Monday, 28 August 2017

Let’s go to Granada! / ¡Vamos a Granada!

El Generalife - La Alhambra
     If Granada is in your list of places to visit and you are thinking about staying for a couple of days, please let me tell you a little about my favourite walks in the city and some ideas to help to organise your trip.

Of course you will have to go to the Alhambra! It will take you one day or half a day to visit the Palace and the area around it.
I would suggest that you get a good guide book about the palace -or you can hire an audio guide once you are there - that will take you through the history and rooms.

A couple of things you should know before getting there:

-book your ticket online and in advance. You can buy the ticket on the day, but there are only a restricted number, you will need to be there very early in the morning to get one. I had to do it once, we were there before 7am and we weren’t first in the queue!  Juliette and I still remember it!
Mocarabe ceiling

-The entry is timed, so you need to be there on time.

-There are no restaurants or cafeterias nearby. There is a vending machine with drinks and sandwiches. Take plenty of drink and some “bocadillos” to keep you going.  You can walk to town to eat in a restaurant; it’s 10 minutes down the hill, the trouble is getting back up the hill after lunch! –Well – there is a mini bus that can take you there.

-If you get the chance, read “Los cuentos de la Alhambra” by the American writer Washington Irving, one of the many travellers who fell in love with the town in the XIX century. You will enjoy the legends and tales about the place and you will get a good approach of what the Alhambra was for a few centuries: an abandoned place which was used by the population as houses and “bandoleros” to hide!

La Alhambra. View from Mirador de San Nicolás.
One of my favourite places in Granada is the Albaicín, it’s the district where the Muslims lived in the medieval age and it has been kept pretty much the same: narrow streets, typical façades, with different additions through the centuries. There are lots of traditional restaurants there. It’s a good place to watch a flamenco show. The Sacromonte hill is also recommended to see some good flamenco dancing. One more thing you have to do in the Albaicín is to go to Mirador de San Nicolás, from here you can see the best view of the Alhambra…see the picture above.

Granada town centre is amazing, so many beautiful buildings! You can pop in to most of them. If you are a walker, as I am, here are some of my favourite places in town. Start from plazas de Las Pasiegas, right at the entrance of the Cathedral. Facing the Baroque façade if you go to the left and walk around the cathedral at some point you will start to smell spices in the air from some stands selling all kind of spice and dry flowers to make tea.

La Alcaicería.
If you walk to the right you will enter the old silk market -Alcaicería, nowadays this space have been taken over by souvenir shops but luckily we can see the streets as they were in the medieval times. Can you spot the big gates that used to be locked at night time to secure the market?
Walking from the right side of the cathedral you will see some gothic buildings on your left hand side, and you can enter into the place where the Reyes Católicos are buried –the kings who supported Colón (Colombus) for his trip to go and discover America.

Corral del Carbón
Near here is el Corral del Carbón an amazing building, built before 1336, this Nasrid alhóndiga (an inn for merchants in transit, warehouse and wholesale market) is one of the few Nasrid alhóndiga preserved from the medieval Muslim age.
Taking Reyes Católicos street you will end in Plaza Nueva, connected with Carrera del Darro. It’s a beautiful walk next to the river and at the foot of the Alhambra hill.

If you have time visit Calle Elvira and have a tea in “las teterías”, walk around Reyes Católicos street and almost mandatory to go into calle Navas, a street full of “bares” with lovely “tapas”… actually I’m planning to go there very soon! Yum!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Recetas españolas/ Spanish recipes

Spanish recipes

Tortilla de patatas
     I have some friends/family over for a visit and suddenly I can smell hot olive oil, I run to the kitchen and I can see half of my precious olive oil bottle in a pan ready for cooking!! Noooo… too late! It doesn’t matter if I explain I don’t cook like that anymore, and if I need to fry something that way I use sunflower oil instead-much cheaper.  (I know, right? How could I cook Spanish food with sunflower oil?!)
It’s true, the gold liquid makes a difference in cooking. If you have a few potatoes in your kitchen here are some easy ideas for some Spanish plates which are based around potatoes and also some tricks to make them taste the Spanish way.

     I’m pretty sure you have tried “tortilla de patatas” or “Spanish omelette”. All you need is four medium potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes. The secret is to fry them in olive oil; it changes the taste of the potatoes. Once you have fried them, put them on the side. In a bowl you need to beat three/four eggs well and add the fried potatoes. This mix needs to be cooked in a hot pan and you will need to turn it over like a pancake. Always nice with a tomato salad!

