Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sin Noticias de Gurb (No Word from Gurb)

Sin noticias de GurbSin noticias de Gurb by Eduardo Mendoza

This is one of those books that you could kick yourself for not thinking of the idea first. It is the captain's log sent by an extraterrestrial who comes to earth, takes on human form(s), and dryly narrates what he discovers about life here on earth—or at least life in Barcelona. Upon landing in Barcelona the unnamed leader sends his underling, Gurb, out to explore the terrain. Gurb immediately goes AWOL and most of the book concerns the leader’s search for his partner as it takes two beings to drive their spaceship. While looking for Gurb the leader comments on dozens and dozens of aspects of life in this corner of the world.

No hay en toda la Tierra gente más aficionada al trabajo que los catalanes. Si supieran hacer algo, se harían los amos del mundo.

No one on earth enjoys work more than Catalonians. If they knew how to do something they would rule the world.

It is laugh-out-loud funny in many, many parts and even more so if you happen to be something of an outsider yourself but have been in Spain just long enough to recognize some of the more absurd aspects of modern Spanish/Catalán society. There is a little bit of Gurb in anyone who has ever lived in another country.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bar León

A corner bar as corner bars should be. First of all, Bar León is rioght on the corner of Mestre Aguilar and Poeta al-Russafi, a half a block from the Ruzafa Market. A big screen TV that you can see from the outside window (good for smokes) carries all of the football matches. A nice mix of Spanish and Bolivians tapas and sandwiches on the menu and even chicha de maní.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Paellas in the Street

This isn't something that happens every night in Valencia but it's a pretty common occurrence. I don't even remember the occasion on this particular evening but everyone was having fun and eating well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Níspero Fruit

The dictionary says that these are called loquats in English but I had never seen them before moving to Spain. The níspero was introduced in Spain by merchant sailors specifically in Sagunto (Valencia), more than two thousand years ago, and from here spread throughout the Levante and the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, finding the best habitat for cultivation in areas of the Mediterranean coast, in particular in Almunecar (Granada), in Callosa d'En Sarria (Alicante), region where the nispereros (Spanish for the trees that bears the fruit) enjoy Designation of Origin and in Malaga. The 37% of Spanish production is intended for European export, mainly to Italy and only 7% is intended to canning. Other producing countries are: Japan, Brazil, Algeria and India.

Countries which grow this fruit
And of course because we are in Spain there has to be at least one festival to celebrate the harvest of this exotic fruit.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Patatas a la Importancia

I've never tried this dish or even seen it before but it looks like something I would like to make.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Artichoke Season Has Arrived!

Artichokes are in full season. The globe artichoke is related to the thistle. Its leaves are edible, as is the bottom part of the flower, called the heart. Fields of this plant can be found edging up against the city of Valencia in almost every direction. The first thing is learning how to cut an artichoke, as much of the plant is inedible.

 The origin of the word "artichoke" was probably the Arabic word al-qarshuf.  Wolfgang Goethe, eighteenth and nineteenth century poet and dramatist, shunned the artichoke. In his book Travels Through Italy he says, "the peasants eat thistles," a practice he could never adopt.

During the nineteenth century, the Spanish introduced the artichoke to California while the French brought them to Louisiana. The unique vegetable was considered quite the delicacy among the French. Even today, restaurants in New Orleans, where so many people of French origin settled, regularly feature artichokes on their menus.
In contrast to the French, the British all but ignored the artichoke. This is not surprising. The English were reluctant to accept practically all new vegetables that passed their way. Today most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy, and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.

California was reintroduced to the artichoke in the early 1900's when a number of Italian immigrants settled in the northern coastal city of Half Moon Bay. After harvesting their several hundred acres of artichokes, they sent their first shipment to the East Coast in 1906.

Interest in this vegetable continued to mount in Northern California. By the 1950's artichokes became so popular in the state, they earned the status of official vegetable of Monterey County.

Castroville, California, with its population of 5,000, named itself "the Artichoke Center of the World" for its ideal climate of moist air, even temperatures, and plenty of summertime foggy days along the coast. With its two packing houses and the country's only artichoke processing plant, Castroville became the United States artichoke growing center. Every year the town celebrates the harvest during the month of May with a festival that brings many visitors for a taste of innovative artichoke creations. Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean at the time, was crowned Castroville's first Artichoke Queen in 1948.

 Artichoke Pasta


Preparation method

  1. Pour the artichokes, with their oil into a pan and mash them down with a fork.
  2. Add the garlic, parsley and thyme and heat through for a couple of minutes and then pour over the warm pasta.
  3. Add the lemon juice and toss thoroughly.
  4. Serve in bowls topped with shavings of parmesan cheese.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bayern Munich vs Chelsea @ 20:45

Roberto Di Matteo hopes that FC Bayern München's home advantage will work against them as he scents a "great opportunity" for Chelsea FC to make history in Saturday's final. 

