El Faro

I’m currently in Nantes, France!  However, I realized that before I can even begin to post about France, I have to get my photos up from previous trips.  Yesterday I posted about Ronda, today I give you…

Another hiking post!  As many of you already know, I’m a broke language assistant and determined to make the best of my year abroad in Spain.  Lucky for me, I’ve been placed in a city on the Straight of Gibraltar.  An avid hiker and forest walker, I love knowing that beautiful views, fresh air and some hearty exercise opportunities are a short walk away.  Take this hike, for instance: to start it involved a ten minute bus ride from the center of the city to the outskirts.

Algeciras has played an important role in history for many, many years; it’s location on the Straight of Gibraltar and a mere 14 kilometers from Morocco means that it’s come into contact with just about every culture possible.  Think of it as the Panama Canal of Europe and Africa.  So, when a friend proposed a hike to el faro (the lighthouse) on the coast, I thought it’d be a great idea.  I can only imagine how many people have used this lighthouse as a guide over the years…

The short hike (more of a walk, really) starts in Playa Getares in the San Garcia neighborhood of Algeciras.  Taking the boarwalk around the beach (I recommend you stop at the fruit stands and grab an apple or two; the frozen yogurt place isn’t open til summer, darn it!), you cross the parking lot infront of the farthest apartment buildings and pick up the road. 

Note to the scaredy-cats of the world: if your stomach churned in fear watching Eddie Murphy run across the freeway in Bowfinger, this walk is not for you.  To make it to the lighthouse, you have to walk on the side of the highway for a few miles.  And no, there is no shoulder.  Don’t wear black, walk towards traffic, make sure you are visible, and don’t be stupid.  Of course, walking on the freeway is stupid to start with, but we’re going to overlook that paradox right now…

I shot a couple photos (and had a couple shot of me).  I know I’ve posted a million pictures looking out towards Morocco or Gibraltar, but every time I see it it’s more and more amazing!  Plus, I finally figured out how to edit photos on my computer (all previous ones are 100% untouched!) and I upped the saturation on these.  Though, I have to say, the water was really a blindingly beautiful shade of turquoise.  It reminded me of the water off Tulum in the Mayan Riviera…

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This is my ultimate dream, to have a boat and sail the coast…I was green with envy watching people sit off the back of this boat drinking beers.  It looked magnificent.

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That’s me, hanging out on the edge of a cliff looking out at Gibraltar.  Thanks Christine for helping me pose 🙂

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Old docking yards on the coast; these are pretty common in all nooks and crannies around the coast.  They’ve been since replaced with new ports and docking yards in every city; if you know where I can find information on these, please pass it on, I’m very interested!

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And here’s the lighthouse, the prize at the end of the hike.  The weather was perfect; over the straight you can see Morocco clear as day.  To the left, you can see a small city; that’s Ceuta (part of Spain).  Moving to the right along the coastline, you can see the civilization pick up again; that’s the old part of Tangier.  You can’t see it in the photo, but if you go farther down the coast to the right, you can see the new port of Tangier, where you would sail into if you leave from Algeciras or Tarifa.  Looks like you could swim to it, right??

I went with Emma and Christine, two good friends.  When we finally arrived to the lighthouse, there was a couple there.  I’m pretty sure we ruined their romantic afternoon by showing up.  Oh well.  We ate sandwiches and apples and sat on the wall and discussed upcoming travel plans and how we need to start wearing sunscreen.  Pretty good for March 🙂

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(Mom, what are these?  They look like pom-poms…please identify them for me!)

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“Help me Ronda, help, help me Ronda”

For being such an exceptional town, this will be an exceptionally lame post. 

Despite humming the Beach Boys “Rhonda” in my head all the way there, Ronda is a town in Andalucia, a two hour train ride from Algeciras.  The ride was fantastic, and inspired me to look for new hikes and paths.  To be perfectly honest, if we had arrived in Ronda, and immediately gotten on the return train home, I would have been content.  The countryside is truly beautiful here, and staring out the window has become quite the pastime 😉

The city itself is built on the edges of cliffs, with a deep gorge cutting through the middle.  Ronda is famous for its incredible views of the surrounding paisaje and the stomach-churning views down into the gorge.  My photos are pretty bad, I won’t even try to deny it.  However, for my parent’s curiosity about what exactly I’m doing on this side of the world, I’ll put them up and enlighten them a bit.  Here you go, Mom and Dad!

