Survival game: How to outlive the Spanish summer

“We’re going to Spain for vacation. Awesome!!!”

Yeah, right. But you didn’t know you’d have to face an unbearable temperature with hot wind blazing on your face like an oven.  Especially if you’re travelling in August, get ready to get roasted like popcorn. Madre mía, hace un calor que te mueres… (Simple translation: the heat is unbearable).That, tourist pamphlets won’t tell you about it. So, Super Nuna is here to save the day!

The following advice also works if you’ve just settled down in the country and are learning the ropes of the local life. (I’m sharing with you all I wished to have been told earlier).

Here are some few things to consider when travelling to Spain in summer:

Schedule your outings to go outside at cooler hours

Want to take a stroll with some friends and enjoy the painting like landscape and its sunlight? No problem at all. You might just want to make sure you either go a bit early in the morning, or in late afternoon. In my town for example, the “most blazing hours” are between 4pm to 6pm more or less, so program your outing consequently to avoid unnecessary heat exposure. Don’t worry, the sun sets late (around 10pm) so you have all the time in the world.

Lower your curtains and close your windows

Yes; as funny as it may sound, that is the best way to keep your house cooler in this country and prevent the hot wind from choking you at home. Like a vampire in a bunker, we live in darkness during day hours and open back everything when the sun sets. Truthfully, this custom was funny to me because I am from a tropical country and there, we rather do the contrary. You have to open the windows as wide as possible… So I was quite skeptical when the locals told me about the closing alternative, and left my windows open. Then I went out of my room to realize that the rest of the flat that was closed up was way cooler… I learnt my lesson.

“Ice age hydration” required

If you’re taking a water bottle, freeze it. It will last longer, and frankly, warm water is not so agreeable to drink when it’s 45°C.

The early bird “cooks” the worm

Cook early in the mornings or in the evenings to avoid accumulating heat in the house. You don’t want to stir a saucepan while feeling dizzy. Like the natives, also include in your diet cold dishes like salad, or gazpacho (etc).

Check the opening hours of your favourite shops

Most shops and establishments reduce their working hours or even close for days. Especially during the month of August, many locals leave their habitual residences to stay at neighbouring towns with mountains and beaches. “Cerrado por vacaciones” (closed for vacation), you might come across that signboard on many doors, so do check the schedule of your favourite shop and prepare in consequence to avoid surprises.

Happy vacations y’all, and see you in my next post!

Nuna Blomevi

It’s not all about paella: discover more dishes from Spanish menus (Part II)

Hola CTTBies! Howdie?

In my last post I began a “profound”  journey, diving into Spanish cuisine. Today we’ll conclude with part II! In this article, we’ll be looking at some common items that are served in restaurants, or eaten at home.

In one of my previous posts, I discussed the Spanish custom of taking  strolls and spending a lot of time outside. I also talked about tapeo, which is going from restaurant to restaurant eating snacks. Because of that, many items on the local menus are designed to be quick, “portable” while remaining delectable.

Common home ingredients or restaurant items

Fideuá

It’s a sort of “pasta version” of paella. I’m personally not too fond of vermicelli in general (because of the texture), but the taste is good!

Huevos rotos

It’s a combination of fried eggs, potatoes and ham. Fun fact: in Spanish, the name means “broken eggs”.

Patatas bravas

Simple yet satisfying, this pommes sautées dish is topped with a colorful, delicious intertwining alliance of aioli sauce and a special, slightly spicy “ salsa brava” (some restaurants use ketchup instead).  It’s a perfect choice for a quick but savory and filling dinner.

Croquetas

Looking cute and lovely, they are crunchy on the outside yet soft, creamy, on the inside . A perfect match!

 They are usually stuffed with ham or mushrooms.

Bocadillos

¡Señoras y señores, más pan! (Ladies and gentlemen, more bread!)

Aside from potatoes, Spaniards eat a lot of baguette as well. Anything that can fit in it is good to go. There are therefore a variety of stuffings: chicken breast, chorizo, bell pepper, etc… Ta-da! A sandwich is born. I love how they are generously filled until they can’t hold it in again; it’s a nice way to show love to customers!

The most baffling combination for me is baguette stuffed with a piece of tortilla de patata (potato omelette)Nice, but too much carbs at once (in my opinion)… Anyway! If it fits in the mouth, then it’s fine.

Calamares rebozados

I love these squid rings. Crispy, stretchy and delicious, they have everything to make me happy.

Just a by-the-way joke: I still remember the day I munched into a similar meal, just to realize they were onion rings. Moral of the story: onion rings and squid rings should not be confused.

