Té en Cordoba

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My twin brother is visiting me this week and we are spending this weekend in Cordoba!
After a busy day of sightseeing in the city, we’re taking a quick break at this lovely Moroccan tea house before exploring some more — this is my first time posting from my iPhone!
It’s also our first time couch surfing and so far it’s a great experience.

This year was the first time (the last “first time” I’ll mention here, I promise!) Thomas and I were apart for our birthday so I was super excited to find out he was joining me in Spain just a few days after:) Looking forward to sharing more with my many loyal followers (Hi mum!)…hasta luego! xx

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No Oven? No Bake Chocolate Cake

When we moved in to our apartment in Huelva,, our bubbly and seemingly lovely landlady (who is an older Spanish lady from Sevilla) told us upfront that our oven was currently not working, but would be replaced “mañana”.  Well, three weeks have gone by, and that’s a lot of mañanas.  We’ve called our dueña several times, and she keeps reassuring us that a new oven is on the way, but we’re getting impatient over here! We will persist, por que no es vale!

To make things worse, our microwave broke last week (we’ve been told that it will be replaced mañana, too…), so when I said I would bring a dessert to a little “international” dinner I went to last week, I realized it would have to be a “no bake” recipe for sure. Cue this amazing No Bake Chocolate Cake from Heidi at 101cookbooks.  With only two key ingredients (I did manage to find all of the ingredients, though, in our little local grocery store!), it is a cinch to make, and can easily be done with super low key kitchen equipment.  (I used a plastic container lined with parchment paper as my “cake pan…it works!)

This cake is basically a decadent chocolate ganache or fudge in disguise. Make sure there are other people around to help you eat this, or you could end up eating it all yourself….not that that’s necessarily terrible.
I tried to make my cake a little more “Canadian” for this international shindig, so I decorated it with some maple candies and chocolate loonies that I brought from home (they are really for my students, but I figured I could sacrifice a few!).  It needed a little gussying up since I was lacking any cocoa powder or powdered sugar to make it look a bit more sophisticated.
This recipe was really easy to follow and the results were delicious — I’m really looking forward to making it again (maybe for (y)our birthday, Thomas!), but I’m also really looking forward to having an oven…fingers crossed.
Hasta luego!

Plaza de España y el Festival de las Naciones

I made my first trip outside of Huelva last weekend, and spent three days in Sevilla.  What a beautiful city.  The architecture, the sights, the music, the food…it was all lovely.  I traveled with one of my roommates who has friends in Sevilla, and we were lucky enough to stay with them for the weekend and be shown around the city.

Our group at Plaza de Espana — can you see the rainbow?

Plaza de España was absolutely breathtaking.  The ceramics, the beautifully painted tiles, the stone work, the impressive building itself — it truly looks like it is out of a fairy tale. We were there on a perfect day and after finding “our” provinces painted around the plaza we wandered over to the Festival de las Naciones.

“we live here!”

Just past the plaza, the festival had a wide array of international goods: jewelry, clothing, incense, books, and of course, food.  Despite the terrible omission of a Canadian food stall (Seville’s loss!), the diversity of the food being made in this one location was impressive.  The entire area smelled of a delicious mix of spices, meats, and desserts — it was really hard to only pick a couple things to try! The “Cuban” stall was only selling rum based cocktails, that’s where the party was…and a dramatic fight that we witnessed. It was the perfect end to our long day of walking around town, and a great way to start off the night before hitting the town. Gracias, Sevilla!
I’ll let you guess which countries are represented above. Tricky, I know.

La vida en Huelva — Getting Settled

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After almost three weeks in Huelva, I feel like I’ve settled in. This being the very first time I’ve lived away from home, it’s comforting to feel that way and at the same time it seems surreal every once in a while — some nights I go to bed smiling at the fact that I am actually living in Spain.

The first night I arrived I think I was a little shocked that I had actually flown across the ocean to live here for the next nine months. The stress of not knowing exactly where I was going to live, not knowing anyone here, and realizing how mediocre my Spanish was led me to a good little cry. I think if I could have snapped my fingers to go home on that first night I might have (the beating my pride would have taken after excitedly telling everyone I would be in Spain for the year was not appealing, though!).

