Sunday, May 24, 2015

Platja Vilanova I La Gentru and a Cup and Cake Sunday

My weekend has been absolutely perfect, after a week of hard-core sleepless nights working as an English teacher and furiously studying (in an attempt to design my pilot study). Weekend is definitely chill-time, whether that's coffee with friends, running with my puppy, or something more magical.  Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a movie here; I have never been happier.  (Reality check says: you owe a lot in student loans, are living paycheque to paycheque and are forever waiting for a corrupt and bureaucratic government to process your paperwork.  I say: Oops...well, almost like a movie ;)

Saturday night was incredible. Andres took me to Vilanova i La Geltru beach, a beautiful beach about an hour and a half from Barcelona. The sand is finer than Barceloneta and even Badalona's beaches, the sea is more beautiful, at and 8pm, there is hardly anyone there, so you can enjoy walks along the beach. The man at the cocktail place with a terrace on the beach was in a grumpy mood, said he was going to close soon (at 8:30, in Spain), finally agreed to let us buy one drink, and charged us FIVE EUROS for a small glass of Estrella and a mediocre glass of red house wine. Seriously?!

We didn't let it spoil our fun, though.  Sorry there are no pictures (the one below is from the Vilanova city site); we were having too much fun! I would definitely recommend a trip if you can!
Photo credit: 
P.S.  Kiara was an absolute angel staying home for the night, no shenanigans, chewed up air conditioning remotes, or accidents!
Perfect Pup - Kiara

Cup and Cake Sunday

Cup and Cake is a brand of cute coffee/brunch chains in Barcelona I've been meaning to try for awhile. Andres had to study for an exam, so on the way back to Barcelona I thought, why not take a couple hours out of my Sunday afternoon and enjoy a giant cheat meal?! Here's my overview of the place in three short bullets:

  • Very cute atmosphere, although very crowded
  • Excellent coffee - my iced cappucino (the first time I've seen this here) was divine!
  • I've had better cake.  Seriously - don't call a cake "Oreo" if the base is vanilla. The base should be chocolate! It wasn't the worst cake, but was not really worth all those calories I just finished ingesting.  

That being said, I'm sitting here watching people order all-day brunch as lunch/dinner (which I didn't do, because 9 euros seems a bit much for an egg sandwich at the end of the month....) but I will be back to try the eggs benedict!

There will be lots of GYM time this week (especially before we jet off for a few days on Thursday!)  Yes, I know GYM time won't really make up for it, but once I week I have to let myself go a bit wild!

Stay tuned for lots of adventures ahead!  Me encanta Espana!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Girona's Temp de Flors - A Beautiful Celebration of 60 Years of Flowers & An Evening of Friendship

Girona's 60th Temps de Flors festival
 Girona's Temps de Flors festival is a beautiful celebration of flowers in an exquisite, picturesque town. Olivia, one of my friends from Spanish class, and I went to Girona to check out the 60th anniversary of this festival.

We were starving when we got there, so we didn't make enough of an attempt to find a really great place to eat for under 20 euros each (and I couldn't for the life of me remember the name of the place Sean and I went to Girona in January). Remember this beautiful winter trip?  

For everyone planning to go there,  El Pou de Call - (link here) is definitely the place where you should eat in Girona. It's a few shops down from the Museum of Jewish History  and has delectable 3 course meals. Olivia and I ended up at a mediocre restaurant and had pinxos (kind of like tapas on bread) and a glass of average wine for 11.50 euros

After our meal, we stumbled across a very cute little cafe called 1900. It looked like a Roman courtyard! There are a few more pictures of the cafe in my slideshow below.

Cafe Suiss...there are my Sunday calories!

Oh, and just a practical note - make sure you take R11 (Rodalies Renfre) and not the Renfe train to Girona. (You'll pay 17 euros instead of 35+!) Olivia and I accidentally got on the wrong train on the way back (WAY more comfortable).  Thanks to the 60 year anniversary of the Temp de Flors festival, the conductor thought we had just forgot to print off our 35% off coupons ;) 

Check  out the slideshow of the flowers below!  It was a bit difficult to take photos with SO many tourists in crowded, tiny little streets, but I did what I could.  (This reminds me that I should go back to taking photography classes!)

