A Certain Type of Executive

I had lunch today with a long time colleague and friend in the health care tech business.  She works for a company recently acquired and had some stories about working with the new management.

This got us around to musing about executives, yes, male, and a personality trait we have both run into many, many times.  This is the trait of “must be handled carefully” and I’d call it epidemic if I weren’t pretty sure this trait has been around forever.

Why, you say, should a senior executive with lots of power (and lots of compensation) need to be “handled” by subordinates?  Gosh, you tell me.

The handling rules center around preserving his status, never making him look bad, inviting him to meetings that he routinely snubs or, worse, joins late and disrupts or sidetracks the discussion, couching all disagreements in the soft cocoon of words like “I am probably off base here, but…”  The handling includes chasing him down for decisions, but of course nicely and respectfully no matter how late, how urgent, or how many times you’ve been put off because he is “too busy” and “too important” to address the issue.

The handling includes moving meeting times because “He’s just landing” or “He’ll join later” (rarely does, and never apologizes for the commotion he’s caused).  The handling includes smiling sweetly when he lectures or rants based on his lack of understanding of basic facts.  The handling includes huddling in the hallway with colleagues to come up with “how” to present bad news or news that conflicts with his beliefs.

So what?

There are a host of ethical, political, and emotional reasons why this behavior is dumb.   But it’s the cost to the organization that is especially maddening–where are the hard-nosed cost hawks when you need them?  Calculate the difference in prep time between outlining the facts and recommendations in a few bullet points versus figuring out how and when to gently introduce the concept that the executive is or is probably wrong.  Calculate the time spent in meetings where a decision isn’t made, freezing action while the “too busy” executive tries to find time to make up his mind.  Calculate the wear and tear on subordinates who must guard against speaking the truth, or even against raising a controversial idea.

Dear executives, GROW UP.  Act like a person with a brain who is aware there are other persons in the world, also with brains.  Stop being such a baby.  Surely your ego is strong enough to take a little blunt talk and a little disagreement, and if you cannot defend your ideas, maybe they’re indefensible.

These probably go without saying…depending on how much you travel

Miscellaneous tips and traps re traveling Portugal and Spain via Airbnb and trains:

  1. The US has laws about how hot tap water can be.  Apparently the EU has not–the hot water everywhere, from the modern apartments to the 300 year old house, was extremely, shockingly hot.  And, so, ALWAYS find out how to use the shower while you have the host there.  We had both annoying and one scary experience with setting the shower temperature (this was a mysteriously designed two level shower, and in the process of turning it off I got shot with hot scalding water at my groin–no harm but yikes).  And ask if you can run any water in the edifice, e.g. to get a drink or flush a toilet, while a person is in the shower.
  2.  Do not expect WiFi on trains–there was none on the high speed train Barcelona to Sevilla; if there is WiFi it will be quirky.  However we did have electricity so have your converter handy, not buried in your bag.
  3. Drink the house wine!  It was uniformly good, and often seemed especially good as food wines.  Funny aside–in Spain the server would ask in response to a request for a glass of vino tinto or vino blanco, “Dry or sweet?  Old or young?”  Never was I asked by varietal, nor were wine lists organized by varietal.  Made it fun and different, and I didn’t have a bad glass the entire three weeks.
  4. If you travel without data service on your cell devices (we do because we are cheap and you can manage without it) and therefore are dependent on the connectivity you have in your abode, remember to download offline GPS-enabled maps (many that are on Maplets, Google, special apps) for when you are out and about.  You cannot get the step-by-step or breadcrumb directions with just GPS, but you have a totally usable map to find your way.  And it’s good practice to not be blindly following step by step instructions or maps.  Look around you and get your head out of your phone!
  5. Book trains in advance to save significant money.
  6. Whenever possible go online for event or museum tickets.  Don’t be daunted by the “must be printed out on paper” warnings…these seem to be obsolete.  The difference between having a ticket you bought the night before and buying one onsite is about a 30-person line, and that was off-season.
  7. Do get the audio tours in places of interest and museums.  Worth the money every time.
  8. If you are traveling by train, DO NOT HESITATE to get on as soon as the doors open. They are not waiting for anyone or anything.  Pay attention to the car number and find it as soon as you can.  Ask a conductor if you’re not sure which direction to head–at least then an official knows you are getting on.  But be quick about it!  We also noticed that the indication on your ticket as to seat number is often labeled mysteriously (e.g., one ticket had “Plaza” as the field label for seat number).

