March 18, 2019
6 Reasons Why Galicia Should be on Your Bucket List

6 Reasons Why Galicia Should be on Your Bucket List

March 18, 2019
galicia spain ourense thermal spring city camelia
 Galicia is one of Spain's best kept secrets. It's often overlooked because of its wet climate but it's actually the weather and location in the northwest of Spain which make Galicia so unique. There is a plethora points of interest from castles or cathedrals to one-of-a-kind beaches, green landscapes and Celtic influenced festivals... There are plenty of reasons why magical Galicia should be on your holiday destinations bucket list and I'm unveiling a few of those on this post.
galicia spain ourense thermal spring city cathedral

galicia spain ourense thermal spring city church
galicia spain ourense thermal spring city cloister
We have recently been on a road trip to Galicia and visited the region of Ourense. We spent a weekend at Parador de Monterrei, visited Ourense and saw the singular Carnival of Verin. But before I tell you more about our trip, let's start with some basic information about Galicia:
  • weather: Spaniards often see Galicia as the rainy region. It rains an average of 90-120 days every year. If you want to get the best weather possible, visit Galicia in summer.
  • location: it's on the far end of north western Spain and bordered by Portugal to the south, regions of Castilla y Leon and Asturias to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Cantabrian Sea to the north.
  • there are four main cities: A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra.
  • language: both Galician and Spanish are official and widely used. Galician is a Romance language closely related to Portuguese.
  • religion: the patron saint of Galicia is Saint James. According to Catholic tradition, his body was discovered in 814 near Compostela. After that date, the relics of Saint James attracted an extraordinary number of pilgrims. Even to this day, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims follow Camino de Santiago (Saint James's Way) to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela every year.
  • how to get there: it takes about 5 hours to drive from Madrid to Galicia on motorway A-6.
  • camelia is the flower of Galicia. In the west coast of Galicia you can follow La Ruta de las Camelias, a trail that will lead you through several pazos -country manors typical of Galicia- and gardens. 
Read Where to Find Spring Flowers in Spain
  • people: galician people are believed to be friendly and kind. I don't like generalizing, there are nice and rude people everywhere, but our experience there was very positive so I thought I should mention that.
  • Celtic tradition: Galicia is home to ancient relics and pagan myths linked to Celtic ones found in Scotland and Ireland. Galician language also contains a significant amount of words of Celtic origin.
parador monterrei outfit rainy weather galicia spain hotel
And now, here are the reasons why Galicia should be on your bucket list.

#1 DELICIOUS FOOD
As a foodie, gastronomy had to be my #1 reason. Every Spanish region has different delicacies very related to the climate. For instance, in the north you will find heartier dishes than in the south to bear the cold. Local dishes in Galicia include empanada gallega -a savoury pastry stuffed with tuna, pork or vegetables- and pulpo a la gallega -boiled octopus served with paprika, potatoes, salt and olive oil.
lacon empanada gallega delicacies food gastronomy galicia spain restaurant parador hotel
delicacies food gastronomy galicia spain restaurant parador hotel caldo gallego
delicacies food gastronomy galicia spain restaurant parador hotel sweet dessert pastries filloas tarta santiago
In these photos you can see empanada, lacon -similar to ham- and caldo gallego -a soup with veggies and beans. Popular desserts are Tarta de Santiago -sponge cake made with almonds- and filloas -the texture is similar to a crepe.
delicacies food gastronomy galicia spain restaurant parador monterrei hotel
#2 YOU CAN SLEEP IN A CASTLE
The amount of heritage in Galicia is impressive. As you know, we are big fans of Paradores and whenever we can we stay at one of their wonderful historic hotels. This time we chose Parador de Monterrei, a lodging built using the remains of a castle on top of the mountain. It has only 12 rooms, which makes it really cozy, a true home away from home. In high season they open Parador de Verin which is really close and has more rooms.
parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
Parador de Monterrei is 60 km from Ourense and next to the town of Verin. It's a good location to spend the night if you are on a road trip around Galicia or if you need a quiet place to rest and relax for a few days. What we loved about this place is that just the Parador is a sight worth seeing. We spent hours going around, exploring every single corner. Apart from the hotel, there's a Romanic church and a tower.

parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
parador verin hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
 parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
Read about our favorite Paradores
parador monterrei hotel galicia spain luxury historic heritage castle castillo patrimonio
#3 THERMAL SPRINGS TO HEAL YOUR BODY AND SOUL
Galicia is well known for natural baths such as the Ourense's Thermal Springs which are rumored to heal your skin as well as your body. You can find a public natural bath in the middle of the city of Ourense called As Burgas which you can use all year round. The water is around 30ºC and there's a fountain nearby with reaches 67ºC, if you look closely you can see steam coming from the water in the photo.
thermal spring terma ourense galicia spain
manantial cabreiroa galicia verin
#4 STUNNING BEACHES
Maybe Galicia is not your average beach destination. You won't find warm water and lots of people soaking under the sun. However, the beaches in Galicia are spectacular. The most famous one is Playa de las Catedrales, on low tide you can see amazing rock formations that remind you of Cathedral arches.

Read all about Playa de las Catedrales

#5 FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS THAT YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE
  • Carnival or entroido as they call it. People in the town of Verin dress as 16th-century Castilian tax collectors with intricate costumes inspired by the colorful clothes of South American shamans.
carnival carnaval entroido verin cigarron galicia spain
  • Festival de Ortigueira (Ortigueira's Festival of Celtic World) lasts four days in July. The festival is based on Celtic culture, folk music, and the encounter of different peoples throughout Spain and the world.
  • Festa do marisco (Seafood festival), October, in O Grove.
  • 25th July is St James Day, a holiday in Galicia. If 25th July falls on a Sunday, it will be considered to be a ‘Holy Year’ or Ano Xacobeo. 
#6 YOU CAN VISIT PORTUGAL
The border with Portugal was only 20km away from Parador de Monterrei so we spent a few hours on the charming town of Chaves. It was built by the Romans around thermal springs and it's worth visiting for its heritage which includes a castle and a Roman bridge.
chaves portugal thermal city spring
chaves portugal thermal city spring portugal
Have you ever heard of Galicia before?

WEAR THIS THERE
When you pack for Galicia, you have to bear in mind the weather. Pack for rainy days and mild temperatures. Also, don't forget your comfiest waterproof shoes!


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galicia spain visit ourense bucket list travel destination holiday northwest
parador luxury hotel castle heritage spain galicia accommodation patrimonio castillo

March 11, 2019
The Best Sneakers for Traveling this Spring

The Best Sneakers for Traveling this Spring

March 11, 2019
comfortable travel shoes stylish walking cute chic sneakers pink lacoste spring summer women
One of our resolutions every year is to travel as much as we can. With that in mind, the number of stylish walking shoes and sneakers has grown in my closet in the last few years. When you travel you spend many hours standing up, you are walking all day and you are bound to find those dreaded cobblestone streets -especially in Europe- so you have to pack the comfiest shoes possible.
outfit comfortable travel shoes stylish walking cute chic sneakers pink lacoste spring summer women europe
comfortable travel shoes stylish walking cute chic sneakers pink lacoste spring summer women
When I go shopping, I look for shoes that are as versatile as possible. Working full time as a teacher, I need comfy shoes to run from class to class and to stand up for hours. So I end up using comfortable shoes all the time and my high heel shoes are stored in the back of my closet. Which is actually quite a relief!

Luckily for those of us seeking comfort without compromising style, sneakers have been trendy for a few years now and I couldn't be happier about it. You can find them in all shapes and colors, there are sparkly ones for girly-girls and some even come with a platform or hidden wedge for extra height.
outfit comfortable travel shoes stylish walking cute chic sneakers pink lacoste spring summer women europe
outfit comfortable travel shoes stylish walking cute chic sneakers pink lacoste spring summer women europe

I took advantage of the sales to get these pink Lacoste sneakers for traveling this spring. I love that they have a casual design -they aren't gym sneakers- and they are easy to blend with my style since they look amazing with jeans, shorts or even dresses. As soon as I saw them I knew there were going to become my go-to travel sneakers.
outfit comfortable travel shoes stylish walking cute chic sneakers pink lacoste spring summer women europe
These shoes are made for walking...
You can get my sneakers here. Below you can find more options from Lacoste

and more styles from other brands.

