Tag Archives: Spain

Christmas Time

You might have noticed that as with every year, for the past few months it has been ‘nearly Christmas’. Slowly decorations, lights, carols, nativity scenes, sales, adverts etc. have popped up all around us and now, as its December, people have stopped complaining. This can only mean that actual Christmas time is here!

So, to celebrate this in a way other than Christmas shopping, a group of language assistants met up in Donostia this weekend for a little bit of ‘Christmas dinner’.

This is in quotes as, as our head chef put it, ‘Good luck trying to find some Turkey out here’. Instead the menu was various amusebouches, leek and potato soup, pie de marisco, roast lamb, various desserts followed by vast amounts of strong alcohol and accompanied by a river of beer, wine (and mulled wine!) and cider. Needless to say we got a leetle teeny weeny bit tipsy and VERY full.

The food was a masterpiece and there was lots of it: Mark’s slab of fish pie is honestly the biggest serving of food I have possibly ever seen. The croquetas however… Well, none of us are Spanish and they’re a very spanish thing. We bought frozen ones to fry up, but unfortunately Mr Head Chef started this up when my back was turned: hot oil + a bag of frozen dumplings = mush.

Luckily we had a second bag, which after I shooed Tony (half Spanish, so we thought this might give him magical cooking powers) away I managed to transform about two or three of the remaining bits of frozen mush into crispy little golden brown lumps which vaguely resembled what we were aiming for. And then I ate them. (Yes I do think I am amazing).

Dinner was followed by chat and then the Father Ted Christmas Special followed by a streamed version of Love Actually that we realised too late had the whole John and Judy story cut out (the naked ones)! We also knocked back a fair amount to the Love Actually drinking game, which in hind sight may not have been such a good idea, least not for Mark who was flying home the next day.

It was a good night in all, but I very much need to go home to my dearest darling boyfriend as apparently in sharing a single bed with Verity I got a teensy weensy bit too cuddly! Oops!!

Merry Christmas!

Short Extract from the House Hunt Saga

You may have noticed there has been no overly excited, exclamation-mark filled post about my new flat. There’s a very good reason for this: it doesn’t exist. Still, after nearly a month, I am flat-less. I’ve got a flatmate, Tamara, she’s fantastic. But she’s also in New York at the moment. We’re down to the final three, but I thought I’d throw in this little description of one lovely flat we went to see last week.

We’d initially turned down the option of viewing this flat, as the estate agents (who to be honest aren’t very good at there jobs) had put us off by saying it was too small. I’m 5’3” surely it couldn’t be that bad? So it was with this thought that we gave in and went to have a look, as well as discovering that really there weren’t that many flats about.

The flat itself was very central and on the top floor of its building, making it an attic. The first room we came to was a huge (for the size of the flat) sitting room with a big sofa and plenty of standing space. The doors were a little low, but that would only matter when I had normal sized friends to come and stay.

The first bedroom was also ok. Lots of light from the skylight and you’d only be in danger of knocking yourself out if you slept with your head towards the wall. There was no extra room for a wardrobe, so that was kept in the lounge.

As for the second bedroom, this was when things started to go a bit more down hill. The bed in the cubby hole (it was in no way an actual room) resembled a small sofa rather than a bed. Here too there was no space for any extra furniture, but there was no replacement. Compulsory floor-drobe in there then.

The kitchen was split into two rooms: one was simply cupboards with a large beam running through the middle at my face height. A little bit awkward. The other was easier to stand up in, but had the tragic problem of no oven. I pointed this out and Tamara seemed to understand my need for making excessive amounts of cake.

At this point, it was almost certain we wouldn’t get it, but there was one last room to see. The make it or break it room: the bathroom.

We’d been warned before that due to the sloping roof the bathroom was a little on the small side and the shower smaller than usual, but we’d expected something a bit like this:

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In reality it was actually more like this:

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Hulk Break Puny Human Shower!

Literally, it was tiny. You would have had to sit down in the teeny tiny bath space they’d vague offered in compensation. It was the size of a bidet.

So we left, trying not to laugh and wishing it would have been ok to take a picture. Which it wasn’t. And we decided not to go for that flat.

But you never know, soon that overly excited, exclamation mark filled post might appear… Watch this space!

A Recipe for..?

