El Tabernaculo in Granada Will Fill You With the Power of Christ and Grilled Meats

If you ever want to feel Catholic guilt and sinful gluttony in the same place then El Tabernaculo in Granada is your destination. As I called it on Instagram, “It’s as if Christ and the Virgin Mary puked religious souvenirs all over the walls.”

The religious kitsch overload won’t hinder your enjoyment of eating delightful tapas and cheap local wine. What might hurt is the tight quarters and low ceilings. One turn around and you can be knocking over a tall Jesus candle.

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If the place looks familiar, it’s because it was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. If you think this was some local place for those in the know, think again.

It’s right in heart of the city on Calle Navas among dozen of tapas bars and right across from the popular Los Diamantes. You can’t miss it, probably because you smell the church incense and grilled meatballs wafting through the streets.

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Feel free to study the walls and point at the hundreds of images of Christ and the Virgin Mary. This bar and my visit to Bar Garlochí in Sevilla makes you think that something in Andalucia likes to poke fun at Semana Santa and religious paraphernalia.

I felt like I should have added something to the walls like a small velvet Jesus or Buddy Jesus from Kevin Smith’s Dogma.

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While you do get a free tapa with your drink purchase, it won’t fill you up. It’s be a piece of ham on crusty bread. When you see the skewers of marinated beef and poultry waiting for you, you’ll pony up for something more substantial.

Basically, El Tabernaculo will have you thinking, “What Would Jesus Order?’

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The Why Am I Not There? Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

To add to the onslaught on bloggers and writers telling you what you should buy your friends and family, here’s my recommendation on what to buy. Unlike those fools, I don’t receive any monetary gain for these recommendations.

If your loved ones have the wanderlust or if they need help in turning from a tourist to an in-the-know traveler, these are things that will aid them on their journey.

giftguide1Passport Wallet — I categorize this as a necessity as a frequent and organized traveler. You’ll be amazed how many people just put their passport in their pocket. You need something with weight and bulk that can hold all your other documents, cards and currency. I keep my Global Entry, frequent flyer cards, transit cards, extra credit card and foreigner currency in mine. It fits right into my inside blazer pocket, making it pickpocket proof,  so I always know its on my person.

I like these passport wallets from Fossil. They are classic looking, made of leather and more than anything, it’s practical.

$50-$55 from Fossil.com

giftguide7Circular Scarf — As I’ve pointed out before about the dumbness of travel pillows, a circular scarf solves the problem of neck support without the bulkiness and space wasting of a stupid pillow. These scarves from American Apparel are super soft and wrap easily around your neck. Then when you leave the plane, it becomes a stylish accessory. More than anything, they are easy to pack.

For my brothers, they are unisex so you can pull them off with ease.

$14-$28 from American Apparel

giftguide2Travel Perfume Atomizer — For gals and dudes, these capsules made by Travalo can make sure you are smelling smart on the go. You just take the spray cap off your favorite perfume or cologne, place the bottom of this atomizer on top of the bottle’s nozzle, pump to fill up the atomizer and you are good to go. It saves you from getting travel sizes of scents, making a mess from filling up a smaller plastic bottle or bringing the whole bottle.

$10 from Target.com

giftguide3All-in-one Voltage Converter /Adapter — International converters and adapters are not an exact science. In fact, it’s downright clumsy. I bring one of these on my international trips. No need to bring those cheap plastic adapters and a separate power converter. You end trying to balance the adapter, converter and your charger because it’s too heavy and falls over.

This one from Insignia worked well, but functionality depends on your hote’ls power outler set-up. You can find better deals on these via ebay or on clearance at Best Buy.

$14.99 at BestBuy.com

giftguide4Retro Travel Posters — I have these in my home, and they are just phenomenal designs — that retro modern chic that the cool kids like. The Anderson Design Group out of Nashville has a myriad of cities to choose from. Just pick your recipient’s favorite city or the place they’ve always dreamed of going. Add in a ready-made frame from your local arts & crafts store and you are good to go.

They also make other subjects (coffee, man cave, mod fashion) in their distinct style in calendar or coffee table form.

