Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sweet Tooth Traveler: Spain

I'm back on Trip Wolf chatting about Spanish treats. I was lucky enough to be in Spain for Holy Week, which has it's own set of unique desserts.

The Sweet Tooth Traveler: Great Finds in Malaga Spain
On my first day after arriving in Malaga in Southern Spain, I was greeted with a bit of culture shock in the form of a cookie. It was mid-March, two weeks before Easter Sunday. Unbeknownst to me, I stumbled into the beginning of one of the most important weeks in Spanish culture: Semana Santa. This week, also known as Holy Week, celebrates the end of Lent with huge parades through the city streets. The main event is the procession of the brotherhoods who are dressed in their traditional uniforms (capirote). The capirote on the cookie looked a little too familiar…

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Read about my other Spainish adventures:

Monday, April 29, 2013

International Day Trips From Spain: Tangier and Gibraltar

By now, more than halfway through our epic tour of Southern Spain, most of our group was feeling like this:

On the ferry to Tangier, Morocco

The ironic part is that I was probably the most energetic of the bunch, and I was 7 months pregnant! My poor family. They didn't know what hit them. But, when in Rome Spain, right? I figured we only had a week in the region and I really wanted to make the most of it. After seeing Malaga, Sevilla, the White Towns, and Granada, we decided to look internationally for a couple of day trips. Tangier, Morocco was at the top of the list.

We had fantastic weather and spend the day wandering through the crowded souks (markets); exploring the lively fish, meat and vegetable stalls; and drinking plenty of hot mint tea.

Fresh tuna 

We also stumbled upon the American Legation. Do you know what a Legation is? I didn't. According to Wikipedia, it is a diplomatic representative office lower than an embassy. After World War II, legations fell out of use and were generally converted to embassies, but not the legation in Tangier. This little house in the middle of the Medina was the first national historic landmark outside of America. Displayed inside is a hand-written letter dated 1865 that announces the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Fascinating!

American Legation in Tangier

Dan and I had been to Morocco before, but this was a very different experience. I have to say that I liked Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains way more than Tangier. We were hassled endlessly by unscrupulous people who were hoping to be our tour guides for the day. Turning them down only led to more fevered pitches. The best way to deal with it was by completely ignoring them. The city was also pretty touristy, but there wasn't much to see. I am glad we went because it is definitely a different experience than Europe. And for someone who has never been to a Muslim nation, or to Africa, this is a cool day trip from Spain. But I certainly wouldn't make a special effort to go to Tangier on its own.

What I would recommend though, is a day trip to Gibraltar. This was our second international day trip, since Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom. The peninsula is most famous for its rock and the monkeys that live on it.

I really loved Gibraltar. The town itself is small, but cute. I was shocked to find out there is a fairly large Jewish community. We even found a kosher bakery and a kosher-for-passover store! There are four different synagogues for a population of 700 Jews. Amazing!

It was a great way to end our time in Southern Spain. Even though it was a very fast-paced trip, it was so nice to spend time with my family. It's crazy to think that this is the last family trip with just the five of us. So much is going to change, but I hope we can keep traveling together in the future.

Read about our other stops in Spain:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day Trip to Granada

Along with Sevilla, Granada is on my short-list of places in Spain in which I could easily live. The city is gorgeous, fragrant and fun. It is much more than just the Alhambra, though that alone makes the city a must-see destination.

Thanks to the advice from several of my Facebook friends, I got tickets to the Alhambra a few weeks in advance. I highly recommend doing this because tickets are limited (especially in the high season) and there is a real risk you might not get in. Our tickets were for the afternoon, so we spent the morning exploring the rest of Granada. But first things first...

Let them eat cake! At Ray Fernando

Though it was the end of March, we got great views of the snow-covered Sierra Nevadas. Seems fitting, since Sierra Nevada translates to "snowy range."

This city is so pretty and colorful. It has wonderful architecture, beautiful greenery and a lovely river running through it.  

Our tickets to the Alhambra included entrance into the Alcazaba fortress. There really isn't much to see here, but the views from the top are pretty great.

The real star, of course, is the Alhambra. This 9th century castle lives up to the hype, and then some. Every inch of the red walls are covered in gorgeous Arabic script and beautiful geometric patterns. Muslims don't believe in graven images, so you won't see any pictures of people in the palace. What you will see though, is a plethora of water imagery and running fountains. The Alhambra is supposed to represent a desert oasis--the Quran's description of heaven.

I am a huge fan of Moorish design features like keyhole windows and arches. The Alhambra is a prime example of Moorish architecture. Can you imagine what this palace would have looked like completely decked out with furnishings fit for a sultan?

The Generalife gardens, included in the Alhambra ticket, are also worth a visit. This was used as a summer palace in the 1300s. I can definitely understand why. Though it wasn't very hot when we visited, the tiled walls and floors; bubbling water fountains; and location on the top of a hill keep the air much cooler than the rest of the city.

How do you end a perfect day in Granada? With churros, of course! What's not to love about freshly-deep-fried dough dipped in luxurious melted chocolate?

Read about our other stops in Spain:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

31 Weeks!

This week, at 31 weeks, Dan and I took our last pre-baby flight. We still have one more baby-moon planned (to London in May), but this was the last time it will just be the two of us on vacation before our lives are forever changed. I'm definitely looking forward to her arrival, but it will be a huge change, to say the least. Let's hope baby loves to travel as much as we do. Since she'll have been to nine countries and three continents before she's even born (!), I'd say chances are pretty good.