Patatas a lo pobre
Plato Alpujarreño
     “Patatas a lo pobre” “poor potatoes” is a typical plate from the South of Spain. The potatoes need to be peeled and cut into slices, plus some green pepper and onions - add salt as you like. Throw everything in a pan with hot olive oil and fry until its ready- when the potatoes are soft. In Granada, to be more exact in La Alpujarra, this kind of potatoes are served with fried eggs, chorizo, black pudding and ham  on the side, it’s call “plato alpujarreño”…Not very healthy but just delicious!

Ensaladilla rusa
Don’t fancy fried food? Let’s boil the potatoes then to make “ensaladilla rusa” “russian salad”Boil and mash some potatoes, but mash them alone, without milk or butter. Also boil 1 egg and some peas.
The secret to this recipe is small pieces - Whilst they are boiling, chop peppers, carrot and onion, into small pieces and add tuna and sweet corn.
Then put all the ingredients into a bowl and add salt, pepper and 3/ 4 or 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise to taste. Then mix it all together and leave it to cool in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

I love all of them, which one is your favourite?

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Pasear por Madrid / Walking in Madrid

Walking in Madrid

          Madrid is a city with lots of tourist attractions and cultural interest. Most of the guide books will recommend that you go to the Museo del Prado, Museo Reina Sofia, visit the Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía, and definitely you should not miss them.
I would like to write about some of my favourite places in this city, some of them aren’t so touristic but it’s worth it to have a walk around.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid
My favourite neighbourhood is the Austrias, it’s in the centre. It goes from Plaza Mayor and around until you reach the Palacio Real. It’s the oldest neighbourhood in the city and one of the most transformed because of tourism, especially in the last few years. When I arrived in Madrid 11 years ago it had kept its charming antiquity … and still today! You just have to look properly.

Near Plaza Mayor there were all kind of traditional shops (for the clocks, perfumes, shoes, hats, meats, bread…) with big signs and old facades. Today most of them have become souvenir shops.

Mercado de San Miguel used to be a market which sold fresh vegetables, meat and fish. Nowadays you can still see the original building but inside you can find a great variety of bars offering different types of tapas and beers.

The surrounding area around Palacio Real on a Sunday morning are ideal for seeing street entertainers, comedians, musicians, some mimes and maybe the changing of the guard if you pass at the right moment. Don’t forget to take a tour of the gardens of Sabatini just next to the Palacio Real.

Very close to here is Temple of Debod, the Egyptian Temple (Yes, really!) which was donated to the Spanish State to say thank you for participating in the construction of the Abu-Simbel Dam. From the viewpoint you can see the part of Madrid known as Casa de Campo. The sunset from here is spectacular.

La Rosaleda, Madrid
Behind the temple you will see stairs which rise directly to the start of the Parque del Oeste, one of the biggest in the city, for walking, skating, sports, picnics, and also and attraction – the cable car and a place that you need to visit in the spring – The Rosaleda, a garden of roses.

Madrid is a city perfect for walking, for sitting and watching the people passing by and enjoying a beer on a terrace or inside a bar if the weather is cold. Yes, in Madrid it’s cold in winter. If you travel in February or March, don’t forget to bring warm clothes.

Pasear por Madrid 

      Madrid es una ciudad con un gran atractivo turístico y una interesante oferta cultural. La mayoría de las  guías  te recomendarán un recorrido por el museo del Prado, el Museo Reina Sofía, una visita al Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol y Gran Vía, definitivamente no pueden faltar.
Pero me gustaría hablarte de varios de mis lugares favoritos de esta ciudad, algunos no son tan turísticos, pero merece la pena acercarse a ellos.

Mi barrio preferido es los Austrias, está en el centro, se extiende aproximadamente desde la Plaza Mayor y alrededores hasta el Palacio Real. Es el barrio más antiguo de la ciudad y uno de los barrios más transformados por el turismo, especialmente en los últimos años. Cuando yo llegué a Madrid hace… 11 años era un barrio que conservaba mucho encanto tradicional y todavía hoy! Solo hay que saber mirar.
Mercado San Miguel, Madrid

En los alrededores de la Plaza Mayor había todo tipo de tiendas tradicionales (relojerías, droguería, zapaterías, sombreria, carnicería,…) con sus grandes carteles y fachadas antiguas. La mayoría de ellas hoy convertidas en tiendas de suvenires.

El mercado de San Miguel, era un mercado donde se vendían verduras, carnes y pescado. Hoy podemos ver el edificio original pero dentro encontraras una gran variedad de bares ofreciendo diferentes tipos de tapas y cerveza!

Pasear cerca del Palacio Real en una mañana de domingo es ideal para ver cómicos y humoristas, músicos, algunos mimos y quizás un cambio de guardia si pasas en el momento oportuno. No dejes de dar una vuelta por los jardines de Sabatini justo a continuación del Palacio Real.

