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Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas in Cataluña

     Christmas time in Barcelona? Sure!
Sunny-warm-dry-oranges-sea-waves-seafood-greenness-! There’s too much said about Barcelona and at the same time, never enough.  You can find all the info you'll need for a trip in many places, I’ll just share some of my impressions and experiences.

Orange season.

     Leave your fur coats, umbrellas and Spanish phrase books at home! Just think what is common to “Amanida” and “Ensalada”? It’s all the same thing! But you are in Cataluña where the Catalans speak Catalan and you will come across it more often than the regular Spanish. Don’t let it confuse you though, people there are pretty nice most of the time and you won’t be forgotten or left hungry.

Fresh fruit salad from a market.

     So, our main destination is Barcelona which is the capital and the most populous city of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain, after Madrid. Catalonia has it’s own sponsored top-level domain .cat which is intended to be used to highlight the Catalan language and culture. Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea. Aww, sunny winters and hot dry summers..

Perfect December.

You don’t want to miss in Barcelona:

La Rambla (there’s no chance you'll miss it even if you have no plan to visit it ;-) ) A 1.2 kilometer-long tree-lined pedestrian mall between Barri Gòtic and El Raval, it connects Plaça Catalunya in the centre with theChristopher Columbus monument at Port Vell and is popular with both tourists and locals alike.

Christmas decorations in Barcelona.

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria - a large public market with an entrance from La Rambla. The first mention of the Boqueria market in Barcelona dates from 1217, when tables were installed near the old city gate to sell meat.

La Boqueria.

The Parc del Laberint d'Horta – it comprises an 18th century neoclassical garden and a 19th century romanticgarden. The park was used to shot a scene of the motion picture Perfume by German director Tom Tykwer.

The Labyrinth.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudí" (Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família – the average entrance fee is 10 eur).

 La Sagrada Família

 View from Park Güell

Casa Batlló

A train to Figueres - the birthplace of artist Salvador Dalí – with the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí.

Salvador Dalí's Mae West

Spanish/Catalan cuisine which is quite diverse, ranging from pork-intensive dishes cooked in the inland part of the region (Catalonia is one of the main producers of swine products in Spain) to fish-based recipes along the coast.

Paella. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain's national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
There are three widely known types of paella: Valencian paella (Spanish: paella valenciana), seafood paella (Spanish: paella de marisco) and mixed paella (Spanish: paella mixta), but there are many others as well. Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), land snails, beans and seasoning. Seafood paella replaces meat and snails with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and sometimes beans.

Mmmmm paella!

Jamón serrano (literally mountain ham) is a type of jamón (dry-cured Spanish ham), which is generally served raw in thin slices, or occasionally diced. The French jambon bayonne and Italian prosciutto crudoare similar. A foreleg prepared in the same manner is called paleta.

Tapas is the name of a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid).

Crème brûlée (French for "burnt cream"), also known as crema catalana, or Trinity creamis a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served cold. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but is also sometimes flavored with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, chocolate, coffee, liqueurs, or other fruit.

Aaah, I'll need to come back at some point, too much pleasure Barcelona offers! My New Year's resolution is: whenever it’s possible make winter shorter by spending a vacation in a sunny and warm country, I'll do it. Anti-depression effect is guaranteed. See you there! ;-)  Happy New Year!

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