Monday, December 16, 2013

Balearic Islands: A guide to fiestas and folk traditions of Mallorca (January-February)


8/9 Fiesta on St Julia's Eve. The dance in honour of St Julia is held and the first bonfires (foguerons) of the winter fiestas are lit in Campos.

Per sant Antoni, tota Mallorca fa festa.
St Antoni Abat's Eve
16 Fiesta on St Honorat's Eve. St Honorat is the patron saint of Algaida. The most characteristic part of the fiesta is the performance of the cossiers, six men and one woman, accompanied by a demon, who dance and whose origins are related to invocations to ancient divinities.

16 Fiesta on St Antoni Abat's Eve. Sant Antoni lived at some time around the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. The eve of his saint's day is one of the magical nights in Mallorca's calendar, and is linked to ancient fertility rites. Not in vain is St Antoni the guardian of crops and livestock. The night of St Antoni is a night of bonfires (foguerons). There are two places that really should be visited: Artà and Sa Pobla.

17 St Antoni Abat's Day. The fiesta of the traditional blessing of animals is held in Palma and in practically all the towns and villages of Mallorca. In Pollença, after the traditional "colcada" and the appropriate blessings, everyone goes from l'Almoina to "get the pine" from the Ternelles estate, where, after hearty refreshments of bread and olive oil, salt herring and wine, a pine tree with a long straight is felled and taken to the Plaça Vella in Pollença. In Sa Pobla, the blessing tends to take place in the evening with a great parade of decorated floats and then folk dancing. In Calvià, next to the church the alimara is lit to celebrate the fiesta and there is a huge bonfire on which to burn the devil, according to the tradition. In Palma, the most traditional blessing is that of Sant Antoniet, with music by the xeremies (pipe, drums and bagpipes), a parade, a Mass and the awarding of prizes.

Ball de bot or traditional folk dancing
19/20 Fiesta on St Sebastia's Eve. Although on the eve of St Sebastia's Day dances and fiestas are held in many villages in Mallorca, such as Ariany, Búger, Calvià, Capdellà, Costitx, Deià, Muro and Sa Pobla, with the indispensable bonfires, the main fiesta is in Palma. Ever since St Sebastià delivered the city from plague, he has been its patron saint. The great fiesta takes place on the 19th from early on in the evening, with live music in the city center. On the following day, the fiesta reaches its height with a Mass held in the Cathedral in the morning.

20 Parade of "Los Cavallets" in Pollença. As part of the fiestas of St Sebastià, Pollença relives a secular tradition on the feast day itself. The Saint is taken on a parade with the town standard and the "cavallets", two youths from the village who dance in a horse costume.


Fiesta of The Siurell. Llubí celebrates the Fiesta of the Siurell on the Saturday before carnival.

27 Sister Francinaina Cirer's Birthday. A floral offering is made to the figure of the Blessed Sister Francinaina Cirer in Sencelles.

Sencelles sale a la calle para celebrar la tradicional fiesta de Sor Francinaina Cirer
Floral offering on Sister Francinaina Day
Carnival: Els darrers dies. The countdown to Carnival starts on Lardy Thursday. This period is known in Mallorca as "els darrers dies" (the last days) which refers to the fact that they are the last possible days to have fun before Lent begins. Typical foods include the ensaimada de tallades.

Check March, April and May Fiestas in Mallorca
Check June, July and August Fiestas in Mallorca
Check September, October, November and December Fiestas in Mallorca

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cantabria: The water route

Cantabria conserves a number of maritime buildings such as lighthouses, mills, foundries and fulling mills, which can provide a fantastic base to explore the relationship between man and water.

El Caballo lighthouse
Lighthouses. A visit to a lighthouse represents an encounter with an spectacular marine location. There are nine in Cantabria, which are from east to west those of Castro Urdiales, Santoña (the lighhthouses of El Caballo and El Pescador), Ajo, Santander (the lighthouses of Mouro, La Cerda and Cabo Mayor), Suances and Sant Vicente de la Barquera.

Tide mills. Taking advantage of the force of the tides to move mills has been documented in Cantabria since 1047. There were mills of this kind on almost all estuaries and marshes, some of which have been restored and can now be visited. For example, you can visit (book in advance) Santa Olaja Mill (located in Amuero) or Mareas de Ancillo Mill (located in Argoños).

Molino de Ancillo
Mareas de Ancillo Mill
Seamen and fishermen. The Cantabria Maritime Museum offers a complete panoramic vision of this untamed sea. Its discourse illustrates the relationship that men have had with it through the ages.

Foundries. Cantabria has a deep-rooted tradition of the obtaining of iron; foundries abound in the proximity of river beds. The most important is that located in the town of Cades, where visitors can get to know the process of the moving of iron and its working by means of forging or casting.

Fulling mills. Fulling mills are appliances that take advantge of hydraulic energy, mainly for textile work. Two examples have been preserved, both in the Liébana area, in the towns of Ledantes and Aniezo.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Andalusian cuisine: cooking with "miel de caña" (sugar-cane syrup)

Eggplant with miel de caña

Miel de Caña, sugar-cane syrup, is a rarity in Europe. In fact, there's only one factory in Europe which produces it: El Ingenio in Frigiliana, a tiny white village of Andalusia just north of Malaga. It's unique flavor is great for cooking, and if you can get your hands on some, it's a great way to add an Andalusian touch to your cooking.

Here are some recipes to use the spectacular "miel de caña", starting with my personal favorite!

Eggplant with sugar-cane syrup. Cut the eggplant into thin slices and place them in a bowl with salted water for half an hour. Make a mixture with egg, 1 cup of milk and flour (as required) and dip the drained eggplant in the batter before frying. Once cold, place on a dish and sprinkle with molasses just before serving. 

Other interesting recipes:

Torrijas. Slice the bread to a finge's thickness. Soak in sweet wine and dip in beaten egg. Then fry them in hot oil and remove from the pan when golden brown. Dip in miel de cañathat is on the verge of boiling, remove from the pan and drain well.

Sponge Cakes. Add 2 1/2 cups of bread wheat flour to 1 1/2 cups of miel de caña. Mix well and then gradually add 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or almonds) and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (or bicarbonate). Bake in a moderate oven.

Flan. For 1 kg of bread dough, use 1 cup of cold vegetable oil, 1 cup miel de caña and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Mix to a spongy consistency and then place in a greased flan dish. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and decorate with almonds. Moderate oven.

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Basque Country: Delika Canyon and Gujuli

Delika Canyon
Among beech woods and lands of wolves, a riverbed tries to make its way. It gets it and gives birth to a unique spectacle in the Basque Country.

As with most rivers, the Nervion has an austere and low ending in the waters of the Bay of Biscay. Hardly anybody notices since the water artery already enjoys a long route from its source, high in Mount Santiago. In the border between Alava and Burgos, the river falls in a 270-meter high waterfall, one of the most spectacular and thunderous natural phenomenon in Spain. Dangerously leaning over the Delika Canyon, the waterfall reaches its zenith in wet seasons.

Gujuli waterfall
A few kilometers away, another waterfall called Gujuli sings a siren call difficult to resist. It is more modest in dimensions - a mere hundred meters-, but its true beauty lies in its unique setting, which includes a beautiful concession to the Romanesque - the Church of Santiago Apóstol-, a gentle brook -the Oiardo-, although it becomes rougher later, and a small village, Gujuli, with small masonry houses and a green valley.

Other things to visit in the area:
  • Ayala Palace (Quejana)
  • Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Oro (Valle de Zuia)
  • Orduña