He cites Arrigo Sacchi and Dino Zoff among those who have helped fashion his outlook on the game and on Saturday Roberto Di Matteo can emulate those illustrious names in winning European silverware as a coach.
Success against FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League final, and with it Chelsea FC's much-desired first continental crown, would leave Di Matteo with a particularly convincing case to be appointed as the club's permanent manager, given the former Blues midfielder has already guided them to the FA Cup this month.

Standing in his way, however, are a Bayern team driven by a desire to win the competition in front of their own fans in Munich where they have won all seven of their European matches this season, including a 2-0 group-stage victory against Premier League champions Manchester City FC.

"I know a lot of people are speculating because of Bayern's last game [a 5-2 German Cup final loss to Borussia Dortmund], but you don't assess a team over just one match," Di Matteo, who succeeded André Villas-Boas on 4 March, told "They're a fantastic team, they have some excellent players, and it's going to be a tough game. That’s what you expect when you're in the Champions League final."

Post Script

Heartbroken by their 2008 final defeat by Manchester United FC and on the brink against FC Bayern München on Saturday, Chelsea FC's maiden UEFA Champions League triumph was secured the hard way.
The last kick of the game won them this thunderous match, the wonderful trophy that they covet so much and repaired the damage of their Moscow defeat at this stage four years ago. But was it really, ever, going to have a different script than this? Throughout the knockout stages of this season's competition, the Blues have consistently waited until time is ebbing away to produce something remarkable.

Behind to Bayern late on before Didier Drogba's equaliser, facing an Arjen Robben penalty in extra time and again trailing in the shoot-out, Chelsea once again showed their astonishing ability to cling on. Against SSC Napoli, SL Benfica, FC Barcelona and now again in Munich, it was possible to hear the ominous tick, tick, tick of a clock, a sound which merely seems to galvanise Roberto Di Matteo's players.

The second leg of their round of 16 tie against Napoli signalled the beginning of a startling change in performance, attitude and achievement, but the key moment came just as the half-time break in extra time was beckoning. One moment it was all square, the next Drogba set up Branislav Ivanović for 4-1 on the night, victory overall and a catalyst to becoming champions of Europe.

It was the first sign that Chelsea have become ruthless predators who naturally ratchet up their performance when time is running out. In the quarter-finals Benfica were making light of being down to ten men and scored a late goal which left them needing just one more to eliminate the Blues. The Premier League side were not to be denied, though, and Raul Meireless rubber-stamped the win in extra time.

The ultimate preparation for the astonishing events in the Munich final, though, came against Barcelona. In the first leg at Stamford Bridge the reigning champions were mere seconds from navigating the first half, finding sanctuary in the dressing room and assessing how to break down Chelsea. Suddenly Drogba produced what proved to be the winning strike.

A week later at the Camp Nou it was again first-half added time when Ramires scored his audacious goal to pull Chelsea back from the precipice – 2-1 adrift on aggregate and down to ten men following John Terry's dismissal. Just for good measure, Fernando Torres iced the cake when the regulation 90 minutes had already elapsed.

The showpiece was the Blues' coup de grace, however. Drogba produced a phenomenal 88th-minute header to level the scores, but it was not until his penalty nestled into the net that Chelsea had finally proved that it really is better late than never.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jonathan Viera @ Valencia CF

Jonathan Viera has arrived in Valencia. The player travelled from Madrid via the high speed AVE train, arriving at the Joaquín Sorolla at 20:18 this Wednesday evening. The player was greeted by Sporting Director, Braulio Vázquez, and a sizeable media presence. Viera will undergo a medical on Thursday at the  Tecma de Alzira clinic, then at the Milenium de Sanitas centre. 
Upon signing his first autographs on arrival, the player told the press that "it is a dream to be part of Valencia CF. Alongside Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, they are one of the biggest clubs in Spain. Do I resemble (former VCF star) David Silva? That is a strong comparison to make -I have come here to work hard for the club and to contribute to its continued success.

The attacking midfielder hopes to fill the shoes of his fellow Canary Islander David Silva who has helped carry Manchester City to the peak of England's Premier League. Valencia CF continues to be an excellent organ door for wealthier teams.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Walk-up Culture: All the World's a Bar

Bar León
A lot of restaurants in Spain have a little walk-up window that connects the street directly with the bar obviating the need to even walk into a place to get your cortado or your quinto (a small 1/5 liter bottle of beer). So not only are there more bars per capita in Spain than any other place in the world, they make it even easier for you to get your shot of coffee or whatever suits your mood.

