Jul 292011

This week we were pleased to welcome some new guests who were visiting Valencia province from their home near Montreal in Canada. Marco and Claudia and their 12 year old son Michael arrived on Tuesday, and stayed with us for 3 nights, and they wanted to spend most of their time acquainting themselves with Valencia City. They did not want to stay in the city itself, however, but preferred to find accommodation in a rural setting which still gave them convenient access (preferably by public transport) to Valencia. It therefore seemed the perfect answer for them to stay with us, drive the short distance to the train station, and travel into the city with no parking or navigation worries.

However, when they arrived on Tuesday in the late afternoon, they settled in to their rooms and soon made good use of the swimming pool, as they had had a long drive from Barcelona and wanted to relax in the beautiful sunshine for what was left of the day. They were having a touring holiday in Spain, but concentrating on the Costa Blanca, and also the Costa Brava further north, having originally picked up their rental car in the south of France – so a relaxing couple of hours in our pool were very welcome! That evening they made use of our evening meal service before having a reasonably early night – still slightly adjusting themselves from Canadian to European time.

The next day was slightly overcast – but perfect for their plans, which was a trip to Valencia City, spending time in the historic centre, as well as taking a trip on the touristic bus to get an overall impression of the town. They spent the whole day enjoying the sights of Valencia, and were surprised just what a beautiful, clean and elegant city it is. They only returned to us in the late evening, but found the train service to and from Valencia both reliable and inexpensive to use – and far better than trying to drive and park in a strange city.

Thursday was also to be a day spent visiting Valencia, but this time the emphasis was to be on the City of Arts & Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias), as well as seeing some of the Formula One route that is used for the European Grand Prix. Their son Michael is a big fan of Formula One racing, so this was part of the agenda not to be missed! Most of their time at the City of Arts & Sciences was spent at the Science Museum section, although they also enjoyed looking at the entire complex from the outside in order to appreciate its striking and iconic architecture. Once again, they were enjoying their time in Valencia so much that they only came back in the late evening – just in time to enjoy a drink, tell us about their day, and go on-line to find accommodation for their following night’s stay, as – sadly – they were due to leave us the next day, on the Friday morning.

It had been a real pleasure to welcome our visitors from Canada to our part of the Costa Blanca, and we were glad that they had enjoyed their stay with us as much as they did. If ever they come back to our part of the country, they said they would most certainly visit us again. Since they are of Italian descent and come to Europe frequently to visit family in Italy and see other parts of the region at the same time, it is possible that we will see them with us at some point in the future – it would be a great pleasure to welcome them back.

Jul 262011

Coffee in Spain seems to be a ubiquitous drink and one that can be enjoyed virtually wherever you go. Better still, the coffee in Spain is invariably delicious. Certainly, there can few greater pleasures than sitting outside a Spanish bar with a sparkling blue sea in front of you whilst having a sociable cup of coffee. This is bliss – particularly when combined with the fact that rarely in Spain are you ever rushed. So, you can sit with a single coffee (costing around 1.40 Euros) and relax in a way that is quite impossible within the frenetic atmosphere of Northern Europe or the US.

The thing is that, away from the big cities, Spanish life is slower and more relaxed than in Northern Europe and the US. In provincial areas, the word ‘tranquil’ (calm) seems to appear in most conversations and slow, long lunches and relaxed coffee breaks are a way of life. Certainly, I have never been hurried over a coffee in Spain and frequently I have enjoyed every minute of reading right through a newspaper having had a single cup of coffee. To have had more was not expected and, to be honest, not needed.

After all, coffee in Spain is something to be savoured. To have a proper espresso machine is de rigeuer for any bar, café, restaurant or hotel and to be served over-brewed filter coffee or (Heaven forbid) instant coffee would be to insult the taste buds of any self-respecting Spaniard. In fact, after eight years in Spain, I have only ever been offered a cup of coffee in Spain at a Spaniard’s home twice. On both occasions, they had their own espresso coffee machines and I suspect that if this was not the case then no coffee would have been offered. When it comes to espresso coffee machines they are available for the home if you are an aficionado of great coffee – although I prefer not to have the hassle and go out for a coffee. In terms of commercial espresso coffee machines, these are available from a number of coffee machine manufacturers.

