Salimos el Sabado – El Caldero (Alicante)

If you have the chance to visit Alicante you must try the local dishes. One of my favorites is caldero which is made with fish and rice served separately. The fish is served in a large dish with potatoes and caldo (broth) and the remaining broth is used to cook the rice similar to a paella. Caldero is well-known on the island of Tabarca just off the coast of Alicante. If you aren’t able to visit the island (which really deserves a trip) in Alicante there is a restaurant named El Caldero owned by the family of one of Tabarca’s restaurants which prepare them in the same way as on the island.

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Summer in Spain Pt. 1 – Tabarca

I know I’ve been nonexistent this summer, but hopefully I’ll be able to share some exciting info soon. Now that it’s September, it’s back to the real-life grind in Madrid. The next few posts will be about the different cities I visited this summer.

A good deal of the summer was spent in Alicante. A group of us decided to spend a weekend on Tabarca which is a tiny island a short 15 minute water taxi ride from Santa Pola. The island has an interesting history as a refuge for Barbary pirates and a prison for Genoese sailors. The island is a popular tourist spot during the summer, but in winter, most families leave the island.

Casa en Tabarca

 

Tabarca is well-known for its squid and rice dishes. Since it’s an island it isn’t surprising that most of the food involves some type of fish or seafood.

Squid Caldero Caldero de bogavante Arroz

 

 

When we weren’t eating we spent a lot of time snorkeling. The water is incredibly clean and not as cold as in other parts of southern Spain. Part of the island is on a nature reserve so we were able to find many interesting things such as starfish and octopus.

Asturias and Galicia

I know this post is a little late, but it’s a doozy. In the beginning of May we took a “double couples” trip to visit the green landscapes of Asturias and Galicia in the north of Spain. It was my first trip to either of these regions of Spain, and I found them absolutely different from the arid landscapes I am used to seeing in Andalusia. I believe I could live in Asturias or Galicia one day if I could get past the frigid winters.

I believe we visited about 12 different towns along our way, so I’ve listed them below with some descriptions. Of course, with so many places and a short period of time, we visited several for only an hour or two.

 

Burgos 

Our first stop brought us to Burgos, which is in Castile and León instead of Asturias or Galicia, but it was the perfect halfway point. We munched on their famous morcilla (blood sausage) and patatas bravas and strolled the city to admire the buildings. I really liked the windows in the older part of town. The closest English translation I can think of would be “bay windows”, but I’m not certain they are the same. 

 patatas bravas, beer, and floor decorations.

You know you are in Spain: patatas bravas, beer, and floor decorations.

Morcilla from "La Favorita"

Morcilla from “La Favorita”

 

 

Covadonga/Cangas de Onís

We spent the first night in Asturias at a small hotel called Casa Asprón. The hotel was wonderful and served a delicious breakfast. This area was my favorite part of the trip. We were surrounded by forests and even a waterfall.waterfall close to the hotel

The rural house is in Picos de Europa National Park and we could see the Basilica of Covadonga from our window. Covadonga is the patron of Asturias. In the 700s, the Christian Visigoth army made a stand against the Moorish army in the caves of Covadonga. It was reported that before the battle, the Christian commander prayed to a statue of the Virgin Mary which had been saved during the conquest. The Moorish commander died in the battle, and the rest of his army fled. After the victory, King Alonso I ordered a monastery and shrine to be built there. The shrine sits nestled in the mountain and is really a sight to see.

Basilica Covadonga

Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga

Covadonga Shrine

Covadonga Sanctuary

 

I’ve never seen anything like the Picos de Europa National Park. There is a trail which circles several lakes, forests, and mountains. Everything was super-green and we even found cows grazing on the hills.

Picos de Europa landscape 20140502_125638Picos de Europa lanscape

At the end of our hike we had worked up an appetite, and the fog was so dense that we couldn’t see any buildings. We ended up following our ears, and the sound of a generator, to find a small restaurant. We ate cheese, fabada, goat, arroz con leche, and strawberry cake. I’d be willing to go back to that area and park many times! (hint: other anniversaries)

Fabada

Fabada

cheese

stawberry cake and arroz con leche

 

Soto de Luiña

We spent the next night in a small town called Soto de Luiña. We stayed at Hotel Valle las Luiñas. There didn’t seem to be very much to see in the town, but it was a short drive away from Cudillero.

