España Verde – Santander & Basque Country

This year’s trip to Spain brought us to the green northern coast. Santander, in the beautiful region of Cantabria was our starting point, then making our way to the east, exploring the Spanish part of Basque Country.

Santander

A quiet little city on the Atlantic coast, home to some beautiful beaches and charming little plazas. We arrived rather late due to some delays and only had one night to stay. We used the time walking around town and going to the beach. It was a Sunday so it was pretty quiet and the shops were closed but we found the local people spending their free time by the beach. The weather wasn’t exactly suitable for swimming except for a few very brave ones, but it was nonetheless a good day to be there.

Unfortunately, we had to leave before we got to see more because we had quite a drive ahead of us going to our campsite (which is close to San Sebastián) and a tent to assemble and we did not want to get there so late.

Campsite

We booked our plot at the lovely Camping Itxaspe site. The staff was very helpful and we got everything we needed. From there, we had a great view of the ocean and nature – everything was so green! It was so satisfying to be able to breathe such fresh air and I think it’s something I will pursue in the coming years – traveling to places with the purest of air to breathe! It was still a bit cold in the region since summer hasn’t really kicked in yet and it was probably even too early for some to come over with their tents (all the others came with their caravans) but we came prepared and though the nights were a bit cold, it was still possible to get some good night’s sleep.

The campsite is in a Geopark area and very close to some Flysch cliffs and the beach.

Vitoria-Gasteiz

European Green Capital back in 2012, and rightfully so because it’s clearly their favourite colour (and also mine). The air was just as fresh in this city as that on the countryside and I am still amazed by how this is even possible and wonder why not all cities do the same.

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Bosque Pintado de Oma

After our visit to Vitoria-Gasteiz, we still had some time (and energy) for a 6km trek through the painted forest of Oma. This was a recommendation by a classmate from my Spanish class and it did not disappoint. It was quite a walk going up and down hills but it was all worth it once the worst was over an we finally came to the climax which was the painted forest itself. It looked so trippy and it was so strange to find such art in the middle of the woods.

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I heard from people about how gorgeous this city is – and it’s absolutely true! Though we had the worst weather conditions here during our whole visit to the Basque Country, it still did not stop us from exploring a little bit. We did have heavy rain, though, that just did not seem to want to stop and, when it did, it was extremely windy. We dared to go to the beach, which was right in the city, during this time but it was really uncomfortable walking around when you feel like you will be blown away at anytime.

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But the overall experience in this city was great because we had dinner reservations at one of the cider houses outside of town but close by. We went to Alorrenea Cider House and drank a good amount of this local specialty which we poured ourselves, straight from the barrel. People who know me know that I am a huge fan of apple cider and I try all the ciders that the world has to offer, so this really has been a unique experience. Alongside we had a four-course meal including a steak fresh off the grill. The whole experience only costs 31,-€ each, and I say only because they really served a lot of food and an unlimited amount of cider. Though we did have a car, we made sure to come by taxi and the personnel at the restaurant were also so kind to call a taxi to take us back to the city (only 15 minutes away) because if you do everything right in this house, then there’s no way you should drive after drinking.

We left San Sebastián with a broken heart the next morning and would have loved to stay but we wanted to find out if our tent was still standing after that storm. Though the campsite is close to the city, we were happy to find our little home still intact. Apparently, the place was not affected by the storm at all.

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I guess this was the place we were excited about the most. It’s famous for being a filming venue for Game of Thrones where, with the help of some editing, the home of Khaleesi stood, best known as Dragonstone. The castle shown in the HBO series did not really exist but the infamous steps going up the “castle” were very much real and so was the huge rock resting on the Atlantic – waves crashing and all. This, again, was quite the trek, even more difficult than the one at the painted forest of Oma (due to construction works we had to take a longer, more challenging route), but people did not seem to care. And, mind you, a LOT of tourists come by to see this.

Bilbao

Our last stop was the largest city in Basque Country – Bilbao. Also famous for its pintxos, we knew we had to find the best place if we were to break our diet anyway. In this region, there was not much of a choice for low-carb alternatives because the cuisine itself meant small-portions-of-food-on-top-of-a-small-piece-of-bread. We found Café Iruña and it did not disappoint, but you have to experience it for yourself to know what I mean. We went to the Guggenheim Museum, which in itself was already a masterpiece of architecture.

We also only had one night to stay here before we left Spain altogether. This, I can say, was really too short of a holiday because the whole region is just so beautiful and we would really love to come back for all the places we’ve missed and maybe even see some places again. The green part of Spain is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and I’m just in love with it. ❤

Happy, Quiet Birthday

Time flies, doesn’t it? I still remember the cold winter days like they were yesterday…

It was my birthday last week and we quietly celebrated it, just me and the wife. After a toxic work week it felt like a quiet birthday weekend was long overdue. Although I must admit, the celebration was month-long considering that I have received some of my birthday gifts really early and the anticipation of the things we were about to do kept me going.

I somehow lost my wife’s little JBL bluetooth speaker so she got me this one which is big enough not to misplace it. 🙂
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We have been searching record stores and flea markets for weeks now for some quality second-hand vinyls.

Also, a few months back we got tickets to Sam Smith’s concert here in Berlin and it was just a few days short of my birthday. To be quite honest, I did not expect such a great show. He’s just adorable and a great performer and I’m glad I didn’t give away our tickets or else we would have missed out on all his cuteness. 🙂

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Then on the first day of my birthday weekend, we had theatre tickets to see Die Therapie, from Sebastian Fitzek’s book of the same name which I have written little bit about here. I really loved the book so, sadly, I already knew the twists but it was nevertheless a really good performance and I realised that I actually do like going to the theatre and will be looking out for more shows in the city.

