Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Autumn in Spain

Thanksgiving means Sasha's birthday!  Feliz cumpleaños to our little turkey! (Purple hands courtesy of tie-dying activity)

I find myself feeling a little sad and nostalgic as we head into the home stretch of our time here in Spain.  The end of September marked the beginning of our last year here, and so from here on in everything takes on the color of being “the last time…”  at least for a while. 

Rustic rural:  Benamahoma house near Grazalema

Autumn is a good time for this kind of mildly maudlin reflective mindset.  And so when my friend Maribel told us about a lovely house close to Grazalema in the nearby Sierra de Pinar mountain range, just after a energetic game of padel with Mati and Charlotte, it seemed a perfect opportunity for an impromptu weekend getaway to view Spanish fall colors in the mountains.  

Another pueblo blanco of Andalusia: Benamahoma

Within three days, Maribel, Mati and I had the house rented for the following weekend, and had recruited Angeline, Trev, and their family, as well as Mati’s sister Laura and her kids. 

Playing games.  The house is as beautiful inside as it is outside.
Three sisters??  All we know is, we love Trev.

And so the first weekend in November we found ourselves in a rustic country house perched on the edge of the well-traveled hiking trail from Benamahoma to El Bosque.   Benamahoma (from the Arabic for “Sons of Mohammed) is a small pueblo blanco nestled on the border of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.  

Green and ghostly: legend tells of spirits roaming these paths

It houses the natural spring that gives rise to the Rio Majaceite, which in turns flows into the Rio Guadalete and on down back to our home town of El Puerto.   

A bunch of hikers

The foot paths running alongside the Rio Majaceite are well-loved by the Spanish, and this weekend was no exception; the gorgeous fall weather brought out hikers of all ages, and we joined them for several hours to hike down to El Bosque.

Javi cooks up the paella for a late lunch after hiking.  We were hungry!!

The weekend flew by, playing guitar and games at night and breakfasting all together before hiking until the traditionally late Spanish lunch.  

The digital version of charades

More old-fashioned: game of spoons

On Sunday we hiked an almost completely abandoned trail; we had to search for it carefully, and the beauty and wildness of the area was enchanting.   

First arrivals: Paloma, Steph, and Sasha

We reached the cross keeping watch over Benamahoma and continued on through the arroyo, while the girls amused themselves plaiting flowers into their hair and playing tag.  All too soon we returned to Puerto tired and content.

Flower girls

A fun group!

Another fall tradition loomed large at the end of November: Thanksgiving.  Having celebrated with a mix of people, both American and Spanish, many of whom were already very familiar with our most American holiday, we decided to cook our own turkey and celebrate again in the palace (in part to assure a smooth supply of leftovers, my very favorite part of Thanksgiving).  

Ready to eat
We invited Spanish friends who had never had the chance to eat a proper Thanksgiving meal: my friend Charo and her husband Miguel; my friends and neighbors Maria and Enrique; my beloved friend Antonia, the very first flamenco compañera who complimented me on my dancing, no matter that it was very beginner; and my flamenco teacher Jaime, who not only has taught me a huge amount about flamenco in a very short time, but who loves to learn about new traditions and customs. 

My best effort to date!

And to my credit, I made the very best turkey ever in my life.   Moist, tender, and juicy, crispy on the outside, delicious moist-bread stuffing on the inside, with cranberry and mashed potatoes and green beans and gravy, all prepared so that it came together in one fragrant delicious smorgasboard.  

The perfect place for Thanksgiving

Pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies rounded out the meal, and oh, what a setting…there is no better than our splendid dining room at the palace. 

American turkey and Terry fino:  the best of both worlds

And so time flows on, turning more quickly than I would like, pushing forward through the weeks with a stealthy speed that I would love to slow down.  But as the saying goes, time flies when you are having fun.  And so it is!

Welcome to Thanksgiving at the Palace

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