Ornate iron street lamps glow in the backlight of a late winter afternoon on the Carrer Jaume I in Barcelona. Jaime I, King of Aragon, is an important figure in Catalan history, promoting language and culture while ousting the French and expanding the Crown of Aragon across Catalonia and the Mediterranean. Photo ©Mike Randolph
In the Retiro neighborhood of Madrid, the Nave de Motores hosts a mercadillo the first weekend of every month. Inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII, the Nave’s transformers and massive diesel motors provided electricity to Madrid’s Metro from 1923 until Continue Reading →
[Everything I said about slow train travel in Spain is true. Except for the part about the Talgo III still being in service. It's last run, sadly, was in 2010.] Taking a trip on the AVE, Spain’s network of modern high-speed trains, is fast and efficient. But what’s your rush? There are plenty of older trains still in operation across the country and taking a trip on one is like slipping back in time. Above, the bar car of a Talgo III, which started service almost 50 years ago and is
still going strong. Photo ©Mike Randolph
The island of Sa Dragonera, off the coast of Mallorca, almost became a mass-tourism resort after a private company bought it in 1974 and started developing plans for apartments, a hotel, a casino, and a large man-made port. But environmentalists fought back hard, and finally, ten years later, the island was designated a park and building on it was prohibited. Named for its dragon-like silhouette, the island is also home to thousands of mini dragons, aka, Podarcis lilfordi, a small lizard found nowhere else. The lighthouse at the eastern tip of the island has operated since 1910. Photo ©Mike Randolph
The chupinazo marks the start of the Sanfermines in Pamplona. After the rocket is fired at noon on July 6, the city doesn’t sleep for nine long days. Photo ©Mike Randolph
Beach season is here. For a look at this beach at a different time of day (and a different time of year), click here. Photo ©Mike Randolph
Calle Alcala and the start of the Gran Via, on a cold winter’s night in Madrid. The same evening I took this image, I took this one a little earlier, while waiting for dusk. It stumped quite a few people. I wasn’t sure anybody would get it, and they might not have without the hints I left in the comments! Both were taken from the observation deck of the Palacio de Correos in the heart of the city. Photo ©Mike Randolph
Semana Santa in Spain: In a nighttime Holy Week procession, hooded penitents push a statue of the Virgen Mary past the mudéjar wall of Zaragoza’s La Seo Cathedral. Mudéjar architecture, with its distinct Islamic influence (note the geometric patterns), reached its zenith in Aragon, where buildings such as La Seo form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo ©Mike Randolph
Do you know what these are? I mean, aside from delicious? Be the first to name this mystery food and win a free 8×12 print of your choosing. The answer must be the full name in Spanish or English (or latin, if you want to show off). Leave your guess in the comments section below. Good luck! Photos ©Mike Randolph
UPDATE We have a winner, EnriqueB, author of the Spanish food blog www.dorarnosella.com. They are criadillas de tierra. That is how they are known in Extremadura, where they are most common in Spain, but they are also known as turmas in Murcia and papas crías or criadas in the Canary Islands. In English they are most commonly called desert truffles. They are related to the white truffle, though I bought mine for 12 Euros a kilo whereas white truffles are a tad more expensive–3,000 Euros a kilo. They grow in arid, sandy soils in Spain as well as parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Fungi expert Antonio Rodríguez has an excellent post on them here.
While not nearly as aromatic as white or even black truffles, they do have a wonderful mushroomy, earthy, hard-to-define taste. Some people slice them thin and use them in place of potatoes in a tortilla. But most people prefer them with scrambled eggs. They are moist, but dense, and fried in olive oil they are quite lovely. March and April is the season for fresh desert truffles, though they are also sold in jars, minus their soil-covered skin. As Julvic noted in the comments, they don’t look very appetizing. Last fun fact: Criadillas means calf’s testicles, so the rough translation for desert truffle in Spanish is calf’s testicles of the earth.
Thanks to all who participated.
A moss-covered oak tree in the Dehesa of Extremadura, Spain. Photo ©Mike Randolph
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