Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Skateboarding in Salamanca

I have been skateboarding for many years in England and as I'm sure you all know, the weather in England is far from perfect, and living in a small rural town in the north of the country there aren't any skate parks within skating distance (the best I get is a smooth driveway/car park at our village hall) Therefore when I knew I would be coming to Salamanca to study and work here at Tía Tula language school I was really excited to explore what the city had to offer in terms of skate spots. I'm sure I still have a lot more to discover but will try and fill you in on my findings so far!

Naturally the first difference to skateboarding in Salamanca compared to back home in England is the weather. Even if it does rain (which is rare) the weather changes quickly enough in the summer months that within a couple of hours everything is dry. Another benefit of being here is Salamanca is a small city, therefore most things are only a 10-15 minute skate away from each other. Further to this many of the streets are paved with smooth concrete or marble like slabs which make for a smooth roll around the city. I came with a cruiser board (mindless 24/7) which is such a great way to get around and see the city, as well as a normal set up to take to street spots and down to the parks.


Now, the skate parks that they have here are nothing like the ones you can find in some of the bigger Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, there are also many superior parks in England, however there a good crew of skaters in the city who can make any session into a fun one. The main skate park in the city is situated next to the river just next to the start of the 'Puente Romano' bridge. The park has some small metal features-a fun box, a manual pad and two small kickers, one of which is moveable and the other crosses a gap. They also have a grind rail and a couple of grind boxes, as well as a covered area with small stair set and down-rails leading up to it. Though it might not seem like much, I have never been bored skating here, and the obstacles are both good for learning tricks and for pushing your skating. Some are easy, such as the 2 set up to the covered area, whilst others are hard to skate-a steep flat bank next to the fun box and a bigger stair set near one entrance to the park. There are also some good skaters here, and I've already seen some good stuff thrown down (hard flip off the kicker and over the gap, blunt stall flip out on the flat bank...) The skaters who frequent this park are all very friendly and helpful, and there is no feeling of intruding on their session. Games of skate are a common thing at the park, I've played countless games against different people since I've been here, so get learning some strange tricks to catch people out with! The location of the park next to the river means it stays slightly cooler than other parts of the city, and with the water and some greenery it really feels that you have got out of the city (despite the park only being a ten minute skate from the centre). This is definitely the place to come to meet other skaters in the city, however don't expect it to be full all day. Due to the heat and the general Spanish way of life people don't usually start showing up until around 6 or 7 in the evening at the earliest, however due to the floodlights and the cooler temperatures sessions can go on late into the evening.

There is also another park I have found set in the lower end of one of the bigger parks of the city 'el parque de los jesuitas'. This park is smaller than the main one by the river, but has concrete features and some transitions so if you are more into ramps than street skating this could be a better option for you. The park has a couple of quarter pipes, a small concrete launch pad and some flat banks linked to one of the quarter pipes to act as a kind of fun box. This isn't the easiest park to skate which makes any tricks landed that bit more impressive. This park is generally quieter than the main skate park, though I'm sure with the right crew a good session could go down there. There are also basketball and football pitches right next to it, and a bar in the middle of the park if you feel like you need a bit of refreshment!

One of the best street spots I have seen is on the main shopping street of Salamanca, the 'Calle Toro' by the side of the church of 'San Juan de Sahagun'. Though right next to the church I have never seen skaters get any trouble skating here. The spot consists of consecutive 2 and 3 sets with well waxed ledges next to each one. This is a good spot for learning new tricks down stair sets and for trying to put lines together down the stair sets or with the ledges. This spot is easy to find and right next to a supermarket. Not that I've tried but I would imagine Sundays to be a no go as Spain is a very religious country, but I can't say for sure!

There are many other waxed ledges of varying heights dotted around the city as well. One I've spotted is on the Rua Mayor as part of a statue/monument. It has both a tall straight ledge and a curved one to try some tricks on.


In terms of equipment there are 2 main skate shops in Salamanca, both close to each other in between the 'Calle de Toro' and 'Gran Via'. 'First Love' seems to be the main skate shop, stocking everything you need to get set up and with a range of clothing from brands such as Element, DC and Vans. Check out their website here for more information and some videos and pictures. The other skate store nearby is called 'K-Lab'. Compared to 'First Love' it seems more of an all round outdoor extreme sports shop selling snowboard equipment and clothing as well as skate stuff. See their website here for more info and an idea into the kind of things they sell. A bit further out of the city you can also buy complete skateboards, penny style cruisers, long boards and skate clothing from brands such as DC and Hurley at the 'Corte Ingles' on 'Calle de Maria Auxiliadora'. This is a big department store and the sports section is on the 5th floor.

I hope that this gives you a good introduction to skateboarding in Salamanca. If you are a skater and are debating whether or no to bring your board, do it! Maybe I'll see you down at the skate park for a game of skate some time this summer!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Activities 28/07 - 03/08

We have another great week of activities for you this week! Come for a milkshake with us on Monday or soak up some culture with a museum exhibition, tapas and Latin dance classes. If you need some time to relax, come down to the park with us on Wednesday to relax in the shadows and practice your Spanish whilst playing some games. If you fancy a break from the city over the weekend, come along with us to the beaches of Santander to relax in the sun and the cool sea breeze!