Madrid, museum heaven–oh, yeah, and good food, too

With only four days left and pretty darned tired we arrived in Madrid…Spain’s New York City. We had been given somewhat complicated instructions to the apartment which did not correspond to the Metro maps we had, and spent maybe 30 minutes in the airport-sized train terminal looking for a tourist information desk. It was late afternoon on Saturday and no luck until we decided to just go to the Metro and figure it out. Voila, an information booth where the young woman marked exactly where our apartment was, just four or five blocks down Calle Mayor–“look for Casa De La Villa,” so simple after all.

Our destination stop was Sol, smack in the middle of madhouse Plaza Del Sol. One of those heaven-sent ticket machine aides helped us buy the card and explained we could put two riders’ worth of trips on one (like the lovely T-10 card we used in Barcelona.  Unlike our mistaken albeit inexpensive purchase of 2 rides to the airport on one card in Porto and had to buy a second card…which, when we got to the Porto airport we found there was no turnstyle exit anyway. Whatever.)  For all the complicated instructions we’d had from our Airbnb host re looking for particular routes, it turned out there is just a single metro train running through the Madrid train terminal, and in about 8 minutes we were coming up the escalator into crazy Plaza Del Sol.

Yikes. A large and crazy plaza where several streets crisscross at acute angles, both pedestrian and not, a gazillion people, but all we had to do was make sure we remained on Calle Mayor and in 10 minutes we were at our address. Alas, we were early by about 45 minutes–Roberto would meet us outside and take us up but not until 7:30. We were so tired and hungry and thirsty…looked up the street a short block and there was a bar where people were sitting in a little enclosed patio smoking and drinking.

Yeah! We sat at a small table with luggage heaped around us but there was ample room and in a quick minute David had a large beer and I a glass of cold white wine. Relief. I got up to see if I could get a menu as we really needed a snack. The waitress was very apologetic but the kitchen was closed. All I could order was one of the salads. Poor us. We had the most delicious burratta salad with cherry tomatoes and arugula, so refreshing and ample with a ball of burratta that more than generous. With a basket of bread we couldn’t have been happier and then it was 7:30 and Roberto was there.

The apartment was just as expected; we settled in and then went looking for dinner. The rather crazy tapas bar scene was just a few blocks away, but everything looked crowded and hipster. Hungry and now hungrier, we knew enough by this time about food in Spain to drop into a narrow little bar/restaurant that was anything but hip, the front section all folks drinking and watching soccer, squeezed through to a table in the back and perused the now relatively familiar array.

I had one question-what was tripe Madrid style?  It means cooked with chorizo and blood sausage. David ate the sausage and I tried my best to finish the delicious, meltingly tender tripe but it was altogether too much…half portion of course. David, with a bit of help from me, finished a half portion which was most generous of anchovies in vinagre, what we call in the US white anchovies. So good. And a small order of patatas bravas to round out the flavors. Staggered home to bed as we had a busy Sunday planned.

I think on this trip we have eaten about 200 anchovies.  Not complaining about that.

It was an accurate introduction to Madrid. We spent the next three days walking, eating, and being dazzled by the Royal Palace (10 minute walk): the Prado (20 minute walk) and the Thyssen (across the boulevard from the Prado).  All in all, though we had some complaints about the apartment itself the location was fantastic.

David had sussed out all the information about tickets, free times, and locations of our 3 sightseeing goals.  On Sunday nights the Prado is gratis from 5 to 7. We decided a visit to check off a few boxes was worth it, and it was, because we knew Tuesday was reserved entirely to see everything there. Mondays the Thyssen is gratis 12-4 but closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Our plan was set and we filled our last 3 days thusly:

Sunday

Sunday morning, El Rastro, a rambling outdoor market where basically everything is available from antiques to socks to batteries to pots and pans.  As we started down one of the side streets of the market area, lined with a hodgepodge of junk shops and antiques we passed a corner joint advertising bocadillos de calamares.  Okay, will be back for that!

