Monday, April 1, 2013

March Monthly Update: Happy Flowery Passover Edition

It’s weird to be able to say I “carry” (llevar) six months in Spain now—half a year. I’m still having a great time living here and speaking Spanish, especially now that spring is here, but I know I’ll be ready to go back home in June and recharge over the summer with family, friends, and food. This post’s title is a literal translation of the Spanish name for Easter, Pascua Florida; they use the same term for Easter as they do for Passover.

Valencia, Spain
Valencia, seen from El Miguelete bell tower

Traveling to Valencia and Alicante

Alicante, Spain
Supper with friends, Alicante
At the beginning of the month/end of February, we had a long weekend holiday to celebrate Día de Andalucía, or Andalucía Day, so I made the journey to coastal Valencia—Spain’s third largest city—and Alicante, two hours south where friends from college are currently studying abroad. Valencia was the most beautiful city (and tasty, too!), and I had a wonderful time in little-visited Alicante spending time with old friends and even going to the Evangelical/Baptist church in town.

Cooking and baking for potlucks

Pintxos in Spain
Homemade Basque pintxos
Yeah, you could call me a foodie, but I think that’s just a nice little euphemism for Person Who Loves to Cook and Eat A Lot. One of my language assistant friends in the next town over had a house “re-warming” party after her roommate moved out, so I made Basque-style pintxos of salmon, cream cheese, and anchovies. They were a hit with the mix of American expats and Spaniards that attended.

Later that weekend, some of us Úbeda-based language assistants tried to ameliorate the lack of American-style big breakfasts here in Spain by having a massive brunch of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, fruit salad, coffee, orange juice, cookies, and sweet potato biscuits (which I baked). The biscuits weren’t the same thing as Cracker Barrel, but I think they were enough to hold us over until the summer.

Eating my way around town for the tapas festival

Tapas in Úbeda, Spain
“Essential Úbeda” tapa
at the restaurant Ibiut
I’m not sure if I’ve ever explained this on the blog before, but tapas are small little appetizers that you can get at any bar/restaurant in Spain. What Spaniards often do with their friends is, instead of going out to dinner, they go from place to place and get something to drink and a little tapa to go along with it. Over the span of a few hours they end up having eaten a full meal.

So here in Úbeda, the town recently sponsored a festival in which the local eateries could show off their skills and offer an artsy tapa estrella (“star tapa”) for a flat 2 €. I really enjoyed it because the series gave me the opportunity/excuse to visit many restaurants I had never eaten at before, even after living half a year in this town of only 35,000! Also, because food. Haha!

Traveling to Morocco

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chefchaouen
Over the week of vacation during Semana Santa (“Holy Week” leading up to Easter), I headed south to the provincial capital of Almería on the Mediterranean coast where I caught the overnight ferry to the Spanish African city of Melilla. From Melilla, I took the train to the medieval walled cities of Fez and Meknes, and also visited the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the gorgeous blue-and-whitewashed town of Chefchaouen.

Moroccan mint tea
Moroccan mint tea
Reentering the EU via the other Spanish African city of Ceuta, I took the ferry to Algeciras and made my way back to Úbeda for Easter—but not before spending three hours in Gibraltar! It was a simply wonderful trip; I didn’t spend too much money, lodging and transport worked out swimmingly, and the country—its people, cuisine, sights, and language—were all enchanting. I can’t wait to go back one day and tour the south.

We’ll see what April has in store…
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