natas, churros, super bock and francesinha

Spain and Portugal Sketchbook front page sm

For the Spain and Portugal part of my trip I started a new sketchbook, one of the hardback landscape Stillman and Birn Alpha books I like so much. I did the England sketches at the end of the previous sketchbook, so it was a good place to start a new book. As with my Italy trip last year I decided to decorate the front page with a title like this and draw in some of the things I would eat or drink on the trip. So, a few words then I guess on some of the culinary items on this page. First of all the stuffed olives. These were from the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, a wonderful place less like a market and more like a self-contained food hall, with lots of really tasty tapas and snacks on sale. I can’t resist a stuffed olive, and these ones were stuffed with peppers and fish and even mussels. Underneath it is a bocadilla – like a little piece of hard toast, I suppose – with sliced and spiced octopus on it. That was nice. I’m definitely one for seafood and like a bit of the tentacled variety. Below that, the little purple drink is a Ginjinha, from Lisbon – more on that later (I drew the Ginjinha shop), but that was a delicious appetizer of a drink, a kind of sweet cherry liqueur, a local specialty. Speaking of Portuguese specialties, next to that is the Nata. The pastéis de nata, a small pastry filled with custard and occasionally other things, costing about a euro a piece, was pretty much my main food in Porto. I could not get enough of them. I just really like custard and pastry. It’s a good job those hills are so steep in Porto, to help me work them off. Speaking of Porto, the orange-coloured item just above the ‘T’ is a vastly not-to-scale version of something called a ‘Francesinha’. Ok, I will come back to the Francesinha. Next to that, a dry Madeira wine that I tried in Lisbon at the Cafe ‘A Brasileira’, that was nice, a dessert wine. Above that to the left, a ‘Tawny’ Port wine, typical of Porto, this one was from the Sandeman winery and sampled during a nice lunch. Next to that, the typical Portuguese beer, Super Bock. Along with Sagres, this is what you will see everywhere, especially littering the sidewalks of Rua da Bica after a heavy Friday night. Just right of the Spain title, the red drink is Sangria, the very tasty Spanish drink made from wine and fruit. I had this at the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid while sketching. And finally, the churros dipped in hot chocolate, this was from the Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid, the famous chocolate cafe located right across from our apartment. Extremely tasty, and the chocolate is rich (you can drink it, but you’ll spend the rest of the day knowing about it).

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And so, the Francesinha, above. It means “Little French Girl” according to my Portuguese friends. I didn’t know what it was, other than you can get them everywhere in Porto. I went into one cafe on the Alfandega to order one for a mid-afternoon snack, but this was no mere snack. Now typically they come with meats like pork and steak, but I don’t eat those so I had to find one with chicken. A Francesinha works like this – two huge slabs of bread, filled with cheese, sausage, meat such as steak, maybe another meat, fried egg, then more thick cheese on top, finally covered in a thick tomato sauce in a bowl. This meal is DENSE. It’s also served with fries, to dip into the melted cheese. I could not finish my chicken one. And I don’t think I met another visiting sketcher who had one they could finish. People of Porto, I salute you for your fortitude. But there’s more. Another restaurant I went into had an ‘XXL Francesinha’, a huge one costing 35 Euros, that was only for one person, no sharing. The deal is, if you finish it all you get a prize. Now I was talking to a waitress in another restaurant who said that she had actually taken on this challenge and won, and her prize was…she didn’t have to pay. I hope she at least got a certificate or something. If I’d eaten an XXL Francesinha, I’d need a doctor’s note…

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at the edge of the ocean

Santa Monica Beach

I do like to be beside the seaside. One of my favourite places to be beside the sea is Santa Monica. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and checked into my motel before walking down to the ocean front. I didn’t actually go onto the beach this time, but I stood up on the bluffs and sketched a panorama of the view looking toward the famous Santa Monica pier. It sure was windy. The sun was shining bright, so I stood beneath a palm tree and did my best. People walked by snapping pictures of them self (if only there was a word for that sort of thing), speaking in all sorts of languages. Behind me, the city of Santa Monica bustled. It was a busy Saturday.

