Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My editorial on the Housing Plan at

Talk Housing to us, but tell us what you really mean

Post by Michael Geller in


What on Earth are Vision trying to say in their latest confusing policy pronouncement?

Ask Vancouverites what is the most pressing issue facing our city and many will respond that it is the cost and availability of affordable housing. For this reason, the city’s recent Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2012-2021 that went before Council on July 26, 2011 is a very important document.

As a former official with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and a housing planner and developer with a longstanding interest in ‘affordable housing’, I was particularly interested to read what the city was planning for the coming decade, and next three years. While the document offers some lovely words and obtuse statements, there is a paucity of details to help the reader fully understand what the city planners and politicians really have in mind.

So, for those of you who have not taken the time to read the report, or may never have the time or inclination to do so, I would like to share a few observations. In setting out these thoughts, my intention is not to criticize those who wrote the document or directed its preparation. Rather, I would like to offer some perspectives that will hopefully lead to better and more cost effective housing policies, and more coherent strategic actions.

I should note that I did attend one of the city’s numerous ‘consultative’ workshops related to rental housing and homelessness leading up to the preparation of this report. It was not a terribly satisfying experience, since rather than have a genuine opportunity to offer ideas, I felt that I was there to hear what the city housing planners had already decided. I was not alone in this observation. Downtown Eastside Community activist Jean Swanson, with whom I worked 35 years ago during my tenure at CMHC, felt the same way. Although she seemed to really enjoy the food being served during her session.

The report to city council includes a lot of numbers, totaling 38,900 units over the next ten years. Yes, 38,900! However, of these 7,900 are non-market housing (supportive and social housing); 11,000 are Market Rental Housing including ‘purpose built’ and secondary market (basement suites, laneway housing, etc.); and 20,000 are Condos and Affordable home ownership. While this seems like a lot of units, some analysts point out that when one looks at the number of non-market housing units already underway, (thanks in large part to the efforts of the past administrations), and other exemptions, the number of non-market units being proposed over the next three years, is actually less than what was proposed in previous housing strategy reports.

While I question whether the city should be subsidizing 11,000 market rental housing units, and am curious how and where the 20,000 condos and affordable home ownership units are going to be built, of greater interest is the underlying intent behind many of the somewhat obtuse strategies set out in the report.

For example:

  1. One of the strategic directions is to refine and develop new zoning approaches. What does this mean? I have heard that some city housing planners and politicians have been considering the creation of ‘rental zones’ in the city, where only rental housing would be built. Is this what is intended? I do hope not.
  2. Another strategy is to pursue a new business model to enhance affordable housing delivery. Now what does this mean? During the last municipal election, Cllr Geoff Meggs and I were invited to debate the merits of setting up a City Housing Corporation as one way of facilitating the delivery of affordable housing in the city. Is this what’s intended? If not, what is being said between the lines?
  3. Another strategic direction proposes maintaining and exploring opportunities to improve Rate of Change regulations…The Rate of Change bylaw was introduced in the 80’s during the tenure of former City Councillor George Puil as a means of protecting the older rental housing stock in the city, especially in neighbourhoods like Kerrisdale and the West End. In some respects it has succeeded. However, in others it has failed in that many of the properties have been allowed to deteriorate. And while they provide more affordable rental housing, especially to longstanding senior residents, soon some of these buildings may be uninhabitable. While I agree with the need to improve the regulations, it would be helpful if the city planners shared what they are thinking. Will it be possible to demolish and replace some of these units under certain circumstances? I do hope so.
  4. The document seems to support the continuation of the STIR program, and other similar programs. While I am the first to admit that this program has encouraged a few developers to build market rental housing, rather than just condominiums, I am not convinced the results are worth the expense. Indeed, in many respects, the program has done more harm than good. Personally, while I support reduced parking requirements, fast-tracking applications, and reasonable density bonuses for rental housing, I do not support the kind of subsidies the city has approved to date. I would rather see limited City dollars directed towards the creation of affordable rental housing, not market rental housing.
  5. There is another idea in the report that does worry me…the establishment of a Rent Bank by the city and other partners, to prevent evictions due to tenants’ short-term financial crisis. While I can understand the underlying benevolent intent, I must question the appropriateness of the city participating in such a venture, given the potential financial and administrative costs, let alone the propriety of such an undertaking. When I questioned this idea during a recent CKNW Civic Affairs Panel, fellow panellist Frances Bula seemed to defend the idea noting that both the City of Surrey and Toronto had established similar Rent Banks. While I would like to learn more, this does not seem like a good reason to undertake such a potentially questionable idea.
  6. Another proposition in the report is to make City lands available at a reduced cost for affordable housing. Personally, I can support this idea, since it is similar to an initiative undertaken at SFU’s UniverCity community. However, at SFU, there was considerable debate about the notion of equity, and who might qualify for such housing. In the end, it was decided that the housing would only be available to faculty and staff, especially those with children. According to an interview with Cllr Louie in today’s Vancouver Sun, the city has some ideas about how such a program might be implemented. However, they are not set out in the report. I think it is important that the city share with us which sites might be made available, the potential costs to the city, and how it intends to address the question of equity.
  7. Finally, this document is significant for what it doesn’t include. For example, there is absolutely no reference to how best to deal with the ‘20% social housing sites’ that have been set aside by Concord Pacific and Marathon Realty, that remain undeveloped due to a lack of capital and operating funds. To my mind, this is a very pressing issue since it not only addresses supply, but also the desire for socially mixed communities, something which compelled the city to retain at great cost, the very expensive social housing units at the Olympic Village (which also is not mentioned anywhere in the report). I believe there are solutions that would result in affordable housing on these sites, at no cost to the city, which I would be happy to share, if asked.

