Sunday, November 3, 2013

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Holgazanear (intransitive verb) to idle, to laze about/around, to loaf

I recently learned that you can use an infinitive in Spanish to answer a question. So if someone were to ask me what I’ve been doing this month of August I could reply with:

What the hell else am I supposed to do? It’s August in Spain and not just Spain but the endless beaches part of Spain, the part of Spain where other people in Spain go to goof off. Along this entire coast you can’t spit without hitting a topless beauty or a fat, naked, 60 year old German tourist. Of course I’m screwing off, there is nothing else to do. I’m no history expert but I’ll bet every battle the Spanish have ever lost took place in August when at least half of their army was taking a trip to the beach with their families and the other half was working in the family café trying to keep enough beer cold and sardines on the grill to serve the summer hordes.

One more thing that I really love about Valencia is that you can take the subway to the beautiful city beach. There aren't many cities in the world that you can say that about. I live on the line that serves the beach so I see a lot of people either going or coming. My favorite sight is the stuff that parents pack to entertain their little kids when they spend the day on the water. Pails, shovels, watering cans, sailboats, and, of course, balls are part of what the beach caravans have in tow on the Valencia metro. This is one aspect of Spanish life that is exactly the same as it is in America: kids all use the same paraphernalia when they go to the beach.

Valencianos mostly drive to the beaches south of town and for this ten minute expedition families bring more crap than a Spice Route camel caravan. Chairs, tables, umbrellas, blankets, volleyball nets, rackets, and all of the kid junk listed earlier. It’s hard to imagine all of this stuff fits into the little cars people drive—maybe they make two or three trips. Goofing off requires a lot of equipment if you are doing it right.

If you can find a restaurant that is actually open in August it will be filled to capacity, at least during the hours when Spanish people eat, which seem to get later and later as the summer moves along its trajectory. Lunch is still going strong at an hour when many American early bird specialists are already packing up their leftovers in doggie bags and heading home to bed. The crowds wash in and out of the beach cafes like the tides. If you were to take a water sample of those tides, the results would come back as coffee, Coca Cola, red wine, and beer. It probably takes at least one nuclear reactor just to power all of the espresso machines working furiously along the coast. I would rather suffer the consequences of a dozen reactor core meltdowns than risk having a few million Spanish people go without coffee for a single afternoon.

I’m pretty sure that they still print newspapers in August, and there is probably news on television, but maybe if we just ignore it the news will go away—it can at least wait until September. I’m too caught up in the trashy Spanish novel I’m reading to bother with the newspapers, except to read the Calvin and Hobbes comic in the local paper, Levante. Even soccer takes a break in August so there’s no reason to read the sports.

Thank God that in the middle of all of this hustle and bustle I have time to take a nap. These aren’t my usual little power naps of ten to fifteen minutes, these are howling one hour affairs so intense that I don’t know what day it is when I wake up (not that I really knew what day it was when I first laid down, but still). I wake up semi-paralyzed and semi-conscious and I check to make sure I didn’t lose anything to some international group of organ thieves—not that anyone who knew any better would want anything coming out of this burnt-out old carcass. I use the slobber on my chin to fix my bed-head hair and then head down to the café for a coffee.

The café is full again and I am beginning to wonder if all of these customers have been evicted. It's hard to imagine they have homes when they spend 10 hours a day at this joint. I’m sure they think the same about me and I don’t even bother changing clothes from day to day. I stick with flip-flops, surf trunks, and the soccer jersey du jour (today it’s the Portugal national team jersey). I speak Spanish like Tarzan so I may as well look the part. I haven't worn shoes in months and can you explain to me again the purpose of socks? I don’t know how much longer I can keep going at this frantic pace. Something has got to give and I hope it isn’t the seam in the ass of my surf trunks from all of the fried squid I’ve been putting away.