 

Cudillero

Cudillero is a beautiful fishing village. It seems to get a lot of tourist traffic, but not completely overpriced. I think I found the best arroz con leche I’ve ever tried at a place called El Remo.

Cudillero Cudillero

 

Luanco

We stopped briefly in Luanco. The newer part of the city was not very lovely, but when you reached the water there were interesting buildings and a church on the waterfront.

 

Cabo de Peñas

“Cabo” means “cape” in Spanish. We enjoyed the views and lighthouse, but we struggled to get there. First, we parked the car in a tiny village called Viodo and asked one of the locals if it was possible to walk to the lighthouse. We should have known by her laugh and response not to try, but we finally found it after getting lost in the field a few times. It turned out fine in the end. Who doesn’t like a little adventure!?

cabo de peñas

 

Candás

Another short stop in Candás allowed us to stretch our legs. We took a quick stroll to see the beach. While walking on the beach I saw many small, raised mud tunnels in the sand. When I tried to dig one that was moving up to discover the creature underneath I found nothing.

 

Luarca

Luarca is yet another seaside town. We stayed less than an hour, but drove around a bit of the town and saw the port. Maybe one day we’ll go back with more time.

 

Puerto de Vega

Puerto de Vega was another stop with marvelous views of the ocean.

puerto de vega

 

Ribadeo

Our next stop took us to Ribadeo in Galicia. This town is on the border of Galicia and Asturias. The next “Salimos el Sabado” will be about a great restaurant we visited called Casa Villaronta so I will make this section brief. There were some beautiful spots to see close to the city, such as, the Pancha Island lighthouse.

ribadeo lighthouse lighthouse galicia

 

Lugo

On the way back from our whirlwind trip, we stopped in Lugo to see its Roman walls, the Cathedral, and other sights of the city.

Lugo Cathedral

 

Astorga

We needed to eat eventually so we stopped at Restaurante Serrano in Astorga for a delicious lunch. This small town had some surprising things like the Palacio Espiscopal which was designed by Gaudí.

Palacio Espiscopal

Palacio Espiscopal

 

Salimos el Sabado – Kintaro

Welcome to the first entry of “Salimos el Sabado”. None of my reviews are due to incentives from staff or owners unless stated in my posts. I hope you will let me know what you think about the places I review or tell me about new places I should try!

I’m a sushi girl. Back in the US, “sushi night” was an almost weekly ritual. I have been to Kintaro several times in Madrid. They have an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet for 16 euros. If you go for lunch during the week I have heard the price is 9 euros. I’ve never ordered anything from the menu so I can’t speak to the price or quality if you don’t choose the all-you-can-eat option. It’s not phenomenal, but the sushi is decent and relatively inexpensive. A plus is the conveyor belt style service.

 

The sushi parades in front of you in such a way that it’s nearly impossible not to feel completely stuffed afterwards. There are also foods to pick off the conveyor such as: soup, chicken, meat, and desserts.

 

kintaro

 

 

Valentine’s Day Origami

Happy Monday everyone!

This is going to be a short and random post, but I thought maybe some of you are looking for Valentine’s Day activities for your kids or students which don’t involve making cards.

Normally I’m not one for making a big deal out of February 14th. Everyone knows that being single on this day isn’t the greatest. Sometimes it was even awkward if I was dating someone because I felt a strange mix of wanting my SO to do something nice along with not wanting them to go through the trouble just because it’s expected by most females.  Anyway, back to fun with paper…

This is my second year making origami hearts in my 1º ESO (students around 12 years old) classes. If you search “heart origami” on YouTube you will find plenty of results. I chose the first one because the video and sound are good. A young boy(?) goes over everything step-by-step. First, I let them watch the whole video one time without touching their paper. Then, I play the video again and let them follow along. I paused immediately after the more tricky sections to make sure everyone was caught up.

heart origami

The finished product!

The origami paper I’m using is from Tiger and only cost 2 euros. You can use different paper, but make sure it’s square! Sometimes a couple boys in the class groan a bit about having to make hearts, but I tell them to surprise their mom or grandmother with them, which normally works.

