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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

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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

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

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

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

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

Yes, amigos…jamon en jamonera con botella y copa de vino

Today we talk about the meat. Let’s put some flesh to the bones of our little global culinary village.

I want to bring you a bit closer the king of all kings and non plus ultra of delicatessen. Yes: we are talking about Spanish ham. The one and only Jamon Iberico.

I like to think: It is not the pork, its what you make of it. Means: Of course all countries have their way of honoring the beatiful combination of hunger, talent, creativity and pork meat. But you can not beat Jamon Iberico (excusi cari amici Italiani).

Let’s revise briefly:

GERMANY: the most efficient. True. Kuddos to them: No other country in the world has more different variety of sausages and ways to prepare pork meat. They got it fully engeneered… Deserves recognition, sure. But non of their multiple creations can beat Jamon Iberico…

FRANCE: The most glamorous. Of course. Ces’t clair. Le France ces’t le France. Le grande nation. Sauchichonne, jambon, saucisse, boudin… Bonne. Sorry… You can not beat Jamon Iberico.

ENGLAND: you all knew this was going to be a short one…

ITALY: the best salesman. This is the toughest one. “Why Italians are better at selling” deserves an own post. Let me know if you are interested and I will do my besvino tinto y jamon serranot. But now in a nutshell: their parma ham is not bad. Sure: salchiche picante con pomodoro e pasta… Not bad. Mortadella… It all tastes great. And they know how to cut it, celebrate it, pack it (and -for God sake- how to price it. BUT: if you catch them in an honest moment they will recognize pressing between hard bitten teeth… “You-e can-e not-e beat-e Jamon-e Iberico”. (By the way: if you care and ask, I will be happy to explain-e why-e Italians-e hav-e to speak-e with-e an “-e” at the end of each word…e)

SPAIN: oooops!

This one deserves an own post.

Easy. Think about it, enjoy global pork creations and come back soon. Or drop a question! You might get an answer mañana… While you wait, enjoy a glass of  “The Spanish Quarter” Cabernet Tempranillo or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco