Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Surfing in San Sebastian

This weekend I decided to take a break from city life in Salamanca to visit the coast and do some surfing in the beautiful Basque region of Spain. I had been up to visit Paddy (the manager) at the stoke travel surf camp in June, and knew  straight away I would be back at least a couple of times whilst spending the summer in Salamanca.

The campsite is just up the hill from the small town of Zarautz (about 10km from San Sebastian) set with beautiful views over the beach and the coastline. The journey into the area is very impressive, with the green rolling hills of the Basque region you get some amazing views from both the bus and the train. The surf campsite has its own area of the bigger 'Gran Camping Zarautz' campsite, which is very popular among tourists, both foreign and Spanish due to its prime location and great views.

The camp is run by a group of friendly Australians, all of whom make you feel at home and welcome very quickly. People stay in pre-erected tents with an air bed and sleeping bags, so you don't have to worry about bringing any camping equipment. Further to this the price that you pay includes everything, surf lessons in the morning, all your meals included, the organising of excursions such as cliff jumping, horse riding, paragliding and a boat party, and for 5€ extra a day you get UNLIMITED beer and sangria (it really is unlimited, they once went through over 25 kegs of beer in 2 nights!!) The food is also great, cooked by a British guy nicknamed 'blimey' there is always plenty to eat and the food is always really tasty and of a good quality. The camp gives off a great ambiance, with chilled music playing all day, a skate ramp, basketball net, table tennis table and a slack line for tight rope walking there are loads of things to keep you occupied after a morning surf. Everything in the camp has been made from scrap wood, though it comes together nicely to create a rustic feel, there are surf board chairs, tree stump stools and a giant pallet-made seat.

A typical day at the camp starts around 9 with cooked breakfast, followed by a surf lesson at about 10:30. The surf instructors all know how to run a good lesson, and are really enthusiastic and helpful with tips and techniques. After a surf/chill on the beach you get picked up at about 1:30 to go back to the camp for lunch at around 2. The afternoons are free time, you can take a board and go down for another surf, chill out at the camp and have a few beers, relax on the beach or go down into Zarautz  for a wonder around. It is in this time that any organised activities will take place as well. Dinner is served at around 9pm, and most nights turn into some kind of party! The parties just at the camp are great(what party wouldn't be with unlimited beer), but the group also run trips into San Sebastian (where you can find some of Spain's best tapas) for a night out, as well as boat parties. The camp site itself has a traditional Basque cider house, where you can pay €25 for a 3 course meal and unlimited cider from the giant barrels. There are also other cider houses in the area which are really good fun and good value for money!

So if you like the sound of it then get yourself up to Zarautz for some surfing and partying! Find more info, including contact details and prices here, or check out their facebook here. For completely free unlimited beer/sangria, quote promo code 'Sizzle' when booking! Maybe I'll see you there to try and surf some waves and have a beer on the hill watching the sun set in the evening!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Activities 21/07/14-27/07/14

We have another great week filled with fun activities, with the weather getting warmer as summer comes in we've got loads of things to do out in the fresh air! Come and have an ice cream whilst learning about the history of the Plaza Mayor on Monday, or take a horse trek through the beautiful countryside surrounding Salamanca on Wednesday. Take a boat out for a relaxing trip down the river on Thursday, or come and visit Madrid or the beaches of Portugal with either of our two excursions this weekend! With tapas on Tuesday and a visit to the bullring on Friday you are not short of great things to do this week!

Monday 21st: Ice cream and Plaza Mayor.  We will go to the Plaza Mayor to learn about its architectural history while enjoying a delicious ice cream from an iconic café in the Plaza Mayor. Meeting place: Tía Tula 18:50-duration approximately 40 min.

Tuesday 22nd: Tapas Route. We are going to some of the best bars in the centre of the city to try some typical Salamancan tapas. Meeting place: Tía Tula 19:25-duration approximately 1h30.

Wednesday 23rd:  Horse trek.  We will take a ride in the beautiful 'Ribera del Duero' countryside with a local equestrian centre. Meeting point: Tía Tula 16:00-duration approximately 2h. Please ask at reception for more details on prices.

Thursday 24th: River boat trip. We will take a trip in boats on the river Tormes (pedalos or rowing boats) It is important to let the secretary know if you would like to come before Tuesday 22nd at 14:00. Meeting place: Tía Tula 11:30//17:30-duration approximately 1h. Maximum 28 students.

Friday 25th: Trip to the Salamanca bull ring. We are going to learn about the famous bull ring in Salamanca, including information about the nickname 'la glorieta' (the roundabout) as well as the preperation of the bulls, the history behind bullfighting and the rite of the bull. It is important to let the secretary know if you would like to come before Wednesday 23rd at 14:00. Meeting place: Van Dyck cinema 19:10-duration approximately 1h. Minimum 10 people.

Saturday 26th: Excursion to Madrid. This weekend we will be taking you to the capital of Spain to see the famous sights and spend some time in discovering the city. It is important to let the secretary know if you would like to come before Wednesday 23rd.  For more information about prices and pick up points, please contact reception.

Sunday 27th: Excursion. On Sunday we will be going to relax on the beaches of Aveiro in Portugal, a good way to get a break from city life and feel the sea air on your face! Leaving about 8:30 in the morning and returning around 18:30. It is important to let the secretary know if you would like to come before Wednesday 23rd.  For information please contact reception.

*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. Minimum 3 people for each activity unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Paella Valenciana

With the paella cooking class and the excursion to Valencia this weekend with Tía Tula, I thought I'd write a little post about paella and its history, and give you a recipe to follow so you can try and make it yourself at home!

Paella originally came from Valencia, and so can be seen as the most authentic Paella in Spain. It has been a traditional Spanish dish for many years and you can now find many different types of Paella across the whole of Spain, and in Spanish restaurants across the world. The word 'paella' actually means frying pan in Valencia, owing to the large round frying pan with two handles that is typically used to cook the famous dish (though I'm sure a normal frying pan would suffice!) The traditional paella pan usually has no more than 5 or 6cm of depth, but can be as big as 90cm in diameter!
Many believe that rice first came to Spain imported with the Moors, along with saffron, another of paella's key ingredients. The Moors also greatly improved the irrigation system in southern Spain, making the growing of rice much easier and successful. Despite it's early start in Spain, it is believed that rice didn't become popular in kitchens until during the 16th century, around this time people used to cook with whatever ingredients they had, and there is reference of paella existing in the Valencia area at this point. The dish however was popular around other parts of Spain as well, but was originally named 'Valencian rice' before gaining the name paella a couple of centuries later.
It is difficult to define a 'true paella' recipe as the dish changes depending on the gastronomy of the region it was being made in. For example a typical Valencian paella consists of chicken or rabbit and vegetables, where as in towns closer to the coast 'paella marinera' was much more popular, using seafood and shellfish in place of the meat and vegetables of the Valencian version.

Traditionally paella is seen as a dish for festivities, being made for large family dinners or parties, however now it is widely available across the whole of Spain, and even the world, in its many different forms.

Find below a recipe for the traditional Valencian Paella:

Ingredients (for four portions):
·         500 grams of Spanish rice
·         800 grams of chopped chicken
·         600 grams of chopped rabbit
·         250 grams of wide green beans
·         200 grams of large white lima beans
·         100 grams of crushed or grated tomato
·         150 cc of olive oil
·      Fresh saffron strands, if not available you can use another food dye. It won't be the same though!
·         1 tbs of paprika
·         Salt
·         Fresh rosemary if possible, but dry if fresh is not available
·         1 litre of water
·      First level the paella (pan) so the rice will be evenly distributed. Pour some olive oil and put the paella down, the oil must pool in the centre. Once it's levelled, light the fire and wait till it's very hot

·         Spread the oil throughout the paella with a spreader. Add the chicken and rabbit with salt to taste. The bigger pieces go in the centre and the smaller pieces closer to the edge, in this way we avoid burning any of them. Turn the pieces over until they are browned all over. This must be a slow process, without rushing. The secret of a good paella is that the meat is properly fried!

·         Once the meat is well browned, remove it from the centre towards the edges (where the heat is less intense). Add the wide green beans to the centre of the paella. The green beans must be properly fried too, they take less time than the meat, and we must turn it over constantly as not to burn them.

·         When the green beans are done we add the crushed tomato (natural, not canned). As before, we push the friend beans towards the exterior and place the tomatoes in the centre. Sauté until the tomato has released all its liquid.

·         Once all these ingredients are ready stir the contents to spread them well in the paella. Add the paprika and stir quickly so it doesn't burn.

·         In paella the amount of water should double the amount of rice, so if we use 500 grams of rice we should use 1 litre of water, in any case the water should cover all the ingredients

·         Add the saffron strands or food dye and the lima beans. Check salt and add more if necessary, no more salt should be added after the rice.

·         Once the broth reaches boiling point, let it boil for 5 minutes at high heat and then simmer at low heat for 40 minutes

·         After the 40 minutes we turn the heat up again and add the rice evenly in the paella. Instead of measuring, the expert make a cross like shape that about 1 finger higher than the paella. Cook for 5 minutes at high heat, then 5 at medium heat and then for 8-10 minutes at minimum heat. In total the rice cooks in 18 to 20 minutes, it should never be more than this even if there's still some broth, as the rice will overcook.

It's traditional to let the paella stand for a few minutes, but it also serves a purpose. If the rice is still hard it will get more cooked, and if there's too much broth, it will soak in the rice
If you want to get very traditional, the paella is eaten straight out of the paella with wooden spoons!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Activities 14/07-20/07

We have another great week full of activities for you to choose from. Take a trip to see one of the best views of Salamanca from the clergy tower on Monday, or come along for a friendly game of basketball in the sun after class on Tuesday. Come and immerse yourself in some Spanish culture with a trip to the cinema on Wednesday, or  with a paella cooking class and Latin dance classes on the following days. After a full week, enjoy your weekend in Valencia or head to the beaches of Portugal with either of the two excursions we have on offer.

Monday 14th: Visit to a monument: We are going on a trip to view the 'Scala Coeli', or the clergy tower to enjoy the fantastic views available there over the whole of Salamanca. Duration approximately: 40min.

Tuesday 15th: Sports: We will go to one of the cities many outdoor courts to enjoy a game of basketball. Duration approximately: 1h30.

Wesnesday 16th: Cinema. We will be taking you to watch the Spanish film 'La vida inesperada' (Life Unexpected) from director Jorge Torregrosa at a cinema in the city. In the film aspiring actor to be Juanito goes to New York in search of his dream. However without much success he spends his time moving from job to job to get by. One day he gets a visit from his cousin, who seems to have success in everything he does and has everything a man could want. However the coexistence of both brings the truth about each to the surface. Duration of the film 108min.

Thursday 17th: Cooking Class: Today we are going to learn how to cook the famous Spanish dish Paella, plus another tapas dish, then afterwards we will get to eat what we make! It is important to let reception know if you are interested in this class before Wednesday 16th at 14:00. Duration approximately: 1h.

Friday 18th: Dance Class. We will be going to learn the first steps  of the Latin Dance, which gives you the base steps for many of the famous Latin American and Spanish dances. It is important to let reception know if you are interested in this class before Wednesday 16th at 14:00. Duration 1h (minimum 15 people).

Saturday 19th: Excursion. This week we will be taking you to see the beautiful city of Valencia for two nights over the weekend (18th-20th). We will be staying in a hotel with bed and breakfast. It is important to let reception know if you are interested in this trip before Wednesday 16th.  For more information about prices and meeting points, please contact reception.

Sunday 20th: Excursion. This Sunday we will be taking you to the beaches of Portugal to spend the day relaxing in the sun and soaking up some rays. It is important to let reception know if you are interested in this trip before Wednesday 16th.  For more information about prices and meeting points, please contact reception.

*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. Minimum 3 people for each activity unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Basketball in Salamanca

I have played basketball for a few years back in England, but after almost a year of travelling around and being in places where it wasn't a popular sport, I was excited to come to Salamanca and try and seek out some opportunities to continue playing.  I knew the sport was big in Spain with some Spanish players, such as Pau Gasol playing at a top level in the NBA in America.

Compared to England where for most of the year we are limited to playing inside, I knew with the great Spanish weather there would be some opportunity to play basketball in the open air, and wasn't disappointed with what I found! Here in Salamanca there are loads of good quality outdoor courts to play and practice on.  The most popular that I have visited so far is in the 'Parque de los Jesuitas' not far from 'Paseo Canelejas'. Here they have four outdoor courts next to each other with good smooth ground and good quality baskets. You can often find locals playing basketball down here and it's really easy to get into a game with them! This gives you the option of just practicing on one of the rings (with so many there it is very rare that all are occupied) or joining in for a bit of a scrimmage with the locals! The setting of the courts is great, set at the bottom end of the park in between trees and next to some fountains, it's a very pretty place to play basketball. There is also a bar in the middle of the park and plenty of trees to relax under in the shade after a hard game out in the sun! Though this park seems to be the main place to go as it is the closes to the city centre, there are plenty of others dotted around the city, check out a map here  to see where the closest court is to you!

Salamanca has a professional Woman's team who go by the name of 'Perfumerias Avenida'. In 2011 they won both the national league and the European  championship, so there is obviously a high standard of basketball here in the city! They play their home games at the 'Pabellon Wurzburg', situated a little further out of the city centre but still within walking distance. Though at the moment it is off season for basketball, so it might be difficult to see a game over the summer, however if you are here over the winter months then a live basketball game always has a great atmosphere! As I previously said, basketball is a big sport in Spain, being one of the most popular together with football. Many cities in Spain have a team that compete in the national league, with Barcelona taking the title last year. If you want to get up to date on any basketball news in Spain, check out the official league website here for any news, transfers and fixture lists!

