Entered León Province

I’m finally out of Palencia province and now in León province in autonomous community of Castile and León. “in”, of course, is to be taken figuratively, not literally, as I just finished enough miles on treadmill in the basement to reach Sahagún, the first town along the Camino on east side of León province. 259.98 miles from the start. That’s not many miles for ten months but I’ll also hit another milestone of 6000 miles on stationary bicycle which isn’t too shabby, in fact, more than I used to do for real when I lived in California and real biking outside was feasible.

Now my “progress” on the virtual trek is boring content so I’d hoped to bring you some new tidbits of information about menus, but, alas I couldn’t find any. Between Trip Advisor and Google I had nearly 20 candidate establishments who have food but none have any online menus. Thus I have no source material to examine. And while the pictures (from the few web sites) or geo-located on Google show plenty of food there are no words. This is disappointing since all the small towns all through Palencia haven’t had menus to translate. I didn’t even see a photo of the blackboards outside restaurants that frequently are menus. And the only photo I found of a menu was the English menu and thus not interesting.

So rather than leave you with nothing about translations I also found the 15 most interesting things to do in Sahagún (effectively all related to religion) and so extracted a few words. Silly me for not knowing Iglesia since it is rather common.

Arte Sacro Sacred Art
Castillo Castle
Iglesia Church
Carcel Jail
Monasterio Monastery
Museo Museum
Oficina Office
Palacio Palace
Puente Bridge
Ruta Route
Santuario Sanctuary
Semana Santa Holy Week
Turismo Tourism

So the trek across Castile is still rather boring so I’m actually glad I’m only doing the virtual version.

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Virtual trek landscape observations

This isn’t a Spain food post but is my observations, via remote means, about my virtual trek along the Camino. I’ve mentioned that, as an incentive to exercise, I convert miles I do on the treadmill in the basement to position along the GPS track I have of the Camino de Santiago. I then use Google’s Streetview and satellite images to try to “see” what the trek actually looks at where I’m “at”.

What triggered this post was my searching for restaurants along the trek that have online menus. I’ve reached Ledigos in Palencia province of Castilla y León  autonomous community. I’ve been trekking across Palencia for over a month now (an actual trek would be a few weeks). Ledigos has a few places to eat but nothing online I can analyze.  That’s been true of all the various towns along this stretch of the Camino.

In my previous post I talked about extracting Spanish food terms from various online lists. This is useful for expanding the corpus I’m building to then have code extract an extensive vocabulary that would be useful in interpreting menus in Spain and deciding what to (or not to) order. Lists are helpful but not very interesting to process. The Spanish terms with English definitions/translations are just mindless mechanical work (automating processing these lists is very difficult). I don’t mind tedium of this kind of processing but I don’t learn much. The dictionaries or glossaries that are entirely in Spanish are a bit more interesting since I use machine translation of the Spanish to English and often these translations require additional investigation to find out what the terms really mean. That’s a bit more interesting and helps me learn a bit (not just mindlessly accumulate raw data).

But restaurant menus are far more interesting. They often use terms that defy machine translation and thus require a lot of investigation. Thus I learn a lot from these. So being a bit bored with processing lists and not finding any online menus along this stretch of the Camino I used Google maps to find larger towns that are more likely to have menus to see. In the province of Palencia there are not many of these towns; in fact, only the city of Palencia is large enough to provide some online material. And that’s what I’m working on in my food terms part of my adventure and will have some posts on those menus.

So searching the map of Palencia revealed even more of the landscape than I’ve “seen” along my virtual trek. And, frankly, what I see is hot, dry, dusty and boring countryside with sleepy little nondescript towns. A real trek on this stretch would not be very interesting.

Here in Nebraska I have access to three trekking trails that are rural and would require more than a day to walk. First is the nearby MoPac, a rails-to-trails conversion that starts about 20 miles west of Lincoln and goes into the city. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this concept the right-of-way that was granted to build railroads often reverts back to state when the railroad is abandoned. While the railroad was operating the route was transformed to level with gentle curves, either filling in depressions or cutting grades through hills. Here there are numerous small streams so the railroad required bridges and those can be refurbished to provide the walking path. So the MoPac (and others) make for easy and sometimes pleasant walking. Since many of these railroad routes were built when train engines still burned coal (or even wood) there is usually additional area along the side of the tracks so embers didn’t ignite crops or houses. So today the MoPac is overgrown with “wild” brush and trees, often 50m or so on both sides of the trail. As a result hiking is often in the shade, something definitely not the case in Palencia. But there are non-shady stretches along the MoPac that can be seriously hot in summer with intense sun.

A second trail is the Wabash, another rails-to-trails in Iowa. It starts on the south edge of Council Bluffs and continues all the way to Missouri, nearly 70 miles, so more than a day hike. This trails is even more overgrown and shaded than the MoPac. So despite being surrounded by farms, usually within 50m of the trail, it feels more like wilderness. The Wabash goes through a number of towns and a few of those now have refreshment (but not overnight lodging) for trekkers. Doing the entire length of Wabash would take multiple days (possibly doable in one day on a bike, although biking speed on the unpaved trail is much lower than paved road biking, so doing the entire Wabash is harder than doing a Century ride). Thus a trekker would need vehicle support at the end of each day to find lodging. This contrasts with the Camino which has lodging, water and food at convenient daily hiking intervals, undoubtedly one of the main appeals of the Camino, all the infrastructure to support peregrinos.

In segments (and recording with my GPSr) I’ve done the full length of both of these trails and very much appreciate that the states chose to use the abandoned right-of-way for recreation. But in some ways I view these trails as practice (or an appetizer) for a real long-distance trek.

So now I’ll tie this together with Palencia. A third long-distance trail is the Cowboy Trail. Nominally (except it’s unfinished) it could be the longest trekking trail in the US. It’s a bit longer drive for me to reach it (I can get to MoPac or Wabash in an hour) so I don’t normally consider hiking any of it. But the Cowboy Trail is right next to a highway I driven multiple times. So it turns out the Cowboy Trail is very similar to the Camino, at least the long stretch in Castilla y León and especially Palencia province. It has little shade and so also is hot and dry and flat and passes through either monotonous fields of corn or soybeans and further west (even drier) through pasture land. It looks a LOT like the Palencia stretch of the Camino.

