Saturday, January 31, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Things in Spain (so far): Jan. 2015

Life in Spain moves much slower than it does in the US. They go home every afternoon to be together, eat, and siesta and they are constantly taking walks with their dogs and enjoying the beautiful weather. That being said, these three weeks have flown by and I cannot believe that it is almost February. I feel settled in Valencia and have begun to get into a routine here. At this rate, my time here will be gone in the blink of an eye. Here’s my top ten favorite things so far (in no particular order):
1. Paella lunch
            My first full weekend in Valencia, ISA took the whole group 20 minutes outside of Valencia to a farm that has been cooking authentic paella for years. Did you know that paella (pronounced pie-ay-yah) is a dish from Valencia? There are two different variations, a seafood one and a meat one. I had the meat one at this lunch which includes chicken, rabbit, and snails. Everything in it was fresh from this farm too. They cook it in huge flat pans, using paddles to stir. One of the keys to authentic paella is using orange tree wood which flavors the dish and cooks it perfectly. They served the paella to us along with wine and the meal lasted hours. It was great and I was stuffed and happy.

2. La Alhambra
            This is an Arabic palace in Granada, Spain. It is a must see in Spain and I was so excited to see it. The night prior to my visit, we climbed the hill opposite of the Granada and were met with the breathtaking sight of La Alhambra lit up at night with a gypsy guitarist playing in the background. In the morning we toured the hundreds-of-years-old palace, grounds, and its gardens. I cannot say enough about all of the architectural details and the beautiful use of water. Water was a main element in the design of La Alhambra because the Moors were from the desert and water was a luxury. They also built an ingenious hydraulic system. I was amazed by La Alhambra.

3. Swing dancing
            Most of you know that I am a dancer. This week I FINALLY found a local swing dancing scene. Getting out on the dance floor was so comforting to me. These Spanish dancers know the same dance as I do. It is a universal language. When my use of Spanish failed, my dancing didn’t. I am sure I will make great friends among this group in the following months.
4. Beach
            One of Valencia’s biggest draws is that it is on the Mediterranean. It is still winter here (50s or 60s everyday) but when it gets up to 70 in the middle of the day I have been heading out to the beach. I’ve brought a packed lunch, friends, and a book and had the perfect afternoon on the sand. The water is a beautiful blue and I never get tired of seeing palm trees. I can’t wait for it to get even warmer.

5. Apartment living
            This is my first time living in an apartment and getting to cook for myself every day. It has come really naturally to me. I enjoyed my homestay in Bolivia but here I am living on my own in Europe. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I have two great roommates and we have enjoy shopping, cooking, eating, decorating, and dancing together in our little flat. Grocery shopping is always an adventure because their products here aren’t quite the same so it’s always an improvisation game (with great results so far). We have had some issues with heat and electricity but it has been resolved and I’m glad I made the decision to live in an apartment.
6. Bikes
            Valencia has a public bike system called Valenbici. There are stations every few blocks and for 30 euro a year you get unlimited use of them. There is a station right outside my apartment, my school, the beach, the downtown shopping area, and the historic district. Sometimes I don’t even check if there is a station where I am going and just find one on the fly. I love biking around this city especially in this weather. I either walk or bike everywhere.
7. Tapas and wine
            Tapas are Spanish appetizers that you get at every bar. Their bars are quaint and drinking is very casual here. Every beer or glass of wine comes with these little snacks for free. In Valencia it’s normally a crunchy chex-mix or olives but you can purchase the typical tapas that Spain is well known for. In Granada they were much more extravagant (though the beers were a little pricier). In summary, I. love. tapas. Also, wine. That is all.
8. Spanish (linguistic and cultural)
            As a Spanish major, improving my Spanish is really important to me. I find it comes easily and I can understand a lot (though they often speak really quickly). It feels great. I’ve attended a few language exchanges and have been complimented on my Spanish. I’m also really enjoying (most of) my classes. They are taught all in Spanish. One of my classes is a linguistics class and I love learning the nitty gritty of the language.
9. Views of Toledo
            I’ll just leave this here.

10. Rebajas
            Rebajas are sales that happen twice a year. That’s right, it’s sale season. Everything is extremely discounted to get rid of their old stock. I’ve found several great finds (including a pair of leather booties for 15 euro, and skirts and tops for 4 euro). I don’t want rebajas to ever end.

I could write so much more, but I’ll leave it at this. 
Until next time, 

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