Living in Catalunya – what is it like? Tiffany – 3

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Catalunya?

This is one in a series of interviews with people who came from other countries to live here.  I asked them the same questions that people often ask me to see what different stories emerge. You can read them here over the next weeks.

living abroad
sometimes they are just down to cultural differences

Tiffany’s Story

Please tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a stay at home mother of two, a baby and a teenager. I’m Australian, 43 years old and at a relatively low point in my life. 😀 I’m concerned about health issues.

How long have you lived here?

Too bloody long – 5 years

Are you working here and if yes, what do you do?

I work as a yoga therapist, and English conversation teacher/speaker and healer.

Three favourite things about living in Catalunya?

Shops are very close by.  Granollers is close to the mountains, the sea, and Barcelona.

Three things you don’t like about life here?

Granollers is not ‘anything’ in itself.    It’s not the sea, or the mountains, or a great city.  It’s just a point in between the good stuff.   People are not friendly or diverse. Not a lot of green spaces.

What do you miss most about your ‘home’ country?

Friendly people. The great outdoors.   Support of my family.

Three things you have learned about yourself or life since living here?

That working and earning money was more essential to my self esteem than I expected. You can make a home for yourself by controlling the environment you have around you as much as you can – and its ok.   You have got to be kind to strangers. You don’t know their story.   Never feel too full up of your own life to let someone else in.

What language(s) do you speak in your daily life here?

99% English 1% Catalan

Do you plan to return to your native country and in what circumstances would you definitely want to go back?

One day, I would like to go back to live.  And I would definitely go back if my entire close family died.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving to this country?

Learn Spanish, get involved with the society. The hurts you feel are not personal, they are cultural. Keep a happy journal of all the things you love about living here

 

This is one of a series of interviews which I will be posting over the next few weeks while  I am walking the Camino. When possible I will send short updates from my phone on how the walk is going.

Sign up in one of the subscription boxes on this page to get these posts delivered straight to your inbox.  More news from the Camino will be sent to The Catalan Way Facebook page so click a Like on there and you can follow my progress.

Are there any questions you would ask someone about what their life is like after moving to an new country?  Let us know in the comments and we will try to get some answers and do an update later in the year.

Living in Catalunya – what’s it really like? Number 2

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to move abroad?

This is one in a series of interviews with people who came from other countries to live here in Catalunya.  I asked the same questions that people often ask me, to see what different stories emerge. You can read them here over the next weeks.

living abroad
it is worth it

Gabriela’s Story

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Before moving to Spain I lived almost three years in Cracow, Poland. During this period I met my boyfriend. As you probably guessed I gave up my career and moved to Catalonia because of him. 🙂  I love to travel, take photos and meet new people. I like tea, but I never drink coffee. And I´m in love with chocolate and cakes (and good food in general). 😀

How long have you lived here?

I moved to Catalonia in June 2014.

Are you working here and if yes, what do you do?

No, unfortunately I´m still searching for a job. I study Catalan twice a week.

Three favourite things about living here?

My boyfriend, great food, the most wonderful places I have ever seen.

Three things you don’t like about living in Catalunya?

It is hard to get a job here. Although I have several experiences usually I do not even get the opportunity to go for a job interview. For me, this is very frustrating. On the other hand, I can´t remember anything else that I wouldn´t like here. The people are friendly (even the drivers are very polite). 😀

What do you miss most about your ‘home’ country?

I definitely miss my family and my friends. And sometimes (when I feel homesick) I miss my hometown as well. You know, places I know from my childhood.

Three things you have learned about yourself or life since living here?

Uff!    That´s a hard one. Before moving abroad I never thought that I will be able to survive in a foreign country totally alone (without my family). Although at the beginning I had some problems in Poland, I was able to solve everything. Moving to Catalonia I had some problems as well (for example how will I get a NIE), but I already knew that I can achieve everything what I want. I think I´m much more open than I was 5 years ago. Living abroad you will realize that you need friends more than ever; a basis that gives you strength and energy to go further (even when you think you will give up and move back to your home country).

What language(s) do you speak in your daily life here?

I use English and Catalan with my boyfriend, my friends, in school. I still use Hungarian when I´m talking with my family and I use Slovak when I´m talking with my friends from Cracow.

Do you plan to return to your native country and in what circumstances would you definitely want to go back?

