The Butcher At Carnisseria SeliEarlier today in our local butchers shop in my very best Spanish Catalan hybrid language…(dos is 2, Botifarra is sausage and dolca is sweet)

Me Dos botifarras dolcas, por favor

The Butcher No?

Me Si, Dos botifarras dolcas por favor!

The Butcher No?

The Butcher then tries to give me 2 regular sausages and smiles.

Me No …Dos botifarras dolcas por favor!!!!!

The Butcher Huh?… esta? He points to the sweet sausages No?

Me Si, Dos por favor

The Butcher Es no normal!!

So now it is official, even The Butcher knows that I am not normal.

Sweet sausages are exactly that, a regular pork sausage with sugar, cinnamon and lemon added and they are absolutely heavenly. Fry them up and serve before, during or after dinner. All the sweet stuff melts, caramelizes and makes its own gooey sauce. They are Catalan, I don’t know much more about them or why they have not spread worldwide. From The Butcher’s reaction I am guessing that I am the first non-Catalan to buy them.

Note to self. I really must improve my Spanish/Catalan skills; it is very disappointing that The Butcher figured out that I am not a local.

The shop is called Carnisseria Seli in Torroella De Montgri, and is way more than a butchers shop, it should be called Deli Seli.

Another rainy day in Catalonia, time to indulge my own private travel porn fetish. I recently heard the phrase food porn used to describe a TV cooking show and travel porn works for me as a term to describe travel websites, shows and magazines where the destinations are very much in the realm of fantasy.

My favourite beach in the world is Injidup Beach in Western Australia and it falls head first into the travel porn category. It is a 4-hour drive South of Perth in the Margaret River Wine region of Western Australia.Injidup Beach

We found it when we were searching for a surf break that I had read about, which is exactly how many great things are found, when you are actually looking for something else. If you don’t look you wont find.

Injidup is totally unspoiled, there is one mega mansion being built by a Brit (bloody typical) and a small low-rise unobtrusive spa retreat.

The sand is clean, pure white and fine with a massive dune in the corner, excellent for working off some excess energy or doing Lawrence of Arabia impersonations. The water is crystal clear, there is no pollution and in the summer it is warm.

There is no café; no hotel and no gift shop only the most magnificent natural beauty that you could imagine.

There is a car park with steps down to the beach or you can sit at the top of the steps in the lookout area and watch the dolphins playing in the surf, the humans playing in the surf or on a no swell day simply lap up the natural beauty.

Many days you will be alone on the beach unless the swell is up and you will have a bunch of laid-back surfers for company. The surf break is a point break and needs some swell to get going, it is usually uncrowded.

Flies can be a problem in the summer, more specifically if you do go on a day when there are flies they can be unbearable. Luckily most days are no fly days and the Aussies are working on a dung beetle program that apparently should reduce the number of flies?

If you are in search of natural beauty this is the beach for you.

PS I will post some more photos on the photo link.

Mediterranean FlowerMany food labels here in Spain don’t have basic nutritional data such as calorie, salt, fat, protein and carb. content. How come? How do Spanish people keep track of what they are eating? Maybe a better question would be ….do they keep track of what they are eating? I hear that the Spanish children are rising quickly up the obesity ladder and I wonder if these 2 issues are linked. The old Mediterranean diet is disappearing fast, losing to the high calorie, fat and salt diet honed to perfection by the US of A (and Australia and the UK). I am sure it was hard to over eat on tomatoes and fresh fava beans hence no need for calorie labels in the good old days of the Mediterranean diet.

Here’s the scoop. I am working on losing a little weight, a few pounds that mysteriously appeared when I wasn’t paying attention. What actually happened was that when we were in Australia we didn’t have a weighing scale, and even though I am careful about what I eat I clearly was unable to self regulate without weighing myself. Yesterday I made us what I guessed was a low calorie snack of cottage cheese with crackers (beautifully decorated with fresh basil and chopped chives for added low calorie, low salt flavour) and I wondered how many calories there were in this snack as compared with peanut butter on crackers. None of the products had calorie info on the packets so I was left guessing. This online, free, no need to register calorie counter works quite well.

Also, I try to run a low salt kitchen, mostly because it makes MBH’s heart work better and I am all in favor of stuff that makes his heart beat in good time. Our refrigerated package of Gazpacho also has no label and I suspect it has lots of salt although probably very low in calories. Hence the problem, I will probably end up overweight and salty with a broken heart. My only option is to buy foods with good labeling and start a boycott of poorly or unlabelled products. Note to self …no more boycotts this week…Nespresso coffee and unlabelled products are enough for now.

By the way the photo is from Pals beach earlier this week.