What's your favorite type of shoe for traveling?

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outfit comfortable travel shoes stylish walking cute chic sneakers pink lacoste spring summer women europe
March 4, 2019
Best Fiestas in Spain: Carnival

Best Fiestas in Spain: Carnival

March 4, 2019
verin entroido cigarron ourense galicia carnaval carnival spain costume
One of the most popular and traditional fiestas in Spain is Carnival. This colorful and cheerful festival takes over cities and towns all around the country every year in February. The week leading up to Lent is a time for putting a costume, dancing to Caribbean music to forget all your woes and have fun. Sounds appealing, right?

In a lot of places in Europe, we celebrate carnival as the primary occasion for dressing up instead of Halloween. That's why those who celebrate Halloween here only wear scary costumes. Spain hosts some Europe’s biggest and best Carnival festivals which I'm going to tell you about today.

Without further ado, welcome to the complete guide to Carnival in Spain. I'm going to cover all the things you need to know about this traditional festival:
  • History of Carnival
  • When is Carnival celebrated?
  • Best Carnivals in Spain
  • Carnival food
  • Carnival music
  • Useful vocabulary
Tip: listen to this playlist while you read to set you in the mood. Warning: you'll have a hard time trying not to dance!
verin entroido cigarron ourense galicia carnaval carnival spain costume
HISTORY OF CARNIVAL

It is believed that the word Carnival derives from the words carne (meat) and vale (latin for "bye"). In other words, it's the time when Lent starts and we say bye bye to meat. The celebrations of Carnival spread across Europe during the Middle Ages and were related to religion although they probably have a pagan origin.

It is believed that Carnival originated in Europe in the pagan festivities celebrated in honor of the roman god of wine, Bacchus. Many historians say that they started around 5000 years ago in Egypt where the celebrations were pretty similar to those of the Romans. It was spread throughout South America by Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the 15th century.

WHEN IS CARNIVAL CELEBRATED?

Carnival day is always celebrated on a Tuesday because it has to be the day before Ash Wednesday. However, celebrations usually last for the whole week. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, when Christians celebrate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. So the date of Carnival depends on when Easter Sunday is set every year. This is related to the moon calendar since Good Friday is always full moon.

In 2019, martes de Carnaval is on March 5th and Ash Wednesday March 6th.

In most Spanish towns and cities, Carnival begins with an opening speech by an important local person or a celebrity, El Pregon. Then, the celebrations begin. It all ends with El Entierro de la Sardina -literally the burial of the sardine-, this parody represents the burial of vice and corruption to enter a period of reflection. It consists of of a funeral in which a large figure of a sardine is burned.

BEST CARNIVALS IN SPAIN
These are the must-see carnivals in Spain:

TENERIFE (CANARY ISLANDS)
The most colorful Carnival of Spain is celebrated in the island of Tenerife. The whole island celebrates Carnival with great enthusiasm. Colorful parades, contests and parties fill the island. The Carnival in Tenerife is the second biggest in the world only after the one in Rio de Janeiro.

There's an important competition to choose the Carnival Queen (reina del carnaval). It's similar to a beauty pageant but with spectacular dresses made of beads and satin and feathers and built with frames and wheels because they can weigh up to 450 pounds.

VERIN (GALICIA)
In Galicia Carnival is called entroido and its highlight is a popular figure: el cigarron. Cigarrons are the modern version of shamans with animal masks. It all comes from the time of the colonization of South America. Lords came back from Peru and used similar costumes from those they had seen there to scare the population and force them to pay taxes. The intricate costumes feature cowbells and whips that they move while running in the streets making a deafening noise.
verin entroido cigarron ourense galicia carnaval carnival spain costume
verin entroido cigarron ourense galicia carnaval carnival spain costume
MIGUELTURRA (CASTILLA LA MANCHA)
The origins of Carnival in the town of Miguelturra are lost in time, the tradition has been transmitted by word of mouth through generations. This fiesta maintains its original essence in this part of La Mancha. The Carnival of Miguelturra was declared of Regional Tourist Interest in 1983 and of National Tourist Interest in 2018. This town houses the Museum of Carnival where you can see incredible costumes not only from this town but from other countries.

