Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Activities 09.09.14-13.09.14

With the 'feria' on in Salamanca there is loads of people and a great atmosphere around the entire city, why not come along to some of our activities this week to join in with the spirit of the party? On Tuesday you can come with us to some of the 'casetas' around the city, or come and learn to make some typical Salamancan tapas in our cooking class on Wednesday. On Thursday we are going to see a street theatre performance, then on Friday come with us to the medieval market to sample some traditional Spanish dishes. Then if you're looking for a change of scenery this weekend, we have a trip to Madrid planned for you!

Monday 8th: Holiday. Salamanca public holiday for their patron saint, 'the Virgin of the Lake'. Start of the 'ferias' de Salamanca.

Tuesday 9th: Tapas. We are going to explore some of the 'casetas' (the small bars set up all over the city as part of the festivities) and enjoy the festival atmosphere. Meeting Place: Tía Tula, 19:30. Approximate duration 1h.

Wednesday 10th: Cooking Class. We are going to learn how to make some typical 'Salamancan' tapas in spirit of the fair, then we will eat them afterwards! Meeting place: Tía Tula, 18:45. Approximate duration 1h.

Thursday 11th: Theatre in the street. We are going to see a performance of 'Zapatos en el aire' (shoes in the air) performed by a theatre group in the street. The performance mixes theatre, dance and circus acts together. Meeting place: Tía Tula, 17:45. Approximate duration 1h.

Friday 12th: Medieval market. We will take you to explore a medieval market set up as part of the celebrations this week. Come to enjoy a wide variety of things to eat and drink in a traditional Spanish style.

Saturday 13th: Excursion. We will be going to Madrid for the day to enjoy the sights and culture it has to offer. For more information about prices and timings, please contact reception. If you are interested in the excursion it is important to let the secretary know before Wednesday 10th at 14:00

*Note: Please contact reception for information about prices for any of the activities. If you are interested in any of the activities, it is helpful if you contact the reception to let them know beforehand. Minimum 3 people for each activity unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ferias y Fiestas 2014

This weekend one of the biggest festivals of the year in Salamanca kicks off on Sunday. This week is a week full of parties, music and great food, with the first day of festivities being dedicated to 'Virgen de la Vega' (Our Lady of the Valley) one of the Salamanca's' patron saints. On the first say of the festival (Sunday 7th September) almost everyone in the city flocks to the Old Cathedral, where a bronze statue of the saint is placed in front of the alter. After a floral offering there is a procession through the city to celebrate the Saint and the start of the week of festivities.

After this first religious day, the people of Salamanca spend the rest of the week generally celebrating being from Salamanca, with things going on day and night through the whole week. You can find traditional and modern concerts spread about the squares of the city, and the Plaza mayor sees a constant string of performances throughout the day. During the days you can find loads of food and drink stalls selling authentic and traditional Spanish fair. There are parades almost every day and bullfights take place in the bullring every afternoon. If you head down to the river you'll find small artisan stalls selling local goods, or the San Francisco park in which you can sample different types of food from all over Spain. If you're looking to try some traditional Spanish wines, head to the Plaza de los Bandos for some wine tasting events.

In the evenings the festivities move up a couple of notches. Together with general street parties, live music fills the streets from almost every corner, and fireworks light up the night sky. They also have a traditional style fair, complete with Ferris wheel and an array of fairground games to try your luck at. The festivities draw people in from other parts of Spain, as well as tourists, so you can bank on there being lots of full bars and plenty of people about!

The fair started as an agricultural and livestock fair down by the Roman bridge. At the time Salamanca's economy was heavily based around these two sectors, and farmers from around the area used to come to buy and sell produce here. As time went on and the importance of agriculture began to die down, the fair became more of an occasion for the entire city to get together and celebrate. As I'm sure you'll know, the Spanish love an excuse for a party!

The festival was originally a pagan celebration, though as Spain quickly became heavily catholic over the years, many festivals ended up with a religious figure or saint added to their name. 'Our Lady of the Valley' was declared Salamanca's patron saint in 1618, though the celebration did not take on its religious undertones until 1706, when allegedly the Virgin de la Vega helped protect the city against the attack of an invading army. Now the first day of the festival is dedicated to the saint in order to help welcome the week of eating, drinking and entertainment that follows.