We were still on the hunt for coffee and a teeny bar, Bar de Ca’ Kiko, called to us.  If this had been our first day in Iberia we would have passed, but we knew it would be a safe and interesting experience and it was.  This place was filled with a shifting crowd of men from (probably working) the market, and there was plenty of high spirited morning commotion. Every time someone left he’d (I was the only woman in the place) slap the small counter and with a “Chicos!” and was out the door.  Behind the counter were two gruff looking men making coffee and handing food over the high counter–their specialty is tostas as shown in a long handwritten menu on the wall.  Piled on a back ledge and under plastic covers on the counter were mysterious (to us) toppings on thick slices of bread, presumably toasted.  As we drank our cafes con leche (delicious as usual, and served in small glasses as usual) I tried to puzzle out what the I was looking at paired with the list on the wall.  I knew every person I asked about food, in both Portugal and Spain, would be happy to explain in Spanish I could largely follow, and the men behind the bar were as friendly as they could be proudly explaining what was what adding “Muy rico” after each.  Every few minutes an arm with a plate of more tostas was thrust through a rough hole the size of a small window in the door to the kitchen, and one of the men took it and added it to the inventory.  I kept asking, what’s this? What’s that? They even had something listed as barbacoa, a food word that has many many definitions depending on where you are in the Latin world.  (In one city I visited in Mexico has a string of “barbacoa” stands outside of town–where barbacoa means grilled goat.)  Anyway. a strange melange on bread turned out to be that, and when I asked them what kind of meat they looked at each other and said “Ternera?” (beef) so perhaps it’s beef. It all looked so good…but we weren’t at all hungry and knew those bocadillos de calamares were waiting for us when we finished at the market.

We wandered, I bought some earrings and David bought a leather billfold, and then we started looking around for that corner joint we’d seen on the way in.  It was only 11am but hey, we’re on vacation–and with some backtracking and hey-didn’t-we-come-down-this-street’s we found it.  Joint is the word, with soccer games on one tv and a weird kind of Latin candid camera show on another, and “decor” that hasn’t changed since 1960, and people standing or perched at the counters eating bocadillos, and drinking beer.  We joined in, David having beer and I a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice that you can get anywhere, anytime, and our bocadillos de calamares, a Madrid specialty sandwich comprising a long crusty roll filled with tender fried calamari rings, on which you can squirt either mayo or aoli.  A perfect brunch!

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After I ordered a fellow called out to me “You speak English!”  He and his wife were from Toronto (that’s in Canada, he explained) and had just finished a group hike on Majorca.  They didn’t speak or understand a single word of Spanish, and seemed very surprised that I did.  We had a small dish of patatas bravas, gratis with our drinks, and the woman asked what it was.  How can you have been in Spain for more than 1/2 a day and not know that?  Anyway, I gave her a piece on a toothpick which she reluctantly ate.  Poor people.

We headed to the Royal Palace and took the audio tour.  We liked the tour very much, but it was funny/tiresome that almost every explanation came around to how this or that painting or decoration “demonstrated the legitimacy of the Spanish monarchy”.  But surprisingly interesting–it includes such amazing decor as several rooms where the walls and ceiling are entirely porcelain!  As we left we heard the music of pipes and castanets outside–it was the tail end of a demonstration/parade we had seen on the walk back from El Rastro, a Basque protest, with music, costumes, enormous oxen pulling huge wooden carts and even a Green Peace sign, all demanding an end to agribusiness destroying great food and village life.  The marchers, in costume and periodically breaking out into castenet routines, all looked somewhat grim but the crowd seemed on their side with smatterings of applause.

Free night at the Prado, 5-7pm!  We headed over and joined a two block and growing queue and at 5 the line moved and we were part of the crowds inside where we got our bearings, sort of, and readied for a quick dose of art. Wow. We couldn’t wait to get back.  It would have been immensely frustrating if we didn’t know Tuesday was Prado day.

