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The beginning of the 19th century was a turning point for Spain. Napoleon was able to get both King Charles IV and his son, Ferdinand, to surrender any legal claim to Spanish rule and placed his brother Joseph there in 1808. Believing that the Spanish people would want a change in their government, he soon found how wrong he was. If Spain had learned anything from the French revolution, they learned nationalism: They were a unique nation with their own diverse culture and history. France, though allies for many centuries with Spain, was not welcome in this new form of thought.

Meanwhile, Napoleon had his sights on Portugal. He saw it as the gateway to the rest of the world and his way to follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great. He was also not pleased with the Portuguese trading with England and wanted England out of the Mediterranean. So he sent his troops over the Pyrenees mountain range, through Spain and on towards Lisbon. Along the way the French troops were to take over major cities throughout Spain.

The Spanish people revolted against the French. They were supported by the Spanish military; England who allied themselves with the Spanish rebel leaders; and the Catholic Church who had excommunicated Napoleon in June of 1809 where in retaliation Napoleon had had Pope Pius VII arrested and held him prisoner in his palace of Fontainebleau near Paris till early 1814. With this support, the Spanish rebels used guerrilla warfare against the French army.

All over Spain there were revolts against the French. Soldiers, farmers, tradesmen, women and children came to the call to defend their country and local towns. The Spanish painter, Goya, tired of how Napoleon would have his own personal painters create romantic scenes of battles, traveled through Spain and sketched drawings depicting the horrors of this war.

Small towns became strategic necessities for the French military. Girona, Spain, located on the Onyar River was one such town. Its location made it a key point from France to Barcelona. In June of 1808 when the French first tried to take control of Girona the military and citizens of this town were able to defeat them. There was a second siege from July 24 to August 16 with victory again going to Girona. It was the third siege though that Girona lost. Seven months from May 24 to December 11 of 1809 the citizens and military fought back the French. When it fell to the French there was a rallying call all through Spain that helped strengthened the Spanish resistance.

Every year, at the end of September, the town of Girona, Spain puts on a reenactment of the siege and battle between the French and citizens of Girona during the Peninsular War that finally ended in 1814 when the Spanish and English were able to push the French back over the Pyrenees mountain range and out of Spain.

Sources:

Books:
Rothenberg, Gunther. The Napoleonic Wars. Cassell, London. 1999.

Streissguth, Thomas. The Napoleonic Wars: Defeat of the Grand Army. Lucent Books, MI. 2003

Howard, Emma. Spain. Compendium Publishing, London. 2007.

Web:
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_gerona_third.html

http://www.girona.cat/museuciutat/eng/expovirtual_frances.php

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470451/

A warm thanks to the sponsors of the TBEX 2012 Costa Brava, Spain Convention and tours:

Costa Brava: Pirineu de Girona: Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board @ http://www.CostaBrava.com
Catalunya Tourist Board @ http://www.catalunya.com
Ajuntament de Girona @ http://www2.girona.cat/ca
Palau de Congressos de Girona @ http://www.auditorigirona.org/eng/pc.presentacio.php
Europe TBEX ’12 in Spain @ http://www.tbexcon.com (for more information on the Travel Blogger’s network, sponsors, and conferences)

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It was a hot, sticky day and I had been walking through the narrow medieval streets of Girona, Spain taking pictures.  I was alone–no guide, no group of friends–alone.  It was a wonderful feeling.  I could take as much time as I wanted photographing the beautiful streets, buildings, windows, doors, statues and whatever else I discovered as I turned down each street and side road.  I didn’t know where I was on the map and didn’t care.  I felt free.  Then I turned down a narrow dark street that began and ended with an arch and found myself in an open plaza with small cafés and shops.

Fifteen minutes before four in the afternoon and only the cafés were open.  This was the hour of Spain’s siesta where stores close and people enjoy a time of comfort with friends and family over coffee, tea, soda, wine, or beer.  I walked along the closed shops looking in the windows and found a bookstore that looked promising.  I was not only here in Spain to take photographs but also hoped to find books on Spanish and Catalonian folktales.  Fifteen minutes to wait till the store opened, what to do…

Across the plaza was a café with the word Xocolatería over its door.  Chocolate–YES!  It was a hot and sticky day with little air flowing through the streets but Spanish hot xocolate sounded soooooooooo good.  I sat down and ordered some.

I had first tasted this wonderfully thick hot coco drink last year when in Barcelona with my family.  So thick you needed a spoon and a churro to help you drink it.  The Xocolatería didn’t have churros but they did have almendras—almond shaped cookies—that where just as good for dipping in the dark chocolate that had the consistency of Greek yogurt.

 Xocolate with Churro in Barcelona & with Almendra cookies in Girona
So…how do they get this drink so thick?        Cornstarch…or if you prefer arrowroot.

I went on line and there are lots and lots and lots of recipes.  The trick is to heat it slowly on a low heat source and stir and stir and stir.  I like using a large wire whisk to stir.  You also need patience.  It takes awhile to heat up and to thicken (20 minutes when I did it). Then it’s HOT so after it was poured in the cup I stirred it again to cool it down before I could drink it.  I didn’t have any almendras or churros and the only cookies in the kitchen were my daughter’s Oreo cookies.

Hmmm—-No.

So I enjoyed the hot xocolate by itself and thought about how I would change it a little for the next time.   With time and many more “tassas” I will have it perfected.

Xocolate boiling and thickening on low heat.

The recipe that I used is called Nana’s Spanish Style Hot Chocolate at:

http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/2011/01/28/nanas-spanish-style-hot-chocolate-hot-chocolate-pudding/

What I like about this one is that it uses unsweetened coco powder and gives a choice between cornstarch or arrowroot (I buy Red Mill at a local health food store).

¡Disfruta!

 

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