$39 from Anderson Design Group

giftguide5Travel Stickers — In our mind, we like to live as retro travelers with our steamer trunks or vintage suitcases with stickers on them documenting our destinations. These stickers from Cavallini & Co. will at least help you decorate your hard shell suitcases with retro goodness.

$16.21 on Amazon.com

giftguide6World Map with flag pins — Here’s a unique Do-It-Yourself kit for the world traveler in your life. Get a giant, wall map of the world like this laminated one from AllPosters. Pick up a box of map flag pins. Tell your friends or family member to hang the poster on their wall and use the pins to show where they’ve been in the world. It can be used as a history of their travels and an inspiration on where they want to go next.

$80 world map Laminated from AllPosters
$6 map flag pins from Amazon.

A Vermouth Cocktail From Spain to Get You Through Thanksgiving

I’ll be drinking this in a few hours, so I figure I share with those who need something to calm your nerves on this festive day.

This is a traditional vermouth cocktail (vermut còctel) that you would find in any tapas or pintxo bar in Spain. It’s easy to make and you can find Primitivo Quiles Vermouth Rojo ($20 a bottle) in any decent wine store. It’s worth searching for.

  1. Spray a tall cocktail glass with Angostura bitters or just swirl a few drops around.
  2. Pour 1oz. of a fresh citrus juice like grapefruit, lime or lemon
  3. Pour 2 oz. of Spanish Vermouth
  4. Top with tonic water and ice
  5. Garnish with citrus peel

Drink in a corner and dream of serenity.

Beer Voyage — Cervecería Etxeberria in San Sebastian

Basque is the land of Rioja red wine and Asturias sidra, which is exactly why I wanted to find local beers. Here’s my thinking: if they can perfect the art of wine and cider making, then their beer is going to be just as fantastic. Beer isn’t as popular as the other libations, but give it some time and hop heads will be flocking to the area.

This brought me to Cervecería Etxeberria. The fine folks at Pantori directed me to this glorious watering hole. Located in the city’s north area that houses all of the fine pintxo bars and the must-see San Telmo Museum, the bar is a true local joint who come to experience international beers in a no-nonsense setting. You won’t hear or read English anywhere. The interior is a ramshackle of hand-written signs, menus and beer paraphernalia. Rough around the edges, but comfortable and welcoming.

photoIf you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to meet owner and large-than-like personality Juanjo Cano. His large mug in cartoon form can be seen on the napkins. Ask him (en Espanol por favor) what’s good and he’ll walk you though the 20+ taps and bottle selections from Germany, Belgium, Austria and England.

¿Qué hay de local?” I asked. Obviously, I was looking beyond Estrella Damm.

Here’s what I had:

Bidassoa Boise by Bidassoa Basque Brewery Amber color with reddish hues. Intense bitterness balanced by delicate floral aromas and flavors of citrus, with hints of wood and toasted malts.

IPA Dry Hopping by Olañeta-Gipuzkoa —  Uses Nugget and Cascade hops. ALE beer produced by the traditional method: Fermented on the package itself, unfiltered, unpasteurized, without injecting CO2 and sediment.

Big Beñat by Drunken Bros Brewery — Great name for a brewery. Saison with orange peel, lime and mint leaves. They even made a video.

Arauco by MattinadaAmerican Pale Ale style beer, amber and citrus with a light touch.

What’s It Like in Brussels During Lockdown — A Report from the Frontline

Brussels is a great city to visit. All of their stereotypes are positives — frites, chocolate, beer, mussles, waffles and the Smurfs. As my local friend said, “It’s like Paris without the French.”

Unfortunately, it’s not a good time to visit and soak in the local flavor in wake of the Paris attacks. As you’ve seen in the news, the Eurozone capital is on the hunt for suspects as intelligence points to another calculated attack. Public transport, shops and point of interests have been shut down and people are urged to stay in shelter for a third day to post cats on social media.

Which bring me to my best friend and designer of my graphics, Wright. Him and his wife were in Brussels for the weekend to sight-see. Damn the terrorists, right? They didn’t get to see much. They are back home safe as of tonight.

