Daytrippin': Cazorla

Back when the weather was still warm, a group of friends and I decided to take a day trip to a nearby Cazorla. It took about an hour on the bus through the olive groves and hills to reach this beautiful little city nestled into the foothills of beautiful mountains. Cazorla is an entry point to the national park, Sierras de Cazorla, but being without a coche, we were bound to explore the town proper and the castle perched above.
First, we visited the Castillo de la Yedra (Castle of the Ivy), which is a fortress that was built perched on the side of the mountain, overlooking the white town below.
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We explored the castle, and were scolded at by one of the tour guides for venturing outside of the organized group (one of the fun aspects of a language barrier: getting in trouble for rules you didn’t know existed). We brought sandwiches and ate on the side of a dirt road looking up at the mountains and all the tree species we haven’t seen for months (there are only olive trees surrounding Ubeda!). We wondered how long it would take to walk up the mountain road to reach the national park, and for a moment wished we had a car, or a friend with one to see it. We agreed we would be back in the spring time, Cazorla was too beautiful to only be experienced once.
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We strolled back down to the town center and enjoyed some cervezas in the plaza before getting back on the bus.
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Daytrippin': Baeza

A few weeks back, I joined a coworker and his friends on a day trip to nearby city, Baeza (pronounced “Bye-ay-tha” with a strong Spanish lisp). Together with Úbeda, the two cities are on the UNESCO World Heritage list for their well-preserved Italian Renaissance architecture. The streets in the city center are narrow and ancient; it feels like the Lannisters are going to come around the next corner.
We started off by visiting the Cathedral, learning about the history and then climbing the bell tower to see 360 views of Jaen.
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After exploring the cathedral, we walked the tiny streets for a bit before settling down at a tapas bar, enjoying the free tapas that only exists in a few parts of Spain (luckily, Jaen is one of them). After downing a few glasses of wine, and waking ourselves back up with coffee, we strolled the city a little more before heading back to Úbeda.
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Día de Acción de Gracias (aka Spainsgiving!)

After spending last Thanksgiving in a pizzeria in Bangkok, I wasn’t allowing this year to not be celebrated without the utmost ridiculous amount of home-cooked goodness. Being the only American in my apartment, I organized a Thanksgiving feast for the day after the holiday, on Friday November 28th. Probably the most exciting aspect, besides the idea of pie and stuffing, was that it would be the first Thanksgiving for many of my new friends here. One of my roommates was aghast at the list of food being prepared or brought by guests. I told her, this is a serious holiday. Seriously gluttonous.

It was my first Thanksgiving away from home where I would be cooking most of the food myself. I never realized how much work is put into this day until I was the one orchestrating it all. I think I spent around 15 hours baking and cooking in total by the end of it. Regardless, I really enjoyed it. I loved looking up the recipes and searching the supermercados for ingredients. I planned on cooking my Dad’s stuffed artichokes, vegetarian stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, apple pie, and somehow making cranberry sauce in a cranberry-less land. All in all, I was shocked how GOOD everything turned out. There were zero injuries (although I almost stabbed myself with a dull knife), mishaps, and no broken dishes (a perfection I’m sure I’ll never be able to recreate).

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I’d like to say that we spent the entire night eating, but that was just not the case. We ate as much as we could, and hardly made a dent in the amount of food. I was pleased just knowing how many leftovers we would have in our apartment. After digesting a bit, we had a midnight coffee session, and went out to the bar. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Let’s just say that I found myself re-familiarizing myself with some of food around 5 am that morning.
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This year I’m very thankful to be sharing one of my traditions with new friends that I’ve made in Spain. And for my family Skyping me from New Jersey and LA. And I’m thankful for apple pie, but that’s a given.

Our Spainsgiving menu del dia:
2 roast chickens and gravy (all thank you to our meat guru, Kristina)
green bean casserole
stuffed sweet potatoes
garlic oven roasted potatoes
stuffed Italian artichokes
cranberry sauce (which I completely forgot to even serve)
Irish Shepard’s pie
Spinach dip
Risotto
Mac and Cheeeeeese
Salad (had to get something healthy in there)
cookies de Jasmine
Apple Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!