Tag Archives: Spain

The Magical North Coast of Spain

31 Jan

Earlier this month, we took a detour north and east from Porto (Portugal) where we were spending some time on our sailboat to see the northern coast of Spain – the region we swore up and down would be one of the first trips we would take in our European adventures.  Since we’re just getting to the area eighteen months or so in, we did not quite meet that goal!

But…we should have – we were in awe.  Had we done this earlier, it’s quite likely that we would have done a few more trips to explore more.  The area reminds us a lot of the Pacific Northwest of the US, where we both are originally from – it’s simply beautiful.  The pictures don’t give it justice, either!

The two areas we “toured” (if you can call a drive through with as many stops as we could fit into the day) were the Spanish provinces of Galicia and Asturias – in the summer months, there are many outdoor activities (think kayaking, canoeing, hiking and the like).  It would be an incredible area to bike-tour, although important to stay off of the main drags with traffic.

Enjoy the scenery through the pictures we took!  Note – the raised tomb-like structures are called “hórreos” and are actually granaries that were erected to protect grain stores from rodents.  There may be a historical preservation requirement that bans their removal these days, as they were incredibly common.  Interestingly, the hórreos in Galicia were more like tombs, while those in Asturias were more square.  Before we knew what they were, though, we were brainstorming hard and fast to come up with crazy stories on what the heck they were (and stopping every 2 minutes for another picture)!


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Magic Kings

8 Jan

Somehow, another holiday season has come and gone…even in Spain, where the season lasts through the most important day for the children – el Día de los Reyes Magos on January 6th. This year’s el Día de los Reyes Magos was going to be a quiet one for us – we had just returned from a trip to the boat and were looking forward to a day at home that included going for a run, eating our Roscón de Reyes, and lots of reading.


Imagine our surprise when the Reyes Magos turned up – a true surprise – the house was a mess, and I was demonstrating yet another fashion faux pas with red knickers and black cycling socks!  Jokes aside, we were super happy to see our friends Begoña and Javier and quite overwhelmed with the goodies they brought to remind us of the fantastic foods in Spain.


The best gifts are those of great friends (but amazing organic Spanish cheese, jamón and a gran reserva from Rioja rate a distant but notable second!).


Ho ho ho!

2 Jan

Excuse our absence…we’ve been busy removing squeakers from our new toys.  Hopefully your holidays were merry and bright!

Stockings for doggies Jordan Haley


18 Dec

Happy holidays, Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas!

Recently, I got to see Madrid’s own Christmastime public display that is put on each year by El Corte Inglés (a huge, overpriced department store that has almost everything – kind of like Wal-Mart, but classier…).  This display is at Corte Inglés de Preciados, downtown, and it is worth going to see everyone’s faces light up at the songs and the animation.  The show was about 15 minutes long.  I understood some of the lyrics (with help from my friend, Yani) and almost learned the refrain for the Cortylandia song, which is in the video below – catchy, isn’t it?

A tooth fairy named Pérez (or García)

3 Dec

At the age of thirty-something, I just found out that the tooth fairy was not who I thought she was!  Imagine my shock and surprise when I learned (SPOILER ALERT!) that the tooth fairy is not a dainty little ballerina fairy who exchanged the teeth that I lost as a child with quarters and dollar bills, but in fact….

…a MOUSE named Pérez!  Well, his name is Pérez if you are in Spain or South America, but apparently he goes by García in Mexico.

It turns out that children here in Madrid with a newly-plucked tooth have the option of:

  1. Placing the tooth under their pillow,
  2. Throwing the tooth onto the roof, or
  3. Bringing it to the museum of el Ratón Pérez (conveniently located on Calle Arenal, here in Madrid).

Lucky kids!  Similar to the deal we have with the tooth fairy in the States, el Ratoncito Pérez leaves money in exchange for the teeth.

I was incredulous when I learned about the story from my friend, Yani while eating churros and chocolate.  So incredulous, in fact, that since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to go check out the museum.  It turns out that it is a busy place – when we showed up, it was closed for a school visit (visions of 30 desperate kids wiggling their teeth the night before immediately came to mind).

The story behind el Ratoncito (the little mouse) Pérez is a nice history lesson.  Alfonso XIII was a king in Spain, and his father had died when he was young.  After young Alfonso XIII lost his first baby tooth (or in Spanish – diente de leche…a milk tooth), his mother asked a Jesuit priest to write a story to help calm the young king.  So, el Ratoncito Pérez was born in the imagination of the Jesuit priest, and after the priest told the young king the story of el Ratoncito Pérez, the little mouse paid a visit to the young king that night.  The tale also mentions that the little mouse lived at Calle Arenal, 8 (where the museum is today), in a metal box of cookies.  A great write-up about the story is on the Secretos de Madrid blog.


