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Hanging Tomatoes
08 January 2021

Across Spain, but particularly in Catalonia, meals often include a simple dish of just four ingredients—bread, oil, salt, tomatoes. To prepare pan con tomate or, in Catalan, pa amb tomàquet, you grate garlic along the rough surface of a piece of slightly toasted bread, drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil, and then rub half a tomato over the bread. The fruit’s flesh soaks into the bread, creating a simple but delicious treat.

In this recipe, the tomato is the crucial ingredient. Pa amb tomàquet should be made with particular tomatoes called tomaquets de penjar, or hanging tomatoes, a variety that, when strung properly into bunches, can keep fresh for up to six months after being harvested. Which means that tomato season (and pan con tomate season) lasts long beyond summer: Harvest these tomatoes in September, and you can still eat fresh tomatoes in March.

 

 

Hanging tomatoes have special qualities that make them ideal for both preservation and spreading on toast. They’re extra juicy, so much so that they make poor slicing tomatoes. They also have thick skin, which helps protect the interior over those long months. If you slice one open and squeeze, the liquid easily spreads over bread. The hanging tomatoes grown in Alcalà de Xivert are particularly well known, and the area’s growers’ association protects and markets this particular tomato variety.

To survive for months, hanging tomatoes have to be stored in a special way. After the harvest, farmers sew them into clusters of 15 to 30 tomatoes. Ideally, no tomato should touch any other; if they’re packed too tightly, they can rot. This method isn’t perfect, but it’s successful enough to ensure access to fresh, juicy tomatoes and perfect pan con tomate almost year round.



Like 2        Published at 18:29   Comments (1)


Pouring Asturian Cider
05 January 2021


In Spain’s northern region of Asturias, cider pouring is more performance art than simple table service. At local cider bars, known as "sidrerias", waiters remove the cork, then raise the open bottle high up into the air, at maximum arms length. One hand tips the bottle, while the other catches the cloudy cider in a wide glass held at waist height until it’s roughly a quarter full.

The servers aren’t just putting on a show, they’re actually enhancing the taste of the cider. Asturian cider has a few unique characteristics: It comes from five varieties of apple that are fermented into an interesting fusion of flavours, it contains around 5 per cent alcohol, and most importantly it is almost entirely flat. This cider has no sparkle! The long drop into the glass creates a splash that supplies much-needed effervescence and foam, which in turn help to release the cider’s aromas. Since bartenders might spill a few drops of precious cider in the process (perhaps due to all their cocky no-look pours), some restaurants litter the floor with sawdust to absorb the constant splashing or spills.

This can actually be quite fun, especially at family gatherings so why not have a go and see who can pour the best glass of Asturian cider. Here is a video to help you get started! Cheap bottles of "natural Asturian cider" can be found in all supermarkets across Spain at anything from €1,5 the bottle, so don't worry too much if the most of the first bottle ends up on the floor!

 

 



Like 1        Published at 14:38   Comments (1)


Spain's Epiphany Cake - El Roscón de Reyes
29 December 2020

 

Twelfth Night is the festival marking the coming of the Epiphany and concluding the Twelve Days of Christmas. In medieval and Tudor England, the Twelfth Night marked the end of a winter festival that started on All Hallows Eve — now more commonly known as Halloween. The Lord of Misrule symbolises the world turning upside down. On this day the King and all those who were high would become the peasants and vice versa. At the beginning of the Twelfth Night festival, a cake that contained a bean was eaten, and the person who found the bean would rule the feast. Midnight signalled the end of his rule and the world would return to normal. The common theme was that the normal order of things was reversed.

 The origins of the Three Kings' Cake appear to date back to the 2nd century BC, when the Romans celebrated the Saturnalia – also known as the Slaves' Festival as they didn't have to work – with a round pastry that concealed a bean. The bean symbolised the imminent arrival of prosperity thanks to the Spring and to Saturn, the god of agriculture. Its symbolism has changed greatly since then, and the recipe even more-so. The Romans spread it across Europe, but its consumption died out with the arrival of Christianity. However the French preserved the tradition and it was common among bourgeois families to eat the cake, which they prepared with a coin inside it.