I have to be honest; I’m exhausted. It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m ready to go back to bed for an hour, maybe two, three at the very most. I don’t know if I should be worried but my blood pressure is so low that the readings begin with decimal points. I’d call a doctor but they are all out of the office in August. For medical emergencies you are supposed to rent one of those sound trucks and try and page a doctor at the beach. I tried that but all the little kids mobbed me because they thought I was the ice cream man. It was pretty funny but things got ugly once the little bastards found out I didn't have any ice cream. I was able to take out a few of them but in the end I got stomped something fierce. Ice cream sounds good right now, even if it is 8:31 a.m. In August, 8:31 a.m. is like four in the afternoon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Olive Oil Consumption and Spanish Production

We use a lot of olive oil here in Spain but the Greeks seem to be actually bathing in it by comparison. Spain is the world's largest producer of olive oil with Andalucía producing a full 80% of Spanish oil.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bikes and Trains

In Spain you can take your bike on the local trains, or cercanías as they are called. On the longer routes they aren’t allowed so you’ll have to stick to pedaling. I found a bit of gear in my mountain climbing equipment that works very well to secure my bike on these short trips which beats standing with it the entire time. A carabiner attaches to the hand rail. Taking a local train with your bike allows you to see a lot more of the area than if you use Valencia as a starting and stopping point. Bon voyage!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Feria de Julio

If you feel the need to check out a bullfight in Valencia there are a few this month. For prices look here.

-Miércoles 24. Toros de Las Ramblas para Finito de Córdoba, Manuel Díaz "El Cordobés" y Juan José Padilla.
-Jueves 25. Toros de Núñez del Cuvillo para El El Fandi, Sebastián Castella y Daniel Luque.
-Viernes 26. Toros de Garcigrande-Domingo Hernández para El Juli y José María Manzanares, mano a mano.
-Sábado 27. Toros de Juan Pedro Domecq y Victoriano del Río para Morante de la Puebla y Alejandro Talavante, mano a mano.
-Domingo 28. Festejo de rejones. Toros de Fermín Bohórquez para Andy Cartagena y Diego Ventura, mano a mano.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two Summer Salads

We'll start off with a Caprese Salad and since this is an Italian dish we'll present you with an Italian video.
Next we have a classic dish from here in Valencia, Esgarraet with Tuna (it is normally made with dried cod).

Bon appétit! ¡Buen Provecho!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Politeness and Manners in Spanish (for beginners)

Just a few thoughts on how to comport yourself in Spain. When you enter a shop or café you should always greet people with a “Buenos días” or “Buenas tardes” and when you leave please don’t forget to bid them “Hasta luego.” If the shop owner or barman is in the back I feel bad leaving without saying goodbye, like a rat slinking off a sinking ship and I will often wait for them to return before I leave. However, the Spanish aren’t as hung up on “pleases” and thank you’s” like Americans and Brits so use your own judgment on that.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

100th Tour de France, Stage 15: Givors - Montoux

"This stage is the longest of this 100th Tour. It is also one of the most prestigious because nobody wins by chance on the Ventoux, especially not on 14 July? There are two scenarios: either a group gets away from a long way out and maintains enough of an advantage for the escapees to fight it between themselves; or the leaders shut down the race as far as the foot of the climb, transforming the stage into one enormous hill-climb! Depending on the weather, a lot of damage could be done today. Imagine what it could be like if there's blazing heat all day? Whether you're in the yellow jersey or not, if you do badly on this climb you will lose a quarter of an hour!"

Happy Bastille Day!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Kite Surfing in Valencia @ Taronja Spanish School

Ever heard of Kitesurfing? It´s an amazing, exciting sport, great for men and women of practically all ages; it's more about skill and technique than physical strength. As such if you want to learn, or improve in this sport, you have the opportunity to combine it with your Spanish course in Valencia with our fantastic Kitesurfing Course at Taronja Spanish School.