We stopped at La Plateria for a yummy dinner of judios verdes con jamon, paella (both half portions meaning of course they were huge) and still hungry (!) we each had a plato, David the hake and green salad, me grilled beef with salad. Enjoyed a bottle of wine with dinner and strolled home through the still busy streets, I guess normal for 9pm on a Sunday in Madrid.

Monday

On the chilly and refreshing Monday morning we started with a long walk past the palace and up to Gran Via, the sort of main commercial street, very big city with huge buildings, Times Square style signs, and lots of people. We were on a quest to find a pair of shoes for Hannah which were summer style and only could find them on sale racks…hence store after store had maybe one or two, but not in her very common size 39. It was fun to have a mission and an excuse to speak Spanish about shoes…and then pretty sure we wouldn’t be successful…we found them!

We had had a late breakfast so went to the Thyssen museum for the free opening at noon.  This is a very lovely, somewhat quirky assortment as museums based on a private collection tend to be.  Unlike the Prado, the collection ranges into some 20th century art which was great to see but surprising to SFMOMA members as there was basically no modern artists that in the US we consider iconic–no Jasper Johns, no Thiebaud, no David Smith, no Diebenkorn, one Lichtenstein.  We also saw so, so many artists we had never heard of–several times I thought like “Oh, that’s Braque” but it was someone totally unfamiliar.  Even the Impressionist collection was surprising, with only two small Renoir (never saw them before).  Two Edward Hopper, neither of which I’d seen before anywhere.  So Fun!

We took a midday break for a quick lunch in the museum restaurant, a beautiful, no stunning, ultra modern setting outside with okay food, then finished up till almost closing time (4pm). We were so tired, and a bit nervous about our stamina for the following day’s plan to see everything at the Prado. But we perked up with a tapas supper at Txirimiri where we not only had great food but fun conversation with the guy behind the bar and a buddy of his, both enthusiastic about explaining some food terms and menu items to me. I had so much fun talking food in Spanish! And a few glasses of cava made me feel almost fluent.  They had a wonderful array of pintxos including one that David ordered twice, thick slice of bread with a slab of smoked salmon.

Tuesday

Tuesday, our last day, and we were happy to have a plan to carry us through. We decided to wander our way to the Prado as it doesn’t open until 10, and stopped in a panaderia for superior croissants. Gosh they were good, and as fresh a can be–this is an on-the-premises bakery and I watched as a fellow was baking them in the back. A suitable ultimo desayuno.

We hit the museum at about 10:20, skipping the line as usual due to David’s going online for tickets. With audio guides in place off we went.

I cannot begin to describe the breadth and depth of the collection. It is a marvel, a joy, a revelation room after room after room…3 floors plus a small circular room at the top holding the treasures of the dauphinois. While I could probably live without seeing any more bloody crucifixes, everything was worth seeing. They have, for example, rooms of enormous paintings of historical and mythological events. Huge rooms that hold just six canvases, other rooms with exquisite landscapes, family portraits, royal portraits. Go to Madrid and give it two full days. It did, combined with all we had seen to that point, inspire us to read or audiobook the history of Iberia.

Two artists I’d never heard of and fell in love with, Marin Rico (1833-1908) and Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949).  The scene of the Alhambra below is Rico, the charming painting of his two children in the “Japanese room” by Fortuny.

We ate at the Prado restaurant, really very good, and at around 5 we stepped outside in a daze.

 

For supper we decided to try El Sur, which was maybe a 25 minute walk away into a neighborhood we’d not visited before.  We finished off a lovely bottle of wine–“3 Tempranillos” which is a blend of, what do you know, three tempranillo grapes all from the Duero valley but from 3 different elevations.  It was delicious.  A nice, homey place, nothing at all fancy, and we ate our fill, went home, and packed.

Up at 3:15am, driver arrived to take us to the airport at 4…flight to Amsterdam at 6.  All without a hitch!

