Monday, April 29, 2013

10 Random Shots From Barcelona

I just looked through some of my thousands of photos from Barcelona and I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the city. Barcelona has captured a piece of my heart forever.

I have so many pictures that don't have a story or words to go with them, but are still precious to me. 
The city is so full of aesthetic beauty. So today, I'll let 10 pictures do the talking. 

Beautiful old convent from 1349!
Gazebo at Parc de la Ciutadella, used for things such as salsa and tango dancing!

Balloons at Plaza Sant Jaume!
Arc de Triomf

Happy Monday! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Names, Nicknames & Short names in Spanish

I have previously talked about names in Spain. Both how very confusing it was to me to see that the whole British Royal Family has gotten brand new names here in Spain, and also how certain (or most?) names in Spanish can be turned into several others, that don't necessarily resemble the original. (Such as Francisco --> Paco, og Jose --> Pepe.) 

I have been told a number of times that it's just what people do here, it's no big deal. And since my name doesn't exist in Spanish, as it is written, I just get a "Spanishfied" version of it. I gave up insisting that my name was different a long time ago. I was met with blank looks and comments like "But that's the same!" Ha, yes, exactly the same- just how Prince Charles is exactly the same as Principe Carlos!

So, that's just how it works, get used to it and expect to get a lot of nicknames, right? 

That's when it was so so fascinating to me to see a little video clip about this Catalan politician, called Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira. 

Josep in Catalan is Jose in Castellano (Spanish). And Lluis in Catalan is Luis in Castellano. At some debate he is approached with the Spanish version of his name, (Jose Luis) by a Spanish person from Castilla y Leon.

An excerpt from the video on Youtube: 

-Don Jose Luis. (Mr Jose Luis.)
-Perdon, yo me llamo Josep Lluis. (Excuse me, my name is Josep Lluis.)
-Bueno, es que yo no entiendo Catalan. (Well, I don't understand (/speak) Catalan.)
-Es que no hace falta entender Catalan. Yo me llamo como me llamo aqui y en la China popular blabla y usted no tiene ningun derecho a modificar mi nombre. (That doesn't matter. My name is my name here and in China and you don't have any right to change my name.)

Fine, fine. The name in his passport is Josep Lluis, just like the name in my passport is the name I would love to be called. But all this time, I thought it was normal and perfectly OK here to call people other things than their real names, so why does this Josep Lluis get so offended? 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Heat wave, Calima & Busy Wonderfulness

Happy Monday everyone! This past week was a busy one here, lots of work and lots play as well. I attended an intensive 16 hour photo course and I am looking forward to hopefully improve my photos with all the new stuff I learned. I also went to the most fabulous spa for the second time. (No naked jingle bells here, just pure relaxation.Thanks for that!) I am planning a trip to another Canary Island, and have experienced this 'weather phenomenon' they have here from time to time called Calima.

So, this weekend a heat wave has washed over the island and it's been interesting. I experienced several heat waves on mainland Spain, the heaviest one last summer when I went to Logroño and it felt like I was walking inside a baking oven! I was actually planning that trip to Northern Spain to get away from the intense heat in Barcelona, only to find myself in the middle of this intense heat wave. Barcelona is seriously HOT in July/August. Too much for Norwegian me. So when I heard we were getting a heat wave here this weekend I was wondering how it would be to feel that again.

This whole winter the climate here has been more or less stable and lovely. 18 degrees C at the coldest (night/morning or cloudy/windy days), but on warm sunny days it's been in the higher end of the 20's. It has been lovely. To me, this is the most perfect average temperature. In the south of the island, it's usually a few degrees warmer, but the Las Palmas temperature is just about what I'd call perfect. Hot without it being agonizing.

Satellite picture of the islands and Calima via
Calima in short, is warm winds with sand/dust particles from Sahara, and since the islands are not that far away from Sahara (only about 100 km.) this happens every now and then. The sand particles reduce visibility and it resembles the sensation of fog, although unlike foggy weather, calima is hot and dry. The air is warm, the winds are warm. And during calima, every surface gets covered by a thin brownish layer of dust.

I took a picture at the beach, just to try to illustrate this. Sort of foggy.

And another one. You can't see the mountain at the back, (which is the mountain close to Agaete in Gran Canaria) and clearly you don't see the peak of el Teide, Tenerife (which you don't even always see.)

