18 January 2014

chorizo in cioler! - bad translations and unnecessary signs for the stupid

We all love a humorous bit of signage, but really Spain takes the proverbial biscuit. Just thought I'd share to brighten up your weekend.

On leaving the terminal building at Almeria, as you enter the conveniently located car park directly opposite (wonderful!), you are confronted by choices. Thankfully someone has thought to help out non-natives by providing a lovely translation for the English and for our German friends. The signs, hung one above another read, "Caja" "Kasse" und "Cash". On closer investigation, there is no welcome payment for English speaking visitors, but rather a machine to charge you the earth for having parked your car in the conveniently located car park.

But how about this? Has Spain turned all American and now everyone is paranoid about being sued? The wording "riesgo de corte" is to help the less aware among us know that the glass you've just shattered might cut you.

If you've ever been to Spain you may have noticed that quite often words for shops like butcher's, baker's, candlestick maker's end in an -ía - carnicería, panadería, candelería. In honour of the gin craze sweeping the nation, this "new word" was spotted in Garrucha. Brilliant.

On a jetty out into the Mar Menor lagoon I spotted this not so inviting sign aimed at deterring anyone who might be considering swimming out with beach towel and sun cream, avoiding the huge scary gate and making use of the oh-so-private pier-like construction rather than staying on the lovely sandy beach. Odd.

In Spanish, the typical way to say "No dogs allowed" is the eloquent "¡ Perros, no !" So it was a welcome surprise to see this sign in Valencia. At last, dogs are allowed. ¡ Perros, sí !

And finally, in a bible-bashing, Obama-style....

15 January 2014

bits in my gin

It was the weekend. It had been a hard old week of abstinence. A gin tonic was calling. I reached for my trusty Xoriguer only, to my horror, to find there wasn't enough juniper juice to make a whole G&T. As panic reared its ugly head, Gordon, popped his head around the port and saved me. Gordon's is fine, but a spiced up Gordon's would be even finer. Indeed, a G&T sprucing up kit had been purchased before Christmas so things were looking up. Oh yes, having paid the earth for a gin and tonic on the beach with bits floating in it, I could now attempt to replicate that holiday feeling while watching Dancing on Ice (and I hate Dancing on Ice, so there'd better be more G than T).

Rather than going out and buying a catering size pack of rose petals, juniper berries and the like to chuck in your drink, you can now buy a neat set from toque especial with plenty of necessary/unnecessary packaging thrown in. Well, let's be honest, the whole thing is not really "necessary", it's just fancy. I cracked open my set and crushed a cardamon or two into my glass, liberally sprinkled some hibiscus petals and plopped in some juicy juniper berries. Lovely. Give it a swirl and the flower petals start to release a pretty drift of pink and the other bits just infuse their thing. The different flavours were actually noticeable over the gin and the added spectacle of colour was a bonus. Good if you're trying to show off, I'd say. I did find, though, that the floating flavours made me drink quicker, as I was constantly saying "oh yes, I can taste the hibiscus now - sip - oh yes, and the cardamon - sip". Still, at least Dancing on Ice went quicker.

Oh, and apparently you can now get a set of little dried up spices for "Vodka&Tonic", "Cuba Libre" and "Vermouth", so you can have bits floating around (and in theory adding flavour and interest) to all your favourite long drinks. The vodka variety contains pieces of dried ginger, star anise and malva flower (whatever that is). Enjoy!

9 January 2014

un gin tonic, por favor

Now that the crazy festive season is finally over, and let’s be honest it does go on a bit in Spain, let’s consider more serious matters at hand. Gin.

We arrived back in Spain in September and I for one was looking forward to having a Menorcan gin and tonic in some swanky bar, or at home, or wherever really. You might think it strange that gin, or “ginebra” to its Spanish friends, might be made in Menorca, but it was in fact the British that imported the idea of gin to the island in the 1700s when we invaded and were obviously in need of a tipple one Sunday afternoon, as one does. My favourite gin is Xoriguer, a wonderfully herby gin with a very full-flavoured, non-spirity finish. It is full of the flavours of the Med; rosemary, thyme and other such woody gnarled up bits of bark you probably wouldn’t know the name of or assume would be in a gin in the first place. The distinctive taste of juniper is of course still there but the other botanicals make it a fuller gin than most. Oh, I’m gushing (read: am parched).

Anyway, we arrived in Almeria and low and behold not a drop of Xoriguer in sight. We must have visited every supermarket, every bodega in the region and although people knew there was a gin from Menorca, its charms obviously hadn’t quite made it this far south. I ended up having to buy a bottle online, which of course I could have done ages ago in Germany or the UK, but at least I have my (half empty) bottle now. Might need to re-order in a minute.

But then that swanky bar moment came and there I was reclining on a huge white sponge in an “oh-so-trendy-loungey” sort of beach bar with the sound of the waves in the near distance and unflattering green lighting in the palms. Surely they have my gin. I asked initially for a gin tonic knowing the snobby waiter would ask “which gin?” and he did. “Which gin?, we have 64 types” (a silent “you bastard” was in there somewhere). But I could trump him with his “I’m so cool because I work for shite pay in this cool bar and what’s more we have 64 types of gin” attitude. The impact of my retort was however diluted a tad, as having forgotten the name of my favourite gin (names with Xs are always tricky for me) I asked if he had “that gin from Menorca?” He was instantly my best friend. It was like a code had been cracked. “Of course, Xoriguer?”, “Lovely, gracias”. The gin was fantastically presented with its close friend, Tonic and a swirl of other activity in the bowl-like glass. At last, my gin.

Gin is so the drink of the season (last and maybe this coming season!) in Spain. Who in their right minds would go into a bar with less than 50 gins on offer. The humble G&T has suddenly turned into a status symbol. This was confirmed when the bill came and my lovely Xoriguer and tónica was indeed 11 euros. Maybe if they’d left out all the bits floating around in it, they might have been able to do it for less and still make enough to pay the oh-so-friendly waiter his shite wage. In any case, it was doubly worth every euro as when we left my ginebra connoisseur friend rushed out and gave me a mini bottle of the elusive stuff as a present. What a nice man. Cheers.

4 January 2014

fiesta, fiesta... and more fiesta

We all know the Spanish love a fiesta. At the start of December we all had about a week off to celebrate Spanishness, Virgins and the like, then there was Christmas, then New Year and now the one all children, young and old, are most looking forward to, Reyes - Kings' Day.

Whereas in the UK in January we might be exhausted from a month of Christmas drinks, office parties and family gatherings followed by New Year, the Spanish are gearing themselves up for yet another shopping frenzy, processions, cake and partying. The Coca-Cola red-clad Santa figure never really took off in Spain and so traditionally it is the day of the Three Kings in January that brings ridiculous amounts of present giving and receiving. Admittedly, it might be more about iPads and Bob Esponja nowadays rather than gold and smelly incense, but the Spanish know how to party.

A traditional delight at any Kings' Day meal is of course a "roscón". The bready cake is like a huge ring, more often than not carefully sliced open and then stuffed with as much whipped cream and other sweet sickly things as you can manage. Maybe Spanish New Year's resolutions start on 7th January.

So while the British in Britain are battling with yet more floods and deciding what to cut out their diets for a month, the British in Spain are enjoying the sun and leaning back with a San Miguel on their blotted festive bellies, the Spanish are busy worrying themselves with "have I got enough cake in". But then that's it, it really is January. But fear not, Spring is just around the corner and surely there's a Festival of Spring somewhere.

¡ Feliz Año Nuevo !