Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Weekend Adventures {Sevilla}

Not really sure I can count this as a true weekend adventure, but since we spent the night and were gone for more than 24 hours -- I am counting it :)

Part of my Christmas present from Trevor was a night away in Sevilla with one of my very close friends here -- and it did not disappoint!  My friend, Nicole and I took the train up to Sevilla early(ish) on a Saturday morning.  The train is super easy, about an hour ride.  The only difficult part is finding someone to take you to the train station since we live 25 minutes away from the nearest station!

The train station in Sevilla isn't super close to the main part of the city, so either take a 5-10 taxi or walk the 25-30 minutes into town.  We chose to walk and grab Spanish breakfast on the way -- aka eating breakfast about 11am which consists of coffee, orange juice (fresh sqeezed) and a tostada (toasted yummy bread with whatever you want on it, but mostly jamon, olive oil and/or crushed tomatoes).  I couldn't tell you where we eat, but it was near the mushrooms (or Metropol Parasol).

We then dropped our suitcases off at our hotel -- Hotel Venecia which was seriously such an amazing hotel!  Close enough to the main areas (shopping, food, the Cathedral) but far enough that it wasn't loud at night -- and it was a great room and not too expensive. 

Then we went shopping!  This is the best time to be in Spain because of las rebajas or sales -- and very good sales at that :)  Twice a year, pretty much every single store has sales, with everything ranging from 30-70% off.  In the winter, sales always start the day after Three Kings Day (so January 7th), even if that day falls on a Sunday like it did this year.  And everyone, and I mean EVERYONE goes shopping during rebajas.  The stores and streets are just packed with people and it was SO MUCH FUN!  While I didn't buy anything...  I did find my feria dress (ha -- one year I will get a super fancy one...)

After a full morning of shopping -- mostly at El Corte Ingles and the main shopping streets, we had the most amazing lunch at El Pinton (they did have English menus and a few of the waiters spoke English if needed).  We were kind of in the tourist area of Sevilla but we randomly picked a place and it was seriously amazing.  We lucked out and got a table right away but it sure filled up by 2:30pm -- I highly recommend the buffalo mozeralla salad and the tempura battered egg.  So so good.
{mine was without the pine nuts}

We then wandered around the Santa Cruz area (or barrio de santa cruz) which is so very touristy (it is right near the Cathedral and Alcazar) but so fun -- all the small streets, the orange trees and funky little shops!  Also some great places to eat in the area if needed.

We made our way back to our hotel for a quick rest and break (but not before snagging some treats at the El Corte Ingles gormet food section!).  We had another amazing meal for dinner at Perro Viejo (no English menu and little English spoken by the waiters) -- highly recommend the salmorejo and churrasco de pollo.  We then bar hopped our way down to the cathedral where we went to the bar at La Terraza de EME.  And while the drinks were extremely expensive, the view overlooking the cathedral was worth it and such a fun way to end the day!

Then on Sunday we took the train back to our neighboring town -- it was such a wonderful short time away!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Spanish Life {Spain Houses}

I know I have written about our household appliances (and how they are different from ones in the states) and I have also shown you our house when we first moved in.... but I thought it was time to update you on a few things, especially after our highly entertaining electrical events in November!

I think after almost two years here, we have finally figured out the quirks/differences in our appliances and how best to use them.  I think I have finally figured out how to use our Spanish oven -- it heats up VERY different from an oven in the states and requires some patience in cooking or baking.  It often means I am sitting in front of the oven changing temperature, settings and rotating things so they get cooked or baked correctly.  I recently made a cheesecake and it was a lesson in patience for sure!  But it turned out wonderfully and I was very proud of myself (and also really surprised).  And that is just the oven (learning how to use the washer and dryer took some time too!).

Now on to the actual house....  All the walls are all concrete and brick.  This makes it slightly challenging to hang things.  In fact we put up new lights fixtures in the basement and we have yet to figure out how to get one part of each fixture to stay in the ceiling.... so we currently have duct tape holding part of our fixtures up :)  Not the best looking way, but it works. 