In my other hobby I do an online recreation called Geodashing.  This involves trying to reach completely random “dashpoints”, just a latitude and longitude. Geodashing requires getting within 100m of the coordinates without trespassing on private land so I take each month’s new set of dashpoint (about 30,000 each month, worldwide) and analyze if I can reach them (i.e. drive close, often on very remote and sometimes poor roads). As a consequence, having done this for over 10 years, I’m pretty good at analyzing countryside by satellite photos and sometimes Google Streetviews. Looking down from space on features on the ground takes some practice to imagine what there is at ground level. So I’ve had lots of practice with this and thus far doing the same for the Camino route I think I have a good idea of what is around the Camino route. For the Camino there are actually far more Streetview paths (the Google cars seem to have gone on all the little roads in Spain, more so than here in the Great Plains). I’m sure it would be difference to experience it for real but I think I have a good idea about the landscape.

I first learned of the Camino de Santiago from the movie The Way. Later I learned there are actually many branches of the Camino and so more correctly the part of the Camino I’m following is The French Way, aka, Camino Francés. While this is a very ancient pilgrimage route it was closed during the Moorish occupation of Spain but now is the most popular route. The movie makes the Camino far more visually appealing since it mostly shows scenes in Navarra and Galacia; both of these are wetter (thus greener and often wooded, more like wilderness backpacking trails) and have significant topography (i.e. the Pyrenees). But the bulk of the French Way is actually in flat and boring farm country. While the crops in Spain are different than the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska farmland is farmland and not the appealing scenery of other parts of the Camino.

But wrapping this long post up I want to comment on another interesting feature. That is the relative lack of human habitation outside the small towns.

Several decades ago I did an organized bicycle trip through southern Germany and Austria. Many people on that ride were from the midwest US so we discussed differences between rural areas in Germany vs the US. A very pronounced and obvious difference was the lack of farmhouses out among the fields. It seemed, since on a bike we notice hills, that all the farmers lived in small towns on hills and only crops are present in the bottomlands. At first we speculated this was a historical defensive choice as farming is many centuries older than in the US and Europe had a whole flock of wars. But we later learned the more obvious answer was that hills are drained and dry and so not very good for crops so houses were built there leaving the better-watered areas just for crops.

So that is another very noticeable difference between the three tails I described here in Nebraska and the Camino. When you can see beyond tree cover there are farmhouses everywhere on the Nebraska trails. And from the satellite and Streetview images there are almost none in Spain, just like Germany. The other really noticeable difference (which is correlated with lack of farmhouses) is that fields here are much larger and usually quite regular. This is a consequence of the land policies in the US where the government acquired vast tracts of “empty” land (as the sarcasm goes, “stolen fair and square” from the original peoples) and made these easily available to homesteaders. Thus, at least west of Ohio, most of the farm country in midwest US has a grid of roads (many now abandoned but still visible in satviews) on one mile spacing, aka, “section lines”. A section in the US is 640 acres or one square mile. In fact, an completely different geographical reference system is used, known a township/range and section than longitude or latitude.

The homestead act allow people to acquire a quarter section (160 acres) often free or at least very cheaply. So often each square mile had four farm houses, now with many abandoned. Unlike the irregular patchwork quilt of fields I see in Palencia fields here are almost entirely regular (not true in the older parts of the US, i.e. the eastern states).

In the US those original homesteads have mostly been consolidated into larger blocks of land. With automation it’s entirely feasible (and economically necessary) to farm at least an entire section if not several sections. At the time when this land was originally opened (19th century) such large farms were not feasible.

I happen to know all this as I am in the process of obtaining title to a “small” farm in Oklahoma where my mother’s family lived. That farm is a mere 80 acres, 1/2 of the original tract of the typical quarter section of land grants. Before WWII it was feasible for a family to live on such a small farm, raising some crops for income and others for personal consumption. The titles to the land I will inherit are a mess, stretching back to the early 20th century. But one feature of land ownership, now reversed with “corporate” farming, was original tracts get divided through inheritance. So my little 80 acre farm will have three owners (once all the legal process is completed). My father’s family farm was divided among 14 owners. So in the US there are these two competing trends, dividing larger tracts into smaller ones and then (usually through sale by heirs who don’t want the farm or small farmers who can’t economically farm such a small tract) into much larger tracts.

Now looking at the aerial view of Palencia it’s clear the process of subdividing land has been going on a very long time and thus creates the patchwork quilt of small tracts. When I toured Portugal two decades ago, especially in the area south of Lisbon the “modern” trend typical here in the US was occurring. Small farms were not economically viable once Portugal joined the EU so small tracts were being consolidated into larger ones. Much of the farm country south of Lisbon looks a lot like the midwest US. In fact, I was surprised to see the center pivot irrigation systems sprouting up with equipment that was produced in Nebraska (the origin of the invention of center pivot irrigation, now home to most of the producers of that system). Palencia seems to have escaped this consolidation process but I suspect some of the competitive economic pressures of the EU will lead to more consolidation in Spain as well.

So the lack of farmhouses actually out on the land is, I speculate, primarily economic (not defense). Land is simply too valuable to waste by building even just farmhouses on it. So the farmers live in the small villages in a more urban land use pattern. Since the farms are still small in Palencia there are many villages, as there were in Germany as I found one my bike ride there.

Having so many villages, often just a few kilometers apart, was very handy for our ride in Germany. Most of the towns had at least a gasthaus and often a market and/or a bakery. This made obtaining food and water easy. If a town didn’t have what we needed the next town was 20 minutes away. But that’s on a bike. Walking the towns are a couple of hours apart and of course that’s what I’m seeing on the Camino. Most of the small towns on that route have one or more albergues. It wouldn’t surprise me that on peak days peregrinos out number the local citizens. When I was looking off the Camino in Palencia the amount of lodging and restaurants, in the villages, declined, for the obvious reason they wouldn’t have many customers.

Now this is where I can make another comparison observation. Through geodashing I’ve been through a large number of small villages, mostly here in the Great Plains. And these villages are wasting away. If they were big enough to have some shops the now nearby Walmart (outside the taxing authority of the town) has driven those out of business (now Amazon is helping finish the job as seeing delivery trucks in the middle of nowhere is now much more common than when I first started geodashing). So these towns are dying. As a result they have few resources, either food or lodging for travelers. So along the three trails I described here long-distance self-supported trekking is basically impossible.

