It took us three days (plus four years of knowing Mercedes) to work out how to pronounce the name of the city we were in.
I don’t think Mercedes noticed when we kept mentioning ‘your city’ in reference to our physical locale.
But she couldn’t miss it when I tried to pronounce it like ‘Balloladrid’.
(I was going with ‘rhymes with Madrid’, but for those of you playing at home, the V is really more like a B, the lls are a y, the second a is really more of an o and the final d is silent … of you make a kind of z sound if that’s what you’re into.)
Anyway, according to both our lovely host, and wiki, you can think of Valladolid as the valley of the olive.
To us, it will always be ‘the valley of the amazing hosts who took us into their home, showed us the sites, and took us to eat the best ever tapas in the world including the ones with foie and all that seafood and OMG those croquettes!’
^Look at that face. That is pure happiness.
We arrived in Valladolid in the late afternoon, and after a few minutes of searching, in which we realised that at least half of the women in Spain look similar enough to our Spanish friend to confuse our eyes, we met up with Mercedes and her mother.
We strolled briefly through the city on the way to their apartment, took some time to settle in, and then headed out to look at a few of the sites (including a cloister courtyard tiled with knuckle bones!).
And then it was time for the Tapas!
When I talked to Gal (of Guider Gal status), who had visited the north of Spain just a few weeks before us, he gave me a very important piece of advice:
“Do a Mercedes says”, he declared. “Don’t just go to the places she tells you, but eat the things she tells you to eat at the places she tells you to go. And then go to the next place, and eat the next thing.”
And so we did.
Squid and Foie was followed by fancy mini-burgers and the most amazing duck leg/cheese/pastry delight at El Zamora. Rich as anything, take a friend to share it with.
I’m not at all ashamed to say that the next morning also began with food, or at least the planning of our next food.
I should mention here that Mercedes set up a very good precedent for our entire trip. Words to live by if ever you are in Spain:
Don’t eat breakfast. Save the stomach space for tastier delights in the evening.
Why eat cakes, when you can eat Foie. (Let them eat Foie!)
And then we hit up some of the sites!
^Mercedes with the (literally) ‘sad auditorium’, where students have to defend their thesis!
The view was spectacular, and the history (which Mercedes kindly translated from Spanish for us) interesting, with the only slight caveat being that the guide perhaps took her job a little too seriously.
Periwinkles, two types of crabs, prawns, and razor clams, which I have never eaten before.
Despite all of the amazing things we ate in Spain, I’m calling this out as the best meal we had.
We walked off the food with a stroll in Campo Grande, and Mercedes regaled us with stories of the boat man, who used to ferry kids around the lake and tell them fantastical stories. This man, who has since passed away, has a small plaque in the park, and also has an entire street named after him down by the river. Turns out that people love their local heros!
Our wandering took us down to the water, and then back up into the centre of the city.
In the evening we ate tostas at La Carcavas and then went a bit fancy, at Los Zagales.
The Tigretoston is a play on a Spanish sweet, the Cigar came with a sardine mousse inside, a smokey flavoured dipping-ash, and a tomato-y accompaniment, and the little Squid Fellow smoked and danced delightfully.
We also managed a serving of Molleja: gizzard.
Although El Corcho, according to their menu, serves more than croquettes, it is abundantly clear that everyone is there entirely for the potatoey goodness.
In fact, if you try to type El Corcho Valladolid into google, it autocompletes with ‘croquettas’.
Eat the croquettes.