Hola

First of all: This post is not my creation. It is borrowed from  facebook group. I just loved it and had to include it. At least some bits of it.

It was initiated by a young foreigner who spent a year in Spain and apparently “absolutely loved it”. They are all observations about Spanish life, which makes it different to other countries and cultures.  And it is meant to be taken as ‘tongue in cheek…’

So… You know you have lived in Spain when…

  1. You think adding lemonade, fanta or even coke to red wine is a good idea.
  2. You can’t get over how early bars & clubs shut back home – surely they’re shutting just as you should be going out?
  3. You aren’t just surprised that the plumber/decorator has turned up on time, you’re surprised he turned up at all.
  4. You think it’s fine to comment on everyone’s appearance. And to openly stare at strangers.
  5. Not giving every new acquaintance “dos besos” (two kisses) seems so rude.
  6. On msn you sometimes type ‘jajaja’ instead of ‘hahaha’
  7. You think that “aceite de oliva” (olive oil) is a vital part of every meal. And don’t understand how anyone could think olive oil on toast is weird.
  8. You’re amazed when TV ad breaks last less than half an hour, especially right before the end of films.
  9. You forget to say please when asking for things – you implied it in your tone of voice, right?
  10. You love the phenomenon of giving “toques” (quick calls) – but hate explaining it in English
  11. You don’t see sunflower seeds as a healthy snack – they’re just what all the cool kids eat.
  12. You know what a “pijo” is and how to spot one (not translateable…).
  13. Every sentence you speak contains at least one of these words: “bueno”, “coño”, “vale”, “venga”, “pues nada”…
  14. You know what a “resaca” is (Hang over).
  15. A bull’s head on the wall of a bar isn’t a talking point for you, it’s just a part of the decor.
  16. You eat lunch after 2pm & would never even think of having your evening meal before 9.
  17. You know that after 2pm there’s no point in going shopping, you might as well just have a siesta until 5 when the shops re-open.
  18. You don’t accept beer that’s anything less than ice-cold.
  19. The sound of mopeds in the background is the soundtrack to your life.
  20. You know the difference between cojones and cajones, tener calor and estar caliente, bacalao and bakalao, pollo and polla, estar hecho polvo and echar un polvo…and maybe you learned the differences the hard way!
  21. On some Sunday mornings you sometimes have breakfast before going to bed, not after you get up.
  22. Floors in certain bars are an ideal dumping ground for your colillas, servilletas etc. Why use a bin?!
  23. You see clapping as an art form, not just a way to express approval.
  24. You know “ensaladilla rusa” has nothing to do with Russia.
  25. When you burst out laughing every time you see a Mitsubishi Pajero (thanks Stuart Line for reminding me of that one!)
  26. You have friends named Jesus, Jose Maria, Maria Jose, Angel, maybe even Inmaculada Concepcion…
  27. You know that “ahora” doesn’t really mean now. Hasta ahora, ahora vuelvo…etc
  28. When you make arrangements to meet friends at 3, the first person turns up at 3.15…if you’re lucky!
  29. Aceite de oliva is “muy sano” (very healthy), of course. So you help yourself to a bit more.
  30. Every single news bulletin on TV has at least 10 minutes on Real Madrid news and another 10 on Barcelona Soccer Club news.
  31. When it’s totally normal for every kitchen to have a deep-fat fryer but no kettle.
  32. When you know what a guiri is / have been called one
  33. When you add “super” in front of any adjective for emphasis
  34. Blonde girls actually start to think their name is ‘rubia’
  35. When you accept that paying with a 50 euro note is going to get you a dirty look if you’re buying something that costs less than 40 euros
  36. If something is great, it’s “de puta madre” (sorry, not translateable…)
  37. You can eat up to 5 times a day – first breakfast, 2nd breakfast around 11.30, almuerzo, merienda, cena
  38. You know the jingle for “Los Cuarenta Principales” (Top 40 radio station)…
  39. When you go into a bank/bakery etc, it’s standard practice to ask “Quien es la ultima?” (who is last?)
  40. Who needs a dryer when you have a washing line outside the window of your apartment?
  41. You know what ‘marcha’ and ‘juerga’ are.
  42. You are more likely to call your friends tio/a, nena, chaval, macho or even tronco than their real name.
  43. You answer the phone by saying ‘Yes’, (well, or ‘Tell me’) and when identifying yourself you say ‘I’m…’ not ‘It’s…’. And when you try those tactics back home, everyone thinks you’re mad or rude!
  44. If you eat a lot of something, you’re not going to ‘turn into’ it, you’re going to ‘get the face of it,’ e.g ‘te vas a poner cara de chocolate.’ Somehow a lot more amusing!
  45. Drinking coffee out of a glass is entirely normal.
  46. ‘Son las nueve, las ocho en Canarias’ is how you are used to hearing radio DJs announce the time
  47. You’ve been to your local town’s feria/fiesta/semana santa

Hola!

What a question… On one side, it is great to find out about the interest on our habits. But… Oh boy, what a question…

Where to start… I guess we have a million typical habits. I would like to mention a few, but I would rather like to ask all of you back. PLEASE, help me out and leave your comments with what you think are the most typical habits of Spaniards.

meeting-and-talkingTALKING: First and probably most descriptive: We have the habit of talking, talking and talking. When we don’t, we laugh and sing loud all the time. The best of all, is that we have the habit of doing it all at the same time. When we are less happy about something, you get the same effect on the opposite: we discuss and complaint

We love our food!FOOD: We eat 6 times a day. Actually a very healthy habit, as I later found out. We have our breakfast, almuerzo, comida, merienda y cena. Ah, and drink coffee at all times of the day.

