Author: Tamara

Some goodies for Christmas

Shops, bakeries and Christmas markets are fulfilled by a seductive fragrance! Delicious cookies sweeten the time until Christmas Eve in every year. The tradition of baking for festivals goes back to pre-Christian times. Cookies “flat-shaped cakes” – are probably the most popular Christmas sweets. Whether outrivaled, modelling, splattering, manually – decorated or pure – the main intention 2015 is called homemade. 

The short pastry is diverse and offers, next to gingerbread, stollen and Co., one of the tastiest delights of the year. We put together some of our favorites and didn’t want to give up a German classic.

Vanilla croissant: sweet goodie of shortcrust

ingredients for a normal portion

  • 300g flour
  • 200g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g powdered almond
  • 1 yellow of an egg

for decorating: vanilla- and sugar powder

Mixing flour and butter to a dough. Add sugar and almonds. Quickly add the yellow of the egg and knead the mass. Now put the dough into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Afterwards form the cold dough as half moons (like croissants) and spread them on a baking tray with baking paper. Meanwhile, preheat the oven and cake the croissants at 150°C until they turn golden yellow. Mixing the sugar powder and vanilla sugar to rotate the fresh croissants in it.

Another option is to add some dried fruits- such as cranberries- to the dough to get a more fruity taste.

Cinnamon stars 

  • 190g sugar powder
  • 100g powdered almond
  • 200g powdered nuts
  • 2 white of egg
  • 1 ts cinnamon
  • some lemon juice

Whisk the white of egg and sugar powder stiff into an icing. Put apart about 1/3 of the rest. Mix the remaining icing with the other ingredients (but initially only 100g nuts). Important, do not fold in with an eggbeater but with a spoon. Knead everything. Arrange the remaining nuts on a baking sheet, place the rolled dough (nearly 8-10cm) on it and cut out some star. Put the stars on a baking sheet with baking paper and generously coat them with the remaining icing. Now cake them for about 10-12 minutes at 150°C.

Homemade hot spiced wine

  • 750ml white wine dry
  • 750ml Rosé
  • 1500ml red wine dry
  • 300g sugar
  • respectively 1 untreated lemon and orange
  • 2 bars of cinnamon
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 star anise

Put all the different types of wine in a large pot and warm them slowly. Important, do not cook the wine! Cut lemon and orange into slices. Add lemon, orange and spices to the wine. Put in the sugar little by little.

Spirits such as Cointreau, brown Rum or Amaretto give a special flavor to the wine.

Christmas shopping in Catalonia – Barcelona.Girona.Figueres .

Christmas is just around the corner and the weeks until December 24th put retailing in a state of emergency. Therefore time for us to start some tours through the shopping arcades of Catalonia.

decorated shop windows

Christmas decoration in the shop windows

 

Barcelona

Not that much reminds of Christmas in early December. The Passeig de Gràcia is enlighted by sunlight, cafés are pretty well attended. Only a few shop windows are already decorated festively.

Shop decoration for Christmas

Shop details

Merely an inconsiderable Christmas tree seems to be a popular eye-catcher for the numerous tourists. Only the well-known department store chain El Corte Inglés conjures a little Christmas charm. The facade is adorned with pretty luminous star. In the inside you walk through some kind of a tinsel rain – surrounded by poinsettias and Christmas trees.

First bargains can be found very well. The neighbouring streets are also preparing to the Advent season. The El Corte Inglés is an all-rounder for Christmas gifts and bargains. From jewelry to clothes, perfume, accessories and decoration you may espy easily the perfect gift for your loved ones. The small streets around La Rambla also offer original treasures outside of mass consumption. Get ready for the shopping adventure!

Girona 

The provincial capital offers a variety of options to tune into high days and holidays. Small alleys of the old town are lovingly decorated for Christmas and the numerous little shops woo passersby with goodies from the region.

Rocambolesc ice

The fantastic ice-cream of Rocambolesc is always worth a taste

Shop windows are a sign of pre-Christmas period. Cosy strolling along the colorful houses, which extend to both sides of the river Onyar, and a walk along the stands of the Christmas market which offers unique pieces of arts can be perfectly combined with a bit of culture: the Cathedral of Santa María as the largest gothic arch in the world is always worth to visit. A selfie for some Christmas greeting would be a good idea, right?

Figueres 

Streets of Figueres

Streets of Figueres are already decorated for Christmas

The birthplace of the famous surrealist Salvador Dalí is a real attraction for visitors, not only due to the Salvador Dalí Museum. During the festive season, the small town near the French border also attracts with comfortable shopping. The alleys around Plaça Ajuntament illuminate in festive Christmas decoration. Shop windows are glittering seductively while Christmas market stands offer delicacy and crafts. The smell of marron glacé sweetens the air. Perfect requirements to enjoy the surrounding and shop a little surprise for family and friends.

About

We don’t need to talk that much. Just one thing- it was love at first side. The legendary Costa Brava – the „rough coast“ – was fascinating right from the beginning. It is particularly known for it’s extravagant artists, characterized by beautiful villages, delicious food and a Mediterranean climate. Us- which means Birgit, André and Joe. In 2001 we decided to leave Germany and follow our hearts towards Catalonia.

Our blog is some kind of a diary, which takes you on a journey every single day. For those who can’t get enough of the Mediterranean south. Not enough of the ocean. Of arts and culture. Great landscapes. And a better quality of life. ¡Pásalo bien!

Begur- beautiful facades and a perfect day in october

It is the end of october, the last chance to visit the popular crafts market and little shops in beautiful Begur which open for the last time of the season. After the winter break takes place in the region.

Towards the sun

Already my way up from Torroella de Fluvià to the historic village is fantastic. Sun shines insatiable today. The sky is gloriously blue. I open the sunroof of the car. Heat surrounds me and I take a deep breath to feel the warm wind. The winding roads are lined with pine-trees. At the horizon mountains melt into the sea. October couldn’t give me a more perfect day.

enlighted lanes in Begur

sunshine enlightens every little lane

Reaching the parking-lot, leave my car and enter the almost deserted streets.It makes me feel good. Shafts of sunlight blaze a trail between the houses. I’m on my way to Plaça de la Vila- the historic center.

Historical center in a perfect location

Perhaps the most popular town’s landmark are defense towers which are up to twelve metre. They were originally built in the Middle Ages.

defence tower

defence tower behind the Plaça de la Vila

Obviously, the centre of Begur has been spruced up for tourism through the years. But it didn’t decrease the historical character of the village. While nowadays the more exclusive tourism is dominating the economic, locals form the past primarily lived by the sale of corals. Later it was cork.  After the cork industry collapsed many locals were forced to displace their lives to South America. By coming into economic wealth they decided to come back to Spain. The so called „Indianos“ influenced the contemporary architecture in Begur by building mansions in a colonial caribbean style. “Casas de Indianos“ are already decorating the cityscape.

Once in Begur you should make the effort and climb up the castle hill. The fantastic view up to the point of the coast recovers all damages. The most obvious advantage of Begur is its perfect position. Surrounded by numerous hills – Massís de Begur – and a long coastal path it is a comfortable location above the Cap de Begur and Cap sa Sal.

The smell of cotton candy

caramelized nuts and cotton candy

smell of caramelized nuts and cotton candy sugars the air

Plaça de la Vila blazes in the sunshine. A market stand sweetens the air with caramelized nuts and cotton candy. Families are strolling around. Halloween is near by. The perfect occasion for children to put on some creepy make-up masks and enjoy the various sweets to the fullest. Market stands are rarely spread this weekend. But those few attended offer pretty little things from clothes to cosmetics and natural foods. Some of the little stores open for the last time during this season and give a special sale to their product line.

jewellery in Begur

different types of jewellery on the market stands

But the real attention on this day applies to only one: the sun. Almost everywhere people bask in the warming sunshine. Talking, laughing and drinking coffee. The small cafes are completely filled. Taking this opportunity to stock on some souvenirs for family and friends. The charming little lanes cry out to be explored. Baroque lanterns. Caribbean colonial style decorate faces of buildings .Olive trees dancing in the sunshine. Who doesn’t get enough of beautiful villages à la Begur should visit the nearby Pals. Similarly to Begur you will find nice houses and streets, cafes and shops.

floating people in Begur

people floating through the pretty little alleys

I enjoy the bustle of the market. Enjoying an iced coffee in the sun is my personal topping on an already perfect day …

Catalonias all-rounder – rice (arroz)

Tradition and modernity

What is your first impression when hearing the term rice? Asia? South America? Paella?

Exactly – but was anybody thinking of Catalonia? Because you definitely should! Catalonia is not only known for its beautiful Costa Brava or world-famous footballers. It is also known for its extraordinary cuisine and its excellent rice which grows in the region for centuries. The municipality of Pals is one of the most visited places in the interior of the Costa Brava and mostly estimated for its rice cultivation. Specific conditions such as the smooth climate, plenty of sunlight, fresh water and long experience of the rice farmers are the foundation for an excellent reputation, even outside of Spain.

bounded rice-plant

The rice will be collected after harvesting

 

From wetlands into worldwide cuisines

Between mosses and water mouths of the rivers Fluvià, Ter and Muga it was able to create a tradition since the 15th century. Even at that time the product was of high availability and could be used for a plenty of dishes. Presently, Pals shelters three producers of rice who cultivate a total of seven different types. About 7 million kg of the rice produced in this region are marketed. Especially the varieties Teure and Bahia are bestsellers. Of which importance the grain is for the community is shown by the extra created gastronomic campaign during the months of March and April. Chefs of the most renowned restaurants add their personal touch to traditional rice dishes. On top of that the cereal is very healthy, nutritious and gluten-free. Rice is rich in carbs and can be served as a starter, main course or dessert as well as savoury or sweet. It’s simply an all-rounder of the Catalan and international cuisine.

