An Austrian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. No, it IS my favourite holiday. It goes without saying that I was feeling a little homesick in early October when Thanksgiving rolled around. This was the first time I missed out on Thanksgiving dinner at the cottage with my family. However, Andrew (my American friend) and myself, decided to bring Thanksgiving to Graz. And did we bring it (with some minor adjustments: no whole turkey or sweet potatoes in Austria, apparently). After more than 8 hours of grocery shopping/cooking, we feasted. It was a very special experience: a Canadian, an American, a Mexican, an Austrian, a German, a Belgian, and a Kosovar, celebrating Thanksgiving together–the first Thanksgiving for many. It was very interesting for me to reflect on the traditions I have and why they are important to me. It was especially fun to explain what a “typical” Thanksgiving consists of! One of the best parts, and probably one of the more unexpected parts, is how much the experience makes you reflect on your own culture and identity, and how others perceive you. One of the highlights of the evening was a discussion about the different (and yet similar) traditions we all share. While some things surprised me (the Germans/Austrians DON’T have Santa Claus!! At least, their equivalent is nothing like the North American Santa), it was really cool to realize that our different traditions are unified by the common values of food, family,  and friendship.

Soon-to-be cranberry sauce

The gang.

 

Yum!

 


How very scary fish almost destroyed my holiday.

 

Travel puts things into perspective… especially in olive groves in Southern Italy

 

This week:

  • Food adventures: Bitterballen
  • Cinderella Syndrome
  • If only hindsight were a friend that you could meet up with for drinks before things go bad

#1-Food Adventures Part 3: Bitterballen

Soooo, bitterballen! I know, I know, the name deserves a smirk, but don’t feel embarrassed to order these bad boys, they are a delight! This was one of my first culinary discoveries in the Netherlands and remains one of the best.

Bitterballen are little croquettes that break open to reveal a soft mess of potato, meat and mushrooms. They are served with some dijon mustard and accompany a cold beverage very well. The best part of bitterballen is that they are everywhere. If there was an iphone app to alert you when you were in less than 10 ft of bitterballen, your GPS would be beeping all.the.time. Sometimes I wonder how many bitterballen must be consumed in Holland every day and an ocean-liner filled with them comes to mind. I bet if there was a zombie apocolypse and people had to choose between being stranded in a building with no bitterballen OR run across a zombie infested road to get to the bitterballen, my money is on the Dutch population risking the zombie road.

The only thing is that I lied about the whole potato, mushroom thing. Bitterballen are actually actually mostly made out of meat goo. Eww.. I know, not the most appetizing thought, but I can try to make it okay for two reasons:

1) If it wasn’t made out of meat goo, you or I would probably try to make them and knowing how to make them would lead to eating them all… at once…all the time.

2) Although you now know the truth about bitterballen, it is in moments like these that you can thank your brain for having the ability to forget and blissfully order more bitterballen.

 

 

#2- Cinderella Syndrome

One of the things that the deconstruction and reconstruction of your life reveals to you is how you treat yourself from one place to another. For instance, in Toronto my life is organized like the perfect ikea space saving closet. With a plethora of responsibilities to juggle, my time is spent very deliberately and often, even moments of ‘down time’ or ‘spontaneity’ are scheduled.

But coming abroad when everything that regularly structures your life is removed, it incites the question, is that how I want my life? Is it my nature to be so busy and not have a lot of time for myself?

What I realized is this. In Toronto I often treat my alone time, like the evil step mother treated Cinderella. Only after I have finished my school work, put in some hours to earn money for travel, bought groceries, run administrative errands, made sure my friends felt loved and called my parents that if I can have time alone. But that sucks! I don’t want to live that way.

Camus said, “Freedom is a chance to be better.”

Being abroad has helped me realize how I want to treat myself, no matter what country I am in. Maybe life abroad can seem better sometimes because you are forced to slow down, which in turn can make you kinder to yourself and your process. The notion of prioritizing time for reflection and exploration are values that I want to bring home with me after my exchange.