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It was really difficult to take good photos on account of the intense sunlight; most of the time I was shooting and couldn’t even see the screen on my camera.  It was a total surprise to go through the photos later that night on my computer.  Guess I’ll have to go back once it’s grey and cloudy outside 🙂

 

 

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Who doesn’t like pizza on the weekends?

Yet another successful Saturday afternoon pizza making date with myself.  I’m digging this tradition; partly, because I know pizza is on the menu on Saturday, I don’t crave it at any other point in time.  But mostly, because every week it’s something completely different, and the possibilities of flavors makes it an ongoing “Can I make this one better than the last?” project.

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For Christmas, my sis-in-law gave me Williams-Sonoma Pizza cookbook.  We both agree that no cook book is complete without an overwhelming amount of beautiful, sharp photos.  This book has done its duty well: every picture is tantalizing, and it truthfully made me consider making every night a pizza night. 

Today I chose a Goat Cheese, Olive and Pesto Pizza.  Although all the recipes seem simple enough, this one (at least) had ingredients that seemed findable.  I was wrong.  In typical expat fashion, I had to re-design the recipe to make it work with what’s available in southern Spain. 

Instead of the big doughy crust it asked for, I had to settle with a flat-bread type of crust (I didn’t have yeast).  Out of 100% curiosity, I threw everything I could think of into the dough: a bit of butter, some olive oil, sea salt, a splash of milk and water.  The recipe calls for homemade pesto (from fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan and Romano cheese, and pine nuts).  I had pine nuts and olive oil, but came home from the market with hierbabuena instead and some sort of Greek cheese that I couldn’t read the label.  It looked and smelled close enough to Parmesan, and was wayyyyy cheaper.  Easy decision.

This was my first time making pesto.  I used my handheld blender because I don’t have a food processor, and at first was frustrated.  It’s not designed for this type of job, and I constantly had to stop and scrap out the blades to start blending again.  However, the end result was very tasty, and made more of a chunky sauce than a pesto.  I was also shocked to realize how much olive oil really is used to make pesto.  I put in only about 2/3 the amount, and still felt like I was sinning.

The dough was rolled out, covered with slices of goat cheese, and then topped with the pseudo-pesto mix.  Popped in the oven at temperature HOT, it was tasty as can be a little less than 20 minutes later.  Taking advantage of an already heated oven, I threw in some chopped pumpkin drizzled with olive oil after the pizza came out; after having this for lunch, I think a light puree will be in need for dinner.  Happy weekend everyone!

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Image“The Honey River.” Sounds promising, right? I agree, and that is precisely why E, C and I searched it out last weekend. Plus, we’d heard we can get to it without a car or bus. BINGO! As three extranjeras without modes of mobility (besides our feet), destinations that can be arrived at sans transportation are highly desirable.

After some miscommunication, E and I missed our city bus to the San Garcia neighborhood, where we were going to meet with C and continue on. “No prob,” we told ourselves. “We’ll walk to San Garcia!” This first leg over our trip set us back an hour, and to be honest, just getting to C’s was a hike in itself. From here, we decided again to walk (instead of taking the city bus) to the trail head. Oooh boy.

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Thank goodness, the trail was short and easy. Only a couple miles long, it winded into the hills and followed the sun dropping behind them. I thoroughly enjoyed the vegetation, and the abundance of cork trees! (which continue to fascinate this Northwesterner; I’d never seen them before coming here!)

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We stopped for a quick bite in a grove of trees; I’d brought a couple mini-chapata (known as ciabatta everywhere else in the world…) sandwiches I’d made with chicken breast and spreadable swiss. I couldn’t help but think about how impossible it is to plop down on grass in the PNW; everything is always wet, no matter how dry it seems. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. My friend E who had visited a few weeks ago from Istanbul brought me a couple incredibly special presents. Along with what should have been a few weeks’ supply of bonafide pomegranate turkish delight (it lasted me less than one week…), she also gave a Turkish towel, custom to use in the public baths there. The bonus is that it’s thin, dries quickly, and though I won’t be visiting a Turkish bath anytime soon, I will enjoy using it on the beaches here and for hiking trips. I was mad at myself that I’d forgotten to take it on this mini-hike, just for the fun of breaking it in! Next time!

