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Christmas Markets in Spain

by John Bascombe on Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas markets in Spain might not be as grand as the northern European ones found in for example Germany, but they are nevertheless important for the Spanish people as a Christmas tradition. Another important tradition in Spain involves the nativity scene, belén, and in Spain these vary from very simple and small ones for your home to much elaborated and life-sized ones which decorate the cities and provide a true Christmas feeling.

There are markets in every Spanish city, but some of the best Christmas markets can be found in the following cities:

Madrid

There are markets in almost every square in the city e.g. Plaza España and Plaza de Santo Domingo, however the largest and most popular one is located at Plaza Mayor. This market is around 150 years old and includes more than 100 stalls of different handicraft, Christmas decorations, food, jewelry, candles, sweets etc. The market normally opens sometime in the end of November and stays open until the end of December. It's frequently visited by both tourists and locals. Close by, at Plaza Santa Cruz, there's a carnival-like market that sells wigs and costumes for El Día de los Santos Inocentes (Fool's day) which is celebrated on the 28th of December by dressing up in these items.

Barcelona

The most well-known and traditional Christmas market in Barcelona is the Fira de Santa Llúcia. Like in Madrid this market also opens in the end of November but it closes just before Christmas. Fira de Santa Llúcia has been a tradition for 228 years and contains more than 200 stalls. Here you can find traditional Christmas decorations, handicraft, food and such, but also the traditional Catalan Caga Tío, which is a small log with a painted, happy face and a small red hat. This market is located close to the cathedral at Plaza de la Seu.  

Fira de Nadal a la Sagrada Familia is a smaller market with stalls selling similar products to the ones at Fira de Santa Llúcia. You can find it at Plaza de la Sagrada Familia. Mercat Gótic is another small market but this one focuses mostly on antiques. This is an all year round market that is actually overtaken by the Fira de Santa Llúcia during Christmas. It's located at Avenida Portal de l'Angel. Col.lectiu d'Artesans de l'Alimentació is also an all year round market, however it is more popular during Christmas. Vendors here sell honey, cheeses, herbs, wine, chocolate etc. You can find it at Plaça del Pi… read more »

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The Best Places to Live in Europe

by John Bascombe on Thursday, December 11, 2014

When one thinks of living in Europe, we usually think of the large cities and capitals of this old-world continent like London, Paris, Rome, Geneva or Brussels. But are these places really the BEST places to live? The EU has released a survey trying to answer that very question. In a survey to determine the best place to live in Europe 2013 , the Quality of Life in Cities study released by the EU contains some surprises for everyone. Some of the more common places to visit in Europe are surprisingly not listed like the great capitals listed before and the issues that most concern Europeans with respect to how they feel about where they live is the value placed on good healthcare facilities, unemployment and education/training. So what is the best place to live in Europe? The answer is Aalborg, Denmark with an overall satisfaction score of 99/100. Not to be left behind, The Spanish city of Málaga also scored remarkable well with a score of 96/100 tying with cities like Amsterdam, Graz or Munich. Another Spanish city to pass with honors (and with the most individual top scores) was the Asturian city of Oviedo… read more »

Orange County and the United Languages of America

by John Bascombe on Thursday, December 04, 2014

The US is a multi-lingual country with no official national language, a place where according to the 2011 census report, 20% of the people speak a language other than English at home.  In California that number is 44%. Orange County, located just south of LA, is California’s second most densely populated county, a place that reflects changing language trends across the country… read more »

The Most Dangerous Hike in Spain

by John Bascombe on Monday, November 24, 2014

El Camino del Rey Spain has many famous hiking trails and pathways. In the Picos de Europa is the famous Ruta del Cares which is a path the traverses a ravine that unites León with Asturias. There is also the Senda del Oso, also in Asturias, which winds through the mountains of Asturias along what was once a railway used by miners. Of course, the granddaddy of all is the Camino de Santiago. But there is a little known hike that is very different from the all the rest (and it's not only for its short length of not quite two miles) due to its decrepit state and the fact that it is illegal to hike it. Dangerous in Spanish is peligroso and this trail is about as dangerous as anything can get. In fact, if the police catch you on this trail you risk paying a fine of up to €6000 ($7760 US Dollars). The trail I'm referring to is the Camino del Rey (or The King's Way) located on the Costa del So l right outside of the cosmopolitan city of Málaga in southern Spain. Fortunately paying a fine or paying with your life will soon be a thing of the past since the local government is in the process of reopening the trail for public use… read more »

400 Years of El Greco in Toledo

by John Bascombe on Friday, November 21, 2014

If you’re in Madrid this year, check out Toledo; it’s just a short half hour train-ride to the south and 2014 marks the 400 th anniversary of the death of this historic city’s most illustrious figure. A full-blown fiesta raging throughout the year is commemorating the life and work of famed painter Doménikos Theotokópulos (1541-1614), known to the world as El Greco. A fantastic variety of lively cultural events and handsome exhibits of inspired works selected from this Golden Age artist’s vibrant oeuvre all await visitors. Still not convinced? Keep in mind that the city of Toledo itself displays medieval urban landscapes that seem to teleport observers to a flourishing age of arts… read more »

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