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So on the day before the birthday itself, we checked into the Hilton Berlin. Last year we were in Warsaw and got a great deal on a room at the Hilton hotel there and just loved everything about it, especially the breakfast buffet. Since we decided to stay home this year, we chose the Hilton again mostly for the breakfast but also because I got us a room with a view at a discounted price.

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The hotel is right at Gendarmenmarkt and from our window you can see Deutscher Dom from up close. Waking up to all this was the whole point. We also had access to the wellness area and executive lounge that served snacks and coffee and wine so I can really say it was worth every cent.

We lost track of time the night before my birthday when we took advantage of the facilities of the hotel by going to the gym, then the pool, then the sauna and next thing we know it’s already late in the night when we were ready for dinner. We went out and walked around Gendarmenmarkt looking for a place that still served warm food at 10 PM and ended up at a Bavarian brewery and ate crispy Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle). Really, Keto has not been more fun than that night, indulging in what we Filipinos would call crispy pata without any guilt whatsoever.

After our dinner, we walked through Gendarmenmarkt, appreciating its stillness. The moon was bright and only few people were out considering it was a Sunday night. While waiting for the clock to strike midnight, we took a few photos.

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On the day of my birthday and after checking out, we stayed a bit longer in the area since we don’t really get to roam around there like tourists do and just pretended we were one of them. Really, I can’t even remember the last time I stepped foot inside Galeries Lafayette. Since we have been on Keto for almost two months now, we skipped the whole birthday cake thing and I chose something I get to eat even less often – oysters. We had lunch at Seaside Fish & Seafood Bar for my oyster fix and I was positively surprised. It’s the only restaurant of its kind that we’ve found in the city so far and has instantly become one of my favourites. Fresh seafood reminds me of home. ❤

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My this year’s idea of a birthday cake.

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Soon the day was over and we went home feeling relaxed and I have been receiving birthday greetings by the minute which is always a great way to spend the day.

When I got back to work doing the AM shift, the table was set with flowers and cakes and gifts, a tradition we have that I usually coordinate. But since this time it was my turn at the receiving end, I did not know what to expect. I was even scared that they will all just forget about it. This clearly wasn’t the case, though, and I was glad to be back at work again. They even made a low-carb cheesecake that suits my current diet situation. 🙂

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More greetings came in that day from my colleagues and everyone politely asked if I had some sort of celebration. I always replied that I had my peace and quiet, which I seemed to value more these days. I don’t really miss having a birthday party with food and drinks and friends and family and lots and lots of gifts, or even having to spend it somewhere far from home. I’m not saying that I will only ever be spending my birthdays like this in the future because I might want to throw a party or two at some point, but I am sure that I’d be happy to have some days like this one – just me, the wife, and a view.

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(Had my sister not broken her leg last month, she would have come to Berlin to be with us on my birthday. Not sure what our plans would have looked like then, but I’m sure it would have been a fun day nonetheless.)

The thrill of living in this city is still the same as when we first moved here almost two years ago. We get lazy sometimes but it’s satisfying to know that to avoid boredom, all we have to do is get out of the house, maybe drive a few kilometres, and we’ll see something we’ve never seen before. ❤

Ginger Shots – A recipe

This is my first time sharing one of my recipes inspired by a week of having the sniffles at the break of Autumn. Not that Germany has had a proper summer this year, because let’s face it, it was pretty mild. Still, autumn has hit everyone pretty hard, which caused our department a 25% sick rate. I happened to have my share right after I had my 4-day weekend. Having to wake up at 3 AM after having been in class until 9 PM the night before did not help my case at all. I only had 3 days until my next off-day but it felt like I had to work for two weeks straight. When I was asked if I could jump in for my sick colleague, I had to pass. I thought that if I had to work another day, I’ll most probably have to call in sick the following days which will only cause a bigger disruption in our shifts.

So with one whole day to make myself feel better, I went back to one of my old recipes. I swear by this concoction every flu season. I like to try out new products that I find in the supermarket and, one faithful day, bottled ginger shots have hit the shelves. I love ginger and I love the prickling sensation of it on my throat so it’s not surprising that I went out for some more. Soon enough, I realised it leaves a huge hole in my pocket. 1,49 € for one shot (60 ml) is too much for daily consumption. I had to find a way to get it for cheaper. And here it goes:

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Recipe for Ginger Shots

Ingredients:

Makes about 1L of ginger juice.

(Breakdown: 60% apple juice, 25% ginger-turmeric juice, 10% orange juice, 5% lemon juice)

  • 400g ginger roots (or replace 50g ginger with 50g fresh turmeric root for a more earthy taste and nutritional value)
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 oranges
  • 7 apples

Directions:

  1. Prepare your apples and ginger roots for your juicer. You may have to peel them depending on the type of juicer you are using. Mine did not require that so I only had to wash everything thoroughly.
  2. Juice the apples, ginger roots, and turmeric (if used).
  3. Squeeze out the juice of your oranges and lemon in a citrus juicer.
  4. Mix everything together and pour into your container of choice. I used a few airtight bottles.
  5. Refrigerate for up to 5 days and don’t forget to share!

(Who am I kidding, I finished these on my own within 5 days, taking a few shots a day.)

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Important Reminder:

When preparing your turmeric roots, don’t forget to wear gloves! I did not wear any since I only washed them and put them in the juicer unpeeled but it was when I cleaned out my juicer that I instantly regretted not wearing gloves and walked around with my right hand the colour of Homer Simpson’s for a few days.

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Results? For one, I got my voice back one day later. We know about citrus fruits having high vitamin C levels that help boost our immune system, and so do apples. Both ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties, the latter also serving as an antioxidant.