TIMING: We come late everywhere. Actually live late: Lunch late, dinner late, go out late… I guess you could talk about our “Late Back Mentality”

la-roja-celebraSOCCER: We watch soccer, talk about soccer, live soccer, love soccer. There is only one country in the world with more national soccer team coaches than Spain. It is Italy, and simply because it has a few more inhabitants.

PLAY ON WORDS: We have the habit of playing ith words constantly. make jokes about everything and invent double meanings and having 15 different words for everything.

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS: We also have a lot of small little habits that are very deeply anchored in ourselves. Such as listening to music everywhere and everytime, putting olive oil on everything (its healty and we love it), or parking in a “touchy” style. We call it to park “of hearing” (guess that is why they build car-bumpers and actually call them that way).

EXAGERATING: Last but not least, we have the habit of exagerating. We love to exagerate. It is our passion. We live for it. We can’t breathe without it. Day and night and night and day. 365 Sharing wine and talking; Amigos y vino tintodays a year, 24 hours a day, again and again, nonstop! Well, maybe I am exagerating a bit now.

But if there is a habit that would really describe us is the one of opening a bottle of red wine, sharing it with friends and talking for hours after lunch or dinner. You know what? I think I will grab a bottle of  “The Spanish Quarter” Cabernet-Tempranillo and walk over to the neighbours, see if they want to join a discussion about why we love being so “Late Back”…

Salud!
Francisco

Spain, with Cataluña on the top right corner Hola!

quite a touchy topic. But one that tends to generate frequent questions. It is a tough job to answer, but I guess I got into this position all by myself, when I opened the door for you guys to ask “Anything you want to know about Spain”…

To the point

First of all Barcelona is part of Cataluña and part of Spain. This is a political and legal fact. Period.

If that is the case, you wonder, why the heck is it at all being discussed. Well, first of all, because we like discussions. We love them, we need them. It is part of our culture and who we are. Secondly, and most important, because a large number of folks in this beautiful region in the northeast of Spain, think and feel that Cataluña should be independent. And I guess we all agree, that democracy is quite a helpful invention, despite greek…

Historically…

You must accept that it is a daring step from me to actually threaten you with “History”. BUT, see if you enjoy this more free interpretation of it… Ah! And I promise there is a bottom line.

First paper ever written in Catalan languageGosh, wonder where to start… After 700 years of muslim ocupation, Spain finally had managed to fight back its independency. The famous Catholic Kings held most of the country together. By the way, these are the same kings that sponsored Columbus’ discovery of America and that are therefore -very indirectly- responsible for watergate and the superbowl.

Cataluña kept a certain independence. It was never very monarchic, nor very keen on being included in the rest of the big Spanish party. But that independence did not held long. Roughly until 1700, where the Secession War in Spain ended with the Bourbon Crown Family as imposed kings of the whole country. It would have been easy to simpathise with such a great branded family, but… Somehow I recon that the problem started right there . This is …

… a very personal theory built on thin ice …

Catalonia is a wine region. You probably know that by know, since our shared loyal sympathy for “The Spanish Quarter“, our favourite Spanish wine, whose winery is in the heart of Cataluña. Nevermind. I truly believe, that the root cause for the opposition to monarchy was a perceived brand conflict. “We are a wine nation“, the Catalonians thought, “We can not swear trust and loyalty to no Bourbon“. I personally have nothing against Bourbon. “Jack and Ginger” tastes like candy and sounds like a lovesong. A good combination once in a while. But let’s face it, a good “Cabernet-Tempranillo” just does the better job…

Maybe Catalonians were too susceptible. Maybe they made too big of a deal out of a conflict originated in the choice for the right drink. But I guess history took its path and here is where we landed…

Politically…

No, don’t worry. Just kiddin’, I won’t go there. Trust should be honored, not abused. And as you might know, I hate politics anyways.

sagrada-familia-by-nightThe promised bottom line

I think the best part of this whole story lies the process itself. God, we love to discuss and debate. So the best thing that can happen, is for neither “side” to win, but for the discussion to keep going forever. It is a bit like our beloved “Sagrada Familia“, Gaudi’s unfinished master piece. Probably the most spectacular and one of the best known Cathedrals in the world. Under construction since almost 100 years. Scheduled to be finished in 1926, but still far from being finished. We might never finish it. But -again here- we enjoy the process. That’s the fun, isn’t it?

So why don’t we leave it there for today, and get back to where we started, in the heart of beautiful Cataluña, close to “The Spanish Quarter” winery, with a glass of red in our hand, and some friends to start a hot discussion about this topic and my theory. What do you think?

Salud!
Francisco

Hola!

that is a long question you must think. And you are right. I am still figuring out how to position the questions in the headline. Tips are welcome. Heck some of you really have complicated way to express your doubts and questions… But I love it.wondering-about-waking-up

Nevermind. To the point.

A great question that I enjoy in all its different versions. The relaxed but still intense lifestyle in Spain is indeed something that surprises foreigners a lot.

First of all: it is true. It is not a rumour.

Some of the reasons:

1) We do sleep less
2) We start to work later
3) We make more breaks
4) We need longer for most things (not always a bad thing).

Bottom line: yes, we are more relaxed.