Outside the museum of El Ratón Pérez. Children can bring their teeth or their letters to drop off for el Ratoncito. I am curious to know what happens to the teeth!

And why el Ratón García comes to visit kids living in Mexico?  I have no idea yet, so stay tuned…

¡Feliz Thanksgiving – have a batata pie!

22 Nov

My favorite American holiday is Thanksgiving* – like last year, we are in Madrid for the holiday.  Last year, we celebrated at a Mexican restaurant here in Madrid who made a pretty good Thanksgiving dinner, but this year, we are super fortunate to get to spend time with some American friends who have invited us for dinner. Life is good.

In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be nice to make a pumpkin pie with the one can of organic pumpkin that we were sent from the US (this is a very special can, as I have not found canned pumpkin in Spain yet) for Justin to take into work to share a bit of Thanksgiving with his coworkers.  Last week, Justin thought so, too.  However, yesterday, he decided that maybe one pie would not be enough for his work.  I also realized that my kitchen arsenal was not properly equipped for pies, so in addition to improvising pumpkin, I improvised pans.

Luckily, I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to food – I want it to taste good, but it’s never going to make me cry if I can’t create something as beautiful as the cooks and chefs on HGTV.  In fact, I’d rather have a story to remember why things were a bit different (or so I tell myself).

So, he’s bringing in a pumpkin pie and a sweet potato pie.  I was able to find sweet potatoes (not the yellow garnets that my aunt always raves about, but “batatas“).  The pumpkin pie was cooked in a slightly too small shallow cake pan that my grandma gave me, and the sweet potato pie was cooked in an enormous, brand new silicone cake pan that caused the pie to swell up and engulf the crust during the baking.  They’re not perfect, but perfectly recognizable as pies – plus Justin has instructions to use the can of whipped cream ad libitum (or until his thumb gives out)!

Pumpkin pie with walnut streusel.

Sweet potato pie that I have renamed “batata pie”.

Since the pumpkin pie was cooked in too small a pan, I *HAD* to make a mini pie with the leftovers (and we quite happily ate it last night!).  Hopefully Justin’s coworkers enjoy them today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

* I am referring to the spirit of the holiday for giving thanks for family, friends, health, and the amazingness of life….I try not to think too much about the history of the US and colonization of an already occupied land (and everything that entailed), since that would be a bit of a downer…

Spain Road Trip 3

2 Nov

The last part of a whirlwind trip through Andalucía and back into Madrid…

Tammy and I finished off our day touring the white hill towns in Granada.  As is the norm with Granada (at least for us), it took an extra 90 minutes or so to find the hotel, and I fully expect to get at least one friendly letter from the city asking me to send them money since I was probably driving where I was not supposed to.  But…we found the hotel, checked in, and then headed out to find some of the really good tapas that Granada is famous for.  We ended up finding place #1 – a gritty bar that I insisted we try since there looked to be “real” people inside – the tapa was some potato chips alongside a few pieces of cheese drizzled with olive oil (this tapa became known as “the oily cheese”).  We left.  Tammy chose place #2 – a swanky wine bar that took a while for the tapas to show…but it was definitely worth it – the two of us (mostly vegetarians) each gobbled up a mini hamburger with fancy sauce and swilled our delicious wine.  Pretty soon, we had decided we needed to see what the next tapa might be, so we ordered another glass of wine and were rewarded with a pretty little open-faced sandwich with pork and a green pepper….just as tasty!  We were convinced that the food would be excellent and opted to order a great rare tuna salad.  The place was a find – Puerta del Carmen.

The next day, we toured the Alhambra – the third time I had been, but the first time I was actually able to tour the palaces.  It was lovely, to say the least.  After our tour, we made our way back to our hotel to fetch the car.  Getting out of Granada was even more of an adventure than getting to the hotel – I think I was driving on sidewalks, while Tammy tried to hide under her seat.  But – we made it out of the city, somehow, and we drove back to Sevilla to return the rental car and hop the AVE back to Madrid.

Back in Madrid, Justin got to play tourist with us, so we visited a few museums, went spelunking for lunch in El Molar, and did a lot more eating and drinking…to show Tammy what we’ve learned about Spain!

It was a super visit.

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