I don´t plan to move back to Slovakia.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving to this country?

Be wise and study all the law you will need in Spain (NIE, health insurance, etc). And never give up! 🙂

 

 

Gabriela also writes an interesting blog about her life here.  It is called  How to Feel Like Catalan and you can visit it by clicking HERE

This is the first in a series of interviews which I will be posting over the next few weeks while I am walking the Camino.  When possible I will also send short updates from my phone on how the walk is going.

Sign up  on this page to get all these posts delivered straight to your inbox.  More news from the Camino will be sent to The Catalan Way Facebook page so click a Like on there to follow my progress.

Are there any other questions you would ask someone about their life after moving to an new country?  Let us know in the comments and we will try to get some answers in a follow up post.

 

Hotel Balneari Broquetas – the modernist spa

Balneari Broquetas
Spring flowers are the best

Spring is coming in fast. The trees in Granollers are in the first stages of their annual blossom-fest – first the almond and then the cherry. White then pink.

The nights are now pleasant. Only a week ago it was still cold up in the bedroom and we needed the electric fire to dry off the humidity. Now I have relegated the hot water bottle to the back of the cupboard.

Dull dry skin – sluggish jaded body

When Spring is in the air it can often make you feel sluggish. You realise your body has been deprived of sunshine and warmth and it feels like you need a cleanse of some kind. Many people change their diet at this time of year or start fasting or take up a new form of exercise.

My skin has been feeling very dry and dull and when my body needs a boost  of course my thoughts turn to the balnearis of Catalunya!

Caldes de Montbui has a source of hot mineral water

I went with a friend a few weeks ago to one of the balnearis in Caldes de Montbui and took lots of photos as it is such an incredibly beautiful and unique place.  More news will follow soon on the other spas in this town – one of which is my current favourite!

balneari broquetas
so much creativity went into making these tiles

Balneari Broquetas

Broquetas
it stands in the town centre near the Lion fountain

The most wonderful aspect of this balneari is that the building is modernist and the baths are full of beautiful details and designs.

Balneari BroquetasWe chose three things to do as part of the basic spa package which lasts for one and a half hours. There is a wide choice but we picked the pool, the hammam and the horizontal jet spray baths.

There was no-one else there at all while we had our session – third time I’ve been lucky like this!    Here is the entrance to spa, you go down these stairs and enter a hot water paradise!

IMG_5107The pool is booked for your personal use so only members of your group will be there. It has all the usual jets and sprays and feels both intimate and big enough to swim around in.

balneari broquetas
our private pool

The hammam is too steamy to take photos but was enjoyable apart from the session being a little too short for us seasoned steam bathers.

Balneari Broquetas
I wonder who the artist was?

Imagine wandering around this lovely place, feeling warmed and cossetted by the beautiful design as well as the healing waters!

Balneari Broquetas
Love this ceiling

Even the changing rooms are lovely. This is the door to the Dones.

IMG_5101The horizontal jet bath was the most exciting thing. You lie down side by side, with your heads on cushions and hold on tight when the water starts because it comes both hot and cold and with such force that my friends bathing costume ballooned out to make her look 9 months pregnant. We were laughing and squealing and trying to stay steady in the very exhilarating water pressure.  When we came out we both felt totally revitalised.

Balneari Broquetas
two people can lie here side by side

There is an outdoor pool in the gardens which we were able to use and as the water in Caldes is very hot it felt comfortable even on this chilly day.

Balneari Broquetas
cold air, hot water

Perfect place for someone who wants to bathe in private

This was my second visit to Broquetas and I like it very much although I prefer to have more freedom to move around and not have to keep to a fixed schedule. However as my friend pointed out it is a wonderful place for a beginner or a shy bather as you are always in a private space, the staff are friendly and they leave you to enjoy it in a very relaxed way.  My first visit was with my sister and nephew a few years ago. My nephew, then 14, didn’t want to come really but afterwards he said it was the best part of his holiday.

The place itself is a work of art and as always, the waters of Caldes are healing and magical.P1090946We paid 30 euros each for our sessions which included gowns and towels.

IMG_5100 As you leave to return to the real world you can stop and admire the entrance which you didn’t notice when you arrived rushed and nervous from the journey. Now, relaxed, cleansed and ready for Spring,  you have time to look up and admire the flowers.

P1090942Here is the link if you would like to visit this balneari yourself.

