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How to order like locals in Spanish restaurants

Spanish Food

Spanish Food

¿Para comer ?  (will you be eating ? ) is the first thing most Spanish waiters ask people entering their restaurant.

Sounds like a silly question right ?

Of course, you want to eat. What else would you do in a restaurant ?

See, Spanish culture involves a lot of going out to eat and drink with friends.

It’s not unusual to have before-meal beers and tapas in a place and then go to another restaurant to share a real meal.

In that case, the waiter who welcomes you is trying to figure out if you will stand at the bar for drinks and tapas or if you’re willing to seat at a table and order a whole meal.

In many ways, restaurants codes are a bit different in Spain. Let’s detail some of the local habits.

 

1. Sharing is the key in popular Spanish restaurants

[clickToTweet tweet=”Spanish people like to share dishes at restaurants like they do at home. #foodtravel via @cookinlz” quote=”Spanish people like to share dishes at restaurants like they do at home.”]

Unless they’re eating in a Chef’s restaurant, the Spanish tend to share plates, as they would do at home.

They can share everything or decide to share the appetisers and then order a main dish for each one.

Of course, you can order your own dish and have it all by yourself too.

When placing your order, just inform the waiter you’ll be sharing (para compartir = to share) and he’ll bring you individual clean plates with your dishes.

 

2. Adjust dish size

[clickToTweet tweet=”In many Spanish restaurants, dishes come in 3 sizes: Tapa, half portion and whole portion #foodtravel via @cookinlz” quote=”In many Spanish restaurants, dishes come in 3 sizes: Tapa, half portion and whole portion”]

In traditional Spanish restaurants, you can see one dish with 3 different prices on the menu. They come in different sizes.

Tapa is the smallest serving size. Appetiser size. Perfect if you want to try a lot of different dishes or if you’re just looking for a snack to have with a drink.

Then media ración (half portion) would be starter size and ración (portion) would be main dish size.

If you are afraid to be short or order too much, feel free to ask for advice. Waiters are usually honest about it and will tell you if they think you’re ordering too much.

Be aware that in that kind of restaurants dishes are meant to be shared so they don’t always come with a side.

This means if you order a  whole ración of fried calamari for yourself, you’ll be eating A LOT of fried calamari. And nothing else.

It’s ok if you LOVE fried calamari.

Unless specified, consider food comes with no side.

In case you’re sharing, the waiter will bring you individual plates with the food. And if you’re eating a lot of different foods, he’ll likely bring you clean plates at one point in the middle of your meal. Don’t hesitate to ask (politely) for a plate change if needed.

 

3. Dealing with menus

 

[clickToTweet tweet=”Menú del día is a tradition in Spain – Cheap lunch, incl. in some Chef’s restaurants via @cookinlz” quote=”Menú del día is a tradition in Spain – Cheap lunch including in some Chef’s restaurants”]

It’s not as frequent in the Canary Islands but in peninsular Spain, there is a strong tradition of menú del día (=menu of the day). Many Spanish restaurants offer a menu for lunch including starter, main, dessert, bread and drink (including table wine) for between 8€ and 15€ per person.

Menus you don’t have to share. They’re designed for one.

In higher level restaurants, you’ll find menú degustación (=gastronomic menu) with or without maridaje (=pairing wines).

When you’re eating at a Chef’s restaurant, international codes apply.

 

4. You may be charged for the bread

[clickToTweet tweet=”Some Spanish restaurants charge for bread #foodtravel via @cookinlz” quote=”Some Spanish restaurants charge for bread”]

It’s not a majority, but you might encounter one or two during your trip in Spain and its islands. In this case, bread price should appear on the menu.
If the server asks you if you want bread – good chance they’re going to charge you for it.

But sometimes, the server puts it on the table and, unless you clearly specify you don’t want the bread, you get charged for it.

The law allows it. Basically, you just need to check out if bread price appears on the menu. If it doesn’t, it means it’s free.

Remember if you have a bad experience, you have the right to ask for an hoja de reclamación (= complaint form).

 

5. Be aware of the eating schedule

[clickToTweet tweet=”Did you know Spaniards tend to eat much later than most Europeans? via @cookinlz #foodtravel” quote=”Spaniards tend to eat later than most Europeans.”]

Restaurants are filled with locals between 2pm and 4pm for lunch and between 9pm and 11pm for dinner.