So what does all this mean? For me it has reduced my interest in doing the Camino. Too much of the route is this boring and hot/dry countryside with boring little towns (from Streetview also with many abandoned buildings like towns here in the midwest). Simply not very interesting.

Now the Camino was really not for recreational tourism. Its origin was the religious notion of pilgrimage. Where the route was interesting or the towns were interesting is mostly irrelevant from the classical pilgrimage POV. But all those little towns with resources for trekkers has meant most modern pilgrims are largely doing recreational tourism. And that would have been my focus. In my younger days I did quite a bit of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. Well my days of sleeping on the ground and eating freeze-dried food are over, my old bones want a bed and hot food. So a long hike on wilderness trails in the US was not on my agenda. So seeing the movie, The Way, I thought the Camino looked like a great alternative. Also with lodging and food the backpack can be a lot lighter than my wilderness backpacking. So it looked attractive.

But now, after my virtual trek, it looks less interesting. Spain is still appealing but I suspect I’d do my conventional tourism (with a car and mostly cities) if I get the chance to go. So I might see bits of the Camino (as I have the Cowboy Trail here) but I doubt I’ll walk it. This is disappointing to me to see the reality of the Camino as rather different than the romanticized view of the movie. The Camino can still be great, certainly as religious or spiritual pilgrimage or as a way to meet a lot of people with the many hours of trekking as an opportunity for conversation. But I was looking at it more like doing the Appalachian Trail but with beds and restaurants. And I think that’s what I’ve learned – too much of the trail would be just hot and dusty and tiring. Many people find the Appalachian Trail fairly boring, often called the “green tunnel”. While there is some spectacular scenery much of the AT is just walking through dense trees with no sights visible. The Pacific Crest Trail, OTOH, is much higher and much of it (at least the California stretch where I’ve backpacked) is dry and so there are some grand vistas.

So it’s all a question of what goals one has for a walk. I liked the Pacific Crest Trail but am now too old to do that. And now it looks like the Camino is out too.

So where do I look now?

Still moving, sadly

I used some of this title line back in a post on June 27 where I described that slowdown in both work on the vocabulary and my physical exertions.  However this month, August, was even worse both in terms of my progress, posting and personal life.

I’m not mugging for sympathy but last Saturday I was attending services for my sister, my only sibling, who died from pancreatic cancer on August 22nd.  There is a connection between her and my work on Spanish culinary terms which I’ll explain. Fortunately I was able to visit her while she was still lucid for her last (77th) birthday. Her death the day after my birthday was a shock. It was all very sudden. She loved her life and was looking forward to more of it – it’s not fair.

My sister loved travel. She had recently covered two places in the world she’d missed, Russia and India. She really only had one place left on her bucket list, Peru. Unlike me she’d been in Spain multiple times. IIRC her first visit was as a chaperone, cheerleader and tutor for her college’s football team, on one of those goodwill type visits of US sports teams to play exhibition games with European teams.

The reason my sister applies to this blog is that I had discussed with her my interest in learning to read restaurant menus in Spain, under the assumption that some day I would be doing it in person. She thought my idea was wrong; instead she advocated learning conversational Spanish so I could query the servers about the food. Her idea was one she had lived. She was more interested in food in Mexico but also learning Spanish. She made three trips, either to a Spanish-only cooking school or to live with families as process of learning “native” Spanish. She worked very hard at it (it was her fifth language). She even found Spanish speakers in her hometown in Ohio and shared cross-teaching where she’d help them with English and they’d help her with Spanish. In addition to Mexico she traveled to Puerto Rico primarily for restaurant visits but also she’d been to Guatemala (again with food but primarily art interest) and was learning Venezuelan cuisine from her friends in Ohio.

So she did what she advocated for me. But I never told her an anecdote about her Spanish. I have a sister-in-law who works on educational materials for ESL (English as a Second Language). She knows some Spanish but isn’t fluent. But her work brings her in contact with many native speakers. And she has a ear for languages. She had gone on a group trip to Oaxaca that my sister had organized and so observed her speaking to the locals. She joked that my sister’s accent was so bad she was barely understandable to native speakers. My sister had a PhD in English Literature and was very academically inclined, so naturally she had mastered grammar and vocabulary. But when it came to speaking she wasn’t great.

Now this anecdote also had a bearing on me. Just before I left California 20 years ago I had enrolled in Spanish classes. I’d gotten some books, a couple of DVDs and had tried to learn Spanish on my own. It was a complete failure. Having some conversational ability in Spanish, in California and some other parts of the USA is a survival skill. Most of the people I might hire as skilled labor for projects around my home had minimal English knowledge and so my being somewhat fluent in Spanish would have been helpful to discuss the work. Also on various bike rides I ended up in towns where the only language spoken was Spanish. But alas I have no talent for languages. I did learn some French and some German and could barely get by (using French in Quebec and German in Germany and Austria). But I just could never either hear or speak the sounds needed for Spanish. I sometimes watch Spanish TV programs here and the words go by so fast I catch almost nothing. It’s a hard language for me. OTOH, the written part is not so bad. Frankly it’s easier than either French or German and so I can do the “book learning” part of Spanish, much like my sister. But I suspect my accent would be far worse than hers and no one would understand me. So I’ll persist in my project focused on written materials, i.e. restaurant menus.

So that’s enough on that subject, why then am I labeling this post about my progress on my virtual trek. Despite spending most of August either driving or at my sister’s house I did manage to get some miles in.  As I mentioned in my previous post I was doing around 25 miles/month in the early months of the year but had fallen to about 14 miles/month. So in August I did manage 17.55 miles. Of course this is nothing compared to the requirements of pilgrimage on the Camino, literally my monthly amounts being around the requirement PER DAY! to complete the Camino in the standard time. But to my defense I also did 355 miles on stationary bike even in the few days I was at my home with my exercise equipment. And August was the end of my most recent year of records and so I’ve done 5698 miles of biking which isn’t too bad. In California where I regularly did recreational rides as well as commuting to work on a bike I only did about 4000 miles a year and that was 25 years younger than now.

In fact, even though walking seems the best way to do the Camino I am reconsidering whether I might try it on a bike instead. I once did a two week escorted trip in Germany where we averaged about 50 miles a day. But there the overnight stops were arranged and luggage was carried in the sag wagon. For the Camino it’s a bit tougher, both to find lodging (and even food) and carry cargo. I have done one bike camping trip along the California coast, again in the 50 mile/day range. Having all my camping gear on the bike made the riding more challenging (even requiring walking too very steep hills despite my low gears that had always worked, even in the Sierra Nevada climbs). It was quite a bit harder than an escorted trip. Of course all sorts of escorted trips exist for the Camino so maybe I’ll be realistic and do one of those.

