Monday, December 31, 2012

La Nochevieja - New Year's Eve

Nochevieja corresponds linguistically to the now obsolete English form of referring to the evening of December 31: "Ole Year's Night." It is traditional to eat twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock at midnight. This tradition has its origins in 1909, when grape growers in Alicante thought of it as a way to cut down on the large production surplus they had had that year. Nowadays, the tradition is followed by almost every Spaniard, and the twelve grapes have become synonymous with the New Year. After the clock has finished striking twelve, people greet each other and toast with sparkling wine such as cava or champagne, or with cider.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nice Guys Finish Second, from El País

Is winning all that counts? Are you absolutely sure about that?

Two weeks ago, on December 2, Spanish athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. He was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai - bronze medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics. As they entered the finishing straight, he saw the Kenyan runner - the certain winner of the race - mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.

Fernández Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai's mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.

He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn't have closed"

"I didn't deserve to win it," says 24-year-old Fernández Anaya. "I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn't have closed if he hadn't made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn't going to pass him."

Fernández Anaya is coached in Vitoria by former Spanish distance runner Martín Fiz in the same place, the Prado Park, where he clocked up kilometers and kilometers of training to become European marathon champion in 1994 and world marathon champion in 1995.

"It was a very good gesture of honesty," says Fiz. "A gesture of the kind that isn't made any more. Or rather, of the kind that has never been made. A gesture that I myself wouldn't have made. I certainly would have taken advantage of it to win."

I wouldn´t have done it. I would have taken advantage of the mistake to win"

Fiz says his pupil's action does him credit in human if not athletic terms. "The gesture has made him a better person but not a better athlete. He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win."

Fiz recalls that at the 1997 World Championships in Athens he was followed by his countryman Abel Antón the whole way. In the final meters Antón attacked and easily won the race, having exploited all Fiz's hard work. "I knew that was going to happen. [...] But competition is like that. It wouldn't have been logical for Antón to let me win."

Fernández Anaya trains in the Prado every day, putting in double sessions three times a week - when his vocational studies allow. Experts say he is one step away from entering the elite of Spanish cross-country running. His goal this year is to at least make the Spanish team for the world cross-country champions.

But according to his coach, the pressure gets to him. "He doesn't know how to overcome the pressure, which is what differentiates champions. If he did, he would have been at the recent European championships," Fiz notes.

"In the Burlada cross-country race there was hardly anything at stake [...] apart from being able to say that you had beaten an Olympic medalist," says Fernández Anaya.

"But even if they had told me that winning would have earned me a place in the Spanish team for the European championships, I wouldn't have done it either. Of course it would be another thing if there was a world or European medal at stake. Then, I think that, yes, I would have exploited it to win... But I also think that I have earned more of a name having done what I did than if I had won. And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Patatas a la riojana

Yet another iconic Spanish dish from La Rioja well-known for its wine. This simple recipe is as delicious as it is easy to make.


  • 2 1/2 lbs (1 kg) potatoes
  • 2 fresh chorizo sausages (1/2 lb or 1/4 kg)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4-5 Tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 16 oz (500 ml) chicken or beef broth
  • 6 oz (178 ml) white wine
  • 1 Tbsp Spanish paprika


Important Note re Spanish Chorizo: This sausage is very different than Mexican or Caribbean chorizo. Spanish chorizo is a firm, dry sausage where most Mexican chorizo is fresh and soft, not cured. It also has different spices than Spanish Chorizo, so it is not a good substitute for this recipe. If you need a substitute, use Portuguese Linguica sausage, which is very similar to Spanish Chorizo and should be easy to find in your local supermarket. Introduction to Spanish Chorizo explains the differences in the varieties of the classic Spanish chorizo sausages.

Peel potatoes and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks. Cut chorizo into 1-inch pieces. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and slice the garlic.

Pour olive oil into a large heavy bottom frying pan. Sauté the chopped onion and chorizo in a few tablespoons of olive oil until onions are translucent, then add garlic slices for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat.