The Carnival you can see in Miguelturra is very traditional. However, it is far from the sophistication of Venice's Carnival and has a naughty side. On the streets you can find a bed with wheels with the girl from The Exorcist on it, people eating churros from a chamber pot filled with chocolate... You get the idea.

The most important character in Miguelturra's Carnival is the street mask, mascara callejera. The costume consists of a rag or a mask that covers your face and old colorful clothes that you can find in your house. The street mask comes and talks to you repeating something like "I'm sure you don't know me" in a funny voice.
miguelturra mascara callejera churriego museo carnaval carnival spain costume
miguelturra mascara callejera churriego museo carnaval carnival spain costume
carnival miguelturra churriego ciudad real la mancha carnaval spain
CADIZ (ANDALUSIA)
Music plays an important part in the Carnival here. In Cadiz the famous "Chirigotas" make the funniest sung parodies. They are music bands that make up songs whose hilarious lyrics are based on popular culture and current events. People in Cadiz are known all over Spain to have the best sense of humour and the music they create for Carnival certainly reflects this.

If you can't make it to those places don't worry because you can find parades and parties in every single city.

CARNIVAL FOOD
Carnival may be related to the consumption of meat but what we actually eat during the celebrations are sweets. In many regions of Spain orejas (Spanish for ears) and flores (flowers) are popular. The recipe is similar, the difference is the shape.

Orejas are a delicious, crunchy dessert typical of the north of Spain. Its main ingredients are eggs, flour, oil and lots of white sugar. The anise-flavored dough is rolled out very thin, then fried and dusted with powdered sugar. They were given this peculiar name because they look like human ears even though the size is much bigger. In other parts of Spain they are known as hojuelas.
orejas carnaval spain carnival dessert sweet dulce
Flores are made with an iron flower-shaped mold and are very popular in Galicia or Castilla-La Mancha.
miguelturra churriego museo carnaval carnival spain costume fruta sarten flores molde
CARNIVAL MUSIC
Apart from the aforementioned chirigotas, Caribbean music that makes you want to start dancing is played all around. Song's like Celia Cruz's La Vida es un Carnaval or Georgie Dann's Carnaval, Carnaval appear in every single celebration.

USEFUL VOCABULARY
comparsa or charanga - a group of singers, musicians and dancers that take part in carnivals
chirigota - is a genre of Spanish choral folk song originating in the region of Cadiz. The songs are satirical and performed in the streets by performers wearing costumes during carnival.
murga - a form of popular musical theater

I hope you enjoyed this guide to Carnival in Spain.
Do you celebrate carnival where you are?

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spain celebration festivity fiesta carnival carnaval entroido galicia verin cigarron
February 25, 2019
Where to Find Spring Flowers in Spain

Where to Find Spring Flowers in Spain

February 25, 2019
beautiful spring springtime flowers cherry blossom bloom europe spain scenery cute spring dress sezaneIn the next few weeks, spring will have sprung in Spain. Longer days, beautiful flowers, warmer weather...springtime is the perfect time to travel. It's also perfect to search for beautiful blooms and blossoms and in Spain you can find plenty. You can see some of the most spectacular flowering trees in Europe. The cherry blossom trees in Valle del Jerte, Extremadura are world famous but there are many more blooms and blossoms such as almond trees, sunflowers, geraniums, camellias... 

On this post I'm going to tell you where you can find spring flowers in Spain and show you some beautiful spring pictures. Shall we take a look?
beautiful spring springtime flowers cherry blossom bloom europe spain scenery quinta molinos madridbeautiful spring springtime flowers cherry blossom bloom europe spain scenery quinta molinos madrid
CHERRY BLOSSOM
VALLE DEL JERTE (EXTREMADURA)
This is the #1 spot to see cherry blossom trees in Spain. This stunning display of nature is a must if you are in Spain this spring. This valley produces half of the cherries in Spain so you can get an idea of the amount of cherry blossom trees you can find there. The beautiful white blossoms last for ten days and usually happen between March and April. Prepare your walking shoes, as there are many trails to walk around.
  • Where to stay
Stay at the Parador de Jarandilla de la Vera. It's 1 h and 19 minutes by car and you can see other amazing places while you are there like Monasterio de Yuste -a stunning building founded by the Hieronymite Order of monks in 1402- or Monfragüe Park -a wonderful place to visit for both ornithology and Mediterranean flora.
  • How to get there
From Madrid (236 km, 3 hours by car) take A-6, AP-51 and N-110. Google Maps

ALMOND TREE
Spain is the second producer of almond in the world - the first being the US-, that means we have plenty of almond trees all over the country.