So on the last day of August I did reach another destination along the Camino at 245.63 miles, the small town of Calzadilla de la Cueza. There are a couple of albergues (and some private rooms) and perhaps one restaurant (no online menu to translate). But what was a bit interesting was the previous stop with lodging and food was 10 miles earlier. On a bike that’s no big deal but on foot, if one had arrived at Carrión de los Condes and discovered there were no spaces continuing on to Calzadilla de la Cueza would be difficult. That is one of the challenges I see with my doing the Camino solo. I’m not quite as flexible as I was 50 years ago and so being relatively certain I have a reasonable place for overnight is pretty critical. So this gap I covered in August is the longest I’ve encountered thus far.

And this is one of the appeals of the Camino. It’s so popular there is a lot of infrastructure to support trekkers. In contrast the California coast (or even worse the trip across America) can have vast distances with little facilities, even water can be a challenge. OTOH, biking in Germany was fine as the distances between towns was a easy ride and there were many towns. BUT local customs matter – Germany had weekday ruhetags (rest days) and arriving in a town on that day, forget staying in the local gasthof. So a solo traveler can find themselves in a bit of a jam.

So again I may have to consider an escorted trip as my days of solo travel may be past.

So I hope to do a bit better this month on both my treadmill and biking distances. The visits to my sister interrupted my schedule but at least the last one where she was alive I will cherish and be happy I wasn’t on the Camino and unable to see her one last time. I will be glad to be home and exercising rather than that very sad traveling.

Pastelería o repostería o confitería

added: Interestingly pastelería appears in the context of wine tasting terminology which is yet another meaning than I explored in my original version of this post. See at the bottom.

As you can see by my lack of posts I’ve been away. I was in Ohio on “personal business”, the same type of “business” Tom had in The Way. As such it wasn’t any kind of vacation but it still prevented me from research on my project and posting. At one point we thought we might be able to go to Barcelona, no not the wonderful city in Spain, but an interesting restaurant in Columbus Ohio. Based on its online menus it seems very similar to menus I’ve been studying in Spain (names of items in Spanish, descriptions in English): it has a fixed price menú del día; a chef’s tasting menu (degustación); and the standard dinner menu. Most of the terms of the menu would be a mystery to me if I had just dropped in but now most I know from my work here. Whether it is authentic tastes of Spain I don’t know, but I hope to go back some day under better circumstances.

Meanwhile I’ve returned to start doing my stationary exercise, biking and walking. After two weeks off I can tell I’ve lost some tone so it’s a bit hard to get back to my previous speed. Nonetheless I made enough miles on the treadmill to map onto my GPS track of the Camino de Santiago and thus move my “virtual” trek to Villalcázar de Sirga. Palencia. This town is large enough to show four restaurants on the Google map but none had online menus (or even web sites). One had a simple menu but it was graphical rather than text so I couldn’t extract it.

But continuing my hunt I did find an online menu, of sorts, for Confitería La Perla Alcazareña, aka, La Pastelería with the URL http://pasteleriavillasirga.com/. Just a bit of looking at this site quickly revealed Spanish words that have multiple meanings (each word) and are almost synonyms, i.e. pastelería, repostería, confitería. Any of these can be found in at least one dictionary as bakery or pastry shop or confectionery. So which is it?

Digging a bit more alos reveal additional overlapping terms (in the general theme of bakeries): panaderíadulcería, bollería, bizcochería and  galletería.

Now this easiest for me to distinguish is panaderíaWhen I did a long bicycle ride in Germany decades ago we quickly learned to distinguish bäckerei and konditorei. We stopped at our first konditorei at Eberbach on our first day out of Heidelberg. There we sat in a small park with brass sculpture ebers (boars) literally pigging out on delightful confectioneries. Later we stopped at the bäckerei to get rolls to make our lunch sandwiches and there were no sweets to be seen. In the US, if you can find a bakery at all, it probably does both, breads and sweets. And there are so many different baked sweets it’s hard to put them in categories. bollería may be a specialized panadería dealing in bollas (rolls or buns) so we won’t consider it any more.

Just for fun in this area what does pasta mean? Well it can refer to its common meaning in the USA, i.e. pasta or it can be cakes, biscuits (cookies in the UK sense) or general pastries (more often pastel (which can be cake or pie)) or even paste. No wonder these other bakery terms are confusing.

Searching multiple dictionaries and sources I arrive at the idea there are three different things that, at least pastelería and repostería can mean:

  1. the pastry (or sweet or confection) itself
  2. the place where these are produced and/or sold
  3. the process of producing these products

Oh great, covers all the bases which means one could encounter these terms in any context. But here’s my best guess (at it is a guess).

pastelería  primarily deals with cakes (pastel, torta; possibly bizcocho (sponge cakes or lady fingers – bizcochería  specializes in these) and cookies (galleta – galletería specialize in these).  repostería  primarily deals with various sweet pastries and confitería  primarily deals with filled (jam or fillings) pastries. But all of these would cover what one might find in dulcería or konditorei  in Germany or Austria.

Got that. I think it’s safe to say there is a lot of overlap but all would be easy to eat, if not overwhelmed by a sugar (azúcar) rush.

Now just for fun here’s a few things, as exercise for you Dear Reader, to figure out from the menu (really a list of productos  since this appears to be a wholesale place) at Confitería La Perla Alcazareñaalmendrados, tarta de hojaldre, amarguillos, ciegas, mantecadas, rosquillas de palo, rosquillas de baño, brazo de gitano. Only a couple of these have direct English equivalents. And you get extra credit if you can figure out the difference between rosquillas de palo and rosquillas de bañorosquillas, in general are what we’d call doughnuts/donuts here in USA, but what the difference between ‘stick’ and ‘bath’ donuts is, in Spain, remains a mystery. And then, of course, there are churros but that’s a different story.

I’ve gained a few pounds just looking at images in my searching!


As a background task for several weeks now I’ve been researching the extensive terminology (jargon) associated with vino in Spanish.  So briefly after I finished this post I encountered this addition meaning of pastelería.