Food and drink are at the centre of the celebrations in modern times, and all of the most traditional ones go back many centuries. Around the world, special pastries and bread, such as Roscón de Reyes, La Galette des Rois and King cake are baked on the Twelfth Night and are eaten for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrations. In English and French customs, a Twelfth Night cake was baked to contain a bean and a pea, so that those who received the slices containing them should be designated king and queen of the night’s festivities. 

Over the centuries this tradition has changed. Gold coins began to be introduced as a reward to whoever found the Roscón treasure, it was later decided to hide a figurine of  King and a bean at the same time to find out who was the 'lucky one' and who was the fool with the bean ... until today. Nowadays most Roscón have the figurine of a King and dehydrated bean, only now the person who finds the bean is not only the fool but also has to pay the cake!

Traditionally, however, there was a time in Spain when whoever found the trinket (which would have been a figurine of baby Jesus) had to take it to the nearest church on February 2, Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas Day), which celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. According to the Jewish tradition, an infant was to be presented to God in the Temple forty days after his birth. The use of candles on Candlemas represents the light of Christ presented to the world. The Kings’ cake (Roscón) in Spain is traditionally eaten after lunch on the 6th of January and if you fancy making one this year, here is a simple recipe:


Ingredients:

Sourdough mix:

100 g of strong flour
60 ml of warm milk
2 g yeast

Decoration:

1 beaten egg
Glacé fruits
Almonds
Sugar

For the final dough:

162 g of sourdough 
330 g of strong flour
60 ml of milk cooked with cinnamon and the peel of 1 orange
2 eggs
80g sugar
30 ml of honey
110 g butter
15 g of pressed yeast (or 5 g of dry baker's yeast)
3 teaspoons of rum
2 teaspoons of random water
Zest of half a lemon
5g salt

Preparation:

The day before, prepare the sourdough. To do this, mix the flour, milk and yeast and knead it sufficiently so it is well mixed.

Let it ferment for 30 minutes at room temperature and then leave it in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

The night before you also have to make the milk infusion with, cinnamon and the peel of 1 orange without the white part. Heat the milk with the ingredients to just before boiling point and then remove from the heat and cover. Let it cool and then refrigerate.

The next day, mix all the ingredients for the final dough, except the sugar and butter.
You will have to knead it in 3 steps:
 1) 5 minutes as is. 
 2) 5 minutes in which the sugar is incorporated in 2 batches until you can see no lumps are left each time.
 3)Now the cold butter is added and kneaded for another 10 or 15 minutes until the dough has absorbed all the butter and is smooth.

Let it ferment for about 2 hours. Form into a ball. Wait 15 minutes and then form into an even ring

Ferment for another 2 and a half or 3 hours: it almost triples its volume (then hide the figurine and the dehydrated bean).

Brush, decorate and bake in an oven at 180 ° C. Baking time is about 20 minutes (if fan assisted;  if not, slightly longer).

Let cool on a rack. Once cold, the roscón can be cut in two halves and filled with sweetened whipped cream or truffle cream, as you prefer.


However, if this seems like too much effort they are available in all supermarkets across the country. According to one of Spain's leading consumer organisations, the OCU, after analysing Roscones in nine major supermarkets, the best value-for-money Roscón de Reyes comes from Día and retails at €11.71 for a kilo.

The OCU looked at Roscones sold in Eroski, Carrefour, Alcampo, El Corte Inglés, Ahorramás, Mercadona, Lidl, Aldi and Día, and said the best quality ones were the cream-filled versions from Eroski and Alcampo, followed by those sold at El Corte Inglés, although in terms of price and quality combined, Día's cream-filled one came out top.

They retail at between €6 a kilo in Carrefour, Aldi and Lidl, and €17 a kilo in El Corte Inglés, although the OCU warned that in most cases, the cheapest prices reflected the quality of what you're buying.

