Spanish Food

Las Hogueras- Lets set the world on fire!

Las Hogueras 2012

I´ve been blessed this week with the chance to visit some of my family here in Alicante. Not only have I got to spend some much-needed quality time with my loved ones before I start into working on a three-month long intensive course but I´ve also been lucky enough to be here, in one of my favourite cities in Spain, to celebrate the arrival of summer with the Bonfires of San Juan.

 Alicante is one part of Spain which will always have a special place in my heart. I´ve been coming to Alicante for the best part of thirteen years now and have always felt that it´s my home away from home and now, seeing as I have family here, it is my home! And honestly I couldn´t have picked a better time to come home than now!

The Bonfire on the Explanada

Every year Alicante celebrates the arrival of the summer with the Bonfires of San Juan. The Bonfires of San Juan is a truly spectacular event in which the people from Alicante and it´s surrounding areas take to the streets of Alicante in there droves in order to ring in the summer in the only way they know how – with a party. Las Hogueras are a celebration of music, colour, art, fireworks and extravagance in which, in my experience anyway, only Spanish people can pull off with such class! 

You have to hand it to Spanish people they really know what life is about! They enjoy life to the full and appreciate even the little things in life, such as the subtle move from spring to summer, and pay tribute to them in the most joyous of fashions.

a closer view of some of the figures which were part of the bonfire on the Explanada

The Bonfires of San Juan were traditionally celebrated in the countryside with a festive dinner and bonfires which people danced around in order to celebrate the start of summer. Now however, due to the influence of Las Fallas in Valencia, they are so much more than mere bonfires! Now Alicante celebrates this event in style with incredibly expensive and artistic figures replacing the once ugly-looking traditional wooden bonfires. You can easily spend hours walking from one figure to the next in awe of the artistic talent that has gone into each one and laughing at the wit and good humor that seems to surround each one! I don´t know about you but I know if I was involved in creating such masterpieces I´d cry at the thought of my work going up in flames! But in true Spanish style it´s all in the name of fun!

Las Hogueras

Other things that you can expect to find here, apart from the enormous figures, are barracas or large tents which are located beside each figure. In these tents you can expect to find hundreds of Spaniards dressed in traditional clothes dancing, singing, drinking and eating the night away! Typical food you will find are figs and pastries filled with tuna, onions and pine nuts! Yummy! 

Typical food that you´ll find in the barracas

As I mentioned in the barracas you will find hundreds of Spaniards dressed up in traditional costume, why you may ask? Well the answer is simple! Throughout the festival there are several parades such as the international folkloric dance parade in which hundreds of proud spanish people show off their extravagant costumes and walk for miles in the greatest of spirits showing the world how it should be done!

Traditional Costumes

Fireworks are another important part of this celebration. Not only are there firework displays every day, from the 20 to the 24 June, at two o clock but also they are key to the high point of the festival: the burning of the Bonfires. Before the bonfires all set alight, at midnight, you can witness the beautiful palm tree fireworks along the Explanada. While the bonfires blaze away the atmosphere is electric. Filled with merriment, singing and dancing while the fire-fighters try their hardest to get the right balance between putting out the fires and also showering the crowds with water which is traditionally known as the banyá. Such fun!

The firefighters at their best last year

After the banyás last year!

Obviously, seeing as this part of the festival is not until tomorrow, I won´t get to witness the burning of the bonfires this year, which is such a pity! I have been apart of it in previous years and I have to say you get so caught up in the atmosphere and the merriment that it makes you feel like a child again! I would really recommend it to anyone of any age! You´re never to old to be a child and, if you ask me, we all need a little bit of child-like fun in our lives every once in a while, it´s what life is all about!

I hope you´ve enjoyed reading about Las Hogueras. Sadly, as usual, my words do not do the festival the justice it deserves; thankfully I have some photos that I took on my phone to show just how amazing this event is! So sit back and enjoy!

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I hope you´re having a great weekend wherever you are and as always thank you for reading!

