Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Drink Coffee in Spain: 8 Ways to Order a Cup of Joe

Confession: I’m not that big of a coffee drinker—tea is really more my thing. But I do enjoy the occasional cuppa joe about once a week, and after living here in Spain for a year I’ve figured out how to add some variety to my morning injection of caffeine beyond the standard café con leche. Most of these are just variations on a shot of espresso and steamed milk, but there’s a few surprises, too. Get your coffee pot started and join me as I explain the basics of drinking coffee in Spain.

Café solo

Coffee in Spain
(Source: thiery49)
“Only coffee” (or more literally, “coffee alone”) is simply a shot of espresso, the coffee beverage that is made from forcing hot water at a high pressure through ground coffee beans. It’s served in a short, tiny glass or ceramic cup with a saucer, spoon, and a bag of sugar. A good café solo will have a thick, almost bitter body capped with thin layer of foam. This is coffee at its rawest.

Café cortado

Coffee in Spain
(Source: Alexandra Guerson)
A café cortado is called so because the shot of espresso is “cut” with some steamed milk—but only some, as there’s more coffee than milk in this drink. It’s not quite as strong or bitter as a straight-up café solo; instead, the creaminess of the milk makes it a little more palatable. Author David Lebovitz, who writes about pastries in France, has praised the simple pleasures of the cortado in a really lovely blog post you should check out here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Photo Post: The Medieval-Renaissance Village of Sabiote, Spain

Sabiote, Spain
Sabiote Castle
Just a short 10km from the southern Spanish city of Úbeda, the village of Sabiote offers a lot despite its small size. You might be surprised to find a Renaissance-era castle and well-preserved set of medieval walls in this passed-over corner of Spain, but it’s no wonder; after all, the province of Jaén is the region with the greatest number of castles in Europe!

Sabiote, Spain
Sabiote Castle
I would have never even given Sabiote the time o’ day had it not been the hometown of my bilingual coordinator, Pedro. One afternoon after school, he took me and a group of teachers out for lunch to his pueblo and afterwards led us on a tour of town in which we got to explore the inside of the recently-restored castle. Standing upon the fortress’s battlements at sunset, I really enjoyed getting to survey the whole countryside, which was covered, of course, in gridded, green olive groves.

Sabiote, Spain
Church of San Pedro silhouetted at sunset
While training for the Camino de Santiago, I would later come back to the city—this time on foot with one of my fellow Americans-in-Úbeda, Ashley. It was only a two-hour-long hike, but when we arrived we were greeted by a medieval festival in which we saw locals dressed up in jaunty costumes, ate cheap, delicious food in open-air restaurants, and watched reenactment-style horses racing around the town.

Sabiote, Spain
Streets of Sabiote
Sabiote may be yet another quiet Spanish village, but it’s hardly a pueblo del culo del mundo (“village at the butt-end of the world). Rather, Sabiote is a true pueblo con encanto—a “village with enchantment.”

What’s your favorite Spanish village? Do you like to make excursions to smaller towns while passing from big city to another? Talk about it in the comments below!

For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

On Saying “Enjoy Your Meal!” to Strangers in Spain

It’s taken me about a year to pick up on this little cultural idiosyncrasy of Spain, but after talking with some fellow expats who have also noticed it, I’ve decided to put together an exposé of this fun part of Spanish culture.

I’m talking about complete strangers telling you they hope you “enjoy your meal!” as they walk by. Yeah, it sounds kind of weird, but it is a Thing here in Spain that everyone from your server to your housemate to casual acquaintances will wish you as you’re chowing down on dinner. Let me give a few examples:

My daily bocadillo from the school I was at last year
1) I’m munching on my chorizo-and-olive oil sandwich during recess/morning break in the teacher’s lounge at my school in Andalucía last year, minding my own business and just chilling out at the table. A teacher pops in, looks around for something, sees me with a foil-wrapped bocadillo, and offers a ¡qué aproveche! before dashing back out.

