Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year tradition in Spain

There is a tradition for New Year's in Spain, to eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each chime and it is to bring you 12 months of luck for the following year.

I think it sounds like a nice tradition and am looking forward to having a go at it. I have arrived my New Years destination, and it's pretty amazing. I have gone from snow and cold in Norway to the warm sun of Las Palmas!


 I want to wish all of you a fantastic new year! 2012 is going to be a good one!
Feliz Año Nuevo!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Stop-over in Barcelona, and a trip to Las Arenas de Barcelona

I have had the most wonderful Christmas holiday back home, spending quality time with loved ones, and also doing the mandatory stuffing of one's face with all sorts of delicious treats and food!
Yesterday however, I flew back to Barcelona to get ready for my New Year's holidays. Today I will be flying to Las Palmas to enjoy some days of beach, sun and get to experience a New Years Eve the Spanish way, without snow and the usual cold temperatures and all that.

I chose to stop by Barcelona to change my warm clothes to summer clothes, and took the opportunity to visit a shopping centre, and that's what I would like to share with you today. 

Las Arenas de Barcelona is the newest shopping centre in town, but at the same time the oldest one. Or rather the one with the oldest location and building structure.

See, Las Arenas de Barcelona was a Plaza de Toros, a bull ring that was inaugurated in 1900, after the one at Barceloneta (from 1834) was getting too small due to high popularity. This new bull ring,
Las Arenas which seated 16000 spectators, was very popular and much in use until 1977, when the last corrida was held. For many years, the bull ring was just standing there, serving no purpose, until the city council decided to create a Shopping centre in the shell of the bull ring. They simply built a shopping centre inside, with restaurants, cinema, a theatre and a museum, conserving the structure and facade. At the top floor there's a terrace that goes all the way around with amazing views. Every time I get up on some roof terrace in this city I can't get enough of the views! Barcelona my dear, you are simply gorgeous!!

The shopping centre itself is enormous, more than 30 000 square meters, and loads of shops.

I'll let the picture speak for themselves:

High-tech fancy Christmas tree / centrepiece of the shopping centre
 At the roof

Now I'm off to some more holiday'ing! Hope everyone will have a wonderful last day of the year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting warmed up for Christmas in Norway

In Norway (as most countries…) we have all these different things to set the mood for Christmas. Of course we have the standard stuff such as decorations and lights in the streets and shops, Christmas music and Christmas markets. But what I was coming to was all the “seasonal” products in the supermarkets, special editions of different food stuff just for Christmas. There is actually a big production of different products just for the holiday season and I love it! 

I never gave it much thought before, it was just a part of December and getting warmed up for Christmas, but coming back to Norway for the holidays and seeing it all in the supermarkets I realize how much I have been missing it, and that it probably was part of what was lacking for my Christmas spirit to arrive 100% in Spain!

Pepperkaker and gløgg for instance, a classic! Pepperkaker is some sort of gingerbread cookies, baked in different figures ...
... and taken to a higher level by the company of Gløgg, a spicy drink, enjoyed warm. It’s the Scandinavian version of mulled wine, although just as much enjoyed without alcohol. 

 There are just so many products; meat, sausages, biscuits, drinks (Christmas beer, soda and Gløgg), loads of different candy and chocolates, the toilet paper has little Santa's on it and seven the milk cartons are Christmassy!

A fraction of the section with Christmas chocolate/candy
In Spain, I haven't seen this in any category, apart from some Christmas candy. I somehow think we make more of the Holiday Season, maybe because it's so dark and cold outside and we need/want a little
extra something to snuggle up inside?
Anyhow, Christmas is very cosy in Norway and I am enjoying every second of it!

I would love to know how this is in other countries - anyone care to share with me? 
Do you have seasonal Christmas food/products in your country?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Christmas Market in Montreux, Switzerland

While it's still Christmas, I would like to share my experience at the Montreux Christmas market from the trip to Switzerland in the beginning of December. 
The Montreux Christmas market is supposedly (one of) the best one(s) in Switzerland, and it was one of the highlights of the trip to Switzerland!