Here comes an average day of a Spaniard living in a major city (which might be the closest it can get to American lifestyle).

desayuno de churros y cafe 7 to 8
Wake up call. Rush in the bathroom. Breakfast honours the second part of the word: fast, faster, Spanish breakfast. Most of the time it is a bite and dark coffee. It might be in your own home or downstairs in the cafetería. Nothing beats churros at that time.

8 – 9
Get to work. Bus, car, tube, train… Maybe a quick stop on the way for a coffee? If you work in a store, you start towards 9.30 or 10.


11 – 12
We take a break. Coffee, maybe churros (delicious grasy and sweet. Sort of the sinful version of doughnouts) , a fruit if you are on the healty side.


14-16
Lunch break. We go out and most often have a proper meal. And yes, we most of the time have a glass of wine with lunch. A healthy habbit if you ask me. The lucky ones manage to get home, eat, have a 30 min nap and go back to work. That is what we call “siesta”. My father did tis programm all his life. Or you do like a good friend of mine, who lived too far from work to go home, but had it quite close to his mothers place. He had the luxury of eating at mums for half his career.


La sobremesa de los tertulianos16 – 19
Afternoon session. If you have a meeting, there goes the afternoon. Take it easy. Have a coffee. A “cortado” (a cut coffee), which is an expresso with a tiny bit of milk.
Or have a “cafe con leche” if you are less in a hurry.

19 – 21
Go back home. Kick off your shoes. Or have a glass of wine with friends or colleagues after work. Do some shopping if need be, or if you did not get to it during lunch break. Or put your kids to bed if you have any… Or you start preparing dinner…

21-22
Dinner. We love cooking. The cocooning trend happens in Spain often in the kitchen. I call it “Cookooning”. But if there is something we love equally as much is going out for dinner. Either or, the whole procedure happens most often as of eight or nine in the evening, and goes till midnight, and is accompanied by wine and a good conversation.


22-24
Having una copa de vino tinto de sobremesaWhat we call “sobremesa”, meaning “over-table”. We keep seated and talk talk talk. Or tell jokes or, yes, lets be honest, we watch television. At more or less midnight we go to bed. The rest is rest.


Having said all of this: We also have commuters, half day workers, single parents and all sorts of byproducts from a high speed globalized world. And yes, we are getting more and more influenced by other cultures and countries (I call it the tupperware-effect).

Maybe that is why I try to share a bit of Spain with the world. Who knows, maybe we end up saving some of the relaxed attitude. Want to give me a hand and spread the word?

Or jusy try to do it and get back to me with your feedback. In the meantime, I will finish my glass of The Spanish Quarter red wine and go to bed. It will soon be 1 o’clock. But don’t worry, my first meeting starts at 10. I think I will sleep in and blame it on the traffic ;-).

Salud!

Francisco

Hola amigos!

Let me tell you how I found out about this habit: A friend of mine once worked during the holidays as a security guard in a major hottowels appear at nightel in a vacation spot. He had the night shift. Quite quiet and boring. But towards the end of his shift there was a mistery: he was doing the surveilance round in the premises. It was 6 o’clock in the morning and all of a sudden, the first rows at the pool were covered by towels. No one at sight. How did they got there? Can you imagine you walk around a hotel as a guard and nothing happens, other than a few drunken guys that need a gps to find their rooms? Then -misteriously- towels appear for no reason and from nowhere by the pool… He decided to observe the scene and found his answer. Germans and towels. At straight 6 o’clock they woke up, walked down, layed their towels and went back to their rooms. 10 minutes later the pool area was dessert again but covered in towels…

Let me make this clear: We Spaniards, we love Germans. Seriously, we really do. There are mainly two reasons:
1. They make great cars
2. They are wealthy loyal tourists.

But this one thing I don’t get. Why do they have to wake up in their vacation at 6 o’clock in the morning (at night if you ask me) and perform this incredible ritual? After breakfast they go to the pool lay on their pre-arranged towels and spend a few hours getting their “free-of-charge-shrimp-costume” under the sun. Seriously: Why on earth do they have to wake up early and “own” the first row at the pool?

It is such a mistery…

Do they really think someone will take away the best spots at the pool if they don’t do it? What, at seven o’clock? What is wrong with them?!?

The best part is: most often we are talking about a hotel or some kind of what I call “vacation machine”, that has – surprise, surprise – identical towels for all guests. That means, if any Spaniard would come down to the pool and find towels laying there without an obvious owner, they would think: “how friendly!” and just lay down on them.

towels-2There is one reason why that Spaniards do not “steal” the towels from them: It is holiday. You are not supposed to wake up at any time, just because there are suposedly places that are better than others. This means: when the Germans get back to the pool after breakfast, they find their pre-prepared towels and feel proud to be so smart to own the first row at the pool.üAbout at least one hour later, the rest of all other vacation guests with non-german passports will start showing up at the pool. Oh, and should there be any Spaniards at the same “vacation machine” (quite unliekly if you ask me), they will show up about an hour after this second crowd. This is not out of politeness. For God sake: it is vacation!!!

There is one nation where I would understand that they wake up early on vacation: Americans. My fellow USA-people only have ten days of vacation a year! 10 days vacation… If I had only 10 days vacation I would probably not sleep at all! But that is a separate story.

