Tasty traditional dishes to devour at Christmas

Spain has its own traditions when it comes to sweet and savoury festive fare. The Local explores seven of the most delicious

1. Turrón 


Photo: Lablascovegmenu / Flickr Creative Commons.

This sweet nougat made of honey, sugar and toasted almonds is a popular Christmas treat across the Iberian peninsula. From the hard Alicante style to the softer version from Jijona.

2. Turkey


Photo: Annie / Flickr Creative Commons.

The bird that most Americans associate with November and Thanksgiving often makes an appearance on Spaniards’ tables for Christmas.

3. Seafood


Photo: emivel2003 / Flickr Creative Commons.

Mariscos are quite popular to eat for Christmas meals, anything from fish soup, lobster, prawns to langoustines, as pictured above.

4. Roscón de Reyes


Photo: Secret Tenerife / Flickr Creative Commons.

This “king cake” in Spanish-speaking countries is traditionally eaten on January 6th to celebrate Epiphany when the three kings brought gifts to baby Jesus. The ring-shaped cake typically has a hidden figure inside and whoever gets the slice with the figure inside “wins” – though some make the winner buy next year’s cake.

5. Polvorones and mantecados


Mantecados. Photo: Javier Lastras / Flickr Creative Commons.

These crumbly cakes are another traditional Christmas shortbread dessert. Mantecados are distinct in that they are prepared with pig fat –manteca – while polvorones are named because they crumble into powder – polvo.

6. Jamón 


Photo: Boca Dorada / Wikimedia Commons.

Because when is it NOT the right time of year for jamón? In Spain, it’s always time for jamón.

Source: news@thelocal.es

 

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10 magical ways to give your kids the best Spanish Christmas ever

What child wouldn’t love the fact that in Spain you get to celebrate, not once, nor twice, but three times, during the festive period? 

Stop by a Christmas Market


Photo: denAsuncioner/Flickr 

Every city and town throughout the country has some kind of Christmas Market where stalls sell ornate figurines for the nativity, Christmas trees,  decorations, flowers, hand-crafted gifts, sweets and other typical local products are sold.

Visit your local Belén


Photo: Ayuntamiento Madrid 

As Spain is a Roman Catholic country, the nativity is a very important part of the celebration of Christmas. We always make time to visit them wherever we are and they can sometimes turn out to be far removed from the traditional representation – I’ll never forget taking the family to see a Barbie and Ken nativity scene: Barbie was belly dancing for Ken who was sitting in an armchair drinking beer. It wasn’t quite the earnest religious moment we were expecting!

Book a Christmas show

Whether it’s a pantomime, circus or musical theatre, Christmas is a great time to get the family together for a trip to show. English speaking amateur dramatics groups across Spain stage pantos and many places see shows such as Cirque du Soleil roll into town

Eat turrón, mantecads and polvorones


Photo: Fiona Govan

In Spain it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the candy known as turrón. Turrón is a nougat made out of almonds, honey and sugar, and comes in both hard and soft varieties. Other Spanish Christmas treats include marzipan, mantecados, and polvorones, which are traditional Spanish Christmas biscuits.

Learn some Spanish “villancicos”


Photo: Ayuntamiento de Valdemoro/Flickr 

Spain has its own Christmas carols to be sung around the tree on Christmas Eve.  Here is a guide to some of my favourites. 

Ring the bells


Photo: Lorenzoclick/Flickr 

Another fun Christmas Eve musical tradition involves the ringing of bells – at midnight all of the church bells sound, calling everyone to a church service called “La Misa Del Gallo,” or the rooster’s mass. It is fun to give each child a small handbell to ring in Christmas Day, the Spanish way.

Prepare a Christmas Eve Box


Photo: Jenn Durfey / Flickr

This can be prepared as a gift to kickstart the Christmas festivities. Our boxes contained a pair of pyjamas, some socks, chocolates, a Christmas mug with a selection of hot chocolate drinks and a book. It can help soothe the excitement of a visit from Santa and persuade little ones to snuggle up in bed.

Don’t forget about Santa


Photo: Fiona Govan

In Spain, Santa may not be the big Christmas star that he is in countries such as the UK and America, having to compete as he does with the Three Kings as bearer of gifts. But is popularity is growing and he may even be appearing at a grotto within a shopping centre near you.

