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

 

Liebster Award Nomination

I was shocked earlier to receive a comment saying my blog had been nominated for something called the “Liebster Award”. I admit that I had absolutely no idea what a Liebster Award is, but hooray! This is my first award nomination here on WordPress. I did a little digging and found that the “Liebster Award” is to promote newer bloggers and hopefully allow them to gain followers and drive more traffic to their sites.

Look how shiny it is!

Look how shiny it is!

A big thank you to Courtney at Cartas de Courtney for the nomination! She is also living in Spain as a teaching assistant and I love reading her blog for travel ideas.

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THE RULES ARE:

ü 1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

ü 2. Answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.

ü 3. Nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.

ü 4. Come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

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Nominations:

(Quick note: I know I must have chosen a few with over 200 followers).

The Rooted Traveller – Ghezal is another teaching assistant in BEDA, but I’ve been following her blog before my move to Spain. Funny how we met and became friends before knowing we were following each others blogs.

Sunshine and Siestas – Cat writes a lot about Seville which is one of my favorite cities in Spain. I found her blog before moving to Spain and it helped drive my desire to become an expat.

The Book of Ness – Vanessa’s blog is a mix of expat and entrepreneur posts.

Kaley…& Más – Kaley’s posts make me realize things which are true, but I never really considered before.

Lady in Spain – A fellow Marylander, Yari, really helped me when I was trying to make my way through the pile of paperwork needed for my visa to Spain.

The Expatriate Adventures – Dan is a fellow BEDA member who writes about his travels and life in Madrid.

Hola Yessica – Jessica’s blog is another I followed before I became an expat myself. Her posts are mainly about Barcelona.

Curiosity Travels – Jessica has a colorful and fun blog with plenty of posts about travel and teaching English in foreign countries.

Estrella Explores – Estrella is another English Language Assistant in Madrid and her blog is about her life abroad.

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1. What do you consider “home”?

For most of my life, Maryland was my only home since that is where much of my friends and family – my “roots” -, are located. After that, New York and Wisconsin were close contenders because I’ve visited many times to see family. During my first trip to Spain this idea of home was skewed. How could a place I had never been to before feel as comfortable as home? Right now I suppose I have two homes: My USA Home and Spain Home. I’m comfortable with that for now.

2. How long have you been traveling or living abroad?

The first time I traveled outside of the US (other than Canada) was to Guatemala when I was 17 years old. Before I was born my parents traveled all over the place and lived for a while in Guatemala. When we went, my family and grandparents spent Christmas and New Year’s there so we could see the village where they used to live and experience the country. My first trip to Europe was in 2011. After travelling with a friend in Spain I continued alone to Paris and Berlin. During this trip I was overcome with the insane idea to quit my job and move to Madrid. Somehow I made it a reality and have been living in Madrid since September 2012.

3. Do you have a favorite destination? If so, what is it?

I absolutely love Seville and Alicante. I have known Seville for longer and the atmosphere is amazing along with the sights. Alicante has great weather and beaches. It is much more relaxed than Madrid. Sometimes I consider moving to one of these cities for a change of pace.

4. What is your biggest struggle as a blogger?

Bah! I have two I constantly struggle with. One is that I don’t find it easy to be a creative writer. Sometimes I write something and think, “Seriously? That is the most boring and dry ‘ish’ I’ve ever seen. You should be ashamed of yourself.” The second problem I have is getting into a writing routine. I have an idea for a weekly piece, but I just haven’t gotten around to starting it.

5. What is your favorite blog and why?

At the moment, my favorite blog is Nowhere to Go but Everywhere for its beautiful photographs and simplistic style.

6. If you could spend a month anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

A month in Thailand would be amazing. Send me to the sun and sand!

7. After being away, what is one thing you know you took for granted at home?

I have to choose being around nature. My old home was surrounded by three different bodies of water and a forest. Here in Madrid the atmosphere is very different and you can smell and feel it.

