Granada Part 2: Canyoning, Cooking, and Jumping over Fire

And just like that, 5 weeks fly by and this Part 2 on Granada feels so long ago. Clearly keeping up with a blog schedule isn’t my strong suit, but I am vowing to change that now that we’re in our last 4 months abroad. We want to cover topics like balancing travel/work, eating well and staying healthy, coworking spaces, travel trips, etc. Adam is going to start writing as well! Stay tuned 🙂

Okay, all that said, our reflection on Granada wouldn’t be complete without this Part 2, so the show (and blogging) must go on.  In an effort to rein in my long-windedness, Part 2 on Granada is a top 3 list. As in 3 experiences, we would be amiss by not including in our reflection of Granada. Oh, and a few honorable mentions at the end because I just can’t contain myself.

1. Taking a paella cooking class in Malaga
Before visiting, I knew Malaga as a sunny beach town Ed Sheeran sung about where Europeans flocked to party. Although completely true, Malaga has a lot more to offer in terms of culture, food and landscape. We made the weekend trip to Malaga because Adam had booked us a cooking class with Spain Food Sherpas. From beginning to end the 4-hour class was the highlight of the weekend. We mosied around the local market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas, with our guide Simone while tasting and picking up our ingredients.

With all our ingredients in hand, we moved on to the cooking portion in a robust, well-designed cooking lab with the sweet Chef Amparo. We began by having an olive and olive oil tasting where we tried 3 oils, one of which was homemade in Amparo’s hometown. It was a treat to compare and contrast the different tastes while learning about the olive oil production in Spain. Apparently, Spain is the world’s leader in cultivating olive trees and is thus responsible for a majority of the olive oil in the world – be it by making the oil themselves or selling olives to other countries. Can you imagine, all that famous $$ Italian olive oil might really be made from or fortified with Spanish olives. Scandalous.

Once we were all oiled up, we began cooking our menu of seafood paella and a simple gazpacho. To our surprise, the paella wasn’t difficult to create! Sure it takes time, patience and quality ingredients, but I had always thought it to be an intimidating, multi-hour, laborious meal. Paella actually originates from Valencia, Spain so many argue that one can only get ‘authentic paella’ from that region. However, Amparo learned how to cook her recipe in Valencia so we think it’s pretty legit. As we let the paella sit and fluff-up, we started the gazpacho consisting of only 6 simple ingredients, tomato, pepper, onion, breadcrumbs, olive oil and water. It was so delicious, Adam nearly drank an entire pitcher with the *most delicious* paella. Safe to say, we waddled out of the kitchen back to our AirBnB for a nap.

Get in my belly!

2. Canyoning

“Canyoning, also known as canyoneering is an adventure activity that combines rock and water activities into a sport full of adrenaline and natural beauty. When you go canyoning you will be trekking through river gorges, around rock pools and behind waterfalls. You will find yourself abseiling down waterfalls and tackling cliff jumps into stunning water rock pools.” – Not my words

I hadn’t even heard of canyoning until Adam discovered an ecotourism company called Saltarios that led canyoning excursions south of Granda near the coastal town of Nerja. The appeal of this adventure combined with a weekend at the beach was enough to lure us 1 hour south for an exciting weekend getaway.

Canyoning is the most liberating outdoor experiences we’ve done together. As the description above alludes to, there are no rules or ‘right way’ to traverse down a mountain following a pretty heavy stream or river. Sometimes we swam, others times rappelled, then trekked and often jumped hoping not to hit one of many boulders below. Our guides were laid back and easy to follow, but our small group also had 6 crazy middle-aged Spaniard men, not afraid of anything. Full speed ahead.