Monday 28th July: Milkshakes! We are going to a café to enjoy a milk shake, or any of the other sweet things or drinks they have on offer such as tea and various cakes. Meeting place Tía Tula 18:50. Approximate duration 40 min.


Tuesday 29th: Museum. We will be taking you to the 'Casa Lis', an art nouveau and art deco museum. The museum gives a tour of art from the late 19th century until the Second World War, as well as a contemporary Gaudi exhibition. Meeting place Tía Tula 18:50. Approximate duration 1h. (Bring your student card for a discounted price)

Wednesday 30th:  Park. We will be going to one of the city's parks to spend the afternoon relaxing in the shadows of the trees while playing different games. Meeting place Tía Tula 18:50. Approximate duration 1h30.

Thursday 31st: Dance class. Come and enjoy learning the steps of Latin dance and practice your dance skills to take out to the bars this weekend! Meeting place, Tía Tula 20:00. Approximate duration 1h30.

Friday 1st of August: Tapas tour. We will be going to some of the best bars in the city centre to try some of the local Salamancan tapas delicacies. Meeting place, Tía Tula 19:00. Approximate duration 1h30.

Sunday 3rd: Excursion. Santander Beach. We will be taking you for a day trip to The beach in Santander to get some sea breeze on your face. Leaving at 07:00 and returning at 20:00 (approximate times). Please ask at reception for more details about prices.





*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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Radio interview of three students from Tía Tula

As we recently posted on our Facebook page, three students of Tía Tula, Colegio de Español took the opportunity to participate in a programme on Radio 5 (RNE), the national Spanish radio station, in which they shared some of their experiences about being Spanish students in Salamanca.


If you would like to know more about what makes Salamanca the perfect city to come to for learning Spanish, watch the video that we recorded during the interview:



We also have a podcast of the whole programme, which includes a talk between Enrique Clavero (the joint director of Tía Tula), Ricardo Ortiz (the director of 'Lingua Globe') and Carmen Ballesteros (the director of 'Salamanca City of Spanish'):



And for you? What do you like the most about Salamanca?



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Surfing in San Sebastian

Last 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 camp site is just up the hill from the small town of Zarautz (about 10km from San Sebastián) 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. 

A typical day consists of surf lessons, skating, table tennis, basketball, tight rope walking, cliff jumping, horse riding, eating good food and partying through the night! So plenty to keep you occupied aside from the main thing of learning how to surf.

If you are looking to visit some of the towns in order to experience Basque costal life, Zarautz is a great place to start! It is a popular tourist destination for both foreigners and Spaniards alike, with its population doubling in the busy summer months. The town is most famous for its 2.8km beach, the longest in the Basque region of Spain. At the end of the 19th century the popularity of Zarautz as a luxury tourist destination grew, with famous people such as Queen Isabella II visiting the town. A number of lavish buildings and mansions were built here around this time, though throughout the 70's and 80's Zaurautz became a more affordable holiday destination, with many of the grand buildings becoming public or being demolished.

Now the town is known worldwide as one of the best surfing destinations, with such a long beach there is plenty of room for surfers, and swell to suit all levels, from beginners to professionals, they even hold a leg of the world surfing championships here. You can find many great restaurants in Zarautz as well, with one of the top chefs in Spain (Karlos Arguiñano) having his own restaurant here.

Just 10km away lies the famous city of San Sebastián (or Donastia in Basque) Despite its relatively small size, San Sebastián is one of the most famous and popular tourist cities in Spain, holding events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival, and it has been granted the European city of culture for 2016. One of the main attractions of the city is it's coastal location. San Sebastián has one of the best beaches in the region, and is also surrounded by impressive mountains and hills perfect for hiking!

The city is also famous for cultural events, holding the longest running jazz festival in Europe (Jazzaldia) in the last week of July, in which you can find many free concerts at different locations around the city. They also have a contemporary art and film festival called 'Street Zinema' as well as the 'Surfilm Festibal' showing impressive surfing footage, often in the form of shorts.

San Sebastián is perhaps most well known for its gastronomy. It has been said that it is the city with the most Michelin star restaurants per square foot in the world. Being close to the sea the seafood is naturally amazing here, and it is also renowned for having some of the best tapas, or 'pintxos' in the old part of the city.

As well as surfing, San Sebastián also has a top level football team, Real Sociedad, who formed part of the founding members of the top Spanish football division 'La Liga'. Aside from this San Sebastián also hosts the 'Clásica de San Sebastián' cycle race in early August each year, which is part of the world cup circuit.

So if you like the sound of giving surfing a try or experiencing the Basque region of Spain then get yourself up to Zarautz for some surfing and partying! 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
Preparation
·      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!

Enjoy!

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.