8. What is your favorite music to listen to during a plane ride/bus ride/commute?

If it’s on the AVE I listen to Telepopmusic or Thievery Corporation. This sounds strange, but the first trip I took on the AVE I was listening to those groups so now whenever I travel it’s my traveling music while watching the countryside.

During day-to-day commutes I listen to a playlist of over 500 different songs I have on Spotify. Chromeo and The Prodigy were made for Monday mornings in the metro.

9. Do you consider any certain item a “travel necessity”?

My travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste!

10. What is your favorite book and why?

It’s a strange book, but 1984 has been my favorite since I was a child. It’s so warped!

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New Questions for My Nominees:

1. What is your favorite blog right now?

2. What’s the strangest food you have ever eaten?

3. Do you have a favorite travel destination?

4. Now choose the song which bests describes that destination for you.

5. Describe a moment you decided to make a drastic change in your life.

6. If you were given 500 euros where would you go and what would you do?

7. Explain something you do well as a blogger? Then, describe something you struggle with.

8. What is one thing you found while traveling that you would bring back to your home country?

9. Were you ever in a dangerous or awkward situation during your travels?

10. Where do you see yourself ending up? Will you wander the globe forever?

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Thanks for reading and thanks again to Courtney for the nomination.

Happy Travels!

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?

Summer in Madrid

It’s now the middle of July in Madrid. It seems many people have left the city for the coast or their home towns. I can’t blame them. Maybe you can imagine it gets “hot as Hades” here. I believe I’ve only worn skirts and dresses since the last week of June. Many apartments don’t have air conditioning so you need to buy a fan to avoid sleeping in a pool of your own sweat. When I told my dad about this on the weekend he didn’t believe me. I am still apartment hunting and the one I’m hoping to move into has A/C! Glorious! I’d be living with two Spanish girls and they seemed really sweet. So cross your fingers for me! I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this, but the last apartment I was in had 8 people…so switching to a place with only 3 would be wonderful.

So why am I in Madrid and not on vacation in Malaga or something? I’m working and trying to earn some money to hold me over until the end of September. My work contract doesn’t begin again until the middle of September and I won’t be paid again until the end of that month. I know some people have found cushy gigs in summer camps, but unfortunately I didn’t find any that would hire a US citizen and pay them decently. The one I was offered was 500 euros for living and working in a summer camp for the whole month of July. I couldn’t leave the residence hall so there was no way to earn extra money. Sometimes I wish I had dual citizenship with an EU country! Working here would be so much easier then! In Madrid I’m working several different jobs. My main job is to take care of a 4 year old girl every morning while her parents work. Then, in the evenings, I teach private classes almost every day. Right now I have 7-8 private classes a week. Then I am also working with a company who needed proofreaders to correct Spanish to English translations for a travel  website.

I’m not sure what’s happening in August, but I might be traveling. I’m still trying to buckle down and write about all of the other trips I’ve taken. I might end up lumping them all into one post.

If you are in Spain for the summer what are you doing?

Staying for More Punishment

Okay, so I haven’t exactly kept true to my goal of “one post a week.” However, I just NOW uploaded the remainder of my Semana Santa photos to Facebook so you can see what kind of time-lag I’m working with. I’ll (hopefully) be posting about Italy, Barcelona, Zaragoza etc within the next few weeks.

But first…

drum roll please….

 

I am renewing with the BEDA Program for next year. I’ll be working in the same school, but they are hiring another assistant to cover more hours. This means they are dropping my hours from 24 this year to 18 next year. Ugh. Also, I’ll only be working with children who are 12 years old and older. Maybe this will give me more time to prepare activities or even pick up more private lessons, but I’m a bit sad I won’t be working in infantil anymore.

Now I’m in the process of getting together all the materials to renew my NIE. Friday, I have my appointment to get my empadronamiento. This is basically just a way to register where you live and it may be necessary for the renewal. If I ever need to verify how long I’ve lived in Spain, it will also help. I will try to write a post with all the steps for the renewal after I’m finished.