Jardines de Sabatini y Palacio Real, Madrid
Muy cerca de aquí está el tempo de Debod, el templo egipcio (si, de verdad!) que fue donado al estado español como agradecimiento por participar en la construcción de la presa de Abu-Simbel. Desde el mirador puedes ver la parte de Madrid conocida como Casa de Campo. La puesta de sol desde aquí es espectacular.

A la espalda del templo verás unas escaleras que te llevan directamente al inicio del Parque del Oeste, uno de los más grandes de la ciudad, para pasear, patinar, hacer deporte, un picnic... Incluye una atracción: el teleférico y un lugar que hay que visitar en primavera: La Rosaleda, un jardín exclusivo de rosas.

Madrid es una ciudad estupenda para pasear, para sentarse a observar la gente pasar y disfrutar tomándose una cerveza en una terraza o dentro del bar si hace frío. Sí en Madrid hace frio en invierno. Si vas de viaje en febrero, marzo a Madrid, no olvides llevarte ropa de abrigo!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

La Navidad en España / Christmas in Spain

La Navidad en España

Es una de las fechas más esperada del año y también una de las más familiares, sí,  se trata de la Navidad. A finales de diciembre todos tratamos de “volver a casa” y pasar unos días de felicidad rodeados de la familia y las tradiciones navideñas.

 El turrón, los mantecados, el pavo o el asado, los villancicos, el árbol de navidad… todo está preparado para iniciar esta festividad el 24 de diciembre con la Noche Buena. En esta noche los españoles nos reunimos para cenar con nuestras familias, haciendo de ella una de las más especiales del año.

El Día de Navidad, 25 de diciembre, es un día festivo que igualmente se pasa con la familia y algunas entregan los regalos de Papá Noel o Santa Claus. Esta tradición es  algo que se ha introducido desde hace ya unos años en España, principalmente debido a razones comerciales, pues en España tenemos un día espacial para los regalos: ¡el día de Reyes!, que es el 6 de enero y se corresponde  en el calendario religioso con el día de la Epifanía. (No existe Boxing day en España)

En la Noche Vieja, el 31 de diciembre,  nos volvemos a reunir para  despedir el año  al ritmo de las 12 campanadas. ¡Tenemos una tradición para esta noche! Los españoles nos comemos 12 uvas, una por cada campanada, que simbolizan los 12 meses del año. De esta manera damos la bienvenida al año nuevo y despedimos el viejo. Y ya es ¡1 de enero!

Sin duda, el día más esperado por todos los niños es la Noche de Reyes (5 de enero). Por la tarde, niños y adultos salen a las calles para unirse a la Cabalgata de Reyes, donde los Tres Reyes Magos reparten caramelos  y aconsejan irse a dormir temprano.  Esta es la noche en la que los Reyes entran por las chimeneas, por debajo de las puertas o por los claros de las ventanas  para dejar los regalos, al lado de la cama o debajo del árbol de Navidad. 

El Día de Reyes (6 de enero) es una fiesta,  se abren los regalos y  en las calles se puede ver a los niños jugando todo el día, no importa el frío que haga. Con este ambiente de alegría y juego se acaba la celebración de la Navidad  y queda…esperar otro año.

Christmas in Spain

It´s one of the most awaited times of the year and also one of the most familiar, yes, it´s the Christmas season. At the end of December everyone tries to “return home”  to spend happy days with family and get involved in Christmas customs.

Christmas sweets (turrón, matecados), the turkey or the roast,  carols, the Christmas tree… everything is ready to start the festivities  on the 24th December with the “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve). In this night Spanish people meet to have dinner with their families, it becomes one of the most special nights in the year.

The “Día de Navidad” (Christmas day), 25th December, is a bank holiday. We spend the day with family and some people exchange Christmas presents from Santa. This tradition has been introduced some years ago in Spain, mainly due to commercial reasons, as  in Spain we have a special day for presents: The king´s Day. It´s on the 6th of January and It corresponds to the religious calendar with the Epiphany Day. (Boxing day doesn´t exist in Spain)

On “Noche Vieja”, 31th December, we meet again to say good bye to the year by listening to the 12 chimes. We have a tradition for this night! We eat 12 grapes, one for each chime, They symbolize the 12 months of the year. It´s the way we welcome the new year and say farewell to the old one. It´s already 1st of January!

Without doubt, the day children are really looking forward to is the Kings Night (5th Juanary). In the evening, kids and adults go out to join the “cabalgata de reyes” (King's Parade) and the Three Kings give  sweets to everybody and suggest to go to sleep early. This is the night when the Three Kings  throught the chiminies, under the doors or throught the gaps in the Windows, the get into the houses to deliver the presents, next to the bed or under the Christmas tree.