In conclusion, this is an important document. However, to be truly meaningful to the taxpayers of the city and potential partners in future endeavours, it needs to be fleshed out with substantive details, specific examples, and more complete financial implications. I would urge the authors to now revise the document by adding a 'for example' at the end of every strategic action. Then we all might better understand what the authors and City Council have in mind.

Please don’t keep us in suspense.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Walk international conference focusing on the pedestrian

Recently we have talked a lot about public transit and cycling as alternatives to the private automobile. But the best alternative is something that is very healthy, easy to implement, relatively safe, and extremely cost effective....walking.

From October 3 to 5 , an international conference will be held in Vancouver to examine how best to create highly walkable and livable communities. Delegates will be coming from all over the world to share experiences about creating successful pedestrian oriented environments. I am pleased to be a participant in the conference and will talk about a number of communities with which I have been involved which were designed around the pedestrian.

I'll be writing more about this in the coming months, but in the meanwhile, here's some information about the conference, since the early registration deadline of AUGUST 2, 2011 is approaching.

This conference will offer a diverse and stimulating breakout program presented in a number of engaging formats including walkshops, Pecha Kucha and multimedia. The first draft of the breakout program is now posted for viewing and individual presentation summaries can be read by clicking on the link below.

Early Bird Deadline is August 2. Save money on your registration fee by registering by August 2. The organizers expect a sold-out event, so don't wait. Register Now!

Walk21 is a conference series that features the best urban design, health promotion, and best practices for making spaces and cities more walkable, comfortable and convenient. Drawing from a range of regions, this year's selection will emphasize "Transforming the Automobile City."

Dr. David Suzuki will be a plenary speaker on Monday, October 3. As we all know in Vancouver, Dr. Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is the recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for Science, the United Nations Environment Program Medal, and UNEPs Global 500.

For more details on how to register, go to

I have a feeling this will turn out to be a very special and worthwhile event. A number of local, well known and accomplished urbanists and planners are involved in its organization. Stay tuned for more details....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stratford International, London Athletes’ Village and the Open Championship

The Stratford International train station has been built to serve those coming to the 2012 London Olympics. The London Olympic Athletes’ Village, (which will be the subject of a future post) is now under construction immediately adjacent to the station and visible from its gleaming and relatively vacant lobby.

They call it Stratford International Train Station. But according to those who work there, there’s nothing international about it at all….indeed, the Eurostar Chunnel Train that goes to the continent runs through the station, but does not even stop!

Apparently a German company is exploring the feasibility of offering a service from the station to Germany, but so far, nothing has been decided. According to one South Eastern Railway employee with whom I spoke, this will ultimately be an international station, but not in the immediate future.