My Challenge

This week I will attempt to tackle the daunting task of summing up my adventures over the last month or so. I haven’t completed my post about las fallas and I’ve got a bunch to write about from my trip to Italy. I know that if I don’t start now I’ll be even more behind especially because by the end of May I’ll have finished the following new adventures!

Seen la feria in Sevilla

Ran a half-marathon

Traveled to undetermined destinations with my grandparents

Resort weekend in MALLORCA!!

 

Anyway, stay tuned as I attempt this time-management tango.

5 Things I Learned in Morocco

Our group of nine set out by car from Madrid to spend the December puente exploring Morocco. The brutal 8-hour drive to Tarifa allowed us to see more of the Spanish countryside.

If you can find an inexpensive way to get to Tarifa, the southernmost part of Spain, taking the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco may be your best option. I believe it cost about 40 euro for a round-trip ticket. The ferry was very comfortable and there were bars, food, and a duty-free shop. We took advantage of the duty-free liquor since finding it in Morocco can be difficult and usually very expensive.

1. Take a Guide

We were extremely lucky to have two Moroccan guys with our group. Not only was it great to have friends with us that spoke the local languages, French and Arabic, but without a doubt, we had a better experience than if we had gone without them. Thanks guys! They made the arrangements for houses and in restaurants (see #4). They were able to show us around to different tourist sites and cool local spots. We even met several friends and family members. If you have made the trip without someone who knows Morocco well I would love to hear about it and whether you would do it alone again.

2. Eat camels, Not Ride Them

Have you ever wanted to ride a camel? You might change your mind after you view one of these roadside set-ups. The camels looked downright depressed. Although I didn’t actually board one I was ushered in between two grumpy camels by their handlers for a photo. In the end I had to duck to avoid some angry camel bites. HOWEVER, if you can find yourself a camel tagine that’s another story. We had one in Casablanca with cheese and it was amazing! I was happy to add camel to my “weird foods eaten” list. I think camel and jellyfish are tied for first now.

Now I know what happens when I type “camel vs jellyfish” into Google.

3. Don’t Expect to Get “Liquored Up”

As I mentioned before, finding alcohol can be expensive and sometimes impossible. If you can fit it in your luggage just bring what you need with you. If you don’t feel like lugging all that weight with you don’t worry. There are plenty of other things you can try in Morocco like avocado shakes, and of course, mint tea! Don’t forget to pour from well above the glass, like sidra.

4. Food is Cheap (Just Remember #1)

I don’t think I’ve eaten so much bread and egg in my life. In Chefchaouen we found a breakfast of msemen, cheese, honey, and tea for around 2 euros. During our travels I don’t think we really paid more than 4 or 5 euros for a complete dinner. As opposed to what I’ve found in Spain, the food in Morocco had plenty of flavor and a bit of spice. We ate very well and for almost nothing! Our Moroccan friends told us that prices are often different for foreigners and locals. When we went with these friends we had no issues with prices. However, one time we stopped at a cafe without them and we were charged a crazy amount for coffee, tea, and cake.

5. “If You Can Drive in Morocco You Can Drive Anywhere”

One of our friends from Tangier told me this during our trip when I mentioned my desire to drive in Morocco. The only problem was I didn’t want to drive in the city with the mix of pedestrians, motorbikes, animals and crazy drivers. In Tangier my friends decided I had to drive because one of the guys was staying behind. Oh, and they didn’t tell me this was their plan until we were walking to the cars. Let’s just say I spent my time behind the wheel shouting expletives at the friend driving the car in front of me. Okay, so I’m sure there are worst places to drive in the world than Tangier, but it was definitely “exhilarating.”

Have you ever been to Morocco? What did you learn?

It’s Been a While

Hello everyone!

Bad, bad, BAD me for not writing a post in months. My procrastination turned into a cycle of sorts. “If I write a post now I need lots of time to cover everything that I’ve done.” eventually led to “There is no way I can write about everything that has happened since September!” Here it goes, dear friends; a brief summary.