Maybe not the easiest to show with a picture, it just look like a bad quality picture. (And this is in the post after I talk about how I went to a great photo course oh well!)

I love how it's been dry heat, and not humid agonizing heat ala Barcelona. It's completely different and so much easier to tolerate. This morning the air feels fresher than the previous mornings, maybe it's getting back to normal. 

Wish you all a lovely week!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pueblos con Encanto / Charming Canary Towns ~ Teror

In my quest to present Gran Canaria as a tourist destination beyond just beaches and sunny weather,
today, it's time to present another beautiful little town of Gran Canaria.

Welcome to Teror!

Teror is one of the oldest municipalities of Canary Islands and located just about 20 km. 
from Las Palmas, and it's a beautiful place for a day trip. 

I fell in love with the main street, lined with houses in different colours, with wooden balconies. So pretty!

Every Sunday, a market fills the plazas around the town centre.

And there are two mandatory things to buy / try at the market!
Chorizo de Teror (speadable delicious chorizo) and : 

"Lazos de miel"- I seriously think this must be one of the nicest tasting pastry/cake I have ever eaten. (And I have eaten a lot of cake!) Can't describe it, but it's a must to try!

The convent of Cister makes and delivers all sorts of treats and cakes that are being sold at this market. I love this, it reminds me of the lovely Caelum in Barcelona. 

The basilica is beautiful by the way, if it's open - go inside!

Outside the Basilica there were some stalls that sold candles and something else: 

Sort of creepy isn't it? I found out that you can buy these wax models of every part of the human body, 
that you can then offer to the Virgin for healing... 
And as always- a little map to show where on the island to find Teror! Go visit!

Friday, April 12, 2013

United Colors of Benetton sweater for €1? Yes please!

The other day when I talked about some things that have made me smile lately I completely forgot about this!

A most wonderful secret that I have discovered here in Las Palmas. Before moving here I had never owned a Benetton sweater. I always liked them on others though, but I think I just thought they were a little too expensive or something. Anyway, here in Las Palmas there is a Benetton shop (actually two that I know of) that sells out either clothes that might be broken, or just 'leftovers' from other shops when the seasons change. And they sell it so ridiculously cheap!

I have been there several times buying stuff so cheap my heart sings when leaving the shop, but the other day when I just popped by on my way somewhere else they were changing the stock from winter (haha, there's been no "winter" here at all, but they have had woolen sweaters etc for sale anyway) to summer clothes. And you know how they solved that? Well, by putting big piles of the classic Benetton woolen sweaters for sale for €1 and up. €1, €1.99, €2.99 etc. 

I got a lovely sweater for €1 and a pair of pants for €1.99. Made my day! I have previously bought other beautiful sweaters for 2.99 and 4.99 there and been very happy with that too. I am not sure of the full price of these, but I think they are somewhere around €30-40.

You have to be a little cautious though, as some of the items are broken. Usually there is a little sticker where the problem is so you can easily see for yourself if it's something that matters and will keep you from buying, or if it's an easy fix (like a small hole under the arm. I have gotten two of those, easy peasy to fix!) 

They sell clothes for men and women and from the brand Sisley as well.

The store in the picture
 is located on Mesa y Lopez, 
not far from El Corte Ingles in Las Palmas

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Things that have made me smile lately

I am a big fan of enjoying the small things in life. And I thought why not share?
So here's a few things that have made me smile lately.

  • Morning walks at the beach when there are not that many people around. Feeling my feet sink into the soft silky sand, letting the waves wash over my feet. It's like meditation. The sea washes away all stress and negative thoughts, and reminds me of what is important in life.

  • Buying beautiful inexpensive flowers. I am used to flowers being such a luxury from Norway (very expensive) and it's true joy to be able to buy a bouquet of such beautiful flowers for only €1.60!
  • A guy who took his whole cereal bowl to the beach in the morning for breakfast! Why not? Maybe I should start taking my own breakfast to the beach? Is there a nicer way to enjoy the first meal of the day? 
  • Coming across the table of free books. I got two books in Norwegian. It's incredible how wonderfully relaxing it is to read in Norwegian now that I don't really ever use my own language. To not have to think, just let my eyes run through the words and let the story be the focus, not the language. If the table remains, I will take these books back there when I have read them

  • Passing by the wall of Mumbai Sunset- always a pleasure. Every Sunday night a new positive quote is painted, and it's always exciting to see what this week's quote will be. Some are better than others, but I still enjoy looking it up every week.
  • A lovely hike to one of the 'mountains' of la Isleta, with views over both sides of area of el puerto in Las Palmas. The port on one side, and Las Canteras beach on the other. I hadn't seen it from this perspective before, so that was really nice. 
  • Looking at old photos and realizing how many wonderful experiences and memories I have wherever I go in this country. It's incredible how this country keeps bringing me so much joy wherever I go, so much beauty and so many lovely moments. Thank you, Spain!
What have made you smile lately - share the happy moments! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spanish Music, Spanish Guitar, Music in Spanish etc!