Pour broth and white wine into the onion and chorizo mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low until potatoes are cooked. Be sure to check liquid level, adding more broth if needed.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Cava is sparkling Spanish wine. According to Spanish law, cava may be produced in eight wine regions: Aragon, the Basque Country, Castile and León, Catalonia, Extremadura, Navarra, Rioja or the Valencian Community. The Penedès is located in Catalonia, and there is only one Castilian producer, in the town of Aranda de Duero.  The leading cava grapes are parellada, macabeo, and xarel-lo.

The Catalan word cava (masculine, plural caves) means "cave", or "cellar". Caves were used in the early days of cava production for the preservation or aging of wine.  Catalan winemakers officially adopted the term in 1970 to distinguish their product from French champagne. The best examples are dry and crisp, and tend to be more earthy than their French counterparts.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel

Holiday greeting to all. And yes, this is yet another holiday here in Spain but all of the important things like bars are open, at least some of them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Valencia CF vs Getafe @ 20:00

A little Liga before Christmas anyone?

Happy Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is the solstice that occurs in winter. It is the time at which the Sun is appearing at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. In the Northern Hemisphere this is the Southern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on December 21 to 22 each year.

Winter Solstice Time = 12:11:16
Sunrise = 08:18:21
Sunset = 17:41:16

Day Duration = 09 Hours 22 Mins 54 Secs
Previous Day Duration = 09 Hours 22 Mins 56 Secs
Next Day Duration = 09 Hours 22 Mins 56 Secs

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Prevenir los excesos en Navidades

  Las fiestas navideñas siempre suele ser tiempo de felicidad en compañia de los seres queridos, tambien suelen ser época en la que abundan los buenos propositos:  Este año me apunto al gimnasio, este año voy a estudiar mas, intentare perder esos kilitos que me sobran, dejare de fumar...

Estos suelen ser unos de los ejemplos mas utilizados en estas fechas para tratar de mejorar en nuestras vidas en el año venidero, aunque bien es cierto que siempre empezamos con nuestros buenos propositos una vez terminadas las fiestas. Por lo tanto podemos decir que las fiestas navideñas es un época de excesos ya que entre comidas de empresa, cenas familiares, y fiestas y celebraciones, nuestros propositos siempre se aplazan.
  A continuación les dejamos un enlace para que con moderación disfrute de unas buenas fiestas y que los polvorones no le provoquen ningun disgusto.

Un Franco, 14 Pesetas (2006)

One review of this charming film was titled “When Paradise was Called Switzerland” because a lot Spaniards went there to find work.  Actor Carlos Iglesias turns début writer-director to tell this story of his childhood, when thousands emigrated to Northern Europe to escape unemployment and poverty in Franco’s Spain. In 1960, Martín (director Iglesias) and Marcos (Gutiérrez) leave behind their families in Madrid to seek a wage to send home. Switzerland confounds their expectation, with its freedoms and its open, bright spaces. Despite the inevitable cultural misunderstandings, they find work and settle in to enjoy their new lives. As beautiful and as prosperous as life is for him and his family in Switzerland he longs for his home in Madrid, “Daría lo que fuera por estar en la Gran Vía tomándome una caña y viendo pasar gente” (I’d give anything to be on the Gran Via having a beer and people watching).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Winter Wonderland

We are expecting exceptional weather this week. Not exactly swimming weather but it wouldn't be a bad time to take a walk on one of Valencia's many beaches and then have a beer at a terrace café.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Barcelona vs Atlético de Madrid @ 21:00

League leaders face off tonight.It's La Pulga vs El Tigre, Messi against Falcao.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How to Make a Lovely Christmas Wreath

You, too, can make this lovely Christmas wreath all by yourself. First, go to work and earn approximately 5. This should take the average person less time than it takes to read about last night's game in Marca which is probably the first thing you do at work anyway. Then take the money and go to one of the millions of Chinese variety stores in Valencia. Buy the wreath for approximately 5. You just saved yourself about eight hours of work and frustration by letting someone in a factory in the northern Chinese province of Hebei make the stupid wreath for you. Don't you feel relieved?

