Spanish Olives

I’m not a big fan of olives. There’s something about the texture and the flavor that throws me off. I love to use olive oil when I cook, though, so I was interested in the process of olive growing and the creation of olive products. Did you know there are 260 varieties of olives that grow in Spain? We traveled to the Spanish towns that border the Mediterranean Sea to find out more about Spanish olives.

The first place we went to was owned by a gentleman named Miguel. He said almost all of the places we would visit harvested Manzanilla olives. He said these are the most popular olives in the United States, but they’re not very good for making olive oil. Miguel also said he and his small team hand pick the olives once they are ripe. The best time to pick them is between September and November. I asked him why they didn’t use a machine to pick the olives, but he said they bruise easily, so hand-picking helps to avoid bruising. After a few people sampled Miguel’s olives, we left there to go to the next place.

spanish-olives

Our second stop on the olive tour took us to a large tree farm owned by the Salazar family. The mom and dad are retired, and their four children, Rebeca, Maria, Berta, and Javier are the ones keeping the place running. Like Miguel told us, the Salazar family also harvested Manzanilla olives, but their specialty was Arbequina olives. These are the best for making olive oil and olive oil soap, their specialty. I’ve never heard of olive oil soap, but I used it for the first time when I washed my hands after using the restroom. It was light and it didn’t leave any kind of residue like most other soaps. I bought a bar from them before I left. The Salazars gave out more olive samples, which I declined.

olives-plantation-in-malaga-spain

I was glad to learn all about olives. It was pretty cool. The last stop we made for the day was at the largest of the farms we’d seen. It was ENORMOUS. They harvested Manzanilla, Arbequina, Empeltre, Queen, and like 100 more types of olives. They really didn’t want us to go through the grounds of the farm, but there was an olive buffet in our meeting room. The guide talked about the olives for a little while. There were black, brown, green, orange, purple, and red. Some were hollow and others were stuffed with anchovies, bacon, chorizo, cream cheese, jalapeño, red pepper, and much more. I still didn’t want to try any, but I asked the others to describe the taste. I told them to describe the olives in one word and some of the adjectives I got were meaty, nutty, salty, and sweet. Finally, I broke down and tried one. One word, Ewwww!!! I spit it out and gave everyone a good laugh. They say it’s an acquired taste. Let’s hope I acquire it much later in life, because right now it’s gross.

Activities:

  1. What types of olives are mentioned in the text?
  2. Finish the sentence: Olives can be stuffed with…
  3. Watch the following video about olive oil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i8lLyerZ1w. What are some benefits of this product?
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Juan Luis Guerra

Tonight was awesome!!! We went to the Juan Luis Guerra concert in Santo Domingo. You can’t imagine how handsome he is. He’s super-tall, like 6’5”, with long, dark, wavy hair (almost always covered by a hat), light brown eyes, and a full beard. He got his height from his father, who was a famous basketball player, but he got his looks from his mom: she was amazingly beautiful.

I was completely engulfed in his music. The band was rocking and his voice was so angelic. I couldn’t put my finger on his style. It was a mix between salsa and merengue and bachata with little flecks of soft rock. For a minute there, I could almost hear some gospel, jazz, and Afro-pop. Now, I believe the jazz part because he studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but where did he get the gospel and Afro-pop from?

juanluisguerra

The band, Cuatro Cuarenta, has two women and one other guy. I heard a story about how they used to pile up in an old VW Beetle and drive to their gigs before they got famous. They would ride around on their days off and hope they’d hear their songs on the radio. That sounds like something I would do. LOL!  I also heard that Juan Luis used to write jingles for a living when he first got back from Boston. I think that’s a cool way to get started in the business.

When they played my favorite song, Ojalá que llueva café, I had to close my eyes and sing along. When I opened my eyes, I swear he was smiling at me. OK, maybe he was smiling in my direction, but I like to think he was smiling at me.

OK, I’m exhausted and going to bed now. Thanks for the good times tonight, Juan Luis Guerra.

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La Playa de las Catedrales

Imagine going to a beach and discovering that the rocks are more famous than the sand or the water. Most people don’t associate rocks with the beach, but today we went to the Playa de las Catedrales in Galicia, which is famous for its rock formations, and the rocks were a big hit.