It’s no secret that I am a big music lover. Music is my passion on so many levels and good music can make a huge difference in any day, and especially a blue one. I still remember clear as a day how my favourite street-musician-moments in my time in Spain made me feel while I was listening to them. My very first meeting with the Spanish guitar, in Málaga, was magical, and I think I will never forget it.

These guys even made it to my blog header, and every time I see the picture I remember that wonderful warm afternoon in that narrow street in Málaga, sitting at a small table at a tetería only a few meters from these talented musicians.

Another great moment, was when I came across another super talented guitarist in Barri Gotic in Barcelona. 

I was so lucky to come across this same person 4 times, and I enjoyed all of them immensely. I wrote about it here and here.

People some times ask me if I can recommend some Spanish music and one thing that makes me very happy is when I help people discover and love new music. When I talk (apparently passionately) about music that I love, and people get so curious about it that they listen to it and in one case, go ahead to buy all the albums they can find of that artist. I love spreading the word about good music, so I thought why not do that on here too?

By the way, the friend who bought all the albums of a group I talked about, bought the albums of Chambao, one of my favourite Spanish groups. The concert back in December filled my soul with happy-music-energy that lasted for weeks. Beautiful flamenco-fusion-chill music. (In the post about the concert I posted lots of links to good songs) Chambao is from Málaga.

Obviously there are loads and loads of bands, and I am just going to pick out some of them. Can I please start with Maná, although they are not even from Spain? This Mexican band was the first band I heard about when I moved to Spain. It was my Spanish teacher in the beginners class who recommended it when one of the students asked for good Spanish music. (That’s why it took me some time to even know they weren’t Spanish. I guess the teacher thought the student wanted to listen to music in Spanish and this was her favourite group in Spanish, while I thought she was recommending a Spanish group.) That same month, short after I heard about them for the first time I was lucky to catch them on their tour around Spain. I guess Maná would be characterized as latin rock. This band is still going strong since their start in 1986, and they have won 4 Grammy awards, and 7 Latin Grammy awards, and more, just on a side note.

A "younger" band is Macaco from Barcelona (with members from all over the world). I have been lucky to see these live as well, and they didn't disappoint. They play reggae/latin/rumba.

An old classic is Antonio Flores (1961-1995). Sadly, after his mother died, he went into a deep depression and took his own life, and he actually became more famous after his death than before. One of his biggest hits is "Alba" a song written to/about his daughter, Alba. His music is pop/rock with a touch of flamenco. Antonio Flores was from Madrid.

We also have of Celtic music, Celtas Cortos, from Valladolid. They play Celtic rock! I love Celtic music and it was a nice surprise to find Spanish Celtic music. They have made a whole bunch of albums, and over the years, their style has been influenced by Caribbean music, flamenco, electronic music and reggae.

And now that we're at it, can I please include Hevia as well? This gaitero from Asturias really knows his stuff. (His stuff in this context would be the bag pipe.) Who knew I liked these pipes so much? I didn't until I heard them live in Oviedo.

I would like to add a pop group from Las Palmas as well, Efecto Pasillo. Their song "Pan y Mantequilla" was 'nominated' as the 2012 summer-song by Antena 3. The video was shot in Las Palmas in the area I live!

Another flamenco'ish pop artist that I like is Arrebato from Sevilla

I LOVE finding new music. I don't really ever listen to the radio so I don't know all that 
much about what's out there and what's new. If you have any tips for me on 
Spanish music I would be very happy to hear them!
Happy weekend!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bleikstranda beach in Vesterålen Norway (and a scary evening in the middle of all that beauty)

I will admit I have been missing Norway a bit this Easter. There are just so many traditions, cozy traditions that sort of "belong to Easter" to me, and although I have really enjoyed the warm sunniness of Las Palmas, a few thoughts have gone North as well. It didn't feel like Easter here because it was so different than what I am used to. So I thought maybe I could write a post about Norway again. Last summer I did post a few, while I was in Norway, but I have so many more places I would love to write about! 