Tapas

Tapas is anything that qualifies as a snack (based on the cook’s opinion). The requirement: be small in size.

From mini skewers to battered shrimp, majority of tapas are made of a slice of bread topped up with some salad, or a piece of meat, fish vegetables with some dressing.

Churros

Crunchy and cracky, It is a very common snack sold at any time of the day. On demand, it can be accompanied by a cup of thick, smooth hot chocolate a la taza.

Jamón

The Spanish national treasure that they cannot live (and even leave anywhere) without.

Gazpacho and Salmorejo

Eaten cold, the two following dishes are soups made of blended vegetables (mainly tomatoes, bread, oil and garlic). They’re really popular in summer when the heat wave strikes and one doesn’t feel like cooking with the stove making the house even hotter. Nevertheless, they’re eaten all year long ; they aren’t exclusively summer-specific.

Migas

Made of bread crumbs savored up with some chorizo, they’re one of the specialities of the autonomous community of Aragón.

Arroz con leche

A widely spread dessert, this sweet rice porridge is cooked with milk and flavoured with an exotic touch of cinnamon.

Those that cause international arguments

Queso y vino

Some say the French ones are best, others say the Spanish ones are best. I like both. I consume the product of the country I’m in.  Simple.

Though I must say that French pastry wins over the Spanish one. I said it! Now I’m out.

Take care, and see you in my next post!

Nuna Blomevi

It’s not all about paella: discover more dishes from Spanish menus (Part I)

Hola CTTBies!

It’s time for a new article! Today I’m going to focus on the Spanish cuisine. Just like the title says, paella may somewhat be the most popular dish internationally, but there are other  foods that are very appreciated locally. I divided this first part about the mentioned topic into the three following categories.

Vamos a comer! (Let’s eat)

1. My favorites of all times

Arroz negro

It’s rice made with squid ink and shrimps. Aside from seafood paella, this is my second rice-based recipe. I imagine you might be curious about the taste if you’ve never tried it. Hmmm… How to put it? It’s nothing out of the world, it only tasted very… seafoody. (Sounds like a bad joke, but I’m serious). It’s just the color that is particular. 

Tortilla de patata

Lika a Pacman made with potatoes and eggs fried together (some add onions), forming a cute yellow “cake”, this little guy stole my heart when I first came. It’s quick to cook and goes well with other “side characters” like salad or bread.

Chorizo

Made of pork meat and paprika, This lovely dried sausage goes well with a lot of meals. Sliced in thin rondelles, it comfortably rests down between bread layers for a tasty sandwich.  Diced, it flavors up your soups. At the beginning, I must say that I got highly addicted and suffered from withdrawal syndrome when I was out of Spain (it may be found in supermarkets abroad but nothing beats the local taste). Curiously, I don’t crave it much nowadays because I feel full already when I see lots of it while doing the grocery.

Ensaladilla rusa

Surprise! It’s… potato salad. Despite its foreign name,  this meal has fully settled down in Spanish menus and is often present during informal gatherings. Usual ingredients are potato, olives, tuna, some sausage or york ham covered with tons and tons of mayonnaise. An awesome treat.

Now that we’re done with my favorites, let’s look at the next category. 

2. The meditaranean “quick fixes” that save you when you don’t want to cook

Prickles, prickles and more prickles

Sold in traditional grocery  stores like Martín Martín ,  there is a lot of variety.  Shallots, cucumbers, olives, octopus, anchovies, eels,  shrimps floating in special seasonings and vinegar.  Of course, their canned version also exists in supermarkets but it has less glamour,  so I left that for the end.

3. Those important guests that must not be absent from the table

Baguette 

I’m always amazed about how anxious Spaniards are to make sure there’s bread on the table whenever I eat outside or I get invited for a meal. In restaurants, no matter what you order, they add bread alongside (except for dessert, of course). If you go for lunch and the host forgot to get some, he might get ansty and make you sit to go buy it before he serves.

It’s a tradition I don’t get too much, but well, I adjust myself. I’m a simple woman: I see food, I eat. Bread is food, so I eat it, why not.

Coffee

After eating, your Spanish host or waiter will surely ask you if you’d like some coffee. They usually have it while doing sobremesa, which is sitting at the table and chatting for hours (it’s a bit exaggerated, I confess) while digesting. 

Such a wonderful country…

In my coming article, I will continue with more local dishes in the Spanish menus. Stay tuned! Don’t forget to like and share!