Back to the Germans and their towels: please guys: you have to stop it. Relax. Easy. Its vacation. Its Spain. We are willing to forgive you for wearing leather sandals with white tennis socks. Also for ordering “dos cervezas por favor” (allthough you know now what I think about it). We are even willing to forgive you for making our restaurants cook you dinner at 18 or 19 o’clock, when we Spaniards just finished lunch and are still recovering from it… BUT please don’t stress people out with your crazy towels in the morning. Its madness!

My recomendation: leave your clock at home, specially your alarm clock. Sit on a nice terrasse and have some tapas along with a chilled glass of  “The Spanish Quarter” Chardonnay-Albariño, or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco

Hola!

to be honest: this is not – in its exact formulation – among the top ten of the FAQ I get. I chose it as the first “Francisco Answers” post for a simple reason: I liked it.

First of all, I am afraid many of you have not had the pleasure of getting to know any of both “Siesta” or “Gazpacho”. A shame that we need to correct. Here come the definitions.


GazpachoGazpacho:

A cold soup made out of vegetables, most of it tomatoes. It contains also cucumber, pepers, onions, olive oil and of course garlic. I will not reveal all ingredients or details. Especially, I won’t reveal the secret recipe from my mother. Maybe in another ocassion. It is a traditional dish in Andalucía, especially popular in the long and warm summer season. Do not be surprised if you find small bits of vegetables or “croutons” (congratulations to my fellow Frenchman: They made it again, they managed to give an exquisit and unpronounceable name to a simple piece of bread cut in a cube). Find more about it in wikipedia, or even better, in a visit to Spain! Ah: don’t try to find my mothers recipe in Wikipedia. Won’t be that easy ;-)


Siesta:

One of our most successful panish exports. Rightly so. Also, one of the words that Spain has made universally understandable. It is a Siesting on the jobshort nap (at least meant to be short ;-) in the early afternoon. As you know, we love to eat rich lunches. After a Spanish lunch, especially in many of the warmer months we enjoy, your body screams for a small rest. Give it to him! It is deserved. After all, you need to digest, realax and get ready for the rest of the day. Take a nap and then sip a “cafe cortado” (Please remind me that we need to talk about coffee on a separate post). Mi querida Wikipedia has a pretty good english definition of Siesta, which I recommend if you really want.


So what is the bottom line?
Quite simple. And this is one of the reasons why I liked the question: Honestly, why choose when you can have it all? Gazpacho is perfect in the summer, so is Siesta. Siesting. Siestify your life!My true recommendation is: Eat Gazpacho for lunch as a first dish. It will refresh and calm your appetite in the warm season. Have it along with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” Chardonnay-Albariño, equally refreshing, crisp and tasteful. Once you finish lunch, have a Siesta. Make it a habit. 30 minutes. Believe me, once you start, you will love it. And pass it on! It is your mission. “Siestify” your environment a bit. Maybe this won’t help us making this a better planet, but definetly a little bit more relaxed…

Salud!
Francisco

Hola amigos!

I love democracy. To celebrate it, and upon popular request, I start today a new section. It is called “Francisco Answers” and will be dedicated to some of the more popular questions and topics that have received the most interest from “mis queridos amigos” (my dear friends, i.e. YOU).

I hope it is interesting to know what other people ask and find out about Spain. The idea is for the topics to be picked based on popular interest, but don’t expect it to be always like that.

Saludos
Francisco

Hola!

two of those please!I don’t get it. It actually drives me nuts. Why is one of the few sentences every foreigner that comes to Spain knows “dos cervezas, por favor”?

People don’t get it! We are a wine nation. Actually I believe we are THE wine nation. Yes we have great beers. Worldwide famous and ubiquous “San Miguel” or increasingly trendy Barcelona beer icon “Estrella” to name a few. But its beer!

Can you imagine two brits coming to spain and ordering (nevermind an eventually perfect accent) “dos platos de pescado empanado frito y patatas fritas con vinagre” (which would be “fish’n’chips’n’vinegar”)? Or two Germans ordering “codillo de cerdo al horno con albondigas gigantes de patata y miga de pan y zucrut” (that would be “Schweinshaxe mit Knoedel und Sauerkraut”. Sorry for the last one, there is no true translation for “Sauerkraut”).

I guess you get my point. There is a famous saying that reads: “in Rome do as the Romans and in Spain drink wine” (few people know this second part of it…)

So today we go for a simple Spanish lesson. Erease the beer from your hard disk and repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor” (notice I made it quite easy through replacement).

Another advantage: “vino” is red-wine-cheersnot only tastier and more authentic, but also easier to pronounce than “cerveza”.

How much do you have to know about wine or Spanish wine before drinking it? Nothing! Wine knowledge is anyways overrated. People talk too much about it and drink too little.

Once again, repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor”. See? already much better.

Come to Spain and practice. If you can’t right now, have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and practice with friends.

Salud!
Francisco

“Buen provecho!”

O “Que aproveche”. Music to my ears! It is Spanish for “enjoy your meal”, or “bon appetit”, which has turned out to be the almost universal expresion.

When we don’t laugh or sing in Spain, it is often for one reason: our mouth is full. Which take us to

Reason Nr 3 for loving Spain: FOOD

paellaA couple of our dishes have definetly made the round. “Paella” is probably the most famous one. No, it is not our national dish. As you probably know by now, Spain is a country full of nuances and differences. There is not one Spain, there are infinite Spains with lots in common.