Giana xoxo

La feria: A splendid way to end any month!

From the moment I arrived in Córdoba, in July of last year, all I heard about was La Fería or The Fair.  People kept telling me: “You haven´t experienced Córdoba until you´ve been to the Fair”; so obviously, after hearing this over and over again, I had huge expectations and, I´m glad to say, I wasn´t one bit disappointed! 

The entrance to the The May fair 2012.

Too me, La Feria celebrates everything Córdoba has to be proud of: music, tradition, fashion, folklore and gastronomy. La Feria takes place in a huge arena located beside the river Guadalquivir. For one week every year this arena transforms into what one can only described as olden day Spain.

Olden-day Spain

La Feria is filled with hundreds of casetas, or huts in which you can soak up the traditional fun-loving party atmosphere. In each caseta you can dance and sing along to the typical Andalucian music and also try some of the gastronomy that is typical to the fair. Indulge in the typical dishes Córdoba has to offer, dishes such as ham, fried eggs, omelette, stuffed potatoes and churros. While you´re at it, why not try the wine that this region is known for – Montilla – Moriles, or even a traditional Córdoban cocktail; Reboijto.

Montilla- Moriles

As you wander through the artificially created streets it´s easy to feel like you´ve been transported back in time with the lack of cars, tarmac and concrete buildings. It really feels like something out of the wild west. The men are dressed in traditional suits accessorised with elegant hats which are typical to Córdoba while the women are decked out in bright coloured gypsy or flamenca style dresses usually covered in patterns or polka dots accompanied by a beautiful flower in their hair.

Traditional gypsy style dresses

Beautiful gypsy style dress in one of the most popular colours: red!

Beautiful gypsy dress in red and white!

Out of the wild west!

Modern day meets feria!

Other typical things you can except to find are the horses and buggies which are so important to the culture here and also a fun fair. For me, Feria is a way of retaining the values and traditions that the people of Córdoba are so proud of while also modernising them in order to make the festival appeal to every generation! In order to truly enjoy this festival make sure you stay out until the early hours of the morning, that way you get the best of both worlds, the traditional and the contemporary!

The fastest ferris wheel I´ve ever seen!

A horse and Buggy

The entrance at night time from the ferris wheel!

As I feel that words fail to do La Feria justice I´m going to leave you with a slideshow which hopefully can give you some bit of insight into the music, tradition, folklore, fashion and gastronomy that is so integral to Córdoba.

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Thank you for reading, I hope you´ve enjoyed it, as they say “you haven´t eperienced Córdoba until you´ve been to the fair!”

Giana xoxo

Relaxing Sundays: Six ingredients to success!

“Que hermoso hacer nada y descansar después” or, in other more familiar wordsHow beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterwards. – Spanish Proverb

What better way to capture the mentality of a lazy Sunday than through the words of this proverb? Sundays, for me anyway, are days of nothingness. They are about enjoying what life has to offer, appreciating the simple things we sometimes, due to our hectic lives, take for granted – things like warm sunny days, strolls through the park and spending time with our friends and family . Above all, Sundays are about unwinding and disconnecting from the strains of the week. One of the best things about Sundays is that you have nowhere you need to be and nothing you need to do, you are perfectly entitled to revel in the beauty of idleness. Last Sunday was the epitome of pleasure and relaxation for me and luckily I got to share it all with one of my dear friends, who, for the propose of this blog, shall be called Alice. So sit back and relax as I share the six ingredients behind the success of our perfect Sunday with you!I

Ingredient numero uno: Arab Bath time:

We decided, after quite a few late nights in a row, to begin our delightful Sunday morning by treating ourselves to a well deserved lie in so: at twelve o´clock we awoke fresh-faced and ready to embrace our day of relaxation. Once washed and dressed we quickly packed a bag with two swimsuits, shampoo, a hairbrush and some other bits of toiletries and headed out the door with a spring in our step, destination: Hammam Arab Baths.