Those with the lowest price tags, in general, had a greater quantity of vegetable oils and fats – coconut and palm oil – compared with the higher-priced ones, which contained cream and butter.

This said those seeking to avoid animal-based produce would find the cheaper ones suited them better.

Whatever you decide to do - Happy New Year!



Like 1        Published at 21:30   Comments (1)


50 Curious facts about Spain
22 December 2020

In case you get a little bored while having a coffee today, here are 50 curious facts about Spain that maybe you didn't know!

 

1. The Spanish language has a word that exists grammatically and can be pronounced, but it can not be written. That's why I can not tell you what it is.

2. Spain has had three monarchs under 10 years of age: Carlos II, Isabel II and Alfonso XIII.

3. Spain is the first country in the world in terms of acceptance of homosexuality, only 6% of the population believes that it is "morally unacceptable".

4. Despite what most people think, 58.6% of Spaniards affirm that they never sleep a ‘Siesta’.

5. Spain is the second most visited in the world, surpassed only by France.

6. The most expensive restaurant in the world is located in Ibiza, it is called Sublimotion and the dinner costs 1,700 euros per person.

7. Spain has a bar for every 165 inhabitants.

8. Cádiz is the oldest city in Europe, it is traditionally said to have been founded 80 years after the Trojan War.

9. The symbol of the dollar ($) is a Spanish invention, an evolution of the abbreviation Ps (pesos - eighth's 1/8).

10. The Spanish alphabet lost 2 letters in 2010 - ‘ch’  and ‘ll ‘

11. Spain has almost as many airports as provinces, in total, 48.

12. On December 7, 1969, Ángela Ruíz Robles, a Galician lady, invented the 'Mechanical Encyclopedia', considered today the first prototype of an ebook.

13. The most consumed fruit in Spain is orange. 

14. The ‘menu of the day’ - menu del dia -  was an invention of Franco, promoted by the Ministry of Information and Tourism in the 60s, to promote Spanish cuisine.

15. 30,000 years ago,  it was as cold as it is in Denmark.

16. The Royal Family was assigned the numbers from 10 to 99 for their DNI, although Nº 13 was annulled by superstition.

17. The shortest reigning King of Spain wore his crown for only six months and twelve days,  Luis I de Borbón.

18. Querétaro, the name of a Mexican city that means 'island of blue salamanders', was chosen in 2011 as the most beautiful word in Spanish.

19. To travel the kilometres of Spanish coastline (7,905) would be almost the equivalent of making a trip from Madrid to Moscow and back. 

20. Spain is at the forefront of Europe in the consumption of cocaine.

21. The Spanish drink 11.2 litres of pure alcohol per person per year, which is almost double the world average (6.2).

22. Spain is the leader in organ donations.

23. Spanish inventions are the mop, the Chupa Chups lollipop, the submarine, the stapler, the table football (although disputed) and the digital calculator.

24. According to the Guinness Book, in Spain, we have the largest mortar in the world (3.29 meters high and 3.07 in diameter) and the largest cup (4.73 meters long and 0.85 in diameter), they were built in the City Council of Macael (Almería).

25. There are 44 sites in Spain that are a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which places Spain as the third country in the world with more wonders to visit.

26. The Alhambra in Granada is the most visited place in Spain.

27. Spain has a good number of rare museums, for example, the Museum of Museo de Microminiaturas  (Micro-miniatures) in Guadalest (Alicante) or the Parque de la Vida (Park of Life) in Luarca (Asturias) that has a total of nine giant squid.

28. The most popular names in Spain are Antonio, José, Manuel, Francisco and Juan as a boy and María Carmen, María, Carmen, Josefa and Isabel among women, according to the INE.

29. The largest earthquake in Spain took place in Torrevieja (Alicante), on March 21, 1829. A 6.6 on the Richter scale.

30. Spain’s National Library contains around twenty million pieces of work.

31. With 14 holidays a year, we are one of the countries in Europe with the most non-working days.

32. The Inquisión burned a total of 59 witches in Spain.

33. The first medal that Spain achieved in an Olympic Games was for the ‘Pelota’ pair formed by José de Amézola and Francisco Villota at the 1900 Paris Olympics.

