The Valladolid city lights have been lit.

Spanish homes may not have elaborate Christmas lights strung on every inch of their roof, but that doesn't mean the city doesn't know how to get into the Christmas spirit!
El arbol en la Plaza
Walking up Calle Santiago
Lights hanging above you as you walk down city streets
Plaza Zorilla
All around the Plaza
City Hall
Even with the power of the cold, how could you not feel all warm and fuzzy inside at Christmas time?
Dorothy said it best. "There's no place like home."

Living across the world from the home I have always known, I've created a new home for myself.
Not my house, exactly. But the Plaza Mayor.
Valladolid, Spain has been my casa nueva for about 3 months now. I knew and fell in love with the city last year after spending several weekends fiesta-ing (and siesta-ing) in the city. 

When I was given the opportunity to choose where to spend the next year, there was no hesitation. But that doesn't mean everything has been peachy-keen here. Every city has it's advantages and disadvantages. Inspired by a friend's post, I have decided to come up with the Pros and Cons of my new city life.

The word Valladolid in Spanish has no meaning, but is said to be derived from the words 'Valley of Sun'. A popular nickname for the city is Pucela (pooh-thell-uh).
-True Castellano (Castilian Spanish) is spoken here.
-We have a fútbol team. And they aren't terrible!

-Campo Grande. There's nothing like reading a book in the park and enjoying the view on a gorgeous afternoon.

-We have an airport.

-With the city's new AVE high-speed train you can get to Madrid in only 50 minutes. Choo choo!

-Valladolid has history. Christopher Columbus died here.
-Living in the capital city of your region means everyone has visited, knows someone who lives here, or passes by on their trip to whatever sitio. Easy access.

-3 wine-making regions surround us. Riberia del Duero, Rueda, and Cigales. Bottoms up!

-The clock in the city center above Caja Rural is what I like to think of as a Mini-Times-Square. It always lets me know how late I am as I run to catch the bus.

-The University of Valladolid evens out the ratio of elderly people to jovenes in the city.

-IKEA is opening in December. Take that, other capital cities of Spain! We have furniture and meatballs.

-The architecture is easy on the eyes.
View from Plaza Zorilla up Calle Santiago.
Plaza EspaƱa
My apartment is on the other side of this building.
The bridge I walk across a few times a week.
Out with the skyscrapers, in with the old Cathedrals.
-The weather.

-The weather.

-Did I mention the weather? Valladolid gets what is said to be "Nine months of winter and three months of hell." And added to that, there is the famous fog and frost.

-Your own two feet are your main form of transportation. Not always a bad thing, except in that frio weather.

-The prettiest Cathedral and biggest/most beautiful Plaza Mayor are not here in Valladolid.

-Valladolid does not have cobblestone streets, so we miss out on the romantic Spanish night-time glow.

-With 300,000 people it is hard to make friends. ¿Como se dice "lost in a crowd"?
Not always a bad thing! Getting lost in a crowd of handsome Spaniards is nothing to complain about!
But, if the weather and the population are my only two issues, I've got nothing to complain about! Valladolid's pros outweigh any cons the city may have.

As much respect as I have for Dorothy, I prefer to side with Anonymous. "Home is where your heart is."

Who knows what the next year will bring, but this year, my heart is here with you...Valladolid!
Today marks one week back in Spain. I have been the busiest little española with a week full of excitement and settling into my new casa.

Meeting families for private English classes, getting ready for school, learning the bus routes around the city, helping other Americans set up with phones and apartments, nightly fiestas in the peña, and attending my very first fútbol game are only a touch on the non-stop week that has flown by. 

One of the great things I experienced this week are LAS FERIAS.
Whether you call it the carnival, the fair, or the fan fair; Spain knows how to do it right.

The county fair back home is something I always look forward to. I found a ton of similarities in our fairs and the spanish fairs.
There are crazy flip you up-side down and make you scream attractions every few feet.
The guys here still want to win prizes for their girlfriends.
And there are rides that are fun no matter what age you are, or where you live.
But there are also some very unique rides, games, and gastronomy to a Spanish fair that you won't find in the US.
All vendors have full liquor bars, or specific stands sell special drinks.
Knock down 3 bottles of wine, win a ham!
Churros dipped in chocolate, or filled with chocolate. It took a lot of strength not to buy one of these!
If there is one memory I'm leaving with, it is my ride on the Rodeo ride, the toro loco (crazy bull...and that it is!) as La Whitney calls it. Sit on the bull and try to hold on while it jerks you in every direction possible. 