Living in Spain, I am biased (obviously) and would recommend a look at the espresso coffee machines made by Crem International in Gandia, Valencia Province whose brand name Expobar you will have seen on many espresso coffee machines in cafes and bars around Spain. These have a good reputation as being both robust and reliable.

Coffee in Spain, Crem International, espresso coffee machines, coffee machine manufacturer, Expobar Great coffee in Spain is de rigeuer with almost every bar having an espresso coffee machine.

Incidentally, if you want your own espresso coffee machine then drop Carolina Arbona a line (she speaks fluent English and Spanish) and she will tell you more…

Nick SnellingCulture Spain

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Jul 252011

This week-end we celebrated the final Despedida de Soltera – Bachelorette Party of the 2011 season.

10 lovely lasses from Castellon,….

Jul 192011

This weekend was another party weekend at Gandia Casa Rural, with a group of girls from the nearby town of Xátiva arriving on Friday early evening to spend the weekend celebrating the fact that one of them was getting married the following week. Another “Despedida de Soltera” at Villa Florencia!

Friday evening saw the arrival of only six girls, but four more were due to arrive on Saturday for the rest of the weekend. The first six soon settled in and made themselves a special dinner on the terrace, and spent the evening through until the early hours in the gardens and pool, once the meal had been finished.

The following day was one of high temperatures and constant sunshine – so the perfect day for the girls to spend in the pool or tanning in the gardens whilst they waited for the last of the group to arrive. During the afternoon the remaining four arrived, and soon joined their friends in the pool enjoying the lovely weather. Although we are close to Playa de Gandía with its magnificent beach, the girls preferred to spend their time in the gardens here, rather than go to the playa with the chance of being uncomfortably hot – rather stay here and cool off in the pool regularly! Later on, they said that the “man from the mobile disco” would be calling round to set up his equipment, and that they hoped this was all right – it seemed like it would be the perfect evening for a party around the pool, so why not?

The disco man duly arrived to assemble the equipment, with two speakers in the gardens and the mixing deck up on the terrace – all set up and tested in a remarkably short space of time, and ready for the disco proper, which was scheduled to start at about 11.30pm. The girls filled the intervening time with a meal of barbecued meat accompanied by salad, and a leisurely length of time in which to get ready for the evening’s party.

Shortly after midnight the Mobile Disco DJ arrived, and the party got into full swing with a great selection of music – some Spanish standards, some international disco hits from the eighties, current Spanish pop and of course modern dance music too. The girls had a great time in and around the pool, with the music from the speakers filling the gardens with sound. At around 2.00am, however, it was time to move the party indoors and the party continued until about 3.30am, when it was time for the DJ to pack up and leave. Some of the girls carried on chatting and listening to music for a while after, but everyone agreed it had been a wonderful party and a great way to wish Clara a long and happy marriage.

Sunday was even hotter than Saturday had been, so the girls very easily succumbed to temptation and stayed around the pool all day, having got up around 11.00am. They had a meal during the early afternoon, but finally the time came for them to leave.

Jul 102011

Back in April we received a booking from an Italian lady who wanted to make a reservationfor ten days for her extended family, to include her husband and herself, her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, her parents and four children. A group of ten people in total – the perfect number for a whole- house rent! After some correspondence, it was decided that they would rent the whole house on a self-catering basis and would provide their own breakfasts and cook whatever meals they wanted in the kitchen themselves. We were more than happy to oblige, and assured them that we would be on hand to give them any assistance and advice they might need, as well as suggestions for how they could spend their time in our part of the Costa Blanca.

A self-catering holiday on the Costa Blanca for a family of ten might not be the easiest of vacations to organise, but they all arrived in two small people carriers on the appointed morning, having arrived at Valencia airport a couple of hours earlier. They wasted no time in settling in to their rooms, and then organised themselves on shopping expeditions to buy the necessary food and drinks for the first couple of days of their holiday. The ladies took turns in doing the cooking, the husbands always helped clear up and organise the children, and their domestic arrangements settled in to a well organised routine.

Every day they had planned an excursion of some sort or another – either to one of the blue-flag awarded beaches within easy reach of the villa, or on a couple of occasions to Valencia City to see the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias) and the historic quarter of the town, or to other well-known towns in the area such as Alicante and Guadalest, with its famous castle. Each day, upon their return in the late afternoon, they would then spend some time in the swimming pool at the villa to relax and enjoy some sunshine as well. It was a perfect combination for them, as this was their first time in Spain, and they were able to not only get to know many of the attractions of the Costa Blanca but also to reap the benefit of the glorious weather that this area enjoys at this time of the year.