Ligament pain was still an issue this week, and unfortunately it was aggravated by the amount of walking I did while on vacation. It's much better when I give in and take it slow, so that's what I'm really going to focus on these next few weeks. Thankfully, I'm feeling great in every other respect. I love feeling the baby move, which is a good thing since it seems that's all she does.

I started prenatal yoga this week too. It's a once-a-week class specifically for pregnant women, most of whom are in their third trimester. The instructor is fantastic and had really great insights to share. I'm normally not big into yoga, but I found this class to be just what I needed. I especially loved the tea and cake portion of the evening :) I'm looking forward to continuing right up through the end of my pregnancy.

How far along? 31 weeks
Maternity clothes? Yes, but I'm having a hard time finding good spring clothes in the UK
Stretch marks? None so far
Sleep? I'm like a furnace at night. As long as it's cool, I can sleep. Otherwise it's a nightmare.
Best moment of the week: Watching Cirque du Soleil in Lithuania!
Miss anything? Red Caviar (it's huge in Lithuania)
Movement: Oh, so very much
Food cravings:  Sweets. Remember week 14 when baby didn't want anything sweet? She seems to have gotten over that issue
Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope
Have you started to show yet? Definitely
Gender: Girl!!
Belly Button in or out? Continuing its journey outward
Wedding rings on or off? On
Happy or Moody most of the time? Happy
Looking forward to: Continuing prenatal yoga classes

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Rain-Soaked View of the White Towns

I conducted an informal Facebook poll to ask my well-traveled friends where to go in Southern Spain. Granada was at the top of nearly everyone's list, followed by the White Towns of Andalucia. On to our itinerary they went.

I had never heard of the White Towns, known for their whitewashed walls and tiled roofs, but was definitely interested after seeing some photos online.


Unfortunately, it was POURING the day we headed to the hills. We were real troopers about it and carried on, but it was not as spectacular as it could have been. The roads to Zahara and Ronda were windy mountainous passes that were extremely treacherous when covered in thick fog. It made for a gorgeous landscape, but my poor dad (and carsick-prone mom) did not enjoy the drive.


Fortunately, Zahara made up for it with a truly memorable meal. We found the one restaurant in town and hunkered down to wait out the storm. The food was incredible and we found ourselves reluctant to leave.

From our rain-soaked vantage point, Zahara was tiny, but charming. Everything was closed, but we did manage to accidentally explore a gorgeous cemetery.

And on that slightly macabre note, we ended our tour of the White Villages. At least we got some great views on the way home. Thankfully the next day in Granada was much sunnier!

Read about our other stops in Spain:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Quinoa Bake

I can't remember who turned me on to quinoa recently, but I want to give them a big hug and kiss. It's my new favorite ingredient. It's so easy to make and is really hearty. It fits right in to a lot of different cuisines.  Here's an easy weeknight recipe that will feed your family all week.

This is a bit spicy, so adjust the seasoning if you want it more mild. I recommend serving it with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro on top. Enjoy!


Mexican Quinoa Bake
Original recipe from here

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • 1 cup onion, diced (I used two small onions)
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used jarred minced garlic)
  • 1 cup zucchini, cubed (I skipped this because I hate zucchini)
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 4 ounce can diced green chilis (I used half a jar of pickled jalapeños)
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 lime, juiced (I used a whole lime)
  • salt
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese (I used what I had in the fridge: some Mexican and some cheddar)
  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Drain. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for about one minute. The quinoa should begin to dry out and pop a bit. 
  • Add the stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and zucchini (if using) and cook 3 more minutes. If using jarred garlic, only cook for one more minute.
  • Fluff the quinoa with a fork and place it in a large bowl. Add onion mixture, beans, green chilis, tomatoes, corn, cumin, oregano, chili powder, lime juice and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly and transfer to prepared baking dish.
  • Bake 30 minutes, top with cheese and bake 10 minutes more or until melted and just beginning to brown.
  • Place under broiler for one or two minutes to brown and crisp cheese.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Road Trip to Sevilla

When I was 18, my friend Leah and I backpacked around Europe for 7 weeks. It was an amazing opportunity and we definitely made the most of it. One day, around a month into our trip, I called my parents and announced that I would not be returning to America as planned, but would instead be moving to my new favorite city: Sevilla. Obviously, that didn't work out for a variety of reasons (mostly money and guilt), but the city still holds a special place in my heart.

That's why day two of our Spanish adventure with my family included a fairly long road trip to Sevilla. It took us around three hours to wind our way from Marbella, where were were staying. It was a long way to drive, but Sevilla is such a fantastic city that I didn't want to miss it. 

On the road

We had a bit of a tricky time driving into the city. There were lots of tiny one-way roads whose signs did not translate well to English. We finally made it though and were rewarded with great weather and great views.

My favorite thing about Sevilla, and this whole region of Spain, is the abundance of orange trees. The city is littered with these gorgeous, fragrant blossoms.

We toured the cathedral, which is the third largest in Europe. In addition to the beautiful architecture and loads of religious icons, the cathedral also houses Christopher Columbus' tomb and the crown jewels. 

Christopher Columbus' tomb

If you're not 27 weeks pregnant, I would highly recommend climbing the bell tower. Dan did and captured this view.

Sevilla is a great town to just walk around and get lost in. The Jewish quarter was particularly good for this, with it's narrow, winding streets. In fact, the streets are so narrow that they're known as "kissing streets," because the buildings are leaning so far forward they're practically kissing.

Kissing streets in Sevilla
Though it's been years since my last visit, Sevilla was just as charming this time around. It was definitely worth the trip.

Read about our other stops in Spain:
Malaga, Spain
White Towns, Spain
Granada, Spain
Tangier and Gibralter