Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Ritual in Valencia

It may seem like a cliché to make a paella almost once a week if you live in Valencia, Spain but I’m just following everyone else’s lead. It’s what people do, especially on Sundays. I had some extra embutidos (various kinds of sausages) from yesterday’s party so I made what I call an arroz de sobras or leftover paella. If I haven’t learned anything else since I arrived here at least I can cook the hell out of rice. Since we didn’t make a paella yesterday for the birthday parties I have been craving rice.

Arroz de Sobras

Chorizo, Loganiza, Morcilla de cebolla
Onion, Tomato, and Garlic for thesofrito
Garafón, green beans
(the beans and garafón come in afrozen medley here)
1.5 cups of Rice
3 cups of Chicken Stock
Safron, Pimentón, and Salt
Cook the chorizo and loganiza in a bit of olive oil. When this has brownedadd the onion and garlic. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.Then grate the tomatoes and toss the skin and then add this the the cookedonion and garlic. After this cooks a bit add the saffron and pimentón. Add thechicken stock and the vegetable medley. When the stock begins to boil add therice and reduce the heat. The rice should cook about 18 minutes but justeyeball it. Taste it for salt after you add the rice.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Arroz Meloso

Arroz meloso is a way to prepare rice that is between the dry rice dishes like paella and arroz caldoso which is more like a soup with rice. A very popular arroz meloso here in Valencia is made with lobster. The keys to this dish are the stock you use and timing. Start with a flavorful stock and you will have a great dish. Overcook the rice and you'll have paste so set your timer for 15-18 minutes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Parc Natural de l'Albufera ("Albufera Nature Reserve")

The Albufera is huge salt water lagoon with a surface area of 21,120 hectares (52,200 acres).  Since 1990, the Albufera Nature Reserve has been included as a Ramsar Site in the list of wetlands of international importance for birds. The park is a great destination for biking and the village of El Palmar—sort of an island in the marsh—can be reached in about an hour of easy pedaling. There is a bike path from Valencia that goes along the beaches of Pinedo and El Saler.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


The Fortress
Xàtiva is a quiet day trip from Valencia and well worth the short (and inexpensive) train ride on the cercanía, or local line. The hilltop fortress is the city's biggest claim to fame and attracts lots of international visitors. The town itself is a great place to wonder as you will find lots of great cafes, parks, and beautiful public squares.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

San Miguel del los Reyes

Monasterio de San Miguel de los Reyes
Avda. de la Constitución, 284
Phone 96 387 4000 - Fax 96 387 4037
 One of the most impressive architectural sights in all of Valencia is seen by few tourists as it is situated a bit off the beaten path. This building is well worth the trip out to Valencia's northern edge. 

The monastery as we know it was built in 1546 by Fernando of Aragon (whose tomb is inside) for the monasterial orden of Santo Geronimo. There was a smaller monastery of XIII century on this site before, in turn built on the ruins of a Moorish mosque of XI century. Some of those remains can be viewed in the North wing (accessible with a guided tour only). The monastery kept functioning until 1879, when it was converted into a prison. During the Franco regime it became a political prison (big srupirse!). These days it is a conservation library (not the one where you come to borrow books, but where valuable historic documents are kept and restored).
Bus: 11, 16 and 36. Tramway T6

Visiting times:
Tuesdays: at 10, 11 and 12;
Saturdays and Sundays at 12 and 13.

Library openings:
Monday to Friday: 9 to 20.30;
Saturdays: 9 to 13.30.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Carmen annex of the Valencia fine arts museum is located in the former convent of Carmen. The building itself is worth a visit with it's beautiful arched passageways and the courtyard garden. The convent was built in 1238 and consecrated in 1343 and is located opposite the lovely old Church of Carmen. The exhibits are revolving and there is usually between two or three. 


Teléfono: 96.315.20.24 Fax: 96.391.13.45

From Tuesday to Sunday
10:00 - 20:00
Closed Mondays
Free Admission

Monday, July 25, 2011

World's Greatest Cat Door

Deep in the heart of Valencia's historic center lies one of it's most closely guarded secrets: The World's Greatest Cat Door. Near the Bellas Artes Museum in Carmen, this homage to the neighborhood cats is a work of art in itself. I don't know what's inside this feline renaissance palace but the outside is worthy of being included in any excursion of the city.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Black Economy In Spain

A report has just been leaked to the Cadena SER radio station that the black economy in Spain now makes up 23.3% of all transactions. This means that a quarter of the economy in Spain doesn’t show up on the official figures for the size of the GDP for example. The figure is 5% higher than a decade ago and it is getting higher due to the famous “Crisis”.

