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Europe’s most curious Christmas traditions

From logs that “poo” presents to Santa Claus’s evil alter ego who scares children... Did you know that there are lots of different Christmas traditions across Europe? We share many Christmas traditions, but there may be some that you’ve never heard of.

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The Best Monas de Pascua in Alicante

Traditional festivities often go hand-in-hand with culinary delights, as is the case with the mona de Pascua, associated with Easter Monday, when the custom is for men to gift one of these cakes to their godchildren. Eating the mona de Pascua ushers in the end of Lent and fasting.

Themonais eaten in various regions of Spain, including Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Aragon, Murcia and Valencia, each with their own recipe and peculiarity. In Catalonia, the chocolate mona prevails, while in Valencia they resemble a sweet bun, most of them made of flour, sugar, eggs and salt.

The Tradition in Alicante

Several types ofmonaare made in the Community of Valencia, although the panquemado or toña are available all year around in bakeries and pastry shops. But the variety that appear at Easter are more elaborate and decorative. They are usually either elongated or round and dusted withanisetes(aniseed candies). Those made for children come in amusing, attractive shapes, such as monkeys, snakes or lizards, with a hard-boiled egg embedded in their mouths.

In Alicante and, in general, throughout the Levante (south-eastern seaboard), the custom is to go on an outing in the countryside or hills on the Day of the Mona. Families and friends meet to eat the traditional confectionery in nearby nature areas, including the Sierra de Callosa, the Pinada de Guardamar and the Sierra del Maigmó.

One amusing custom is to break the hard-boiled egg that comes with the mona on a friend’s or family member’s head. They say that some bakers garnish their monas with raw eggs to make the situation even more entertaining. The ritual dictates that the aggressor recite the verse: “Ací em pica, ací em cou i ací t’esclafe l’ou” (Here I’m itching, here I’m smarting and here I break the egg over you).

The Best Pastry Shops in Alicante to Buy Monas and other Confectionery

In Alicante, the pastry shops vie with one another to produce the best monas and display them in their shop windows. One of the most acclaimed ones in the city is Prefiero Sussu, owned by José Manuel Samper, at number 3, calle Pintor Baez. It is a landmark of the best pastries and has won several awards for its delicious toñas. At Sussu they also make one of the finest croissants in Spain. Fresh out of the oven, the taste of butter is unmistakeable, as margarine is not allowed into the Prefiero Sussu bakery under any circumstance.

Horno Rafelet, at 57 calle Maestro Alonso, is a family concern in operation since 1932 where some exquisite homemade products are made. It stands out from the rest because of the traditional recipes they follow and their fine baking.

In the town of Orihuela, in Alicante province, we find what are reputed to be the best toñas in the province. They come from the bakery of El Horno del Obispo, which has been operating since 1850, located in the historic centre of Orihuela. It shares the accolade for the best toñas in Alicante with El Angel, also located in that town. If you visit Orihuela, you should also taste their typical confectionery, known as chato de Orihuela.

How about the Gluten-free Variety?

If you’re looking for gluten- and lactose-free monas de Pascua, there are some delicious ones in the Pastelería José María García, at 46 avenida de Novelda. Their bakery follows homemade recipes based on natural products.

What are you waiting for? Check out our prices here!

Text by Scanner FM

Images by Horno Rafelet, La Murciana and Pastelería Torreblanca


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Discover Tarragona and Its Hinterland

Situated just under an hour and a half from Barcelona lies the city of Tarragona, its Roman and medieval past providing visitors with an amazing wealth of history and art. However, this cultural journey goes beyond the city limits – inland we find the three gems of the Cistercian route, as well as the landscapes that inspired such artists as Antoni Gaudí and Joan Miró. What more could you ask for?

Itinerary 1: the Roman Legacy

Tarraco – Roman Tarragona
What was once the capital of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis still preserves numerous vestiges of that splendid past. Designated a World Heritage Site in 2000, travellers to the city will be dazzled by the Roman wall, the provincial forum, the circus, amphitheatre and a host of remains awaiting them on their walks through ancient Tarraco. You can join a guided tour at Auriga Serveis Culturals so as not to miss any details of that legacy.

Roman Villa of Centcelles
Just six kilometres from Tarragona, in Constantí, lies the Roman villa of Centcelles, a landmark monument of palaeo-Christian art. One of the highlights of that site is the dome ornamented with a Christian-themed mosaic, one of the oldest surviving examples from the Roman world.

Roman Villa of Els Munts
Located in Altafulla, 12 kilometres from Tarragona, is the villa of Els Munts. It was apparently used for agricultural purposes and still displays constructions featuring richly decorated elements.

Itinerary 2: a Splendid Medieval Past

Jewels of the Cistercian Route
The three jewels that make up this magnificent route through Cistercian monasteries are the Monastery of Santes Creus, with its stunning chapterhouse and Gothic cloister, the Monastery of Vallbona, a 12th-century nunnery boasting a monumental church and cloister and – the most popular of all – the Monastery of Poblet, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its magnificent cloister and royal pantheon where King James I the Conqueror is buried, among others.