QUINTA DE LOS MOLINOS (MADRID)
This park in Madrid offers the Spanish equivalent of the cherry blossom festival in Spain. What you will find here is a sea of almond trees which are blossoming at the moment. The blooms only last for a couple of weeks and because of hot temperatures they are going to be ready sooner that other years, so grab your picnic basket and go there this March.

Apart from the 1500 almond trees, in this park you can also find a pond, a windmill, a palazzo, a greenhouse and several fountains.

Read:
What to do in Madrid this spring
  • How to get there
The park is located in calle Alcala, in the east of Madrid. The closest metro stop is Suanzes (line 5) and buses 77 and 104 also stop there. Google Maps
It's open every day from 6:30am to 10:30pm.

SUNFLOWER
BUREBA (BURGOS, CASTILLA Y LEON)
Not many people in Spain know that we have huge sunflower fields. This funny flower that chases the sun is responsible for the most beautiful and romantic scenes. Fun fact: did you know that sunflowers can be up to 3 meters high? Summer is actually the best time to see these beautiful flowers that follow the sun. The best fields are between the towns of Briviesca and Poza de la Sal.
  • How to get there
From Madrid take A-1 north, then CL-632. It takes 3 hours by car (295 km). Google Maps

There are other places in Spain where you can find sunflower fields like Cardejon (Soria), Antequera (Malaga) or Carmona (Seville).

GERANIUM
CORDOBA FLOWER FESTIVAL (ANDALUSIA)
If white washed villages full of bougainvillea weren't enough, Andalusia has even more to offer to flower lovers. Spain's most famous flower festival happens in Cordoba in May. At the beginning of the month, residents open their patios to show their beauty to the world. The local tourism board organizes this event which is actually a contest with judging and prizes awarded.

This year, the festival starts on May 6 and ends on May 19. The patios are open from Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 2pm and from 6pm to 10pm; and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 2pm and from 6pm to midnight.

Read:
48 hours in Cordoba
Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
  • Where to stay
When I visited Cordoba, I stayed at Eurostars Conquistador which has an unbeatable location being opposite the world famous mosque-cathedral.
  • How to get there
From Madrid take A-4 south. It takes 4 hours by car (394 km). Google Maps

POPPY
CASTILLO DE MONTALBAN (TOLEDO, CASTILLA LA MANCHA)
Amapola -Spanish for poppy- is very common in Spain. They are in full bloom between April and May. One of the most stunning fields is at Castillo de Montalban in the region of Toledo. Picture a gorgeous poppy field with a castle in the background. So picturesque, right?
  • How to get there
The trip takes 1h and 40 minutes from Madrid (120 km). Google Maps

CAMELLIA 
GALICIA

The characteristics of the soil, wet climate and mild temperatures of Galicia make it the perfect place for camellias to grow. Camelias arrived in Galicia at the end of the 18th century coming from China and Japan. In the west coast of Galicia you can follow La Ruta de las Camelias, a trail that will lead you through several pazos -country manors typical of Galicia- and gardens. 

  • Where to stay

Hostal dos Reis Catolicos is one of the most luxurious Paradores in Spain.

LAVENDER
BRIHUEGA (GUADALAJARA, CASTILLA LA MANCHA)
And last but not least, Brihuega. Save this one for summer though as lavender flowers won't be ready until July.
  • How to get there
You can find Brihuega in the region of Guadalajara, only one hour from Madrid. Take A-2, then CM-2011. Google Maps

Read
beautiful spring springtime flowers cherry blossom bloom europe spain scenery quinta molinos madrid
beautiful spring springtime flowers cherry blossom bloom europe spain scenery cute spring outfit
beautiful spring springtime flowers cherry blossom bloom europe spain scenery quinta molinos madrid
Do you like to search for spring flowers?

WEAR THIS THERE
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beautiful spring springtime flowers cherry blossom bloom europe spain scenery quinta molinos madrid