44 Photos– Excessive? Maybe.

This is how we feel about Spain so far.

Oh, well hello there.

Welcome back to the blog.

44 photos, you ask?  Yes.  Yes indeed.

44 photos is actually being quite judicious, as I had to pare down the selection from a total of 209 photos.  209!  Preposterous.  I know.  But I wanted to make sure that I could both include some awesome selections from this photo library I’m creating, as well as give you some amazing and humorous commentary.

So.  Here goes.  I’m currently drinking champagne, only it’s not called champagne here.  It can only be called champagne if it’s from the region in France called Champagne, but this stuff is exactly the same.  Bubbly.  White.  Slightly dry.  Quite delicious.  It’s called Cava, and it’s from Catalunya, which is the region in Spain in which we currently find ourselves.  In addition to it being delicious (did I mention that already?), it also costs 3 euros.  I know.  Preposterous.

So seriously, I really want to pretend that Spain sucks, and that we’re not totally loving it here, and that I don’t want to buy a house in the country and live here forever, but I think that if I overload you, dear readers, on sarcasm, you might want to punch me in the face.  And I like you, and I don’t want to get punched!  And also, this place is AWESOME.  🙂

So, let me fill you in on the last 16 days.  First, our luggage was delayed in Madrid by many hours, and that sucked.  So we stayed in the Madrid area the first night, so that we could go back to the airport the next day to pick it up.  But that evening, we went out to a few local restaurants and had our first tapas!  And it was amazing.  Mind blowing.  Wines that cost $30 in the states are 2 euros here.  Even in the bar, you can get a bottle of delicious stuff for 3 euros.  WOAH.  Needless to say, we’ve been sampling.

First item on the agenda re:Spain– eating. 

After grabbing our luggage, we headed to a small town called Cuenca, which the guidebook I’d purchased recommended.  Cuenca is just southeast of Madrid by about 2 hours, and is situated at the meeting place of two rivers, which have both formed giant gorges.  The houses of the old city have been built in to the sides of the rock in the gorge.  Check it out.

The gorge itself is deep, but the city is both above and below.

Awesome old monastery that has been converted into a hotel.

It was amazing.  We wandered around, did a little hike where I got some more awesome photos, ate, drank, etc.  The only sad part was that we basically missed dinner.  See, Spaniards generally eat pretty late, and so we were going by the guidebook which said not to expect anyone to be around until 10pm or so.  So, we went out for tapas at 8, and attempted to get a salad, which was comical.  It basically consisted of pickled EVERYTHING.  Some regular iceberg lettuce, and then pickles, olives, pickled asparagus, etc.  Anyway.  Not the height of Spanish cuisine.  

Anyway, after tapas, and two bottles of wine, we wanted real dinner… and everything in Cuenca was closed!  Seriously.  First cultural mishap.  Luckily, the two bottles of wine cushioned the blow, and the tapas didn’t hurt, and so we went to bed like bad children, no dinner.

But overall Cuenca was a win.  Check out some other photos from around town:

The rock forming the bridge was pulled from the river gorge.  Notice the reflection?

Amazing graffiti on a bar front.

From our hike around the gorge.

At the top of the hike, in the old city.

Rough place to catch your breath.

Random flowers.  It’s spring here!

We paid one euro to enter the church, and they let us go up into the belltower.

Beautiful houses and colors.

I think almost half of my photos came from Cuenca.  As you can probably tell, the town itself was fabulous, and people were really nice.  On our third morning in Spain, we left Cuenca for the coast.  We headed straight to the coast, and then north, looking for a cute little town where we could spend a couple nights, that wasn’t crazy.  We ended up in a town called Sant Carles de la Rapita, which is in a national park, on the delta of the Ebro river, where it meets the Mediterranean.  We wanted to pig out on seafood, and possibly sit on the beach.  It wasn’t quite hot enough for beaching, but we accomplished the whole pig out goal.  Be forewarned, you’re about to see some food porn.

Giant, huge, enormous mussels.  And no, I’m not talking about Jason.

My mouth is watering over this calamari.  Melted in my mouth.

Octopus.  SO GOOD.

The harbor.  Presumably where all this seafood came from.

What is this even?  I have no idea.  And it was the appetizer.

Paella.  Except we were so full from the appetizer, we couldn’t even eat it all.

