29 August 2013
Published at 17:51 Comments (6)
If you have been to Valencia in Fallas you may think that you have seen the ultimate pyrotechnic spectacle but I can assure you, you haven’t. Some call it madness, some call it stupidity but the locals call it fun! Last Sunday in Paterna the annual celebration of la Cordá took place, this unusual celebration takes pyrotechnic spectacles to another level. This crazy “fiesta” happened by accident just as the Tomatina in Buñol did. In 1898 a group of friends were having dinner in the street and this pleasant summer evening ended up in a battle of gunpowder rockets. Paterna in those days was famous for its development of the Valencian “Traca” a long length of rockets tied together which once lit would produce a chain reaction of explosions. This battle developed into an annual event until it became what it is known today as, La Cordá. For those who have no idea what I am talking about, every year in Paterna near Valencia, a cage, which is 125m long and 8m wide is built along the Calle Mayor in the village. This cage is designed to hold approximately 200 experienced “rocket throwers”. The rocket throwers are each given their position inside the cage and allocated their series of rockets to set off. Following the commands of the Master Rocket thrower, a symphony of explosions and fire start to fill the cage around the 200 participants held inside it. The act lasts for about 20 - 25 minutes and a minimum of 50,000 rockets are released at rate of 2000 rockets a minute! This year they set off 55,000 rockets in about 20 minutes! What looks like complete anarchy is actually planned and programmed to the second. There are three type of rockets used in the cage, one that are designed to fly along the ground rebounding off the walls and the participants, others that are designed to jump into mid air and rebound off the bodies and walls and others that are designed to fly up over their heads and fill the air with trails of fire and sparks, all are capable of taking you hand clean off! This is an extremely dangerous event, even though the locals don’t seem to be too worried about the dangers. Imagine 55,000 rockets being let off in a cage rebounding off the walls, the ground and the ceiling and you in the middle of it! That is the Cordá! Naturally all participants aren’t suicidal and take same precautions wearing protective clothing and facemasks that are similar to fencing helmets to avoid major injuries but every year there are injuries and this year there were “only” 21 and not serious according to the local press, no one needed to be taken to hospital. So if you happen to be near Valencia on the last Sunday of August pass by Paterna and take a look at this insane spectacle!
Ribeira Sacra - wine and monasteries
20 August 2013
Published at 13:21 Comments (6)
The Ribeira Sacra is an area in inland Galicia that is home to spectacular natural features such as the canyon of the Sil River, this region’s most emblematic landmark and a wide array of valuable artistic heritage. Referred to as the land of monasteries, it is graced with over a dozen demonstrating the huge importance of this region during the Middle Ages. It is a genuine journey back in time. However in recent history, the Ribeira Sacra region had lost a significant amount of importance but over the past few years, its international success in wine producing and rural tourism is putting it back on the map.
The Sil River which identifies the region, forms a natural boundary between the provinces of Ourense and Lugo, in the heart of Galicia in northern Spain. You'll be breath-taken by its rugged landscapes, dominated by vineyards, mountains and ravines. The Ribeira Sacra region, follows almost 200km of river, a region which is peppered with historical architecture such as churches and shrines, mostly in the Romanesque style, as well as palaces and monasteries. Home to Spain's oldest Christian parishes, the Ribeira Sacra was the starting point for Christianity on the Iberian Peninsula. 1,500 years ago, congregations of monks and hermits settled here, and for centuries devoted themselves to meditation and reflection. This peace and harmony lives on to this very day in the region's villages and medieval monasteries. Unfortunately some are now abandoned, but are still well worth visiting as their walls have been witnesses to the passing of time and the damp, moss and vegetation impart an uncanny air of mystery.
They are reached by means of forest tracks and country roads running through lush green forests. One of the most important is the monastery San Esteban de Ribas de Sil, located to the north of Nogueira de Ramuín. Besides being the largest in the Ribeira Sacra, it is now a luxurious Parador Hotel, a place I would very much like to spend an evening or two.
In the same village you'll find the monastery of Santa Cristina, where you can stroll around its cloisters and surroundings and soak up the magical atmosphere. Very close by are some of the region's most famous viewing points: the Balcones de Madrid. From this natural terrace you can see the immensity of the Sil River canyon, with gorges up to 500 metres deep. The views are spectacular. Once here you can explore this section of the river (40 navigable kilometres) by catamaran. There are routes of differing durations. The longest, which takes approximately three hours and can be done at any time of year, runs from Abeleda to Os Chancís, 24 kilometres downstream. There are also shorter routes, such as the one departing from the San Esteban pier to Abeleda.
The Ribeira Sacra offers a whole list of historical sites to visit, such as Montederramo and the Santa María monastery, now a school. One can also visit Tarreirigo, where you'll find San Pedro de Rocas, a chapel carved straight out of the rock, and considered the oldest monastery in Galicia. Another option is to go to Ferreira, home to the convent of Las Madres Bernardas, the only convent in Galicia occupied by nuns since its foundation until the present day. Or else you could even opt to experience all the charm of Monforte de Lemos, an interesting medieval town.