Plenty of lovely local food, cheese, baked goods, drinks, Christmas gifts, and decorations.
If you ever go to Switzerland before Christmas, make sure to stop by here!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

White Christmas it is.

I am back in Norway for the holidays and it's quite so lovely to see everyone again, eat Norwegian chocolate (best in the world?) and brown cheese and all those little things one actually miss being abroad for months.

Here it's winter. It's cold. It's white. And since it's Christmas I am loving it! I have always said that we need to have snow for Christmas, but as soon as it's over the snow can leave with the Christmas decorations. I'm just not interested!
But this year, I will just leave it instead, and go back to sunny Spain. The winter was actually one of my motivations to move to Spain in the first place. I have always said I was born in the wrong country, I am a true sun-loving summer girl at heart. I have never been a fan of the Norwegian winter, and it has been an absolutely fantastic experience to prolong the summer this year.

In this last month I have been thinking quite a lot on what to do next, whether to stay on in Barcelona or go somewhere else. I had a job opening in the Dominican Republic and let's just say it was very tempting but in the end I realized that I am just not done with Barcelona yet. And I am so not ready to go back to Norway.
I take life as it comes along, and right now I am more than happy to stay on in my wonderful Barcelona.

But right now it's all about being "at home". The smell of the Christmas tree, drinking gløgg, the dark-season, the cold cold weather, the Christmas chocolates, the Christmas food- everything is smelling and looking just like it should, like it has every year.
Although I absolutely love living an unpredictable life, when it comes to Christmas I am very traditional, and I love how everything is always the same!

If you'd like to share some of the things that makes Christmas Christmas for you, I would love to hear it!

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas!

In the "blue hour", beautiful!

Friday, December 23, 2011

El portal del Belen - The nativity scene in the Cathedral of Barcelona

The Cathedral of Barcelona also has a nativity scene open for the public to see in December and I would like to show you, cause it’s so pretty! It’s the Portal de Belen to visit if you want to get a piece of Spanish Christmas spirit.
This one is not inside the actual Cathedral, but in the gardens behind, and the surroundings are just beautiful and somehow ceremonious.

It's a nativity scene with live geese, hens and fish!

Candles everywhere, and this beautiful oooold cathedral sets the moods quite nicely!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

El portal de Belen en Plaza St. Jaume - The nativity scene

El Portal de Belen, The Nativity scene is a central part of Spanish Christmas and Barcelona has it's own big Portal del Belen every year, on plaza St. Jaume. It's a traditional thing one must see, and the queues to "get in" are looong. I went on a Sunday afternoon and the queue was about 200 meters long ...

But it moved quickly, so I got to see it and take some pictures.

And then...of course, as in every nativity scene, in the "outskirts" of "Betlehem", there he is.
El Caganer
...  Big and graphic!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Catanies - a lovely chocolate snack from my Barcelona

Catanies, roasted caramelized almonds in chocolate praline and cocoa powder, are typical sweets from Catalunya, the region where Barcelona is.

When I tasted it the first time I was all "wooo-hoow! This is tasty!" And when I found out it wasn’t rocket science to make them myself I decided it would be part of my Christmas presents to family and friends. I got the recipe from a friend, and today I gave it a go.

According to the recipe you'd need 400g almonds, but that's all wrong. Half is more than enough I think. Anyway- first you put the almonds to roast in the oven at 150 degrees C (302 degrees F) for about half an hour to 45 minutes. But keep an eye on them, we want them to get roasted but not burnt! Move them around every now and then. The finished almond is crispy and tasty.

Then leave them to cool off. When cool, add about 300g of sugar to a pot and heat up. The sugar will turn into caramel and when liquid, add the roasted & cooled off almonds.
Move them around so they get covered in caramel before taking them out onto a baking sheet. Now you need to be quick- they need to be separated immediately, cause the caramel sets and becomes rock-hard very fast. So- separate the almonds and let cool off again. When cool you can break them loose if they are clumped together, and remove excess caramel, the almond just needs to be covered in caramel.