Hammam Arab Bath

Hammam Arab Baths

Conveniently located just a few minutes from my house, in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, is the Hammam Al Andalusí. The Hammam, which originally was a place in which people gathered together, provides the ideal historical and architectural setting to escape from the day-to-day stresses of life and lose yourself in its peace and tranquility!

Located in the heart of the Jewish quarter

Alice and I, feeling the need to pamper ourselves, decided to go for the bath and double relaxing massage package and  what a treat that was! We followed our circuit of relaxation contentedly moving from the largest pool – the warm pool, to the middle sized pool – the hot pool, to the eucalyptus effused steam room to our final destination which was the smallest pool – the cold pool. We did this circuit twice before giving ourself a nice little “break” in order to have a sip of mint tea and soak up the beautiful surroundings while blissfully listening to quiet Andalusí music in the background. Once our “break” was over it was time for our massage, life can be tough sometimes!

Scented oils

We had a choice of four different scented oils for our massage: rose, lavender, red amber or orange blossom. Having taken the time to familiarise myself with each aroma before my massage I opted for the rose scented oil! As I lay on the table, listening to the faint Andalusí music, I could feel my worries just drift away into thin air! Total and utter bliss and after half and hour of such bliss I  was devastated when it had to come to an end!

The total experience lasted for two hours and I must say I enjoyed every minute of it! I emerged from there relaxed, refreshed and feeling like I could take on the world! The only down side was that it´s forbidden to take photos inside the Hammam; so sadly I can´t share its beautiful architecture with you!

Ingredient numero dos: Time to refuel!:

After such a tough morning of relaxation we felt, seeing as it was a day for pampering ourselves, that it was time to refuel. We walked a few steps down the road to Plaza de Potros where there are a number of good restaurants. We made a bee-line for our restaurant of choice – Mueso –  where we selected a lovely table outside under the Andalusían sun.

Museo de la tapa y el vino

Both famished and parched from our few hours at the Hammam we scanned through the menu and ordered as quickly as we could! I settled for a tapa of Salmerejo, a potion of spinach and chickpea croquettes and a sparkling water while Alice decided to go for a portion of Iberic ham and melon and, like me, a tapa of Salmejero, it´s just too good to pass up in this weather, and a sparkling water!

Spinach Croquettes

Ham and Melon

I have to say I love this little gem of a restaurant. Not only is the service amazing but the food is incredible, it´s easy to see why it has been featured in a French travel guide for the last three years!

Ingredient numero tres: Action cool down:

Once refueled Alice and I headed towards the mosque in search of some horse-drawn carriages. We thought it might be fun to indulge in something extremely touristic and cliché. However, upon finding out the cost of such horse-drawn carriages, we weren´t long changing our minds and decided to settle for a short meander through the old quarter and a quick stop for some frozen yoghurt instead! Yum!

Time for a little cool down!

After a Short sit down and walk through the water features at Plaza Tendillas we decided it was time to head home and relax for the evening! After all – we were after having a hard day!

Ingredient numero cuatro: Something a little fishy:

By the time dinner time rolled round we were consumed with laziness and couldn´t face the task of leaving the apartment to hunt down some food so we decided to do what any other intelligent/ lazy young girls would do – order in! I had been dying to try this new sushi home delivery service that I had heard about and figured there was no better time to try it. We were having a healthy relaxing day after all!

Delicious!

Alice and I, having excitedly read through the menu, settled on the 32 piece menu thinking it would be the perfect size for us! So I made the dreaded call to Sushi color, I still hate having conversations on the phone in spanish, only for the guy on the other end to ask me if the meal was for five people! What an insult! However I soon got over it, the service was amazing, the food was great and the packaging was adorable! Overall, highly satisfactory. I will definitely be ordering from there again!

A meal for five people! 🙂

Ingredient numero cinco: Embrace the beast:

Embracing the inner child in us we settled down with our sushi to watch our favourite movie; Beauty and the Beast! What more could you ask for from the evening? Relaxation, good food and a chance to be a child again. There honestly is no better to escape your worries  – believe me, I´ve tried and tested quiet a few at this stage!

