Madrid’s Rastro: A Feast for the Ears

My latest podcast takes you on a sound-rich tour of the Rastro. Using custom built microphones and a special setup, I recorded this in binaural audio, which is incredibly immersive and three dimensional. You’ll feel like you’re there. If you’ve never heard binaural audio recordings before, you’re in for a treat. (To get the effect, you have to wear headphones or earbuds.)

I’d love to hear your comments! Thanks for listening.

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¡Felicidades Canadá!

July 1 is Canada Day and this year marks the nation’s 150th birthday. To celebrate the occasion I thought I’d post the following essay, which I wrote in 2012 for the Canadian magazine Explore, edited by James Little. It’s a story about kayaking in Canada, but also a story about Spain. Hope you enjoy it. Happy Birthday Canada!

Not in Spain anymore: The gorgeous granite of Phillip Edward Island, Georgian Bay, Canada. Photo ©Mike Randolph

A few years ago, I moved from Toronto to Zaragoza, a city in northern Spain. Not long after, my friend Graham came to visit. Hanging out one evening, drinking wine on the terrace of my neighbourhood restaurant, he said something I still think about now and then.

“Do you ever worry that if you stay here long enough, you won’t really be from Canada anymore, but you’ll never really be from here either?”

I don’t know the answer to my friend’s question, except to say that when you live somewhere for a span of years, you can grow into the rhythm of the place and eventually it starts to feel like home. I was born in Spain, but we moved to Canada before I ever spoke my first word of Spanish. My family was a typically Canadian family in that our house was a small enclave of some other country. When I didn’t spend my summers in the Canadian bush, I spent them on Spanish beaches. It was never easy to choose between them. Continue Reading →

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Tales of the Levante

Photo ©Mike Randolph

My latest podcast is now online. This time, it’s not about food it’s about the wind. Not just any wind, but the infamous Levante. Be prepared to get blown away. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

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New Podcast: A Spanish Lunch

Just a quick note to share what I’ve been up to lately with my good friend Ben Curtis. Many of you have probably seen his blog or listened to his podcast before–he’s been writing and talking about Spain longer than anyone else on the internet! For the past five years we’ve been having lunch on a regular basis and we’ve had so much fun eating our way across Madrid and elsewhere that we’ve teamed up to create a new podcast about it.

Check it out!

www.aspanishlunch.com

If you like it and you’d like to give us a hand promoting it, please rate our show on iTunes, it would be a huge help for us. Thank you and hasta pronto!

Mike

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The Cocas of Camarasa

A few years ago my cousin Jaime and I were looking for a river in Aragon but one thing led to another and we ended up looking for a pizza in Catalonia.

Perhaps I should explain. The idea was to paddle a river. I had two inflatable kayaks and all the other bits of gear needed, as long as the water wasn’t too big. But it was early May. All the rivers flowing out of the Pyrenees were raging with meltwater from the snowfields high in the alpine. It was a warm day but the river was only a few degrees above freezing. An unplanned swim would be pretty grim.

In the town of Broto, just outside of Ordesa (one of the jewels of Spain’s national park system, you really should go if you have the chance), we walked into a store selling commercial rafting tours. The guide said we might be able to pull off the River Ara, which flows right through town. Thanks, we said, and walked down the street to the bridge across the Ara.

The river’s roar alone was discouraging. And then we saw it. The water looked the way you’d expect it to look, considering the roar. It was very fast and technical, with lots of rocks sticking out. It didn’t strike me as a very good idea. That hasn’t always stopped us in the past, but this didn’t look so much adventurous as it looked just plain dumb. (There’s often not much difference between the two.) Continue Reading →

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Madrid, Through The Looking Glass

Off and on for the past year, I’ve been working on this photo essay on streets in Madrid. It’s one of those things that you’re never quite sure you’re finished, but I thought it’s been long enough now, time to show it. There is no Photoshop involved and no double exposures or anything else. Just images I found with my eyes and took with one click of the shutter. Some of them are almost abstract, with multiple layers of reflections. It takes a while to ‘see’ these image opportunities as a photographer, because everyone living in cities is so used to seeing reflections that you just tune them out and no longer really even see them. I made a video out of them, and put them to a song that I like by the very talented Andrew Bird, who plays Carnegie Hall next week. It’s really best to watch it full screen. (After hitting Play, it’s the bottom-right button.) Let me know whether you like it in the comments below. Thanks for having a look and please share it with your friends!

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With the Retiro it’s not Goodbye, it’s Hasta Pronto

I recently moved away from my favourite place in Madrid, the Parque del Gran Retiro, a green oasis in the heart of the city.

There were reasons, and some justifications, too. The new apartment was bigger, with nicer floors, and lots of storage space. Those things can eventually become non-negotiable. Plus we got something of a deal on it because my cousin Jaime lived there until he decided to move with his family to Switzerland (that’s another story, and I’ll get to that sometime). Had we not taken it over the rent would have gone up but the point is, it’s a beautiful apartment in an old building in Chamberí, right downtown. Besides, we were ready for a change.

The problem was leaving the Retiro. It’s not like it’s far, you can walk there in 45 minutes from the new place, but it’s not just outside your door, either. At first Miss A and I tried to justify it by saying, ‘we’ll still come here all the time, it’s not that far’ but eventually we stopped pretending. On an average night when we just want to get out of the house we’re not going to the Retiro. We’ll miss having it so close, but that’s how it goes when you move to a different neighbourhood. You prefer some things, and miss others, hopefully in the right proportions.