This weekend I spent a FANTASTIC time with one Miss Katie Weaver. Course mate, cat lover and crazy girl.

The weekend was very badly planned with a last minute change in location to Burgos, a city half-way between us which neither of us knew anything about.

Given that I have had a mixed experience on off-the-cuff travelling, I really did expect something to go wrong: one of us would get stranded in the middle of Spain, we’d be unable to find a hostel, we’d get stalked by creepy men…

But actually no. This is why I’m not writing a HUGE post about the weekend, because although we had a fantastic time: heading out for food with nice locals; visiting museums, castles and churches; discussing whether or not dinosaurs were a conspiracy theory (no question, they’re not); everything went according to our non-existent plan. Everything went well and successful. Other than the point I lost my driving license, but lets not talk about that shall we?

For two of our meals, we visiting a chain restaurant called 100 Montaditos, a bar whose speciality is it’s 100 different varieties of teeny-tiny baguette sandwiches. 

Numbers 95-100 are sweet varieties served in delectable chocolate bread, so on my three-hour return bus my mind drifted. How could I make these beauties? I came up with a recipe, which I tried out this evening…

Ingredients:

250g White Bread Flour (minus one tbsp)

1 tbsp Cocoa Powder

1 tbsp Sugar (muscavado if you’ve got it. I didn’t.)

1/2 tsp Salt

Yeast as directed on packet (yeast here comes in sachets for 250g of flour)

30g Butter

200ml Water (although on a repeat try of this I might substitute 50ml for milk)

50g Broken/Chopped Chocolate

Instructions:

Mix together flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl, until combined. Make a well in the middle.

On the stove put 150ml of water in a pan and heat with the butter until the butter melts or water boils, whichever is first.

Pour the liquid into the well of the dry ingredients and mix together into a dough. Add the other 50ml of water (or milk) a bit by bit. Don’t worry if the dough looks a bit soggy, kneading it should rescue it back to bounciness.

Knead for ten minutes, until nice and smooth and doughy, then leave in a greased bowl (either oil or more melted butter). Roll it over, to ensure the dough is covered with oil/butter, then cover with a damp cloth and leave for an hour (or go out for a run, lose track of time and run off to meet a friend and leave it for several hours, it won’t hurt).

When you return if the dough hasn’t risen much as mine hadn’t (due to under-kneading first time round), knead again for a further ten minutes and leave for half an hour to an hour. If it has risen beautifully, skip this step and go on to the next.

Take your beautiful, chocolate brown dough and stretch it out. Sprinkle a pinch of chopped chocolate in the middle and fold and turn. Stretch it out again and repeat. Once all the chocolate is added, continue kneading until its hit ten minutes since you started on the chocolate.

Split the dough into six evenly-sized lumps and roll them into fat sausage shapes. Score a line down the middle of each one with a sharp knife and place them spaced out on a greased baking tray.

Cover them with a cloth and leave to prove for another hour (this bread making lark is slow isn’t it!). Put Love Actually on and relax, until you’re fifty-minutes in (the bit where Keira Knightley comes in with pie and munchies) and then you might want to pre-heat the oven to 220`C.

Wap the buns in the oven ten minutes later (Aurelia says goodbye to Colin Firth) and check them after 10-15 minutes. 

Do the traditional tap to see if the sound hollow and smell the bready-chocolatey goodness. They’re ready. 

I let mine cool in the oven and I’m just about to bring them out…

Slice and serve warm with strawberries and cream, nutella and oreos or just a bit of butter.

Que aproveches!

Tough crust, but I think they taste ok… More sugar, less baking time. Let me know what you think!

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Katie really enjoyed spending time with me…ImageImageImage

GNR

A rather quick post…

I am going to run the Great North Run.

It is something I have wanted to do since I was twelve. Running my first Junior Great North Run, back when it was still CBBC sponsored and I was on the Red Team, lead by Tracy Beaker. This made the experience even better as I loved reading and was at the height of my Jacqueline Wilson stage, going even so far as to have the character themed diary.

I loved running and I was on the school cross country team at the time, being one of the first if not the first competitive activity I had really excelled in. I was year 7 district champion and on the county team, something I was oh-so-proud of. 