It is a sweet and toasty aroma with certain features of vanilla and caramelized sugar characteristic of the freshly baked pastry. It appears in the wines of long ageing in oak wood, generally sweet, fruit of its oxidative evolution and of the contribution of the Odoríficos compounds (vanillin) of the oak containers.

This certainly is an obvious extension under the wine terminology of GLOSARIO DE TÉRMINOS RELATIVOS AL AROMA in this source.

Another country menu; Tour de France

I’ve picked up my treadmill pace (and thus my miles on my “virtual” Camino trek) and so I’ve reached Frómista in Palencia province of Castile and León autonomous community. There I found four different eating establishments with online menus so I have a lot of raw source material to translate, analyze and feed into my corpus.

It’s been easier to get more miles on my stationary exercise equipment because now I’ve got the Tour de France on TV to inspire me (more than usual daytime TV shows). While I’ve mentioned I’ve now done 222.5 miles on treadmill I’ve also done 3665.6 miles on my stationary bike in the same time period. When I lived in California, counting biking to work, I usually did about 5000 miles a year so my boring stationary riding is about the comparable distance to what I used to do 25 years ago. But even with boring bike commuting it was a lot more fun riding real roads (especially in the San Francisco Bay Area which has some excellent biking routes) so at least with the Tour on TV I can make that my vicarious experience. So in the sprint to the finish in Stage 6 I managed to do 1.3 miles in the same time the racers did 1.5 miles – not bad, except they were climbing a very steep hill! I once got to participate in warmup laps with professional riders so I have a pretty good idea how much better they are than I am. I was going full out and just barely keeping up with the pros (well below Tour level, just local California pros) who were just loafing along. So I have no illusions of ever being capable of racing and certainly not at 72. But still it’s satisfying to “ride along” with the peleton.

But back to Spanish food and deciphering menus. Of the four possible in Frómista I’m reporting on the first, Villa De Fromista.  At first I thought Google Translate badly botched a few items but on further investigation I believe GT’s problem was due to the unusual HTML structure that made it difficult to tell boundaries between items and so Spanish words were “run together” in the text that Google translated. Since GT claims to use “context” (or sometimes described as using all words as a group rather than individual word-by-word translation) parsing the menu items incorrectly is bound to create confusion for it. But this is yet another cautionary warning to readers who might think in today’s high tech world a smartphone, with machine translation, is sufficient to decipher menus in a foreign language. So machine translation still has a ways to go and so my project to build a superior translation, keyed to the actual structure of menus in restaurants in Spain, still (if I succeed) could be more useful.

So, a few items of interest and I’ll get to the other three restaurants in another post. The restaurant has a MENÚ DEL PEREGRINO (Pilgrim’s Menu) for a mere 11’50€ and the MENÚ ESPECIAL for 19’50 €. It also offers GUARDA BICICLETAS which Google translates as ‘KEEPING BIKES’ and Microsoft translates as the more obvious ‘Bike Guard’ (presumably the same as a bike rack as called in USA) and this fits into my focus on the Tour. As I’ve studied the Camino in detail I have wondered about biking it instead of walking. I did do a long (escorted) ride in Germany and Austria once and I found biking to be a very pleasing pace for touring: not too fast and miss everything like with a car, but not as slow as walking and thus little change in scenery during the day. Since I’m averaging 26.2 miles/day on my stationary bike maybe working back up to 50 miles/day (which was my Germany pace) and thus completing the Camino in less than two weeks should be my focus (plus the possibility of going miles off the Camino to find better food or accommodations, plus fewer crowds).

Anyway back to the menu. The biggest mistake in translation which I don’t think is due to parsing the HTML is:

BACALAO REBOZADO CON PATATAS FRITAS COCO REBOZADO WITH FRIED POTATOES

Battered cod with french fries

where Microsoft’s translation (in green) is much better (certainly more useful). How bacalao became ‘coco’ is a real mystery. rebozado we’ve encountered before and is just a conjugation of the very rebozar (to coat with batter). So this really is a fairly simple item to translate.

And this is kinda funny but obviously a poor translation

REVUELTO DE SETAS REVOLTED MUSHROOMS

Mushroom Scramble

because we’ve covered revuelto already in this blog and ‘revolted’ isn’t even close.

LECHAZO ASADO (‘roasted lamb’, Microsoft got the animal right but missed this is one of the standard references to suckling (unweaned) lamb) and COCHINILLO ASADO (roast suckling pig) were totally botched by Google but it’s so bad it has to be due to parsing issues in the HTML.  Google displayed lettuce (actually lechuga) and chicken (actually pollo or gallina), neither of which is even close. Several times A LA PLANCHA becomes ‘to the plate’ which is a nominally correct literal translation but as we’ve covered in other posts this really means ‘grilled’ (as on iron griddle or skillet). ‘to the plate’ would be confusing it you didn’t know the more useful translation.

And this is an amusing translation that is actually more correct than it first seems:

ENTRECOT DE GANADO (lit: cattle or live stock) MAYOR (lit: older)
  (MADURADO MAS DE 25 DIAS)
ENTRECOT OF LARGEST LIVESTOCK
(MATURED MORE THAN 25 DAYS)

In other words this is just an aged Beef Entrecote where entrecôte (the French spelling) would mostly translate to ribeye. To a steak lover what isn’t in the menu is whether this is dry-aged or wet-aged. Unless the steak is tiny having this priced at 19’50 € (for all three courses) is either a very good deal or unlikely to be equivalent to this item in a premium steakhouse in the USA.

So, as usual, a more careful translation of the menu reveals a bit different view on what one might choose. Soon I’ll cover the other three restaurants in Frómista (that have online menus) as I trudge further west on my virtual Camino trek.

 

 

 

Left Burgos …

… the province, not the city which I left a long time ago.

Like most Americans I have limited sense of geopolitical subdivisions of Spain. Several years ago I learned about the autonomous community divisions and probably know most of them. But these are in turn (sometimes) divided into provinces which don’t really correspond (most of the time) to states in USA or provinces in Canada.

Thus I didn’t really expect to be crossing into a new province, Palencia in Castilla y León autonomous community (the largest in Spain). I discovered this from converting my basement treadmill “hiking” miles along a GPS track of the Camino de Santiago. The best I can do for now is then look at satellite or streetviews on Google Maps to get a clue of what it might be like to be at that spot along the Camino.

