Postcard from Segovia, Spain: The Plaza Mayor San Antonio should emulate

This is a Plaza Mayor every city wants. It certainly is the one I would want San Antonio to attain. And San Antonio could, perhaps, with the new residential components slated for Main Plaza.

Tourists come through the plaza in Segovia in large groups, but the plaza remains Segovian despite our invasions. It refuses to be conquered.

Both the Cathedral and City Hall border the huge public space. Tolling bells still regulate the time for the city. Military bands march through. Weddings from City Hall spill into the plaza. Student concerts take place. Races begin there. Labor Day rallies take place. A farmers market occurs on Thursdays (the oliveman parked below our balcony). Cleaning crews came through immediately after the market closes in the early afternoon, and the surrounding restaurants quickly drag their tables back out into the sunshine.

This is a place for morning coffee and, a little later, to have it corrected with cognac. Locals still gather for lunch or drinks extending into the evening. They arrive on foot.

Old people (even older than us) park on benches waiting for friends to wander by. In the afternoon, baby carriages grow in number. Scampering children run freely, the bandstand serving as their stage. Parents are relaxed enough to sit at the cafes while children romp.

The age of the children in the bandstand increases hourly, until, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning the college-age crowd takes over. The cleaning crew comes through once again, leaving the sprawling plaza spotless before the newsstand opened for business. The Mister witnessed this when suffering from a bit of time-zone adjustment. It could happen nightly, but we would not know.

The apartment we rented overlooks the plaza. And the view was never static. Gazing out our windows or walking out onto our little balcony next to City Hall was much more entertaining than any television show could be.

This is a plaza that seems to never sleep, except maybe between about 7 to 8 in the morning. Then the man opens his news kiosk and spreads out the daily papers and gossip magazines. Delivery trucks have a small window to replenish the cafes as waitstaff return tables and chairs offering prime viewing of all the action.

This is no quiet place. It is the throbbing heart of a thriving urban center.

What made it possible to enjoy were double-paned windows and major louvered shutters that could be lowered over them so we could sleep peacefully at night.

The Plaza Mayor in Segovia. This is a place I would want to be parked when I am too old to move. Perch me on a balcony in a spot like this, and let me enjoy watching life.




Farmers bring their bounty to Southtown

Weekend mornings are meant for slow starts. I like to take full advantage of that concept and ease into the day. This means I rarely make it to the farmers markets at Pearl or the Quarry, but Heather Hunter and David Lent actually have brought one to my neighborhood, the Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market in the parking lot of Blue Star.

I realize early risers get the best picks at a market, and yesterday, as the hand on my watch ticked toward noon, it definitely was too late to ensure a chicken in my pot. Fresh non-GMO and soy-free eggs and whole chickens were all sold out. But there was still an ample supply of most other things remaining for the lazy.

The market’s website profiles the vendors, so hop on over there to get acquainted with the farmers setting up shop every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. But produce isn’t the only thing available.

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For humans, there are raw milk cheeses from Dos Lunas and luscious pastries from Bakery Lorraine; well-behaved dogs can get rewarded with healthy treats such as savory empanadas stuffed with grass-fed beef or “ginger bones” from Katie’s Jar. Gretchen Bee Ranch harvests honey from 100 hives in 10 apiaries located in Bexar and three neighboring counties, and the beeswax candles are beautiful. Lunch for us can be solved with falafel wraps from Señor Veggie or whole-wheat spinach-filled paratha from Nisha’s.

My favorite sampling yesterday was the spicy Aztec dark chocolate from Peggy Cloar’s High Street Chocolate of Comfort. She said she developed her intensely flavored chocolates to accompany red wine tastings at vineyards. No wine around, but they tasted fine without.

September 2, 2013, Update: John Griffin writes about those interesting striped Armenian cucumbers

A Santa Fe Saturday

Starving on the way to a promised bunch so did not take many photos – barely enough to post – at the colorful Santa Fe Farmers Market at the Railyard….

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What the Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio is growing up to be….