 

#3- If only hindsight were a friend that you could meet up with for drinks before things go bad.

This is in Sintra, Portugal. One of the most amazing castles I’ve ever seen in my life.

Imagine this: Walking along the wall of an old moorish castle that looks like the spine of a dragon. You are right in on top of a mountain ridge and the mist is starting to swoop in over the castle walls. You totally feel like you should have bows and arrows, a cloak and know a wizard. Amazing right?

If you ever want to experience how your body reacts to evil, eat these guys and get find out!

Now: Imagine all this with food poisoning. I don’t know what did it exactly, but I might throw a wild guess at these guys! Scariest fish in the market ever. I didn’t know that was going to be on the fish platter… I didn’t know…

 

 

I will say one thing, food poisoning sure does let you know where you exits are! So there are a few lessons I wish our dear friend hindsight would have reminded me of:

Sometimes your body goes into emergency mode, note the exits.

1) Life is full of minor differences, such as seeing beautiful sites vs seeing beautiful sites with food poisoning. Don’t force yourself to do amazing things your healthy self would do when you are your sickie self.

2) Always bring anti-nausea medication with you. Trying to figure out labels in a language you don’t understand while Edward Scissorhands is tossing pizza dough in your stomach is not fun.

 

food.

what to eat at st andrews…

well there are SO many options. because to do all the things you’ll want to be doing here, you have to fuel up!

scotland is known for its fish, and of course haggis…and st andrews is known for having lots of experiment test kitchens.

oh, wait, you thought i meant that there was some kind of culinary institute here…no no. what i mean is, with all the students and with all of the crazy ideas/no money to spare/too lazy to run to the grocery store factors, you end up hearing about lots of weird dishes being invented. that and sometimes you just don’t have all of the equipment necessary to make things. i walked into the kitchen the other day and my friend mary was stirring her pasta with her scissors. she claimed she didn’t have any other utensils…

but out of all the lovely restaurants and cafes and bakeries perhaps the most quintessentially st andrean food experience is the toasty bar.

every friday (and friday only) the toasty bar is open at night. it is one of the last places to stay open and everyone heads out there after being out.

so how do you find out about the toasty bar? well, the classic way.

someone is made to wear a sandwich sign and stand outside the student union (which is in the center of town) advertising “toasties, 50 p!”

and of course, you end up listening.

either because it’s so inexpensive–only 75 cents!–or well, because the person saying it is dressed as a sandwich.

it’s called the toasty bar but it’s not really a bar, it’s actually just the backroom of a church that has a little kitchen (well, the term ‘kitchen’ here is actually quite generous…it’s more of a place where they happen to prepare food…it’s actually a little gross…) but the true genius of the toasty bar is that you can literally get anything in your toasty! you can get something plain: just cheese. traditional: ham and cheese. italian: tomato, cheese, pesto. something sweet: mars bar and nutella.

or you know, mix it up: mars bar, ham, cheese, pesto, tomato, nutella.

you’d be surprised how many people ask for those ones…

(to be fair, student rationale wise its a) best value for money, b) not like you’re really exercising high culinary standards at university anyways, ditto at 2 am, c) it can actually be quite yummy. they claim.)

but lets say you want to try your hand at something else ‘st andrews’ and have a taste of the student experience…then you can make what they call “st andrews mess”:

all you need is:

-whipped cream, pieces of meringue, strawberries/blueberries/raspberries                        -a spoon & bowl

to make:

-just mix up!

see. i know what you’re thinking. after a pesto, ham, cheese, tomato, nutella, and mars bar toasty, st andrews mess just doesn’t even seem that good.

so go ahead, and make a toasty too!