We stayed at this small hotel the tourist office directed us to, after I did a little haggling in Spanish.  Sant Carles de la Rapita is in the southern portion of Catalunya, so this was my first experience with Catalan, and having all the signs in some random foreign language.  🙂  It was fun, though.  And I successfully talked the owners down, since I think we were the only non-Spanish tourists in the area.  We walked around town, only to discover that our hotel was actually also the best seafood restaurant!  We were those tourists.  We ate like 4 meals in our hotel.

Anyway, we pigged out on some seafood tapas at our hotel right when we arrived, and then three hours later we went back for dinner.  More seafood.  The appetizer posted above was the size for ONE PERSON.  It was like 4 POUNDS of shellfish!  And we EACH got one!  Plus paella, for 13 euros.  $16.  Holy fishy overload.  I was doing really well until I tried to de-shell one of those white spiny things, and it promptly spit at me.  At least, I think it spit.  I’m pretty sure it was still alive.  I put the rest on Jason’s plate.

We also did a bike ride around the delta, which was AWESOME on the way out, and HORRIBLE on the way back.  Bike riding is hard.  It’s like, work, and stuff.  And we were riding into the wind on the way back–  point is, my bum is not accustomed to the bike seat.  Anyway, here are photos from the ride:

Random church in the countryside.

The delta, and marshlands.

The delta is a haven for pink flamingos!

Bird sanctuary. 

More octopus.  I couldn’t help it.

Feeling fat and full, we left Sant Carles de la Rapita, but not before the hotel owners could give us two free bottles of the local wine (that’s how happy they were about how much we spent in their restaurant!).  Everywhere we went, the hospitality was amazing.  But, feeling the urge to work off some of that olive oil, we drove to Tremp, which is the town we’re in now, and about 15 minutes from the climbing area.  It was a Sunday, and we had our second cultural mishap that day.  Turns out EVERYTHING is closed on Sundays.  Everything.  Bars.  Restaurants.  Grocery stores.  Gas stations.  We ended up eating some random food for dinner from one of the two places in town open, but we DID get to move into our wonderful new digs!

Our front door.

Living room, complete with fireplace.
Front drive of our place.
Countryside around us.

Ana, our landlady is amazing, and so is this house.  We are renting the upstairs of her second home, and we have a kitchen, a fireplace, a pingpong table, laundry facilities, wifi… and three empty bedrooms that we could share with other friends!  Anyone want to come visit?  We’ve been here a little over a week and a half, and in that time, Ana has been amazing, chatting and helping us out, teaching us to candy hazelnuts… and she also took us to a local farm to get fresh milk, straight from the cow!

There is a market every Monday, where people sell everything– clothes, vegetables, meat, fish, olives, etc.  I can’t BELIEVE how much food we eat.

Olive cart at the market.
A castle!  Flying a flag with a… castle… on it.
We failed at the whole ‘jump photo’ thing, but I think it turned out AMAZING.  At the castle 20 minutes from our house.

Olive groves in the hills

Parking for… single moms?  At our local grocery store.

Our lovely landlady Ana!

Homemade candied hazelnuts. 

That’s milk, direct from the teat!

Future milkers.  Friendly and cute!

And also hungry!

Lots of leche.

We’ve been climbing at an area called Terradets, which has many crags, but mostly one wall of serious sport climbing.  The wall is 15 minutes from our house, and it’s ridiculous.  It’s given us a beating so far (and when I say us, I mean everyone except Leslie– is anyone surprised she’s killing it?), but we’re slowing getting our endurance back.  The entry level is basically 12a… takes a little getting used to.  But it’s tufa climbing, and oh so awesome:

The view from the crag.

Limestones waves of grey/yellow.  Delicious.

So, the last week has been basically as you can imagine… climb, eat, sleep, rest, eat, climb… eating ice cream and chocolate and drinking red wine every day… we’re probably the healthiest people you’ve ever met.  We are suffering, truly.  😉   Rest days are awesome.  We have a hard drive with a bunch of movies on it, so with internet, books, castles, movies and wine, the time is flying by.  It’s hard to believe we still have so many weeks here!  We’ve been listening to ‘The Lonely Island’ non-stop as well… never heard of them?  Check this video out.  It explains a lot.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0DeIqJm4vM

In addition, did you know that Snoop Dogg was on The Price is Right?  This clip is SO worth watching:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dk0dOvoGRaU.  Pure genius, I tell you.

And so Spain Part One is going swimmingly.  Our next adventures will include more castles, Barcelona dance-a-thon, and additional eating adventures!  Those are our plans, anyway.  Oh yeah, and some more climbing, too.  🙂

And this PREPOSTEROUSLY long blog post is coming to an end.  Until next time!

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