Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

Turrón, and on and on

Por: | 21 de noviembre de 2013

It’s only November, but the invasion has started. Many household essentials in your local Spanish supermarket may well have been squashed into a tiny corner and less popular goods will have been swept aside, in order to free a large floor and shelf space. That space has now been filled. An army of one product, divided into 1,001 different platoons, has been stationed. Turrón is back.

For anyone unfamiliar with Spanish culture, turrón is a traditional Christmas confectionery, primarily made from honey, sugar, egg whites and almonds. It can be soft, like nougat, or crunchy, like peanut brittle. Whilst the are plenty of alternative Christmas delicacies, turrón is the Real Madrid or Barça of the confectionary market, crushing opposition under the weight of its tradition, and crushing delivery men and shop assistants under the weight of its distribution and placement.

If you take a stroll into any supermarket, after being struck by the enormous quantity of turrón available, the next surprise will be the variety of flavours. There was probably one original form, and even today the basic almond, marzipan or chocolate tend to be the captains, but due to the demands of the modern consumer, choices are now overwhelming. Having spotted Irish Coffee and Tutti Frutti, it appears that, unless opting for undesirable flavours such as squirrel or badger, a new marketing direction may be required. Having captured the hearts and minds of the people, I would suggest turrón for pets might fill a few more shelves, with bone flavour for dogs, fish flavour for cats, and a finely-ground turrón powder to sprinkle in your goldfish tank.

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Turrón: The front line                                          Photo flickr (CC): Pamela Stocks

Despite the varieties of turrón, marketing does not seem to have been applied to the question of size. There appear to be two basic ones available - circular (slightly smaller than a dinner plate) or rectangular, which seems to have to conform to being 9cm by 20cm. During my in-depth research, I could find almost no alternative, which presents two clear conclusions. Firstly, there may be a piece of ancient Spanish legislation dictating the dimensions for a bar of turrón, and secondly, I should really get a decent social life.

Can the Spanish population really consume this amount of confectionery? Is it like the English demand for a Christmas turkey, whereby everybody overestimates the size of the bird they require, meaning that turkey sandwiches, pies and salads are still being consumed in the middle of March? The European Union had ‘wine lakes’ and ‘butter mountains’ due to market surpluses; is there a ‘turrón plateau’ in Spain? Or a turrón breakers’ yard - an illicit operation to melt down any unsold bars to extract sugar and chocolate, only to smuggle them back into the shops in four months time as Easter eggs? If not, the consumption must also support other industries well into the New Year – not least dental practices and dieticians.

In fact, a recent event suggests that over-supply is not the case at all, and there may even be a black market - 13 tons of turrón was stolen from a factory in Jijona, near Alicante. It seems that a Spanish Christmas without turrón would be like an English festive season without Christmas pudding - still pleasant, but with nothing really satisfying to sink your teeth into. Of course, there is perhaps the question of addiction, although I’ve yet to encounter, in English terms, a Turrón Eaters Anonymous group, despite the acronym proving highly attractive for any UK citizen. On that thought, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m only halfway through my bar of rum and raisin, after which my three-chocolate praline is waiting.

"W Day" Watercolor Workshop in Barcelona. Amaze Me, Baby!

Por: | 10 de noviembre de 2013

W Day to use

"W Day" participants Christiane Cutler and Gloria Uhrin enjoy their outing on the Barcelona beachfront. Photo Credit: La Terazza Atico Barcelona

By Sheridan Becker

BARCELONA, Spain – “I don’t have a clue on how to paint, Mom ” complained my 12-year-old daughter as we sprinted out the door on a recent Saturday morning to attend a one-day watercolor workshop billed as a “W Day." The event in question ran from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, included a picnic lunch and art materials, and garnered its name from the W Barcelona -- a sprawling, modern hotel with a total of 473 guest rooms and suites. But there was no need for expertise at such a workshop. All that was necessary was an affection for art and a desire to try one's brush at watercolors.

I must confess that I've been in love for years with the stunning artwork of David Hockney, now 76 and one of the greatest colorists since Matisse. Hockney isn't about just any colors. If you want to be moved, gaze for a while at the cerulean and cobalt blues of Hockney's classic, famous swimming-pool paintings of the 1960s.  Hockney, though, is a master. My daughter and I were mere dabblers.

Our morning watercolor session was headed up by the multifaceted husband-and wife team of Angela Raymonde-Cutler and Paul Raymonde who run La Terazza Atico Barcelona, the only city-based residential watercolor workshop program in Europe. Our meeting would be at 9:30 am sharp, which is an ideal time for painting because the light is five times brighter in the morning. Our destination was a Barcelona beachfront that offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea and, appropriately enough considering the event sponsor, a sweeping profile of world-renowned architect Ricardo Bofill’s W Barcelona hotel.

I was feeling especially adventurous, so I brought along my 11-year-old son, in addition to my daughter. The boy had no idea what was in store for him, but he was promised that he could play a game of football on the beach, full stop, which was enough to convince him to join us. I, on the other hand, needed no convincing to attend this wonderful workshop in my new home base, Barcelona. The accomplishment factor can be very profound when one is under the tutelage of pros like the Raymondes. By the end of our watercolor session, I felt like I had just blown out the candles on my birthday cake. The kids and I put finishing touches on our artwork, depicting the “W” signage on top of the hotel.

My daughter seemed as inspired and delighted as Mr. Hockney when he recently discovered and applied an app that he uses for painting on his iPad. “It’s amazed me,” he said. “I had never seen myself drawing before like this.” That’s exactly what this delightful one-day workshop was all about. As my daughter  said, "Wow. I never thought I could do this before! This is great, Mom."

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