But back to the kitchen. We have “Cocido Madrileño” in Madrid: heavy but delicious. “Fideua” in Cataluña: similar to paella, but with noodles and of course alioli. “Gazpacho” in Sevilla: a refreshing and actually quite light cold vegetable soup. “Rabas” in north Spain: one of the tastiest ways to prepare octopus.

tapitasWe love garlic, we love olive oil, we love meat, fish or vegetables, we love cooking, we love Food. Trust me and give it a try: you will love Spanish food!

We might have exported less dishes than the Italians (they managed to steal pasta from China and pizza from north Africa, but no one beats them at selling that stuff).

We might have less sophisticated dishes than the French (or at least less sophisticated sounding, since I believe one of the keys of success is to make a fish soup and call it “Vichisoise” or similar).

But Spain is the only country I can think of that has succesfully exported an eating philosphy: Tapas. You can read about it in an earlier post. Before you do so, I suggest you treat yourself to a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and enjoy the reading.

Salud!
Francisco

Hola!

Unbelievable but true. I continue the series. You must know that we Spaniards are not good at discipline… But we have other qualities. For example:

guitarra EspañolaReason for loving Spain nr 2: MUSIC

Let me set this clear: I do not imply that we are superior musicians, composers, dancers or anything (though we do pretty good). What I mean is what a role music plays in our lifes, in our culture.

Music in Spain is everywhere, everyday. Spain in general is quite a loud country. But interestingly, that loudness is seldom anoying. I have noticed and thought about it? I think the answer is music. It is always there, adding a note of acoustic color to the loudness.

Music in Spain is enormously varied. Few countries have experienced such an incredible cultural traffic. We have been invaded/visited by Phoenitians, Iberos, Celts, Romans, Arabs, French… Even today we get invaded/visited, especially by Brits or Germans. We call it now tourism and charge for it, as opposed to die from it (at least most of the time). And yes: we love tourists. Seriously!

jota aragonesaWell all of those folks/visitors/invadors have left a tremendous cultural legacy in our peninsula. And musical influences are definetly a great part of it. From the Celt tones you find in the north, north-west, to the obvious arab influences you find in flamenco music. I think its remarkable what an acoustic footprint has been built over the centuries.

We have the Jota in Aragón, the Sardana in Cataluña, the Chotis in Madrid… And this is – believe me – just a small selection. In Andalucía alone we have Flamenco, Soleá, Bulería, Cante Jondo, Sevillanas, Fandago… And that is just one region.

There is a long list of famous Spanish musicians to choose from, but that would deserve another post.

quien canta su mal espantaBut what really strikes foreigners most, is how much we love singign loud. It does not matter if we are good at it. It is fun. It feels good.

We usually prefer to sing in Spanish. We are not very good in speaking English. We might not have a clue about the words of this or that song or what it means. But we try our best and our loudest…

One of many sayings in Spain that are linked to music is: “Quien canta su mal espanta”, meaning: He who sings scares away his evil. Maybe that is why we tend to be in a good mood?

Or is it our wine? Not sure. I think I will sing out loud, along with a glass of  “The Spanish Quarter” Tempranillo-Cabernet and try to find out. Why don’t you try the same?

Salud!
Francisco

Hola!

Today I start a new series that I hopefully will finish some day (I guess mañana ;-). Not that I thought 10 reasons were difficult to find. I want to make sure I do my homework and research+study them properly.

The first one is easy:

Reason for loving Spain nr 1: HUMOR

humor amigos, humor!We can laugh about everything. Actually we sometimes have to. We love to. I don’t know another culture or country, in which people have such an hability to laugh. We can be serious, but not if we can avoid it.

Jokes are our small talk. I often participate in real joke marathons, where a few crack on jumping from a topic to the other and going on for hours. Seriously.

A few examples:

We are over 90% catholic, we respect Christ and the church. And we believe. But there are a ton of jokes about the last supper, confession, monks and nons… Laugh is a blessing, for god sake!

We are quite liberal in a gay-friendly sense. Barcelona is known to be one of the gay capitals of Europe. But what is so bad about laughing your ass off on gay jokes?

You get my point.

Let me tell you one of my many “top-embarrasing-situations-in-Francisco’s-life” (believe me, I somehow collect them) happened to me in Teruel many years ago. It might illustrate it best.

camaleon bizco (Cross-Eyed)I got to know a group of guys from the area during a summer job. We started a round of jokes. One of the guys had a glass eye. I did not know nor noticed. Just seemed a little cross-eyed. Guess what: Si Señor… I had to do it. I told a joke about a man with a glass eye. And it was long, and it was dirty and it was embarrasing.

I must have been the only one that did not know the guy had a glass eye, since people started getting a bit serious and gave me big eyes. I just thought they were concentrated on following the joke. The only guy that amused himseld and smiled all over the face was my “dont-you-realize-he-has-a-glass-eye-friend”. Everyone else was a bit less easy and very quiet.

ojo en la sopaNevermind: I finished the joke and the guy was laughing in tears. Eventually all softened out and the session continued. A few jokes later another guy from the group approched me from the side and revealed to me in whisper the glass eye secret. Ooooops. Embarrasing…

I have forgotten in the meantime how to turn red, but back then I promise I still knew how to. Red-face and glass-eye crossed looks (or look and a half). He came over and thanked me. It was apparently the first time that someone had told him a joke about the topic. He could totally sympathise with the guy in the joke and was gratefull for having made fun of something that everyone seemed to find dead serious. He said a great sentence that became my lesson that day. A valuable one: “If I have to choose between crying or laughing about sad things that I can’t change, my choice is clear!”