So if you are here in Salamanca for the week between the 7th and 15th of September, you are bound to come across some elements of the festival! Why not check out some of the stalls and try some traditional Spanish food and drink, or head to the Plaza Mayor each night for concerts from both local and national bands! For a programme of what's going on and when, click here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Activities 01/09/14-07/09/14

We have another exciting week of activities planned for you in the run up to one of the biggest parties Salamanca sees all year. Come and check out some of the street art in the Plaza del Oeste district on Monday, or come with us to try some of the best tapas the city has to offer on Tuesday. If you fancy something a bit more active, we have a dance class on Wednesday and an organised treck on horseback on Wednesday. This weekend come with us for a trip to Portugal, or get your party hat on Sunday as the start of 'La Feria' hits the city with the offering of flowers to the patron saint of Salamanca and fireworks later on. It's going to be a great one!

Monday 1st: Street art excursion. We will be going to the area of the Plaza del Oeste to see some of the interesting street art painted on the walls and garages of the area. Meeting place: Tía Tula, 18:45. Approximate duration 1h.

Tuesday 2nd: Tapas tour. We will go to some of the best bars in the city centre to try some of the local Salamancan tapas delicacies on offer. Meeting place: Tía Tula, 19:15. Approximate duration 1h30.

Wednesday 3rd: Horse treck. We will be going out to a beautiful area of the local countryside where we will take you on a horse treck with a local equestrian centre. If you are interested it's important to let reception know before Tuesday 2nd Sept. Meeting place: Tía Tula, 16:00. Approximate duration: 3h.

Thursday 4th: Dance class. We are going to learn the first steps of a typical Latin dance (minimum 8 students) It is important to let reception know if you are interested in this activity before Tuesday 2nd Sept. Meeting place: Tía Tula 19:30. Approximate duration 1h.

Friday 5th: Meet some Spanish authors. You can come to meet several different Spanish authors to see and discuss their work. There is also a small theatre performance during the night. Meeting place: Tía Tula 18:30 (we will show you how to get to the exhibition) Approximate duration: 2h.

Saturday 6th: Excursion. This Saturday we will be taking you on  weekend trip to Portugal to see the cities of Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais. Price includes bus travel and 2 nights in a hotel including breakfast. For information about prices, contact reception. It is important to let reception know if you are interested in this activity before Wednesday 3rd Sept.

Sunday 7th: Feria de Salamanca. This Sunday marks the start of the week long festivities for the 'Feria de Salamanca'. There is loads of things going on, but at Tía Tula we recommend that you see:
-The offering of the flowers to the Virgin of the Lake 19h Plaza Anaya
-Fireworks 22h at  the area near the Roman bridge (puente romano)

*Note: Please contact reception for information about prices for any of the activities. If you are interested in any of the activities, it is helpful if you contact the reception to let them know beforehand. Minimum 3 people for each activity unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Plaza Mayor

One of the most breathtaking sights Salamanca has to offer is undoubtedly the Plaza Mayor, it's a must see for anyone visiting Salamanca, and is incredible both by day and by night. I thought I would write a little bit about the history of the square and about its uses in the modern day.

The construction of the Plaza Mayor was ordered by king Filipe V and began in 1729. The square was designed by the Churriguera family, famous for their baroque style architecture which can be seen in many cities throughout spain,  and was first overseen by Alberto Churriguera between 1729-35. Then with the second phase of building came Alberto's nephew Manuel de Larra between 1750-1755. The City Hall was also added in 1755 by Andrés Garcia de Quiñones. Similar to many buildings in Salamanca, the square was built in sandstone. Due to this Salamanca has been nicknamed 'the golden city' due to the golden hue many of the buildings give off when hit by the sunlight, and when lit up by the nigh time lights.

The Plaza is an irregular square, designed this way on purpose out of respect for the church of San Martín. None of its facades have the same height, though each side has three floors aside from the main facade. The Plaza has six entrances leading off to different streets in the city, and has a clock tower on the main facade which in the original design was supposed to have two towers either side of it. However due to fears that the building would not support the weight of these towers the plans were shelved. The city hall is also located within this main facade, and on its face you can see medallions of famous Spanish people, such as Charles I, Cervantes and St. Teresa.  Surrounding the plaza are some 88 arches and more than 200 balconies, which are now home to hotels and private residences.