Warm regards and see you in my next post,

Nuna Blomevi

Disclaimer: pictures from the Internet ; no copyright infringements intended

Spring and Window Shopping in Spain: Malls and Fashion trends

Hola Cttbies!

¿Qué tal? (How are you?)

It’s spring! (At long last). The weather is great here (an average of 20°C). The spring breeze is so sweet here, and the birds chirp so beautifully during the day!

On the other hand, it’s also good if you’d like to have a quiet trip, because there is less touristic affluence and hassle. I must say, the best months to visit Spain are March to early June, or September to mid November.  In summer it’s too hot, especially in August the temperature goes up to 40°C , and there blows a hot wind from the desert that is completely unbearable; in December to January it’s too cold and windy, not the best time either. All year long, it’s like the god of fire and the god of ice fight all year long in Zaragoza.

Busking at Paseo IIndependencia, one of the main streets in Zaragoza’s town center.

From 24°C to 11°C on the same day,  Spring is the time of what I call “quitaipón de ropa” (remove and wear clothes). Temperatures in my town are very unstable, with very high differences in intervals. at one moments you’re sweating buckets and at another, you’re freezing. The wind here (the infamous “Cierzo”) is mortal so you can catch a cold if you let your guard off.  It’s advised to take a light coat with you even if you don’t end up wearing it. Yesterday on my way home, I couldn’t walk properly because the Cierzo kept pushing me from behind. That’s how strong it is!

When the weather gets warm like this, I feel like I’m reviving after a long slumber. I’m in a good mood nowadays, and so are many others, seeing how the streets are busy with plenty of people. The covid 19 incidences have lowered so the authorities lessened the restrictions.

What a better way to celebrate than to go to window shopping or visit a mall?

I am mostly working from home nowadays, so every chance to go out is fine. I met up with a friend and we paid a visit to Puerto Venecia, the most beautiful shopping center in Zaragoza. Built in 2012, it caught the hearts of thousands of buyers and even caused the death of one of its predecessors, Plaza Imperial Mall, which was deserted. Puerto Venecia is bigger, more beautiful, closer in distance and even has a pond with Koi fishes. Sorry, you can’t beat that. The other malls luckily survived because they’re close to the town center and, very importantly, because one can’t go to the same mall all the time. We humans need variety…

This time, I only went window shopping because the economy is kind of low (Ahem). My heart was breaking as I saw all those beautiful things from afar… But still, I had a lot of fun. Actually, I’ve never laughed so much at clothes in my life. The fashion here is a bit peculiar, usually a lot of colours with a touch of eccentricity. Trend wise here, youth clothing is gradually turning Kpop-inspired or anime-inspired. It seems kanjis and dragons are in season. and nowadays, teens here are into colourful bob cuts or “anime skirts” (my bad, I don’t know the exact name).

In the perpetual quest for creativity, some brands went a bit overboard this year. I took some pictures of the clothing I found the most bizarre… Ahem… striking (pictures below). After a long, harsh year, maybe they’re trying to lift our mood… I’ll just take it that way. I just hope they’re confortable to wear…

Is it Spring where you live as well? How is it in your country?

Warm regards, and wishing you a wonderful week!

Spanish ravishing strolls: discovering the city of Zaragoza

Hola CTTBies!

I hope we are all doing well, and that we’re all safe!

In today’s post I will be sharing more about an important aspect of Spanish social life: the art of taking strolls. I’m also taking you on a visual tour of Zaragoza, the town were I live!

In a previous post, I mentioned that Spaniards spend a lot of time in social interactions, and therefore, it’s very common to come across “improvised hangouts”. It does not necessarily refer to parties or meetings over meals. Spaniards also spend a lot of time outside their flats, walking, chatting or just having fresh air. Their cities are designed for that purpose. For example, in my town Zaragoza, there are a lot of public spaces of various sizes: parks, squares, green spaces or playgrounds between buildings. There are always public benches on every street. You can see families with kids, lovey-dovey couples, young people chatting with their friends, eating snacks or listening to music, or old people getting fresh air. It was really funny for me to that even the University’s park is visited for the same purposes and even to walk their dogs. 

They also go for “tapeo” which is going from bar to bar eating “tapas” (snacks or hors d’œuvre) and having a drink.

On weekends, after church, I like walking home. I sometimes take a detour to enjoy the view. There are days when my  friends tag along. We walk, enjoy the view, sit or squat somewhere for a while, there continue wherever our feet lead us too. If we’re hungry, we go to any supermarket nearby and grab some snacks to keep us company. My town is small and very safe, so we stay out until our legs give out (before Covid-19 started, sometimes till 1 or 2 am ).