In addition to the landscape and its historical attractions, one of the strengths of the Ribeira Sacra is its cuisine. In the Ribeira Sacra we can find a wide range of quality local products and delicacies, many of them with protected origin, which can be tasted in the restaurants and farmhouses throughout the area. The specialty of the Ribeira Sacra is its high quality pork. The historical importance of the pig slaughter in the region continues to this day and offers a fantastic choice of pork products throughout the year: cured sausages, cured hams, chorizo’s, androllas and the list goes on. In addition to pork, the Ribeira Sacra is also well known for veal, goat, lamb, small game and large game (in season) as its land is extremely fertile. Cherries, chestnuts and honey are also highly valued products in the region but what has been crossing borders and carrying the flag for this region is its wine. The cultivation of wine in this region dates back over 2,000 years when it was introduced by the Romans and then continuing to be a key element for monastic communities throughout the Ribeira Sacra. It was really the monks who cultivated and perfected the techniques in the region and are responsible for modelling the extraordinary landscape with terraces we can see today all along the river.
Today wine production is the major driver of economic development within the Ribeira Sacra. The creation of the Denomination of Origin and the Regulatory Council in 1997 was a powerful stimulus to increase not only the quantity but also the quality of the wine produced and I have to say today they are making some fantastic wines throughout the 1,550 hectares dedicated to vineyards in the region. In 2005 they reached 99 winemakers.Undoubtedly the best red wines produced in the Galicia are from the Ribeira Sacra. The reds of the Ribeira Sacra are best served at room temperature and are perfect with all kinds of meats but especially game.
For wine lovers who just can’t resist visiting wineries, tasting wines and the opportunity to buy “in situ”, the Ribeira Sacra is a wonderful route to take. Every day the number of wineries that can be visited increase and are included within Wine Tourism Programmes and shortly the future Museum of Wine in Monforte de Lemos will be opening its door. One of the finest wines I have tried from the region is “Via Romana”, a great wine, either red or white, I’m sure you’ll just love them.
The largest and oldest market in Europe
08 August 2013
Published at 21:58 Comments (2)
It’s not often I manage to get down to the “local market” but fate had it that today I was to pass right by its front door. What a market! If only all local markets were the same. I have to say that Valencia’s central market is really something special, not only from a culinary point of view but also from a tourist’s point of view. Every time I walk through its doors two wishes come into my head: 1.That I lived closer to it and 2. I could afford to buy there everyday! It is not cheap by Spanish standards but then again the delicacies on sale here aren’t normally on your daily menú. When I say delicacies I mean a wonderful array of fresh seafood brought in direct from the Lonja auction and one of the most established stands is Pepa Puerto which offered some spectacular Scampi (cigalas), Caribineros (Scarlet Prawns) and Striped prawns from Denia, a delight for any rice dish or just on their own cooked over a griddle, you can even pick up some live eels which are very typical in this region for the famous dish All i Pebre. Unfortunately this time none came away with me.
Local organic vegetable, fruits, hams, cheeses, chocolates, desserts, natural fruit juices, meat, local sausages, you name it, you’ll find it and all of the highest quality. This is what singles out Valencia’s market from others, its quality is outstanding and the choice on offer is unending. It is sheer heaven for any food lover and a must if you ever decide to visit Valencia. Surrounding the market building there are plenty of places to eat and enjoy some of the local food on offer from the market.
The Mercado Central itself, is a spectacular piece of architecture and one of the most attractive and visited buildings in Valencia. Built between 1914 and 1928, Its architecture matches the aesthetics of the square and blends perfectly with two other important monuments: La Lonja de la Seda (the silk exchange) and the Church of Los Santos Juanes. It is undoubtedly the most representative building of early 20th century Valencia, a city which was advancing towards technological and commercial progress and felt proud of the agricultural potential of its farmland. The iron, glass and ceramic domes (the central one is 30 metres high) and the two weather vanes on top of them (in the shape of a parrot and a fish) blend into a typically Valencian skyline of towers and bell towers.
The market has always been renowned for the quality, variety and freshness of its products as well as the helpful, personalised service provided by traders that work there, all terribly proud of what they sell.
This impressive market is the largest and one of the oldest markets still running in Europe today and covers exactly 8,160 square metres divided into two areas or zones. The first one is an irregular shape with a surface area of nearly 7000 square metres and the other, which is octagonal and covers 1,400 square metres, houses the fish market. The basement, which has just under 8000 square metres, was previously a fish auction and is now used as a car park. The heritage behind this market goes back centuries as a market has been held here in the very same place since the early thirteenth century.
The market brings together almost 400 small traders and 1,500 people are involved in its daily activity. No other centre in Europe specialising in fresh products matches it in size. Additionally it was the first market in the world to rise to the challenge of computerising sales and offering home delivery. Nowadays, the Mercado Central is an important economic focal point of Valencia, not only because of the traders but also because of the large number of tourists it receives, often it is the first port of call for all Cruise liner passengers when they reach Valencia.
So if you ever happento pass through Valencia, I highly recommend you pop in and savour the culinary wonders that Valencia has to offer.
Spam post or Abuse? Please let us know