I had the opportunity to use the new station last week when I took a high-speed train to Deal, Kent to visit Keith Tapping, a former CMHC colleague who is now retired in England. Many in Vancouver will remember Tapping as a brilliant and benevolent man who as Assistant Regional Director to King Ganong, and subsequently BC Regional Director, oversaw the redevelopment of Granville Island, False Creek, and the approval of thousands of housing units around the province. Tapping had a particular interest in the creation of social housing, especially for the homeless and those living in the Downtown Eastside.

Those who worked closely with Tapping, including Michael Audain, Mike Harcourt and Shirley Chan, have many stories about him. My favourite relates to a time after I left the corporation and he had returned to Vancouver from Toronto to be the Regional Director, considered by many to be the top job within CMHC. Keith had invited me to lunch at O’Douls, one of his favourite haunts at the time. After many stories and glasses of Johnny Walker Black Label, around four o’clock I suggested to Keith that perhaps it was time for him to return to the office. “What if the President calls and you’re not there….you could be fired” I suggested.

Tapping turned to me and said the President would never fire him regardless of whether he was in the office or not, adding “He’s promised my job to too many people!”

Visiting Keith is always a highlight of my trips to England. While we tend to repeat the same stories to each other every time we get together, it doesn’t matter. However, it is always a bit sad to reflect on just how vital CMHC was during the decade Keith and I both worked at the Corporation, relative to its fairly minimal role in housing across Canada today.

This year, Keith picked me up at the station and knowing that I enjoyed golf, immediately drove over to Sandwich, a nearby town where the Royal St. Georges Golf Course is located. This is the location for the 2011 Open Championship which begins today.

We took a quick tour of the course as they were setting up the stands, tents, signage and other paraphernalia. (At one point, Keith took a wrong turn and we seemed to be driving down one of the fairways!) To see the course with few people around on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, it looked very unimposing, and it was difficult to believe that a week later it would be the centre of the golfing world.

So as I sat and watched the first round (with a 20 year old amateur tied for the lead), it was quite special, having been there just a week ago.

And all being well, I’ll see Keith next year, although whether I go during the Olympics, when the train station will be packed (and Royal St. Georges will be back to normal) remains to be seen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES IN VANCOUVER July 14 at 6:30 Beth Israel Synagogue, Oak Street

Earlier this year, I received a phone call from Serge Haber, President of the Jewish Seniors' Alliance which provides a range of serves for seniors in Vancouver's Jewish community. He told me that funding was limited and there was a danger of having to cut back in services. Since my late father Sam Geller was an avid supporter of the Alliance, he hoped I would help out financially.

I said I would, but suggested that others would support the group as well, especially if it could be fun. I immediately thought of, a website I had come across featuring rather ordinary older Jews telling jokes on line. I thought why not have an evening when members of the Alliance and the broader community would be invited to come and hear some of the classic Jewish comedians whose material is now on-line, as well as tell their favourite jokes. We would bring in some deli and something to drink, and hope that people would make a donation.

I offered to help put together some material, and invite my friend Alvin Wasserman to co-emcee with me. And this is how the idea for this Thursday's Fun(d)raising evening was born.

If you are wondering if this is an event for you, you don't have to be old...hey you don't have to be just have to enjoy good humour and the company of people who have some great stories to tell. So far about 150 people have RSVP'd and it's not too late for you to do so...just email or phone 604 732 1555

Thanks also to Omnitsky's, Eppie's Kosher and the Jewish Independent for offering to help sponsor the event.

By the way, here's one of the more memorable stories from told by a somewhat frumpy older Jewish woman.

"So tell me Sadie, do you still get horny?" " Occasionally" she replies. "So what do you do?" "I suck a lifesaver".

And after a long pause...."So who drives you to the beach?"

Friday, July 8, 2011

From Spain to UK via Eritrea...yes Eritrea

On the 4th of July we decided to leave Spain for a few days in London before heading home. We decided to fly Seville-London on EasyJet, one of a number of discount carriers that offer good prices between UK and the Continent. However, with EasyJet, everything is extra....baggage? Extra! Golf Clubs? Extra! Coffee? Extra!

If you can book well in advance, you can get some incredible deals...if you book a few days in advance, like we did, not such great deals...but lots of flights and fairly reliable service.

As we were checking in there were five very attractive young black girls, all wearing pink T-shirts indicating that they had been attending a 'hen party'. I must say, I was quite impressed that five girls would go to Seville from UK, just for a party. But that's the way it is in Europe...everywhere is quite close...Poland is two and a half hours away!

