26 Jun 2012

Midsummer Night's Dream

Hola! I'm back from the mökki!


The whole family gathered to celebrate the summer solstice, in a Finnish-Swedish way, which means: great food, a bunch of snaps (vodka shots) and quite a bit of singing!

Midsummer dinner usually consists of smoked salmon, silakka marinated in all imaginable ways, rye bread with a handful of butter and of course the queen of every decent Finnish dinner: the potato.


There is also a lot of drinking, like in any other celebration around the world, however, the way they drink in here deserves a special mention:

The Swedish community have this thing called snaps.
It is a very old tradition - pretty funny to look at - where the whole family drinks vodka shots while they eat (how cute is that!?). But, since Scandinavian people are very organized, they don't drink the snaps randomly, they follow a very important rule: the shots must be taken only after a snapsvisa (drinking song) is sung.

The songs are pretty bizarre and most of them impossible to translate, just for you to get an idea here is one that still makes a bit of sense in English:

En liten tall
Fordom odla man en vindruvsranka
av vars saft man gjorde ädelt vin.
Nu man pressar saften ur en planka
doftande av äkta terpentin.
Höjen bägarna, o broder och syster,
låt den sista skogen rinna kall
ned i strupen, och om du är dyster
låt oss dricka opp en liten tall.
Skål!

A little pine
Formerly one cultivated the grape
of whose juice one made noble wine.
Now one presses the juice out of a plank
smelling of pure turpentine.
Raise your glasses, O Brother and Sister,
let the last forest run cold
down the throat, and if you are down
let’s drink up a small pine tree.
Cheers!

We had 10 pages full of these snap songs, so you can imagine how happy you are by the time the dessert is served.


Fortunately, I am not able to sing in Swedish (or any other language), so I am not entitled to drink the vodka shots... thanks God. 


Aside from eating and drinking shots, we had sauna and went swimming in the frozen waters of the Baltic Sea.


Looks like summer, but it is not: water temperature 14ºC / Air temperature 18ºC
You cannot see it very well, but in here I have my "fuck! is cold" face. 


There was also time to go for a walk on the fields around the mökki (to burn some calories after dinner).


And to play around with the girls...


... we even had time to make sand pancakes!!


A bit after 12 we gathered around a Juhannuskokko (traditional Midsummer bonfire) and watched the midnight sun.


That is one of the main characteristics of midsummer, the sun doesn't go down at all, and no matter how big problems I have to sleep, I still love it!

("Midnight sun" for me means to wake up every morning by the sound of the little birds singing and the sunlight entering from the window. Feeling ready to start the day. Then I look at the clock and realize that it is 4:20 am... I curse a little bit in Spanish and get back to bed. That goes on for a whole month...)


22 Jun 2012

Mökki

Today we are going to the mökki to celebrate the Midsummer.
(That's quite a funny Finnish word, even more funny when you hear me trying to pronounce it well.)

I already introduced you to the mökki shower in this post but let me tell you a bit more about it.
Mökki literally means summer cabin in Finnish. However, the "summer" part is a way to speak, just take a look at this picture taken in the "summer" cabin last year:


That is me swimming in our mökki's private beach. (Yeah, that is not Photoshop, the sea really gets frozen in winter) 

It kind of looks a bit better during the summer.


It's located on an Island in the Finnish archipelago (a.k.a. in the middle of nowhere).
I will be enjoying nature and quietness until Monday: reading, getting bitten by mosquitoes, going to the sauna, watching the midnight sun and putting my Mona-Lisa-smile - which I have pretty much mastered with the years - while I pretend to understand what people says (I will be the only one out of 20 people that do not speak either Finnish or Swedish, Yaaay!).

I promise to write the mökki report when I get back.

18 Jun 2012

This made my day

I'm sick. I have been sick for tree days now, and it is not the first time this month.
I thought I was feeling better today but after lunch I had to surrender and get back to bed.

It seems that the stupid flu likes me so much that she decided to move in, she even took the toothbrush with her and does not seem to be leaving anytime soon. It sucks.

I'm the kind of person that likes to be out as much as possible, specially when it is summer (a.k.a +15ºC ), so you can imagine how horrible is it to be stuck between four walls the whole day.

Anyway, the reason why I decided to get out from under the blanket to write a little bit was not to explain how miserable I feel but to share a website that made my day:

www.wherethefuckshouldigotoeat.com

It basically finds you places to eat/drink near to your location but in a much more fun way than any AroundMe or NearBy application.

It recognizes your location (or you write it down)
And it will show you the nearest place to eat. To browse among the different restaurants you can press "No, that place looks like shit" and it will recommend you another page. Pretty neat.


It is created by Coolography (do you guys need someone to make coffee and/or water the plants?).

That was it for today, I know it was a short random post but what do you want, I am sick.

To make it up for you (and make the post even more random) here is a picture of Pumis and her beer that I have been keeping for an special occasion. Good night!



13 Jun 2012

The ultimate Barcelona food guide

I have been asked over and over about where to eat in Barcelona.

I would love to say: "Wherever!!! all Spanish food is great!!!" but unfortunately that is not the case. Of course all the Spanish food is great but there are many tourist traps around the city and you should be very careful when choosing a place to eat.

But do not panic dear tourist, it's not going to be difficult, you just gotta trust me and follow:




Let's start with the most important thing: follow The 3 Golden Rules.