Olivia and I came home and cooked a lovely dinner of broccoli, peppers, basil tofu, garbazon beans and sunflower seeds stirfried on a bed of quinoa. It was amazing. We also had a dessert my Norwegian friend Silje from Oxford taught me to make - pineapple pieces, sprinkled with cinnamon and baked at 150 degrees celsius for 10 minutes. Mmm---healthy and delicious!  (Pictures of the meal are on Olivia's camera and are coming soon!)

 We also watched one of my favourite French films  La Faute a Fidel which is the story of an elite family in Paris in the 1960's who decide to have a leftist political approach and protest against Franco in Spain and the regime in Cuba. It's told from the perspective of a 9 year old girl trying to understand why her life is changing so drastically. A must see!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Flamenco Fiesta in Solsona: Small Town Summer Fun

On Saturday night,  Andrés and I spent the evening in a town called Solsona in Lleida, the province next to Barcelona, and checked out their Flamenco festival. Flamenco is actually a dance from Sevilla, but for some reason they had dances going on much closer to us! The dancers were all young girls, probably about 14 or 16 years old and were dressed in bright pink and black dresses. The best part about summer parties in Spain is that they always have terrace seating and outdoor bars where you can have a lovely glass of wine and a few tapas.

 Now, of course, I will make it to Sevilla at some point to check out the original dance, but in the meanwhile, here are a few fun facts I found on Seville Traveller's blog. I'd recommend following the link if you plan to visit Sevilla:
  • The dance is a 300 year old activity meant to be passionate, loud and sensual - yup, sounds like an accurate description of Spain to me :)
  • Flamenco was originally performed by gypsies
  • Flamenco is based on improvisation, and originally there weren't even any rules for the music or dance  - hmm, again, sounds like Spain to me :)
  • There are many, many styles, as the flamenco was usually performed by peasants and at family parties
  • A flamenco variety is called a palo - literally, a stick - and there are 50 varieties

Flamenco in Solsana - excuse the badly lit, blurry, taken while drunk mobile pic!

Solsana - a cute little town -  PHOTO CREDIT: solsana tourism page
Travel plans are on the horizon - as are a lot of studying plans :)  My PhD plan is taking shape and I'm going to be working furiously until mid-July to finish designing my test instruments, pilot them on a dozen American students, write my first year's official progress report, present it to the board, make necessary changes, and analyse pilot data before finalizing my design. Thankfully, I only teach English until the end of June. Happy summer - stay tuned for travel adventures ahead!!!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Gourmet Cooking mid-week: Canapes, Crepes and Lemon Mousse

Gourmet cooking mid-week seems to be a new hobby of mine - it's actually quite fun, but I'm not going to pretend it's not time-consuming. A month ago, I did risotto from scratch, with a broth from scratch using a famous Italian chef Giallo Zaffernano's recipe here and my beloved tiramisu recipe from BBC Good Food link here. Two tips are that you must make the broth from scratch, and use strong-flavoured mushrooms like porcini or portabello.

 On Tuesday night, Andres came over for dinner and I made buckwheat crepes - gallettes - with a creamy mushroom filling. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the main course - we were too busy cooking and eating it all!!!! 

Here is the recipe to the buckwheat crepes , though. It is key to leave the batter in the fridge for an hour, so the buckwheat settles properly. For the creamy mushroom filling, I simply took 250 grams of chopped mushrooms, 1/3 cup of white wine, 1/4 cup of full cream, garlic, onion, rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and fried into together with olive oil in a pan.  I thought getting the crepes to come out properly - because you have to make them really thin and flip them VERY quickly - would be the most difficult part. It turns out Andres has been making  crepes since he was 12 and he thinks it's super easy to, we ended up with perfect crepes!!!!  Apologies for not having taken pictures.

The lemon mouse was the best part - it is easier than it sounds, actually. It takes a little bit of time, but it really fun to make. Wow - it is the most refreshing dessert and pairs perfectly with a dry white wine. The lemon mousse recipe I used is here

Enjoy the pictures below. Try these recipes -  Bon provecho :)
Lemon Mousse

Whipped Cream Cheese and Raspberries on Blueberry Toasties

Cucumber, Tomato, Feta Toasties

Olive, Cheese and Pickled Peppers