Arroz de Pals – Riceharvest in Pals

Rice-farmer of Pals

Farmer with a traditional catalan headdress

The process of rice cultivation almost begins in the months of May and June, when the corn get´s planted. During summertime it now has time to mature to be harvested in mid-October with skilful handles. For the small community of Pals it is important to maintain the crop in the most possible traditional way. Mechanization doesn´t matter. Quite the contrary – horses are still an integral part of transporting the harvested rice plants.

Horse and its farmer

Horse and farmer are ready for takeoff

A small party for the local press and those who are interested in rice harvest get´s celebrated at every end of the year. Even this year – on 17 October – at the farm of Carles Mas de Pals. Nearly 200 visitors participated in different workshops.

Baskets in Pals

Baskets on the little market in Pals

A little market offers some in-house products like sweets, traditional basketry and of course the famous rice. But what would a rice festival be without a common meal? A cosy lunch between hay bales and cookware was perfect to enjoy the variety of rice and varied tasty ingredients.

Lonely streets and the smell of late summer

streets and gaps of Pals

Beautiful streets and gaps in Pals

Pals doesn´t only offer unique properties. It’s the perfect mixture of idyllic city life and living close to the beach which makes it special. Due to the fact we are close anyway, we decide to visit the beautiful centre. During summer tourists urge through the winding streets in droves. We are fortunate. Although some passersby are still in town it is really quiet. Scent of lavender is in the air. Sun is shining. The few opened cafés are well attended. It feels like the perfect late summer day. We also enjoy a café con leche in the sun before we continue towards the viewpoint. Along the way we stroll through some of the varied shops. Jewelry, ceramics, clothing. Pretty treasures nearly everywhere. Once on top of the viewpoint you can enjoy a fantastic look to the sea and to the Bay of Montgrí. Without the obligatory provisions we can´t leave Pals . So we get us a couple of Magdalenas. The muffin-like pastries are available in various flavors. From almond and apple to chocolate-nut, lemon and yogurt or classical jam. We´re in heaven and ready for our way home …

For the small and large appetites – traditional rice dishes

Rice is healthy, versatile and one of the most commonly consumed foods in the world. Paella is probably the best known traditional meal in Spain. However Spanish cuisine offers a far greater variety of rice dishes. No limits of imagination. We have prepared our two most

Traditional Paella

Traditional Paella

popular rice recipes and hope you like them as much as we do. Try your own combinations and enjoy! ¡Buen provecho!

Rice in a casserole

What you need for about four persons:

  • 600g rice
  • 400g ripe tomatoes
  • a large potato
  • about 2 medium eggs
  • Cloves of garlic to taste
  • 4 large (sharp) peppers
  • about 2kg different kinds of fish
  • parsley, salt and olive oil

Preparation: first put 2-3 peppers for a few minutes in a pan, then remove from the pan and mash. The fish heads (you can also take parts of fillets) now put in the same oil, simmer briefly, add the tomatoes and the crushed peppers. Now put in the parsley, crush the garlic and the remaining peppers together. Cook the rest of the fish in a pan and mix it with the other ingredients, boil for about half an hour. Then drain. Now the rice is cooked in the separated fish soup. Meanwhile, the potato can be mashed together with a clove of garlic and added to the rice with the egg yolk- mix well! It is now important to stir constantly. Add oil and salt for your individual taste. After another short cooking serve everything in a casserole. Best, top with aioli.

Arroz Negro (black squid risotto)

What you need for 4-6 persons:

  • 600g rice
  • 1.25 L fish stock
  • 0.5 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
  • two ripe tomatoes (grated)
  • some parsley
  • half a kilo of squid or jibia
  • paprika, olive oil and salt
  • paella pan

Preparation: put a little salt and oil into the paella pan. When oil is hot add the onion and fry at low heat until it turns golden brown. Afterwards add the squid, a little later the garlic and tomatoes- let it cook for some minutes. Fill in the paprika and some parsley. Smoothly stir the ingredients so that the squid releases its ink. Finally add the rice, fry everything easy and put in the fish. Cook everything strongly for about five minutes and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Make your own tasting with salt.