All smiles when rappelling

To begin the adventure, we hiked a mile or so in our bathing suits with wetsuits and gear tied on our backs. Nothing else. No phones, pants, chapstick, water — nada. Once we got to a good area to begin, we suited up with excitement. Full body wetsuits, helmets, harnesses, neoprene socks and hiking shoes. The day was filled with unpredictability and gave us this kid-like adrenaline rush of playing in a completely natural, and slightly dangerous, waterpark. At one point, I was so anxious to jump over the first waterfall, I invented a new landing technique mixing an unathletic bellyflop with running (for embarrassing video, check out our Instagram). Protip: don’t do that. Collect yourself and jump like a pencil with loose knees. During another point on the excursion, we had to repel straight down 50′ of rushing water. Adam made it all look so effortless and I have a feeling that it won’t be our last time canyoning.

Pro Canyoner

3. Fire jumping at the San Juan Festival in Nerja
The San Juan festival is a vibrant annual event across many beach towns in Spain and is a strange and lively mix of Christian and Pagan traditions. From what I read, the celebration is the culmination of ‘Christianizing’ the Pagan holiday, Summer Solstice by changing the meaning to celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist.

On the evening of June 23rd, there are thousands of beach bonfires up lighting up the night sky where family and friends gather to celebrate all night. They jump over the flames to symbolically leave the past and their sins behind and quite literally jump into the future with a renewed spirit and optimism. Some even WALK on the coals, ouch! It is also common for people to write down their hopes and wishes then burn them. Ah, and I can’t forget to mention kids cathartically burn their schoolwork from the previous year. Math homework makes for nice kindling apparently. Finally, the clock struck midnight and the majority of people run straight for the ocean like crazed zombies. This ritual is supposed to bring 12 months of prosperity. Naturally, Adam and I participated in all of this madness… expect the walking on the hot coals part. We’re not that tough.

The huge central bonfire burned a wood carving of a fish

San Juan is a crazy fun holiday. Kids are up all night, there are Chinese lanterns and copious amounts of fires, food, music and alcohol. It’s a party like we’ve never seen. Google “San Juan Festival”, as I know my words don’t do this firey holiday justice.

Honorable Mention Experiences:

  • Having a spontaneous evening tapa crawl with friends Alex and Amy, whom we met on our missed and then severely delayed flight. #vuelingsurvivorsclub
  • Rendezvousing with my hometown friend Emily who not only tutored me in Spanish before our departure but whom I also travelled to Spain with during high school 12 years ago!!!
  • Making friends at the coworking space Errant. Special shoutouts to Wendy, her husband Hicham and friend Gonzalo for making us feel so welcome!
  • Indulging in velvety jamón ibérico – a must try when in Spain, no exceptions.
  • Hiking Los Cahorros – Pictureqesue hiking area where Adam and I rode our bikes to… on flat tires.
  • Watching talented and fierce Flamenco dancers tear it up.

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We're semi-newlyweds living in the great city of Cincinnati, except for this year as different parts of the world will be our home. Although different in our own ways, we both share common loves of cooking, the outdoors, volleyball, skiing, delicious food scenes, travel (obviously) and our awesome dog Bentley. Adam works as a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams focusing on and passionate about investment properties. When he's not making calls, renovating homes around the city or building his local Key Property Partners team, you can find him on one of Cincinnati's many sand volleyball courts, year-round. In fact, he tried to bring THREE volleyballs on this 10-month trip (luggage limitations got him down to 2... I'll keep you posted on how he survives). Adam is also a foodie and loves ordering the strangest thing on every menu. If I had to sum him up in 4 words it would be: determined, practical, thoughtful and curious. I, the likely frequent author of this blog, am an environmental graphic designer for m+a architects. What that mostly means if you aren't familiar, is that I design environments that communicate information, a brand or a feeling. Installations, signage, wall graphics, custom art, and so on and so forth. It's pretty awesome work. When I'm not working, I'm usually putting my creative juices to good use and DIY'ing something around our newly renovated home or sending Adam pictures of adoptable dogs. I love otters, wine tastings, a good charcuterie board and keeping an active lifestyle. Adam's summary of me in four words is: enthusiastic, determined, adventurous, and athletic (finally, he admitted it!)

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