Balancing Act

One of the definite perks of being on exchange in a place such as Graz is the endless opportunities to travel easily and affordably. I have traveled three of the past four weekends, returning to Budapest, which I first visited ten years ago, and visiting Bratislava and Kiev for the first time. Each trip was different in its own way, both in terms of who I was travelling with, how long I stayed, and of course the different vibe of each city. Kiev was by far the most interesting of the trips, mainly because I had never been that far East or to any part of the former Soviet Union for that matter. Unlike my other trips, I was also hosted by my friend Ashton, a fellow graduate student at UofT who is on exchange in Kiev. The wonderful thing about international experiences is that you quickly acquire a group of friends living in different places, and visiting them is a much more enriching experience than being a tourist and doing the hostel scene, which is far from my favourite. Here are some pictures of my trip to Kiev.

One of many beautiful churches.

Kiev

World War II Museum

While I love to travel and visit new places, it is definitely a challenge to balance travel, school, a life in Graz and managing the aspects of my life back in Toronto. Just to give an indication of some of the things preoccupying me at the moment: I am registered in a required course for my Masters at UofT which involves doing course work almost every week. I also will be graduating in April, and am busy trying to figure out what internships and jobs I will be applying to, which is a very time consuming affair. At the half-way point of my exchange, I am realizing the added challenges that come with an exchange–being a graduate student at UofT is enough work, and an exchange only adds to it. That being said, I think the experience is totally worth the extra work and stress, and I am really trying to make the most of my time here and striking a good schoolwork/travel/life balance. So far so good!

Amsterdam Part 2: Food, parks, and beer.

 

Despite the fact that you probably could spend all of four days going from museum to museum to museum in Amsterdam. I can’t imagine many people would actually want too. There was a lot to do that didn’t require learning, or well, at least came with beer on the side. And Dutch beer is pretty good, so it’s definitely worth leaving Van Gogh behind to go get some. (After waiting in some of the lines to get into some of the museums—namely the Anne Frank Museum, you’ll want a beer pretty badly anyway).

SO here’s some other Dutch things I tried while wandering through Holland’s capital.

Dutch Food

 I probably could have tried harder to go and find more Dutch food, but to be honest traditional Dutch meals didn’t really appeal to me too much. I was told that a traditional Dutch meal generally is a form of meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. It’s kind of standard in terms of food. However, there are an abundance of Indonesian restuarants around Holland, as well as Italian, and middle eastern so you can kind of eat whatever you want.

Here’s a picture of Manneken Pis’s menu! As you can see there are tons of different toppings you can try on your fries. However, I asked the woman working, and straight up mayonnaise is the most popular choice.

I did try Manneken Pis which had a line similar to what you’d expect to see outside of Smoke’s Poutine at 1 AM, about every time I passed it. They sell frites or fries, and the Dutch eat their fries with mayonnaise. (Mayonaise) 

Dutch ‘frites’ always come in a big paper cone, and you can eat them with a tiny fork thing… or your fingers.

  I’m not sure how this trend developed, or why on earth it became popular. I will say in their defence, that ketchup does not exist here –they have it, but it’s sweet and different, and effectively pretty awful, so I wasn’t super surprised that they went looking for better condiments. (Heinz is not a thing in Holland.) Mayonnaise however, would not have been the first thing I would have recommended. Especially since Dutch mayonnaise is much thicker then what we have at home, and is kind of closer to a solid then the liquid spreadable Miracle Whip you see in Canada. They had other options beside standard Mayonaise however, most of them were mayonnaise-based and simply had added flavors. I tried the Sambalsaus which is kind of like a spicy mayonnaise sort-of condiment. It was actually better then I expected, but I didn’t manage to finish it all. I’m just not quite man enough to down that amount of French Fries.

 

CHEESE. It’s everywhere, it’s delicious. Free samples are what I survived on most days for lunch. They even have a cheese museum. It’s located by the Anne Frank museum and you can go in and they encourage you to sample ALL of their cheeses. Needless to say, I needed very little coercion and meandered my way through the surplus of bowls labeled and filled with tiny samples of all kinds of Dutch cheese.

Standard Grocery Store Fare

Also. Their grocery stores generally had a wall of cheese. I’m not talking speciality stores. Or anything outside of your average sort of random grocery store. Conveniently in the one near my hostel, the wall of wine was located right across from the cheese.