There is no assigned seating on the plane, and having wandered around the airport, we were amongst the last to get on. It turned out that the only remaining seat was in between these five ladies, and I apologized for taking it.

As often happens, we started to chat, and while I hadn't given much thought to these girls' backgrounds, as soon as I started to chat with two of them, I realized they weren't who I thought the might be, judging by their matching T-shirts and outward appearances.... if you know what I mean.

They immediately struck me as very sophisticated and worldly, and I soon discovered thatwhile some were born in UK, they were all professional women whose families had originally come from Eritrea. One was a doctor, one a lawyer, a pharmacist, a psychologist and a marketing manager. I told them I knew very little about their country, and they assured me I was not alone.

While I associate the country with the poverty of Africa, they surprised me by suggesting that they don't really think of themselves as Africans....given the longstanding association of their country with Italy. I did some research and in fact the country has had a very different history from some of the neighbouring countries. That being said, it has suffered in many ways, and I was particularly surprised to see that the country ranks 178 out of 178 when it comes to freedom of the press.

They encouraged me to visit their country.... assuring me that there was much more to it than the poverty and strife we often associate with nearby Somalia and Ethiopia...and I promised to consider a trip. The reality is that although I have now been to 73 countries in the world, I have never been anywhere in Africa....

The flight went very quickly. I was fascinated by the discussion, and promised to post my observations . One final comment...we got on to the topic of getting married, and how their families might react to them marrying men who were not from Eritrea. What would they think of one of them marrying a Jew I asked...

That would not be so replied. However, her parents would be quite upset if she was to marry a Nigerian!

All I could think of is that the world is not always how it appears to be! Best wishes to the young lady who's getting married....and to her four lovely friends.

Some advice for Spanish Tourism Officials

I hate to have to tell you this, but far too many of your tourism offices offer very little value to English Speaking Tourists. At first, we thought it was a one off situation, but after a while we realized there's a serious problem. In your effort to get multi-ligual staff you are often losing out on people who know something about your cities, and people who can understand English. The problem was particularly acute in Seville which has so much to offer English speaking tourists. In one centre, getting information about activities and things to see was as difficult as removing teeth from a patient in a dentists chair. My general question of "is there anything more we should know about interesting things to do in your city invariably ended with "no".

In Seville, I asked one young girl in a facility near the Cathedral how best to view the EXPO 92 site...she knew nothing about it. I'm not making this up. One of the most significant initiatives in Seville in the last century and she really knew nothing about it....and the reason I'm calling her out, is that when we arrived in her office, she was playing cards on her computer. She should have been learning English, or more about the city.

I went back to the office after lunch to see if I could get some basic information. Another person, Carmella, was fantastic, and full of valuable information including where best to see Flamenco with the Sevillians, and what else to do at night. But she was an exception, not the rule. I subsequently learned that everyone went to Carmella since she was so knowledgeable.

We arrived at the Train Station in Granda with the intention of going to the Alhambra Palace. Hundreds of thousands of people must be in the same situation...but was there ANY information availble telling you how to get there? Nada! There's no tourist information whatsoever in this and most other train stations. In this case, there was not even a board telling you which bus to take, and where to get it, how it will cost, where to buy tickets, or how much a taxi will cost. I just don't understand why this problem is allowed to exist. Hasn't anybody ever pointed it out before? I'll send this along to the Spanish Tourist folks, just in case.

While we have been to Spain a few times, and I don't speak any Spanish...we manage, But our holidays would be so much enriched if the ladies in the tourist office, (and yes they almost always seem to be ladies) had a better grasp of things. It would be so easy to train them...I'd love to be given the opportunity~

By contrast, we arrived home in Vancouver and travellers are greeted by extensive tourist facilities. If I have any criticism, it's only that we may have gone overboard. But the airport authority and tourism vancouver have done a good fact an excellent job. They could teach the Spanish a few things!

Cycling Safety in Spain

One of the things that attracted me to Seville was an article in the Lonely Planet travel guide describing the efforts the city is making to becoming a leading 'green' city in Europe. Many streets now ban cars in the historic centre, and a new Tram Line was recently built along the main avenue of the city. There are also many bike lanes and a bike sharing program in place, and they are doubt due to the climate, the cost of owning a car, the relatively flat terrain, etc.