But things happened fast. I moved into a flat right in the centre of town with a lovely British girl, and then two equally lovely girls from the States and the south of Spain moved in, too. I found my way around town and figured out my routine at the French high school and the English academy I will be teaching at.
I’ve been out and about; for a small city, we’ve found lots to do and have been busy! After the time taken up with work, we’ve been at yoga classes, salsa classes (followed by actual salsa dancing at the bar…still nerve wracking as a salsa/bachata beginner, but so much fun), language exchanges, bars, out for tapas, exploring the city and finding out favourite places.
When I found out I was placed in Huelva and immediately flipped to the corresponding page in my Lonely Planet Spain guide book, I was a little disheartened. This is what they say: “Blemished by factories and with its historical heritage smashed to pieces in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (and not rebuilt), Huelva is never going to win any beauty contests.”

Christopher Columbus is kind of a big deal here — he started his voyage from Huelva way back when.

It’s true, there are parts of the city that are purely industrial and rather dirty (why doesn’t anyone pick up their dog poop?!) but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The city centre is nicely laid out around pretty cobblestoned plazas, and I absolutely love that I can walk everywhere. The nightlife is fun and varied; it’s fun to see the patios and bars always busy, and there’s a good amount of students/language assistants here keeping things quite lively. And I certainly don’t mind the lack of tourists; it just means I get to practice my Spanish more.
So far, while I’d have to agree with the guidebooks’ “purely tourist” value of Huelva, I think I’m going to enjoy living here.

After those first stressful days, I suddenly woke up and realized how happy I was to be here. I’ve met some amazing people, am loving the exploring I’ve had the chance to do so far, and am learning a lot. I think this is the kind of little “adventure” I wanted.

Sunday in the Country

The teacher that I am working with at the high school in Huelva lives just outside of the city in a town named Aljaraque. I spent Sunday at her property where she and her husband have a property full of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, chickens and two adorable dogs. We had lunch outside on the porch and then went for a quick tour around the beach town of Punta Umbria before they dropped me off back in the city with a bag full of white eggplant, tomatoes and peppers from their garden. It was the first really warm day since I’ve been here, and made for a lovely day.
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Thoughts From the Frankfurt Airport

I typed this out at the Frankfurt Airport a whole three days ago. At this point the realization that I was actually going to be living in Spain and didn’t know anyone was really sinking in and I got really nervous. I will admit to being, generally, a nervous traveller. I don’t think I actually have much to worry about, but I guess that’s just how I am. It’s weird because I want to travel, and be adventuresome, but maybe it just doesn’t come naturally to me…I’m trying to get better! Anyway, here are the tired ramblings of a nervous traveller….

Confessions Of A Nervous Traveller

Typing from the chilly Frankfurt airport, only a half hour til my flight to Madrid and then I should be in Huelva by this evening (I hope!!). (Although this post won’t be posted until I reach Internet-land, wherever that may be. That’s why I love YOW, just wish Frankfurt was the same!)

This is my second time at the Frankfurt airport by myself. Last year, I flew to meet my family for a hiking trip in Austria. Knowing that my family was already settled in an apartment in Vienna and waiting for me to arrive, I was not nervous at all. I just had to take a cab from the airport and voilà, the Von Shaps were all together in Vienna!

The time before that, I flew through Frankfurt to get to Dhaka. I think it was a combination of fatigue, a little anxiousness, and sitting near a real jerk on our flight that had me a little jittery, but I ended up having a mini cry fest over ramen noodles at the airport while my boyfriend at the time acted like a saint and put up with my bout of nerves.

So even when I’m not travelling by myself I tend to get a little anxious about the whole process. My mum likes the story of our first trip with a plane ride as kids to Prince Edward Island: by the time we were settled in to our quaint island cottage, I had announced that I was very homesick. We had only been there for half a day and my whole family was with me…maybe an early indication of a not-so-confident traveller…

So far, I think I’m doing alright this trip. Yes, I got a little teary when I hugged mum goodbye in Ottawa, but with Skype, Facebook, email, FaceTime, etc, I shouldn’t worry about staying in touch. Only thing I’m a little nervous about right now is manoeuvring my two suitcases from the Madrid airport onto the metro to the train station…but this doesn’t seem like something I should fret over.

I’ve loved all my travel experiences but I do so wish that I was a cooler traveller; maybe that just comes with practice. I was so excited when I applied to this program in Spain, and even more excited when I found out I was accepted — so I think that means I’m ready for a little adventure. We’ll find out. Time to fly to Madrid…¡vamos!