Now it's time for the chocolate. Mmmm! Take 250 g of chocolate (what ever kind you prefer, I made one round of Catanies with white chocolate and another round with milk chocolate cause I had so many almonds) and 50 g of butter and melt it. Then mix well and you'll get a delicious chocolate cream. According to the recipe it should become liquid, but mine turned out quite paste-ish.

The point is to cover the caramelized almond in chocolate, one by one. (According to the recipe, you should dip them in the chocolate a few times but I just had to roll the chocolate onto the almonds as it wasn't liquid)

Leave to cool off again, until the chocolate is almost stiff. Then use your hands to make them even and beautiful before rolling them in cocoa powder for the final finish, and voila!

I used a light cocoa-powder from Spain, which is already mixed with sugar and vanilla for the white-chocolate Catanies, and normal pure cocoa-powder for the milk chocolate ones. 

My plan was to give them away, but I am not sure they will even last untill Christmas Eve... I just can't help myself, they are delicious! I think I'll just make another batch tomorrow...Wanna give it a go? Here's the ingredients you'll need:

200g almonds
300g sugar
250g chocolate
50g butter
Cocoa powder

Monday, December 19, 2011

A walk through the streets of Barcelona one night in December

I was talking about how Barcelona is doing a great job in dressing up for the festivities, and it’s time I show you some pictures. 

60 km/ 300 streets of Barcelona are decorated with lights, it’s simply fabulous! 

I had a hard job selecting which photos to post, as I have soo many...

What do you think? Beautiful or what?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another funny/different Catalan Christmas tradition – El Tio de Nadal

I love this, learning about funny Christmas traditions in this new country of mine. Like the Caganer that I talked about a few days ago. Now it’s the Tio de Nadal’s turn. In Spanish, this literally this means “uncle  Christmas” but let’s not get confused. According to Anirac who left me a comment on this post, tio means trunk/log in Catalan, and it makes sense as we are not talking of an uncle, rather a wooden log! 

Most family homes have one, and at the Christmas market you could buy them in all sizes, the smaller ones just for decorations though. Cause the real ones need to be hollow and about 30 centimeters long, and should have legs and a painted face. 

During December one should feed the log a little bit every night, and cover him with a blanket so that he won’t be cold. And then on Christmas eve/Christmas day he should be put up to shit. And for him to do so, the children need to beat him with a stick (-whaat??) while singing a special song of the “Tío de Nadal”.  And tam-tam! The shit, is presents!

However, the Tío doesn’t deliver big presents, cause these are brought by the Three Kings on 6th January, but he “drops off” different kinds of candy. What comes from the Tío is general presents to be shared by everyone present, rather than individual gifts. 

The song: 

Caga tío, caga torró, avellanas I mató. Si no cagues bé, et daré un cop de bastó, caga tío!
Caga tío, tío de Nadal, no cagues arengades, que son massa salads. Caga torró que son mes bons!

Shit log, shit turrón, hazelnuts and mató. If you don’t shit well, I’ll hit you with a stick, shit log!
Shit log, Christmas log, don’t shit herrings, which are too salty. Shit turrón which is much better!

At the Christmas market there is a “Tío gigant”, a giant Tío that the kids could come up and hit (…) As my friend said, “Whaaat? Here the children learn that by beating (!) that poor log they will be rewarded with presents? While in the north we learn that we need to be good and kind children for Santa to bring us presents?" 

I agree it’s a little weird. What do you think of this?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

El Corte Ingles at Christmas

El Corte Ingles is the biggest department store chain in Spain. Barcleona has several, and two of them right in the middle of the centre. I don't care too much for the department store itself, it's too immence and it seems impossible to find something specific fast, however the food court is very good. (They have knekkebrød!)

But what I wanted to write about is the Christmas decorations some of the Corte Ingles'es, cause they are just beautiful!

The one at Plaza Catalunya:

The one at Portal de l'angel:

The one at Avinguda Diagonal:

At Corte Ingles at Plaza Catalunya there is a big decorated show window for kids with animated dolls and a fairytale is being played out over the speakers, so cute

...and at each entrance there is a Santa Clause giving candy to the kids.

It is indeed Christmassy!