But there were a few things that struck me about Seville's cycling infrastructure which I had seen in other international cities, including London from where I returned yesterday, and which I think are worth pointing

1. Unlike Vancouver, the bike lanes are both on the streets and the sidewalks. Where it is not feasible to add them to the street, the sidewalk will suffice, and I think it does work...while cyclists tend to go slower, I think that's ok too. It cuts down on accidents but still allows a vaible alternative to the auto, or walking to function. Now in many places, the sidewalks are wider, but in others, they are similar to what we have...but it all feels much safer....for all.

2. There is little, if any space taken up by landscaped barrier systems like those installed along Hornby and Dunsmuir. In fact, I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like this anywhere in the world. Instead, Seville uses lines and changes in pavement colour, and subtle metal markers in certain places to let the cyclists know where they can go.

3. There are posted speed limits on cycling routes...generally 10 k/m which is reduced to 5 k/m in certain areas. I'm not sure I have seen speed limits posted for cyclists in Vancouver. Please tell me if this is city policy.

4. Perhaps due to the safer conditions, cyclists don't always wear helmets. I noted this in my 2007 Vancouver Sun article. Indeed, I suggested that if we could improve bicycle safety, we might be able to reconsider our helmet requirments. One advantage of this would be to increase the number of cyclists...I really believe this...and facilitate more effective bike sharing programs.

Of course I was chastised by doctors and cyclists who had survived major accidents only because they were wearing helmets. However, my point is that if cyclists are restricted from travelling so quickly, then many of these more serious accidents may not occur. And I also believe that the total environmental and health benefits of far more cyclists will offset the occasional serious accidents that will happen because people are not wearing helmet

If I'm wrong, then why aren't helmets mandatory in most of Europe and South America, just to name two continents. And please don't tell me they are not quite as advanced as us or caring about the health of the people....if you believe this, you haven't been to Seville or Gothenberg, or Buenos Aires or Santiago. What I do know is that there are more healthy people who are cycling, and reduced carbon gases in many parts of the city.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sensational Seville

While most people think of Barcelona and Madrid when they think of Spanish cities, or perhaps Valencia if they are a fan of Calatrava, Seville does not get quite as much attention. But it should. Because for those who have spent time there, it is one of the most sensational cities in Europe.

Seville has a very different feel than the other cities...perhaps it's the more southern climate, the Moorish influence, or the fact that at one point in time, Seville was perhaps the wealthiest city in the world. It shows in the oppulent buildings and the historic areas that can best be described as mazes. Despite our best efforts, we were always getting lost in Seville, especially around Santa Cruz, the former Jewish Quarter near where we stayed, and in the streets of the other historic areas.

Seville has the Real Alcazar Palace, which was built over many centuries, and the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe. Both are spectacular. It also has fascinating neighbourhoods such as La Macarena and Triana, which are best described as 'edgy'. In fact, much of Seville is edgy.

It is also a progressive city which is trying to be 'green'. It has a pedestrianized centre which bans automobiles, and a recently constructed tram line that links into the underground Metro system...priority is given to taxis and buses...there's a bike share program and an extensive bike path network.The more recent development of Seville has been influenced by two world fairs...the 1929 Exposition and the 1992 World Fair which I will briefly describe in another post.

One of the highlights of the city was experiencing Flamenco and wandering around the various tapas bars including El Rinconcillo, founded in 1670 and still in operation, where we spent part of our last night. Here and elsewhere in the city, it is customary to keep tab by writing the price of food and drink in chalk on the countertop...something I had never seen before. Like the toothpick system, it seems to work!With its lively narrow medieval streets, grand squares and magnificent buildings with diverse architectural styles, Seville is one place we do hope to return to one day. We were there 5 nights but needed more time to really get to know the place and do some serious shopping. (There are some fabulous stores selling leather goods, custom made shirts and outrageous ladies dresses...We'll go back for more flamenco and to try out more Andalusian food...although we may pass on the fried calamari....we seemed to have just a bit too much this time around!

ps there's just one thing I'm not too sure about...this newly completed architectural structure that creates a covered space, and incorporates some Roman may make a wonderful ruin itself one day!