La Sangria de Mama

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(I tried to blog at airports, but wasn’t having much luck actually posting what I was writing, so here is a belated post, maybe two, now that I have internet!)

Just said goodbye to my family and waltzed through security. Am now waiting to board my flight (thank goodness for free wifi at YOW) with butterflies in my stomach. I am so excited for this little adventure; when I decided to stay home for my undergrad, I planned that hopefully one of those years would be spent abroad. At the same time, I am definitely a bit of homebody and saying goodbye to my family at the airport made me tear up! And so here I am waiting for a flight to Madrid and re-reading the metro directions to take me from Madrid to the train to Huelva.

My mum organized a great send off party for me last Saturday. It was a lovely group of some of our new and old friends, and my family all together. There was a stellar band, Go Long(!), awesome and silly sing alongs, lots of tapas, and delicious sangria. We figured you couldn’t have a fiesta without it!

Serve a white and red sangria beside each other in transparent glass jugs or punch bowls so you can admire how pretty your drinks are before they disappear.My mum threw a lovely party (more on that later!) for me on Saturday and she made lots of delicious sangria…there wasn’t any left at the end of the night. These recipes will get you in a fiesta mood!

(Go Long(!) is having a CD release party for their debut album on Sunday September 30th…if I were in Ottawa I would definitely be there, so go enjoy this great trio!)

Mum’s Sangria(s)…

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En diez días: la aventura!

I think I’ve been afraid to mention it on the blog in case something happened and my plans fell through, but it seems safe now!: My little Spanish adventure begins in 10 days! I can’t believe how fast the summer has flown by, that’s the way it always is, right?

Christopher Columbus sailed from Huelva. Image via

In 10 days I’ll be flying to Madrid and then taking the train to Huelva where I will be a French teaching assistant for the next 8 months.  This is a big first for me in many ways: my first time living away from home, first time living anywhere other than Ottawa, my first time in Spain! I couldn’t be more excited, but I have to admit to being a little terrified about the whole thing.  I’ve been super lucky to have travelled a fair bit with my family and friends in the past, and I love travelling, but I get homesick fairly easily.  That’s OK though, I know that’s just how I am, so I will suck it up and enjoy the whole experience (at least that’s the plan!).

I’m really looking forward to living in Andalucía; the area just seems steeped in history and culture, and looks oh-so-beautiful. I can’t wait to explore the region. All the guidebooks and websites I’ve flipped through don’t really make Huelva sound like a super appealing place for a tourist, but I think I’m glad that I’m not living in a very touristy place — hopefully that means a more “authentic” experience? Except obviously I would still like to visit all the touristy places; my list of things to see is already too long.
Apparently the region I’m living in is known for it’s flamenco and cured ham…allllllright!

Where I’ll be!

So, I’ll be working at a bilingual French high school as a teacher’s assistant, and then hopefully teaching English on the side as well. My Spanish is almost decent, but I never ever speak it here, so I’m a little nervous about that. Hopefully after being immersed in it for a while I will pick it up.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is the perfect helper for multilingualism…?

With ten days left before I leave, I’m just trying to fit in seeing as many of my friends as possible, spending some quality time with the family, and figuring out what and how to pack for 8 months…

If you have any travel tips, second language teaching tips or things I shouldn’t miss in Spain, please let me know! Gracias y hasta pronto!

Spanish Sweet [Lemon Ricotta Pudding]

One of my best friends is leaving for Madrid to be an au pair for the next few months.  I am so excited for her, but selfishly I will miss having her in town this summer! She came over for an impromptu dinner the other night, and while the meal was not Spanish I thought it would be fun to serve a Spanish inspired dessert.

My parents gave me this beautiful cookbook for Christmas, The Food Of Spain, and I’ve been dying to try some of its recipes.  I’m excited I finally have!
I didn’t have a lot of time to whip up dessert when I came home from work, but this recipe actually turned out to be perfect for the occasion.  Four ingredients and almost no prep-work later, we had some delicious Spanish Cheese Pudding on our hands. (In the cookbook it is just called “cheese pudding”, but I think Lemon Ricotta Pudding sounds nicer…!)
This simple dessert is the perfect accompaniment for the colourful fruit that is starting to abound at the market and a little drizzle of honey.  The lemon flavour comes through lightly and will be great for easy breezy sunny days, this one is definitely on the “make again” list.
Love you, Laura — buen viaje!! xo

La receta