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Finding the river in the woods was thrilling. Though I sea the ocean every day, I don’t see rivers very often. Even more fun was jumping on the rocks along la orilla (shore).

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We “discovered” a moss-covered molino (grainery) that, I assume, originally ran on the river’s water power. Also, we ran into one of my students hiking with his family! It totally made my day. The week before, I’d mentioned that I like to hike, and on Friday this student told me that he was going to El Rio de la Miel (River of Honey) on Saturday. I joked that maybe we’d find each other in the woods, but I didn’t actually think it’d happen. I think what made it so special was the opportunity to meet his parents, and know that outside of school he is a participating member of his family; seeing him joke around with his kid brother and sister warmed my heart.

Here’s a final shot of the cascades at the end of the trail. Nothing overwhelmingly spectacular, but still fun to end a hike at a waterfall, no matter how small.

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“The Honey Riv…

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The Odyssey, 11-year-old style

Life as an auxiliar in Southern Spain is never boring.  Today we continued with our Ancient Greek studies in my 1st level Social Sciences class. Today’s focus was on Greek theater and literature. After a brief introduction, I told them about Homer and The Iliad and The Odyssey. As a class, we actively read my adapted version of the story (to be honest, it was super adapted, only a page long!). I handed out costumes/props (everyone had something), and we proceeded to act out the story of Odysseus’ travels home from the Trojan War in Troy to Ithaca.

We also snapped photos of our huge input charts we make at the beginning of every new unit. Thought you’d enjoy seeing “Ancienct Egypt” alongside “Ancient Greece”. In my defense, I know the posters are totally not accurate/to scale 😉

Enjoy the pictures!

 

 

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Dammit, Obama!

Dammit, Obama!

This is a quick (one paragraph) summary from The Daily Beast (my preferred news source-it’s my blog, my opinion, get over it) on their daily Cheat Sheet. Personally, feel like it’s the federal government’s responsibility to protect every woman’s right to contraceptives; beyond that, it’s a woman’s decision whether she wants to use them or not. I understand that certain religion-affiliated employers might have a difficult time accepting this, as it goes against their moral rights. However, I also feel that this is the responsibility of the healthcare provider to provide. No one’s forcing anyone to use the contraceptives, just that they be made available. Maybe trust in your employees to not use them, if that’s the concern? I’m clearly blind to the other side’s opinion. I just don’t get it.

I particularly liked conservative columnist Cal Thomas’ remark that he thinks Maddow “is the best argument in favor of her parents using contraception. I would be all for that, and all of the rest of the crowd at MSNBC, too, for that matter.” A little harsh, but gets the point across.

Yesterday, I went on a day trip to Cadiz with my 4th year students.  I had no idea what to expect, but the chance to visit a city in the region with a guided tour sparked my interest, and I signed up as fast as possible.  Before, I’d only heard that Cadiz had beautiful beaches; I had no idea how historical the city was. 

To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember a lot of what the guides told us (isn’t that frustrating about tours?) because it was a lot to take in, and all in Spanish.  We had a city tour in the bus for the first half hour, then a walking tour for another hour and a half.  While we were walking, characters would appear out of nowhere in full era clothing and playing the part of historical people of Cadiz, engaging us in the tour as we went along.  It was interactive, fun, and I noticed that the students were actually listening and laughing at the guides’ corny jokes.  I was as well 🙂 Again, I don’t remember a lot, however I do remember one lady mentioning that Cadiz was one of the first three cities in Europe to have coffee.  Clearly, I had a date with destiny in this seafood-and-coffee loving seaside town. 

My battery died almost immediately (boo!!) but I managed to get a couple shots; only one was good enough to put online.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Cadiz is home to some pretty incredible architecture.  I’ve never seen anything like this in my life!

 

 

 

Day trip for seafood and culture? Yes please!