Ingredient numero seis: Sleeping Beauties:

Worn out from pampering ourselves we decided to end our perfect day by going to bed early. In true fairy-tale fashion we became the most satisfied sleeping beauties in the world; completely unwilling to accept that come Monday morning the dream would be over and we would once again be back to the day-to-day stresses of the working world!

I hope you´ve enjoyed reading about our relaxing day and that, whatever you did yesterday, you had a fantastic day!

Also, thank you to Alice, without you the day wouldn´t have been possible. Good luck tomorrow as you embark on a brand new adventure in wonderland!

Thank you for reading, sorry it´s been so long since my last post, life got in the way!

Giana xoxo

Fèni Cafe – During “Los Patios” in Córdoba.

Feni café

So, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, Las Cruces, May is one of the best months to be in Córdoba. It´s a fun-filled, action packed month that celebrates everything typically Spanish, or Andalucían to be exact. This weekend saw the launch of yet another floral competition. However, unlike Las Cruces, Los Patios is a bit more personal. During Los Patios you visit people’s houses and view their spectacularly creative and colorful flower filled patios. Quite different, you could say, to Las Cruces where you happily roam the streets with a beer in your hand admiring cultivated crosses set in a bed of potted plants! Well, in any case, every year, for one week, a selection of proud patio owners, fifty-eight to be precise, open the doors of their quintessential houses and allow complete strangers to traipse through their beloved and well maintained gardens. It really is so Spanish!

Anyway, time to get to the point. I woke up bright and early this morning, all excited at the prospect of viewing these cultivated patios, only to open my blinds to the sight of black skies and torrential rain.  Honestly, I´m beginning to think the sun doesn´t like me very much, it never seems to come out when there´s an outdoor event I want to go to! Nonetheless, after briefly cursing the weather, I snapped out of my childlike sulk and decided to make the most of it, met up with my friend and her visitors – who unfortunately were leaving today- and attempted to view some patios.

Los Patios

Los Patios

Determined and high-spirited as we were, we braved the torrential rain – waterproofs, boots and umbrellas in tow. However, despite our best efforts, we failed miserably at our task, only managing to visit six out of the fifty-eight patios dotted around the city. However, I must admit, the patios that we were lucky enough to see were so amazing that it was worth getting wet for. Due to this, after our sixth patio, we were torn; we wanted to continue but, short on time and soaked to the bone, we accepted defeat and called it a day!

Los Patios

Los Patios

After a brief coffee stop to recover from the weather, my friend – her visitors having gone to the bus station at this stage – and I decided to get a spot of lunch. What better way to comfort yourself than to indulge in some delicious food?! We had being talking about visiting this new little café for ages, Café Fèni, and for some reason or other we never got around to it; so today seemed like the perfect day to try it!

Located in the center of Córdoba, on the left-hand side of Plaza Tendillas, is this trendy bar/ café. While Fèni Café is part of an old building, it´s interior is very modern, quite minimalistic yet quirky. The walls are a mixture of textures – exposed brick, mirror and glass – with huge picture frames filled with beer mats from around the world as the main focal point. The ceiling is also quite funky, two big long sheets of wavy chipboard covered with plywood set to a backdrop of plain white plaster. So original!

Now on to the food! While Andalucía is famed for its Tapas, sometimes, it can be quite difficult to find them here in Córdoba; so, as you can imagine, I was quite pleased when I saw them featured in this extensive menu! After a few moments of humming and hawing, I settled for a tapa of white bait in vinegar followed by an open toasted sandwich of salmorejo, beef and pesto – or green sauce as they call it here- and boy-o-boy was I happy with my decision when the food arrived!