That summer had been the 2004 Olympics in Athens and who should have been my idol: of course Kelly Holmes, double gold medalist! Athletics wasn’t really my thing as the rule was you had to do two out of track, field and relay and I could not (and still cannot throw or jump to save my life). I was relegated to our relay team of one-hit rejects, needless to say we did not do well. I still remember the first race when I lacked even the coordination to pass the baton correctly and between me and Dani (I think) we got the team disqualified.

However, Ms Holmes did one further thing that year. She ran the 1km race in Newcastle the same day as the Junior event. It was amazing to even see her.

So why haven’t I run the half marathon sooner? 

I did apply the year I turned 17 and therefore eligible to run, but unfortunately the charity I wanted to run for, Project Trust (oh  look Gap Yah mk I comes into it again!), didn’t have any spaces so I had to go into the ballot. Of course, in the biggest half marathon and running festival in the world, it was unlikely I would get to take part, but all the same I was gutted when my place was rejected. 

The further cutting remark, although meant kindly was that I was guarranteed a place the following year. I hope whoever took that place enjoyed it as I was in Thailand. The year after, I had not run for most of the year and to be honest what with gap-yearing the whole idea was wiped from my mind until I properly took up running again in May.

I did almost sign up this year, but charity fundraising deadlines were fast approaching and the idea of suddenly raising £350 in a fortnight, although feasible, was going to be more stress than it was worth. As was going to be carrying on running whilst I was in Canada for a month.

So now I’m going to do it. My first run in Spain has jolted that desire, I’m going to do it. Next year is The Year. Not that I’ve signed up yet, but I will. 

Be prepared for a post in 6 months when I’ve signed up for the London Marathon too…

To close, a nice little picture of Spain, of where I’ve just run:

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New North Wales

Its hard not to compare experiences, in fact quite often that’s what helps you categorise new things in your life. For instance last week I decided Spanish tuna in a jar was ok because:

Tuna steak > Jar tuna > Tinned tuna

But when you come to bigger things, maybe its not such a sensible idea. Of course the obvious thing for me to compare my whole gap year year abroad experiences to is my year in Thailand (sorry I will keep going on about that), and something about that makes me feel rather uncomfortable. I am desperate to read my Thailand diaries, but on the other hand I find it quite fortunate that my weight limit wouldn’t allow me to fit anything more than the bare essentials (clothes, research notes, climbing gear, seven pairs of shoes…). I feel as if I would be checking up to see whether I’m doing this the ‘right way’ when really there is none. The ‘right way’ as such is to enjoy myself and hopefully at some point do my research. And spending 90% of the time being utterly confused is all part of the exhilarating adventure and the reason I chose my course.

But there is another comparison I have been coming up with: a useful tool for explaining where abouts in Spain I am without the use of a map (no The Basque Country is not in Cataluña!!)

I am currently living in the Spanish version of Wales. Yes Wales.

Firstly because of the language. Basque is to Castillian Spanish, what Welsh is to English: entirely unintelligible. I will be teaching in a Basque speaking school, which is the same idea of a Spanish person coming to the UK and ending up in a Welsh speaking school in deepest darkest Anglesey. Or somewhere like that. The only difference is that I haven’t found a word as awesome as ‘popdeping’. Yet.

Secondly, the climate. It rained last night and yesterday morning! Which isn’t very much to be honest, but I’ve been lead to believe that I am in the cold and wet area of the country (all the better for my weak ginger skin). This leads to the general look of the place: everywhere I’ve been in Spain before has been something of a dessert. But here! Green mountains, green trees, green grass. I went for a walk yesterday and the only thing to keep me believing that I wasn’t in Wales was the temperature and lack of sheep! Seriously, picture a cloudless sky in Wales and paint the houses white and you’ve got here.

Politically as well, The Basque Country has its own government a bit like Wales does as well as having its own nationalist movement. I’ve got to say I know very little on this subject, but it just means I presume all graffiti I can’t understand is some sort of racist propaganda telling me to go back to where I belong.

Lastly, there is the regional animal. To identify themselves with their home region, many Basques adorn their cars with stickers of this animal (and in one case, rudely positioned stickers) and what else should it be but la oveja: The Sheep. I wish I was joking!

It nicely finishes off the comparison, so therefore I re-christen this land New North Wales.

NB: New South Wales was taken, and we’ll just ignore that the Basque are the oldest civilisation in Europe. Old Wales doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

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