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!