Coffee,Castanets and Don Quixote

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If you click on it below it will take you to the relevant page in Books4Spain where it is the same price as on Amazon


 This has just had an excellent review posted on the Books4Spain website:

Coffee, Castanets and Don Quixote by Robert Noble Graham  


Review by Molly Sears-Piccavey June 2013


It is not very often I read a book in one sitting. This eBook about Spain had me hooked from the first few pages. Coffee, Castanets and Don Quixote covers four Spanish cities. Barcelona, Seville, Toledo & Madrid.


Having visited these locations myself I was particularly interested to read how the author would describe each city. I began to read wondering if I would agree or relate to the descriptions.  If you haven´t had the chance to visit Spain yet, you will appreciate the detail described in each situation. The explanations of the people, scenery and buildings will give you a sense of this magical and varied country. As you read the words will transport you to these places. If you are considering travelling to these areas it is a perfect starter to begin to plan your travel.


Having lived in Barcelona for over eight years I was surprised to learn some new information about the city previously unknown to me. The descriptions of the Gaudi buildings particularly stood out, allowing me to vividly imagine each building.


The writing manages to blend useful fact on the location, mix in several anecdotes and also includes detailed but not longwinded descriptions of these cities of Real Spain.


The four destinations are atno point over romanticized for the sake of the reader. This Scotsman really does tell it like it is. The steep hills of the old quarters In Toledo and the problems with pickpockets in Barcelona are outlined and explained. Instead of being played down to give a glossy brochure image of Spain.  The reader is invited during the chapters to enjoy the authenticity of Spain. We are encouraged to savour the local food, wine and delicacies.


We all make mistakes when travelling abroad, get lost in a cobbled alleyway or get flummoxed with the language. Robert Noble Graham is no exception despite being an experienced traveller. Through the book we are told of problems with Catalan language when he is trying his utmost to learn Spanish and practice when he came and of being irritated by noisy tourists trying to order non Spanish food. (Something I can relate with)


The majestic city of Seville is originally described as the author links the monuments and buildings into different Operas. This gives a slightly different and refreshing perspective on these famous Andalusian landmarks. When we reach Madrid the huge array of paintings and art that the capital city has on offer is explained in glorious detail. Although there is also a visit to the bustling Rastro street market held each Sunday morning in Madrid.


The writer´s passion for Spain is clear but this does not pollute the honesty shown in these tales of travel through these contrasting cities. At just under 70 pages this is a short but intense read for anyone interested in Spain.


Molly Sears-Piccavey has lived in Spain since 1998, initially in Barcelona, but now lives in Granada. Working in Communication and PR, she uses her spare time to read books, keep up with her blog and travel across Andalusia. Molly speaks fluent Spanish and English as well as some French and Catalan.


I wanted to write Coffee,Castanets and Don Quixote because Spain is a treasure house of  interest and pleasure. Take a mature guide who has spent decades travelling and now introduces you to four of Spain`s great cities. Each chapter lasts as long as a large, leisurely cup of rare coffee and has the same stimulating effect. I ramble into hills and into historic lanes to find memorable encounters, often by accident, but I try to find where they belong in the rich tapestry of Spain`s history.  Why not accompany me to the city of Carmen and Don Juan, sundrenched  Seville, to see the magnificent Islamic palaces and water gardens or have lunch by the great river, the Guadalquivir. Or go to Barcelona where, enjoying the panorama from Montjuic I encountered probably Europe`s most incompetent mugger. Then I explore the strange world of Catalan art from Picasso and Dali to Gaudi.  Then there is the majestic old capital, Toledo, where once Christian, Jew and Muslim lived together in harmony. You can  visit the house of the great El Greco who painted one masterpiece after another and sat out in the summer evenings in his wonderful courtyard. From the heights of Toledo you can see the arid plane of La Mancha from which set out the greatest of comic characters, Don Quixote de la Mancha. By contrast go to Madrid, the modern capital and one of the friendliest and most welcoming. Find its gigantic royal palace or go out in its dark streets at night to a performance of unforgettable gypsy flamenco. Sometimes in company, sometimes alone, I was interested in  how its turbulent past has moulded this unique country and has given it delights unmatched elsewhere. 



from Coffee,Castanets and Don Quixote


            I was enjoying the sights of Ramblas on my first morning when my attention was captured by an opening on the south side of the street. It led to the renowned Boqueria market. Markets have been held on this site since around 1200 A.D. but the construction of an enclosed and covered area was agreed in the nineteenth century and completed in 1914. For anyone interested in food, especially fresh food, this is one of the unmissable sights of the city. Other cities have great buildings, artists, history etc.,  but  I don`t know of another with a market as extraordinary as this one. The range of fruit, vegetables, cheeses and spices is wonderful, but to me the most captivating display was the seafood. My home country is quite conservative about which products of the oceans it will eat. Spaniards do not seem to share this hesitation. Around me in La Boqueria I saw vendors in the middle of circular stalls which displayed an abundance of sea life, much of it still alive, twitching and planning escape. A langoustine was making an impressive if rather slow run for it across the tender bodies of other captives.  Others, like barnacles, were not so tender. I was surprised to see them. I once tried to scrape a barnacle from a rock on the island of Barra and found it very hard work.  I know that  the islanders in the Hebrides would harvest barnacles when nothing else was on offer but I`m not sure they`d have bothered if the rest of La Boqueria  had surrounded them. I find it difficult to believe the nutrition from a barnacle could ever replace the energy spent  harvesting it, let alone cleaning and cooking it. The langoustine continued to pick his careful, determined way down the stall, bravely passing a fish which seemed to be all mouth with a tiny body attached as an afterthought. It looked depressed but I felt this might not simply be homesickness as it lay on the slab. It was easy to imagine he was a reincarnated glutton, punished in some Hindu universe by giving him a mouth large enough to seize huge portions but only the body to digest tiny ones.  A couple of small octopi waved  despairing arms as if hoping for attention from the stall owner, no doubt hoping to explain that there had been a ghastly mistake and they would be much more satisfying meals in a year`s time if allowed to swim the oceans a little longer.



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