I’m using the leftover paper to make hearts for my younger students from private classes.

Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?

Shopping Online in Spain

Hello everyone! Right now the rebajas (sales which last the month of January) in Spain are in full-swing. This is a great time to pick up items you were eyeing while Christmas shopping. Sadly, I have no rebajas budget this year because I spent all my money during the holidays and I need to save for my next trip at the end of this month.

My family and roommates already know this, but I tend to be a bit of a shopaholic if I have some extra cash. I apologize if this is an “enabling” post for some of you! I’d like to share some of my favorite online shopping sites here in Spain. Almost all of these sites have a referral system which allow you to earn money to spend on their website.

1. Amazon BuyVIP – This site by Amazon offers discounts on different brands every day (it’s a bit like RueLaLa or Ideeli in the U.S.). The brands are normally good quality such as Diesel, Liebeskind, or Nike and you can find items more than 50% off the usual price. What annoys me is you can’t mix the brands in your shopping cart. So, if you want to order something from two different brands you have to put the items in your cart for one brand, pay, and then repeat the process for the other brand. This means you pay twice for shipping.

2. Vente-Privee – This is similar to the BuyVIP site. The website is a bit stranger and tricky to navigate, but you can find some good brands and prices here. Shipping prices are normally 6€ for each order, but sometimes shipping is free. Free shipping seems to be limited to larger items.

3. Groupon  – I used this site ALL the time when I was living in the U.S. Each day there are new deals on things available in your city such as services, goods, and vacations. You buy a voucher for the deal which is good for a certain amount of time before it expires. This is how I went on the all-inclusive trip to Mallorca last year. You can also buy something from “Groupon Goods”, for example an iPhone, and it’s shipped to you without messing with the vouchers. My most recent purchase was for a salon treatment and cut for 29€ which is normally worth 190€. Not too shabby.

4. Letsbonus – This is a company run by LivingSocial, which I also routinely used in the U.S. The idea is the same as Groupon. When you find a deal you want, just buy the voucher and redeem it later. They also have goods to buy without using the voucher.

5. Atrapalo – This site is different from Groupon or Letsbonus, because you don’t buy vouchers. You can find discounts on things such as, tickets, trips, and restaurants, but sometimes you must reserve the days and times at the moment of purchase.

6. Voyage Prive – This site only offers vacation packages. You can find some good deals, but it seems to cater more towards luxury travel (not that anything’s wrong with that). I haven’t had a chance to buy from here yet, but I often daydream while checking out the options. Right now there is a 5-star hotel in the Maldives for 5 nights in a water villa for just over 2,000€ with flights. Most offers have options for all-included and flights, plus the possibility to choose how many nights you want to stay. There are also some good offers within Spain.

7. Enolobox – I pretty much love this idea. You pay 25€ a month and receive three different wines with a write-up about what you are getting. If you have already tried just about every reasonable option in Corte Ingles or Carrefour (hey, I’m guilty too) then this is a good choice. The only problem is you have no control over what you get. During the summer I received a box of three white wines when I almost never drink white wine. With Enolobox you can earn points towards a free box of wine by participating in their online panel or inviting friends to join.

enolobox red wine

8. Restalo – You can use this site to make restaurant reservations anytime, but there are sometimes special offers, such as, 70% off if you reserve online.

9. El Tenedor – This is the same concept as Restalo. Sometimes I use these sites to check out new places or to see if a restaurant I want to visit is offering discounts for online reservations.

Some Tips:

  • Check the return policy whenever you are buying online. Some brands on sites like AmazonVIP allow returns while others don’t.
  • If you are interested in booking a trip or restaurant check their main website or a site like Tripadvisor for reviews, photos and maps. The photos on sites like Groupon are sometimes different from what you are really getting.
  • Before booking a trip or hotel you should read the special conditions because some deals aren’t valid during peak travel dates.
  • Also, don’t forget to pay attention to the expiration date for your vouchers! Don’t wait until the last minute to make your appointment before your Groupon or Letsbonus voucher expires, because their agendas fill up. Some places have been nice enough to accept the voucher after it expires, but not everyone will!

Lastly, happy shopping, everyone!