Up until now it has been normal for the plumber to say “Do you want a receipt?” the subtitle being, “do you want to pay 16% extra on top of your bill”. Apparently there has been a sea change in the way the situation is approached in the last year and it is now the buyer who asks whether it is possible to do the job without VAT rather than the vendor wanting to avoid a bit of tax and paperwork. Funnily enough Spain still only ranks second in the tax avoidance stakes as the figure in Greece is much higher.

As someone either living in Spain already or looking to come to Spain to live how does this affect you? Well you can turn a blind eye to it I suppose. The majority of businesses in Spain do this to a certain extent it is not just 23.3% of businesses do it on 100% of their income and the rest are squeaky clean. If you are thinking of putting together a business then you need to look at the disadvantages of joining the Black Economy in Spain.

1) Loans are harder to come by if you cannot prove your real income.
2) It is difficult to sell a business at its real value if the full turnover and profit are not revealed. Usually Spanish businesses run two sets of books to counteract this issue and the second set is only brought out when trying to sell the business!!
3) You can go to prison if Hacienda, the tax office, find out.
4) Am I missing any other reasons?

What do you think? Do you know of any company in Spain who has not done this to a certain extent. It is prevalent in teaching, hostelry, odd jobs, real estate… just about anywhere really. The real surprise may well be that it is only 23.3%!!

SOURCE: GRAHAM HUNT, visit his great blog on

How to Fry an Egg

There isn’t much room for embellishment when making a fried egg but there are a thousand ways to make it less than perfect.  A friend of mine shared this page for the best fried egg you will ever make. A perfect fried egg isn’t as easy as you would think, at least not for me. I always am amazed when restaurants here in Spain accompany a dish with a beautifully fried egg on top. It makes dishes look so jolly. A fried egg is a good way to dress up a serving of rice, or beans, or rice and beans.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stage 20 - Grenoble - Grenoble 42.5 km

Can Andy Schleck hang on to his 57" lead over Australian Cadel Evans in today's time trial in Grenoble? On the  Tour de France official website 53.43% of voters think that Evans will take the Yellow Jersey after the short stage. Evans is definitely a superior time trailer but 42 km isn't much to work with. Or will Frank Schleck steal the jersey from his brother? If I believed in miracles I'd have Thomas Voeckler take back the yellow after his scrappy fight to keep it on his back throughout much of this year's Tour (he wore the Yellow 10 days in a row).

Café Dublín

A bit of the Emerald Isle in the heart of Russafa (with a Spanish accent, of course). Whether you call it the Dublin or the doob-LEAN it's still a good spot to meet up with friends or make new ones. Like the sign says, come for the great pub quiz on Thursday evenings. Come the rest of the week for the friendly service and great atmosphere.

Café Dublín
Calle Sueca 51
Tel. 963 328 641

Friday, July 22, 2011

Valencia vive le boom de los apartamentos urbanos

Valencia vive el boom de los apartamentos urbanos con más de 60 pisos para turistas. En 2006 sólo había 17 empresas en la ciudad que gestionaban este servicio para visitantes españoles y europeos y ahora ya alcanzan las 36

Los turistas que visitan Valencia y quieren sentirse como en su propia casa lo tienen ahora más fácil. La ciudad está viviendo un auténtico boom de apartamentos urbanos, una nueva forma de alojarse que permite al viajero tener las mismas comodidades e intimidad que cuando está en su vivienda habitual.
Estos nuevos alojamientos turísticos llevan ya tiempo funcionando en grandes capitales como Madrid y Barcelona y en 2006, y sobre todo desde la celebración de la Copa América en Valencia, se ha consolidado en la capital del Turia.

En 2006 sólo había 17 empresas que gestionaban este tipo de servicios y ahora, tal como detallan desde la Conselleria de Turismo, la cifra alcanza las 36. «Hay registrados 607 apartamentos con capacidad para 2.091 turistas», explican.

Una de las empresas pioneras en Valencia es Friendly Rentals. «Empezamos hace siete años en Barcelona y ahora operamos en más 19 ciudades. Desde Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, San Sebastián, Granada y Valencia, hasta Berlín, Londres, París, varios puntos de Italia, Sudáfrica, Nueva York y San Francisco», explica Ángel Borrego, responsable de esta empresa. Según detalla, Valencia «está de moda. Vine aquí cuando empezó la Copa América, viendo la oportunidad de negocio, y los turistas han acogido bien este servicio. Ya gestiono 130 apartamentos urbanos en Valencia. No se trata de hacer sombra a los hoteles, simplemente es una oferta diferente y los clientes que prueban, repiten».