In big cities and very touristic places of Spain, you don’t need to adapt your eating schedule because restaurants will serve all day to have everyone covered.

But in smaller towns, you can have trouble getting a place to serve you lunch before 1pm and dinner before 8pm.

Quick guide to local habits

6. Tipping or not tipping

[clickToTweet tweet=”Service is included in Spanish restaurants. Tip only if you were happy with it. via @cookinlz #foodtravel” quote=”Service is included in Spanish restaurants. Tip only if you were happy with it”]

Service is included in Spanish restaurants. This means you leave a tip as a thank you to the server for attending you nicely.

We’re talking about a few euros. My feeling is that if you are leaving something, it can’t be less than one euro.

Tip what you feel is right, and you’ll be fine.

7. What’s with the end-of-meal chupito?

[clickToTweet tweet=”The end-of-meal chupito is always on-the-house at Spanish restaurants #foodtravel via @cookinlz” quote=”The end-of-meal chupito is always on-the-house at Spanish restaurants”]

It’s a classic in Lanzarote and the rest of the Canary Islands.

The famous Spanish chupito. While the rule with the bread may be a little unclear, end-of-meal chupitos are always on-the-house.

You’re even allowed to repeat. That’s why the bottle stayed on the table.

Cheers.

 

 

Are there other things that surprised you while eating at Spanish restaurants ? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Should I hire a car in Lanzarote? (YES, unless you’re only planning to drink margaritas at the hotel’s pool)

Should I hire a car during my holidays in Lanzarote

Should I hire a car in Lanzarote ?

Lanzarote is one of these places where you need to hire a car if you’re willing to visit a little.

It all depends on the type of holidays you want. If you only wish to lie down on the beach/pool and get tanned, you’ll probably be ok with your hotel’s transfer service.

On the other hand, if you’re letting a villa or apartment and are planning on discovering what Lanzarote has to offer, you’ll need to hire a car.

Public transportation is slow and riding more than one line is complicated

Locals call the bus “gua-gua” (pronounce wua-wua). They can get you to most of the island’s spots but:

  • There are few of them. If you are staying in a village, you can be waiting for a loooong time at the bus stop before catching one.
  • Once you’re in, you’ll be stopping everywhere. Great to discover all the small villages. Not so great if you’re on your way to the beach.
  • Most bus lines come off Arrecife (Lanzarote’s capital, south of the island). Which means if you’re going somewhere that’s not right on the line you’ll be riding; you’ll have to go all the way to Arrecife to get the right line. Next thing you know, it took you 5h to go 20km up North.

In short, using public transport in Lanzarote is ok if you don’t need to change lines and if you plan a little in advance to make sure there is a bus coming around the time you’re willing to get moving. Otherwise, it can be a real hassle.

Taxis can be expensive compared to car renting prices

You’ll be able to find taxis upon your arrival at Lanzarote’s airport. Or to get one booked by your hostel’s reception if needed. They can be very handy, not saying you shouldn’t use them 😉

Our point is: hiring a car is so cheap in Lanzarote that riding a cab can easily cost you more than a full day of a hired car. To give you an idea, you can find cars to hire for as low as 20€/day in Lanzarote.

Comparatively, if you have a driver’s license, hiring a car is often the best deal.

Beware of scams

Some low-cost companies attract you with very low prices only to rip you off later on with hidden costs.

We had a bad experience with Goldcar.

And we weren’t the only ones. Angry customers testimonials flourish on the Internet.

They’re very cheap.

So cheap you might be waiting in line to get your rental car with half the people in your plane once you get to Lanzarote.

The wise ones who booked with another company will probably already be sipping a cocktail on the pool once you’ll eventually get your car.

That one time we rented a car with them, we queued for almost 2 hours. Only to get to the counter and be told they were applying a “full-empty” policy regarding oil tank.

They give you the rental car with a full tank. Ask you to return it empty. And charge you an outrageous amount for gasoline.

We had to pay 80€ for a tank fill that would have cost us 40€ in any of the island’s gas station.

The most important thing to look for when booking a rental car in Lanzarote is a “full-full” gas tank policy.

You get the car with a full tank. You bring it back with a full tank.

Simple as that.

Some local companies as Pluscar won’t fill the tank before giving you your car and ask you to bring it back with roughly the same amount of gasoline.