 

Dogs and sidewalks

Occasionally we walked on plain old concrete pavement, but very often the sidewalks were cobbled or paved in patterns of what appear to be smallish river stones set on edge in the sandy, hard packed soil. In Portugal the walking required constant care not to twist an ankle into a missing cobblestone or step awkwardly from a too narrow “sidewalk” into traffic. (One afternoon in Porto David commented “sure are a lot of broken arms here” and we started noticing yeah, there sure were. Hmmm.). Spain is quite a bit safer but still the pavement, sidewalk, and plaza surfaces are often very lovely and creative.

So here is a little gallery.

Dogs

I may have made my husband a bit crazy, but I just could not stop noticing and snapping pictures of dogs in Spain. A dog trotting down the street with her owner is like a little bit of sparkle in the fabric, a pinch of spice in the urban stew. It is hard not to get a lift from a dog’s clear delight at being out and about. The little white terrier with her tail wagging in the air who keeps glancing up at the guy on the other end of the leash, or the three beagles who could not wait to move on, three noses down on the pavement, the shepherd lying down as if she owns the plaza, calm as can be–got me every time. And gee, dachshunds sure are popular, but often hard to photo as they are so low slung.

And the owners’ reactions to my request “puedo tomar un photo de su perro?” which I was careful to ask if I was up close were also happy-making. One young woman was so excited to see the (adorable) picture I had of her dog burst out “Oh, I love him so much!”

So to please myself and my dog-obsessed daughter, here are some more cute doggies in Spain.

Granada…ticking down the list

Time to leave lovely Sevilla.  We had an early bus to Granada, 8:30, and had some anxiety about the long walk with all our stuff and the changing weather. Córdoba had been lovely, really a perfect day, but Thursday promised rain.

Luckily we had had a kind of revelation coming back from the train station when we returned from Córdoba. When we had arrived in Sevilla we were so totally disoriented as to the layout of the city that we had not completely understood that our Airbnb was just like two short blocks into the old city. In other words we were two short blocks from the modern city, the one with cabs and wide streets. When we came home from the train last evening it all made sense, and handy to know because as we crept out of the Airbnb it was raining quite hard and happily we knew a cab would be easy to find and it was.

The bus was full and luggage space inadequate, it rained the whole way, and the bus took about 45 minutes longer than scheduled. We both were a bit queasy when we got off, and the city was still wet with rain spitting on and off. We got into a cab right away, and right away we felt so much better as our driver was a delightful conversationalist and though he spoke very rapidly I was able to keep up as we discussed Spain, the US, intergroup stresses in both countries, the environment, tourism, gosh, I cannot remember what all we explored. I was ecstatic that my ability to communicate had improved so much! Turns out he was from Córdoba so we talked about what we had seen there, how it was different from Granada, etc. I think the ride was about 15 minutes weaving through the complicated streets of Granada. It was raining harder when we got out. Our hotel was in a pedestrian zone so we had to walk into the square and even with his directions we were confused as we stood against a building juggling phones to get a map up. Well, Hotel Los Tilos was literally 15′ from where we stood and we hustled in.

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It was actually nice to be in a hotel, our only one of the trip, because we had a bathtub! We both took two baths over the two nights we were there! While the hotel was fairly bare bones it felt like a luxurious return to the 21st century after Sevilla, and our view out on the square delightful, with The Alhambra in the distance and the cathedral right across the way.

We needed food and a walk. Food was at Los Diamanté’s, a 5 minute walk and so good we had lunch there again the next day. A modern, slightly manic place with long shared tables on one side, bar seating on the other, and an open kitchen in back, waiters running to and fro shouting out orders to the kitchen.

The place was kind of empty when we arrived, as it was only noon, but within 15 minutes it was full and fiesta-like. We were so hungry for vegetables and they had something translated as “buds with garlic” and another of marinated tomatoes. We ordered both. Buds turned out to be little, maybe 4″, romaine heads, sliced top to bottom and doused with a marvelously tasty vinaigrette loaded with smaller-than-minced dark brown garlic. I think the garlic was sautéed, drained, and added to the vinaigrette as the taste was very fresh and not at all bitter. The tomatoes were icy cold and crisp, also small, with oil and vinegar. Absolutely delicious. And a perfect balance for the mixed fried seafood and intensely flavored,yummy razor clams.  This all followed the Spanish rice that came with our glass of beer and glass wine of wine order.