Address: Calle Convento Santa Clara, 10, 46002 Valencia, Spain
Phone:+34 963 25 85 45 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wynton Marsalis in Valencia

The world's greatest living jazz legend, Wynton Marsalis, will play in Valencia tonight.
Ensemble Wynton Marsalis with JLCO – Valencia Jazz Festival
Date Monday, July 8th, 2013
Venue Palau de la Musica
Address Paseo de la Almeda, 30
Location Valencia, Spain
Venue Phone +34 963 375 020

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Assimil Spanish for Beginners

I highly recommend this language course for beginners in Spanish. Assimil Spanish

Spanish With Ease aims to take users from scratch to a solid base within six months through daily half-hour lessons. The audio is transcribed and translated in the book which also contains detailed grammar notes and exercises and amusing cartoons.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

How to Make Papas Aliñás

Another great summer dish and the best potato salad I have ever tried. It's quick and easy and very satisfying.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bike Paths in the City Center

As you can see from this map most of the city's bike paths seem to disappear once you enter the historic center. Negotiating this area of town on a bike can be a problem, especially since police seem to be actively pursuing cyclists for minor traffic violations. You are advised to stay off the sidewalks even at reasonable speeds and be careful of going the wrong way on one-way streets. If only the police would hold automobiles to this high standard of conduct Valencia would be a lot better for cyclists and pedestrians.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Brazil vs Spain: Confederations Cup @ 24:00

A terrible time for a final for Europeans. So far all of the teams seem to be sleep-walking through this tournament that really doesn't mean much except as a final tune-up for the new stadiums in Brazil for next summer's World Cup. Spain made it through by simply outlasting the Italians on Thursday evening and Brail has been completely underwhelming.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Spain Advances to Final with Brazil in Confederation Cup

Spain edged into the Confederations Cup final with a dramatic 7-6 win on penalties against Italy in Fortaleza.

The Italians - humbled by Spain in last year's European Championship final - were out for both revenge and a Maracana showdown with hosts Brazil, but they failed to turn their dominance over 90 minutes into goals.

A weary Spain side waited until extra time to turn the screw but they still needed Leonardo Bonucci to miss one of 14 spot-kicks between the nations before sealing their place in Sunday's final through Jesus Navas.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Do You Bike?

Looking to rent a bicycle during your stay in Valencia? Do You Bike is a great option with three locations in Valencia offering bike rentals as well as bike tours in and around the city.

In the City Center
Calle del Mar 14, 46003 Valencia
Tlf: 963 155 551 -

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Summer is here and there are lots of great tomatoes in the market which means that it's time to make gazpacho.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Noche de San Juan

Celebrate the shortest night of the year at the beaches of Valencia (that was actually the night of the 21st but who's counting?). Go to the shore this evening and you'll find hundreds of thousands of folks celebrating the night of San Juan with bonfires, food, and beer. Another excuse for a party in Spain so don't be left out of the fun...and pagan revelry.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Summer Solstice

This morning at 05:04 marked the summer solstice when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the sun. Earth's maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23° 26'. This happens twice each year, at which times the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or the south pole.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Caprese Salad Kebabs

Another easy appetizer or party idea. There's lots of fresh basil available now and good cherry tomatoes. The Mozzarella balls might be difficult to find but you can use sliced cheese.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Are You Doing Today?

If you live in Valencia you are probably calling in to work sick and heading to one of the local beaches. The weather is perfect and the water is warm, or at least not too cold.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bicycles Are Illegal in Valencia

Another police reign of terror to end the bicycle reign of terror, the second in as many years. In this case it’s like using a steam roller to kill an ant and begs the question of just what is the problem the city of Valencia is hoping to solve. The police actually call this an “information campaign” with the punch-line being a completely absurd fine of 200€. Three marauders were cited for not having bells on their bikes. Thank god the police are protecting the citizenry from these animals.

The worst thing about this anti-cycling campaign is that most of the people in Valencia seem to be in favor of it or at least acquiescent. This is what I take from the tone of the articles appearing in Valencia’s two daily newspapers and from the television coverage on the local news. There was no shortage of people voicing their concern over the outrageous and deadly behavior of the city’s bike riders.  It’s easy enough to find footage of cyclists breezing through red lights at deserted intersections or riding down sidewalks but it’s another thing to actually find a problem with this behavior. Put a camera and any intersection of the city and you will witness some pretty brutish driving habits that seem to be accepted techniques by the police. Wait for a light to turn yellow and you will see a line of cars gunning it to screech through while cars waiting on the opposing lane roll through the light before it has even changed to green. Most drivers watch the flashing green pedestrian signal and use that as their green light. Yesterday I was almost run over by a bus using this tactic.