But don’t worry about the lack of precision. This one is not a scam. We even heard Autoreisen reimbursed people who gave back a much fuller tank.

Local companies tend to be cheaper and offer higher value

Rental cars companies in Lanzarote are working in a highly competitive environment. There are a LOT of them.

Therefore, local companies are unknown to the Canary Islands first timers and need to stand out.

So they tend to be cheaper. And to offer more services as full coverage insurance, second driver and baby-seats for free.

Check out Cicar and its low-cost brand Payless, Autoreisen and Pluscar to name a few. (Note: we are not affiliated to any of these companies)

 

Have you ever hired a car in Lanzarote? Would you recommend a car rental company we didn’t mention?

Share your experience in the comment section so we can update this article with your recommendations.

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All you need to know about Lanzarote’s underwater museum

Lanzarote's Underwater Museum by Jason DeCaires Taylor

Lanzarote's Underwater Museum by Jason DeCaires Taylor

British artist Jason DeCaires Taylor chose Lanzarote to install an underwater museum. The first of its kind in the Atlantic Ocean.

DeCaires already worked on a similar project in Cancun (Mexico) in 2009. More than 500 sculptures became an artificial reef known as the MUSA museum (Museo Subacuático de Arte).

The first sculptures of the Atlantic Underwater Museum were installed between Lanzarote’s famous Papagayo beach and Las Coloradas castle last February.

Atlantic Underwater Museum: Act 1

300 underwater sculptures will be settled before the Atlantic Underwater Museum is fully installed at the beginning of 2017. Visitors are already able to watch the museum’s art work either from a boat with a clear glass bottom, snorkelling or diving.

The art pieces were transported by boat. And installed underwater so subaquatic life can start to take over the artist’s work. They’re eco-friendly. Designed with materials that help create artificial reefs.

Jason DeCaires Taylor used Lanzarote residents as models. They are represented on everyday life postures. Some are talking on the phone. Others are taking selfies. A cactus took over this one.

Eco-art movement

As a matter of fact, Lanzarote is keeping alive Cesar Manrique‘s heritage. The local artist shaped this island with art, respecting the gifts of nature. He always stood against the ones ignoring environmental matters to make more money.

Like him, Jason DeCaires Taylor is strongly opinionated about the capitalist system and the lack of nature preservation. Should I say: the destruction of what’s more valuable to humanity. Let’s call things by their real name.

DeCaires is working alongside with marine biologists. He chooses eco-friendly materials to encourage marine life to shape his artwork. But that’s not it. He carefully chooses where to place them. Away from strong currents and tidal patterns so living organisms can settle there for a long time.

The artist also contributes to attracting tourists towards artificial reefs. Letting natural reefs recover from the damages they’re suffering. That’s very ingenious.

However, DeCaires is pretty pessimistic on the future of oceanic ecosystems. He says the following generation will be witnessing the death of marine life… Ouch.

A recent study is stating that oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050. This is not looking too good. I’m starting to think he might be right.

Could it be? Then why are we still overfishing? Why do we still allow bottom trawling fishing if we know it destroys fragile ecosystems?

And most of all, why are we still given plastic bags everywhere including Lanzarote? I mean. This is an island. Where are they supposed to end up?

 

Back to our brushes. Both artists are part of the eco-art movement. Manrique was defending his island. DeCaires is defending aquatic life. But not only.

He found a way to get us to step aside from our frenetic lives. Take time to have a look at ourselves. Together with seeing what we usually don’t want to watch. Like The Raft of Lampedusa… A reminder of what’s happening right off our costs.

This project is much more than an innovative new attraction to offer the islands’ visitors.

That’s what I like about it.

The underwater museum is meant to get us thinking

The artist wants us to stop running for a minute to take a little perspective on how humanity is dealing with the challenges we’re facing.

While underwater, you’re like in a bubble. Only able to share your impressions with your friends once the journey is over. Until then, nature’s impressive show is focusing all your attention.

It’s very smart to take visitors to that kind of environment. The artist’s message gets to be heard much more clearly. Don’t you think?

What can I say? Respect. Jason DeCaires’ work is smart, innovative and sustainable. Really inspiring.

In fact, I can’t wait to get underwater to watch nature’s artwork.

What about you? Is it the kind of museum you would like to visit ?