We returned for lunch the next day…and had probably the plumpest freshest mussels possible.  And the rice again…

 

Well fortified we headed out into the rain for a walk through the Arab quarter, up winding cobbled streets, almost entirely pedestrian only, staying clear of the rainwater rushing down the middle. The cobbled paving was well designed to drain quickly leaving the sides pretty passable. We had to take care but it wasn’t especially slippery thank goodness. Up and up we went, to a puerta at the top opening into a small square, so pretty.

We were pretty wet when we got back down but took a quick tour through the cathedral. The audio tour was oppressively Catholic, with rather tedious and extremely religious explanations of how each nave celebrated a particular incarnation of La Virgen. The place is enormous, shown vividly by means of a scale model. The bell tower is, however, rather stubby with no actual bell, explained in the audio tour the result that the “planned third section” was abandoned due to “stability problems.”

Thoroughly chilled after the cathedral we headed to our room for hot baths. Heaven.

Granada is known for its unique custom of free tapas with each drink order, rotating through the tapas of the day. We took full advantage that evening with a visit to La Vinoteca, eating the food that appeared as we each enjoyed several glasses and finishing with a salad off the menu of mixed greens, mango, avocado, and very sweet and flavorful shrimp, with teeny tiny squares of crispy bacon adding a surprising smoky-salty note. I want to try this at home, but it is very hard to find shrimp of that quality so this may remain a happy culinary memory only.

The Alhambra

No one goes to Granada without visiting The Alhambra. I was amazed to find it so close to the center of the city and also amazed at how very steep the walk is, through a true forest (not a manicured park) filled with birds none of which I could see in the tall trees. Up, up,and then you are there, an ancient walled castle/palace/fort with extensive gardens and multiple buildings of various eras.

Like La Mezquita it combines Moorish and Christian-western influences and spaces. Unlike La Mezquita the Christian rulers built their palace rooms right into and indivisible from the Moorish rooms. It is enormous. We walked several miles as we of course went to every building and then through the Alhambra museum, fantastic even to our over-stimulated eyes and minds. The only thing we skipped is the reportedly uninteresting Bellas Artes museum.

Exit to Madrid

We had train tickets to Madrid leaving around noon and we knew there was a bus bridge to the high speed train. The train station is right in the city, only a 25 minute walk from our hotel, so even though we would have all our stuff we headed out on foot. A boring walk but pretty easy. The station was a bit shocking after the various other terminals and stations we had been in. It is a smallish building with inadequate seating and nothing else. The room gradually filled up, suddenly there was a long queue, our tickets were gruffly inspected and we were divvied up among several buses each bound to a different station. Ours was an hour or so trip into what seemed the middle of nowhere, no town in sight, just a new station with several high speed tracks. We had seen the tracks for much of the bus ride, elevated through the endless olive groves. An hour later we were headed into the Córdoba station, so familiar from our earlier day trip from Sevilla.

I went into the small tienda that sold products of Espana to chat with the woman at the counter whom I had enjoyed talking to when last there when buying a few little gifts. We had shared a laugh when a large, unsmiling man had come to the register to pay for a bottle of beer (yes, you can buy a beer just about anywhere). He looked and sounded so grumpy I said to her when he left that he really needed a beer!

She remembered me and I told her we were leaving for Madrid and then home. We talked about our dogs (she has three), the tragedy of abandoned dogs, how much we loved them. She asserted “dogs are better than people” and we shared how sad we were when our dogs died. She insisted Spanish people are not dog lovers as there are so many abandoned dogs, and we commiserated about our respective societies’ failures. Then David and I had to rush down to the platform as we had been startled when last there at the approximately 30 seconds’ pause of the train for new passengers.

Madrid! Final stop!

Mezquita magica

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All along we planned to take one day trip from Sevilla to Córdoba and this was the day. We caught an early train, intending to use the travel time to plan our outing and for me to catch up on my travelogue and it worked perfectly.