Tomorrow I’ll show you how to make a tasteful nativity scene using only empty beer cans, cigarette butts, and spent lotto tickets.

Merry Christmas and you're welcome.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Messi's Brilliance Isn't News to Spanish Football Fans

from the New York Times

Messi’s Brilliance Transcends His Numbers

It was Pep Guardiola, the former manager of Barcelona, who once suggested that Lionel Messi should be observed instead of dissected. He is, after all, widely considered the world’s greatest soccer player, not a biology project. 

“Don’t try to write about him,” Guardiola said. “Don’t try to describe him. Watch him.”
Last Sunday, Messi set an international record by scoring his 86th goal in a calendar year, for both Barcelona and the Argentine national team, delivering an average of one goal every four days, more frequently than a starting pitcher takes the mound, as often as Starbucks opens a new store in China.
But Messi is best appreciated, Guardiola admonished, in the virtuosity of the moment, not against the backdrop of history and statistics. Soccer, like figure skating, demands art as much as sport. This is not baseball, where numbers mean so much that they seem to carry a moral weight. Soccer’s beauty is that it surpasses mathematics, or, in Barcelona’s case, conjures a sublime human geometry of triangular passing and movement. 

International soccer is generally played from late summer, through the winter, and into late spring, the schedule defined by seasons, not by calendar years. So this record of 86 goals is an artificial construct, a figure that celebrates Messi but also reduces his achievement to mere quantity. It is inadequate to say that he has scored 75 times with his left foot in 2012, 8 times with his right foot and 3 times with his head. Or that when he has scored in a Spanish league match since August, it has never been a single goal but always two or more. Such dry accounting pins him like a butterfly to Styrofoam, relegates his greatness to taxidermy.
As Guardiola said, Messi, at age 25, must be watched to be fully appreciated. To be wholly valued for his vision and anticipation and enthusiasm and ruthlessness and humility. For the way he chips a shot over a goalkeeper as if his foot were a sand wedge. For the way he dribbles in tight spaces, the ball bound to him like an electron bound to an atom. 

The goals must be seen, and just as important, they must also be heard. For it is the excitable voices of the announcers that best convey Messi’s triumph over the parsimony of soccer. It surrenders so few goals to most others and so many to him. Only one response is appropriate, “Gooooooooooooal,” a prolonged, shrieking exhalation that takes the breath away. 

On Sunday, Messi received a no-look, back-heel pass from Barcelona teammate Andrés Iniesta and angled a hard, diving shot across the mouth of the goal, inside the far post, to break the record of 85 goals scored in 1972 by Gerd Müller of Bayern Munich and West Germany. Messi’s verbal biographer, the English announcer Ray Hudson, erupted with his usual bombastic poetry, mixing his metaphors but not his uninhibited celebratory intent. 

“Lionel Messi rewrites the history book!” Hudson said, screaming. “And we were all there to witness it, to be privileged by this artisan! He does it in his own inimitable, brilliant way, Messi twisting, turning, like an alligator with a twitch, beautiful give and go! He takes a million pictures in that crystal ball that’s inside of his head! Beautiful from Iniesta, laying it on for the golden honor for this golden footballer, the most wonderful, stupendously magnificent, player in the history of the game! And he’s only getting better.” 

Anyone with 10 ½ minutes to spare can watch all 86 goals compressed and shelved in a video library on YouTube. The Web site has annotated each goal, date and manner of scoring. What these compilations do not directly show is that Messi has complemented his scoring with 29 assists. And that he has great stamina, preferring to play from beginning to end without substitution. But the goals are there. And they have often come in clusters, like grapes. 

