It Goes BOOM!

Last year when we arrived in Valencia, we felt like we were inundated by sound. BOOMS! and POPS!. People throwing fireworks under the feet of strangers seemed to be common. And when sitting at a cafe you’d be jumping as someone lit a firecracker under your chair and ran.

We noticed that very small children, maybe 3, also had fireworks and were throwing them. Sure, at that age they were just poppers that burst various colors that made pretty flowers on the sidewalk. But by 5 or 6, kids were carrying around lit ropes with which they could light full blown fire crackers in a crowded square. This usually ‘supervised’ by a man in the family. Of course, there were more responsible Dads or Abuelos in empty tennis courts or parks, but that was rare. Usually they were on the crowded sidewalk.

Each kid had a wooden box hanging from around their neck that contained the fireworks. I mean really, who wouldn’t put gun powder in a wooden box and light a rope for their kids to walk around with? What could go wrong?

But I’ll admit, I had box envy. Being self aware, I know I possess the maturity of a 5 year old at times. Only I prefer to categorize it more as a child-like innocence. Never losing my sense of wonder at the world. Ok, I like to blow stuff up every once in a while and I liked those boxes. But last year, by the time we got settled and had a spoon to eat from and a place to sit in our apartment, Fallas was over and wooden fireworks boxes were gone.

Fast forward to this year and the mayhem has begun to ensue. The pyrotechnic stores are open again and El Chinos are resplendent with fireworks boxes with the red cord to hand it around your neck like a cigarette girl in old movies. And of course, I had to have one. Jeff took me shopping while I perused the selection. It’s taken me less time to pick out a wedding dress than my fireworks box. But now that I had one it was time to fill it.

We headed to our local shop that has sprung up over night in Benimachlet, selling all things fireworks. They’re pretty much unregulated here so you can get things that I’m very sure could take off a hand or burn our apartment down, but nonetheless we purchased them. Bringing them home, it’s clear they won’t fit into my box. Which I think makes Jeff happy since it’s only little kids who carry these boxes. The adults have outgrown the need for one. If I go out on the street with mine he’ll walk very far behind me.

Before he heads out on his multi-city journeys, we’ll light these off and enjoy the show. I mean, if you can’t beat’em, join’em. Time to get our Fallas on!

Effigies and Processions

The last days of Fallas are upon us. It started slow with neighborhood processions – my favorite – that are more homegrown and organic, and don’t possess all the flash of the grand processions with the 100’s of Falleras and Falleros marching to the town hall on floats. Or the one to Our Lady of the Forsaken at the Cathedral square to create her flower cape and dress.

Below are some of the processions that we encountered by happenstance here in Benimachlet. One over morning coffee. Another an evening children’s procession. And then an irreverent adult procession presided over by our local Fallera. Why? Who knows?

Starting on March 11th and running through the 15h, Falla are being erected all over the city by the local groups that raise money for construction, and build them in workshops in every barrio in the city. Designers are hired who have studied this at University. They are the real stars of Fallas, along with their pyrotechnic cousins with degrees in building and blowing up things during the daily mascletas at Placa de Ajunament. Since Jeff is leaving for London to hang with a friend – then on to Germany for a few days – and finally to the US for a couple of weeks, we decided we needed to go out and see what they’ve put together before he flies the coop and leaves me to fend for myself these last few days of Fallas.

I’ve included some of what we’ve seen under construction so far in the following pictures. We’ve yet to tease out the theme for this year but I’m sure as more and more go up it will become obvious. My vote is Women’s Empowerment but some have been confusing so I’m not sure. Many of the larger ones are further along than those of less wealthy areas. Some of them have corporate sponsors and you can tell they were able to hire better designers. But we’re enjoying watching them all go up no matter how intricate.

Each day this week, I’ll head to a different neighborhood and take more photos. I took them from multiple angles as they’re 3 dimensional and have interesting characters on multiple sides. I especially like the Infantils – those small ones that are done for the children. They’re usually very intricate and have a lot more detail than the larger effigies. They seem to go up last, for whatever reason. So stay tuned for those. But until then, enjoy what we’ve seen so far and I promise more to come each day before the judging this weekend.

Fin de Semana Delicioso

A Gorgeous weekend in Valencia. Saturday was windless on the beach. Micro waves, no wind. And it was warm enough to be out and about until the mid afternoon without a jacket. And the water wasn’t too bad after you got used to it.