34. Spain is one of the European countries with the lowest rates of suicides.

35. There is evidence that 800,000 years ago, in Atapuerca, our ancestors practised cannibalism.

36. The caves of Altamira and El Castillo harbour the oldest Palaeolithic art in Europe.

37. Spain is world leader in downloads of content protected by copyright.

38. Women were able to vote for the first time in Spain in 1933.

39. According to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, people in northern Spain, as well as Salamanca and Madrid live longer than people in the south.

40. In Spain, you can be fined up to 100 euros for driving with your hand or arm out of the window.

41. The tradition of the twelve grapes on New Year's Eve has its origin in 1887 when the Mayor of Madrid imposed a new tax for the night of the Epiphany celebration and the poor protested in the town square by eating grapes on the 31st of December.

42. Before Instagram, scallops were the irrefutable proof that pilgrims brought back to show that they had completed the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James). In the Middle Ages people trafficked with scallops so much that the Church had to prohibit it.

43. The first draw of the National Lottery was held in Cadiz in 1812, the intention was to increase the revenues of the Public Treasury without having to resort to raising taxes to citizens.

44. Mayonnaise was invented in Mahón (Menorca), the legend says that when Armand Jean du Plessi, cardinal and Duke of Richelieu (1585-1642) arrived on the coasts, he demanded to eat something and, as there was nothing prepared, a chef mixed several ingredients to give them consistency ... and that's where the magic comes from.

45. Dying is much cheaper in Gran Canaria (around 2,600 euros) than in Barcelona (about 6,400). Think about it.

46. In Spain, there are 8 Nobel prize-winners, 7.5 if we count the double nationality of Mario Vargas Llosa.

47. According to a survey conducted by the World Values Survey worldwide, Spain would be among the most tolerant countries: only 10% of respondents would object to having a neighbor of another race.

48. Fidel Pagés, Spanish military doctor, was the discoverer of epidural anesthesia.

49. Spain holds the record for most editions of Big Brother broadcast in one country - 18!

50. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Spain was in Montoro, Cordoba during the summer of 2017 where it reached 47,3ªC. a record previously held by Murcia.

 



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Ibiza is not just a summer destination...
18 December 2020

Ibiza is an island of many wonders and often only considered when planning a summer holiday. But Ibiza has so much to offer "off-season" especially if you are into gastro tourism, hotels are cheap and the food is outstanding. The gastronomy of Ibiza is a true reflection of the island: sea and mountain landscapes where different cultures and civilisations have left their mark. As a result of this combination you can sample delicious dishes made from traditional recipes. They feature fish, particularly grouper, and meat, predominantly pork, from which products as exquisite as the famous Balearic sobrasada are made. 

The island's recipes are based on using its resources and the legacy of the different people who have inhabited the island throughout history. The sea, of course, is the main larder for the ingredients used in Ibiza's cuisine. One of the specialities here is the guisat de peix (a fish and seafood stew with potatoes and garlic mayonnaise) and peix sec (sun-dried fish by the sea breeze and seasoned with spices by the fishermen themselves). Grouper is the star ingredient, accompanied by swordfish, lobster, prawns, ray and sole, and cooked in a greixonera (clay pot typical of the Balearic Islands). 

Also popular in Ibiza is tonyina a l'eivissenca (tuna seasoned with pine nuts, eggs, spices, lemon juice and dry white wine); and estufat de tonyina (tuna stew). Borrida, from the village of Rajada, is a local version of a recipe deeply rooted in the Mediterranean culture, made with marinated ray that is roasted in the oven, accompanied with potatoes and covered with an egg, parsley, garlic, fried bread, toasted almonds, saffron and olive oil sauce. Seafood is also abundant and clams are always a good recommendation.