The stroll into the centro historico was a short 20 minutes made pleasant by the narrow, green, manicured Victoria Park, with a slight jog over to the city wall and the sidewalks paved with small river stones turned on edge in herringbone and other more intricate patterns. We arrived at the puerta that leads to the Mezquita, a cathedral within a mosque built on top of a Visigoth church. The guidebook pictures give you no idea whatsoever of what you are going to experience. The famous double arches, their stripes of marble and brick seem to reach into infinity, the rather dark interior feels otherworldly the relatively low ceilings add to the mystery. Then you walk further into the center and the light begins to change, becomes brighter and brighter, the ceiling climbs from 30′ to 130′. The cathedral, smack in the middle of this forest of columns. It is truly a wow.

The way the building has been preserved shows the respect for all three of the religious sites that have shared the space over centuries.

Many of the remnants of the Visigoth church are displayed, including a section of the mosaic floor that you view through a section of glass floor as it sits well beneath the level of the current building. On top of the endless crucifixions, mournful faces of saints, Mary, and others, a special exhibit near the cathedral shows the martyrdom of a group of Jesuits in 16th century Japan. Seems Spanish Catholicism is especially soaked in violent imagery.

Nonetheless, we felt so lucky to see the Mezquita and walk this beautiful city. Had a great lunch, natch, in a typical Córdoba setting, a lovely restaurant that was built as if it were a 2-story patio, and feasted on fried anchovies, fried bacalau, and a typical dish of the city, an unctuous oxtail stew.  Una experiencia muy linda en una ciudad muy bella.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we ate well in Sevilla too!

I am going to highlight just four meals, two of which were in the same restaurant, and one which sated our salad-and-vegetable starved appetites.

Yelp plus recommendations in Rick Steve’s guide have continued to serve us well. Our first night I scoured Yelp to find something a little different from tapas, tapas…poor us…and we headed to La Azotea. Right in the heart of la zona touristica a block from the cathedral, this narrow and modern place serves higher end (50-60€, including a bottle of wine) food with imaginative combinations as well as the typical, but here especially high quality, plates of Iberian ham, pork cheeks, pan con tomate. I wanted to go right away in case it was as good as the reviews promised.

It is. The first night, with a bottle of rosado, we ordered “media” (small, ha ha) portions of salmon tartare, a potato salad with capers and smoked salmon, and oxtail meatballs. These three “media” portions were a huge amount of delicious food…we were even struggling a bit to finish the oxtail meatballs which were served in a very rich sauce. We were glad we waved away olives and bread.

Two nights later we rewarded ourselves after a grueling day of sightseeing and ten miles of walking with a return to La Azotea to order  “media” portions of the potato salad, again, pan con tomate, and the burrata salad, a plate composed of two mounds of burrata and a scoop of lemon sorbet on a small head of red butter lettuce with little gelatin squares tasting of fresh basil. To top it off we had the steak tartare, little cubes of meat mixed with a tangy light mustard sauce. Ate every last bit with a bottle of Rioja (yummy and 15€).

The night before we needed vegetables so headed to El Rincon de Beirut. The enormous menu daunted us until we saw a “combo” that the waiter explained was basically all the appetizers. It came, we ate, our bodies said thank you.

Our final gustatory highlight came in Triana, the city across the river. We strolled across at lunchtime and settled on a Rick Steve’s suggestion of Taberna Miami, an old bullfighting themed place that promised to be “reliable for seafood” and sits in the middle of the pedestrian zoned street in the middle of centro historico. We were so hungry and just started ordering, again attempting to not overdo it by getting the tapas size of everything.

Little whole fried shrimp, crunchy shells and all; a huge platter of fried squid rings that we had eaten half of in a few minutes; grilled tiger langustinos that tasted like lobster and were challenging to peel; a platter of sliced chorizo; and fried bacalau so tender and flavorful we judged it the best we have had, and we have had a lot. With David’s bear, total 40€.

p.s. Returning from our day trip to Córdoba we stopped at a random place in the new city because they had a sign out front advertising paella.  Sounded soooo good, so we had the mixta.  YUM!  With beer, two glasses of wine, and a salad, 20€.