Over the last few centuries, high winds and crashing waves carved out arches and caves from the rocks. Thankfully we went during low tide, so we walked down a set of stairs to the sand. From there we could appreciate how incredible this place was. The arches were at least 100 feet high, and they were perfectly shaped. You would have thought someone carved them out by hand, they were so perfect. A couple people in the group were brave enough to walk into the caves, but I was not going in there without a flashlight and a hard hat. Who knew if there were falling objects or bats or anything in there, so I kept my distance.

la-playa-de-las-catedrales

There were people who came to rock climb. It looked like fun, but why would anyone climb the rocks when there was a perfectly good set of stairs to climb? LOL! I wondered what else there was to do in this area. Of course we took a million pictures, and when the sunset approached, I focused my camera through one of the archways. I just knew I’d get the most amazing pictures.

I was all ready to snap my picture with a steady hand and steady eye, when someone ran past me, hit me on the arm, and yelled “Tag, you’re it!” I hadn’t played tag in so long! At that point I had a choice to make. Stay and get incredible pictures or go play and risk losing the opportunity to take breath-taking pictures to take home. Stay or go? Stay or go? Silly me, I went. Five minutes of play time couldn’t hurt, right?

la-playa-de-las-catedrales-high-tide

The Playa de las Catedrales was voted one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, yet we were out there playing tag. And out of the entire half mile of the beach, everyone wanted to hide in a cave because they knew I was a wimp and wouldn’t go all the way in. I went to the closest cave, which was a shallow one, and stuck one hand in to feel around. I touched someone and an unfamiliar voice yelled “Excuse you!” I was so embarrassed! I apologized into the darkness. The person behind the voice came out of the cave and said “I’m just playing, you got me.” At that point I knew it was time to go back to taking pictures. Thank goodness I did, because I was just in time to get my sunset pictures. Awesome, right???

Activities:

  1. Where is Galicia? Go to Google Maps and find a few important towns in Galicia.
  2. Do you think all the beaches in Spain are similar to the Playa de las Catedrales? Why?
  3. ¡A investigar! There is a relationship between Galicia and the British Isles. Investigate about the two regions and come up with a few ideas about how the two might be linked. Support your ideas.
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AVE

I don’t understand why we are always in a rush. Sometimes it’s our own fault, like when we come back late from an excursion and only have twenty minutes to pack and get to the bus. But other times, I feel they schedule our desafíos too close to our initial arrival challenge.

Today was a great example of that. We started off in Seville—amazing city, by the way—and we had to solve the riddle. It was noon when we finished that challenge and we had to be in Madrid in about four hours. The drive is about five and a half hours, so there was no way we were going to make it. I got really frustrated because I didn’t know what our task would be, and I didn’t want to have to finish up in the dark. By this time I was fuming, so I went outside to take a break.

About five minutes later a woman came outside and told me to simply take the AVE. I told her “ha ha, very funny. I’m sure a bird is going to get us there faster.” She said it wasn’t a bird; it was a high-speed train. I know the trains back home are pretty fast, but they make frequent stops. The woman told me to come to her office and look up the schedules and fares. I was hesitant, because I wasn’t sure if this train could get us there in time, but I didn’t have much of a choice since I didn’t want to be late.

The website was pretty cool. It gave me some great information about the AVE trains. These are high speed trains, and they go in excess of 150 mph. The site said the trip from Seville to Cordoba would “only” go about 155 mph because there were a lot of steep curves, but the speed would increase from 155 to 185 from Cordoba to Madrid. How awesome is that? The total trip time was three hours and fifteen minutes. Three hours and fifteen minute  of 150–185 mph sounded like motion sickness waiting to happen!

ave-train-station

The discount tab was another cool feature of the website. There was a special fare for students and people under twenty-five. Sis didn’t make the cut, so she had to pay full price, which actually wasn’t that expensive. There was a train leaving in about half an hour, so we had to buy and print our tickets and rush out of the office. The bottom of the ticket said the gates close two minutes before departure, so that left us twenty-eight minutes to jump in a taxi to get there. Sis told the driver to step on it, and he really did. We were flying around the streets of Seville. Did I mention that Seville is amazing?

ave-train-in-motion

Activities:

  1. AVE is an acronym and means Alta Velocidad Española. Guess the meaning for these acronyms in Spanish:
    Mexico D.F.
    Barcelona F.C.
    E.E.U.U.
    J.J.O.O.
  2. Go to Google Maps and find the cities of Córdoba and Sevilla. Then, describe the train route between both cities.
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