Archive | Travel

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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Gone to Blazes

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[Last year I was asked by the editor of Men’s Fashion, a popular Canadian magazine, to write a feature about Las Fallas in Valencia. Since tomorrow, March 19th, the fiesta comes to a spectacular end with the cremà, or burning, of the giant statues, I thought I’d post the article that appeared in last December’s issue. Here it is.]

It takes a little while, but during the fiesta known as Las Fallas, in Valencia, you eventually get used to the sight of four-year-old boys walking around with pieces of burning rope. At first I didn’t know what the ropes were for, but then I saw one little guy run up to his father and jump up and down imploringly until dad produced a few firecrackers. The kid then ran off to light them with the rope and then throw them pretty much wherever he pleased. Oh, I thought. I see. The ropes are fuses. Of course. I mean, you can’t exactly let a four-year-old play with matches, can you?

Ah, Spain. It’s fun for people of all ages! While the kids amuse themselves by lighting firecrackers in bars, in restaurants and throwing them at the feet of unsuspecting tourists (“Wow, that old man jumped a lot higher than I thought he could!”), some of the adults busy themselves with the final touches on the mascletás. Whole sections of streets are cordoned off and rigged with Continue Reading →

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Slippery Business at the Port

In the Mercado de Bailén, in Malaga, a fishmonger gave me the lowdown. If I wanted to see the boats unloading fish, I had to go to Caleta de Velez. In Malaga, only a few boats come in every day. The port of Malaga is too expensive, he told me, so the fishermen go to Caleta, only a short drive up the coast.

By the time I got there, many of the boats were already tied up to the dock and more were coming in; big boats, motors chugging in a throaty diesel rumble as they shifted into reverse, gunned it for a second or two, and glided gently up to the dock with unerring precision. Continue Reading →

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Back to School

Vacation is over. Of course, like many Spaniards, I took the entire month of August off. I added Labour Day, because in Canada that’s sacred and well, why not. But time to get back to writing posts. (I took time off from writing but not from taking pictures or doing things that will hopefully provide some entertainment to my faithful followers. (Okay, there were a few days there that I really did take off but who’s counting?))

Here’s an image from one of my recent culinary adventures, a tapas lunch at Dani Garcia’s Manzanilla bar in Malaga. Garcia’s restaurant Calima holds two Michelin stars and Manzanilla borrows some of his famous dishes. I chose to eat over the glass tapas counter, which I thought was a good idea at the time but really it just made me hungrier…and cost me more money in the end because of it.

This is a Hot Dog Malaga style. Sausage made of pringá (pork, chorizo, pork fat) with caramelized tomatos and a mayonaise made with macadamia nuts. This, for less than five Euros.

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Calatrava’s City

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Not every architect gets the chance to transform a city. But Santiago Calatrava did. Even better, the city he got to transform was Valencia, the city where he was born and trained.

The City of Arts and Sciences is a massive complex of eight buildings that look like they’re from another world. A project of that size was possible in the heart of the city only because the Turia River was diverted to another route around the city after a devastating flood in 1957. So suddenly there was a lot of space available, and Valencia made good use of it. The upper reaches is all parkland, and the lower reaches were essentially handed over to the imagination of Calatrava. There is an opera house, a planetarium, a science museum, a futuristic landscaped park, and the largest aquarium in Europe.

Buy a limited edition print of this image

Buy a limited edition print of this image

Buy a limited edition print of this image

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