Vondelpark

 I like to run. OR. I try to pretend I like to run.. either way it generally ends with me running somewhere or attempting too, and so do a lot of Dutch people. I guess maybe it’s to cancel out all the cheese and mayonnaise they seem to eat, but every time I walked through the park, or went for my own run, there was always bands of merry joggers hustling through. I’ve never seen so many running groups in my life, and there were plenty of people off running on their own as well.

Those who weren’t running, were riding bicycles. Around 5-6 pm the park sort of turns into a super-highway for the masses of cyclists heading home from work, which means, that it sort of became a super-highway for everyone, since everyone here bikes everywhere. There are very few cars, and bicycles have their own lanes throughout the city. They have their own street lights, and generally you can assume that they have the right of way. (They often don’t, however, if you’ve ever been hit by a bicycle before, you know better than to challenge this.—if you’ve never been hit before, well, it hurts a lot.)

Regardless of the foot traffic in the park, it’s beautiful all the time. It’s the biggest park in Amsterdam and has lakes and Castle-like buildigs, and benches, and lots of trees and greenery. It’s lit up all night long, and there were generally always people wandering around it for either fitness or pleasure.

Beer: Heineken

I don’t really like Heineken. As beer goes, it’s okay. It’s probably one of the worst Dutch beers I had, however it’s sort of attained world-wide recognition, and regardless it has a pretty cool brewery tour. The tour is kind of what you’d expect to find if Disney decided to make a theme park for adults. There’s beer, photo-ops, and videos explaining different aspects of Heineken’s history, a ride where you are ‘made into a beer’, and several other sort of fun random things along the way. (Foosball tables for example).

One of several things to take your picture with.

The one cool thing I sort of learned from the whole thing was about how and why the Dutch pour their beer the way they do. In Holland you don’t generally get a pint, you get a glass about half the size, and you get 2-3x as much head as you would normally expect in Canada. The reason is that beer is best when it hasn’t had time to oxidize. So, the foam acts as a buffer to keep your beer from going flat. There’s a two-finger rule the Dutch use to make sure they get enough head. With that amount of foam, you have approximately 5 minutes to drink your beer.

The red star on Heineken glasses indicates the ideal amount of foam for the beer.

Markets — Albert Cuypmarkt

Amsterdam has a lot of really cool outdoor markets that sell all kinds of weird stuff. My favourite was the Albert Cuypmarkt, and I went there for lunch after the Heineken tour. The Albert Cuypmarkt was started in 1904 and is now the largest market in Amsterdam. It’s located in Di Pijp and   It’s supposed to be more of a food market then some of the others, but to be honest there was kind of a lot of everything. There were a ton of booths and stores selling shoes, clothes, and fuzzy clogs. There was also a ton of cheese stalls, chocolate stands, and a lot of waffles and fries.

Here are some other pictures from Amsterdam

 

 

Amsterdam Part 1: Sex, Art, and History

 

It’s finally coming together this whole dream turned reality turned into a confusing emailed flight itinerary. I flew KLM and this red-eye flight began to the long list of sleepless journeys across vast bodies of water. However, on this flight I managed to befriend the stewardess who was overseeing our section, delivering wine, food, and water to the inhabinitants of her area—I owe her a pretty big thank you, she was from Holland and was kind enough to write me a brief, but thorough list of the things I should try and do while I was in the Netherlands. I managed to tick off a lot of them, for anyone curious here were her suggestions:

Hostels:

www.stayokay.nl
www.hostelworld.com

Amterdam

Canal tours/cruises –Volendam!

Musea (Rÿksmuseum)
Zaanseschans (nearby Ams)

If you have time à you can take a train from central station to Maastricht. It’s a total different place in Holland. With such great views! It’s only 2-2.5 hours by train and I really recommend it!