It’s nice to get back to normal. Or what feels like normal. A little Spain. a little bit of the US. It’s a good combo. Jeff always says if we want to meet people who like to do what we like to do, we need to get out and do it. So we did. And he’s right. It was a weekend of making new friends.

On Sunday afternoon, we joined a group that plays ‘Padel’ every week. We had never heard of this game but it’s big here. The court is like a half sized tennis court, with a plexi-glass back and a tennis net. The balls are like tennis balls only they don’t bounce as much. And the padels are small, and are filled with holes.

Padel Rackets

We had a great time learning something new – rules sort of like tennis and racket ball combined – and meeting a bunch of international people. I played alot of tennis when I lived in San Francisco. I’ve got a mean forehand (the rest of my game is rubbish). I wasn’t sure if it would show up for me after all these years. But it did.

Jeff is really good at Padel. He’s tall, with long arms. The perfect combination for racket sports. He plays a much more well rounded game than I do. We will definitely be back.

After that I walked up to an Indian Cooking class I signed up for and learned to make Emilie’s favorite – Chicken Tikka Masala. The class was great – the food even better. It was right up there with the best CTM I’ve ever had. We made both spicy and sweet. And the mix of people at the class was great. It was low key and filled with mostly other American’s I had never met. One of the participants teaches Thai cooking so I’ll be signing up for her classes too. I came home from my class and Jeff enjoyed the results for dinner, garnering his stamp of approval.

One other important find this weekend in the food department was goose eggs. Finding duck eggs has been impossible this winter, as they rarely lay when the nights are cold. So El Corte Ingles has had no duck eggs and the farm near by hasn’t had any in months. But at Consum in Benimachlet – this weekend they had goose eggs. Big beautiful goose eggs! I can eat a goose egg. They come in packs of 2 and they’re 8 euros.

That sounds like alot but they’re the size of 3 duck eggs and those are a euro a piece so this is just a bit more. This morning I got up and decided to treat myself to a omelet, complete with the herbs from my balcony garden and avocado, English cheddar, sour cream and salsa. Heaven.

So overall, the last 2 days have been fun filled, with new friends, and delicioso! Just how a weekend should be.

Riding the Wave

Jeff is a water person. We both grew up in the Northwest of the US where mountains, rivers and streams meet the crashing Pacific ocean, and it rains ALOT. So there is water everywhere. His water of choice is usually fresh water, while mine is salt water from summers growing up, spent in Cannon Beach or a house in Manzanita, just south over Neakanie Mountain. It’s wild and the storms are epic.

For much of Jeff’s adult life, his sports have included wake boarding, sea kayaking, rafting, sailing, and white water kayaking. For years he was a river guide for a club and shepherded people through white water rivers in the US and Canada. But he really loves kayaking rivers like the Skykomish, Wenatchee and Snoqualmie in Washington State even more. And watching him surfing on white water waves in the middle of a river was a thing of beauty. Our old house was 20 minutes from the put in. He never said, but he chose that house and I think that’s why.

Surfing a wave on the Sky

When we moved here, Jeff gave all that up and shipped none of his boating or rafting stuff. He chose his motorcycle over his boats. But his face fell when they took the last of his boats and paddles out of our garage in Arizona a year ago. Deep breath. He was silent for a few days. I wondered if that might be the a deal breaker, but he persevered.

There are no big rivers in Valencia and the Med is like a lake – with a few days in the winter when you can get some decent surfing in. There are days I can tell he misses it. We don’t have a ski boat or a sail boat here (yet) and while we like going to Panorama to watch the surfers on super windy days, its not the same as being out on the water yourself.

So to celebrate getting my license, I decided that we need to get back out there. So yesterday, we walked to the other side of the city and we bought a couple of paddle boards and all the gear. Carrying those home 2 1/2 miles, strapped to our backs, might have caused a few fellow pedestrians to look askance, but it’s past time we donned the wet suits and paddle some waves again. Sure, not big waves, but it’s been a while. We need to start small.

Our biggest obstacle to overcome in the short term, prior to a selection of a car with a roof rack, is how to transport watercraft to a beach or a lake. Luckily, I’ve discovered that in Spain they are very clever with the available bike rack configurations. We can get the one for surf boards and install it very easily to a bicycle. So we’ll be able to get ourselves and our boards from here to there without too much trouble. Even I wouldn’t attempt a full sized paddle board on the tram to the beach, and I’ve brought a large dining room rug on the Metro. So either I’ve lost my nerve or I’ve begun to acquiesce to social norms. It would be the first time in my life for either of those things.