Do you have any favorite online shopping sites I missed??

Spain for the Holidays

Hopefully everyone had a relaxing holiday season. Reality and work had to continue eventually, right?

When I saw that flights home would cost about 1,000 euros I decided to stay for my first Christmas and New Years in Spain. This was the first year I spent Christmas without my family, but I really enjoyed my time here, so this holiday season was a bit bittersweet for me. Some things were exactly the same in Spain as in the United States, but other things (such as an extra holiday) were completely different. The length of holiday vacation was much longer than I am used to having. It began the afternoon of December 20th and I didn’t have to go back to work until January 8th. Of course, this is also because my holiday period is the same for school children, but when I was working in the U.S. I only had two days off; Christmas and New Years Day.

I spent the first part of my vacation and Christmas in Alicante, Spain. Even though I didn’t have very much time to relax, I really enjoyed being there! Also, the weather there was much warmer than the normal Maryland temperatures for December.

alicante oranges

Warm enough for oranges

At Christmas in the United States I normally devoured cookies and egg nog (every student thought this sounded disgusting). In Spain some popular sweets are polvorón and turrón. The national lottery is huge in Spain during the Holidays. On the 22nd of December, many people tune in to watch children “sing” off the drawings and prizes. Now, in the United States, I don’t believe children could play a role in the lottery. I guess it’s seen more in line as something like using children to promote tobacco or alcohol. Even though it seemed unusual to watch children take part in the national lottery, there doesn’t seem to be anything “wrong” about it to me. In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t win anything.

I rang in the New Year in Tarragona, which is in the northeast coast of Spain and a bit south of Barcelona. The city wasn’t very big, but there were some interesting spots to see such as the Roman amphitheater from the 1st and 2nd centuries.

Tarragona Roman amphitheater

 

statue in Tarragona

We stopped for some food at a place called Lola Tapes Platillos & Gins. I tried ortigas, a type of sea anemone, for the first time. They also had delicious small fried shrimp which you could eat whole and like chips. At night we watched the New Years Eve celebration in Sol and ate 12 grapes. The tradition is you must eat one grape for each midnight bell toll or you will have bad luck for the year. My students were shocked when I told them, in the U.S., we don’t eat grapes or anything special on New Years Eve.

On the first day of the new year we traveled to Andorra in the north. Before the trip a few people mentioned that Andorra was a great place for cheap electronics because there is no IVA tax there. I was sad to discover the prices seemed just about the same in Andorra and Spain. I thought the food would end up a bit cheaper, but that also seemed the same price. Restaurants seemed hit or miss. The places near the more touristy areas had horrible service. We were tired from the trip and just wanted a fast and relaxed dinner and a couple of beers, but we waited in two different places for at least 40 mins and were never offered to order food. The next day we picked up our ski rental equipment and made our way to Grandvalira. The place is huge and ski passes were 44 euros a day.  I was surprised by the amount of Russian tourists in Andorra. Those of you who know me probably know I’m accident prone. Towards the end of the first day I took a “heavy metal” spill/tumble and ended up spraining my wrist which put me out of commission for the rest of that day and the next.

Grandvalira Andorra

The second night in Andorra we tried a pizzeria listed as #1 in the town. L’Escenari de Pizzes was good but expensive for what it was. A plus was that almost all of their products are ecological. The wait times were a bit long and they only had one woman working as waitstaff.

My favorite restaurant we found in Andorra was Borda del Tremat. When we arrived the family was finishing their dinner. Then, the whole family pitched in to set up the restaurant for the night and they gave us olives and bread with garlic, tomato and meat. We ordered onion soup, salad, filet mignon, sirloin steak, apple pie for dessert and wine for only 70 euros. I really loved how it was decorated. It seemed to be an old barnyard or farmhouse.

A more luxurious, but expensive, place was Celler D’En Toni. The meat was delicious and tender, especially the mignon with cognac. The quality was a step up from Borda del Tremat, but it felt more cold and distant. There was a delicious chocolate coulant dessert for 9 euros.

The day before leaving we made a stop in the caldea, a giant thermo spa. The general admission for 3 hours was 37 euros. There is another ticket for 46.50 euros and 4 hours which gives you access to the top floor of the spa. Paying a bit more may have been worth it to escape the crowds. It was a bit difficult to relax with all of the people and children playing, but I enjoyed it.