So I noticed the Puente Fitero which looks like a relatively new (and attractive) bridge over the rio Pisuerga. That’s approximately the boundary of Burgos and Palencia provinces and my accumulated treadmill “hiking” of 213.8 miles puts me just past Itero de la Vega.  After Palencia it looks like León province comes next before finally crossing into Galicia.

Since my previous look at the route of the Camino was from the movie The Way I was unaware of how much of the Camino passes through Castilla y León, which, frankly looks pretty boring.  The movie had far more scenes from Navarra or Galicia, both of which are a lot more interesting (and green and/or hilly). In fact a lot of views I get in Castilla y León look closer to the Central Valley of California or in some cases even the Cowboy Trail here in Nebraska. I’d certainly not be very interesting in hiking those, especially in summer trail, so this part of my “virtual” trek has dampened my enthusiasm for doing the Camino. Maybe only the short western segment (minimum to qualify) would be better.

But I’ll keep doing my basement miles and converting them to my virtual trek as it remains a good incentive for the boredom of exercise.

Still moving, even if slowly

May and June have had a lot of deviations, for me, from my daily routine. As a consequence I haven’t done much work on this project nor much in terms of my virtual trek. I’m using a GPS trace of the Camino de Santiago to map my workouts on a stationary treadmill in the basement, as an incentive to keep up my miles. With the interference I’ve had in the last two months I’ve fallen quite a bit.

For the first five months of my virtual trek I average about 25.5 miles/month. Not much when compared to an actual trek (typical distance of 1.5-2 days). But I’ve also averaged 537 miles/month on a stationary bike so overall my exercise is fairly high. However during May-June I’ve only averaged about 14 miles/month, more due to missing days than shorter days. Hopefully I’ll get back on track.

But all this has brought me, as of yesterday, 208.1 miles on my virtual Camino, which is probably more than most do on the real pilgrimage which is now mostly tourists joining the fad on short guided trips. So where does that put me?  Just a bit beyond Castrojeriz, still in Burgos Province in the autonomous community of Castile and León. Actually Castrojeriz is the biggest town I’ve passed through in some time and there are enough tourist/pilgrim accommodations to “visit” numerous albergues and restaurants, one of which has an online menu.

So that means I get to look at another menu for any interesting details beyond the simple (nearly-)literal translation Google does for webpages. (Google claims to be context-oriented but I think that’s an overblown claim as I’ve previously documented in older posts). Reading menus (with some smartphone app) is the long-range goal of my project and finding menus (critical from Spain, not just in Spanish) and translating them and researching eccentricities in translation will produce raw material for my corpus of dual Spanish-English entries on which to base my app.

So, let’s look at Casa Cordón’s carta (menu) in Castrojeriz, Burgos, Spain. It has two sections of entrantes (starters), frío (cold) and caliente (hot), a section of primeros (first) and a section of segundos (seconds), a fairly typical menu listing.  [Note: usually carta is equivalent to a la carte in USA versus menu which is usually some limited set of choices for a particular price, i.e. equivalent of prix fixe in USA] The entrantes have few surprises (in translation) but here are a couple of interest:

cecina de León Lion smoked beef

While cecina might indeed be beef it is usually translated as just ‘cured meat’ and thus might be from any animal and some people might care which. At least ‘cured meat’ is, at minimum, a more useful translation.

I also note three different “meanings” of de (simply of):  1) queso de oveja (sheep) or queso de cabra (goat): in this case de describes which animal’s milk is used to produce the cheese; 2) variedad de setas (literally: ‘variety of mushrooms’, more correctly means an “assortment” of mushrooms, not a particular variety as per the literal translation): in this case de is used in the conventional manner of a preposition; and, 3) morcilla de Burgos (which Google didn’t “translate” as all): in this case de means a particular type of morcilla (blood sausage) typical of the Burgos area (not made out of bits of burgoses). Now some visitors might know what morcilla is (it is common and often found) but again some people might actual want to know it is a sausage with blood in the mix. So these translations, at minimum, could be a bit more helpful than what Google (or probably any smartphone translation) would provide.

There are a couple of other interesting failures in translation that a little research (hard to do while a server is waiting for you to order or if you don’t have an Internet connection to do searches).

Crema Castellana Cream Castellana

This is a named dish (in the style of Castile, aka Castilian) for which there are multiple recetas (recipes). Translating crema to creme can be literally correct but also often refers to a cream-based soup. In most of the recipes for this item ‘puree’ would be a more accurate translation (the key ingredients are garlic, eggs and old bread). This is a typical case where a really good menu translation would require a description of the item not just a literal translation.

Tallarines con tomate Noodles with tomato

Now some type of noodles with some type of tomato sauce is probably all you need to know but ‘noodle’ is fairly vague (although the literal translation from Oxford for the singular (and accented) tallarín). Somehow Google search connects this to a Wikipedia entry on tagliatelle (this is a mysterious process I’ve previously reported) but I can’t confirm any definition connection of tallarín as tagliatelle,  so simply ‘noodles’ will have to suffice. Often in photos I’ve seen penne more commonly with simple tomato sauce, but probably pasta is just pasta to a hungry peregrino.

Lechazo de Castilla y León Lechazo de Castilla y León

Somehow Google missed this (I’ve seen it get it right, maybe the “context” of de Castilla y León confused it despite the fact any trekker would know they’re in Castilla y León and thus this is just a regional designation. Remember leche is milk would help but really knowing lechazo is one of several terms for ‘suckling’ (not weaned young animal) is better. But this term is used for both piglets and lambs, so the menu alone, even translated better, might not be sufficient to decide to order this item and thus conversation would be needed.

Perdiz de Monte escabechada Pickled Monte Partridge

Here learning perdiz (correctly translated as partridge) is helpful and escabechada is derived from the verb escabechar (to pickle, to souse) is fairly literal, but what about monte – is this some additional (and relevant?) qualification of partridge.  monte normally would mean ‘mountain’ but it can also mean ‘woodland’. This was a bit difficult to track down but it does appear to be a particular wild partridge that is now fairly rare although there is a farmed version that is similar. But searches also revealed a tinned pâté of this bird so it’s still unclear exactly what this menu item might be.