He has a couple of reports on his weekend of Brussels Lockdown on his video series, A Fish on the Dry.

Inside Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum Is Just As Extraordinary as the Outside

A great argument can be made that the Guggenheim Museum transformed the city of Bilbao. It was a conscious effort by the city to bring culture to an industrial area. When walking around, you notice the artistic endeavors of the city, as well as the vast public spaces for public art.

Like Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry is one of the many names who created a design and cultural renaissance for the Basque city. His design for the Guggenheim has become one of the most iconic buildings in the art world. No matter how many times you look at it from the outside, you discover something new whether it be how the sunlight hits the iron works or seeing it from a different angle.

That’s half of the experience. The inside of the museum has glass and steel works jettisoning in different directions. When you read up on the Gehry’s process on the design, he focused on the inside space before the outside.

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The centerpiece of the museum is Richard Serra’s permanent installation, The Matter of Time. A series of eight sculptures tower over you as you walk in-between and around. It’s a piece of art that on the surface can have little meaning. It can be just big hunks of twisting bronze metals.

As you find out in the audio tour, Serra’s idea is more about an emotional experience rather than intellectual connection. You are the art and everybody’s experience is going to be different.

If you are curious about how this was made, there’s a video off in a side room which explains how they were implemented, transported and secured. I was wondering how these things just don’t fall over.

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The other fascinating exhibit is the Truisms poetry wall by Jenny Holzer where series of lines in English and Basque scale up and down from ceiling to floor. Phrases from “A little knowledge goes a long way,” “Life is not a rehearsal” and “Your oldest fears are your worse ones” are perfect for that Facebook friend who posts nothing but inspirational quotes.

It’s one of those exhibits where you can sit for 15-minutes just to see what pops up next.

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The temporary exhibit during my visit was works from Jean-Michel Basquiat called Now’s The Time. He came up at the time where graffiti, street art and hip-hop were rising from the underground in the late 70s and early 80s. You wonder what he would have thought of New York City now and about how his art can be purchased for $20 on a t-shirt at Uniqlo.

To plan your visit, just know that the museum is closed on Mondays, except for in July and August. Open from 10am-8pm. Carve out 2-3 hours to explore the space.

The Power & The Glory — My Favorite Bar in Cape Town

One of my suggestions or guidelines I follow when I travel is try go to the same bar or pub twice. If you enjoyed the place, you felt welcomed, the beer, wine or spirit selection was to your satisfaction and if felt that if you lived in that city, you would become a regular, than you should go again.

The Power & The Glory was definitely a place I’d go at every chance if I lived n Cape Town. The people I met the first night in the city all said it was their favorite local place. One asked me, “How did you find out about it? Was it featured somewhere?” as if she was worried that it wouldn’t be there local hangout anymore and get too crowded.

Simple answer. I looked up craft beer bars in Cape Town and The Power & The Glory came up constantly. My pocket guide from *Wallpaper also gave it high marks in the design department.

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The located on the corner Kloof Nek and Burnside Road, it’s a 15-minute walk from downtown’s Long Street and situated in a somewhat upscale neighborhood. At night, the open windows provide for some people watching and cool breezes off of Table Mountain.

The cafe portion of the space is more coffee, dessert, light sandwiches, but the main draw for me was the oversized hot dogs. I was expecting some dainty weiner with some toppings, but this sucker was a man’s meal.

The small bar area satisfied all my local craft beer needs. I would go down the bottle list and proclaim, “I’ve never heard of it, but I want that. I’ve never heard of it, but I want that.  I’ve never heard of it, but I want that.” We’re talking Devil’s Peak, And Union, Darling, Napier, Birkenhead and Boston (not of the Samuel Adams variety).

If that’s not your thing, then their wine list will impress. After my winery tour, I had my fill of Shiraz.

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The second time I went to meet up with my new friends I met the first night is when I was glad I stood my “go to a bar multiple times” idea. Bartenders appreciate the repeat business and sometimes give you a sneaky shot on the house.

I asked the bartender if the place gets a lot of tourists, she said, “Yeah, all the time.” Dammit. It’s been ruined!

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