Nespresso Coffee Pods

They are not good for our planet or for us, here’s why.

How can it be a step forward when the latest status symbol in the developed world is an espresso machine whose unique feature is a single portion single use Nespresso coffee pod which is not biodegradable?

If Nespresso and George Clooney (the star of their advertising campaign) have their way every shot of espresso made in the developed world will produce one metallic pod of non-biodegradable waste. (The aluminum pod could technically be recycled if you disassembled it and separated out the paper and coffee grains?)

Why the usually politically correct Clooney has chosen this non-environmentally friendly product to attach his name to we can only assume is linked to vast amounts of money.

Even if it does make a good cup of coffee, is it worth the cost to our planet?

When I fancy a really good cup of coffee I head out to a coffee shop. We have tons of excellent non-chain cafes here in Catalonia and I love the ambience, the company, the community, the sense of occasion, the cakes and pastries that make up a coffee shop outing. Or if I fancy a special at home treat I can make a pretty good cup with my cafetiere and frothy milk wizzer. To me coffee and tea making are very wound up in the ritual of the process and abbreviating the ritual to dropping a polluting pod into a machine just doesn’t do it for me.

Another warning sign is that Nestle have a crappy business ethics track record, in the 70’s their marketing of baby formula to developing countries led to a boycott. They are smart and wealthy, ($84 billion revenue in 2003) and are capable of having a very big impact especially when combo’d with a guy we all love. All the more reason to question the product.

If my opinion makes me a Luddite http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite I accept the label proudly, we all have to define our boundaries and mine are made up of lots of used Nespresso coffee pods.

By Thursdays Girl. Changing the world one coffee pot at a time.

On Monday morning the Ryan Air Girona to Blackpool flight was a full 15mins late and this is the reason that they are still my #2 favourite airline. The 15-minute delay was the difference between missing it and catching it and there was a life lesson to be learnt along the way.

Torrential rain, mud on the road from 3 days of rain (I don’t think we can have a drought here in Catalonia anymore) and Philippe Massa style driving resulted in the inevitable car smash completely blocking the Pals to Girona Airport road at Celra (not an uncommon event here). We sat and waited, ate a chocolate feradura (a pastry), waited and after 20 minutes turned around. We had to retrace our tracks and make a large detour. The trip normally is a 1-hour drive, now we were 1 hour in to it but with 1-¼ hours to go, thus using up all our spare time allowance and more.

I did my best Lewis Hamilton impersonation and got us to the airport pronto. The new plan is for me to drop off MBH outside the terminal as he needs to check in (I have done the online check in), park the car, meet and go to the gate.

We are now at take off time minus 35 minutes and I remember that Ryan are supposed to be horribly strict about check in deadlines. I run into Departures and there’s no sign of MBH, no Blackpool check in desk which is a really bad sign and still no MBH.

After a short headless chicken impersonation I find MBH casually checking in at the Ryan Air ticket counter with a lovely, friendly, helpful Ryan Air employee. There’s no line at security, no time consuming inspection of our laptops and we arrive at the gate just as the plane is landing and board a few minutes later.

The lesson to be learned this morning was….. Never give up. Your luck might change and you might catch your flight. If you give up you will never catch it…whatever it is you are trying to catch.Never Give Up

It had hardly rained here in Catalonia all winter and our reservoirs were running at 20% capacity so a rainy weekend is technically good news for us. Meanwhile the rest of Europe is having great weather so we are off to visit Mama and Papa in sunny Carlisle, England tomorrow morning.

We are flying Girona Blackpool with my # 2 favourite airline Ryan Air at a cost of 100 Euros roundtrip including all taxes and priority boarding. There aren’t too many airlines where you can book the day before and still get such a low fare.

Girona (listed at Barcelona- Girona on their website) is a hub for Ryan and has a great choice of destinations including Marrakech (wonderful place), Paris, Dublin, Fez, Rome and Venice. The terminal has been revamped over the last few years and is clean and modern, worthy of comment because it used to be old and dirty. The airport is small, easy to get in and out of and has a very low hassle factor. Having said that…I would avoid it like the plague in August where the whole world, France and the population of several other universes descend on it for some fun in the sun.

I am super excited (if the US election has super delegates I can now officially be super excited) to be heading to the UK the land of Marmite, hills, lakes, daffodils and my Mum’s home made cookies…mmm.

Singapore Airlines are the best, their Economy Class is very good and their Business Class is terrific, here’s why.

We flew Perth to Singapore in Economy and Business Class from Singapore to Barcelona with a short refuel stop in Milan (we did not have to leave the plane).