2) I’m having dinner in the living room at my apartment one evening, just me and Harry Potter, when my flatmate comes home, out of breath from hauling bags of groceries up five floors, but still manages to spurt out ¡qué aproveche! before dropping everything on the kitchen counter.

3) My friend Annie and I were discussing this very thing while enjoying some pimientos de padrón at a sidewalk terrace in Lugo when all of a sudden a lot of traffic built up. A garbage truck was stopped a few tables away from us, and one of the waste collectors was hanging off the back of it. Once the traffic started moving, the truck passed by a table that had just gotten their food, and the man holding on to the back of the truck said ¡qué aproveche! to the girls eating lunch—in true Spanish fashion. In true American fashion, Annie and I burst into laughter.

4) And just two weeks ago I was having breakfast at my hostel in Santiago where I was staying while looking for an apartment, when a new arrival peeked in to the common room, looked around, wished me ¡qué aproveche! while nodding in the direction of my croissant, and went out.

I don’t have any deep conclusions to draw from these fun little vignettes of life abroad in Spain. But while it’s part of good manners in Spain, don’t think that this common phrase is a direct translation of “enjoy your meal”—¡qué disfrutes tu comida! would be that. Instead, Spanish uses the verb aprovechar (to take advantage of, to be a benefit to) with the meal as the subject, rather than the object. The full phrase implied by good-wishers would be qué te aproveche la comida, translated as “that your meal would nourish you.”

Next time somebody sits down with a meal they just prepared, or gets served their next course, be polite and say ¡qué aproveche! to them. You’ll be one step closer to sounding like a native Spaniard!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How to Apply for Your NIE in Santiago de Compostela (and Get Your TIE)


One of the most annoying parts about living and working in Spain is cutting past the red tape to get residency, albeit temporary. You have to wake up super early, go to a godforsaken office that’s only open mornings on weekdays, wait for hours until your turn is called, and then cross your fingers that you’ve brought all your required documents (and multiple copies, too). If everything goes correctly, you have to just…show up…in 30-40 days to pick up your ID card.

Police station in Santiago
Although it can be intimidating to undergo this months-long ordeal to get your NIE (número de identidad de extranjero—“foreigner’s ID number”) and corresponding TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero—“foreigner’s ID card”), it doesn’t have to be. If you show up early and prepared enough, however, you can beat Spanish bureaucracy at its own game.

In this post, I’d like to explain how to go about applying for your number and card if you happen to be living in Santiago de Compostela, the capital city of the northwest Galicia region. Even if you end up going through the process at a different oficina de extranjería (foreigner’s office) in Galicia, it should be mostly the same—but don’t quote me on that!

Where to go

You can submit your NIE & TIE application at the Comisaría Local de Santiago de Compostela, the city’s main police station. It’s a plain granite building at Rúa de Rodrigo de Padrón, Nº 3, in a part of town between the Alameda park and the Obradoiro plaza and just past the high school (instituto).

What to bring with you

* your passport

* copies of the two passport pages that have your visa & entry stamp and the one with your personal information

* application form EX-17 if you’re not an EU citizen (EX-18 if you are)

* your placement letter if you’re an auxiliar de conversación (carta de nombramiento)

* 1 color ID photo (foto carnet)


* copies of your entire passport

* extra fotos carnet

* your empadronamiento certificate

* your health insurance card/proof it’s being processed

What to do at the office

With all of the items above and two copies of each, get up early and go to the police station no later than 8:45am. Get a ticket for the Oficina de Extranjería and wait until your turn is called. Once you’re in, present all your documents, copies, etc., sign any forms needed, and get your fingerprints taken.

For the last step, you’ll have to run out to a bank to pay the Código 012, Modelo 790 fee of 15,30€. There’s a Banco Pastor, a Kutxabank, and a Banco Santander that can process your fee directly south of the police station about five minutes’ walking distance. Come back with the approved stamp to get your little receipt that you came to the office (resguardo).