While the distances are not very great, the gastronomy in the interior of the island differs from that of the coast. If you travel to this area, we recommend trying the hearty dishes with chicken, pork and lamb. The most popular recipes include sofrit pagés (lamb and chicken stew paired with a typical Balearic sobrasada).

        
 

And although it will be difficult with any of the dishes mentioned so far, you must leave space for dessert. In addition to the famous ensaimadas, normally associated with Mallorca, which are at the top of the list of local confectionary, tradition also offers unique, delicious creations associated with certain dates and festivals, to such an extent there is almost one dessert for each occasion.

At the time of the All Saints celebrations you can try panellets, small, differently-shaped marzipan cakes with nuts, sugar, honey and spices. 

At Easter, the patisseries offer rich rubiols (sweet, half moon-shaped cakes filled with anything from jam, cream and angel hair paste, to chocolate or cottage cheese). Another Holy Week dessert is the traditional flaó, a round sweet made with eggs and fresh cheese, similar to crème caramel. We're lucky that today you can try them at any time of year, just like the orelletes (with aniseed liqueur) or greixonera, a pudding made with leftover ensaimadas. So if you fancy doing some gastro tourism and enjoying some great weather and seaside views, Ibiza has it all...off-season!



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Cava Recommendations for this Christmas
08 December 2020

Made in the same method as Champagne, Cava is Spain's sparkling wine treasure. Originating from the Penedès region of northeast Catalonia (just west of Barcelona), cava is made with three local varieties: Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada. Cava's claim to fame lies in its remarkable quality-to-price ratio. Top-quality cava is widely available for under €10 with many regional producers presenting their best bubbly in sophisticated bottles and leaning heavily on family-owned, tradition-inspired values. Here some to consider for the coming festive season! Take your pick, you can't go wrong with any of them...


Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut Cava - €6,49
Freixenet


One of the best-selling Cavas on the market, Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut Cava offers up exceptional citrus and toasted almond notes on the nose. Built on the region's three dominant cava grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada), this medium-bodied sparkling wine carries a fresh factor, lively acidity, and unmistakable balance on the palate.


Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut - €6,88
Codorniu Winery

        
Crafted from a 70/30 split of chardonnay and Parellada grapes, the Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut shows a lovely bouquet of ripe apple, plush tropical fruit, and the yeasty appeal of fresh-baked bread. The palate reveals a continuation of fresh-fruit themes, centred around green apple, pear, quince, and lemon-lime citrus. Crisp and clean.

 


Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava - €9,99
Segura Viudas

                       


Bringing some serious value—not to mention bubbles—to the table, Spain's Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava showcases an engaging blend of nutty nuances and a dash of citrus on the nose.

The palate profile is fresh, with zippy acidity, bright lemon-lime fruit, and apple undertones. A remarkable sparkling wine for the price, this cava is made with a blend of regional grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo.

Perfect for parties, keep the Segura Viudas Brut Cava in mind for appetizers, shellfish themes, tapas, and a variety of poultry picks.

 


Juve y Camps Brut Rose - €13,25
Juve y Camps Winery

 
Vivid salmon colour (thanks to Pinot Noir) and bright berry fruit with engaging floral notes on the nose make up this cava's first impressions. The palate doesn't disappoint, carrying almond essence and strawberries with cream, bright acidity, and an underlying elegance from attack to a spicy finish. This Juve y Camps Rose Brut Cava is perfect for cured meat and smoked salmon crostini.

 


Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava - €22,90
Segura Viudas

                       
From the heart of Penedès, Spain's sparkling wine centre, this Reserve Cava is crafted from all estate-grown fruit (Macabeo and Parellada). Thirty months ageing on lees explains the toasted brioche and smoky aromatic apple on the nose and gives this cava a creamy elegance and fuller-body on the palate. The fruit is well integrated with apple, quince, and some citrus weighing in alongside a mineral-driven finish. Rich, expressive, and focused, the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava is made for caviar, roasted poultry, or pork. 