Tanto en Friendly Rentals, como en otra empresa del sector, Apartaments del Carme, señalan que la media de estancia «oscila entre tres y cinco días. Suele tratarse de turistas europeos, sobre todo holandeses, ingleses, franceses y alemanes y, en menor medida, americanos o australianos», comentan Ángel Borrego y Pilar Luz. «Así como los españoles para veranear alquilamos un apartamento en zonas de costa como Cullera o Gandía, los visitantes que vienen a hacer turismo urbano, eligen las mismas comodidades, pero en la ciudad», comentan.

La mayoría de estos apartamentos se encuentran en pleno casco histórico, sobre todo en el Carmen, plaza de la Virgen y cerca del Parterre, porque son los puntos referente para los turistas, y también en puntos próximos a la playa.

Precios asequibles

«Ofertamos apartamentos tipo loft para dos personas, por 80 euros noche, algunos con yacuzzi, y con decoración minimalista. Pero tenemos otros tipo palacete, con mobiliario afrancesado, con más habitaciones. Para cuatro personas puede salir por 100 euros. Cada apartamento lleva el nombre de un compositor de música clásica».

Entre los clientes habituales a estos apartamentos urbanos cabe destacar, por ejemplo, equipos de la Copa América o «ahora más recientemente he alquilado 30 apartamentos para los artistas del Circo del Sol que han actuado en Valencia», según Ángel Borrego.
También son cada vez más los ejecutivos que se suman a esta moda. «Se trata de personas que viajan mucho, a lo mejor, se pasan semanas fuera de casa y no quieren estar en un hotel, buscan sentirse como en casa», detallan.

Cabe destacar que la Generalitat en 2009 aprobó dos nuevos reglamentos para regular más al detalle el auge de estas iniciativas turísticas y distinguió entre bloques de apartamentos -cuando todo el edificio se destina a este fin-, con servicios generales comunes; y viviendas de apartamentos, cuando se conjuga en un mismo edificio residencia de vecinos y apartamentos.

En ciudades como Barcelona o Madrid se han registrado algunos casos de denuncias vecinales por las molestias ocasionadas por algunos inquilinos. En el caso de Valencia, la incidencia es mínima, con tres casos denunciados.

En Friendly Rentals, por ejemplo, explican que no suele ser lo habitual. «La gente que alquila los apartamentos viene concienciada a cuidarlos como su propia casa. Y, en nuestro caso, prohibimos que se organicen fiestas y tampoco aceptamos que traigan animales».

Otra opción que está teniendo buena opción entre los jóvenes son los hoteles de bajo coste, como Purple Nest Hostel, en la plaza Tetuán o Red Nest de la calle de la Paz, en este caso con clientes jóvenes. «Se quedan una media de dos o tres días. Puede salir por 12 euros por noche en una habitación de 12 personas o 26 euros una para cuatro».


Tour de France: Stage 19 Modane Valfréjus - Alpe-d’Huez 109.5 km

Andy Schleck looked like a champion in winning yesterday's stage and trails Thomas Voeckler with the yellow jersey by only 15 seconds while Alberto Contador is behind by 4'44." While Andy Schleck looks better and better, Contador hasn't shown any of his former brilliance. Will today's stage be Alberto's last chance to take the Tour?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How do you say “BB Gun” in Spanish?

No kidding, I don’tknow how to say it and it isn’t in the dictionary. Maybe they don’t have themhere. I know how to say "machine gun" but even I think that might be going overboard. I just spent 45 minutes on Google trying to come up with a way to get ridof the pigeons in the back area of my new building.

Violence ornon-violence? I could go either way if I don’t have to be raised from my sleepat 06:30 by the mad cooing of a half dozen of this species of flying rat. Iknow someone who had a pigeon trapped in her apartment for a weekend while shewas away and it did more damaged than a party hosted by a rock drummer, sodon’t tell me that they're harmless.

I’m not looking for awholesale slaughter of these flying pests but they don’t seem to respond to anyreasonable requests to vacate the area. It’s not like I’m opposed to a masskilling of these horrible city dwellers but I just don’t want to get personallyinvolved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Corrida de Toros

I went to the first night of the Feria de Julio at Valencia's beautiful Plaza de Toros. I have been to see quite a few corrida's (horribly translated as bullfights). I can't say that I am a huge fan but I enjoy the pomp and spectacle. It's a good excuse to smoke a fine cigar and have some Spanish brandy on a summer evening. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tour de Valencia?