Fèni Café

Tapas: White bait in vinegar and Salmorejo

The tapa of white bait, served on a bed of tomato purée and pesto, was delicious and surprisingly big for its small price of €2! Next, the main course, and all I can say is yum! A long, flat piece of bread topped with a thicker than usual salmorejo – a creamy tomato based cold soup mixed with garlic and thickened with breadcrumbs – succulent beef and pesto. An unusual but delectable combination of fillers for a sandwich, I think I may have a new addiction on my hands!

Open sandwich

Open Sandwich

Open sandwich topped with salmorejo, beef and pesto! Yum!

With our bellies full and our clothes finally dried out we dreaded the thought of facing the rain yet again; so we decided to prolong our stay in this stylish café and ordered two infusions! I do love my infusions, especially Rooibos, the smell is so good that it´s nearly a shame to drink it – nearly!

Infusion

Roobios tea, a nice way to finish the meal!

All in all, while it didn´t turn out to be the day I had planned or expected it to be, it was certainly an enjoyable one! And, who knows, maybe tomorrow will be a better day, I might even get to see the patios in their true glory! The patios are open all week but, because I´m working, I won´t have the time to go visit them. However, I´m sure I will get to see them before the 13th! And, if I do, I´ll make sure to share the experience with all of you! 🙂

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it!

Please let me know if you´ve been to Los Patios before! I´d love to hear about your experience!

Giana xoxo

While all the photos above are my own, the two of me, obviously enough, weren´t taken by me! Their credit goes to my dear friend, and talented blogger Carly! Just click on her name to check out her amazing blog filled with breathtaking photos!

Montilla-Moriles Wine-tasting Festival – Córdoba

“What is the definition of a good wine? It should start and end with a smile.” William Sokolin.

Every year Córdoba hosts the Montilla-Moriles Wine-tasting Festival. This is an incredible tasting event in which over 20 bodegas from the south of Córdoba take part. This year, the 29th year, I was lucky enough to receive a ticket to this sampling festival.

While I am by no means a wine connoisseur, in fact I know relatively little about wine, especially this type, I found the event itself to be quiet impressive. The locals flocked to the event in order to sample the wines, consume some of the typical tapas from the region and soak up the glamorous atmosphere.

In true Córdobese style the women were decked out in the latest fashion. Accessorised to the hilt with colourful scarfs carefully placed around their necks, arms tastefully covered in bangles, statement earrings, over sized clutches and the highest stilettos you could possibly find. It really is remarkable how they manage to walk so gracefully in such extreme shoes. The males were equally as stylish with their fitted shirts and trousers, designer watches and their staple red sweaters resting on their shoulders, just a simple touch to finish the look off!

It has to be noted that the atmosphere at this festival was delightful. Groups of people gathered around the various oak wine barrels that were dotted around the place to eat, drink and be merry. It really was an authentic experience made even better by men and women spontaneously dancing sevillanas, an exciting flamenco style dance from the region, whenever the mood struck them.

  Now onto the wine itself. The wines from this region are mainly producted from the Pedro Ximénez grape and – although there are some exceptions – are generally not fortified. There are several different types of wine from this region, such as Fino, which is dry and nutty with a light texture,  Amontillado a very sweet wine, Oloroso a rich wine, Pedro Ximénez which, again, is a sweet wine and Blanco Joven (Young White) a dry and fruity wine.

While I found the wines were generally too rich for my liking, I did take a shine to a mixture they called “50/50”. This mixture consisted of fino and Pedro Ximénez, which, for me, provided the perfect balance between dryness and sweetness and proved to have a lighter texture than Pedro Ximénez on it´s own.

All in all, I throughly enjoyed this lively event and am delighted to have had the chance to have experienced it first hand. I also thought that is was fantastic that each person who attended received a glass with the name of the festival as a memento, to me this was a nice touch.

Have you ever tried any of these wines? If you have let me know what you think of them!

Hope you enjoyed reading about it!

Giana xoxo

Food diaries!

A taste of the Spanish food!

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Hope you enjoyed it!

Have you ever had Spanish food? What do you think of it?

Giana xoxo