His first two goals of the year came in a Copa del Rey match on Jan. 4. After sitting on the bench with flulike symptoms, Messi entered in the 60th minute for Barcelona. He scored twice, first on a stabbing header and then on a bending shot that left the Osasuna goalkeeper pounding his fists into the turf.
The videos demonstrate Messi’s predatory confidence on penalty kicks, the sweeping power of his lesser-used right foot, the punching accuracy of his rare headers. And his decorous manner. Seventy-four of his goals have come inside the penalty area, but absent is the diving that often turns European soccer into a deceitful ballet.
Messi is the world’s most prolific scorer, maybe the world’s most famous athlete, but he remains smaller than life, not larger than life, nicknamed the Flea, having needed injections of growth hormone to reach 5 feet 7 inches. His celebrations are demure, no jersey-waving or dancing with the corner flag. What draws the eye to him after a goal is that he is mostly restrained while many around him, on the field and in the stands, are running and jumping and waving wildly. 

No doubt this calm aids him in pressured moments. On Feb. 26, with Barcelona tied, 1-1, against Atlético Madrid in the 81st minute, Messi curled a free kick from 25 yards with impeccable accuracy and clever timing. The opposing goalkeeper stood with his arms outstretched, baffled, incredulous. In another setting, he might have been a boy who had just seen a birthday magician pull a quarter from his ear. 

On March 7, Messi had a day that no one had ever had in the Champions League, Europe’s premier club tournament, scoring five times for Barcelona in a 7-1 rout of Bayer Leverkusen of Germany. Twice, Messi lobbed shots over the head of goalkeeper Bernd Leno. A third time, he tapped in a rebound that had deflected off Leno’s hands. Two more of Messi’s shots were driven inside the left post on a day when Leno could do little more than hop and roll as if trying to smother an invisible fire. 

“Messi is a joke. For me the best ever,” Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United and England star, wrote on Twitter. 

On June 9, before an exhibition crowd of 81,994 at MetLife Stadium, Messi delivered a hat trick as Argentina subdued its rival Brazil, 4-3. He scored the game-winner in the 85th minute, driving at the defense and curling a shot inside the left post from 22 yards, leaving Rafael Cabral, the defeated Brazilian goalkeeper, on his knees as if searching for a lost contact lens. 

“Leo is supernatural,” Gerard Piqué, Messi’s Barcelona teammate, would tell the Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo, after Messi broke the scoring record on Sunday. “He has no limits and we always have to remember everything that he’s given us. We have to enjoy him every single minute that we have him now.”
It is a brilliance that can be as fragile as it is rare. On Nov. 11, Messi scored twice for Barcelona, surpassing the 75 goals that Pelé of Brazil scored in 1958. Then, last Wednesday, as Messi drew within one goal of Müller’s record, he collided with goalkeeper Artur Moraes in a scoreless Champions League match against Benfica of Portugal. His left knee in pain, Messi shot weakly, saying, “I thought it might be the last time I kicked a ball in a long time.” 

Messi left the field on a stretcher and the crowd at Barcelona’s stadium, Camp Nou, grew silent. Alarmed headlines spread around the globe. But it was only a bruise, and Messi returned to Barcelona’s lineup Sunday for the two record-breaking goals against Real Betis. Team victory meant more than an individual record, Messi said, but with four games remaining this year, he continued, “I hope to add more to it so that it is harder for the next person to break.”

Despite the record, some will find Messi deficient because he has never won soccer’s ultimate prize, the World Cup, as did Pelé and Messi’s countryman, Diego Maradona. But Johan Cruyff, the former Dutch great, wrote during the 2010 World Cup that soccer devotees should be satisfied that each era has its heroes, none of whom should be considered lesser than the other.

“We will not see a player like this ever again,” Tito Vilanova, Barcelona’s current manager, said of Messi on Sunday as he spoke to reporters. “Not just for his goal-scoring capacity and for his ability to see a pass, but for the way he understands the game in attack and defense.”

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