Wherever you are my glass-eyed friend: I raise my wine-glass with a wink and drink to your health. My toast: “brindo por ti, en mi ojo un guiño, y en mi copa Chardonnay-Albariño“.

Ah: if you want to know the joke, you know how to: just ask Francisco ;-)

Salud!
Francisco

Let me reveal to you today (1) why people allways think spanish cab drivers are cheating and (2) that -in most cases- it is not true.

Based on my experience I have come to clasify taxi fares in three categories:

1. “What you see is what you pay”: Easy. You sit in clock starts. You arrive. Clock stops. Probably the fruit of German engeneering.

2. “What I say is what you pay”: also quite simple. The car has no clock (or its apparently broken). Chances are, the car has no licence. Maybe not even the driver… The fare will be set according to the following factors: (1) how wealthy, travelled, smart and drunk you are. (2) how late it is and (3) how many alternatives you might have.

3. “Spanish taxi”: The most weird fare regulation in the world. It is identical to category 1 (start fee and then per time/distance) with a big “BUT”: the ride finishes and then the driver presses a few bottons. All of a sudden the amount has increased by a couple of Euros. Logically, you think he is ripping you off.

You think there is a “turist-extra-charge” button? There is NOT. Wether it is logical or not, there are three reasons:
A) in Spain cabs charge an extra for suitcases (per piece) if they go in the trunk, and airport or station departure or arrival.
B) they charge them at the end of the ride, despite they had already charged the start fare at the start (that at least sounds logical)
C) drivers never explain this proactively, nor they teach it in foreign schools (though I think they should).

Given most visitors enter a taxi in an airport or station and tend to have luggage, they end up getting the extra-super-charge. Difficulties in language, jet-lag and other components don’t help.

But now you know. I can’t allow your very first impression of my country to be “I am being ripped off…”

Here comes my proposal: schools of the world should offer spanish culture as a topic in elementary schools. Countries with high affinity to Spain should actually make it obligatory for graduation.

Until that happens though, stick to my blog for further tips and spread the word.

Saludos
Francisco

Hola!

kings riding a camel... Where is my helmet?Today you should leave your car home and hope for non-overcrowded public transportation. That is due to the famous “Cabalgata de Reyes” (sort of “the kings ride”. And NO, it is not a special spicy sauce from a famous burger restaurant!). This is a massive event to celebrate epiphany, that consists on:

  1. Closing down all mayor center roads.
  2. Dressing up tractors and other bulky, strong, slow and polluting cars (in other words: what in the US standards would be considered a “practical metropolitan vehicle”).
  3. Handing over to as many people as you can a musical instrument and a weird “did-not-make-it-for-super-hero-costume” .
  4. Dressing up three adults in the proper kings costumes.
  5. Putting all of the above in a line
  6. Making them walk through the closed roads for hours and hours.

If you think this all sounds like a non-rated version of “Christopher’s Day” on Prozac, I admit that you got a point…

Also: I recommend you wear a helmet in the streets. How so? Kids love candy, so each of the many cars/tractors transports a ton of “close-to-expiration-date-sweets”. The candy is usually packed and has a minimum weight, so it can be thrown into the expecting crowd. The heavier the candy, the further you can throw it. As per Murphy’s Law, you certainly will get hit on the head by a piece of candy. Hence the helmet…


Today, millions of kids are fed with free sugar simultaneously in all nation. Parents in Spain have today the toughest mission of the year: get their kids to bed. The kids:

  • Are full of sugar after the candy and full of energy after for two weeks vacation
  • Have been waiting for their presents for weeks, while bombarded by TV ads of toys that are scaringly big and expensive…
  • Know which presents they want: ALL!
  • Have seen the kings with “all their present boxes”
  • Think that the same parade that made it through town will pass by their living room to drop the presents.

On top of all, you probably had the chance to attend a session of the famous christmas carols dedicated to the three kings (sung by kids, of course, as mentioned in an earlier post)… Anyone who gets them down before midnight is either a hero, or is using Chloroform… Dear parents: you have my fullest admiration!


What I recommend? Make sure you have a bottle of The Spanish Quarter, or your favorite Spanish wine, for when it all finishes. Have a glass to the health of the kings, Santa, Rudolph, the elves and the holy cow. And pray to God that your kids figure out the next morning how to open and operate the presents by themselves. At least, you might have a chance to sleep in…

Salud!
Francisco

New Year’s Eve: Probably the single biggest party event in the world. Independently of religion or believe, this seems to be the day that the largest amount of people globally have agreed to celebrate.

Dinner is of course spectacular. It seems like a revival of the Christmas Eve Dinner that I described in a recent post. Only that this time, mood is generally even happier and everyone has a bit of uncle Antonio. After all, we have had a lot of “dinner rehersals” over the past days.

puerta-del-solThe big moment comes. We are approaching midnight. You can welcome the new year at home with family and friends or in a bigger party, which we call “cotillon“. But the most fun is to celebrate in the streets.

In most countries the year enters with a countdown. We do it infront of the television, with the twelve bells from the midnight clock. There is the official clock in Madrid at the Puerta del Sol. By the way this is theoretically the exact center of Spain, with its “kilometro 0″. Most roads in Spain count their distances in km from this point. But that’s a different story…

The funniest and most peculiar tradition for new year are the twelve “lucky grapes”. One grape per bell tone. You might have heard about it and thought it was a myth. It is not. I promise. This year, the tradition has its 100 year anyversary, since it seems to have been initiated in 1909. The overstock of grapes of that year was distributed to celebrate the new year with the wish of prosperity. As you can imagine, a day or two before the 31st of December, grape prices sky rocket.