12 cyclists were fined for chaining their murderous machines to trees or lamp posts, something strictly forbidden under the new decree drafted in 2010, obviously by people who never cycle. When called on this stupid prohibition one of the PP functionaries commented that the city has generously provided 4,000 bike parking spaces throughout the city, a city of almost a million people. Do the math while you scour the city for a place to leave your bike. Once again, just what problem does the city want to solve by this law? And it’s not like chaining your bike will do any good as bike theft seems to be a perfectly legal and respected profession from the way local police ignore it completely.

There were nine infractions of cyclists dragging unauthorized loads behind their bikes which is simply code for singling out gypsies who improvise trailers for their bikes in their search for chatarra and other riches stolen the trash containers throughout the city. One man’s garbage is another man’s food for the day. It reminds me of the Anatole France quote from Le Lys Rouge: La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain (in its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.)

The message the city is sending to the people of Valencia could not be clearer: you shouldn’t ride a bicycle and if you do you will be held to a standard far higher than that expected of automobiles. It doesn’t matter that no one has been killed by a cyclist while cyclists and pedestrians are run down like dogs by motorists. I would be grateful if the local police would enforce a single traffic law: the maximum speed limit of 50 kph in the city.

Vehicle Speed
Odds of Pedestrian Death, Source 1
Odds of Pedestrian Death, Source 2
20 mph 32k
30 mph 48k
40 mph 64k

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pork Hocks in Beer & Honey (Codillo con miel y cerveza)

Fresh pork hocks (codillo in Spanish) can be found in any supermarket in Valencia and make for a very inexpensive meal. You can use them to make stock for traditional rice dishes or simply eat them with an accompaniment of fried potatoes or rice. Not exactly a light summer dish but we've had a cool spring.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

24/7 Valencia

24/7 Valencia, The English Speaking Connection is a monthly magazine about everything that is happening in town. It's a free publication and can be found in hotels, bars, and restaurants all over Valencia.

The Guardian:24/7 Valencia is a free magazine in English, available from many bars and shops across the city, which provides features and previews on local events, fiestas and club nights. Its comprehensive listings section covers bars, clubs, restaurants and shops and is reviewed every month to keep pace with the ever-changing scene. An invaluable guide for long weekend visitors looking to get the most out of Valencia’s nightlife.”

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lunch on the Terrace in Cánovas

Conde Altea is a street in the Cánovas area of Valencia and has dozens of great restaurants and bars. It is one of the best places in Valencia to sit outside and have lunch or dinner. ¡Buen Provecho!

View Larger Map

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Say No to Bike Helmet Laws

One argument on helmet laws in Atlantic Cities (read a few of the comments). Info about helmets at Bicycling Magazine.

Before this argument even picks up a faint hint of steam it needs to be crushed.  Mandatory bike helmet laws would be a foolish step to take if we are at all serious about lowering carbon emissions. If you are so concerned about the safety of cyclists then lobby for tougher laws against aggressive drivers and let individual cyclists decide whether or not they want to wear a helmet.   

Making helmets mandatory for cyclists is basically telling people not to ride bikes.  It over-inflates the dangers of cycling and gives people the false impression that riding a bike is hazardous to their health. I have ridden a bike almost every day of my life since I was a child and the vast majority of the kilometers I have racked up cycling have been without a helmet, so sue me. If you look at cities where people actually embrace cycling as a mode of transportation you will find that almost no one wears a helmet when commuting. You can cite all of the studies you like (and the argument about helmets goes both ways—for and against) but I haven’t completely relinquished my common sense which tells me that riding a bike in the city isn’t particularly dangerous.

I’m quite certain that studies would show that people who wear helmets 24 hours a day no matter what they are doing suffer fewer head injuries yet we don’t mandate helmet laws for all public activities.  Wearing a helmet while driving a car would probably save lives but making all automobile passengers wear a helmet would be at least as ridiculous as forcing helmets onto the heads of bike commuters.

The bottom line is that society should be getting down on their hands and knees and thanking people who choose to ride a bike instead of firing up an internally combusted machine to effect their daily rounds.  The absolute last thing we need to do is give anyone an excuse to leave their bike at home.  

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