As we all know, he travels across the whole world on Christmas eve, so although you may not have a mince pie handy here in Spain, apparently Santa is rather partial to turrón, so don’t forget to leave him a piece alongside the carrot for Rudolph.

Write to Los Reyes Magos


Photo: AFP

In Spain, the festive season lingers into the New Year when on the evening of January 5th, children get a visit from the Three Kings (Wise Men). In fact, it is to them and not Santa that Spanish children write a letter with their Christmas wish list and assurances that they have spent the year being good. Letters should be delivered before January 5th to one of the royal pages at shopping centres and city squares around Spain.

Catch Sweets at La Cabalgata 


Children collecting sweets during the Three Kings parade in Madrid. Photo: Zona Retiro/Flickr 

Spain’s villages, towns and cities receive the traditional, joyful visit of the Three Wise Men of the East: Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar in a parade on the evening of January 5th. It is an exciting experience for children of all ages. The parade represents the journey made by the Three Kings on their camels, following the star to the Bethlehem stable where Jesus was born. Streets are packed by floats carrying the kings and a whole host of weird and wonderful characters who throw sweets into the crowd. The children will love it.

First published in The Local
For more info on Tenerife read the Red Queen Musings everyone’s favourite Tenerife Blog
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The Top 10 excursions in Tenerife

Tenerife is full of great attractions and things to do, which often leaves visitors with too much to do during their holiday.

With this in mind we have compiled a list of the top 10 excursions you can do on one-week or two-week holidays in Tenerife.

Siam Park

A sheer 28-metre drop from the Tower Of Power is the most visually stunning of the rides in Adeje’s Water Kingdom. Thrills come in many forms among the Thai-inspired park, the latest addition is the Singha toboggan slalom with 14 sharp changes of direction. Everyone has their favourites, the Mekong Rapids, and Jungle Snake both live up to their inspiring names, and the Kinnaree ride is another firm favourite.

There’s a lot to cram in at Siam Park and queues start to build quickly after the doors open at 10 am every day, as tickets cost just €34 for adults or €23 for three to eleven year olds. If you buy in advance from an excursion shop, which are easily accessible for those on Costa Adeje or Los Cristianos holidays and breaks, it speeds your passage into the park and free shuttle buses from the main resorts are the best way to get there.

The more rides you try, the more fun you can have, there are radio linked guards at the start and finish of each challenge, and the gushing water is a pleasant temperature. Relaxing comes easy too; the Mai Thai lazy river meanders through the park as you float on an inflatable ring, the smaller children can get safely soaked at The Lost City and there’s always the large crescent beach with a wave machine.

Get there as early as possible, with plenty of sun cream, and make sure you hire lockers for your clothes and valuables.

If you are visiting Loro Park too, a double ticket saves money (€58 for adults and €39.50 for children) and look out for half price offers on a return trip.

Loro Parque

An hour to the north of Tenerife, a world of animals awaits in Puerto de la Cruz. If it growls, waddles, chirps, or simply enchants, you will find it here.

It’s a good idea to plan your visit around the four live shows; the parrots, sea lions, dolphins, and whales are all family favourites.

Cooler and shadier than the south, there’s a fair bit of walking around the multi-layered park but lots of benches to sit and enjoy the birds, apes, and even meerkats at play. At Planet Penguin just a glass screen separates visitors from a temperature-controlled ice scape that recreates the seasons in the home environment of nature’s cutest.

Large rest areas, ponds filled with koi carp, and well-tended gardens all add to the restful nature of Loro Parque. There’s a lot of education and breeding programmes going on at the park and you can see the dedication to the animal kingdom as even the bushes are trimmed into animal shapes.

Don’t forget the Loro Parque double ticket, otherwise it will cost €34 for adults and €23 euros for children.

Aqualand

In danger of becoming an ugly duckling a few years ago, this water park in San Eugenio Alto has re-invented itself as a family favourite with something for all ages. The Volcano Spa and Jacuzzi draws everyone together – the children can play safely in the warm shallow lagoon as their parents drape themselves over the Jacuzzi spouting surround.

Toddlers and parents can soak up the shared pleasures of the Water’s Castle playground in the lively heart of the park.

That doesn’t mean the thrillseekers have been forgotten. The Kamikaze at Aqualand offers steep twin water tubes, while The Twister and The Rapids add extra suspense with sealed tubes that end in a splash pool. There’s plenty of choice for the less adventurous: Tornado and Twister Racer still deliver the fun and feel of skimming through the water, and there are smaller kid-size versions of several rides in the Family Adventureland.