12 uvas de la suerteAt midnight, everyone stares at the TV, waiting for the clock to ring the twelve bell tones. It would be too simple to just ring twelve times, and you would not need TV moderators for it. We like it complicated: first you have a lot of small bells that announce the four quarter bell tones. Then -surprise- you get the four quarter bell tones. Their are double tones (sort of “dind-dong”) so it is actually 8 tones. Then – FINALLY – the twelve tones of midnight. Everyone puts a grape in the mouth per bell tone. This all happens at high speed amd everyone is excited. Plus: twelve grapes is a lot. That is why, by the time the new year actually enters, 40 million people in Spain have their mouth full, absolutely full of grapes. We will consume about 1.500 tons of grapes in the 36,6 seconds that the procedure lasts all together. This is why “happy new year” in Spain is “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”. This is more or less how “feliz año nuevo” sounds when your mouth is full. No matter how often you practice, how many times you tried to say Pamplona with a polvoron in your mouth. It is a mess. And it is terribly funny. We love it…


I have enjoyed new year’s eve in a few different countries in the world. No matter where and in what time zone I was: I always had my twelve grapes with me, and I always started the countdown at 12 to 12. And I always got funny looks from those around me. And last but not least, my new year always started with:
“fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”

Maybe this year I will try to have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” Chardonnay-Albariño to spill down the grapes.

Salud and “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”
Francisco

The clock is ticking! You have your grapes ready? What do you mean “what do I mean”? Let me recover from the Christmas madness and I will soon tell you. Promised!

Salud!
Francisco

Feliz Navidad!

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas eve. I hope you have enjoyed and/or survived your traditions, your alc-punch, the food and the family.

We in Spain also have our traditions. Not better or worse. Like so often, just different. Lets look at a few:

turron duro

FOOD: No, we will not eat Paella for Christmas. It is interesting, but we do not have a super-standard-Christmas-dinner, like a the turron blandoUSA-Turkey (By the way, it always sounded more like a soccer game than a menu for me… Anyhow). Dinner menu in Spain varies largely by region. But for dessert, we all have the world-famous turron. There are two versions of it: the hard one and the soft one. Both delicious. Selection is purely based on teeth and cheek strength. Other than turron, we have polvorones and mantecados. All of these delicious specities consist on honey and almonds. All are terribly tastefull and full of calories.polvoron

Ah! Don’t forget to practice Spains favourite Christmas sports: say “Pamplona” with the mouth full of polvorones. Quite a funny sports I must say…


DRINKS:
Guess… yes of course we drink Spanish red and white wine with our dinner. But not that many people know cavaabout the outstanding sparkling wonder of spanish cellars. “CAVA”. Easier to pronounce than “Champagne”, at least half as expensive and equally tasteful. You don’t believe it? Find out yourself! Check out a bottle of e.g. Codorniu Cava. This is Spain’s oldest producer, and the inventor of Cava method (which is exactly the same than Champagne, but in Spain). I bet with you you won’t tell the difference. And if you do… boy, you missed a career as somelier, or you are just too posh for this world…

MUSIC: You will hardly hear me say anything negative about Spain. Not that I am biosed, there is just little negative to say;). But Christmas songs… Yoy have to know, that the ones in charge of carols in Spain are exclusively the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. But with the amount of sugar they get, and the fact that they have already been on vacation for a while by the time they get there, it can get a bit too much. Let me see if I can find an example for your -ehem- “enjoyment”. We should let them grow up, learn how to sing, come down from sugar and try again.

PRESENTS: Everywhere in the Christian world kids are now coming down from hyperactivity  after an overdose of sweets and the excitement prior to the opening of the presents. Not in Spain! Yep: probably as a remainder of the dark years of sadistic Spanish inquisition, we keep them suffering a few weeks more. Until the 6th of January, to be precise. The three Magic Kings from orient (which indeed sounds like the party menu of a famous burger restaurant brand) are the ones in charge of the presents. That gives us Spaniards a bit more of time to get our presents.

BUT WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:
Some things though, seem to be definetly common to all of Spain, but also the parts of the world that I have the pleasure to celebrate Christmas in:
1) There is too much to eat and to drink
2) Dinner lasts for hours and hours
3) Uncle antonio gets terribly drunk and starts telling dirty jokes
4) Aunt Maria breaks up in tears because grandma used to love so much these reunions, and now she no longer here
5) Whoever has brought the most kids acts and feels the most important and is actually the most anoying
6) It is impossible to agree on music or which television program to watch
7) There is always someone who mentions, that we should enjoy each other and forget about TV/music (and he/she is right, though nobody listens).

But most importantly: great moments are shared, great feelings are in the air and something special covers the night when we all finally go to bed.

Feliz Navidad!
Francisco

Feliz Navidad!

That is what we say in Spain these days. Or “Felices fiestas”, which my favorite politically correct american fellows call “happy holidays”.

I have had the pleasure to enjoy Christmas in many countries in the world. Something truly incredible is how many little funny traditions and habits gravitate around Christmas in any particular culture.

german baking christmas

Germans, with their Avent calendars that hide a little something everyday on the way to Christmas Eve. Or their delicious obsession about baking cookies. A minimum of 50 different cookie-cut-out-shapes belong to every standard German home. NEVER accept the invitation to stay overnight in a German home with less than 50 cookie-cut-out-shapes in their kitchen. Something is for sure wrong with them. Run and don’t look back!