The King´s Day (6th Juanary) is a party, everyone opens the presents and  we can see children playing in the street the whole day and it does not matter if is could. With this happy and enjoyable day Christmas time finishes and what is left is…to wait until next year.

Friday, 4 November 2016

¿Cómo tomas el café? / How do you take your coffee?

     ¿Cómo tomas el café?

Caminas por la calle y huele a café tostado, ¡que olor tan delicioso!.. y de  repente ves ¡la cafetería! ¿Nos tomamos un café?
     La cultura del café está bastante enraizada en España, en dos sentidos: el culinario  (a los españoles nos gusta saborear un buen café) y el social (reunirnos o ir al bar para tomar un café y charlar).
     Hay algunas diferencias entre la cultura cafetera española y la inglesa. Lo primero que puede sorprender es el tamaño, en España la taza de café es bastante más pequeña que el tamaño small estándar de Starbuck o Costa. Lo segundo son los nombres de los diferentes tipos de cafés.

     El café puede ser servido en vaso o en taza y si quieres un tamaño más grande tendrás que decir “en taza grande o en vaso grande, por favor”.

-Un  expreso: Este término se ha incorporado a nuestro vocabulario cafetero debido a la influencia italiana y comercial. Antes, para pedir este tipo de café decíamos “un café solo corto” y todavía puedes pedirlo así.

-Un café solo: es un café negro, sin leche y corto, un poco más grande que un expreso.

-Un carajillo: es un café solo con coñac.

-Un americano o un café solo largo: es un café solo pero más grande y menos fuerte porque tiene más agua. Lo mismo que en Reino Unido.

-Un cortado: es un café solo con un poco de leche.

-Un café con leche: normalmente es servido en una taza, mitad café y mitad leche, pero el tamaño es pequeño si comparamos con el latte inglés que sería el equivalente inglés.

-Un café bombón: mitad café mitad leche condensada, muy popular en España.

-Una manchada: es un café con mucha leche o diremos un vaso de leche con un poco de café, suficiente para cambiar el color de la leche.

     Ninguno de estos cafés lleva hielo, si quieres hielo tendrás que pedirlo, por ejemplo: “un café con leche con hielo, por favor”, te servirán un café y el hielo vendrá  separado en otro vaso y tú tienes que hacer la mezcla. No esperes “un frappuccino” a menos que vayas a un Starbucks.
     Por supuesto, dependiendo de la región de España encontraremos maneras diferentes de llamar a estos cafés, pero en todas partes  te entenderán si pides un “café solo”.

How do you take your coffee?

You are walking on the street and you can smell roast coffee. What an amazing smell!.. and suddenly you see the cafeteria - Shall we have a coffee?

Coffee culture is well rooted in Spain, in two ways: the culinary one –Spanish like to have good tasting coffee; and the social one – Spanish like to meet or to go to the bar to have coffee and to talk.
     There are some differences between the Spanish coffee culture and the English. The first thing which will surprise you is the size. In Spain the normal size of a cup of coffee is smaller than the standard small size from Starbucks or Costa. The second thing is the names we call the different types of coffees.
     Coffee can be served in a glass or in a cup and if you want a bigger size you have to ask: “en taza grande o en vaso grande, por favor” / “in a big cup or in a big glass, please”.

-An expresso: The term espresso has been added to coffee culture because of the Italian influence and advertising. In the past, to ask for this sort of coffee you would have said “un café solo corto” and you can still say that.

-A café solo: A black coffee, without milk and short, a little bigger than an espresso.

-A carajillo: A black coffee with brandy.

-An americano or a café solo largo: A black coffee larger than a café solo and less strong because it has more water. It is the same as in the U.K.

-A cortado: A black coffee with a little bit of milk

-A coffee with milk: normally served in a cup, half coffee half milk, but the size is smaller if you compare it with an English latte.

-A café bombón: A half coffee and half sweetened condensed milk, very popular in Spain.

-A manchada: A coffee with lots of milk or if you prefer a cup of milk with enough coffee to change the colour of the milk.

     None of these coffees come with ice, if you wish to have ice you would need to ask for it.  “Un café con leche con hielo, por favor” (a coffee with milk with ice= a latte with ice, please).You will be served a latte and a separate glass of ice and you will need to mix it yourself. Don´t expect a Frappuccino unless you go to Starbucks.

     Depending on the region of Spain you will find different ways of naming different coffees but in all areas they will understand you if you ask for a “café solo”.