can take the strain.

Rolled hay in the fields I cycled past.
Rolled hay in the fields I cycled past. Leon to Astorga, Spain

Leon to Astorga, 45 kms.

Facade of the Astorga Cathedral.
Facade of the Astorga Cathedral.
This is the bishop's palace in front of the cathedral designed by Gaudi.
This is the bishop’s palace in front of the cathedral designed by Gaudi.

I left after having a nice and slow breakfast of ensaimada, cheese and two cups of brewed coffee at the cafe next to the hotel. The waitress gave me a slice of cake on the house while wishing me Buen Camino! When you’re a pilgrim, you get extra perks – they may be small ones but the kindness is heartfelt and the gesture much appreciated. I fished out for Euro coins in my money belt which I wear around my waist and realized that I didn’t have much cash with me. Actually, my needs are small and my biggest expense is usually for the albergue bill for a night’s stay which does not exceed 12 Euros at the most.

The waitress gave me extra bread in the small restaurant in Leon where I had my breakfast.
The waitress gave me extra bread in the small restaurant in Leon where I had my breakfast.
The cathedral's lattice-like ceiling design.
The cathedral’s lattice-like ceiling design.
Old Roman walls line parts of the city.
Old Roman walls line parts of the city.

Some hilly sections came into view near Villadonga but it was an easy traverse after getting used to cycling on flat land for three days now. Back in Kuwait when I started practising, 20 kms. was a killer ride but now it’s just a small blip on the route. How things have changed!

The albergue where I stayed for the night.
The albergue where I stayed for the night.


Hilly road somewhere around Villadonga.
Hilly road somewhere around Villadonga.

Astorga is a small, pleasant town with Roman origins that showed through massive walls standing around the place. The cathedral is an excellent place to visit and so is the bishop’s palace designed by Anton Gaudi – the same architect who orchestrated the huge Sagrada de Familia cathedral in Barcelona which is still being built 120 years till now.

Beautifully detailed entrance door to the cathedral.
Beautifully detailed entrance door to the cathedral.

Unfortunately, it started raining when I pedaled into town so when I found an albergue, I was dripping wet like a rag doll! It was still early in the afternoon but with the bad weather, I didn’t feel like exploring the place some more.

An altar in one of the chapels on the side.
An altar in one of the chapels on the side.
I just had to stop and photograph this sculpture of a peregrino on the move!
I just had to stop and photograph this sculpture of a peregrino on the move!
It was raining as I cycled into the town of Astorga.
It was raining as I cycled into the town of Astorga.

After a quick dinner, I went back to my room to have a nap. There were two of us sharing the bunk bed but my roommate was probably enjoying the night out somewhere  so I drifted off to sleep peacefully and quietly all by myself.

Note: This was my daily journal throughout the pilgrimage route which took all of 12 days from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago Day 7: Leon to Astorga, Spain
Al P. Manlangit