IMG_5117Have you ever been to a hot mineral spa?  Let us know which places are your favourites in the comments section below. If you have any questions do get in touch and I will be happy to try and help.

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And let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post or if there are other things you would like to know more about from The Catalan Way.

Till next time!   Happy Spring!

5 ways I have changed since moving to Catalunya

Have you ever dreamed of moving to a new country and leaving behind, not only your job,  home and familiar life, but also your old personality?

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I know I am shy and retiring but perhaps there’s a wild cat inside?

You want to escape the old you or at least the parts of you that are so tiresome and boring and repetitive and hard to change.

Old thought patterns and habits that hold you back in life.  Shyness, timidity, irritability, obsessiveness, laziness, the list goes on.   Perhaps the only thing that will jolt you awake is a total change of scenery.  The challenges of a new country and the need to start afresh might reveal parts of your personality hitherto unexplored!

I moved to Barcelona with some hopes like these.  I am naturally shy and too self conscious especially when I am with strangers.  I react badly to criticism and am over-sensitive when I feel rejected.  I want to be spontaneous but tend to over-plan everything I do.

I had noticed that Mediterranean people seem to be more confident, outgoing, social, expressive, straight talking, emotional, spontaneous…….. I wanted some of that.  I hoped to discover those parts hidden deep in my own psyche and to find a new me!

So what has changed in the 5 years since I moved here?

1. I now find it hard to eat without a napkin although I never needed one before.

People here always use napkins – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now when eating in the UK I start to twitch and look around me anxiously when there is nothing to wipe my fingers and mouth on. Even when I don’t use a napkin, I want it to be there beside my plate.

2. I turn out lights.

My partner is very concerned about lights being left on and not a day passes without this conversation:-

Him: “Do you need this light on?”

Me: “Yes”

Him: “So why do you have one on in the hall/bathroom/sittingroom/bedroom as well?”

Me: “Because I am moving between rooms”

But I find that now when I go back to the UK I am hyper-aware of people lighting up their houses  like Christmas trees and I too go around turning off lights. Even in Granollers, I try not to have more than two rooms lit.  I can’t leave a light on without being conscious of it.

3. I eat fruit and vegetables only when they are in season

If they are imported – I don’t.  I now can’t buy grapes all year round. I rarely buy kiwis, I don’t expect to have peaches or nectarines except in June and July. Shopping in fresh produce markets has made this change in me.   The wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables that are available here make it seem ridiculous to buy imported stuff.

4. I now drink UHT milk in my tea without making a big deal of it

I too used to complain “you can’t get a proper cup of tea in France/Spain/Italy because the milk isn’t fresh.”  Now I don’t notice it and I even quite like the fact that our milk lasts so long and that we can store lots of packs of it in the cupboard.

5. I have changed when and how I eat.

I still have breakfast of toast and porridge, but then there is a long gap before lunch which we sometimes eat as late as 4pm. Supper may not happen until 9.30pm or even later. We eat a large lunch and something smaller later.  It works for me and feels good for my stomach.

And what about the deeper changes I hoped for?

Have I become a more confident, outgoing, social, expressive, straight talking, emotional, spontaneous person?

This is hard to say.  I certainly do have more confidence and am less self conscious. I don’t mind being the stranger in town.  I can talk with people who I don’t know and in two different languages. I always was affectionate and because people here kiss and hug and touch each other more often,  it is easier for me to do this too.  I have learned many  new things but am basically still the same person underneath, just a bit older and a lot wiser.

And I have taught myself to shout out “Bravo” and “Molt Be” when the marathon passes!

Have you ever dreamed of moving abroad and starting afresh with a new you?

Perhaps you already made the move and found the ‘old you’ came along too?

I’d love to hear about you.  If you have changed your spots by moving home or if you’d like to,  leave a comment and tell me what happened.

Thanks for coming to read this post – I hope you’ll come back soon!  If you want to stay in touch then Like my Catalan Way Facebook page at the top right of this post or sign up for regular updates.

Till the next one, best wishes from Catalunya and from me, Kate

 

 

All about Torrons and how to buy the best!

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Every year just before Christmas I go to the Correus in Granollers to send off several slim rectangular packages to the UK.    Each one is a box containing a slab of Torró, a very special sweet which is an important part of the traditional Christmas here in Catalunya.

