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Showing posts from September, 2013

Tearing Down 6 Spanish Stereotypes

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Except for three months home for the summer, I’ve been living in Spain for one year now. After reading countless blogs about the country, running into my fair share of tourists, and sharing my experiences with friends and family, I’ve gotten a sense of the sort of stereotypes that Spanish culture has in the minds of the rest of the world. In this post, I’ve gathered six of them that I find particularly annoying and have tried to break them down, giving more accurate examples of what Spanish society is really like. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section once you’ve finished reading!

1) Paella is the national dishPaella (pronounced “pah-AY-yah” [paˈeʎa]) is a famous rice-based dish that originated in the Mediterranean region of Valencia. Saffron gives the rice its warm, golden color, and the savory rice is usually cooked with vegetables like artichokes and meat like rabbit, chicken, or various crustaceans and shellfish. It’s a big part of the culture of eastern Spain…

A Guided Tour of Úbeda, Spain

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So far, I’ve written an homage to Úbeda—the city where I lived for eight months while teaching English in southern Spain—as well as a post outlining my favorite restaurants in town. To conclude Úbeda Week on the blog, I’d like to present a (free!) Guided Tour of this really nice village I once called home. Famous for its Renaissance architecture, its tradition of pottery that dates back to Moorish times, and its bottles that overflow with high-quality olive oil, Úbeda is a small city but with plenty to keep you occupied.

So I’ve put together three itineraries in this post that you can follow, combine, or rearrange if you like. Obviously, opening and closing hours may not always correspond with the given path, but hopefully these routes give you an idea of what there is to see in town so you can put together your own personalized plan of attack.

I’ve also drawn up a map of Úbeda (thanks Google Maps!) with the routes through town highlighted in red, brown, and blue, so you can follow al…

How to Spend 48 Hours Eating in Úbeda, Spain

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Although living in a town of only 35,000 sometimes had its drawbacks, something I found really refreshing about living in Úbeda this past school year was that there were virtually no chain restaurants (especially American ones), which forced me to patronize local restaurants and eateries instead of corporate carbon-copies. Okay, so there was a Telepizza, but that was it. Eight months of hanging out with friends and going out for tapas later, and I think I may have formed an opinion or two about what places I like in Úbeda. In this post I’d like to follow the “48 Hours” guide popularized by publications like the New York Times and the Independent, but focusing solely on food. Get hungry!

Day 1Breakfast
If you’re craving some chocolate con churros—long, crunchy donuts that you dip in molten chocolate—then Churrería ANPA is where you need to go. Nº 18 on the busy Avenida Ramón y Cajal (northeast of the Hospital de Santiago), this simple but popular churros joint is welcoming and serves ‘…

An Homage to Úbeda, My Pueblo in Spain

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Although most people encounter the medium-sized town of Úbeda as a quick daytrip on tours of Andalucía, for me it was something quiet different. Úbeda was where I lived for eight months while working in southern Spain, my first introduction to Spanish society, my home. From appreciating Renaissance architecture, getting lost in Moorish-era streets and alleyways, eating ALL the tapas, to adopting the local accent, a year abroad in this town of 35,000 was one of the best experiences of my life, and I will (read: already do) miss this place a lot.

Now, I’m sure you wondering, where is this crazy town Trevor keeps blabbing on and on about on his blog? Well, Úbeda (pronounced “OO-bay-dah” [ˈu.βe.ða]) is one of the biggest cities in the southern province of Jaén, about three hours south of Madrid, two east of Córdoba, and two north of Granada. As it’s located in northern Andalucía below the Despeñaperros mountain pass, Úbeda is at the crossroads of most traffic going into, out of, and acros…

How I Fell in Love with Jaén, Spain—the Queen of the Olive Groves

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Oh, Jaén—the capital city of the province of the same name, the province where I lived and worked for eight months in southern Spain this past year. Jaén, a city I have really come to love, a city that, despite its central location, is completely bypassed by tourists on their way from Granada to Sevilla. Jaén, this anonymous yet very typical Andalusian city, enchanted me over the course of the school year until I nearly teared up leaving town for the last time back in April.

But it wasn’t always this way.

I remember my first visit to Jaén (pronounced as a throaty “khah-AYN” [xaˈen]) in late September; my bilingual coordinator was taking me to apply for my NIE and TIE (residency) since the oficina de extranjería or foreigners’ office in the capital was the only place you could do so in the whole province, about the size of the state of Connecticut. We hopped on and off new stretches of highway that crossed through the hordes of olive trees that are grown in the region, and as we approa…

A Pilgrimage to Fisterra, Spain

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After walking 115km (72 miles) along Spain’s Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in June, I finally arrived at the end point to the Way of St. James: the city of Santiago de Compostela. Hooray! It was an amazing feeling to look up at the Baroque façade of the cathedral in the Praza do Obradoiro on that gray Sunday morning, but my journey was not finished yet—there were three more days left!

Although my Camino across northwestern Spain formally ended at the cathedral of Compostela, I decided to take the plunge and continue walking 89 more kilometers west, all the way to the ocean. Three long, hard days later, the Atlantic was in my sights.

What the Camino to Fisterra is You can think of this pilgrimage to the fishing village of Fisterra (a.k.a. Finisterre) as a coda or a victory lap for the main Camino de Santiago, although there are some important traditions and rituals associated with making your way to the sea. Upon arriving at the beach just past the lighthouse at Cape Finisterre, …

Mérida, Spain: Extremadura’s Living Reminder of Rome

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On my way between moving out of Úbeda and going up north to hike the Camino de Santiago this June, I stopped off for two nights in Mérida, the capital city of the westerly Extremadura region. For the longest time I had wanted to visit this town because of its well-preserved Roman ruins. After all, Mérida, or Emerita Augusta in Latin, was once the capital of the Lusitania imperial province that included most of modern-day Portugal as well as west-central Spain. Because of that status, it was bestowed with all the standard things you’d expect out of a Roman city: buildings like theaters, forums, arenas, and temples. Despite 2,000 years of history passing through the region, much of Mérida’s ruins are surprisingly still intact.


Aqueduct Train pass between the Los Milagros Aqueduct as they leave the train station going west. Although they aren’t nearly as impressive as, say, Segovia’s aqueduct, it’s still a reminder that Romans were able to bring fresh water from a lake 5km away into town…

Málaga, Spain: More Than Beaches

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Málaga: Spain’s sixth-largest city and the capital of the Costa del Sol—the Coast of the Sun. In the image that the rest of the world has of Spain, Málaga (along with the rest of the entire Mediterranean coast) is almost exclusively known for its beaches and summer vacationing. However, there is so much more to this major coastal town than just playas.

Now, when I visited the city in early May, I did lay out on the Playa de la Misericordia beach and soak up the sun. After a long, rainy winter and spring, it felt so very good to take in some solar rays (with sunscreen, of course) and dash in and out of the icy sea. I’m not writing this post to judge people for flying down to Málaga for the beach; it’s great! But you’re completely missing out on a really nice place if you don’t explore beyond your hotel and the sea.

A “one-armed” cathedral From an architectural standpoint, Málaga’s lovely cathedral isn’t very different from other Renaissance ones designed by Diego de Siloé—churches like…