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Published: December 1st 2011
Not a bad way to end the day with a glass of wine watching the sun set.
I sit here on the veranda of our Spanish villa, Casa del Vega, amongst the hills of Valencia overlooking orchards of oranges and almonds, and contemplate what we have accomplished so far. It has been an amazing trip. We have been so fortunate with our accommodation. As we are travelling with 5 kids, eating out 3 meals a day would have double the cost so we have aimed at staying in self-contained apartments. Early on in the plans I discovered a site called homeaway. This site has given us the opportunity to stay in residential areas, away from the main tourist areas. The homes we have stayed in have been as diverse as the areas we have visited, from the family home in the highlands of Scotland, the uni student flat off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, the funky apartment in Rome, the converted monastery in the Tuscan hills outside Florence, the loft apartment in Venice, the city flat in Madrid and now a Spanish villa with pool. WOW is all I can say.
Having the opportunity to cook some of our own meals has meant visits to the local supermarkets. These are an experience in themselves. I have found
the corner store where I am limited to the basics to Tescos on steroids. I have been found staring at the shelves wondering what I am buying. More than once I have had to pull out the ipad to translate for me. I am so used to the massive variety of breakfast cereal at home and have come to rely on this. Here we have to think outside the piazza. Buying that pasta sauce in the jar from Italy….forget about it! I discovered early on, with the help of a bottle juggling assistant, that you had to weigh your own fruit and veg. The deli section is sometime just too hard to contemplate. Finding sliced bread can be a challenge, as can a toaster (but in Spain the sliced bread can be found in a size that suits a family of 7). Peanut butter just does not exist and honey is not the norm and vegemite (as you would expect) you can forget. Milk is not fresh and tastes different.
But this is only saying what you cannot get. There is so much to replace these things. The huge packets of croissants and bakery items for breakfasts and snacks,
the different biscuits, the cheeses and packages cold meats, the variety of breads. The best is that you can get your beer and wine next to the fruit and veg and it costs less than some of the bottled water. We have found in Spain you can buy a whole leg of ham, cured in different ways and when I say a whole leg we mean foot-and-all where you hang and cut your own portion as required.
As the sun sets over the hills I am reminded how lucky we are not to have stayed in the 5-star resorts as we would have missed so much. Interacting with the shop assistant with no English (watching me ask for hair conditioner in sign language would have won me an Oscar), having to discover the little markets, getting our fruit from a vendor in his boat on the water in Venice and the treats from the bakeries throughout Italy and Spain is what has made this trip even more special and makes me only wonder what is to come.
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