If you want to go shopping go to Utrecht (15-20 min by train). Also a lovely city, just to walk around…

In most places there’s wifi, just ask access codes.

www.iens.nl to check out restaurants/ see rates/ prices

Amsterdam is fun, but don’t stay more than 3-4 days. There’s so much to see and do in other cities: Haarlem, Alkmaar, Utrecht, Den Haag, Leiden (just less than 20 min from Amsterdam)

If you go to Maastricht you definitely need to see the Valkenburg, you can take a blue tour through cavesà beautiful.

Good Luck and Enjoy your stay!
— 

I landed in Amsterdam before the sun managed too. And spent an hour in the airport  stealth googling my hostel and emailing that ‘I am alive’ message home at the Starbucks (It sort of saddens me that these are still in Europe where there is infinitely better coffee to choose from –especially since the prices look suspiciously similar and then you remember that’s in Euros.) —they do have free internet though, and comfortable couches, and if you’re quick you can avoid paying for anything.

It took me somewhere in the embarassing range of two to four hours to figure out the train schedule, tram schedule, where to get a map, and where on earth my Hostel was.

My IAmsterdam map has seen better days.

I am not particularly great at navigating Dutch transit, or Amsterdam’s streets and pre-map I was pretty helpless. (Taking the tram to the hostel was possibly the best decision I could’ve made–in Haarlem and Maastricht I managed to get lost for at least 2 hours hunting them down.) For some reason the labyrinth of streets named Noorderstraat, Nieuwe Looiersstraat, and Van Ostadestraat (STRAAT- I have come to assume means street..) never really seemed to stay in my head in an organized manner.

When I arrived at the hostel, I was told in short that I would have another couple of hours till my bed was ready and I could check in. SO, I stashed my backpack in a locker, and headed out to explore and this is some of what I found meandering Amsterdam’s streets.

Some Background, and How I sort of Followed the White People’s Path to Africa. 

Amsterdam used to be a giant swampy mushland—sorry marshland, and the majority of the city is not actually above sea level. Several districts and buildings (including the airport) are actually sitting on top of big pieces of wood, and pillars that have basically filled the holes and lifted the city up to a respectable ground level. Despite being discovered by the Romans fairly early on in history, no one really cared very much. They basically took note of the geography and peace-ed deeming it to challenging and useless to settle this mushy region. However, this eventually changed as Amsterdam became an ideal passage for trade between the Hanseatic League (Germans) and the Baltic Sea. It became a capitalistic society of individuals and the whole country sort of built itself up around the idea of commercial trade. (There is however a royal family in Holland thanks to William of Orange who you can go read about if you’re interested/bored.)

The city grew slowly, but their golden age is roughly considered from 1580- 1700. This was the time period for example, that the Dutch East India  (VOC)  began trading between Asia and Europe and headed towards the next country I’m going too—South Africa. Amsterdam was basically at the center of the worlds shipbuilding industry, and the majority of ships sailing around where filled with Dutch sailors. And while the Dutch were not the first to consider building a permanent base in Cape Town, they were the first to actualize it.

Things to Do/ Stuff I did 

Heading out into Amsterdam, there was basically something to do within 500 meters in any direction: namely museums, bars/breweries, prostitutes, coffee shops, and a lot of bicycles and flowers.

Museums.

This picture was taken inside of the Rijksmuseum.

Sex, drugs, boat, art, history, it doesn’t really matter what you like, Amsterdam’s got a museum on that. Some of them are fairly big deals like the Van Gogh Museum which was under construction while I was there. Luckily, they’d moved a large portion of his paintings to the Hermitage Amsterdam and that exhibit was pretty amazing. The collection included Van Gogh’s irises, several self portraits, and the bedroom painting. They were staged chronologically so  you could see how his influences changed and how he developed as an artist.

The Rijksmuseum is sadly under construction until April 2013, so they only had some of their collection on display. It’s collection contains over 5000 paintings including Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid.

The Rijksmuseum was the only other art museum I went too, and it had works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Frans Hals. The outside of this building made it one of my favourites in all of Amsterdam and they also had a kind of funny collection of doll houses on display as well as some delftware. Delftware is a pretty big Dutch thing, and you see it everywhere.