When the sun and activity bring a mid-afternoon lull there’s the perfect pick up at the 3.30 pm show in the Dolphinarium. Six perky and sporting dolphins run through their tricks as the crowd cheer them on from the tiered seating. The show is included in the main entrance fee and children can have their photos taken with a dolphin at poolside for a small fee.

The attraction is open from 10am to 5pm and a free shuttle bus runs to the park from the main resorts in the south of the island. Entry to the park is based on height rather than age, adults (over 1.40 metres) cost €25, kids (1.10 to 1.40) and over 65s must pay €17.50, whilst minis (.9 to 1.10 metres) have to pay €9.

Monkey Park

There’s nothing like getting all close and cuddly with a small Squirrel Monkey or Ring Tailed Lemur. At Monkey Park you can buy bags of nuts to feed the friendly creatures with attendants on hand to tell you a little about them.

This is a smaller park and is worth visiting for a few hours rather than a full day, but it offers a unique close interaction and even though the big apes are in large caged enclosures you can get close enough for them to mimic you and show off their best swinging moves.

The entrance funnels you through a netting-covered enclosure where the monkeys hold out their paws for a tasty treat. After that it’s into the larger enclosure where the lemurs scuttle around, their sense of mischief overcomes their shyness and they are real cute customers.

Beyond are energetic gibbons leaping around the roof, marmosets, cockatoos, and parrots chirping happily, and even a few crocodiles lazing by their pool. Information panels about the animals are in English as well as Spanish, and there are some restful corners under the shade of the trees. The park is on the motorway into Los Cristianos from the airport, the best way to arrive is by hire car or taxi.

The attraction is open from 9.30am to 5pm and entry is €10 or €5 for children.

Jungle Park

Jungle Park has a birds of prey show that is spectacular, educational, and has that little hint of danger that the younger ones crave.

Set in Chayofa up above Los Cristianos, the clear skyline highlights the huge wingspan of American Bald Eagles and King Vultures as they swoop down to the amphitheatre to pounce on the trainers’ supply of small creatures.

Heading into the tight, leafy walkways, lions, tigers, and penguins hold court in their enclosures. You do not just visit, but explore this park, as a deep ravine cuts through the park with a rope bridge over resting alligators providing the best short cut. More lofty wood and rope climbs offer good views over the park and kids will gleefully work their way across The Jungle Trail with its combination of rope ladders and netting tunnels.

Across the ravine is a grandstand to watch the agile performers on Gibbon Island, and the sea lion show. All this unfolds below the restaurant and terrace steps. Heading to the climbing tower at the far end opens up a route to the twin bobsleigh run that twists through the park. It’s another big winner with a wild ride at 45km per hour on a low rail. It’s these unique touches that make it so much more than just an animal park.

The park opens from 10am to 5.30pm and entry prices for adults cost €26, kids (5 to 10 years) €17.50 euros, young children (3 & 4) €12.

Cueva del Viento

Tenerife is a huge volcanic rock in the ocean, the best way to appreciate that is to climb down into some of the oldest volcanic tubes on the planet.

You’ll need a car or take a TITSA public bus to Icod and a short taxi ride to the visitor’s centre for the ‘Cave Of The Wind’. Even then your guide will need the mini bus and a short hike through trees and the ancient trade path to reach the steps into the earth.

Twenty million years old, the 17,000 metres of tubing were scorched out by flowing lava, you will explore just 200 metres but it will feel like another planet. A head torch, hard hat, and informative guide will lead you downwards, stopping to admire strange formations, small offshoot tunnels, and the eerie coolness and stillness. Trails of dangling roots are a reminder of the pine trees above and the Old Woman’s Chasm is a stark reminder of the fragile links to the surface.

Nearly two hours later you will emerge enlightened and amazed. The trust might need a few thousand years to make any real inroads to the full tunnel network, but time means very little against the explosive and creative forces that have shaped Tenerife. Trips cost €16 or €5 for five to 14 year olds. You must book your place in advance via 922815339 or via the Cueva del Viento website.

Artlandya

Teddy bears and dolls with the cutest expressions and finest dress sense are waiting to wow you at Artlandya in Icod de Los Vinos.