And finally, lubina a la espalda or dorada a la espalda. lubina is correctly translated by Google as ‘sea bass’ but, as I’ve usually seen dorada is translated (literally, but wrong in this context) to ‘gold’ or ‘golden’. In fact it’s a particular type of fish with some dispute whether it is ‘gilt-head bream’ (more likely as this is a Mediterranean fish) or ‘dolphin [fish]’, aka, ‘mahi-mahi’ which is less likely as this is not commonly found in Spain. I’ve had mahi-mahi (and like it) but never gilt-head bream so it would be a bit of adventure to order this (and given the typical blandness of fish could I even tell which it is).

But items then use a la espalda as further description but what does this mean? Google did a literal translation of ‘on the back’ but that’s not helpful. Often on menus for fish there is a qualifier of which part of the fish, e.g. cheek, belly, filet so is ‘back’ something like this? No, as best I can tell from photos in search results it simply looks like a cooking method where the entire fish is split and flattened and then fried with skin (back) side down, i.e. a fairly simple preparation. I can’t confirm this so this is one of those terms I’ll add to my corpus, provisionally, with a lower confidence value.

So hopefully I can pick up my pace, both trekking and posting, but at least one of the issues that has reduced my activity will continue for a while so posts may be less common.

A simple country menu

I happened to notice this small restaurant (see menu below) as I was examining the small town of Hornillos del Camino in Burgos Province as I just passed through on my virtual trek, now at a distance of 193.8 miles. It’s a rather inconspicuous place (in fact, somewhat hard to find) but has some interesting info in its Google listing. So here’s it’s simple menu (hand copied from photo, translated by Microsoft) and you can see a couple of the dishes (shown in blue in menu) in the photos on Google maps. This one is fairly easy to translate with just modest amount of learning Spanish; I only missed remolacha (beet, not a favorite for me) from memory.

Based on the photos I think I’d need more food after walking all day. As much as the Camino fascinates me, frankly, this part of it is really boring and this small town is uninteresting. But that may be part of the trip, plenty of opportunity to be contemplative here rather than exciting sight-seeing tourism.

Note: In case you’re not using to using Google Maps go to maps.google.com in your browser and then search for Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain. You’ll see the Green Tree as a POI indicator – click on that to bring up the information page with photos.

Neson    4.8    ⊗⊗⊗⊗⊗

THE GREEN TREE

Calle San Pedro, 30, 09230 Hornillos del Camino, Burgos, Spain

 

Menu del día           9.5₡

Primero: First
Sopa del día Soup of the Day
Ensalada de queso de cabra con fresas y remolacha Goat cheese salad with strawberries and beetroot
Hummus de la casa con verdura y pan Hummus of the House with vegetables and bread
Segundo: Second
Currie de verduras Currie of Vegetables
Risotto de Espárragos Asparagus Risotto
Kimchi con Albondigas o Tofu Kimchi with meatballs or Tofu
Postre: Dessert
Postre de día Day Dessert
Pudín de pan y mantequilla Bread pudding and butter
Yogur con fruta y miel Yogurt with fruit and honey

A few random bits

Rather than a focused post I’ll just catch up on a few disparate items.

First I’m recording another milestone along my virtual trek which is arriving in Burgos. Burgos was one of the main locations in the movie The Way (where Tom’s pack was stolen) and its main feature is the cathedral. A virtual trek, (i.e. actually exercising on a treadmill in the basement and transferred the accumulated miles onto a GPS trace of the Camino de Santiago) may seem silly but it serves two purposes for me: 1) walking on a treadmill is really boring so I need to have some goal and sense of accomplishment, since I need the treadmill exercise (esp. during the winter here) so I’m in shape to do some real outside walking, and, 2) the slow pace gives me a chance to fairly thoroughly investigate the route (using satellite views, Google StreetView (often available on the Camino and I see lots of peregrinos) and Points of Interest (so I look at photos of albergues and restaurants, plus sometimes find menus). It’s certainly not the same as the real thing but better than nothing.

Before reaching Burgos I’d not found any online menus in other small towns on my virtual trek since Logroño so I had begun to extract terms from a couple of glossaries I’d previously found. I’d already spent a long time (previously reported) on the GallinaBlanca online dictionary so I was also interested in seeing whether the two other lengthy lists I’d found would just be redundant. So that led me back to a bit of coding (haven’t done that for a while) in order to automate the comparison (each extract I’d done was in an incompatible format so first my code had to generate a canonical extract to compare). During that process one of my lists just disappeared (I was only about 1/4 done with it). That’s disappointing since it was a good list and had many terms I hadn’t previously found. Crunching through dictionaries or glossaries is very tedious and nowhere nearly as interesting as looking at menus (which is the purpose of my project here). But it’s a different way to get a sufficiently large corpus to feed into the menu translator I’m building.

So with Burgos on the horizon I began, once again, to focus on restaurant menus. In the small towns I find the restaurants directly as Google Maps POI’s which are clickable to get some info (esp. user contributed photos) and perhaps then linked to a website. Those with websites (fairly uncommon on the small places in small towns) might have a textual menu (many just have photos) and that allows me to generate side-by-side Spanish and English (usually translated by Google Translate, sometimes other ways) terms that I’ll feed into my corpus. Without all the fancy deep learning AI Google uses to train their translator I’ll be using a more algorithmic process to train mine, but mostly to spot Spanish terms that have multiple translations and try to determine the best (more on that below).

So for Burgos the area is quite large (you have to zoom in a lot on Google Maps for the POIs to appear) so I used a different approach. There are numerous rating services for restaurants (I only partly trust them here in USA, so no clue whether they work well in Spain) so just because it has a convenient format I used the Trip Advisor list, which has a total of 376 restaurants. I’ve only looked through the first 40 or so. Less than half of these have websites and probably only about half of those have text I can scrap off the website (often the menu is a photo or some other type of document where the browser can’t select any text that I can then paste in my working document). So with this vast amount of material I’ve been quite busy with menus, having now crunched through six already (with some stories to tell). And I’ve got enough more to finish to keep me busy as in fact my virtual trek has already left Burgos.

But as a random tidbit, tied to the notion of producing entries for my corpus, is the variable translation of the term ración. And I do mean translation (not definition) and usually by Google. The simplest (and most frequent) literal translation is ‘ration’ but even seeing exactly the same word (although sometimes modified with 1/2) on the same page Google translates it differently and also as ‘portion’ or ‘serving’. That’s a bit of a mystery to me why there is the inconsistency but of course Google claims (in its limited online explanations of how Google Translate works) that it is “context-sensitive” in doing translations (IOW, Google also had a large corpus, mostly of translated material in the United Nations, that their AI analyzed to decide both the translation and the “context”). But within a single website, all about food, one would think the context would always be the same. But it’s not the webpage that represents “context” (I realized) it’s the source corpus where “context” is being deduced. So the notion of using “context” to improve translation doesn’t mean quite what one would think.

