Tag Archives: Spain

Skiing in the Pyrenees: Three Outstanding Mountains in Three Countries

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photo by CC user libargutxi on Flickr

When the topic of snow holidays is brought up in relation to Europe, most conversation revolves around the Alps, which is the massive mountain ranges that winds its way across much of the continent. Equally breathtaking, but much less talked about are the resorts that dot the Pyrenees, which is the range that divides France and the rest of Europe from the Iberian Peninsula.

While it is not as glamorous a place as the Alps, those seeking a more authentic and affordable snow holiday will love skiing in the Pyrenees (or snowboarding, as the case may be). If you are seeking a trip along these lines, these three resorts in three separate nations will make this winter the most memorable yet!

France: Cauterets

Located far away from the Alps not just in distance but in attitude as well, the laid back slopes of Cauterets in the French Pyrenees will charm you where the often impersonal mega resorts fall short of the mark.

Recent winters have seen an abundance of snow fall in these hills, so do not be fooled by this resort’s southerly location in France. While pistes here are tamer than in the steeper Alps, Cauterets more than makes up for this with the absence of crowds available to pillage the powder caches that build up through the course of an average winter here.

Being known primarily throughout France as a spa town, the perfect apres ski activity awaits physically exhausted skiers and boarders, as the hot springs that dot the area will sooth your aching muscles after a day of inspired exertion.

Andorra: Pas de la Casa

Never touched a ski or snowboard in your life, but want to change that this winter? A little short of money after blowing your wad updating your wardrobe for the upcoming cold season? If so, a ski holiday at Pas de la Casa will be of great interest to you.

Being the biggest ski area in this micro mountain nation, this resort has the facilities to serve you well, but the tame slope gradients make it a friendly place for neophytes, novices and intermediate snowsports enthusiasts to build and upgrade their skills without fear of getting seriously hurt.

Spain: Formigal

Being one of the more southerly nations in Europe, Spain’s name does not get mentioned as much in skiing and snowboarding circles, but with the mighty heights of the Pyrenees on its northern border, it does have its share of ski resorts for those looking to make the most of the snow in winter here.

One of the most fun of these resorts in Formigal, and while its relative obscurity compared to the rest of Europe ensures that the dominant language here is Spanish, it allows you to pair your ski holiday with an opportunity for a cultural exchange with native Spaniards that come here enjoy the snowy tops of some of their haughtiest peaks.

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Living Like A Local In Barcelona

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Barcelona is an amazing city to see as a tourist, but there is much more appeal if you dig in and commit to living in this place like a local. The standard sights can be exhausted in a matter of days, but the hidden gems found within Barcelona’s numerous barrios will keep you walking, eating, and discovering for weeks on end.

In order to take advantage of this, it is vital that you spend time living like a local in Barcelona. The following guide will help you uncover the hidden spots that would otherwise not be found by those in town for a fleeting visit, so if you want to pack your bags and head to one of the most stylish cities in Spain afterward … good! You’ll be much better off for it.

Let’s get started!

Find an awesome neighborhood

There are many uber cool places where one can base themselves during their extended stay in Barcelona, of which the most desired is Gracia. The feel of this portion of these seething metropolis is more like a town than a city, which isn’t hard to understand once you realize that it was a town when it was swallowed by the rapidly expanding city on its doorstep.

Trendy youth love the style of this area, as well as El Born, which boasts no shortage of stylish boutiques, restaurants and high fashion shops. The beach is within walking distance from this well-located sector of the city, making it all the more desirable.

Dine where Barcelonans dine

Don’t light your money on fire at the overpriced restos in the tourist districts, as there are plenty of amazing dining options in other portions of Barcelona where value for money is much better. Can Eusebio is an excellent place on Vila i Vila where the tapas are much more generous and delicious than in the tourism areas, as the crowds on Fridays attest.

Don’t want to venture far from the beach, but still want to nosh like a local? Just five minutes away on Carrer Doctor Trueta is Savigovi, a canteen-style eatery that serves amazing lunch meals for under ten Euros!

Do what the locals do

As mentioned earlier, the main sights in Barcelona will last you for maybe a week at the most. After that, the local wonders of this eclectic city are yours to discover. Start by having a picnic in Parc de la Ciutadella, with your lunch items being procured from an earlier visit to Mercat de la Barceloneta, where an abundance can be found.

After a slow and satisfying meal, take cover from the intense afternoon sun to see the Museo del Modernismo Catalan, a new museum dedicated to the bleeding edge of the visual arts in Catalonia.

3 Dishes To Eat In Their Culinary Hometowns

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Around the world, there are many cities that have given birth to sumptuous meals that have gained fans the world over.  While restaurants abroad dedicated to foreign cuisines often do an admirable job emulating these recipes, there is no replacement for the countless years of experience in preparing these dishes that chefs in their home cities possess.

In this light, the foodie traveler is well-served by seeking out the birthplaces of the favourite food that they love best, and consuming them in the kitchens where they were likely first conceived. So that we may introduce a new wrinkle into your dual love affair with food and travel, we have highlighted three specific dishes that one will enjoy best when they are eaten in their respective hometowns.

Let us start this gastronomic journey by talking about…

1) Khao Soi, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Composed of dry crunchy noodles sat atop a sweet coconut broth, accented with a touch of lime juice, Khao Soi is the pride of the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.  Soft yellow noodles lie within this addictive soup, which can come with chicken, pork, or in vegetarian concoctions that contain tofu.

Fancy five star hotel restaurants, hole-in-the-wall establishments, and street stalls alike all proudly serve this dish … just don’t blame us for becoming addicted to this amazing curry after you come home and have trouble finding it in Thai restaurants there (honestly, it’s saddening!)

2) Poutine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

While it won’t win any awards as a miracle health food any time soon, there is no doubting poutine’s place as a comfort food, a 3 AM hunger killer, and as a meal that can stop a hangover dead in its tracks. This heart attack on a paper plate starts with a French fry base, which is then covered in cheese curd (NOT grated cheese, there is a difference!), and topped with a lava hot coating of gravy.

Primarily found in Quebec (though it is increasingly found in many other urban centres across Canada), the best place to have your first run in with poutine is after a long night living the high life on Saint Catherine’s Street in Montreal, a practice that will not only sop up all the craft beer, wine and Patron shots you been drinking, but will also put you in touch with the fun-loving Quebecois that make this city one of the primo party spots in all of North America!

3) Paella, Valencia, Spain

While this rice dish is primarily associated with the type that contains seafood such as mussels and shrimp, the original Valencian version of this dish was made with vole, a rodent during the early days when people in the area were quite poor.  As fortunes improved over the years, it was made with chicken, duck, and due to its position on the Mediterranean Sea, various types of seafood.  The aspect that gives this dish its Valencian appeal is the fact that it is cooked over a flame containing the boughs of orange and pine trees, whose smoke further infuses the paella with its distinctive flavour.

Elevate Your Foodie Travel Game

While it is awesome to experience the cuisine that a particular nation is famous for, niching down and trying dishes that specific cities have birthed will further your connection to the places that you visit.  Locals will impart their passion for said foods when you seek them out, leading to a much more authentic experience!

Discovering The Beauty of Barcelona

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Visiting Barcelona means that you are going to be taking in a lot of beautiful things. You may not have the time to see everything while you are there. However, there are some really amazing structures and locations that you need to see if you want to be able to fully understand why others report that this is one of the most beautiful locations in Spain. Read the rest of this entry