Requena: Exploring the Valencia Region

We started our tour of Valencia Region towns in Requena. With 10 euro ‘unlimited’ rail passes it’s easy to go somewhere on a whim. A Google search indicated there was a “sample our artisan sausage” event in Requena from February 10th through the 12th. Wine and olive oil tastings were also being offered. We did a little more reading. Despite not being sure what exactly we were getting into we said, “Why not?”

Requena is situated at 2,270 ft. It’s colder than Valencia. That’s something to keep in mind when Valencia is sweltering. In the winter it means packing sweaters. Donna eventually bought gloves. I brought a hat and ear warmers. I didn’t use them. “Hace frio!”, was how every conversation with locals started.

In February the Muestra de Embutido Artesano y de Calidad is held in Requena’s Recinto Ferial Municipal at the fairgrounds. It’s a ten minute walk from the train station. You just get off the train, walk down the hill, and turn right at the fountain. From there you just follow the paseo.

Locals will tell you the sausage fair is crowded. They will also tell you it’s a place to meet friends and family and drink. All of that is true. Watching twenty-somethings twirl around in traditional dress while not spilling a single drop of wine from their raised glasses was a highlight. So was trying a legendary local sausage called Perro. It’s a blood sausage/head cheese hybrid flavored with a touch of cinnamon and cloves. Not having tried it before…I think a little more spice would have improved my sample. We bought some small press olive oil and headed for Requena’s historic Barrio de La Villa.

Barrio de La Villa was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1966. It makes Requena a destination even if there isn’t a fair or festival in town. Gothic churches, several museums, the Jewish Quarter, the Palace of the Cid, and the Caves of the Villa are all just a short walk from each other. Our timing is notoriously off. A lot of the aforementioned attractions were closed, or closing, when we visited. Time to wander La Villa’s narrow maze of streets was welcomed. We did make a visit to the Museum of the Art of Silk. The self-guided tour was a colorful and informative diversion, and it got us out of the cold.

You don’t have to wait around for the sausage fair to find artisanal sausages in Requena. There are carnicerias and embutido shops throughout the city. Specialty food shops feature local products. The grocery store had a wide range of Requena wines lined up and ready for purchase. We bought a couple of bottles!

Finding a restaurant that wasn’t fully booked was a challenge. It was Friday night and there was a sausage fair going on. Go figure. Spaniards eat a lot later than we do. An early 8:30 PM dinner reservation at Cocina de Pilar got us in the door. The lamb was tender. The greens were fresh. The Bobal-Garnacha-Syrah blend was delicious. The Crema de Catalana was as good as it gets, and a little bit more.

For lunch the next day there was a choice between eating, or catching the last tour through The Caves of Villa. We chose eating. Somehow we managed to get the last two-top at Restaurante Dona Anita. The meal was a culinary tour of local specialties. A smooth mixture made out of potatoes, olive oil, eggs, and garlic was served. It’s called Ajoarriero. We couldn’t figure it out, but we ate all of it. It must have been good. Then came sausage skewers with fried potatoes and eggs, and a rich pork stew with more sausage. Dessert was an apple tarte tatin. You could have rolled us down the hill.

The fair goers rolled home all night long. The singing was bright and hovered near a tune. I slept through a lot of it. We caught an early train back to Valencia.

We have to thank our vacation rental host, Eva, and the people of Requena for their hospitality. It provided all the warmth we needed. We’ll be back!

Se Vende: The House in Oliva

Just because we found our dream house doesn’t mean we won’t sell it. Our pattern has been to find the house of our dreams, return it to its former glory, and then move on. There was a farmhouse in Sultan. A stunning craftsman in historic Snohomish. A metal garage to transform on Herron Island. We have stayed in our Seattle house the longest. That feat required building a backyard cottage. Family members aren’t surprised when we move, or that our new dream requires lots of trips to home supply stores. It’s what we do.

The beauty of our house in Oliva, Spain was not having walls to remove in my future. The open kitchen fantasy would require knocking down a stone wall that is two and a half feet thick. The thin brick wall upstairs gave Donna her own dressing room. It’s not that moving walls wasn’t contemplated. I just didn’t have to be as emphatic when discouraging notions about wall removal.

The house in Oliva is definitely a dream house. It matches a recurring theme in Donna’s dream journal. Valencian beamed ceilings, rustic Spanish charm, and a view of the Mediterranean ticked all the right boxes. A view of the castle ruins from the terrace was an extra. That the walk up to the castle figures in local festivities was a surprise. Having traditional processions pass your house goes beyond dreams.