USA lights at christmasAmericans, with their Carrols and the abusive use of colors and lights. Everybody knows that the  Chinese wall is the one construction that can be seen from outer space. At night, that certainly applies to the average american home in its X-mas decoration (with a minimum of 15 reindeers + Rudolph in the frontyard). This might be one of the traditions that I am not sure if even mr president Obama will be able to change in his crusade against global warming (don’t worry Barrak, there is still plenty else to do).uk-christmas

Brits, with their socks by the chimney and the house full of candles, making sure that fireman are kept well busy over the holidays. Maybe Americans (i.e. Coca-Cola) invented the current image of Santa Claus. But one thing is sure: the country keeping alive the believe is the UK. How couldn’t they, if their kids get to see everyday the huge red noisy cars full of lights driving around their peacefull burning homes. This is not meant as an accusation, but I think someone stole the idea of oh-so-famous-Rudolph from the UK’s hyperactive fireman.

These are just a few examples. We will get to Spain. Mañana, of course. Meanwhile, I invite you to enjoy a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite red wine. And no, I will not be offended – rather honored – if you pick a Spanish wine to be part of the famous traditions of “Christmatizing” red wine. Be it the Swedish “Glog”, the German “Gluehwein” or the Polish “Roz Grozaniez” (sorry for the spelling). It is always a pleasure to be invited to be part of your Christmas traditions.

Salud y felices fiestas!
Francisco

Hola!pizarra-de-tapas

The other day I promised to get back to our beloved “tapas” experience. As you have learned, Tapas were tasty small bites you got for free to accompany your drink.

Unfortunately we have lost the authentic tradition of Tapas in many places. Restaurants in most cities have moved on to charge you for Tapas.

How come? Probably one day tourists started showing up and asking at the end how much it was for the bite. Or eventually pushed the Tapa back saying “I have not ordered that and I am not going to pay for it”. After a while of such visitors, owners certainly realized, that they could charge money for it. And they started doing so.

Good news: it is not everywhere like this. My favourite city in Spain for Tapas is Granada. I said it… They still keep up the tradition there.

A truly authentic and worthwhile experience: go “de tapeo” in Granada. Enter a bar, order a drink, enjoy it with your tapa. Notice: if you order a second drink, you will get a second, but different tapa. Go to the next place, order a drink, enjoy it with your tapa… That is to have a real “tapas” dinner. It usually takes many hours of walking, meeting people, trying new things and -of course – enjoying food, wine and talking.

A great place where you get some of the best Tapas in Granada is in the “barrio de la Chana” (the Chana quarter). Tons of bars with authentic Spanish people. Tasty! My overall favourite Tapas bar is somewhere else, close to the univeristy area. It is called “la Papa”. All tapas are made out of potatos. Simple, tasty and very creative.

At this stage I would like to invite everyone to PLEASE submit your favourite cities for Tapas and your favourite Tapas bars.

And don’t forget to enjoy your tapas with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco

You are going to love this one!compartiendo tapitas con vino

Tapas are becoming more and more popular. I am amazed, happy and proud when I see more and more tapas bars popping up all over the world. In most cases they are actually quite good.

What very few people know, is where the name and the tradition come from.

First you need to know, that the word “tapa” means “lid” in Spanish.

Then, you need to grasp a bit of our culture: Spaniards love to talk, discuss, joke and sing together. We love also to go out. A perfect evening has often been to leave home and go “de tapeo”. Could be translated in “go tapa-ing”.

This has always been like this, also in times where higenic laws were more easy going, and bars -specially in the summer- were full of flies. We don’t drink quick. Steadily and during hours, but not quickly. To avoid flies getting into your glass of vino tinto (red wine), you got your glass served with a lid. That lid was a sliece of bread or a tiny plate with something on top. It could be a slice of jamon serrano (the best ham in the world, which deserves an own post), cheese or any other tasty something.

And as you might have guessed, this bite literally served as “lid”, which in spanish is “tapa”. That’s all the mistery.

Some things have changed with the time: bars are clean, have few/no flies etc. We still love to talk and drink and eat at the same time. And we love the tradition of offering a tasty bite.

Unfortunately you get charged for your tapas in more and more places every time. But not everywhere! I will soon get back to you with more about this though

Till then: enjoy your tapas with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco

There is a species in danger of extinction. Authentic Spanish bars. They are dying out leaving room for the two big phenomenae in Spains gastronomy: restaurant chains and design bars. They are difficult to tell appart, but they are both missing one little -heck no!- BIG characteristic: they are not authentic.

Nothing against them: they are clean, they are professional… But I guess that is my point: those are characteristics that are key for a hospital. But a bar?

Good news is: there are still many out there. How to recognize them? Simple and surprising: the floor is dirty and it is very loud. Menus are handwritten and still always wrong. “We run out of that, but we got excellent pulpo a la gallega” they might tell you. No-one will speak english, but dont worry, it will be to loud to notice anyways.

Am I recommending you to go to restaurants with dirty floors? Yes I am, but only if they are packed. My reco: if you see a restaurant full of people and the floor is dirty: they serve good and authentic food. Note: if its empty and dirty, the owner is just a lazy bastard. We got some of that too.

Look out for them: a species in danger that we might tell our kids about one day. Enjoy your tapas and don’t worry about throwing anything on the floor when finished: it will increase their revenues.

Saludos
Francisco

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