A day at the Alhambra Palace

When Sally turned 60, she said she wanted to see the Taj Mahal for her birthday present. While I wasn't partucularly keen about travelling to ├Źndia...I agreed to go and take her there for her birthday. It was a trip we will never forget

For some time, Sally has also harboured a desire to see the Alhambra in Granada. I suspect one of her friends told her that it was something she had to see. While we had not planned to go to the south of Spain, rather than spend our last week on the Costa Blanca, we decided to book a train ticket to Seville where we would stay for a few days, and from where we could do a day trip to Granada.

And so at 6:15 on Canada Day we set off from our hotel near Santa Cruz for the Seville train station and boarded the 6:55 train for Granada.

While the trip was not quite as challenging as getting to Agra, the weather did seem almost as hot, and after a few hours discovering some very nice parts of Granada's downtown, and some tapas for lunch, we set off for Alhambra.

Whie it was not quite as exquisite or elaborate as I had expected, it was very impressive. The complex was sarted by the Moors in the 11th century and seized by the Christians in January 1492 (a year during which quite a lot happened in Spain). The Christians under various rulers have made many changes and carried out numerous additions to the complex. While Napoleon is reported to have tried to destroy the Alhambra, it has somehow managed to remain remarkably intact over the centuries.

Alhambra is a lot like an architectural history textbook with many styles on display. But it also could be a textbook for landscape architects since the landscaped grounds, with the many water features are outstanding.

It took about three hours to tour about. We could have spent more time but the temperature was in the very high 30's and having gone to bed late the night before, and not having slept as well as we would have liked for fear of sleeping in, by 5 pm we were getting weary. So we returned to the very lively and attractive streets of Granada for some sangria and air conditioned shopping. (I know...what a terrible thing to have to of the most beautiful places in the world and we left to go for sangria and shopping.)

I now write this from the train as we head home. We'll arive at midnight, making for quite a long day. But like our trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal, I suspect this is another day we won't forget for a long time. And it wasn't even Sally's birthday!

Leaving Xabia or Javea

There are a lot of towns along the Costa Blanca that have been ruined by tourism....Xabia or Javea where we spent 13 nights doing a house exchange is not one of them....While there are a significant number of tourists each year, and a good number of people from other parts of Europe with second homes in the town, Javea has somehow managed to keep its charm and character.The town is divided into three main areas: the Port (where we stayed) with a pebble beach; the Old Town perched on a hill; and Arenal, a more traditional seaside area with a sandy beach (our least favourite of the three). Each has its own distinctive character.One of the most significant heritage sites is a 16th C church in the Old Town. I mention this to give some sense of the age of the place. However, a much more interesting church was built in the 1970's in the Port area, and is designed to reflect the sea going character of the place. While it is squeezed into the existing street fabric, it's a very striking building, both inside and out...quite remarkable.We stayed in a very modern new house in a very desirable area just up the hill from the Port and its parade of seafront restaurants. We didn't need to drive...we could walk down the hill to the Port or into the Old Town...which was fortunate since we not only exchanged houses, but we exchanged cars and I did not want to take any chances drinking and driving....although the Spaniards do it, they also have very stringent regulations.In addition to the beaches, restaurants and fine shops, there was a delightful golf course where we met some very friendly and helpful people...Thanks especially to Brian whose restaurant recommendation was superb.So goodbye to Javea...we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, and can highly recommend it as a good place to visit, or indeed live. We didn't meet one person with any regrets about moving there! And why should they have regrets? It's paradise.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's not just the buildings that are are some of the foods!

One of the great delights in Spain is the food....some of the things we know about...paella, various hams,wonderful seafood, etc. However, there are a lot of things we don't always expect to go anchovies and coke! I really like anchovies, and as you can see from these photos, I ate a lot of them, prepared in various ways...but for some reason, I just couldn't imagine washing them down with coke!There are also many things that we see in the market, and on our plates in restaurants that are completely....well if you'll pardon the pun....foreign! Here are some of the things we ate, or thought about eating during our stay in Spain..

Can you tell which are the flamenco eggs? the musaka?

One last thing...we discovered something here we had never seen before.. in some restaurants, including one where we ate on our last night that was founded in the 17th century....they keep track of your bill by writing the prices on the counter with chalk...if you look carefully you'll see the price of my aged manchego cheese with what looked like seville marmalade, but which tasted quite differently!