I sometimes wonder if the recipients know what to do with them or do they end up at the back of the cupboard as sometimes happens to me with unfamiliar foods?

Before coming to Barcelona I had never heard of  Torrons. It was probably at the first family Christmas dinner that I discovered how delicious and mouth-wateringly moreish they are.

What is Torró?

As with everything in Catalonia there are two options for the name depending which language you are speaking.  Torró in Catalan or Turrón in Spanish but it is the same sweet delicacy a bit like nougat or halva, typically made of almonds, honey, sugar, and egg white, and shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake.

It is a very old confection which originates from Arab cuisine.  Evidence shows they were being made 500 years ago in Xixona (Jijona), a small town about 30 miles  north of Alicante.   Xixona’s economy is focused on the production of torrons and there is a museum  there showing the history and how it is made.   A friend told me that he went to Xixona as a child in the late 70’s and was disappointed to find it wasn’t the little town of his dreams,  filled with small family businesses making torrons by hand with bee hives in the back yards, scented by almond blossom.  Instead it was an industrial town full of factories  producing thousands of kilos of torrons to be sent all over Spain.

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According to legend, honey from bees that drink nectar from wildflowers growing on the mountains around Xixona is an important part of the recipe.   That makes sense to me – even the most built up cities have beautiful wild places just outside the commercial zones.

Every ingredient should be of the highest quality and although I have found no information on this,  I  am hoping that the eggs come from free range organic chickens which scratch and peck around rural farms in the foothills of those mountains. We can but dream ……….

Types of torró and how to chose the best

Torró de Xixona is soft and the almonds have been ground up to form a paste

Torró d’Alicant is hard and brittle and you can see the almonds inside

There are several different qualities of torró.

Strict rules control whether torrons may be labeled with “Suprema” or “Extra.” The best quality is “Suprema” and to get that label, the soft turró must contain at least 60% almonds and the hard, 64% almonds

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Apparently  there is also “Estàndar” (standard) and “Popular”  but we didn’t find any. If it is of lower quality usually it doesn’t say anything on the packet.

Knowledgeable shoppers will look at the ingredients on the package label when they go to buy  Torrons for  Christmas dinner. You don’t serve just any old Torró on such a special day!

If it looks cheap and cheerful then it probably is.  Check out the amount of almonds.  The best ones have 60% or more.  And there should definitely not be other ingredients like palm oil or E numbers. In general if it is cheap the quality won’t be as good.

Chocolate torró  is delicious and a big favorite and it too has qualities including “Extrafino” or “Fino”  depending on the percentage of cocoa and milk it contains.   Some of the chocolate torrons have dried fruits and nuts mixed in and are increasingly popular.

Christmas is the time to eat Torrons and at the end of the meal large plates are brought out with lots of little cubes of  Torró laid out invitingly or built up into a tower or pyramid.

Serve with Cava of course!

Nowadays there are many more versions than just the traditional Alicant or Xixona,  including ones with candied fruit, chocolate, praline, coconut and also the one with egg yolk or Gema.

Where to buy Torrons?

All the supermarkets have huge displays of Torrons  but the quality is variable.  Follow the suggestions above to help chose a good one.  Surely I don’t need to suggest you avoid ones that are made by Nestle?

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But the best places to buy are the specialist shops.  They also make Orxata and ice creams. These shops will have the word Jijonero in their name.

In Granollers the best place to buy Torró is Cal Jijonero in Carrer Corró.

This family has been making them since 1933.  There are now two Jijoneros run by people from the same family but after a dispute they split the business, which is the reason there is one in Anselm Clavé and the other round the corner in Carrer Corró.

The one in Carrer Corró keeps the reputation for being the best but you’d have to try them both and decide for yourself.

How to serve and preserve your Torró

If you receive a packet of Torró as a gift here is what to do.

Cut off a chunk, lay it on a board and chop it into little cubes and lay them on a pretty plate.

You can put some neules in a glass in the centre.  Don’t forget the cava…..

Turrons

You don’t have to eat it all at once – leave the rest in the packet and it will keep for some weeks – or so we think but we have never managed to resist eating it all within a few days.

This one is Torró d’Alicant.   Caution for anyone with teeth which might break as it is hard. But once in your mouth it starts to melt and you come back for more, and more…..

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No need to keep in the fridge, just store it somewhere cool.  And Enjoy!