So if you do come and visit Salamanca and fancy a game of basketball, let me know! I am hoping to get a group together for a regular game every week, this Saturday is the first one so hopefully it will become a weekly event. Even if you haven't played before and want to give it a try, come on down and enjoy yourself!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Activities 07/07/14

We have another great week filled with fun activities for you this week. Take in some of the cities sights and history with a guided tour on Monday, or take a tour of some of the best tapas bars in the city centre on Tuesday. If you're feeling brave try your hand at bullfighting on Friday or if you're ready to relax after a hard week head to the beach on Sunday with us! If you're looking for a good opportunity to meet other students at the school head to 'Las Bravas' bar on Thursday for a Tía Tula fiesta!

Monday 7th July: Guided Tour:  We are taking you on an historical guided tour of the city, looking at buildings from the 1800's as well as the new developments Salamanca has seen. We will also look over some of the impressive history of the city. Meeting place: Tía Tula at 19:00- duration 1h30.

Tuesday 8th: Tapas tour: We are taking you on a tour of some of the best tapas bars in the centre of the city to try some of the tapas dishes specific to the city (we plan to go to 2 or 3 different bars depending on the atmosphere) Meeting place: Tía Tula 19:45 duration 1h30.

Wednesday 9th: Film night: We will be watching a famous Spanish film, a  great way to practice and consolidate the language skills you have been learning.

Thursday 10th: Party!: Tía Tula is organising a party for both students and workers , this is a great opportunity to practice your Spanish with students from other classes that you might not normally get to meet. It's important that you sign up on Tuesday the 8th so we know how many places to reserve at the bar. Price including one drink (water, coke/lemonade, beer or wine) and a selection of tapas to try. Meeting place: Tía Tula- Duration 1h30.

Friday 11th: Visit to see the bulls in the countryside: We will go and visit the bulls bred for bullfighting in the bullring out in the countryside, and for those brave enough you can have a try at an amateur bullfight with a heifer! (minimum 20 people, price includes transport to and from the farm and the amateur bull fight)  It's important that you let the secretary know before 14:00 on Wednesday 9th. Meeting place: Tía Tula, duration 3h

Saturday 12th: Excursion: This week we will be going to visit San Fermin, one of the country's most famous cities for the bull run. It's important that you let the secretary know you are interested by Wednesday 9th. For more information speak with the secretary. Price tbc€

Sunday 13th: Excursion: On sunday we will be taking you to Portugal to spend the day lazing on the beach and sunbathing by the sea. It's important that you let the secretary know you are interested by Wednesday 9th. For more information speak with the secretary.

*NOTE: It is helpful if you make a reservation with the secretary first for any of the activities. Minimum 3 people per activity (unless otherwise stated).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In Search of the Best Quote About Foreign Language Learning, Results!

Three weeks ago we started a basic game about famous quotes about languages and the learning of languages entitled: "Looking for the best quote about languages and their learning". It was simply to choose the best quote about this theme from those that were shown in the article (if you haven't read the article we invite you to do so right now!) As we said, it's something that we are very passionate about, famous quotes about languages and the learning of them, because as you can see in the list of quotes from the article, there are some marvellous quotes that really make you think. And now we have a winner!(The photo above might give you some clue!) There were teachers and members of Tía Tula staff, students of the school, writers of this blog and some of our followers on the Tía Tula Facebook that had voted in this game, thank you for your contributions!

To pay tribute to the second and third place quotes, which may be less well known, but for some hold a greater meaning, here is the top three quotes!

1. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” - (Nelson Mandela, South African politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1993)

2. “To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world” (Chinese proverb)

3.  “Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world” (Jalaluddin Rumi, Persian poet)

The winner, the Mandela quote, was the clear favourite from the start. The truth is that it swept the floor with votes with a great distance between first and second place. As is well known by everyone, Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) was an activist, a lawyer and a South African politician in the twentieth and twenty first centuries, though the main reason people know him is due to his peaceful fight against racial segregation. He was the first black prime minister of the republic of South Africa (1994 and 1999). He established a democratic political model for his country and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against racism in 1993. In his quote Madiba-a nickname he was known as by many in his country which has now become a fashionable way to refer to him- he speaks to us about the power that words possess, and how that power is multiplied when you know a language of a different culture. Power that in one way you feel in your heart directly, power of communication without filters or barriers. A beautiful and brilliant way of thinking that creates cause to reflect.