If all goes well this weekend, we’ll pick up a couple of kayaks next week too, for some fun maybe a little further off shore. Just to tide us over – haha. But that may force the car purchase sooner than later. No kayak racks for a bike.

Jeff’s ultimate goal is to move north and west in Spain. To where there are real rivers and where the ocean crashes against rocks on the shore. We’re heading up there next month to begin checking out some of the areas where we might want to live, and to look for bigger water. And I’ll be practicing my newly acquired driving skills.

I guess, as we wrap up this first year of living in Spain, it’s time to add a little of the old back in with the new. Sure, embracing change is fun. But weaving the familiar in along with it makes life that much sweeter.

Too Much Junk in the Trunk

You can already tell the days are getting longer. The afternoon light has started to get that honey colored glow. The afternoons are in the 60’s and even 70’s this past weekend. Spring is arriving in January in Valencia.

Even my beleaguered pepper plant – that I failed to bring in all winter – has some new little baby peppers on it. And I’ve already bought a new basil plant. I’ve never attempted basil so early. Even in Arizona.

Another indication is that my laundry dries outside before the next load gets out of the washer. Even sheets and towels. Oh how my life has changed in one years time. My yardsticks for the season changes have completely changed.

I’ve already begun unpacking my spring and summer clothes. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but with a purpose. After watching Dr. Oz on the Today Show online, he advised that people who live in yoga or sweat pants are usually 5-10 lbs fatter than people who wear regular pants without any spandex or give in them. I didn’t like the sound of that so I went into the bathroom in front of the full length mirror (in my yoga pants) and turned in a circle. Hmm.

The only jeans I have that have no-give are white pants and they were packed away for the winter. I’ve been living in nothing but pants that are infused with give for the past 5 months. So I dug out the space bags and held up the dreaded white pants with no forgiving give-ness. I didn’t tell Jeff what I was doing and he didn’t ask. He’s used to my weird closet swaps and it wouldn’t have dawned on him that it was January – a little early for Spring and Summer.

But he became aware when I came out of the bathroom. Sure, they buttoned. Yes, I could sit down. But I was very worried I might be risking deep vein thrombosis if I wore them for any length of time. And, if I’m honest, there was a little ‘muffining’ around the top. Not Costco muffins – not that bad. More like mini muffins from the Nothing Bundt Cake shop back home. Again, he hardly noticed. Even when I asked ‘Do I look fatter than I did last summer?’

He looked at me over his glasses and iPad. Hesitating, like a man being questioned by the police and wondering what the right answer would be. Understanding clearly that his life might depend upon it.

‘No.’ And he went back to reading Reddit.

Well, he was lying. Dr. Oz would have told me the truth. I have spent way too much time in yoga pants. Ugh! Something needed to give – literally. So we went on a 20 mile bike ride down the coast. Glorious. the sun was out, the beach was uncrowded and the sailboats were on the water catching wind. Jeff got to use his bike flag that he designed and sewed himself. He was sure people were staring and pointing at his new flag. I was sure it was because he was on his recumbent trike but it doesn’t matter.

Then yesterday, I went to my first soccer practice under the towers at Torres de Seranno. It’s an international team of women from the US, UK, Germany, Brazil, Spain and Bulgaria. And they’re all half my age. But oh well. Its a workout – even though we went for beers afterwards, but I don’t drink beer so I got the full benefit. An hour and a half playing soccer will take it out of you. I slept like an 8 year old last night.

And apparently even our building thinks I could shed a couple of pounds. Our elevator was broken all day. So we had to carry a major grocery shop up 7 flights of stairs. Its fixed now that we’re home with it all put away. But holy moly, huffing and puffing lentils vertically should be part of a cross fit program.

And tonight I got invited to play on another soccer team in the town just north of where we live. Right on the Metro line. It’s just two nights a week but it will go a long way into getting me ready to fit back into those jeans comfortably – without taking blood thinners.

So, as I sit here with bruised shins and sore ankle, with the knowledge that just getting up takes a little more oomph than it did a few days ago, I’m ready to embrace Spring in Valencia. No matter how painful that’s clearly going to be.