Their stay went by all too quickly, and their ten day self-catering holiday came to an end all too soon. The children had had a wonderful time and had enjoyed the mixture of beaches and swimming pool, and the adults had experienced the pleasures of what was for them a new country and a different culture. They certainly assured us that it was one of the best holidays that they had had, and felt that they might well return to us to explore this part of Spain even more. It would certainly be a pleasure to see them again, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Villa Florencia for another self-catering holiday in the future.

Jul 042011

The Story of the Heidelberg Student´s Kiss
Several months ago we received a booking for two nights from a German couple wishing to break their journey at Villa Florencia. It turned out that they were on an extended holiday in Spain of just over three weeks, and we were to be their first stop in Spain, on their way to the Costa del Sol. They had departed from near Heidelberg and embarked on a 17 hour drive, arriving in the early evening, and looking for a well earned rest!
In recent times we have had several guests stay with us in similar circumstances, as it seems Villa Florencia is at a convenient stopping point along the way down to the south of Spain and the Costa del Sol. Travelling guests feel that once they reach a point slightly south of Valencia that they are then on their way to their destination, and can afford to have some time to relax and unwind after the stress of a long journey.

Klaus and his girlfriend arrived in the early evening and spent the following two nights in our self-catering apartment, which suited them very well, as the first morning they were still catching up on some much needed sleep! In the afternoon, as the weather was rather cloudy and not ideal for sitting around the pool, they headed into Gandia to explore the town and then to have something to eat there in the evening. The following day, however, was beautiful and sunny, so they headed off to Playa de Gandia to see the wonderful beach and relax in the sunshine. The last part of the afternoon, they returned to Villa Florencia to enjoy the pool and gardens before preparing a meal for themselves in their apartment. They decided on this option, as the local restaurants tend to open later than their northern European counterparts and they were anticipating an early start the following morning. It was their intention to travel on to the Costa del Sol without spending a further night along the way, and they did not want to arrive at their destination too late in the evening.
They thoroughly enjoyed their short time with us, and were very enthusiastic about the area and Gandia town in particular. They said they would have spent more time here, had they known in advance that it was not only a convenient point at which to break their journey from Germany, but also a good place in which to enjoy a few days seeing the local sights and enjoying the exceptional beaches and leisure facilities. They were thinking that they would possibly plan another holiday in Spain next year, but that they would spend more time in our area and would get to know this part of the northern Costa Blanca that is still so often an uncharted area for the foreign holidaymaker. It would certainly be a pleasure to welcome them back here again, and we look forward to seeing them again in the future.

The Story of the
Heidelberg Student´s Kiss
For generations, Heidelberg has developed a global reputation of romance and is known throughout the world as a lively, loveable city. Rightly so, as the following episode shows.
A long-standing institution, the Café Knösel is located at the heart of the Old Town and houses Heidelberg´s residents and not least it´s students. Everyone liked Fridolin Knösel, the witty, didicated chocolatier and master confectioner, and his exquisite creations.
In particular, the young ladies attending Heidelberg´s finishing schools, loved his sweet chocolate delights and were frequent customers, much to the delight of many students of the university, who would also flock to the store, hoping to exchange furtive glances with the fairer sex. Alas, their ever-watchful governesses were never far away.
These secret longings did not go unnoticed by good-natured Fridolin Knösel. Ingenious as he was, he created one day a particularly delicious chocolate delight, which he impishly called the Student´s Kiss. Given as a present, it was such an exquisite, gallant token of affection that not even the chaperones could object.
At last, the students and young ladies had a discreet way to send a sweet message in the form of a Student´s Kiss.
Much has changed since the days of Fridolin Knösel, yet his descendants continue the family tradition in the little store on Haspelgasse, where they still make Student´s Kisses according to the original recipe from 1863. By hand, of course.
A sweet symbol and charming souvenir of Heidelberg, Student´s Kisses have captured the hearts of resident and visitor alike, generation after generation. After all, this traditional Heidelberg specialty and its charming history are characteristic of the city´s unique savoir-vivre.