Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas in Spain

Christmas tree at  S.V. Pescador
Christmas cupcake tree - Millennium Cafe
  Officially, our holiday season began on December 22nd,  with what  we called "The  Christmas  Boat Jump."  It entailed moving, as a group from one boat  to another eating, drinking and socializing -  because of the international set here, it was decided that  each boat prepare and serve  a dish typical of the originating culture/country of  the boat.

We had  Hutspot from the Netherlands, Croatian cole slaw and potato salad, meatballs,  Chinese chicken and rice,  Australian meat pies and Netherlander style dessert.  

Toni - S.V. Pescador 

Peter(see pic below) gave everyone a Christmas hat,  which we wore as we walked to each boat - seriously entertaining the folks sitting in the cafes.  At each boat we had a Christmas quiz which got the competitive Christmas spirit going and gave a much needed break between meals.

Chilii - S.V. Pescador


Valenq - S.V Pescador

Dessert table at Peters boat

Yanaka and Hank - S.V. Hotel Juliet

Basket of fresh vegetables

Sasha and Roger - S.V. Ednbal

Millennium Cafe - Almerimar
Pastries from Berja

Eating an Australian meat pie
The next day Branko and I were invited to spend the afternoon with Conchi (exercise buddy) and her husband Francisco (Paco).   Conchi has a good friend who runs her families bakery business (over 100 years old) in a nearby town called  Berja and they were hosting a get-together with friends.  But first,  Conchi and Paco took us to their  green houses and picked a basket full of  vegetables for us - all fresh right off the vines.  (See below for more information about the greenhouses.)

Then a stop off at the  honey factory to see how honey is made and of course, buy some.  So many varieties, lavender,  eucalyptus, orange, thyme  and more.   I was unaware that honey tastes could be so different;  and found the following of  interest:

Aromatic compounds that are unique to a species of plant are what give a flower it's distinctive scent.  Many flowers have compounds that are only found in the actual flower and are what literally make a flower smell. Since these molecules are usually mixed with the sugars that make up the nectar, they're going to make their way into the honey and imbue it with the same scent and flavor of the nectar source.  Not only the flavor but also the properties.

Preyucatan Mayans used honey from a white stingless bee that fed only on a certain flower. This flower had a psychoactive substance similar to LSD. The honey also contained the active substance - the Mayans would drink a fermented version of it and trip. They even built their tombs to look like bee hives. One of their gods was a bee.

Organic soaps, oranges  and honey were added to our basket of fresh vegetables.  I just  stood there with my mouth open,  glad the bees were outside.
Paco picking vegetables

The greenhouses

Off to Berja and the bakery; I had already tasted their goodies the week before when Conchi dropped off boxes of Spanish pastries, as a surprise YUM!

 So here we are in this 100 year old bakery, which was updated the year before and is lovely.
Friends arrive, champagne and wine appear,  platters and platters of savory  and sweet pastries are placed and replaced  on the tables.... Everyone was kind, generous and happy to speak with us - truly,  we are so very lucky and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  Thank you Conchi  and Paco!

Panaderia in Berja

Me and Conchi in the greenhouse

Maribelle with tapas and beer

Christmas Eve,  Branko and I spent the evening together - recuperating :-)  In this region of Spain Christmas Eve is for family and is called "La Noche Buena," literally translated as "The Good Night." Christmas Eve is  celebrated with a large family feast, which is eaten late in the evening and can last a couple hours.  It is traditionally not a time for gift exchanges, that happens on  January 6th, the Epiphany. 
A typical Christmas Eve dinner, has several courses starting with some simple tapas or appetizers, first course, main course, and ending with dessert, coffee and  drinks.  

Merry Christmas!
Today we spent a few hours with Fumi, Paqui, Maribelle and Tony - enjoying a few drinks  and tapas.   The weather has been beautiful, warm and sunny - no rain, snow or ice - a  little  different for us but we can adjust :-)  We  finished our afternoon with a coffee and sweet at our favorite cafe,  Millennium.   .
Christmas day - Fumi, Maribelle and Tony

Fumi and Paqui
Nativity scenes are important  here, each store, home and office  have one.   In Sevilla  there  were shops upon shops selling only doll house size animals, bundles of straw, dishes, pots, people, Roman soldiers and food...if I was still playing with my dolls I would have loved all these items.  In El Ejido last week we stopped  to gaze at a  Nativity scene in a shop window.   It  included not only the Roman soldier intent on stabbing someone, but a cow giving birth (the calf was only half way out) and a pig feeding its 13 piglets.  Serious business these manger  scenes.

Having a  lovely time and wish you were all here to enjoy it with us - Margaret

Greenhouse overview - courtesy Almerialife website
Over the past 50 years,  AlmeríaAlmería region, has been developed for agriculture. An estimated 20,000 hectares of extra-early market produce is grown in greenhouses and it accounts for over $1.5 billion in economic activity. 
Greenhouses start: First grapes and at the beginning of the 1960′s  green house culture began. The greenhouse production supply Europe, with fruits and vegetables especially during the winter months. 
Why Plastics:  Plastic was chosen as the most practical and cheapest material. The plastic cover enables growers to control the temperature, consumption of water through hydroponic irrigation, pest control and protection from the wind. 
Agriculture: Use of natural resources and modern technology enable between 2 and 3 annual crops. The secret has been controlling fertilisers and the use of hydroponics in the growing cycle. Plants have their roots sitting in water enriched with nutrients.  Greenhouses use irrigation water "drip feed irrigation or hydroponics and evaporation water.
Production: At the beginning of the summer, plastics are changed (every 2 or 3 years), soils and reservoirs are cleaned and repairs are made. At the same time, seeds are bought. Germination is organised for later transplantation of the plants into the green houses and wait until September for the first fruits to ripen. The first crop is in September, followed by the second in Spring. Every year production is two and a half million tons of vegetables, representing a value of more than 1,600m €. The green house surface area  comes third in the world after China and Japan.


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