 


Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut Cava - €9,95
Freixenet

               
A fantastic Cava pick, this lovely sparkling Rosado is brimming with the ripe aromas of raspberry and cherry fruit. On the palate, red fruit steals the limelight buffered by bubbles and balanced with optimized acidity. There is plenty of class in this glass and at only €9,95 a bottle, this Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut Cava is perfect for celebrations, picnics, appetizers, and tapas.



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Simple Pleasures - Spanish Black Pudding
24 November 2020

Fried Spanish Morcilla is a dish that consists of frying black pudding with onions and other spices and then serving it on top of some crunchy bread, it's that simple! This is a typical dish found throughout Spain and is extremely easy to make.

Black pudding may not be an ingredient for the squeamish as it is made out of the congealed blood of a freshly killed pig, which gives the resulting sausage its dark hue. The sausage also contains a number of spices. 

The origins of black pudding are in Ancient Greece where, according to Plato, it was invented by a Greek man named Aftónitas. Black pudding is actually mentioned in Plato's 'Homer's Odyssey'. The first description of the Spanish food can be found in a passage by Rupert de Nola in 1525. The word 'morcilla' actually comes from Spain although it has its origins in a mixture between the Celtic word for stump and the Basque word for a bulky, deformed object.

Black pudding is very popular across the Spanish peninsular and many regions have their own version of it, around 15 different types altogether. The main black pudding producing regions of Spain include the Basque Country, Extremadura, Asturias, Valencia, Murcia, León, Zamora and Castilla-La Mancha. In short, wherever you go when you visit Spain, you will always be able to find a good example of black pudding.

 

Among some of the best types of Morcilla, you must try the 'Morcilla de Burgos' which is one of the most well known black puddings in Spain. This particular variety is made with pig's lard and blood, rice, pimetón, salt, onion and spices to taste. For example, the 'Morcilla de Aranda' traditionally uses cumin, black pepper and a pinch of cinnamon to give it a unique taste.

Or if you are looking for a healthier option, you could always try the 'Morcilla de Villada'. This type of morcilla has a low-fat content, around 3% fat. However, the texture is still very creamy with a delicious flavour, something which is enhanced by curing the sausage for a number of years.

Take care to pick the best type of morcilla for your dish. If you are unsure, you could always ask your local delicatessen as to which one will taste best when fried. Be sure that you slice the black pudding thickly as they will be less likely to disintegrate when you fry them. Also, when turning the fried black pudding over, make sure you do it very carefully as the slices can break up easily.

Finally one of my favourites is the Morcilla Oreada de Cebolla (readily available in supermarkets around Spain) - this morcilla has been aired and partially dried meaning that it is much easier to fry as it has slightly less moisture and won't break up so easily in the frying pan. You can recognise it by its wrinkled surface. This is my favourite for combining with fried eggs or even in a classic sandwich with crunchy bread know as a " Blanco y Negro"  -  Black & white. This is a baguette sandwich made with 'white sausages' (longanizas blancas) and 'black pudding' (morcilla with onions),  it doesn't look that appetising.... but trust me, it's absolutely wonderful!

 


 



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Latest COVID -19 Symptoms - Second wave
17 November 2020

The new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic, has presented common symptoms since the first cases were known at the end of 2019, but others were identified during the first wave in spring 2020, now during the second wave, those symptoms are becoming less common and new symptoms are beginning to appear.

As for the most common and recognised symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists them as a dry cough, fever and tiredness. The Ministry of Health adds to these common symptoms the sensation of shortness of breath or dyspnea - difficulty breathing.

Other less common symptoms that affect some patients include aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhoea, loss of taste or smell, and skin rashes or colour changes on the fingers or toes, as stated on the WHO website, which also points out that these symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Spain´s Ministry of Health, in a document updated on October 2, added other symptoms present in "some cases": chills, sore throat and vomiting.

The Carlos III Health Institute, similarly lists cough, fever, loss of smell and taste and fatigue as common symptoms. However, they rule out sneezing as a symptom and specify that mucus is a rare symptom.