I first noticed bars with walk-up windows in Miami. At the time I thought it was a Cuban thing—which it is but its origin is Spanish. I had been to Spain a couple of times before I moved to South Florida but I didn't notice this feature in Spanish bars. There was a little café near my apartment in Florida that had one of these windows and I thought it was pretty cool. I have never seen one of these walk-up windows in Mexico, Peru, or Puerto Rico, and I've been to a lot of bars in Mexico, Peru, and Puerto Rico—the only other Spanish-speaking countries I have visited. Perhaps this aspect of Spanish life immigrated to other Latin American countries.

The whole notion of knocking back a quick shot of coffee at a walk-up window almost seems antithetical to the unhurried pace of life here, unhurried at least until people get behind the wheel of an automobile. If I were forced to explain the phenomena of the walk-up window, I would say that the services provided by bars are so important in the quotidian life of Spanish people that direct access to the street if sometimes necessary. It's like removing a buffer zone between citizens and espresso. I'm surprised that they don't have waiters with trays of espresso patrolling the sidewalks so people don't even have to stop walking to have a shot.

Depending on the weather, I usually prefer to sit at a table outside at a café or stand at the bar inside. This is an important part of every single day for me. If I am alone I use the time to read a book, a football paper, or a newspaper. I sometimes study my vocabulary lists or I study what is going on around me. If you are a tourist, bars provide the best place to connect with Spanish people, something that is true even if you aren't just passing through. If you are out to literally “rub elbows” with the locals, the walk-up window is the place to do it. Whenever I stop for a drink at one of these widows I always feel like I couldn't be more Spanish if I were wearing a matador's costume. I would love to have a picture of a matador at a walk-up window (to digress a bit, I saw a little boy the other day wearing a matador costume and it was so cute that I almost tinkled myself). The walk-up is also handy if you are on your bike and don't feel like locking it up to go inside.

Not every bar in Spain has a walk-up window. In fact, when I went out looking specifically for bars with this attribute I found a lot fewer of them than I thought I would. However, it seems like the bars that don´t have a window were just built wrong, with the bar being against a back wall away from the street instead of along the side of the place moving up to the sidewalk. If I ask an older person here about this I'm sure they will tell me that back in the good-old-days every bar had a walk-up. I actually had someone tell me the other day that there used to be a lot more bars in Spain than there are today. I can't see how that is even possible unless there used to be bars inside of other bars.

I'll probably never find out why the Spanish feel these windows are necessary and other people of other nations don't. Spanish people probably just feel that it is too much of a chore sometimes to walk inside of a bar to get a coffee. I mean, if you have to actually walk through a door you might as well cover the place in barbed wire or build a damn moat around the place. When you are walking the block and a half home from the market who needs the hassle of opening a stupid door just to get a beer?

It's not like there aren't millions of cars in Spain but walking is still a big part of city life. I have yet to see a drive-up window here and I hope that this never catches on—anything that keeps people inside their cars is a bad thing in my book. I'm sure that a walk-up bar window would be breaking about nine million laws in the U.S., although I have bought a cocktail at a drive-thru window in Montana years ago and even then it seemed like a disastrous idea. On the other hand, anything that caters to pedestrians is OK by me. What kind of culture are you looking for, walk-up or drive-thru?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No Reservations: Rome

A great America travel show visits Rome in one of Anthony Bourdain's best episodes. It is funny and insightful and the food looks fantastic. Enjoy.

Cycling Safety Education in the Netherlands

Bicycling is such an integral part of life in the Netherlands, you might think that Dutch people are born knowing how to cycle. They aren’t, of course. What’s kind of wonderful is the way that they learn. It’s not just a matter of going to the park with a parent, getting a push, and falling down a bunch of times until you can pedal on your own. Dutch children are expected to learn and follow the rules of the road, because starting in secondary school – at age 12 – they are expected to be able to ride their bikes on their own to school, sometimes as far as nine or 10 miles. Because this independent travel for children is valued in Dutch society, education about traffic safety is something that every Dutch child receives. There's even a bicycle road test that Dutch children are required to take at age 12 in order to prove that they are responsible cycling citizens. -from The Atlantic Cities

Monday, May 14, 2012

End of La Liga

An exciting end to the season, with surprises right up to the last minute. The biggest shock of all though was the relegation of Villarreal, who lost 0-1 to Atlético Madrid thanks to a goal by Falcao with just two minutes left on the clock. The day started with Zaragoza down in the bottom three, but early in the second half of their game at Getafe Apoño converted a penalty with their hosts down to nine men, and a late strike from Postiga made it 0-2 in the end. Apoño's goal meant that Rayo Vallecano were then in the drop zone, but with their match against Granada in the last minute of ordinary time Tamudo headed past Julio César to give them a 1-0 victory. If Villarreal could have saved a point then Granada would have gone down instead, but it was not to be, and to add to their woes their B team will be automatically relegated from the second division as a result. Sporting Gijón also go down after a 1-0 defeat at Málaga, Rondón heading the only goal to ensure the Andalusians a first ever place in the Champions League.