Delftware originated in the 1600s and was based heavily on Chinese porcelain. Only the rich could afford the Chinese pottery, and so eventually Dutch artists began to immitate it and copy the designs. It’s called Delftware because though it was produced all over Holland, the best work was said to come from Delft.

Every other street seems to have the odd store front window filled with a variety of the pottery.

 

Anne Frank House was surprisingly captivating considering that it’s ‘collection’ is essentially a bunch of empty rooms that had once been inhabitated by an enchanting girl and her story.The house is tiny and the layout has you walking through the beginning, bottom store are of the house up to the attic where they hid. The walls are covered in excerpts from Anne’s diary, and photographs of those who lived in the house. There are models of the rooms, and pictures to show you what it would’ve looked like. I really appreciated the videos in each room where people who knew Anne talked about the family, the holocaust, and occupied Amsterdam.  There was a collection of Anne’s notebooks, and interviews with her childhood friends, and the history of how her father managed to turn her story into one of the best selling books of all time, and a symbol of the suffering of thousands of people.

The last museum I found myself into was probably the funnest–in a sense. It was the Sex Museum Amsterdam and it’s I think the biggest sex museum in the world.

This was the sign out front. It was possibly one of the cheapest things I did while in Holland, it was pretty great not going to lie.

The collection included some pretty graphic sculptures, a vast collection of porn throughout the ages, some Popeye comics that I definitely never saw as a kid, and a surprising amount of historical facts and artifacts. Most of the exhibit was accompanied by lots of factual information about sex, and erotic fetishes/toys/pictures/food. (Yes, food.)

They had a whole collection of themed baked goods.

 

Some of the random bits of knowledge I gained:

 

1. The term Hermaphrodite comes from a Greek myth where the son of Hermes and Aphrodite declined the love of a nymph and she embraced him with so much passion that their bodies became one. Hermaphrodites used to be thought to have magical powers and were thus highly in demand.

2. Craftsmen in Pompei used to compete with the Greeks in creating masterful pottery. Much of the pottery found when Pompei during the excavation was fairly pornagraphic. I’m not sure why, but I just found it odd that people would want erotic plates to serve food on….

3. History of the pin-up: 

1900-1920s –not generally nude they give the impression of nakedness without seeing much (The PG-pinup)

Post World War I —Women have the right to vote now, and pin-ups get a makeover as well! They’re now younger, smoke, work out, and are now formally called “pin-ups”. (still mostly PG)

World War II —Pin ups on crack. Horny men overseas are bombarded with pinups to raise ‘moral’ (because paper girls are just soo motivating). Planes are decorated with them in order to give pilots ‘divine protection’ (because pin-ups are also akin to divinity and possess magic powers). They are young and slim and everywhere. (PG13)

Fifties —No more war means men have to go home! And now pin ups are chubby and motherly. (PG?)

Sixties — Pin ups sort of die out in the wake of a sexual revolution where people are assumely having more sex and therefore not really in need of sexy drawn ladies to help themselves out. (who knows? rated)

Seventies & Eighties — Pin ups are dead due to magazines (Playboy anyone?) now filled with actual pictures of women naked. (R rated) Pin  up postures in these pictures are abandoned for straight out porn.

4. In the 1900s there were several campaigns of brochures that were published warning of the lethal nature of masturbation.

5. The original condom was created in sixteenth century Italy by a physician named Gabriele Falloppio. It was made of a cloth pouch that would be tied around the penis, and was later re-made using the guts of goats. (gross) The English later adopted it in the 18th century, but they made their’s out of lamb guts which were dried and rubbed with clay and oil to make it elastic and soft. Later this method was replaced by the use of fish-bladder and finally rubber.

Condoms were not widely used or really even known about at all until the Pope denouced them in 1826 and then everyone started using them world-wide. Go Pope.