Spanish children have a holiday that I didn’t have when I was growing up. Reyes Magos is a holiday on January 6th where the three wise men of the nativity bring gifts instead of Santa Claus. Many people eat some Roscón de Reyes, a round cake with a surprise hidden inside, and hot chocolate on this day. There are parades where the wise men throw candy to the children. I polled several students and They told me Christmas is becoming more popular in Spain. Most received gifts on either Reyes Magos or Reyes Magos AND Christmas. Few students only received presents on Christmas.

What holiday traditions did you celebrate this year?

May in Mallorca – Wishing for Warmer Weather in Madrid

I know it’s only the first week of December, but I’m already wishing it was summertime. It’s probably the fault of looking for warm getaways for the upcoming holidays and semana santa. This led me to remember my May trip to Mallorca and how I never posted anything about it! Well, this will be my warmer weather reminiscing for this month.

Mallorca view from the plane

The view from the plane. Helloooo blue waters!

I didn’t know very much about Mallorca before I moved to Spain, but it’s part of the Balearic Islands east of mainland Spain.

I can’t remember which one of us stumbled on the deal first. I’m sure someone will remind me after they see this post. Within a short while we were ready to buy a Groupon for a six-girl vacation to Mallorca. You could choose a 1 – 7 night stay in Cala Millor, Mallorca for two people and it only cost 99 euros a night. After you split that between two people it was not bad at all. We bought three of the deals and decided to stay two nights in the resort. Another perk was it was an all-included offer so all of our food and drinks were included in our stay. The problem with all-included vacations is that you stuff yourself for each meal. At least that’s exactly what we did.

The taxi ride from the airport to the resort was about one hour. When we arrived at the resort I think we were a little surprised to find we were the youngest guests there, but we had a lot of fun all the same. One thing I found surprising at first was the amount of people there who spoke German. I was confused when the resort staff began conversations in German instead of Spanish. I wasn’t used to it.

beaches of Mallorca in Cala Millor

Mallorca had some of the most beautiful water I’ve seen.

The view was paradise, but the temperature wasn’t so cooperative during our trip. We went in May, so it was our own fault for taking the trip before warmer weather arrived. We still toughed it out on the beach in our bikinis and shorts. Some brave souls (not me, okay?) even went for a swim.

Cala Millor Beach in Mallorca

Everything for us! Brrr…

Cala Millor, Mallorca, resort

Our view from the terrace

all-included Mallorca

This wristband was my ticket to…gluttony?

One of my next posts will be about the different shopping websites in Spain you can use to find deals like ours. One thing I wish for my next trip to Mallorca is that I get to explore a bit more of the island instead of staying at one resort the whole time.

What was your favorite spot in Mallorca?

Staying Healthy in Madrid

It’s important to take care of yourself, especially when you are over 6,000 km away from your family and main support network. Something that has helped and is also a good stress reliever is staying active. I joined a gym here in Madrid when I was training for the half-marathon last Spring and I believe it’s helped me as far as health and focus. Also, today I am stronger and at least ten pounds lighter than last year. I believe this is due to the change in foods I eat and some working out.

At the gym I frequent, I see all ages, but it’s in a university area so there are many people around my age. It costs 99 euros for three months, so it’s not too bad. Normally I mix weight training and cardio each visit. I’ve been using something called HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) for part of my treadmill runs. Last week I made it to the gym three times and I ran around Retiro this morning.

I’m normally pretty shy while I’m in the gym. I don’t talk to other people and just keep my headphones in. I’ve noticed if I don’t bring my music there is no way I can get a good run in.

I listen to a crazy range of music, but here are ten songs that keep myself going on the treadmill.

Something Bigger, Something Better  – Amanda Blank

Hold On – Rusko

Sexy Results – MSTRKRFT

Hustler – Simian Mobile Disco

Momma’s Place – Roisin Murphy

Play Hard – David Guetta

On the Run – The Qemists

Crush on You – NERO

Molly – Cedric Gervais

Beam Me Up – CAZZETTE

 

What do you do to stay healthy? Do you have any songs that keep you moving?