Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spain Pt. I: Day 1 - Madrid to Avila, Valladolid

Amazingly both of our flights (SF to ATL, ATL to MAD) arrived on time, so that by 10am (or 1am the same day that we left from San Francisco) Natalie and I were in the rental
car on the AP-6, heading north towards the famous walled city of Avila. We drove around town looking for parking, only stalling two times in the process. As a recent student of the manual shift automobile, driving in stop-and-go city traffic, with the ubiquitous Spanish roundabouts (initially confusing though eventually you get used to them) was a bit stressful, but invigorating. We rewarded ourselves with what would be the first of many meals based upon lamb and pork - lamb chops for myself and lomo (pan fried pork loin) for Natalie. Just a year ago Natalie's meatiest encounter in a day might have been a grilled portobello mushroom doused in Fort Bragg's. Things sure have changed. To accompany lunch we shared a bottle of '99 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza, one of my favorites and a perfect first wine to enjoy in España. Prior to lunch we took in the sights of the old town and its cathedral.

Avila was cool - a picturesque welcome to Spain from this most Spanish of towns in one of the most Spanish of regions, Castilla y Leon. After some more highway driving, and a bit of rush hour driving in Valladolid (pop. 321,713, capital of Castilla y Leon) we checked into our simple, smoky hostal, freshened up, and headed out for some tapas and drinks. On the way we happened across a comedian performing in a small pavillion, and a modern dance performance on one of the plazas. Yes, Valladolid is buzzing with activity on a Thursday night. Two contrasting establishments of this great city:

Mil Vinos, NEW

Vino Tinto, OLD