There’s always something new to discover, or things that capture our attention… We have a local saying here: “Zaragoza te enamora” (Zaragoza makes you fall in love). Indeed, I have been here for years, but it is constantly fascinating.

After the Filomena snowstorm left us covered in white, San Valero’s strong wind gushes nearly blew us away, and now… Valentine came with love in its wings. The weather is pretty more merciful these days. We’re transitioning to spring so the average max. temperature is 14°C.

As it’s getting warmer and warmer, talking strolls around the city becomes even more agreeable. It is pure goodness to see the trees bloom and to feel the sweet rays of the sun slowly warming up… I love Spanish Spring very much, I feel like I‘m reviving after the harsh winter.

I know it’s still far, but as the tropical bird that I am, I can’t wait for summer to come.

Warm regards,

Nuna Blomevi.

“Expo” Zone

Valdesparterra” and “Arcosur” residential areas

I recorded traces of the Filomena snowstorm on my Youtube channel

Spanish Holidays: Celebrating San Valero

Hola CTTBies!

This weekend we celebrated Saint Valerius Day -Valero in Spanish- the patron of Zaragoza. More festivities! Long Live Spain! Hurray! Feliz día de San Valero, rosconero y ventolero ! (I’m flexing my linguistic skills). I said in my previous article that this post would be quirk… I’ll skip the conventional way of describing commemorations and just write it my own way (already grinning out of excitement). There I go!

Background story: Spain is an exclusively Catholic nation (official stats say 90% of the population, but truth is, many don’t really believe or they hardly go to church. Anyway… I’m just saying). The country is divided into different regions called “autonomous communities”. They are all independent, it kind of works like the federal states in the US. Each of them is also divided in provinces. So, I live in the autonomous community of Aragon, in the province of Zaragoza. Each province has a patron, which is a saint that is dedicated to them. So, Zaragoza’s patron is Valero, who was a bishop some centuries ago.

San Valero (picture retrieved from the Internet)

Personally, I have observed that religious events here don’t exactly hold a pious connotation among the population, especially the younger generations. They’re more perceived as an occasion to eat and be merry (99% party, 1% devotion). I was shocked that the biggest outdoor concerts are held at the city’s main square, right in front of the town’s biggest cathedral…

Why it is celebrated: Now, this funny. There are holidays where even the natives don’t know what the occasion is about. The feeling is just like: “Fiesta! Another day off! We get to stay home or hang out, hurray!”. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, here every good excuse is an approved reason to relax and lounge around. As a foreigner, I have fully adapted to the local habits… 

So, I’ve been here for years, but I still don’t know why we celebrate San Valero. The only half-convincing answer I got was: “Oh, it’s because he’s our patron”. So I was like “yeah, what the heck did he do for that to happen, I mean, any great accomplishment?” I didn’t get any satisfying reply so I requested help from the greatest assistant of all times: the Internet. Thus; according to Wikipedia, he was a bishop, he got exiled, then he died somewhere else, then he got canonized (a.k.a, consecrated by the Church as a saint).

Long story short: I still didn’t get what he accomplished to receive that title… 

Plot twist: After an eternity of research, I finally got more info on one of our local malls’ website , Gran Casa. In summary, I discovered that it was because he was a martyr who got persecuted for his faith under the roman emperor Diocletian.

Fun Fact: the natives came up with this comic motto for him: “San Valero, rosconero y ventolero!”. It means, on his day he brings a strong wind and also a lot of “roscon” (a typical dessert). It’s true somehow; apart from the dessert specially sold in pastry shops for the occasion, yesterday was very windy!  By the way, Aragon is a mountainous region which is infamous for a strong and sudden wind gust called “Cierzo”. It blows unbelievably fast, all year long. A local joke says that in Zaragoza  it’s no use to do your hair nicely and it’s dangerous to wear a skirt.

I have personally experienced the cranky mood of this ill-tempered wind. I was walking on the street one day; the Cierzo was blowing so strong that I couldn’t move forward because it kept pushing me in the opposite direction. 

Special food: Spaniards make a special pastry or dessert for almost every holiday. Most of the time, it’s a “roscon”, a sort of big donut-looking bread filled with whipped cream and topped up with candied fruits. They made it for Reyes Magos (6th Jan.), for San Valero (29th Jan.), they’ll make some for Santa Agueda (5th Feb.) and then for Cincomarzada (5th March. It’s the same cake but they change the shape: the first two are donut-like, the third is shaped like a breast and the last one as a 5 (for now I’ll skip the story behind each of them).