 

 

A Tasteful Barcelona: The Truth About Paella!

Image

Paella: The Dish of Barcelona!

Well welcome to Barcelona and welcome to the location with some of the best dishes in all of Europe. As Spain’s cuisine rises higher and higher among consumers each year, slowly inching up along the world famous Italians and Parisians, Barcelona leads the way with their incredible local Catalàn and Castellano cuisine. To choose one dish is nigh impossible, however one must never miss an impressive dish of the Spanish Paella when in Barcelona!

This dish is a mixture of incredible fresh Spanish ingredients such as rice, an array of local seafood and the most intricate spices that will leave you crawling back for more where ever you see it throughout the city.

Famously served in the typical Paellera dish, this plate is often split between two or more people for a dinner occasion and it can be made in a variety of different ways.

Novedad Xiringuito serves up some of the best Paellas in town! Some of their most popular dishes are the Paella de Pescado (with Fish), Paella de Arroz Negro (Paella with Blackened Rice from Squid Ink) and the most popular Paella del Mar (Mix of Sea Food).

http://www.escriba.es

Recipe for Local Paella:

> 1 onion,
> 5 cloves of garlic,
> 6 small squid tubes cut in rings,
> 2 or 3 chicken legs,
> 1 red pepper,
> 12 shrimps,
> 12 mussels,
> green peas,
> 3 tomatoes,
> 2 cups of rice,
> 1 bay leave,
> real saffron

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cook the chopped onions, 2 red peppers, the garlic cloves. Add the tomatoes, the squid tubes and the chicken. Add 4 cups of water, salt, saffron, the bay leave, and let this stock cook for 15 minutes.
Add the mussles and the shrimps a few minutes to give taste to the stock, take them out of the stock.

Put the 2 cups of rice in a pan and add 4 cups of the stock. Let it cook slowly, add some more stock if necessary.

When the rice is almost cooked, add the shrimps, the mussels and the green peas… It is ready to eat …

Buen provecho !

Girona, Catalunya!

Well after a quick 1.5 hour trip on the Renfe Train from Passeig de Gracià in central Barcelona I ended up in the city of Girona where my best friend from residence, Maria, was going to show me around for the day! So I will begin with a bit of information about Girona.

There are around 97,000 people in Girona and the city is located 99km Northeast of Barcelona. The city has deep roots within the region of Catalunya and is an incredible getaway for the weekend, especially when you have a local showing you around! With a predominant Catalán culture seen everywhere through flags, language and flyers, this small river bound city is a breath of fresh air nestled on the frontier of the Pyrenees in comparison with the big metropolitan centre of Barcelona.

I was fortunate to have Maria meet me at the Girona Train Station where shortly after we enjoyed the most incredible Patata Bravas and some Bocadillos at one of her favourite restaurants “König”. Then we were off for a tour of the old city!

Lined with incredible cobble stoned streets along the River Onyar, many have pointed the city out to be comparable to Venice with its “Cases de L’Onyar”, these picturesque houses hanging over the river with an incredible view of the city and the snowy mountain tops in the background.

With the famous church of Sant Feliu, the incredible façades of the Girona Cathedral and the stunning Roman City Walls and Fortresses, Girona gave us incredible sights to see for the afternoon.

I was also fortunate to attend the local “Sant Narcis Fires i Festes” the patron saint festival of Girona. Maria and I walked through the incredibly beautiful Parc de la Devesa, a massive never ending “Narnia like” forest of incredibly tall deciduous trees. Within this forest, as the leaves were just beginning to change colour and fall, was the local fair with all the rides and kids attractions!

After seeing some kids running around in a Zorb Ball and thne testing their luck in the ‘rotating’ Sprite bottle, we headed out for a nice stroll on the Passeig de Muralla. Taking in the views of the city and the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees with the sun setting in the background. Then it was a local dish of Costanyas, some Kürtos and lastly some good Girona liquor before heading back to the train for the return to Barcelona!

What a great trip to an incredible city and a great day spent with a good friend!