Now instead of translation here’s what Oxford has as definitions:

1 Cantidad de alimento que se da en una comida a una persona o animal. Amount of food that is given in a meal to a person or animal.
2 Porción unitaria de algo que puede dividirse en varias partes iguales. Unitary portion of something that can be divided into several equal parts.
3 Cantidad determinada de alimento que se toma como aperitivo entre varias personas o comida informal; suele tomarse como acompañamiento de una bebida en un establecimiento público. Quantity of food that is taken as an aperitif among several people or informal food; It is usually taken as an accompaniment to a drink in a public establishment.
4 Cantidad suficiente de algo, generalmente la que se consume en un solo día o a intervalos regulares por una persona o animal. Sufficient quantity of something, usually that which is consumed in a single day or at regular intervals by a person or animal.

Since porción is literally portion it makes some sense to have that as a translation (along with ‘helping’ and ‘serving’) the part of the definition that seems to make the most sense in the context of a restaurant menu is #3 (also #2) more than the sense of the literal ‘ration’ (as in #1 or #4, more a military term). But it is also a quantity designation (more than pincho) even if it is only consumed by one person. Now deciding how much a 1/2 or 1/4 ración is yet another challenge but it appears most restaurants do price a 1/2 at more than 50% of the price of a whole, so if you want a whole order it as two 1/2’s will cost a lot more. IOW, you probably need to be able to discuss this with your server, once again evidence that a menu translator (vs fluency in Spanish) is not going to be sufficient.

Finally as yet another random tidbit one dessert item that didn’t translate (as I’ve described before, it just is what it is) was mantecado. It wasn’t heard to find this (I thought it might be a brand but it’s just the name of a cookie) with an interesting description (here) where it is described as being similar to polvorón which has its own Wikipedia page (here) that also that mentions mantecados and says they are not the same as polvorón (you could fool me looking at the pictures in that page).

From that same menu (here) for the item espárragos cojonudos Google Translate doesn’t have English for cojonudos (espárragos is asparagus in case you’re wondering). Tracking down cojonudos with search quickly led to the connection to cojones which is a term many Americans know as part of slang but it’s not clear how ‘ballsy’ would apply to asparagus . But this article assures us the slang meaning is not the relevant one and the more respectable is ‘awesome’ or ‘outstanding’. Furthermore a particular asparagus from Navarra chooses to label itself with cojonudos  so I guess the connection to cojones doesn’t bother them (or maybe they’re not aware of the etymology of cojonudos).

 

Menú peregrino

This post was going to start as one of my milestones on my virtual trek but along the way I found something more interesting. In terms of milestones I just passed through the small village of Villambistia and while doing my usual search and investigation of either restaurants or albergues/hotels I found this delightful place: Casa de los deseos (I guess the literal translation of ‘home of the wishes’ could make sense, but deseo has a few other meanings). A search for it in maps.google.com will get you information or you can use this coordinate as the search in Google maps: 42°24’15.6″N 3°15’37.1″W.

On the satellite view it appears to be an empty lot (a bit ambiguous on the Street View) but the photos that Google has associated with Casa de los deseos show a charming place that looks quite new, so perhaps it has been built since the last satellite photo of this village. In one of the photos the following menu for peregrinos (pilgrims) is clearly visible and I’ve copied it for here. It’s a simple menu which is typical of the fairly cheap, but hardy food options for trekkers.

* Espaguetis – Macarrones

con tomate – carbonara

* Legumbres

Garbanzos, alubias, lentejas

* Ensalada Mixta

Tomate, lechuga, maiz, zanahoria

* Lasaña

* Filetes de lomo con pimientos

* Pechuga de pollo con pimientos

* Huevos fritos

* Tortilla francesa

* Pollo asado

* Panini

Pan, agua o Vino

2 PLATOS A ELEGIR: 8,95€

1 PLATO A ELEGIR: 4,95€

Despite having no fluency in Spanish I did recognize most of this, either simply as cognates to English or as a consequence of short-term memory acquisition of some food terms in Spain doing these blog posts and my project. zanahoria (carrot) and lentejas (lentils) are the two items I couldn’t remember. A ELEGIR is not obvious but I’ve mentioned this in other posts (to choose). lomo, the subject of one of my earlier posts is probably the cured meat, not the loin of some unmentioned animal, but this is probably something one would want to ask (or see at some other table).

I was a bit mystified by Tortilla francesa. As I’ve mentioned just the plain term tortilla is seriously different in Spain (potato and egg dish) than anywhere in the western hemisphere (masa flatbread). It’s often qualified as tortilla española but it’s such a common dish on the Camino it is usually seen on menus just as tortilla. This blog post and this blog post, here at WordPress.com, have a  nice explanation of these two egg dishes and the difference. I suppose I should have done the ah-ha moment and thought francesa might be the omelet.

For me I think I’d be hungry enough I’d go for 2 PLATOS and choose Pollo asado (probably simple grilled chicken, I’m guessing dark meat since chicken breast (pechuga de pollo) is a different item) and the Ensalada Mixta.  If the Legumbres dish had included chorizo I’d go for that as the usual hearty meal for trekkers, but I think they’d mention that if it did. And, for me, not much of a tossup between agua o Vino. (The bar in this place looked fun to so I suspect they’d have some decent ordinary vino.) cerveza I’d skip in any of these places since that’s one area where I’m spoiled with great craft beer in the USA (nearby Iowa has the most breweries per capita of any state) and it’s almost always watery lager found in Spain.

8,95€ isn’t cheap but it’s hard to find an actual sit-down restaurant in small towns we visit while geodashing in USA that would be much less. But this is one very appealing part of the Camino, the support found in these tiny villages, such as Villambistia. There is a trail here in Nebraska, the Cowboy Trail, that doesn’t look much different (than the Camino) in terms of the walking but it’s around 30-50 miles between towns that even have a restaurant and even further between towns with overnight accommodations. So trekker there can only work if you have a support team with a car (also, needless to say, there is no public transportation to take you to some town). So finding not just the usual albergue but this very nice one would almost make it worth visiting Villambistia.