Santillana and Samosas

David and I realized a few weeks ago that we have been slacking.  We’ve been here since September, but until the end of November, we hadn’t been to any of the many charming little towns in either Castilla y León or Cantabria that are all easily accessible by bus.  So when I went up to Santander for Thanksgiving, we hopped on a bus on Saturday morning and went to Santillana del Mar.  It’s known as “el pueblo de las tres mentiras, porque ni es santo, ni llano, ni tiene mar.” (The town of the three lies, because it is neither santo (holy), llano (flat), nor near the mar (ocean).)  But the town is fairly well-known within the north of Spain, and the name really comes from Santa Juliana, or Santa Iuliana, who is buried in the Colegiata, a church and monastery built in the twelfth century.  It’s an incredibly well-preserved medieval town, with very strict laws intended to help maintain the historical nature of the place.  For example, only residents and tourists staying in a hotel with a garage may bring a car into the city.  It’s a charming place, and I really liked the Colegiata, but after we walked up and around all three streets, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do.  We also had the misfortune of arriving too late to visit both the monastery and the art museum (the other draw, according to the guidebooks) before they closed for the siesta, and decided to leave on an earlier bus before the museum reopened rather than try and find something to do for an extra three hours while waiting for the bus.

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The Best Part

I was having coffee recently with a friend who’s studying abroad in Valladolid and about to go home, and we were talking about different things we liked about the city.  When I asked her what her favorite thing about the city was, she had a hard time choosing just one thing.  I was teasing her about it, but then she flipped my question back onto me, and I realized how hard it was.  I think I told her my favorite thing was shopping for food, but even after giving her an answer, I couldn’t stop thinking about the question, and I came up with a different favorite.  Continue reading

Santander: Topographic and Taste-errific Exploration

I’m really enjoying the chance to get to know Santander.  When I studied in Sevilla, I made frequent weekend trips to nearby Spanish cities and towns, but never got to know any of them more than superficially.  Just noticing the differences between Valladolid and Sevilla has been really interesting, but the chance to get to know a third city (without actually living there) is a pretty unique experience.  Having met some other couples who managed to end up teaching in the same city, I was initially jealous and a little cranky, and while it would be really nice to be able to see David all the time, I’m growing to appreciate this opportunity to get to know another part of Spain.

Last weekend, we went with Sarah and Jon to a huge park in the northeastern part of the city, Parque Mataleñas, which is bordered on two sides by the ocean.  We walked around the edge, looking out over the cliffs at the beautiful green sea.  After our scenic paseo, we wandered over to the lighthouse, where they had a great collection of paintings of lighthouses on one side of the exhibition, and the most bizarre collection of lighthouse paraphernalia on the other (think matchbooks, salt and pepper shakers, and empty beer bottles, all emblazoned with some image of a lighthouse). Continue reading

A Weekend in Madrid

This weekend, my program finally had its orientation in Madrid (even though I got here 2 weeks ago).  Elizabeth and I were walking to catch our bus on Thursday morning, and ran into a whole group of Auxiliares from here in Valladolid.  Turns out there are 26 of us in the city, which makes me feel a little ridiculous for not having found any of them yet.  Also, apparently I did a really terrible job of looking for the facebook group, because it’s been around since like April.  Whoops.

Rose Garden in the Parque del Buen Retiro

Anyway, Madrid!  We got in around 12:30, and the whole group of us trekked over to the hotel.  We seem to have gotten there just in time, since when we left 20 minutes later, there were about 50 people in line to check in (whereas there were 3 in front of me).  I was randomly placed with two other Auxiliares, one British who’s teaching in Navarra, and the other French who’s teaching elsewhere in Castilla Leon.  Elizabeth and I went with Catriona (the girl from London) to meet a friend of hers for tapas for lunch.  We went to this incredible place called Txakolina, which I highly recommend if you’re ever in Madrid.  They serve Basque-style pintxos, every single one of which was delicious, filling, and very reasonably priced.  Elizabeth and I split two, and of course I forgot to take pictures of them. Continue reading


Field of sunflowers, seen from the train

This weekend I went up to Santander to visit David.  On the way up, I saw several fields of sunflowers, and I just slapped the camera up against the window (as my grandmother likes to say) to grab a picture of them.  I think it turned out fairly well, given the moving train and all.  The field reminded me of something I saw in a fruteria the other day–“dead” sunflowers for sale, for their seeds!  I didn’t have my camera, but the full head of the flower was just sitting in the window, seeds still attached.  I’ve never seen anything like it before!  I guess if you buy them that way, you have to roast and salt them yourself, haha. Continue reading