High above the iconic dragon tree and the wine-yielding hills, a glorious converted farm in the village of Santa Barbara has become home to 600 of these childhood delights, and adults will find they are not immune to their charms.

The collection has been brought together from around the globe and through the ages as a labour of love from owners George and Ingrid Taupe. Dolls have always been very collectable from the original porcelain models to the more modern wax versions, maybe it’s the innocent expressions or their delicate poses among the glass cases and alcoves in the converted barns but they all seem to be reaching out. The bears probably have more character and all look like they get into all sorts of mischief as soon as backs are turned. Big button eyes and tufted fur show they were made for cuddles.

The 11,000-square-metre farm is a star itself with flowers and plants sprouting around trickling streams and ponds. You can adopt your own doll or teddy at the shop and enjoy the views over Icod and Garachico from the garden’s café terrace. This is another trip best done by car or a TITSA public bus followed by a five euro taxi. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, entry to this special attraction is just €10 or €4.50 for 6-14 year olds and free for any younger visitors.

Camel Park

Going home without a camel ride is almost unthinkable, so head for Camel Park just above Los Cristianos at La Camella. The courtyard at this large farm is always full of curious cockerels, hens, parrots, rabbits, and geese, but the camels are unimpressed by the noise and bustle and ready for a stroll.

Forget all that undignified scrambling to get on as the camel dips down; here they have wooden frames to get you up to your secure perch on the hump. Led slowly in a linked train, the camels head up onto a marked trail where you can look out to sea one side or to the mountains on the other.

Lizards and butterflies share the route among the shrubs and cacti, it’s a real family farm and some of the livestock like to follow along to see what’s going on.

Back at the farm and dismounted, there’s a cold drink and the option of a Canarian meal in the adjoining restaurant. It’s a leisurely and personal experience without the frustration that the camels can feel on large group treks. The park can arrange a pick up and drop off and the cost of a 30-minute ride is €20 for adults or €10 for children. The attraction is open daily from 10am to 5pm, so call 922721121 to book tickets.

Submarine Safaris

Back to your all-round Tenerife education, the sea bed have many secrets to give up and the most comfortable and informative way is on the Submarine Safaris that operate out of San Miguel marina.

A free shuttle bus gets you to port ready to take the steps down into the yellow and red submarine. If you are thinking damp and clammy, you will soon be enlightened; it’s relatively spacious with seats by each large porthole and plenty of charts showing the main species you will encounter. Look out for barracuda, sardines, and huge plate-like rays with their underwater ballet.

The marina gives way to open sea and the volcanic rock and large reefs. There’s no murky water just clear views and wavering plants in the 20-metre depths. A guide gives a multi-language commentary from the large bubble end of the submarine and a diver glides by to give a sense of perspective and to point out the wrecks that scatter the seabed. Shoals of passing fish just take the submarine and diver in their stride. The hour trip is smooth and relaxing, back at the marina there’s time to head to the shop and café before the return journey.

Cost is €53 for adults, €48 for seniors, and €32 for children. Check the website for a 15 per cent discount on bookings or call 922736629.

Karting Tenerife

Many top Grand Prix drivers started in karts and this track at Parque de La Reina will make you feel like a champ. The big grandstand; the giant lap timer and performance read out; and the 13 bend, 1,200 metre circuit deliver life in the fast lane.

It’s catered for all ages, experiences, and of course safety. There’s a junior track as well as the main meandering senior loop, under-fives can start in a special kart alongside a parent, and there is a choice of six different vehicles with appropriate power settings. It’s a wide passing track with fast straights and long grassy run-offs with tyre banks for protection.

The feeling of speed and power is incredible, seven laps is the standard race, and the testing circuit makes that feel like a long distance. The karts respond well and look and feel well maintained, they inspire confidence but without spoiling the sheer energy buzz. As you finish you get a digital print out with lap times and your place in the day’s racing, your family and friends in the grandstand can also see this on the readout board.

There’s a large bar and café to rev down after your on-track heroics, and the free pick up bus will get you back to your resort. Open daily from 10 am to 8 pm, prices range from €10 in a Pony kart (6 to 9 year olds) up to €29.70 for the top of range RT8 (over 18s). Visit the Karting Tenerife website or call 922730703 for more information.

First published by Cheap-holidays-tenerife
For more info on Tenerife read the Red Queen Musings everyone’s favourite Tenerife Blog
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