The houses are typically all tile for floors -- no such thing as carpet.  Nice and cool in the summer, but absolutely freezing in the winter.  We all wear slippers or socks in the house, especially first thing in the morning when the floor is ice cold!  And because of the concrete walls, the houses get so so cold in the winter, so cold.  However, we also have high humidity year round so we have to worry about mold, which means we need to air out our houses, especially in the winter.  I typically open all the bedroom windows in the morning and we have three (yes THREE) dehumidifiers running almost constantly.  We keep our basement windows open year round unless we have a storm.  I accidentally left them open last spring when we had hurricane force winds and we ended up with sand all over the basement floor -- ugh!  Lesson learned.

The patios/driveways (balconies too) are also most often tile/concrete so many people literally mop their patios.  In fact, we have a separate mop specifically for outdoor use.  And given that we get some nasty storms -- bringing in lots of rain and sand (resulting in mud), the outdoor mop comes in handy!  I laugh every single time I mop our patios, yet I am still embracing this Spanish way of life.

And then our house (and many others in Spain) are strung together electrically like Christmas lights... one thing goes out and EVERYTHING goes out.  Our power goes out frequently and it can be anything from a random power outage to something tripped a breaker, especially if we have too many appliances going at once....  I have never used a breaker box more often in my entire life than since we moved to Spain!

We had an interesting week right before Thanksgiving when our outlets (but only in certain rooms) and our lights kept going out.  So the outlets in our office, living room, basement and half our kitchen would go out -- and we couldn't figure out why.  The washer would work, but not the dryer and they are right next to each other.  Turned out we had a bad outlet in the basement that caused everything to trip and go out....  But then it kept happening, so the wonderful electrician came again and discovered it was our solar panel that was causing everything to go out.  So for about 48 hours we didn't have hot water until someone came and fixed our solar panel.  But at least we had power!  And while frustrating, we literally just had to laugh (and I learned a lot of Spanish words pertaining to electrical issues).  And our story is one of many -- almost every single person here has a similar story.  

And make sure that when you have issues with your house, it isn't on a weekend -- nothing happens on the weekend!   There will be no one to come fix whatever is wrong until Monday.  We (more) recently had yet another issue with our solar panel and hot water and sadly, it broke on a Friday afternoon so we were without hot water for the whole weekend until Monday came around -- thank goodness for friends who are willing to let us steal their hot water!

So while all of this can cause me to scream at times, it is just a quirk that comes with living in a foreign country and we still absolutely love it here in Spain.  We have a wonderful (WONDERFUL) landlord who will bend over backwards to make sure things are working properly in our house and that does make all the difference!  And overall, we seriously love our house and are very happy we went with the one we did.

And the nothing to do with the house... but the Peanut loves to bake (probably why I have finally figured out our oven) -- so here she is making brownies with her MamMam (my mom)!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Christmas 2017

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season -- we just finished ours here in Spain.  While our friends and family in the states were done with their holidays a week ago, ours were still going strong!  Although I will say, three holidays in three weeks is exhausting!

If you need a refresher on Spain's Christmas season -- read last years post here.  But a quick recap: Spain celebrates Christmas with family and while Santa isn't a big deal here, some presents are still given on Christmas.  New Year's Eve is another big holiday with everyone eating grapes and toasting with cava!  Then finally -- the big holiday for Spain: Three Kings Day on January 6th (Twelve Night or Epiphany).  So, we once again embraced the Spanish way of life and celebrated all three....

We started off with Santa pictures and celebrating Santa's arrival via helicopter on base in early December -- read about those events here (spoiler alert: our Peanut still hates Santa).  Serafina's class also took a field trip into our town center to look at all the various nativity scences the churches have set up -- we rode the little tourist train and had an absolute blast -- and no, she does not go to a religious school, it is just a normal part of the season -- visiting all the nativity scenes.  And yes, I even got to enjoy a beer on the field trip (totally acceptable in Spain)!

We celebrated Christmas Eve with some friends, including our aunt/uncle and their family (yep, Trevor's uncle is stationed here too and it is awesome!).  Serafina had so much fun running around with the older girls while the adults enjoyed amazing food and drinks.  Santa even came to visit and brought all the kids presents... and once again our sweet gal COMPLETELY freaked out.  It was so sad to watch (but also a little funny)!

