After visiting Menorca in August (the WORST month to go to a Spanish beach), I wanted to keep it simple the following year and find a location that was easy to get to and required very little effort on my part once I got there and with hopefully less crowded beaches. After some research, I settled on Nerja on Spain's Costa del Sol and booked an Airbnb room in a centrally-located flat with what turned out to be a lovely owner named Lupe. After taking a train from Madrid to Malaga and an easy bus ride to Nerja, I arrived and checked in to the apartment. Lupe was warm and inviting and although my Spanish sucked, we managed to communicate. Any time I'm in a new place, my first order of business is to get my bearings and likely have some adult beverages, so I set out to see what I could find.
The day after my food tour in Santiago de Compostela, I was up bright and early for food tour #2. This one would take me outside of Santiago to explore the Rias Baixas area located on the coast of Galicia and renowned for its Albarino wine. The tour would be a bit different than your standard 3-4 hour food tour in that we'd have a full day exploring cute coastal towns, a winery, and, my favorite part, eating mussels and drinking wine while cruising down an estuary. I wasn't actually sure if I'd get to go on this tour at all since there didn't seem to be enough people interested when I initially contacted the tour company. I persistently pestered Martin at Discover Galicia for months leading up to the date to find out if it was a go. I found out a couple of days before that it was and signed up immediately. I was a bit surprised when I met the group that I was the only non-Spanish speaking person on the tour, but decided to seize the chance to spend the next eight hours with native speakers in the hopes I'd learn some more Spanish. It turned out to be a wonderful day interacting with everyone in my broken Spanish (with some translation help from our fantastic guide, Ruben).
If I blogged for a living, I would starve to death...my consistency at posting has been terrible lately! But, in my defense, I had a laptop death, resurrection, and then a partial laptop death, so my focus has been more on dealing with that than getting my backlog of blog posts done. Finally, I have some free time to post about all of the amazing adventures I've gone on since April...celebrating a milestone birthday in magical Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, an amazing food tour around Galicia, which is the second best thing I've done since living in Spain (my time with Esme Tours in Pozos is still numero uno), a hike on the outskirts of Madrid, and a Memorial Day weekend trip to France. First up...Santiago de Compostela and the incredibly beautiful and delicious region of Galicia.
I'm not sure the picture above does justice to the deliciousness of the calcot feast I experienced in the countryside outside of Barcelona. It was a bucket list item that I'm so glad I can now say I've done. I arrived in Barcelona the day before my scheduled tour to a dreary and rainy day. The one bright spot was the very chatty and knowledgeable cab driver who taught me so much in the short ride from the train station to my hotel. I learned that he was actually baptized at the famous La Sagrada Familia back when they still held baptisms there.
Ah, Spain...land of a million festivals. Or, so it seems. While I'm still on the fence about going to the running of the bulls this year in Pamplona, I knew I wanted to attend Las Fallas in Valencia. So, my friend and I hopped on a bus and made the four-hour trek from Madrid to sunny Valencia to witness the spectacle of La Crema (or, "the burning").
When I told people I was going on a mushroom hike, for some reason, everyone assumed it was for the magical type of mushrooms. It was actually an easy, pleasant hike for edible mushrooms accompanied by a mushroom expert to make sure we didn't pick any that would ultimately kill us.
Before starting work in October, I wanted to squeeze in one last day trip somewhere in Spain. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Valencia and was intrigued to check it out. Needing a bit of ocean therapy, I headed to the east coast of Spain to explore Valencia for a day.
One of my favorite pastimes is wine tasting and its probably the only thing I miss about the Bay Area besides some of my favorite sports teams. When I learned that the island of Menorca has several wineries, I decided to check out the largest of them, Bodegas Binifadet.
Cala en Bosch
After a cross-country move from California to Virginia, a trans-Atlantic move from Virginia to Madrid and finishing an intense TEFL course in July, it was time for a relaxing island vacation to decompress from all of that moving. Spain, and Europe in general, have a ton of beautiful beach options. Initially, I debated going to Greece, Portugal or Italy, but decided to stay closer to home and check out the beaches of Spain...specifically, the Balearic Islands, a group of islands located off of eastern Spain. I was looking for a place that was relaxing, less crowded and touristy, and not a party island. I chose Menorca and mostly got what I was looking for minus the less crowded part. In August, everyone flocks to the beaches and Menorca was far more crowded than I had anticipated. Lesson learned...never go to European beaches in August! Despite the crowds, the island of Menorca and its beaches are stunningly beautiful even if it does take a little extra legwork to actually get to those beautiful beaches. Since 1993, Menorca has been a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which has helped keep the island in such pristine condition. Most access to the beaches requires thirty minutes or sometimes more of hiking to reach them and there are essentially no facilities once you get there, so you have to make sure to take water, food and anything else you'd need for a day on the beach.
I'm not even sure where to start with this post...my experience doing the three night/four-day village cooking retreat with Esme Tours was hands-down one of the best things I've ever done. I loved it so much and didn't want to leave when it was time to head back to Madrid! I could go on and on about how amazing it was. So, if you don't like tons of pictures of food and adorable Spanish villages, you might want to stop reading because this post will be unapologetically full of them!