The Plaza was originally used for bullfighting, and continued to host bullfights for a 100 years after the plaza was built before the more popular circular bullrings came to Spain. It has been a meeting place for people of the city for many years, and when the city's commerce was based around the trade of farm animals and produce people used to meet in the Plaza to sell their goods. Nowadays the Plaza is still a very popular meeting place for people of Salamanca. It is lined with cafés, bars, restaurants and shops and often hosts live concerts. One café that is worth a visit is the 'Café Novelty' as it has been in the same place in the Plaza Mayor for over 100 years and has some of the best ice creams in the city on offer! From the 8th to the 15th of September Salamanca holds one of its biggest festivals of the year, and during this time you can find live music, theatre acts and craft stalls filling the Plaza with people for the whole week.

So if you do come to Salamanca, make sure you come to take a look at the Plaza Mayor, why not sit and enjoy an ice cream during the day watching the world go by, or come and have a drink and sit outside at one of the many bars there, you might even catch some live music if you're lucky!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Activities 25/08/14-31/08/14

We have another programme filled with great activities for you to enjoy this week. Come and learn about and enjoy some of the city's history at the beautiful gardens of Calixto and Melibea. Come and watch a Spanish film with us on Tuesday, a great way to practice listening skills outside the classroom. We also have some cultural events, with a 'croquetas' cooking class and a Latin dance class. Come and relax with us in one of the city's parks on Friday afternoon, or come with us to Madrid on Saturday for our excursion.

Monday 25th: Gardens of Calixto and Melibea. We will go to visit the cathedral gardens of Calixto and Melibea to find out about its romantic history and the great views it has to offer. Meeting place: Tía Tula 18:45. Approximate duration 45 mins.

Tuesday 26th: Cinema. 'La Gran Familia Española' (Family United)-Spanish comedy from director Daniel Sánchez Arávalo-2013. During the final of the world cup in South Africa there is a wedding. This same day, while the Spanish team freezes, a family with five children with biblical names (Adán, Benjamín, Caleb, Daniel y Efraín) also face the biggest game of their life. Meeting place: Tía Tula 19:30 (we will take you up the 'Van Dyck Cinema' to watch the film). Approximate film time: 113 min.

Wednesday 27th: Cooking class. We are going to learn how to make the popular tapas dish 'croquetas', and afterwards we will try what we have made! Meeting place: Tía Tula 18:45. Approximate duration 1h.

Thursday 28th: Dance class. We are going to learn the first steps of the Latin dance together. It is important to let the receptionist know before Tuesday at 14:00 if you are interested in this activity. Meeting place: Tía Tula 19:30. Approximate duration 1h.

Friday 29th: Games in the park. We will pass the afternoon in the fresh air in one of the city's best parks playing different games between us with Spanish cards. Meeting place: Tía Tula. Approximate duration 1h30.

Saturday 30th: Excursion. This weekend we will be taking you to Madrid for the day. For more information about price and meeting place please contact reception. It is important to let the receptionist know before Wednesday at 14:00 if you are interested in this activity.

*Note: Please contact reception for information about prices for any of the activities. If you are interested in any of the activities, it is helpful if you contact the reception to let them know beforehand. Minimum 3 people for each activity unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hornazo de Salamanca

Coming from the north of England I am a big fan of all things to do with pastry. Pies, pasties, sausage rolls, the lot. Coming to Salamanca for the summer I wasn't expecting to find many good places to get my pastry fix (there isn't a Greggs on every other corner as in England!) However was pleasantly surprised to discover 'Hornazos', Salamanca's version of a pasty. Hornazo to Salamanca is what Cornish pasties are to Cornwall. You can find pastry shops all over the city selling both hornazos and empanadas (another type of Spanish filled pastry). Traditionally hornazo contains pork loin, spicy chorizo sausage and hard boiled eggs, but you can now find many different versions, such as ham and cheese, tuna and smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Hornazo is traditionally eaten in Salamanca on Easter Monday, or 'Lunes de Aguas' (Monday of the waters). The name of this festival supposedly comes from a twisting of the word 'enagua', meaning petticoat, which is historically what the prostitutes used to wear under their dresses. The story goes that during lent the prostitutes of the town were sent to the other side of the Tormes river, so as not to temp or distract the men of the city during the religious festivities. On the 'Monday of the waters', the students of the town threw a party on the banks of the river to welcome back the women, and cooked and ate hornazo as part of the celebrations.
Nowadays you can buy hornazo all over the city, and other parts of Spain have their own variations of the dish as well. Here is a recipe so you can try and make the traditional pie at home!