Montblanc – Medieval Spirit
Montblanc is one of the paramount medieval complexes in Catalonia, thanks to its excellent state of preservation. Make a point of exploring it and wandering through its streets, where you are sure to be transported to medieval times. Or, if you prefer, you can sign up for one of the routes organised by the Town Council, featuring options to suit all tastes.

Siurana – the Stuff of Legend
This village in the Priorat, which seems to have leaped out of some novel, was one of the last Moorish enclaves in Catalonia which managed to hold out and check the Christian advance. Turismo de Siurana offers dramatised guided tours highlighting stories, tales and legends about the area.

Discover the First Charterhouse on the Iberian Peninsula
Built in the 12th century in the Priorat county, the Carthusian Monastery of Escaladei is regarded as the earliest Carthusian monastery to emerge on the Iberian Peninsula. Those parts of the charterhouse currently open to the public include the three cloisters, church, refectory and a monk’s cell which has been reconstructed down to the last detail.

Itinerary 3: In the Footsteps of Miró and Gaudí

Mont-roig – Source of Inspiration for Joan Miró
Joan Miró first visited Mont-roig del Camp in 1911, when he was 18 years old. The landscape made such an impact on him that it became his habitual place of pilgrimage, a town he would return to time and again in search of peace and inspiration. Well worth visiting is the Centre Miró where you can acquire greater insight into the relationship between the artistic genius and the town and its surroundings.

Searching For the Origins of Gaudí
Just 18 kilometres from Tarragona lies the small town of Riudoms, site of the house where Antoni Gaudí was born. Open to the public, it reveals the origins of this unique artist and the environment which was to influence his work. Interesting, isn’t it?

Text by Agencia Catalana de Turismo


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Life Beyond Mobile World Congress 2017

At this stage of the proceedings, there is little to add about one of the world’s major mobile technology congresses. Indeed, each year sees the Mobile World Congress brimming with the latest in mobile communication, like some journey into the future. The event draws over 2,000 firms eager to showcase the latest trends in the sector and attracts more than 101,000 attendees. Among the highlights of this edition is Reed Hastings, CEO of theNetflix streaming platform, and John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, the company that created the popular augmented reality game, Pokémon Go. Other prominent speakers scheduled to appear from 27 February to 2 March at the Gran Vía de L’Hospitalet exhibition centre, where the Mobile World Congress is held, will be representing Nokia, Turner, Vivendi, Huawei, Kaspersky, NEC, Telefónica, Orange, AT&T and Tele2.That’s nothing at this trade fair!

Beyond the Mobile World Congress

Apart from being the perfect opportunity to get up to speed with the latest in mobile technology and engage in networking, theMobile World Congressprovides the perfect excuse for visiting the host city. So, for those of you wishing to extend your stay by a few days, or who need to take a breather amid so many innovations, “gadgets” and concepts “coming from the future”, we have chosen a number of outings enabling you to discover the main tourist draws in Barcelona and its environs.

Gaudí’s Barcelona

We have to admit it – Modernism and, specifically, the work of one of its leading exponents, Antoni Gaudí, is one of Barcelona paramount honeypots. Make a point of seeing some of his major works on your forays through the city. His standout monuments include the Sagrada Familia, a veritable icon of Barcelona which, despite still being under construction, draws a huge number of tourists. On the Passeig de Gràcia you can also visit two of the architect’s gems, the Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera, with its rooftop crowned by some peculiar chimney stacks, and the Casa Batlló. Güell Park, another of Gaudí’s must-see essentials, is located in the upper part of the city. There you can admire architectural forms blending with nature, and soak up the splendid views of Barcelona.

Tracking Dalí

For those bold enough to venture outside Barcelona, you could always take a two-hour train ride to Figueras, home to the Dalí Theatre-Museum. Dedicated solely to the work of this exceptional artist, a key figure in Surrealism, this is a must-visit venue for Dalí devotees, as well anyone likely to appreciate a unique experience. More than just a run-of-the-mill museum, this building, designed by Dalí himself, is the perfect setting for venturing into his surreal world. Each area features a combination of paintings, sculptures, furniture and objects that belonged to the artist, making for a result which is equally harmonious, surprising and dream-like.

Discovering Montserrat

If you’re the type that likes to get away from the rat race in search of a place that breathes a certain spiritual tranquility, then Montserrat is your destination. Located some 50 kilometres north-west of Barcelona, you can take a comfortable train ride there. The unique morphology of this massif, as expressed in its name –mont means mountain and serrat means serrated – will treat you to the sight of myriad evocative mountain forms, giving free rein to one’s imagination.

Apart from enjoying nature in the raw, the spot carries a spiritual charge as it is the site of the Monastery of Santa María de Montserrat. The church houses the effigy of the Virgin of Montserrat, patroness of Catalonia, popularly known as “La Moreneta” on account of the black colour of the carved wooden statue.

Book your Vueling to Barcelona and delight in both the novelties to be showcased at this year’s Mobile World Congress and the marvels to be discovered in the city and its environs.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by GSMA,  José Luis Filpo Cabana, Delatorre, Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

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