santa monica cannon

I drew a cannon, as you can see. This big cannon sits up on the cliffs, it actually reminded me of Mr. Nosey, of Mr. Men fame. He was green of course but had the same general shape (in the old version, not in the newer upturned nose version, I really hate that version, it’s my Jar-Jar). As I sketched, people climbed on to have photos taken of themselves with a big cannon between their legs, if only there was a word for that sort of thing. After this, I had to go and watch Avengers Age of Ultron at probably the most comfortable movie theatre I’ve ever been to, the AMC in downtown Santa Monica. Massive reclining seats!!! I want to see every movie there.

santa monica pier

I did come back down to the Santa Monica pier again the next day for some last minute sketching, and I met up with my fellow Urban Sketcher and Santa Monica local Shiho Nakaza. I first met Shiho at the 1st Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland back in 2010, and she introduced me to that amazing brown-black uni-ball signo UM-151 pen that I now use all the time. You can follow her sketches at shihonakaza.blogspot.com. We didn’t have long to sketch, so we went out onto the pier and sketched the view. The waves were wild in the Pacific, and the sun was bright and strong. I had to finish up quickly though because I had to catch a bus back to the motel, and then to the airport (I only just made my plane!). I still have more sketches to post though, from (spoiler alert) Santa Monica’s historic Main Street, and from Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

oh so soho

Berwick St panorama sm

My first two-page street panorama in London! Click on the image to see it in closer detail. This is the intersection of Berwick Street and Broadwick Street, looking down towards Wardour Street in Soho, the heart of London. I have loved Soho since I was a teenager, all its narrow, slightly grimy streets, alleys and shortcuts. I love sketching down there, in this neighbourhood between the Big Streets. Do you know why it’s called Soho? I used to tell people it’s because it is “South of Hoxford Street”, and some people even believed it, but in fact the name comes from an old hunting cry (“So-ho!”, like “Tally-Ho!”). This area in fact used to be a hunting ground in years gone by (yes, yes in some ways it still is, ha ha, very funny). Now, the hunting ground would be bordered by posts which were painted blue, and that is why there are two pubs in Soho called the Blue Posts, one of which is in the middle of the panorama above. Here’s a close-up, below.

blue posts pub, soho

Ok, there’s some history for you. This is on the edge of the Berwick Street Market, which has its origins in the 18th century. Down the end of Broadwick Street on the corner of Wardour Street used to stand a famous old pub, the Intrepid Fox, which for more than 200 years was one of Soho’s best loved drinkers. I knew it as the rocker’s pub, the best in town (along with the more trad-pub but still rocker-heavy Ship across the road) and used to go there many years ago with friends before heading to the Hellfire Club, but alas it eventually closed down, and is now a gourmet burger restaurant. What a shame. The Ship’s still there, unchanged. I think I’ve only been into the Blue Posts once, but this is the second or third time I have drawn the building. I spent two and a half hours standing there on the corner opposite, sketchbook in hand (Stillman and Birn Alpha landscape). Occasionally tourists and passers-by would stop and look, or ask me for directions (“Excuse me,” one Italian guy asked, “where is Soho?” Right here, my friend, right here.)

Pete sketching SohoPete sketching Soho

Here I am sketching, in a photo taken by Random Passing Chinese Tourist. And below, the sketchbook-selfie (really? That’s what it’s called?) showing what I was able to do on site. Two and a half hours of penwork. I added all the watercolour when I got home.

Sketching Berwick St

Around the corner, the Soho staple art store Cowling and Wilcox now stands empty, closed after fifty years, though they are still open in other locations. A representative from Cass Arts around the corner was stood outside handing leaflets to people directing them there instead, but I told him I didn’t need one (I had just been to Cass). He didn’t take that for an answer and told me to take the leaflet. No thanks mate, I don’t need one. “Take it anyway,” he insisted. No, I don’t need one. “Take it and throw it away then,” he kept on. I don’t want a leaflet, mate, will you leave me alone. He wouldn’t. “You’d be doing me a favour by taking the leaflet.” He was quite pushy. No mate, please leave me alone. He glared for a while incredulous at the idea that I wouldn’t take a leaflet telling me where a store is that I have just been to but then left it and started bothering other people. That’s Soho for you, but there are sometimes pushier sales-folk on these streets, if you know what I mean. By the way, there is another sketch I did in Soho that afternoon, around the corner on Brewer Street. It’s a cool looking shop called Lina Stores Ltd on the corner of Green’s Court, and I just had to sketch it.

Brewer St, Soho

And that was the end of my first day back in London! Here’s a map of Soho showing where these two were sketched. IT doesn’t show the previous two from earlier in the day but well, you can figure them out.

soho map