The latest consensus is the technical report published by the Ministry of health which was updated on November 12, listing the most frequent symptoms among 55,924 cases analysed to date as:

 

1. Fever (87.9%)

2. Dry cough (67.7%)

3. Asthenia (38.1%)

4. Expectoration (33.4%)

5. Dyspnea (18.6%)

6. Sore throat (13.9%)

7. Headache (13.6%)

8. Myalgia or arthralgia (14.8%)

9. Chills (11.4 %)

10. Nausea or vomiting (5%)

11. Nasal congestion (4.8%)

12. Diarrhoea (3.7%)

13. Hemoptysis (0.9%)

14. Conjunctival congestion (0.8%).

 

The skin lesions identified during the first wave, classified into five types: maculopapular, vesicular, urticarial, pseudopernious (similar to chilblains) and livedo-reticularis-necrosis, are not being observed in the second wave so far, according to what dermatologists have revealed. 

 



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National Monument - Monasterio de Piedra
13 November 2020

Since May 20, 1194 when Alfonso II of Aragon donated an old Moorish castle to a handful of monks in order to found the Monasterio de Piedra, this spot in Spain’s mostly barren reaches has been home to a divine paradise here on Earth.

Though officially secularized in 1835, during the reign of Isabella II, visitors to the monastery today will still find the remaining Gothic and Baroque buildings as heavily fortified as they were in the days of the monastery’s founding. Its cloisters remain intact, surrounded by immaculately landscaped gardens, though the main church was irreparably damaged in the aforementioned secularization and subsequent period of abandonment.

These ruins have an eerie, beautiful air about them, as they remain half-triumphant in their unwillingness to fall after so many years. Heavily fortified since its conception, visitors to the monastery will find the compound’s original cloisters intact, albeit reincarnated as a hotel and guesthouse.

 

Just slightly farther afield from civilization, ancient and contemporary, is the Piedra River, which is responsible for the conjoining nature park’s legendary, remarkable waterfalls. Created through the dissolution of limestone in a phenomenon geologists refer to as “karstification,” these standout cataracts include the 50-meter-tall Cola del Caballo (named such for its resemblance to a horse’s tail), and a handful of others which seem to bell into a million tiny rivulets running over the shoulder of huge boulders.

Clearly marked trails wend visitors on a five-kilometer path through the park’s most famed sights, including a natural reflecting pool trapped in a canyon called Mirror Lake. The natural park also has several caves, into which shepherds have built shelters for their flocks, as well as a raptor center that’s open to the public.

 

As of February 16, 1983, Monasterio de Piedra — natural park and all — was declared a national monument, which should ensure the protection of this little slice of the divine for another 800 years to come. 

 

 



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The Sunken Village
16 October 2020

 

Sometimes old ruins just get in the way of modern progress. When that happens, apparently,  there is no other choice than to flood a village with breathtaking Romanesque ruins. Despite the deluge, after 50 years, the proud spire of the village's church just won't go away that easily.

In the 1960s, the Catalonian government made the choice to create a reservoir on the site of San Romà de Sau, a village that had been inhabited since 917, yes, well over a thousand years. Forced to leave their town, the people made their best effort to take their valuables, and even exhume their dead before the man-made flood. Leaving the skeleton of their town, they headed inland.

As predicted, the creation of the reservoir flooded San Romà de Sau and completely submerged the buildings. However, when water levels in the area drop, the ghost village eerily emerges from the water, highlighted by the three-story church of the town.

Although very small, the pointed spire of the church can still be seen from anywhere in the surrounding hills. When the reservoir is high, only the tip of the Romanesque spire can be seen, but during periods of drought, the entire church emerges on dry land. During one of the dry periods, an effort to fortify the remains took place, and the church was reinforced with concrete. Despite being reinforced, the church is off-limits to visitors, and has a fence surrounding it that sinks with the water level as well.

 

 

Along with the church, other ruins of the town including an empty cemetery and the foundations of other buildings come to the surface as well and are frequently visited by tourists.

 

 



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