It seems I’ve eventually settled into an everyday routine. I live in an apartment with 7 other people so sometimes it is the furthest thing from normal, but it’s going well. I’m teaching 28 classes (24 hours) a week in the school and 5 private classes a week. The students in the school range from 3-5 years and from 12-18 years old. One of the first questions people ask is which age group I like the most. I can’t choose because each age level has reasons why I love them. The younger children are very loving and energetic although they can be rowdy. When they see me on the street they stop and wave. This weekend I saw one of my 5 year old students walking with her mother. When she saw me she started waving and tugging at her mother to show her that I am her teacher. Sometimes I even get besos on the cheek or a “Te quiero mucho!” They are most challenging to prepare classes for since they have a short attention span. The older children can be really fun to talk to, but sometimes it’s difficult to converse with them. It’s also frustrating when they don’t prepare the assigned topic. Some days are fun though. Last week in the 12 year-old classes we talked about extreme sports, I showed them a video of me skydiving, then we made origami hearts.

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The teachers in the school are very kind and have made an effort to make me feel included during and outside school hours. I feel very lucky.

In addition to the school classes, I give 5 private lessons a week. The ages range from 5 to 37. For the younger students I normally charge 22 euros a class and for older students 18 euros. Even with all of this the money situation is tight. At the end of every month I find myself scraping money together and playing “let’s see how long this loaf of bread can last.” I don’t regret my decision to come to Spain. Far from it. I’ve decided to renew my contract here for next year! Bring on the vida española!

I’ve made some amazing friends here so far. I’ve been lucky enough to travel with several and even found myself in a recording studio with my violin! Okay, so I didn’t play very long, but it’s a start, right?

I’ve started cooking a lot more. This includes cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for my roommates (substituting chickens for turkey), and various weekend breakfasts.

french toast last weekend, for example.

Travels

I’ve returned to Sevilla. Oh, what a marvelous city!

Plaza de España

Took a trip to Toledo.

Made it to Valencia

Morocco was spectacular and also the most terrifying driving experience! I was able to add camel to my “weird things eaten” list. Luckily, one of my roommates is from Casablanca and we traveled with him and another friend from Tangier. Having Moroccan friends with us really made things easier. We even met the mother of one friend and the father of the other.

Breakfast in Tangier

The amazing blue city of Chefchaouen

Tannery in Fez

Casablanca

For the future

I signed up for the Madrid half-marathon so I’m in the process of shaping up and training. I’m also looking to get back into bellydance and I’ve been searching for classes here.

That’s all for tonight, but I’ll do my best to post more regularly.

I’m Getting on a Jet Plane

I’m currently sitting in the airport in Philadelphia. I’ve finished my cheesesteak and it’s the last “Amurican” meal I’ll have for a while. Within a couple hours I’ll be in the air and headed for MADRID! Next you hear from me, I’ll be on a whole different continent and plotting a whole separate course.
Leaving is bittersweet. I’m sticking to my decision to test out these dreams and try them on for a while.

Wish me luck.

Suspending My Disbelief for a Moment

Hello all!

I’m really sorry I’ve been incognito for a while. I made it through skydiving! I have been dealing with a few personal things….yeah.. I’m not going to go into it so much, but this past Monday I finally received the confirmation that there is nothing left for me here to hang on to. My flight for Madrid leaves on September 4th!

 

I am still in disbelief.

 

Everyone who needs to know at work now knows. I’m so lucky that they have been so supportive. Today, my manager told me that he was talking about replacing me anyway…. but because I was almost certainly about to be promoted to a new position I had applied for. Oh well.

I have to write my letter of resignation tonight, but I really have no idea where to start! There are so many feelings and thoughts running through my mind right now. I’m also worried about when I should actually tell my students that I’m leaving. I don’t want it to turn into some kind of crazy countdown. O_o

 

I guess I should let all of my friends know and plan some sort of bon voyage party, right?