Pyrenees and Costa Brava- Horses, Castles and monuments

Espinavell

We take a step out of the house. The first impression is simply breathtaking. Sun rises up at the sky of the Costa Brava. Pictorial Pyrenees in the background. The smell of firewood creeps into our nose. Early in the morning we start from Torroella de Fluvià towards Espinavell to experience the annual horse-drift down from the mountains. The path takes us through stunning mountain scenery and small villages high up in the Pyrenees. Passing Besalú and Olot we stop in Camprodon. Crusty bread and delicious cheese of the region get packed. A traditional Catalan ´Coca´ with a sugar hood sweetens the rest of our way. Slowly moving forward to Espinavell we cross red-colored vine. Brightly colored trees are lining the serpentines. Only a few spots are still green. Autumn is knocking on.

Tria de Mulats- the traditional horse-drift

Horses running down the hills

Horses going downhill to Espinavell

We are moving forward to Mollo- a little municipality right in the pyrenees. For those who are afraid to ride the cliffy street up to Espinavell on their own buses are made available. We follow the numerous people up to the parking lot with our own car. Mud covers the floor and makes it pretty difficult to reach the parking lot. After several attempts we finally succeed. Crowds immediately passing us to the fairground. Many locals got dressed up for this special event. Every year on the day of St. Edward – 13 October – retailers and animal lovers meet to experience the traditional horse-drift in Espinavell. The little village seems do be in a state of emergency. Families, school classes and even tourists don´t want to miss the local spectacle. After months on the meadows, high up in the Pyrenees, horses and foals now get handed over to their owners or buyers. With concentrated power herds storming down the slope. The gathered crowd gives a brawly applause to „man and beast“.

Artesania- the colorful market

Olives in Espinavell

Delicious olives on a market stand

We stroll along the many market stalls. From traditional products of animal husbandry to sweet and savory delicacies of own production- everyone is able to find something. You definitely should take a walk up to the centre of the small romantic mountain village Espinavell. You will enjoy a fantastic panoramic view up there. A warming catalan coffee is irreplaceable. Later on the most beautiful horses will be awarded by an expert jury.

Horses grazing

View down to the horses and fairground

Free wild life on the mountain meadows with delicious wild herbs is over by now. When the last snow thawed and the spring sun attracts the first flowers in the next year the horses will be back in the highlands. The festival lasts until the evening. Many take advantage of the culinary coffer to enjoy a delicious lunch at the unique restaurant of Espinavell. For us it´s time to move towards the French border.

French Impressions

The french border is only half an hour to go and we use the afternoon to visit the neighboring country. Enjoying picturesque landscapes and charming little villages with a typical French atmosphere. From Ceret over to Le Boulou the way leads us back near the coast to Collioure. Even in mid-october the small colorful artist-village is still well attended. Since Henri Matisse and his fellow artist André Derain discovered the sleepy fishing village in 1904 it is considered as a „mecca of art“. Red roof tiles. Ornate balcony railings. Blue shutters. Pastel-colored facades. Winding streets. Steep staircases. Ancient fortresses. Different kind of boats in the harbor. All that details form a picturesque backdrop and beautiful holiday memories. So, no wonder that even the kings of Majorca were huge supporters of the village and used the castle – now a museum – as their summer residence.

Castle in Collioure

Former castle of the Majorcan kings

We stroll through the small village center, browse through small boutiques and delicatessens. Enjoying a cappuccino and the view to the harbor before we go back on the road towards Spanish border. Vines now dominate the surrounding landscape.

We are in the middle of Roussillon and drive through the wine-growing region of Banyuls. A wine of Banyuls may remind you of a good port wine, characterized by intense flavors of honey, dried fruits and vanilla.

Unlimited

Further along the coast we are now back in the direction of Spain. No barrier, no fence, no border post market the crossover from France to Spain these days. Once upon a time many refugees killed themselves across the Pyrenees because they had no way out.

Memorial of Walter Benjamin

Memorial of Walter Benjamin in Portbou

We stop near Portbou to take a look at the Walter Benjamin Memorial which is called “passages”. This was designed in 1994 by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan in memory of the philosopher Walter Benjamin. “The Temporary, short duration” describes his escape from the Gestapo in an impressive way and which ended tragically. The quote of Benjamin at the end of the tunnel high above the sea is even more relevant: „It is heavier to honor the memory of the nameless than the famous. The memory of the nameless is therefor dedicated by the historical construction.“

Thoughtfully we continue towards Figueres.  The contrasts of mountains and rugged coastline captivates us. Flora and fauna show themselves in their most beautiful way. Winter seems still far away. But the first migratory birds already landed on the Mediterranean. The last tourists soon leave the beaches. Hibernation is coming.

The many impressions of today will be with us for a long time…