What travel/food blog posted on December 31st would be complete without a round-up of the author’s favorite foods from the year? Not this one! So here they are, my top food photos from my travels this year. Conspicuously absent are all of the spießbraten, bratwurst, schnitzel, and kartoffelpuffers that I ate at the Christmas markets this year because none of them lasted long enough to be captured…maybe next year.
“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Winston Churchill
A look back at my favorite buildings of 2014:
Yesterday marked one year since I began my sabbatical from work and moved to Germany to study, cook, live, and travel with S. What a year it has been!? Scrolling back through my photos and thinking about everything I’ve seen and done and eaten this year and how much I’ve changed (mostly for the better), I am so thankful for this opportunity and looking forward to new and exciting experiences in the new year. There were so many beautiful moments in 2014 that I could not choose just a few favorite photos, so I divided them into four groups: Landscapes, Architecture, Food (can’t leave that one out!), and Life. Cheers to 2014 and an even better 2015!
The jewel of Granada is, without question or competition, the Alhambra. Perched high above the main city, the Alhambra is a sprawling fortress and palace, with walls, arches, and ceilings so intricately engineered and decorated, it could take endless visits to fully appreciate its beauty. The richness of its aesthetic appeal is equalled only by its history. Built as a fortress in the 9th century and expanded into a palace in the 11th century, it was the last Muslim stronghold in Spain until the Catholics took it in 1492. For a time, it was used by both Catholics and Muslims, however, that symbiosis was relatively short lived, lasting less than ten years.
If I had to pick superlatives from my recent trip to Southern Spain (and I had to because what else do you do on the way home to make the trip last a little longer?), I’d say that out of Ronda, Nerja, and Granada, Ronda was the most charming and Granada the most interesting. From our hotel window at the foot of the Alhambra and overlooking the city center, Granada looked more like a peaceful town or a village than a city. However, once we trekked down the hill and wandered the city streets, we soon learned that the city is full of energy with street performers and artists entertaining cafe goers and tapas eaters, business people traveling to and from meetings, students and professors attending class (but mostly not attending class), and market goers carrying home their fresh fish and olives. Looking back on our few days in Granada, it’s almost a blur of wandering through these scenes, tapas, sangria, more tapas, and flamenco!
After a night in Ronda, we drove through Southern Spain’s rugged and beautiful landscape down to the city of Nerja on the Costa del Sol. Rick Steves has a particularly scathing quote about the Costa del Sol – something along the lines of: If you want to sit in the heat amidst trinket shops and throngs of pasty British tourists slathered in Nivea sun cream, then go to Nerja. Yikes. Our group agreed with Rick to the extent that we certainly wouldn’t want to spend a whole week here, but the natural beauty of the coastline, the caves, and, of course, the made-to-order paella on the beach, made our two days there well worth the drive. It was in Nerja, after all, that we found one of the best paella dishes of the trip at Chiringuito Morendero Moreno and where S and I heard a Spanish guitarist at El Molino who melted our hearts with a voice that was rich and raspy all at once. As the guitarist played at El Molino, a local woman got up to dance during a few of the songs and, by the ease and familiarity of her movements, you could tell it was a dance she had been doing all of her life. Although you may have to look a little harder to find them between the tourists and souvenir shops (it is a beach town after all), the strong and beautiful elements of Spanish culture flourish in Nerja.
In Death in the Afternoon, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “If a honeymoon or an elopement is not a success in Ronda, it would be as well to start for Paris and commence making your own friends.” Luckily, my double date with S’s parents in Ronda was a great success and none of us were compelled to escape to the City of Light in search of better companions. That being said, I’d still love to get back to Paris in the near future, but with my current fiancé. Anyway, what I mean to say is that Mr. Hemingway was right about the romance of Ronda. Perched on a plateau that’s split in two by the El Tajo Gorge and surrounded by vineyard-covered mountains, there are few things more beautiful than Ronda as it’s hit by the golden light of pre-sunset. Add to that the fear, awe, and adrenaline that comes from looking over the edge of the gorge, live music in the town’s many squares, delicious tapas, and deep red local wines, and you have one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world.