The Retiro is relaxing not only because it’s a beautiful park with lots of trees and birds and away from the chaotic traffic of downtown Madrid, it’s also relaxing because that’s where other people relax. It’s catchy. There’s the young couple canoodling on the grass near the fountain, the old, well-dressed man reading the paper on the bench, smoking his pipe. On the promenade the inline skaters slalom through tiny pylons on one foot, dogs chase and sniff each other, and senior citizens languidly turn the pedals on stationary bicycles. There are cafés throughout the park, and they’re almost always busy, either with people sitting quietly, maybe reading a book, or groups of friends having beers. Everyone has a great time. It’s hard not to.

Images ©Mike Randolph, All Rights Reserved

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Party in Pamplona

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The party gets underway at the Café Iruña in Pamplona. Click to see larger.

Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermín, the fiesta to end all fiestas, is underway again. Hear about all the insanity in my latest podcast.

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Jamón, The Podcast. Part One

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My good friend Graham Roumieu, a very accomplished visual artist, made the above illustration for my podcast cover art. (And this one blinks every five seconds. Cool, eh?) I think it’s perfect. Funny but also elegantly simple and incisive. Thank you Graham!

In this first of a two-part series about jamón Iberico de bellota, I talk about the history of pigs and pork with author Mark Essig. If you are a fan of food and history, buy his book (see the affiliate link below). It’s impeccably researched and written in a plain, clear prose style, making it both enjoyable to read as well incredibly informative.

Get a taste of it by hitting play on the podcast link below. I hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!


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Mallorca: Lost and Found

The GR221 trail is easy to follow, but only in some places.

My friend Guillermo and I are hiking the GR221, a trail that follows the northern coastline of Mallorca. At least we hope we are. We’re definitely hiking the coastline of Mallorca, but whether we’re on the GR221 is impossible to know. What is incontestably true is that we’re in a densely wooded valley and not where we want to be. It’s been a long day. We want to be in a town. Any town. Any town with a bar, I mean. One that serves cold beer and hot food and has a patio, preferably with a view of the Mediterranean since that’s why we came here, after all.

Instead of finding a town, however, we find yet another mountain. Worse, our mystery trail goes up it. We’re tired and sore and sweaty and so the thought of yet another uphill slog—there have been many—can only properly be described in language that I never use in public, but you get the idea. The only upside is that we must be fairly close to where the trail meets the road.

It takes us an hour to trudge up the mountainside. When we finally reach the top we can hear the traffic on the road–so close!–but there is one very big, very disconcerting problem. There’s a giant gate blocking our way, about twenty-feet-high and framed by two stone pillars equipped with a thicket of barbed wire.  Continue Reading →

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An Afternoon In Ávila

A month or so ago, I went to the walled city of Ávila with some friends and family for lunch. Of course, I took my camera with me, as I always do. I didn’t have a lot of time to shoot–hey, the famous (and delicious) steak from there is huge and takes a while to get through–but I still managed to get a few shots I like.

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Paella Valenciana

Paella-ValencianaMy podcast on paella is now up! Listen to it here and sign up for the free recipe below. Adapted from the winning recipe of one of Spain’s greatest paella chefs, two-time Word Champion Julián Garcia. Trust me, you can taste the difference…

Get the authentic recipe for Paella. FREE!

4

New Podcast: The Spanish Food

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Chorizo and manteca colorada hang in the market in Cadiz, Andalusia.

With my photo book of Spain finished, I’ve been wanting to take on a new project and I’m happy to announce that it’s already online: The Spanish Food podcast! Episode numero uno is ready to download on the iTunes store here. (If you don’t have iTunes, you can also listen on Soundcloud, or right here on my own site.)

It was an easy choice for me. I love podcasts and I love Spanish food. I’ve asked a lot of travellers to Spain how important food is to them and for most people it’s not just important, it’s everything–the central thing around which all other activities are planned!

And podcasts are such a great way to, well, consume content about Spain. You just download episodes to your phone or iPad and then you can listen whenever and wherever you want. Think of it as radio on demand. And there’s something special about listening to high-quality audio. It’s been called ‘the most visual medium’ for good reason. It transports you to another place, and the sounds and words excite the imagination like nothing else.

So please join me on this new adventure. If there’s anything in particular you would like to know more about, leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

The Spanish Food

A mouthwatering new podcast from Spain. Sign Up for free updates on new episodes plus tips, recipes and more...

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Last Chance!

A Spanish mastiff, guarding a flock of sheep in the woodlands of northern Burgos, seems a bit worried about my sudden presence at the side of the road, taking pictures. Mastiffs in Spain may not be used to photographers, but are very friendly dogs, which is a good thing since they roam freely and many hiking trails crisscross their territories. They are not so friendly to wolves, however. Photo ©Mike Randolph

As of this moment, there are only 38 hours left in my Kickstarter project, a photo book on Spain, and the funding has reached 121 percent of my goal. Success! Thank you to all who have participated, and for those of you who haven’t yet, there’s still time! As a way of saying thank you to all the backers of the photo book, in addition to your name going in the credits as a photo editor, for a limited time I’ll be offering prints at super low prices. This is a one-time thing and these images–240 of them–will never be offered at this price again. Exclusive to backers of my photo book. Only a few hours left, so don’t miss out. They also make great gifts for the Spain lover in your life.

Thank you all once again. We did it together!

Un saludo muy cariñoso desde España,

Mike

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