I have posted many photos of the beautiful beach where I live in Gran Canaria, but I thought I could show you another beautiful beach. This one is in the north of Norway, and it's funny how most people don't believe me when I tell them we have long white sandy beaches up in Norway as well! (I previously posted some photos of other beautiful sandy beaches in  Lofoten, Northern Norway.)

This is Bleikstranda. A beautiful white sandy beach at the Northern tip of the island Andøya, in Vesterålen. 

Beautiful place to see the midnight sun in the summer and northern lights in the winter, go on a whale safari or a Puffin safari. There is a camping sites just off the beach. 

As you can see, the camping site couldn't be in a more beautiful spot. We put up our tent at the very edge of the beach and the only sound you could hear was the water and seagulls. Idyll!

The weather was not the best, it was cloudy and raining a little, and well there isn't that much to do here. It's just as deserted as it looks. Then again, you come here for natural beauty and relaxation, not noisy entertainment. So we thought we'd go for a walk at the beach. Barefoot of course, to feel the silky soft sand between our toes (the best thing in this world?) - and off we went. 

We walked along the shore, in and out of the water. It was freeeeeezing cold, but when I get into the water here in Las Palmas it also feels cold at first. Then you get used to it pretty fast. (Obviously a lot faster here in Las Palmas than up there, that's for sure!) but we got used to it there too. It felt sort of soothing to the feet actually. Let me just remind you that we were walking in the water inside of the Arctic circle, so don't be fooled by it being summer! 

The beach is a long one, and we walked all the way to the end and back, which would be about 5 km. 

After that we didn't really feel our toes, but it didn't bother us. We had had the most wonderful walk, feeling at one with nature. I will admit we were cold after this walk though! So a shower seemed like a good idea. My travel partner went first and I waited (where as my feet got some time to slowly recover normal temperature.) It didn't go so well with my partner though. Just a few minutes in the warm water in the shower his toes started swelling. It prickled and scorched and he finished showering quickly. It didn't stop though and that's when it started being scary! His toes kept swelling and by now we couldn't see the bone structure of his feet and toes anymore. He was feeling dizzy and unwell and it hurt to walk or be on his feet. We hurried back to the tent. 

Oh how we wished we had a hotel room and a bed right at this point, (and maybe been a place not so remote) but he went to lay down in the tent, while I tried to come up with something smart and helpful to do. I felt useless. I had never experienced this before and it was scary! I didn't know if and what could happen.

Once again, this was a veeery sleepy little town, with only about 450 inhabitants and I doubted there would even be a medial centre there. So I called the emergency telephone number as I did't know what else to do. Thankfully I was reassured that this was probably caused by the brusque temperature change and that the swelling should cease in a couple of hours if only he kept still with his feet up. I felt calmed by the reassurance of the lovely lady who answered the phone explaining me what had probably happened and that it was a completely normal body reaction. 

But we were staying in a tent. Where and how would he put his feet up? Well, all we had was a tent and a car, so we got in the car, moved the seats back so he could rest his feet up on the dashboard and spent our night there, talking, looking out to sea, trying to keep busy and not focus on those gigantic sausage toes he had wrapped up in several pairs of socks.

See, the owners of the camping site (by the way incredibly friendly people) had previously told us they often see seals and otters just off the beach but the last few days they had also seen whales. How exciting! So in the end, it wasn't that bad to sit there in the car all night. (And well, since this was in the middle of summer, there was Midnight Sun, so it didn't ever get dark either. I wrote about Midnight Sun in this post.) We saw seals and otters, and something with a fin that we are not sure what was. Maybe a whale? That fin is certainly not something you see on seals and otters!

A memorable day & night, for sure. The day after, the owner of the Camping said the water probably held 12-14 degrees C. Quite chilly! Lesson learned! I would still go for that walk in the cold water anytime, but it's not a good idea to head straight for the shower after. It wasn't until well into the next day that his feet came back to their old selves, but the worst swelling did go down quite a bit after a few hours with his feet high.

P.S. I Googled for pictures of the Northern Lights at Belikstranda, and this convinced me I really need to go there in winter too, just look at the stunning photos on this Facebook-page! AMAZING.