Semana Santa in Basque Country

Semana Santa means no school or private classes, so Arianna and I packed our bags and headed to Basque Country for their famous Basque cuisine and architecture.

Our trip began in Bilbao – I was excited to see the Guggenheim Museum and other famous buildings/sculptures the city has to offer.

Processions of Bilbao

I went to Andalusia for my first Semana Santa in Spain and was shocked by the huge processions that take place in the south. I now have a tendency to compare the processions to those of the South, and find myself thinking that they are so tiny in comparison – yet beautiful nonetheless.

Those who take part in the processions wear hats called capuces which cover their faces to ensure that only God sees them.

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The last part of our trip took place in San Sebastián. We didn’t do much other than eat and drink txakoli. Our favorite bars were:

  • Bar Borda Berri – their risotto de idiazabal and carrillera de ternera were absolutely amazing
  • La Viña – Famous for their cheesecake! It was so good we went back one more time before leaving San Sebastián (and this comes from two girls that don’t typically like cheesecake)
  • Bar Sport – Great pintxo’s, nice waiters 🙂

We woke up early our last day to walk around the city and see the breathtaking view from Monte Igueldo. We walked nearly an hour along Playa de la Concha and then took the trolley car up to the top.

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The cathedral of San Sebastián
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Monte Igueldo

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Bo Nadal from the states

Living in Spain has been such a dream. I can indulge in in all the jamón and cheap (but amazing) wine that my heart desires, travel, and live cheaply here in Santiago. What more could I want?

One of the most difficult things to overcome is being so far away from my family. Weekends are usually spent catching up with my parents via FaceTime or iMessage and flying home isn’t as simple as hopping on a quick puddle jumper. The holidays away from family is rough.

I have always been really into celebrating the holidays – listening to Christmas tunes while decorating the tree, baking cookies, decorating the house, wrapping gifts, etc. Here in Spain it’s less about celebrating Christmas and more about celebrating Los Reyes Magos which happens in January.

As I was soon to be celebrating my third Christmas away from home, I knew that I couldn’t handle the homesickness another year. I had originally told my mom and dad I would be home for Christmas when I was visiting them in June for my brother’s graduation but Darrin and I decided it would be fun to surprise everyone 😉

Over summer I was working as an au pair in Coruña and my mom frequently asked if I had found a Christmas flight. I kept telling her I hadn’t been looking too much, it was still too far out to be looking for a flight and I wasn’t sure what my work schedule would be like. Eventually I told her I had decided I wanted to take advantage of my time in Europe and get some travel in (aka I would not be going to the states for Christmas). Keeping the secret was incredibly difficult! Darrin and I almost ruined it more times than we can count, but in the end, we were able to pull it off.

I’ll never forget my parents’ reaction when I walked in the door to surprise them. It was by far the best Christmas. I was also able to meet my new baby niece, and she is absolutely beautiful!

 

 

Puente in Valencia

A few friends and I spent this past weekend in one of my favorite cities – Valencia. We had a wonderful time filling our bellies with paella, horchata and fartones, biking to the beach and seeing all the beautiful sights the city has to offer.

Contrary to belief, paella is not Spain’s national dish. Each autonomous community has their own typical dishes and paella just so happens to be Valencia’s. Paella Valenciana consists of rice, chicken, rabbit, flat green beans, and alubias or garrofó.

One of my favorite ways to see and learn about a city is by going on (free) walking tours. Our hostel had daily walking tours – which was perfect! Our guide Eduardo was hilarious and extremely informative. Some sights we saw while on the tour included: Centro Arqueológico de la Almoina, the cathedral, Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, the beautiful Torres de Serranos that was used to protect the city, the Merat Central de València. We learned about the history of Spain (information ranged from why Spain is called Spain… It means The Land of Rabbits to an explanation of Las Fallas that take place in March).

During our tour, we stopped inside a small chocolate/sweet shop in Plaza de Santa Catalina to purchase some horchata and fartones. Although horchata can be found in the states, it is quite different from Valencian horchata. It is consumed with a farton – a sweet glazed bread. Eduardo informed us that the best way to consume a farton and horchata was to soak up the liquid by dipping the farton. It was marvelous.

Saturday was spent biking to the beach along the Túria River (which is actually dried up). The path along the river is so awesome! There were so many runners and bikers enjoying the beautiful Valencian sun. We also biked right past Parque Gulliver and La Ciudad de Ciencias y Artes; a truly breathtaking sight.

Carnaval de Laza

Last year I celebrated Carnaval in Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain with my two best friends.  This year, I kept the festivities local.

Carnaval in Santiago isn’t really a big deal, so on Monday, my friends and I squished ourselves into a car and made the two hour and forty five minute journey to Laza, Ourense. I was not told where we were going and to bring ‘ropa que se pueda manchar’ (clothes you can get dirty).

La Farrapada

‘La Farrapada’ is a giant mud war that takes place in the Praza da Picota. Rags are thrown across the plaza with the intent of hitting and dirtying the other opponents. Upon our arrival, I was immediately grabbed by a man dressed in military gear and I knew what it meant. I was going to be thrown in the bathtub of mud. I was warned by the boys that it is better to go with them rather than to resist, so I willingly went (after I removed my valuables from my pockets). Luckily, the man only made me put my feet in the water. However, on the way back, I was pegged in the face with the rags more times than I can count!

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Praza da Picota – La Farrapada in action
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Tricked and thrown in the bathtub of mud for the SECOND time.

Baixada da Morena de Cimadevila acompañada das Formigas, Toxos e Cobelleiros

After lunch, we made our way up the hill to see the musicians play and get some dancing in before the red ant and flour fight. Toxo is a plant typical here in Galicia. It is a pretty yellow plant, with needles. During the Carnaval of Laza, they hit people with the toxo (ouch).
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A little before the fight, Alexis and I heard bells and went to watch the peliqueiros. They run the streets swinging a whip (and sometimes hit people with it if you cross their path). Their costumes are absolutely stunning.

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Los Peliqueiros

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The flour and ant fight starts at twilight – when the sun sets but there is just enough light to see. At the end of the day, we were all absolutely filthy – but it was such a blast!

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Post flour and ant war.

Gastronomy: Percebes

Galicia is famous for its gastronomy.  For instance, we have Padrón peppers doused in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, caldo gallego, and my personal favorite; pulpo á la feira.  Galicia is particularly famous for its excellent quality marisco, or seafood.

Percebes, or goose barnacles are filter-feeding crustaceans that live attached to the hard surfaces of rocks and flotsam along the coast. They have a strange appearance, slightly resembling a foot and toe, but that is exactly how they got their name. Percebe derives from the Latin words: pollicis (thumb) and pedis (foot).

Due to a small production and the risk percebeiros take to harvest them, percebes are quite expensive. This video has been beautifully put together to capture how much hard work goes into a harvest.