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

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Whirlwind sightseeing weekend: Monastery, rice museum

The last weekend in June (also our last in Burriana), we took advantage of having a car for our move to go to a few out-of-the-way spots that were still on our Valencian Community bucket list. First stop: the Monastery of Santa María in El Puig. Puig is Valenciano for “hill,” and indeed the monastery lies atop a large one. Guided tours are only given on a very specific schedule – there are no freeform visits, and of course it’s closed on Sunday. We decided to go on Saturday afternoon after the lunch descanso. Jaume I, the king who conquered much

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Bonfires on the beach in Nules

As we work on updating our blog this cold, rainy winter evening in Madrid, we longingly remember watching Midsummer bonfires on a Valencian beach last June. Our dear friends from Vila-Real invited us to mark Saint John’s Day in the most Valencian way possible: FIRE!!! The Hogueras de San Juan (Fogueres de Sant Joan in Valencian) are bonfires, frequently set along a beach. The bonfires, which are lit around the time of the summer solstice, were originally meant to keep evil spirits away. People traditionally build the fires with old furniture and other wood. Revelers typically feed themselves in addition to feeding

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Succulents, greenhouses add character to Valencian botanic gardens

While waiting for the Corpus Christi parade to start, we strolled through the nearby Botanic Gardens at the University of Valencia. The gardens were full of succulents, cacti, and other tropical plants that grow well in the Valencian climate, with plenty of greenhouses you could walk through as well. The garden even had a small art exhibition space. This poem seemed very appropriate.

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Giants, big heads spice up Corpus Christi celebration

We made it back from dropping off Mom in Madrid last June just in time to see the actual Corpus Christi parade through the center of Valencia – or so we thought. As this was a Spanish parade, it didn’t actually start when we thought it would, so we had some time to kill. More about that in our next post. The Plaza de la Virgen was a hive of activity, with all of the important parade figures waiting for the festivities to begin. Soon we got to see those gigantes in action! Imagine our surprise when one of the humans

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Mom visits our Mediterranean home

In addition to our trip to Tarragona, mom’s early summer visit included plenty of beach time, trips into the city, and paella. Mom accompanied Dreamer to the nearby city of Vila-real to discount shop at the local football club’s end-of-season sale. After buying a bright yellow scarf, the ladies casually strolled through downtown, where they came across an 18th-century villa with some special inhabitants. Dreamer was thrilled to discover four gigantes, or giant people, in the courtyard of the villa. Built by the family of the man who introduced and promoted the cultivation of mandarin oranges in the region, the Casa

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