Showing posts from January, 2014

Get Excited About Springtime in Andalucía

Springtime in Andalucía is when the sun shines stronger, when people fill streetside patios, when festival season starts back up, and when the orange blossom perfumes whole cities. The most southern region in Spain is famous for its sunny stereotype and vivacious residents, but the powerful heat in the summer is legendary—think 40º C (100º F) as the daytime norm. Living in Úbeda last winter, it was cloudy and rainy most days, but once March rolled around, the weather underwent a transformation—and Andalucía came back to life.

The sun came out (and I wore shorts, thank you very much), it seemed like there was a festival happening every weekend somewhere in the region, and people flocked to bars and cafés to sit outside and soak up the warm, relaxing atmosphere. Let me share with you why I think the months of April and May in Andalucía are simply the best time to experience this exciting part of Spain.

1) Warmth

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Hiked from the town where I work up the hill to I…

The Food I Miss From Jaén Province, Spain

I have to admit, I’m extremely spoiled getting to live in Galicia, the Spanish region with perhaps the best food in the whole country. From fresh, affordable seafood to a variety of cheeses and sausages and even tasty almond cakes, my stomach is certainly satisfied with my decision to move up north this year.

However, while living down south last year in the Andalusian province of Jaén, I grew very fond of several traditional dishes and snacks, some unique to the area and others shared across the south. If you’re ever passing through Jaén, make sure to try some of these for me when you stop for a bite to eat, because I miss them a lot!

1) Lomo de orza
Lomo de orza or pork loin confit takes its name from the large clay jars—orzas—it was traditionally preserved in (it’s pronounced “LO-mo day OR-thah” [ˈ de ˈoɾ.θa]). Before refrigeration was invented, people would buy cuts of pork after the annual pig slaughter, cook them, place them in clay pots, and cover them with olive oil. Doing…

Photo Post: The Roman-Walled City of Lugo, Spain

Last year, when I was teaching down south, I would visit the nearby city of Linares about once a month or so for the friends, the food, and the train station. It had become kind of like a second home when it came time for me to say adios to Andalucía last May; visiting so often made the town much more familiar than others in the region.

This year, I’d have to say that the northwestern Spanish city of Lugo has taken up a similar role in my life. Although I’m living in Santiago de Compostela—a two-hour bus ride to the west—I’ve been to Lugo three times already since June, and I’ll probably be heading back again at least once or twice this year, too.

The capital of a sparsely-populated province of Galicia, Lugo is most famous for its incredibly well-preserved Roman walls that surround the city’s entire historic core. Within the perimeter marked out by the 2,000-year-old walls, you can find a cathedral that’s a hodge-podge of architectural styles, a grand central square that leads off in…

Hiking Pico Sacro Outside of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Galicia is (in)famous for being rainy; upon explaining to my Andalusian friends and teachers that I would be moving up north last year, they would almost instantly exclaim how much it rains here. However, I’ve been keeping track of the weather, and so far, it really hasn’t been all that bad. In fact, for five whole weeks in November and December, we had, at most, a single day of rain.

During this welcome dry spell, a few American friends in town and I took advantage of the nice weather and made a little daytrip from Santiago de Compostela to hike up a mountain called Pico Sacro. The name means “Sacred Peak,” but I’ll explain the mystical origins of the title below. Only half an hour outside of town, Pico Sacro rears up and gives a grand panorama of the surrounding areas from its summit.

An easy, rewarding hike
Hiking up the mountain wasn’t a walk in the park, but it wasn’t extremely strenuous, either. Just an hour along rural roads and forest paths brought us up to a small parking are…

What I Enjoyed the Most in Florence, Italy

The first stop on the 10-day tour of central Italy I took over Christmas break was Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region. I’m not naïve enough to think I can write something original about one of the most heavily visited and touristed places in the world, so I’m not going to attempt to put a new spin on this city, especially after only being in town a mere three days!

So instead of trying to write with a unique angle, I’m just going to come out and be honest with y’all: I saw and did the touristy, surface-level things…and really loved it…and I’m okay with that! Here are five tidbits that I personally enjoyed the most about (touristy) Florence.

1) The whole Duomo complex
Before I began researching Florence, I knew that the city’s Duomo or domed cathedral was a pretty important monument, but I had no idea it had so much going on!

Of course, you’ve got the cathedral building itself, a gigantic Gothic church clothed in gorgeous contrasting blocks of white, green, and pink marble. Fr…

They Speak More Than Just Spanish in Spain

Did you know that they speak more than just Spanish in Spain? Did you know that there isn’t just one Spanish language, but perhaps eight Spanish languages? Until I started studying Spanish in college and came here for work, I had no idea myself. Spain is actually home to quite a few minority languages that make the country a more interesting place.

It makes a lot more sense that the birthplace of español could also be home to half a dozen other languages when you realize that Castilian Spanish began its life as the everyday Latin spoken around modern-day Burgos province in north-central Spain.

During the Reconquista—a 700-year military struggle by the fledgling Christian kingdoms to the north to “re-”conquer the Muslim-ruled (and Arabic-speaking) lands to the south—Castilian emerged alongside Galician, Astur-Leonese, Aragonese, and Catalan, and as the conquerors pushed south into the Moorish states, they brought their respective languages with them.

Under Alfonso X of Castilla and Leó…

The Ancient, Whitewashed Village of Carmona, Spain

In late October, I caught one of the last Ryanair flights of the season from Santiago de Compostela (where I’m living now) down to Sevilla, which is the capital of Andalucía—the southernmost region of Spain and my former home for a year. The last time I had been in the south was the early morning of June 1st, on my way north and west to begin the Camino de Santiago before heading back home to America. Thankfully, I was able to make my dream of returning to Andalucía come true this fall by flying down to Sevilla, where I got to hang out with Reina, one of my good American friends from Úbeda who is now living there.

While I was in town, she and I took a fun daytrip to Carmona, a small pueblo (village) about half an hour outside the city. When I first visited Sevilla back in April, my bus there stopped at Carmona’s bus station, and I was immediately hooked: a lovely, whitewashed village crowned with a huge, ancient stone castle. There was no question—I was going back, someday!

And go bac…