The Perth to Singapore leg is only 5-hours and economy was fine. The seats were comfy, the food very good and the service impeccable. Despite our economy ticket for the first flight the check in staff gave us the business class luggage allowance and did not charge extra for our 2 surf boards.

We had a couple of hours layover in Singapore which was not long enough to enjoy the business class lounge to its fullest. It is truly excellent with great food. They serve full-blown meals not just snacks, salads, cakes, good coffee and lots to read.

The Singapore to Barcelona leg is a long flight so the business class totally flat bed ‘seat’ is a winner. The seats are exactly the same as on the new A380 and come complete with bedding and duvet! The seat has tons of space around it, you feel like you have your own small hotel room. Needless to say I managed a full 8 hours of sleep totally undisturbed.

I had always thought that the Australia to Europe trip was too long to do all at once but Singapore Airlines have led me to change my mind. I just wish they flew more Europe to North America routes; they do fly Frankfurt New York (JFK), but no flights yet to the west coast.

As I said Singapore Airlines are the best.

I love coming back to Catalonia!

(This theme may become very boring over the next few months, as I am sure I will rave about Catalonia endlessly. The only thing you could do is to send comments telling me to shut up, but I might just keep going anyway.)

I even like landing in Barcelona airport. I like the immigration guys there as you can get them to smile really easily and they seem happy to welcome us to their country. Unlike some countries such as the US of A where immigration staff are not known for their sense of humour or general congeniality.

I like driving thru the outskirts of Barcelona, you get glimpses of stunning buildings in between the speeding trucks and cars zigzagging in and out all being driven by Lewis Hamilton wannabees. It is exciting, exhilarating and a little scary.

I like baguettes. The Spanish ones are just as good as the French and it constantly puzzles me that whilst we can split the atom in many countries we cannot make good baguettes outside of a handful of countries around the world. Why?

I like a people who talk with their hands as much as their words. Those of us who were raised not to wave our hands are missing out. Add hand waving to your conversation skills and your communication effectiveness will improve immediately.

I like the smell of pine trees.

I like the sound of the Spanish language. It is just as sexy as French. On the other hand Catalan does not fall into the sexy language category. It has a lot of guttural sounds and is spoken at double speed with less enunciation than Spanish, which means it is mostly incomprehensible. More on Catalan later.

I love being back in Catalonia.

Not a combination that you would expect but last night with less than 48 hours before heading back to Spain it was my reality.

After gluing my surfboard back together (a minor issue with the tail pad becoming detached) I then managed to glue the tube of superglue to the kitchen counter top.

Bearing in mind that we are exchanging with the most house-proud couple I have ever met this was not good news.

My pink “non acetone” nail varnish remover did absolutely nothing to the glue but it did manage to stain the surrounding counter bright pink.

After a quick Google search of “really stupid things I have done” I learnt that I needed Acetone, or at least an acetone based nail varnish remover. After some rummaging in the bathroom cabinet I turned up a bottle of green ”herbal” nail varnish remover which interestingly contained the well known herb …acetone (note to self …do not always believe product labels) The fluorescent green colour made me very nervous… what if the counter turned green? Now was not the time to be faint hearted and anyway green would be no worse than pink.

The acetone did the trick… combined with a lot of elbow grease and some delicate knife work the counter looks like new!

The incident has left me a bit on edge… what else will I destroy before heading to the airport tomorrow. Meanwhile I am pretending to be cool and relaxed about everything, I don’t want to infect MBH with my nervousness. Wish me luck and remember acetone will remove superglue.

Itchy Feet and Free Home Exchanging

There’s lots going on here in Perth, some good surf, then it rained and Autumn appeared from nowhere. The feet are getting itchy and thoughts are turning to traveling. This time next week we will be winging our way to Spain, fast forwarding through Autumn and Winter to land plop in the middle of Spring in Catalonia the land of botifarra and petos. An exciting thought. Try http://www.diccionaris.net/engcerca2.php if you need help with your Catalan.

On the Home Exchange front, I took advantage of the rainy day and posted our St Kitts house. We are thinking of setting up a Hawaii exchange and it occurs to me that there may be more Hawaiians who want to visit a Caribbean Island rather than Spain.

On HomeExchange.com it is only $50 US to add a 2nd listing which brings me to the subject of Free Home Exchanging. There are many new Home Exchange sites, some of which are free, which might seem like too good of an offer to pass up?

I saw a new site recently that had no listings in Australia and only a handful in the UK so the odds of you making a good match would be pretty darn close to zero. Whilst we all love the idea of getting something for free it may be that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Take a good look at a site before you invest your time in signing up with them, you may save $100 US but you may have wasted your time and even worse you might miss out on a great exchange…. what price do you put on that?