  •  200 ml olive oil
  • 150ml white wine
  • 100ml water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 40-42g of fresh baker's yeast (or 3 packets of dry baker's yeast)
  • 900g bread flour
  • Filling (the proportions of which you can alter to your taste preferences):
  • Boiled egg
  • Jamón serrano
  • Pork loin steaks or saddle
  • Chorizo


  • In a bowl lightly heat the water and slowly crumble in the yeast until smooth.
  • In another bowl mix the oil, wine, salt and the sugar. Add the water and yeast mix. If using dry yeast  mix with the flour.
  • Add the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix.
  • Add half the flour and mix. Add the remaining flour saving a little. Form a ball with the dough and add the rest of the flour as needed if the dough sticks to your fingers.
  • Knead for about 10 minutes on a floured surface.
  • Divide the dough into two parts. Put half in a greased bowl and cover with cling film and leave to stand for around 30 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Roll out half of the dough with a rolling pin and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  • Add the filling on top in layers, first the chorizo, then the jamón, on top the pork loin which you need to lightly sear in a frying pan, and finally the sliced boiled eggs.
  • Cover this with the other part of the dough, rolled out into a flat surface. Trim any excess dough and pinch seal the edges. Use any excess dough for decoration.
  • Cut a small hole in the centre of the pastry to allow any vapour to escape and brush the top with beaten eggs.
  • Bake for 30 minutes until golden and repaint the top with the left over beaten eggs as soon as you take it out of the oven to make it shiny.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • Enjoy!

If you do come to Salamanca, why not give this local dish a try? Many places sell pieces cut to size, or if you like you can buy a large one for a group of people. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I do!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Frog of Salamanca

When walking through Salamanca, one of the things I noticed was the abundance of frog paraphernalia, key rings, t-shirts, mugs, pretty much every tourist thing you could think of! The frog is the symbol of Salamanca and is said to be good luck. I thought I'd give you a brief overview of the story behind the frog and why it's supposed to bring you luck.

The famous frog of Salamanca can be found on the main university building's most famous architectural piece 'La Puerta de Salamanca'. The University's facade is a plateresque design (a type of intricate stonework seen on many of the famous buildings of Salamanca) containing many highly decorative stone carvings. The facade was an addition to the university in 1592 by the Catholic Kings, though the building itself was built in 1134, making it one of the oldest universities in the world.

You can find the frog sat atop a scull carved into the facade, and there are a few different theories as to why it's there. One such theory is directly linked to the university. This story says that the students studying at university had to try and find the tiny frog amongst the carvings on the facade, and if they managed this without help they would pass their exams and have good luck.

An alternative story gives a slightly darker meaning, saying that the frog is a symbol of sexual temptation and the skull a symbol of failure or death. A toad was often used in Spanish history as a symbol for prostitutes and sexual temptation, and some argue that the frog is actually meant to be a toad. According to the legend the frog on the skull was there to warn the students to be aware of women, as they may distract them, thus not focusing on their studies. There used to be a high volume of prostitutes in Salamanca due to the large university filled with young men, some of whom carried diseases that could be fatal, thus the image of the scull a as a reminder of death.

Though this has been the legend for many years, recent studies have offered a different story behind the famous frog. Historian Benjamin Garcí-Hernández argues that the scull represents Prince Juan, a son of the Catholic Kings, who died in 1497 before reaching 20. The frog is said to represent his physician Doctor Parra, who tried as hard as possible to save the prince but without success. This is why the frog has been given the nickname 'Parrita' (Little Parra) as a symbol for the doctor.

Regardless of the story the facade is a very impressive piece of art, maybe you can come and search out the frog for yourself in Salamanca, and hopefully it will bring you good luck in your studies!