And boom! You’re good to go and now have a provisional NIE. Congrats!

Come back to the office in around a month to pick up your TIE (ID card) and you will be officially legal in Spain.

If you have any questions, post them below—or if your experience was different, please, do tell!

Friday, October 11, 2013

How to Get Empadronado (Registered) in Santiago de Compostela

One of the least-discussed aspects of living abroad in Spain is getting empadronado whenever you move to a new city. Oh, everyone will have their (horror) stories to tell you about dealing with the Spanish bureaucracy—don’t get me wrong!—but I’ve barely heard boo about this simple act of going to the town hall and registering as living in the city.

My certificate of residence a.k.a. empadronamiento
In Spain, the padrón is a registry office that is coordinated by the local council for people who live in the municipality. When you move to a town in Spain it’s a good idea to go and register yourself (empadronarse) at the town hall, because you need the certificate of residence—the empadronamiento—to sign up for a library card among other things, but also because you need it to prove you are actually living in Spain when you go to apply for your NIE and TIE (residency). Not all provinces require that you present your empadronamiento, but many do.

If you happen to be living in Santiago de Compostela, the capital city of the Galicia region, this is how you can go about getting empadronado once you’ve moved in to your new apartment.

Where to go

Entrance to the padrón office in the town hall
It’s pretty straightforward: go to the town hall (ayuntamiento in Spanish / casa do concello in Galician), the Raxoi Palace on the west side of the main Obradoiro square opposite the cathedral. Head down the steps on the north (left) side of the building and enter a nondescript door on the ground floor. Within you’ll find the office of the padrón.

What to bring with you

* your passport

* your apartment contract or rental agreement

What to do at the office

During business hours on weekdays only, go up to the window in the padrón office and ask to register yourself (“quisiera empadronarme”). Present your passport and contract, sign a form if asked, receive your certificate, and you’re good to go. That’s it! No fees, taxes, nada. If you lose the empadronamiento (empadroamento in Galician), you can go back and get another one for free—no worries!

I hope this simple process goes smoothly for you, dear reader. If not, post any questions (or horror stories) you may have below!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Photo Post: The Cozy Renaissance Village of Baeza, Spain

Baeza, Spain
Interior of Baeza’s cathedral
I talk a lot about the Spanish town of Úbeda on this blog, and for good reason—I lived there for eight months, after all! But I have no reason for barely even mentioning next-door Baeza here; forgive me! Pronounced “bah-AY-thah” [baˈe.θa], this village of a little over 16,000 is often thought of as Úbeda’s little sister mainly because of its shared Renaissance heritage. During the same time that idealized, stately palaces and churches were being put up in neighboring Úbeda, similar buildings were constructed in Baeza as well.

For example, the soaring local cathedral (which shares a bishop with the cathedral in Jaén) seems almost out of place in a village of this size, but its ethereal, light-filled interior will shoo away any misgivings you may have.

Baeza, Spain
Winding street near the cathedral
Like any good Andalusian city, its old core will make you feel like you’ve gone back to Moorish times—tortuous alleyways and quiet, arched streets make Baeza a true historic pueblo of the south.

Baeza, Spain
Jabalquinto Palace
The local university’s administration is housed in a magnificent Renaissance palace, the Palacio de Jabalquinto. On the outside, you can marvel at a highly-embellished plateresque façade, and on the inside you can stroll around an ideal Mediterranean courtyard beneath cool, shady arcades.

Baeza, Spain
Baeza and the countryside
Don’t miss going up to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower. The staircase may feel claustrophobic, but the views of the heart of Spain’s olive oil country will free your spirit. Take in the scope of the town, nearby Úbeda, the Sierra Mágina mountains to the south and the Sierra de Cazorla to the east. And like an incoming tide, millions of olive groves fill in the gaps everywhere in between.

What was your favorite picture from this post? Are you inspired to spend a few hours (or days!) in Baeza when you pass through the province of Jaén in Andalucía? Tell me in the comments section below.

For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.
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