Santa visited our house (and don't worry, we left cookies out!) and it was so much fun watching Serafina come down the stairs on Christmas morning.  We hadn't set out any presents so she was so shocked to see the cookies eaten and ALL the presents.  Santa brought her a workbench and she loved it!  She didn't want to open any other presents, just wanted to play with her workbench!  Then when we finally got her to open another present, she just wanted to play with that toy -- needless to say it was a long long morning of opening presents! But we had a blast and a wonderful lazy morning before heading to our very close friends house for Christmas dinner with our "crew" here in Spain.  We all have kids about the same age and it was so much fun just letting all the toddlers run around while we enjoyed more amazing food and drinks!
leaving cookies out for Santa

Our New Year's Eve was low-key and spent at home.  Most Spanish celebrate with their family until after midnight, then they all head out to the bars -- so things don't get started until about 2am!  We ate our grapes, toasted and then called it a night :)

Then finally Three Kings Day!  I have been looking forward to the parade all year -- it is so crazy and so fun and so Spanish!  The parade consistes of usually five or six floats (three floats for each king, a float for the three gifts to Jesus, then others... and also bands and various characters.  This year it was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paw Patrol).

We were all prepared to head to the parade in the eve of Three Kings (January 5) but there was a chance of rain that evening so they moved the parade to January 4.*  It was a large deal to change the parade so notices were everywhere!  Last year the parade went right near our house so we just saw it once and went home.... this year, because of the date change, they had to do things a little differently.  Normally the kings arrive by boat the morning of the parade and all the children in the town get a chance to greet them, sit in their laps, hand them their letters -- basically the Spanish version of going to see Santa, then the parade is in the evening.  However, with the date/time change, they arrived by boat and the parade immediately followed so this year the route went backwards.  We chose to go to the parade at the beginning and had every intention of seeing it once (like last year) and heading home.... Well....
so mesmerized by everything
beginning of the parade

We saw the parade at the beginning but we weren't close enough to catch too much candy so we just had to go to a another spot!  Plus our sweet gal wanted to see more of the music and "princesses" -- local girls who are dressed up in fancy princess-type dresses on some of the various floats.  So we quickly ran (with every other person in town) so another spot on the parade route and had great front row viewing.  We were with friends who hadn't been to a Kings parade before so it was quite fun watching their reactions as the candy and toys are literally THROWN** at the people along the route.  Candy is flying in all directions, people are flying in all directions to catch the candy (and toys) -- it is pure chaos and SO much fun.  I even got a battle wound from some teenager who was trying to take candy from my hand :)

We weren't quite ready to call it a night, so we stopped at one more spot along the route on our way back home.  And this paid off BIG TIME.  We aren't sure why, but one of the King's floats stopped right in front of us for a good ten minutes -- normally the parade moves fairly quickly.  So the King and his helpers just kept throwing candy and toys and more toys at everyone -- we came away with two stuffed animals, a ball, a parcheese game, SO MUCH CANDY, goodie bags full of more candy and treats.  And so much laughing.  We don't know who had more fun -- the kids or the adults.

Then on the morning of January 6th, we woke up to find that the Three Kings had visited our house!  We had saved a few small presents for Serafina to open on Three Kings Day.  She was so excited to see presents for her and was just adorable opening them -- sadly, no pictures because (not surpringly) our sweet Peanut was butt naked while opening her presents!

We had the best holiday season and while it'll be nice to get back to our normal routine, the season will be missed -- just now looking forward to next year that much more!

*Southern Spain does NOT do rain.  As a born and raised Seattleite this just cracks me up, but seriously it is amazing how many things are canceled or changed due to rain!  In their defense, when it rains here -- it RAINS.  Like inches in an hour, flooding roads, the works....

**At our last stop, we were behind a car that was parked on the road (many cars were so it wasn't illegal) and the car had DENTS in it from the candy hitting it so hard.... if that gives you any indication as to how hard this candy is thrown!  And it is all hard candy, so it does some damage to anything it hits!

Blog Design by Get Polished