From station to station it's about 6k
18/07/2011 35_C/ DUQUE DE CALABRIA -> 171_CALLE GRAN CANARIA 0h 20min
This is from my Valenbisi account and it means that I went from the station near my house, Duque de Calabria, to the station on the other end of Valencia on Calle Gran Canaria and I did it in 20 minutes! A new personal best and I doubt that even Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contador could do it in much less. Granted, I know the streets of Valencia as well as any cyclist and I also made a total mockery of any existing traffic laws, but still. 

I think that there should be a web site where people can post their station-to-station times for Valenbisi.  Since the bike share system is already tracking everyone’s time we may as well do something with this information.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sage Advice

“Never pass up a chance to take a leak.”

Actually, it wasn’t anonymous who coined that sage bit of advice. Anonymousgets credit for a lot of stuff he didn’t come up with himself, the thievingGreek pirate. Anyone who knows me will recognize that wise counsel as somethingthat I often attribute to my grandfather. My grandfather didn’t come up with iteither. I just attributed it to him so as to give the words a bit more weight.I was the one who came up with what could possibly be the best advice you’reever going to get in this life.

Boys have decidedly greater options when you are talking about good publicbathrooms. We have a different definition of “good” than that of most women. Wealso have a much different definition of “public” which at times means justthat, public, as in “exposed to general view” as opposed to “accessible to orshared by all members of the community.” I’m not an animal; I don’t pee inpublic in the city, but let’s just say that when I am out in the country,finding a bathroom never seems to be a problem. The countryside: The world’sbiggest toilet. It’s not a slogan that you are likely to read in one of thosestuffy travel magazines, but it is thetruth. When I'm out bike riding I am forced to ignore my own advice of neverpassing up a chance to take a leak. If I didn’t, I'd never get anywhere.

Locating a good public bathroom, downtown Valencia provides a bigger challengethan the great outdoors. Of course, every bar and café has a restroom, but theyexpect them to be used only by paying customers. Buying a coffee or beer justto use the restroom seems like bailing out your boat instead of fixing theleak, if you will pardon the pun. When I speak about public restrooms, I meanthose where you can just walk in without being expected to buy anything or in aplace that is big enough that no one will notice that you are not an actualcustomer.

So my advice to you is to never pass up a chance to take a leak. It could be along time before you have another opportunity.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Feria de Julio 2011

Last night marked the opening of the Feria de Julio in Vaencia's Plaza de Toros with a Novillada, or a sort of second division version of the usual corrida. I think that there were more people protesting outside the Plaza than there were people inside actually watching the spectacle.

Spain's most celebrated matador in recent memory, José Tomás will be in the ruedo on Saturday, July 23rd along with Juan Mora and Arturo Sadívar with six bulls from the el Pilar breeder. The Feria continues until the 24th of July.

Friday, July 15, 2011

James Howard Kunstler: The Tragedy of Suburbia

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape is a book written in 1993 by James Howard Kunstler exploring the effects of suburban sprawl, civil planning and the automobile on American society. Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built since the end of World War II. This tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside is not simply an expression of our economic predicament, but in large part a cause. It is the everyday environment where most Americans live and work, and it represents a gathering calamity whose effects we have hardly begun to measure.

In The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler traces America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where everyplace is like noplace in particular, where the city is a dead zone and the countryside a wasteland of cars and blacktop. Now that the great suburban build-out is over, Kunstler argues, we are stuck with the consequences: a national living arrangement that destroys civic life while imposing enormous social costs and economic burdens. Kunstler explains how our present zoning laws impoverish the life of our communities, and how all our efforts to make automobiles happy have resulted in making human beings miserable. He shows how common building regulations have led to a crisis in affordable housing, and why street crime is directly related to our traditional disregard for the public realm.

In James Howard Kunstler's view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about. Reengineering our cities will involve more radical change than we are prepared for, Kunstler believes, but our hand will be forced by earth crises stemming from our national lifestyle. "Life in the mid-21st century," Kunstler says, "is going to be about living locally."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Urban Design with Jan Gehl

If you have never heard of Jan Gehl this is a good place to start. For more than forty years Jan Gehl has helped to transform urban environments around the world based on his research into the ways people actually use—or could use—the spaces where they live and work. In this revolutionary book, Cities for People, Gehl presents his latest work creating (or recreating) cityscapes on a human scale. He clearly explains the methods and tools he uses to reconfigure unworkable cityscapes into the landscapes he believes they should be: cities for people.