Golden Rule number 1:
Do not eat/drink anything in the Rambla, Plaza Catalunya (or near any other main touristic attraction). The only exception to this golden rule is the Mercat del la Boqueria

La Rambla by slasher-fun
Golden Rule number 2:
Avoid the places were they have a "Paellador" sign at the door. Seriously.

from here

Golden Rule number 3:
If you see a waiter outside a restaurant holding a menu and trying to get you inside the place, run. (Run faster if he is also making the effort to speak English to you).

by Emilio Labrador

If you have followed The 3 Golden Golden Rules, you should be able to get a decent meal.

If you actually want some suggestions, I have made my own list of restaurants I like (and restaurants I would like to try).

However, it is impossible for me to mention all the good places in Barcelona, specially because I do not live there at the moment (and also because most of the time I lived there I was a student, and like every other student in Spain, I was pretty broke).

So, if you have any suggestions to add to the list, they are more than welcome.
I will also try to keep it up to date with the new places I may find on my next visits there.
 

I have been to & I recommend:

El Xampanyet

from here
One of the most classic tapas bar in Barcelona, it's been owned by the same family since the 30's. Famous for their home made "cava" (Catalan sparkling wine).
It is always packed, you will literally need to fight to get to the counter, all politeness is left at the door... that is, in my opinion, part of the fun!




La Cerveseria Catalana

Carrer de Mallorca, 236
from here
A very well known tapas restaurant in Barcelona. It is always crowded but it is worth the waiting. 
Try the Patatas Bravas!!
If you are new in the art of eating tapas, you may want to take a look at this Tapas Guide for beginners.










Hàbaluc

Enric Granados, 41
from here
Good 3 course lunch menu, healthy food with fresh ingredients.
They got free WiFi and a great terrace.

www.habalucbarcelona.es







SMS

Asturias, 33
from here
If you go slow shopping in Gràcia do not miss the "Menú del día" at the SMS. It is also great for a casual dinner with tapas an a glass of wine.
Ah! and they have the best marinated olives ever!

www.sms-delicies.blogspot.com




Mercat de la Boqueria

Rambla, 91
from here
It is one of the biggest food markets in Barcelona, there are many food stalls where you can either grab something to eat or seat down and enjoy a proper meal.
I specially recommend the Pinotxo Bar (stall 66-67).

www.boqueria.info
www.pinotxobar.com



Federal Café

Parlament, 39
from here
They have very good coffee and even nicer terrace on the 3rd floor! Brunch on Sundays.

www.federalcafe.es










Can Margarit

Concordia, 21
from here
A very typical Catalan "taverna", they serve real Catalan food and tapas. Pretty rustic.
You must try the rabbit!







Cantina Machito

Torrijos, 47
from here
In my opinion one of the best real Mexican restaurants in Barcelona.

www.cantinamachito.com






C3 Bar

Montalegre, 5
from here
Located in the inner yard of the Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA), by the CCCB, with a nice and quiet terrace. The lunch menu in there is usually very good.







Rita Rouge

Carrer Carme, 33 (Plaça Gardunya, 1)
from here
Restaurant and night bar, I usually go there for lunch in summer because they got a terrace with rather peculiar views to a the Mercat de la Boqueria parking. I know it sounds weird but for some strange reason I like it there.

www.ritarouge.com




Meatpacking Bistro

Travessera de Gràcia, 50-52
from here
Organic dishes and nice atmosphere.
You can get brunch during the weekends.

www.meatpackingbistro.com






Chocolateria La Nena

Ramón y Cajal, 36
from here
Go there after a long day and get a real cup of hot chocolate and a piece of carrot cake!








Bobby Gin

Franisco Giner, 47
from here
A bar specialized in gin tonics.
The decoration of the place is just lovely.

www.bobbygin.com










Lolita Bakery

Carrer de Provença, 267
Carrer del Portal Nou, 20 
from here
The best cupcakes in Barcelona!
These lovely girls inspired me to start baking.

 

7 Jun 2012

One spring day

Once someone asked me how was a typical day in my life.
I guess that's a pretty good question to get to know someone... and I was not very accurate with my answer (it was very windy and my brain does not work when the weather is bad).
So, I really hope it goes better this time.

Here it goes, one day of my life: Thursday 7th of June, 2012.

The alarm rings at 7:00 but I usually press snooze several times before I actually get up from bed.
The first thing I do is to check the weather, just to know if it is going to be a bike day or not.
It looks like is going to rain, so no bike for me today.


After that I brush my teeth, take a shower and all that stuff.
Then comes the most important thing you must do when living in Finland: Check the temperature before you go out.


22.6 ºC inside the house
10.1 ºC outside

You might think that it's a pretty cold June day... well, let me tell you something, after the long winter anything above zero feels like summer. Seriously.

Now that I know how warm it is, I can go and check in the space-invaders-closet for something to wear.


I get dressed according to the temperature, I drink my coffee, say bye-bye to my little friends (rabbit, monkey and tofu) and I am ready to go!


I walk to the bus stop.


And wait for the bus number 39.


I get out from the bus at the train station.


It's 8:55. Now I'm waiting for the train that goes to the city center.


At the Helsinki train station, you can practically find anything.
This morning (in a time frame of 2 minutes) I saw a bunch of Asian tourists, a heavy metal guy, strawberries and a group of school kids.

 I walk to the office, which is less than 5 minutes away from the train station. 


 On the way I say hello to Mr. Aleksis Kivi.


And I get to Vilhonkatu street, where my office is, just beside the Casino.


I get up to the 5th floor and I prepare myself to be there for the next 7,5 hours.

  But before doing anything, I have my morning tea. 

I work for a while until the lunch break.
Today I went with Sanna and Marju to have some sushi.
They are the funniest colleagues ever!


Then back to work, coffee break, a bit more work and that's it!
It is 17:00 and I am done for today. Yaaaay!