Oranges at midnight: New Year in our old home

Feeling a little homesick for our first Spanish home, we accepted an invitation to spend New Year’s with friends in Vila-Real in the Valencian Community. The visit included a day trip, some jaunts into Valencia, and lots of oranges. Our first night in Vila-Real coincided with the San Silvestre run, an amateur event featuring a bevy of costumed runners.

We were excited to sample some fresh-squeezed orange juice at this event, made in a giant orange and served near Vila-Real’s city hall. We even made a new friend, Andrés, who was kind enough to bring us some sweet new posters for our home, promoting the local specialty crop.

Oranges would take center stage again a couple nights later, on New Year’s Eve, when we attempted to eat 12 slices of the fruit at midnight (instead of the 12 grapes typical in the Spanish-speaking world).

It was great seeing several groups of old friends, including the teacher Dreamer worked with the year prior.

In the days leading up to New Year’s, we visited some new sites as well as some old favorites. One of the new places was the town of Albarracín, in the province of Teruel.


We went to see the medieval walls.

Dreamer is a sucker for those old tiles.

I know my house is around here somewhere…

We took advantage of the train to Valencia to eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant, sip horchata, and say “hi” to the bird at our favorite tiki bar.

Best mapo tofu in Spain.

Ten seconds before Tiki (the bird) tapped the glass with its beak, leading Dreamer to question its ongoing health in captivity.

We also went to the silk and ceramic museums.

Silk museum in Valencia.
Punchcard-driven loom for the win! That’s one excited engineer.
Spot the Dreamer.

The ceramics museum is in a beautiful old palace.

Ceramics museum in Valencia.

The first display inside is a collection of old carriages.

Hand carriage. Timed this perfectly with the other visitor in the shot!

And on to the various ceramics…

If you are serving soup that does not contain lamb out of this tureen, then you have failed at life.

Closeup of those flowers made entirely out of tiny seashells.

We got a kick out of the old ceramic tiles that say “asegurada,” which means insured, clearly with the intent of a possible fire breaking out. It is still super common to see this above the entrance of old residential buildings all over Spain.

Hey, it’s Doer’s family!

Doer’s father, Driller, of Driller and Thriller fame.
Doer’s sister Hunter after a meal containing dairy.

Plus a few other characters among the collection.

Hey, it’s two lions playing bitey neck!
We’re sensing a theme here.
Court jester got some sweet pants.

We went to Valencia’s version of a flea market, but sadly it didn’t hold a candle to Madrid’s Sunday Rastro.

This dude had a sweet cane that converted into a stool if he got tired.

On our way back from Valencia, we came upon a few other fun things.

“Take my picture with that fancy tile border in the background.”
Municipal ad promoting women’s rights. We love how “Time” is spelled phonetically in Spanish.

As Christmas isn’t really over in Spain until Three Kings’ Day, we got to see some elaborate nativity scenes back in Vila-real. The first was at the San Pascual church, the town’s patron.

In Valencia’s version of the Nativity story, there was paella.The public nativity scenes were nice, but we were especially blown away by the elaborate creation in our friend’s brother’s apartment.

A nativity scene that filled up the entire room.

We were in awe of all the hand-crafted details. This represents at least 15 years of collecting, growing by a new piece or two every year. Setup and takedown alone requires days each year.

And with that, we’ve finally made it to 2018, just 10 months behind real time. There’s lots of travel to catch up on, so here we go!

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