Showing posts from October, 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 are 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 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 purest.

Café cortado
A café cortado is called so because the shot of espresso is “cut” with some steamed milk—but only some, as there’s more co…

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

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!

I would have never even given Sabiote the time of 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.

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, …

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 consulting with some fellow expats who have also noticed it, I’ve decided to talk about 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:

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.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 …

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 as an auxiliar de conversación (English language assistant) 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.

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 happ…

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.

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…

Photo Post: The Cozy Renaissance Village of Baeza, Spain

I talka 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 so far; 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 built in neighboring Úbeda, similar structures were constructed in Baeza as well.

For example, the soaring local cathedral (whose bishop shares his seat or cathedra 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.

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 pueblo of the south.

The local university’s administ…