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!
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).
Plaza de la Virgen
La Llonja de la Seda
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.
Horchata & a farton! Was SO happy it was lactose free 🙂
Museum of Ceramics. The facade is incredible
Plaza de la Virgen
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.
Fernando had a wonderful time in the states. It was SO good to see my family and spend time with friends. As always, it was very difficult to say goodbye to everyone, but it’s good to be back in Galicia.
This past weekend, my brother and his girlfriend were here in Galicia! I had so much fun showing them around Santiago/A Coruña. I wish I could keep them here forever! 🙂
They were eager to drink wine from cuenca’s, eat pulpo, pimientos de Padrón, and zorza!
Fernando’s family had a great time showing them around – they took us to Lalín for queimada; which is a traditional alcoholic beverage in Galicia. It is made from distilled wine, herbs, coffee, sugar, orange (sometimes lemon) peel, cinnamon, and brandy. We ate dinner and watched a ‘queimada ceremony’ which is meant to ward off evil spirits. Once the ‘ceremony’ and queimada are finished, everyone drinks.
They were also able to see were I am currently living and working – Coruña! Santiago is a beautiful city but we’re not near the ocean. Galicia has beautiful beaches and ocean views so I was happy they were able to see the water when we visited the Tower of Hercules.
I’m bummed we don’t have more time together here in Galicia, but that just means they’ll have to come back and see more 😉