(picture retrieved from the Internet)

How we spend the holidays:

For main holidays, concerts, parades or other cultural events are organized. If it’s a religious occasion, a huge procession is organized. For San Valero, they bake a huuuge, endless roscon and place it at Plaza del Pilar, Zaragoza’s main Square.

(picture retrieved from the Internet)

On apersonal level, Spaniards are highly social individuals. They usually gather among relatives for family lunches or meet up with friends. Thanks to their awesome culture, I have become an expert at improvised get-togethers. It’s easy: get some snacks, some drinks, a TV and call as many people as you can. Everyone brings something and we all share. The key to success: be in good company with fun people. (Important detail: here, it’s good manners to bring something with you to give to your host when you get invited somewhere! It can be food or drinks, or a dessert).

Not in the mood for socializing? No problem. My personal recipe: Stay home, eat your favourite food, binge-watch TV and sleep as much as you want. Repeat.

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the holiday was pretty lowkey, but I was able to meet up with a friend. We wanted to go to the mall but got there too late so it was closed. We rather went for a stroll by the Ebro River (pictures below). The view was absolutely amazing and the weather so agreeable (aprox. 19°). We also enjoyed an small outdoor gallery designed by local artists to retrace the history of comics in Spain .

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article.

Stay safe, and see you in my next post!

Nuna Blomevi.

Spanish Wishes for the New Year

Corner The Talking Brain Puerto Venecia

Finally!

The end-of- year celebrations are over. I get to have my first real day off since the holidays started. As an expat living alone abroad, I originally planned to spend the festivities by myself, but I got so many invitations that I went here and there, celebrating from house to house. Instead of spanning as “The Grinch” or “Home Alone”, my holiday season became “All I want for Christmas is you”. I tell you, it’s important to extend one’s social circle.

Until yesterday, I socialized, laughed my lungs out, slept, tv-binged and food-binged. (Now I am praying for discipline to go on an “effective” diet). I am not a difficult individual to satisfy. Including clothes and expensive perfumes (hehe), I find joy in these little pleasures in life. And personally, after going through certain bitter experiences, I have learnt to laugh and enjoy good moments while I can. 

In Spain, Christmas is not over until the 6th of January. From Nochebuena (24th Dec.), Navidad (25th Dec.), Nochevieja (31stDec.), Año Nuevo (1st Jan.), to Reyes Magos (6th Jan.)…  Spaniards commemorate “Los Reyes Magos”, the visit of the Three Wise Men to Jesus. Here, it’s also the day children receive their gifts. (Yesterday, I was at a get-together with some friends and we exchanged presents. I received a new bag, yay!).

Every excuse is a good reason to celebrate in this country. I heard that 29th January is also a holiday, “San Valero”. It even falls on Friday, bless God. Then we have 5th March, Easter, 1st May and many more all year long…. What a nice country to live in! They are the best at balancing work and rest. I’ve lost track of what we celebrate and why, I’m just happy to stay home or hang out. By the way, I  share videos about life in Spain on my Youtube channel. Please pay a visit, like and subscribe. Gracias! (I also created a special page on this website where I publish pictures of all the countries I’ve visited. (Click here to view Travel Gallery).

Oops… My bad. I got excited and forgot the main reason for this post…

Happy New Year, dear CTTBies! Health, Success, Happiness, Peace, etc. Amen, amen…

Ok, I will skip the usual protocol wishes, I’m sure you’ve already heard them a lot . Pardon my crudeness, you know I’m brutally honest and pessim… uh, uh, realistic. 

2021… We’re not sure what you will bring, but we are ready to take you on (since we’re already exist in this harsh world, we don’t have a choice but to keep going anyway, hehe). We are strong, we will bend but not break. There will be annoying days, but there will also be bright days. You might pick on us, but we won’t mind you. We will go through it and carry on with our lives. We will be firm until our very last breath, as we see you and other years pass by. That’s life. And we are humans, the strongest, ever-adapting creatures on planet earth. We always find a way out of the maze once we set our minds to it. And as long as there is food, housing and our loved ones with us, we can bear through anything. (My personal form of self-encouragment).

New year, bring it on! Maybe I should take that out, let’s not challenge the Universe.

On behalf of Corner and I; we want to thank every one of you who take their time to visit our blog and read our posts. We also want to express our gratitude to all of our followers. Thank you for accompanying us on this journey! We are grateful for your time, attention and affection. Thank you!

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo! 

 Besos,

Nuna and Corner Blomevi.