Meanwhile Levante beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0 to take them back up to the Europa League spots, where they will be joined by Atlético Madrid after their victory against Villarreal. It was a great achievement by Juan Ignacio Martínez's side, who have the smallest budget in the first division, and this will be their first ever appearance in a European competition (Athletic of course will also return to the competition by virtue of reaching the Copa del Rey final, as their opponents Barcelona have qualified for the Champions League). That left no place though for Osasuna despite a 2-4 victory at the already relegated Racing Santander, and Mallorca also lose out on the top six after a 4-1 defeat at Real Madrid, the win taking Mourinho's side on to an all time record 100 points. Espanyol and Sevilla were out of the running for the European places after last weekend's games, and they played out a 1-1 draw in their last fixture of the season. (13.05.12)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Crazy Night of Football

All of these matches will begin tonight at 20:00 because so many of the games have a lot of weight in the final outcome of La Liga. Levante U.D. still has a chance for the fourth spot but it will take a lot of doing. There is also a lot of fighting to see who will be relegated next season.

Espanyol v Sevilla
Getafe v Zaragoza
Levante v Athletic Bilbao
Málaga v Sporting Gijón
Rayo Vallecano v Granada
Real Madrid v Mallorca
Racing Santander v Osasuna
Villarreal v Atlético Madrid

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spain Recipes

One of the best places to find authentic Spanish recipes in English is Spain Recipes. Here is their  version of the ubiquitous tapa, ensaladilla usa:

Ensaladilla rusa (Spanish Potato Salad)

This traditional tapa is served throughout every region of Spain, with little variation. A poorly made version will taste like a mouthful of mayonnaise. On the other hand, a well-made ensaladilla rusa is a perfectly balanced mixture of potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, and vegetables, using the mayonnaise solely to accent these other flavors. This colorful salad is served at nearly every tapas bar; it is even served free at times with an order of beer.
  • Serves: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Preparation time: 45 minutes


  • 3 medium (16 oz) potatoes
  • 1 large (3 oz) carrot, diced
  • 5 tablespoons shelled green peas
  • 2/3 cup (4 oz) green beans
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cocktail gherkins, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons baby capers
  • 12 anchovy-stuffed olives
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, sliced thin
  • 2/3 cup (5 fl. oz) mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish


In a saucepan, cook the potatoes and carrot in lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until almost tender. Fold in the peas and beans, and cook until all the vegetables are tender. Drain the vegetables and transfer them into a serving platter. Add the onion, pepper, gherkins, baby capers, anchovy-stuffed olives, and egg slices.
In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice and mustard. Add this mixture to the serving platter, mixing well to ensure all the ingredients are coated. Sprinkle with pepper and toss. Garnish with chopped parsley and refrigerate. Allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour immediately before serving to enhance the salad's flavor. As any dish made with mayonnaise, ensaladilla should be refrigerated and will not keep for more than 1 to 2 days.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Almirante Cadarso 31 - 46005 Valencia - Tel. 963 955 433 -

Incredible that this kind of movie theatre still exist! This place offers a fantastic cine experience. For only 2,5 (Tuesday), 3 euro (weekdays) or 4 euro (weekends) you enter as long as you want, and you can see 2 movies in a row. You can even bring your own food and drinks.

Ajo Arriero

A rich, creamy spread made with potatoes, cod, garlic, and olive oil Ajo Arriero (sometimes written as ajo riero) is a tapa that you can find in restaurants in Valencia.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Valencia CF vs Villarreal @ 21:00

Valencia is already assured a spot in next season's Champions League but there is a big difference between finishing 3rd or 4th in La Liga. Valencia tried to hang on to their 3rd spot tonight against Community rival Villarreal. 

"Finishing third, getting into the Champions League again and being amongst the best teams in Europe is the goal for us," said VCF goalkeeper Vicente Guiata. "We all know what is at stake and how important winning the two games at Mestalla will be for us. If we win them, then we will take third place." Valencia won the first game against Osasuna 4-0.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

A beautiful spot in Valencia is even more spectacular thanks to some wild cloud formations (clouds are a rare commodity here in Valencia).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Port Saplaya

Port Saplaya is a residential beach complex, located 5 km from Valencia, and 2 km from Alboraya. Port Saplaya is the perfect place to spend a nice day out, or to escape for a couple of days. The views over the port are beautiful, there are plenty of bars and restaurants, and the beach is very inviting. 

The video and the pictures speak for theirselves.

Tapas: Mussels Two Ways

These are two extremely easy, yet delicious recipes for a tapa with mussels brought to you by José Andrés.

Ingredients: Mussels Potatoes Olive Oil Bay Leaf Pimentón Salt

VIDEO: how does Globexs work?