I especially like his 8 to 80 rule for urban design: it must be appealing to children of 8 and old people of 80.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stage 11 of the Tour de France

“After this stage the sprinters will not have a lot of chances left to show off their skills. They will have just two stages left on which to shine: in Montpellier and then in Paris with the finish on the Champs-Élysées. That’s why their teams will undoubtedly be looking to keep a tight rein on the action, just as they will do on the previous stage. But they will have to watch out. Riders of the ilk of Sandy Casar or Jérôme Pineau could try to pull off something spectacular today. The profiles of the stages that follow won’t allow them to do that. And, as there will still be a lot of teams that have not won a stage up to now, those that haven’t will be aiming to make an impression.”

Bike Commuter Dreams

I race the Tour de France every day on my bike and in all of these years I'm undefeated! Suck my wheel, Lance Armstrong. The other guys in my imaginary peleton just don't seem to have the strength to keep up in the imaginary mountains or to beat me out as I sprint towards a yellow traffic light.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gran Via Turia

They have finished the work on the park through Gran Via Turia. They were going to make it all brick and tile but they decided to keep the pathway as it was before. Now if they could just do something about the horrible traffic along this beautiful street. You take your life in your hands simply crossing when you have a green light.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ferran Adrià

Ferran Adrià began his culinary career in 1980 during his stint as a dishwasher at the Hotel Playafels, in the town of Castelldefels. The chef de cuisine at this hotel taught him traditional Spanish cuisine. At 19 he was drafted into military service where he worked as a cook. In 1984, at the age of 22, Adrià joined the kitchen staff of El Bulli as a line cook. Eighteen months later he became the head chef.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why You Should Take the Metro

Why should you take the metro? Because gasoline is horribly expensive. This picture was taken last night in Picassent, Spain. Gas is incredibly expensive in Spain and I can't believe people drive their cars to work from one side of Valencia to the other when you could walk this distance in less than an hour.

76€ to fill the tank of an average size car which is over $100 at the current rate of exchange and works out to less than 16 US gallons. Yikes! With gas at these prices driving certainly makes other forms of transportation a lot more attractive. For the price of one two tanks of gas you could buy a pretty good bicycle, or with only one tank you could pay four years of Valenbisi, or a lot of metro rides.

This update just in from Belgium. 10 liters less and even more expensive.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Spain's Nightlife in Timelapse

As if Spain's nightlife isn't frantic enough already, this video gives us a timelapse view of how people spend their evenings here. Valencia's nightlife has improved quite a lot in recent years with bars popping up like mushrooms in the tendy areas like Canovas and Ruzafa,

Canovas is fairly compact. There is a clearly defined main area (Calle Serranos Morales and, across the Plaza de Canovas, Calle Salamanca crossing Calle Conde Altea) that is home to most of the area's bars and they are all within a few hundred meters of each other. Ruzafa's bars can be found on Literato Azorin between the Market and Call Cuba about four blocks away.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Naciones Unidas se instala en Valencia

La ONU levantará sobre la antigua base militar de Manises, en Valencia (España), su nuevo centro tecnológico, cuyo objetivo será proteger las telecomunicaciones entre las misiones de paz, las agencias y las sedes centrales.
¿Cuál será la misión de esta base?
Velar y proteger la red de telecomunicaciones que enlaza las sedes de la ONU y las misiones de paz. Complementará a la base logística situada en Brindisi, Italia, dondese almacenan los bienes que se envían a las misiones de paz. Albergará una copia de la base de datos de la sede de Brindisi por si hubiera alguna avería en la base italiana. No será un almacén logístico como Brindisi.

¿Por qué ha triunfado la candidatura española?

La candidatura española competía con las ofertas que habían formulado Finlandia y Rumanía debido a que la Secretaría General de la ONU necesitaba una base logística para el Departamento de Operaciones de Mantenimiento de la Paz que fuese complementaria de la ya existente en la ciudad italiana de Brindisi (sur).

Uno de los puntos fuertes de la base española era la “cercanía geoestratégica” a África. Tras un estudio pormenorizado de las tres opciones en liza, la candidatura de Manises se perfilaba como la elegida por parte de la ONU.

En el mes de septiembre, fuentes gubernamentales españolas valoraron la “cercanía geoestratégica” a África de esta base española debido a que la ONU ha incrementado en los últimos años sus misiones de paz en el continente negro.

¿Cuando comenzará a funcionar?

Antes de que empiece a funcionar, habrá que realizar una profunda remodelación de la antigua base. Además se construirá un centro de proceso de datos de 1.800 metros cuadrados y un edifico para albergar una superficie de 1.200 metros cuadrados.

España llevaba negociando esta candidatura desde hacía cinco meses y se estima que la entrada de la ONU en esta base conllevaría la llegada de alrededor de 200 funcionarios internacionales y la creación de 1.200 puestos de trabajo indirectos.

source: 20minutos

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