¡Juega! Carnaval, truffles, and fútbol

Sometimes, that one weekend hits where you know you need to remain home because fun stuff is going on all around you. The last weekend of February was like this for us.

Saturday: Carnaval in Vinaròs

About an hour north of us in our province, Vinaròs is famed for having the best Brazilian-style Carnaval around. Since Lent was coming, we thought we should check it out.

Oceanside in Vinaròs

We arrived with a little bit of time before the parade and decided to check out the town.

Entrance to town bull ring

Needless to say, we did not leave disappointed. Once the parade began, it was a nonstop party.

We quickly found each comparsa – a social club of sorts – parading around its own vehicle with a special purpose. Can you spot it?

A bar on wheels is bound to make any parade a good time. But the quantity of people in each club that needed to be supplied with alcohol! And those costumes! Children, men, women, men dressed as women . . . .

First came the kids…
…and then the adults. Hundreds of matching costumes in tens of groups!

Some parade floats combined the adults and kids.

Supposedly, the theme was “Bollywood,” but we can’t say we saw any group with a thematically-appropriate entry.

Some of the floats were just beyond elaborate, always requiring the use of an electrical generator or three towed behind the vehicle.

Doer took pity on the poor tractor drivers pulling many of the floats. Work that clutching foot!

Poor guy even has to tolerate the noise while going at a leisurely 3 mph.

Meanwhile, Dreamer was awed by the feats of strength and endurance of some of the participants.

But the hardest part may be smiling the whole time.

Finding and maintaining a good rhythm is essential.

Really, everyone was encouraged to celebrate – even those of us who were just watching.

Sunday morning: Truffle festival in Albocàsser

City picture made entirely of broken tile shards (trencadis)

We left Carnaval early – not only because it got a little repetitive, but because the next morning, Doer had plans to fulfill a culinary dream. Black truffles are common in the mountains of our province, and it was time for the annual truffle festival.

Starting the day off right with a bunyol (fritter) made by local old ladies, chased with a little Moscatel.

There were cooking demonstrations…

…a market selling truffles and truffle-related products…

Dirt innoculated with truffle spores. Guaranteed to produce!
Black gold! (these are the non-chocolate truffles of which we are speaking)

…a giant truffle-infused paella for lunch…

A giant rice dish, you say?

This company specializes in one thing.
Finally found a table at which to sit down and eat, as everybody had reserved seats for their friends in this small town. It was frustrating being outsiders. Foreground: truffle-infused charcuterie.

…and Truffle. Hunting. Dogs. This was the thing we dreamt of seeing more than anything else. See, truffles cannot be cultivated and must be dug up next to trees in the wild. Pigs once were used to sniff them out, but they would eat most of the truffles they found. Enter the dog with its keen nose and desire to please its master.

The first dog was easily the cutest, but didn’t find all five hidden truffles in five minutes.

This dog was the winner, and you can see why. Finished in under 3:30.

Meanwhile, the Midwestern Dreamer thoroughly protects herself from sun exposure.

At the end, prizes were handed out for best dog, best cooking demonstration, etc.

On our way home, we stopped to admire some flowering almond trees in the mountains.

Sunday evening: Soccer game in Vila-real

We’d been here long enough without actually making it to a soccer match so that, when some friends invited us, we had to say, “yes.” Their penya (a social group like the aforementioned comparsa), Celtic Submari (link in Valenciano!), in neighboring Vila-real, hosted us for drinks on Friday night and two members were kind enough to share their tickets to Sunday’s match with Real Madrid.

Members of the penya were also nice enough to gift Doer with this classy apron.
The night started off innocently enough, with a porrón full of anise liqueur.

We made it to the stadium a little early and made sure to get some bocadillo sandwiches from a local bar to munch on during the game, since we forgot to bring them like soccer novices or something.

In front of the stadium with Saúl.
Ceramic companies in the region sponsor the team, as you can see. It’s called “Estadio de la Ceramica.” Fans are accordingly known as “Yellow Submariners.”
Made it!

We learned how to sing “Yellow Submarine” in Spanish, which was fun.

Doer does not understand why they water the field between periods. Causes player slippage, right?

It was a pretty riveting game, for us not being sports fans in the least. We got to see a few goals.

It took us a few times to figure out what this chant was. It’s the last name of one of the local players.

Toward the end of the game, the tables had turned and all the locals were upset because Madrid was playing dirty, over-exaggerating injuries to run down the clock and such. Watching the crowd react to this was pretty interesting.

(the chant is literally, “this is how Madrid wins…”)

In the end, Vila-real lost the match, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Aftermath of a Spanish soccer match: pipas everywhere (those are sunflower seed hulls).


Before our rental car was due back, we headed to a Spanish steakhouse that would be difficult to reach without a vehicle.

Asador 7 de Julio in Castellón.

It wasn’t quite a Nebraska steak, but sometimes it’s nice to break up all this paella with a taste of home.

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