Order what you like … so long as it’s rice

Valencia is paella’s capital city. And l’Albufera is its birthplace. Here’s why.

When I was last in Valencia, I was captivated by Albufera Natural Park, with its dunes, Mediterranean forest, and above all, the immense lagoon of the Albufera. Water is king. I had to show Malcolm.

Once, l’Albufera was open sea. Rivers such as the Turia dragged silt and mud to the coast, and gradually this patch of sea became a lake. A saltwater lake. Aquifers beneath gradually sweetened the water. And over the centuries, man intervened, claiming shallow waters for paddy fields. Rice, rice and more rice grows here. Here’s a paddy field, resting for the winter.

Water both shallow and deep ensures this place is a Mecca for birds. Northern birds fly south to winter here, birds from Africa come too.

Locals spend their summers cultivating rice, and their winters fishing the rich waters of the lagoon for carp, eels and other fish, sharing their catch with the bird life.

We explored some of the park before moving on to the small town at the edge of the lagoon, El Palmar. No need to ask what we had for lunch. There were all kinds of paella on the menu, but paella it was. Eaten in the open air – 18° in January seems miraculous to us.

Then a boat trip. We had to have a boat trip. Restful, restorative…. a wonderful afternoon, shared with herons, egrets, cormorants and all kinds of ducks. A truly special day. Camera photos once I get home. For now, we’ll make do with the phone.

Art in the street

It was back to work as usual for Team Barcelona on Monday, so we left them to it and came to Valencia.

It’s lovely to be back, revisiting old haunts from last November, and making fresh discoveries. Pottering down streets in long-established communities is the best: grand imposing doorways; delicately wrought balconies; elegant stucco. Or these days, street art. Here are a few examples I snapped this afternoon.

Vermuteria

Meeting friends for a meal, with an hour to kill before your restaurant opens? Or linking up with them for an hour after work? Here in Barcelona, you may well head for a vermuteria. There’s vermouth of course, served simply with ice and lemon or in exotic combinations. You can have wine or beer instead if you choose. Order a dish of olives or a simple tapa. But best of all, enjoy the friendly atmosphere, and relish a cosy convivial moment in a place that may well have been around for over fifty years. And will still be here in fifty more.

Ragtag Saturday: Three Kings visit Barcelona

Today is the day when the Three Kings – the same ones who visited the infant Jesus – begin their journey to visit all children in the Spanish speaking world to deliver presents to them. We watched the Carnival parade they brought with them as they passed through Barcelona earlier this evening. Dancing, singing, exhuberant and imaginative displays had us enthralled for an hour or more. It was never like this in biblical times, I’m sure.

Ragtag Prompt: Three. https://wp.me/p9YcOU-lb

Bother in Barcelona

Do you remember our last trip to Barcelona? How my bag, my purse and contents, my camera, our passports …. and all that. …. got stolen?

Well, ahead of this trip, I replaced my bag with one with a doughty zip and secret pockets. And off we went.

Our flight accomplished, we met Emily at her office after a couple of bus journeys. I opened my bag. Hang on. Where’s my purse? Someone – and we both think we know who: that amiable woman of middle years who stood near us on the Number 7 – unzipped my bag, removed my purse, and zipped the bag up again. Without either of us noticing a thing.

So guess who spent her first morning back here down at the Police Station practising her Spanish?

Catalan hospitality at its best

Today’s Ragtag prompt is . ….hospitality.. https://wp.me/p9YcOU-ln.

A window of opportunity

I’ve always loved looking at the contributions to Thursday doors, where bloggers from around the world share images of their favourite doors. Somehow, I’ve never got round to joining in.  But looking through my photos for something or other yesterday, I realised that I had the makings of a post about windows. Here it is.

Here’s an image from the last March for Europe in London in June.  I’ll be there again, probably as you read this, marching for a People’s Vote on the Final Deal.  I’m not sure how much I believe in another referendum, but what other hope have we got to turn the tide against the national disaster that is Brexit?

Happier times, happier pictures.  I started off by including images from Europe too.  But I’ll do England today, and maybe travel further afield another time.

Hull Minster, as seen from the office buildings opposite.

And Ripon Cathedral glimpsed through a camera obscura in early 2017.

There’s an osteopath in Ripon who always has a delightfully quirky window display.  Here’s winter.

Through the car window, a snowy winter landscape near Kex Gill in Yorkshire.

Train windows:  a view of Canary Wharf through the windows of the DLR line.

And the more rural landscape from the Wensleydale Railway.

I’ll finish with the photo I found that started me off.  This was the view I took outside our house on Christmas Eve morning last year.

Freedom for Catalonia!

Driving away from Berga.

We stopped off in Berga on our way to Barcelona.  It’s a mediaeval city with a strong history of republicanism.  In May 2012 for instance, the town council declared King Juan Carlos to be ‘persona non grata‘.  Nobody’s likely though, to be keen on a king who goes elephant hunting in Africa as his country plunges ever deeper into recession.

Now its cause of choice is Catalan independence.  I’m not going into the arguments here. Though sauntering along various Ramblas on a September evening as friends and families pop into a bar for a drink, or to a restaurant for dinner, it’s hard to accept their definition of themselves as an oppressed people; or to take entirely seriously their view that they and, for instance, the Kurds, are all in it together.

Mooch up and down the narrow alleys of Berga with us and look at the posters, the slogans, the street art which are such a feature of this town.  A young man stopped me as I was snapping away.  ‘We don’t all think that way here’ he said.  But he admitted that he was in a minority .

Click on any image to see it full size.