Amidst trying to hold your dress down, you'll be falling on top of small children, each other, and trying to get back up on the bull before the ride is over. I'm pretty certain the worker on the ride had never heard so many American screams of "Oh my God!" before in his life.

America, take notes: Best. Ride. Ever.

I'll be back again to conquer you toro loco, in pants next time instead of a dress.
The second I touched down on Spanish soil early Friday morning, a smile came across my face. 

Looking out the window on the train ride to Valladolid was something I had been looking forward to. Seeing the Spanish countryside around me was beautiful, peaceful, and made me feel like I was back home (away from home). Hearing the Spanish spoken around me was music to my ears.
Now, I am all settled in my new piso, which I love. I have been participating in the fiestas of Valladolid this week and am the member of a peña, also something that has been so amazing. More on that later.

I have been eating new foods and drinking new drinks. My new favorite is Lorencito. Half sprite, half white wine. And I've been speaking Spanish more than I knew I could. 
This week I have started private English classes with some very kind families who have been eager to show me around the city they love so much. In just a week or so, I'll begin teaching in the high school. 

I don't think the smile that came across me when I arrived is ever going to go away!

Things I'm looking forward to in Spain:

I've made a small list of things I'll miss about the US. But there are so many things I'm looking forward to in the year(s) ahead.

1. Fiestas. Claras, cañas, and Spanish wine (or for the hard drinker in me...Vodka Negra). Staying out until daylight on Friday and Saturday nights dancing to my favorite Spanish songs, because that's just, what they do. Discotecas.
The street after the New Year's Eve (nochevieja) fiesta.
2. Tapas. Small appetizers you eat with a drink in bars. The spanish word for lid. An old legend describes a King who put a piece of jamon over his drink when the wind blew through the bar. Now ham and other small appetizers are called tapas. And they are delicious. Tortilla de patatas. Croquettes. Aceitunas. Tostada con tomate. 
From a tapas bar in Valladolid. Bread with sausage, cheese, and onions. Yum!
3. Siestas. In all reality, I won't take siestas everyday. Nor does any Spaniard I know. The always working American girl in me won't have time for that. But the fact that I COULD if I wanted to, and still not be socially labeled as an 'old lady', 'lazy youknowwhat', or a 'burnt out youngster' is a wonderful thing.

4. People watching. Seeing the old men and women in their Sunday best window shopping as they hold hands, and the little girls and boys dressed with bows in their hair pushing miniature baby buggies.
Precious Cherub children at Christmas time looking at a Nativity
5. Transportation. Letting my feet take me wherever I need to go. Walking past old Spanish architecture, even a 900 year old cathedral on my way to meet a friend. Riding through the Spanish countryside, on two-lane roads, scenic land on all sides of me.
Not the most scenic view, but still the Spanish countryside.
6. The language. A bit of a challenge for me, but still something I love. Castellano will be spoken to me, about me (hopefully good things) and written, all around me. Note: Stop signs say STOP. Weird, right?
7. Soccer. Ahem, fútbol. I don't know all the rules, I can't play very well, but I love watching the Spaniards obsess over it, and the passion they have for their teams. This year, I'll have to become a loyal fan. But hmm...which team should I choose? ¡VAMOS!
David Villa = a babe.
There is no list that could put into words everything that is so amazing about Spanish culture.

But this is a start to the list of the things to come in the next year of my life. I'm getting so excited!

Let the countdown begin

In exactly one month from today I will be arriving in Spain. 

The moment I'm most excited for upon arriving is seeing the Plaza Mayor again. I imagine it'll be like seeing someone you haven't seen for a long time. It's a shame I can't hug 10 buildings at once.

It's not a particularly special landmark or site. Just the center of a city, a square of buildings that Spaniards walk through on the path of their own lives, to go have coffee, grocery shop, or meet a friend. Pretty soon that's going to be me. Walking through that plaza, living in that city.

It's not the biggest, oldest, or most beautiful in Spain. But something about it just feels like a true home away from home.

A picture of the plaza is not only etched in the back of my mind, but at the top of this very website, so you can share the image with me as much as you'd like.
Plaza Mayor at Christmas Time