We didn’t visit the beach before making an offer on our house. The beach is stunning, and it’s stunning all year round. We visited a lot of Spanish beaches before landing in Oliva. Oliva’s beach is the best of them. It’s beautiful. It’s sandy. The waves are perfect for body surfing. There aren’t any high rises, or tourist hordes. The cafes are low key and run by locals. When our favorite pastry chef, Veronica, and her husband opened Juanmi we were thrilled. The beach in Oliva is a family affair. It was a perfect escape from getting our dream home to match our dreams.

Putting traditional tiles in the living room and dining room was the first order. Refacing and painting the house’s exterior was up next. Oscar and his crew did it right. Getting rid of leaky lead pipes and replacing them with copper wasn’t a choice. The result was healthy water and an opportunity to add copper touches wherever we saw fit. A new washing machine and hot water heater were added. Hot baths and a clothes washing cycle that doesn’t take hours were the rewards. Our recurring joke is that we get our house the way we want it, and then we move.

The house is a house. The people we met and became friends with are the real treasures. Open and friendly locals, expats from around the globe, helpful neighbors, and an always interesting mix of people make Oliva a fascinating and lively place to live.

All this and you might ask, “Then why are you selling your house there?” Reading the rest of this blog might suggest some answers. I go back to a quote from the poet Antonia. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘Yes!’ What else could it have possibly been?” Life isn’t meant to be a series of unexplored possibilities. There’s always a new dream waiting around the bend. So we try leave things better than we found them, and then go around the next bend. “They were always a little around the bend.” will probably be carved into our tombstones.

Love you all!


The overnight snow that was forecast hadn’t fallen, or it refused to stick around. It was cold enough, and we were prepared. The cold has been the damp kind that comes with being by the water. We packed the warmest clothing we had in Spain. There were gaps. Hats, gloves, and ear muffs were needed. They weren’t difficult to find. New items were added as the cold seeped in.

Our trip to Denmark was one of seeking connections to Donna’s roots and her fondly remembered Danish grandmother. Childhood visions of a woman who read Donna’s fortune in tea leaves, whose hair hung below her knees when it was unbraided, whose teeth rested in a glass of water.

Donna’s father’s highest compliment was that a person was tough. His mother-in-law earned that compliment. Donna’s mom scrubbed the house from top to bottom before her mother came to visit. She wouldn’t smoke in front of her. Donna was suitably impressed. Kindred spirits perhaps. I once asked Donna if her parents spanked her as a child. Her answer, “They threatened, but they couldn’t catch me.”

After hitting a row of Copenhagen’s vintage stores we headed to Tivoli Garden. I was wearing a heartier version of a coat I had in high school. Green wool, horn buttons, a hood, and there was plenty of room to layer. It was a great vintage find. We saw what Tivoli had to offer with only a single trip to a gift shop, and a visit to the slot machines to warm up. Donna was heard to say, “Well, this puts Zoo Lights to shame.” I took way too many pictures.

We headed to Figaro for dinner. It’s Tivoli’s seafood restaurant. We ordered the seafood platter and dug into fresh cold-water seafood. There’s a difference when sea creatures haven’t been swimming around in bath water. We were going to leave a pile of shells!

At dinner we conversed with a young couple from Jutland. It was one of those free flowing comfortable conversations. World events, weather, and world views were shared along with oysters. Lark’s first adventure with a fresh beach picked tennis shoe-sized oyster didn’t leave her wanting more. The couple departed with hugs. Contact information was shared, but the blog host now offers an “Oops!” where actual contact information used to be. A paid email feature is now available. Yeah, I’m bitching a little here. (

When we got back to the hotel Donna emailed her nephew Ralph. His father’s genealogy records are now in his generous hands. Donna found out her grandmother, Hannah Laurasena Peterson, was born in Jutland. She arrived in the U.S. in 1891 at six years old. In the course of her life she had five children. Donna’s grandfather, Andrew Nelson, died from tuberculosis. Hannah lived 82 years. Her hair reached below her knees. She read tea leaves. Her accent was thick. She made time for her spunky granddaughter, if only to prove she could get her to sit still. She kept her teeth in a glass of water on the nightstand.

The snow finally arrived. It was warm enough for the flakes to be big and wet. Rain was sure to follow. We headed out for a big cup of coffee and a pastry. Then we’d search for a sewing kit to fix a loose button on Donna’s coat. Copenhagen delivers!

A Day In Spain

Our Wednesday ritual in Valencia includes a cup of what we have heard is the world’s best coffee (Kimbo) at home. Then we head over to Cafe de L’abad for fresh squeezed orange juice, more coffee, and tomato toast.

We have become recognizable regulars. The barista makes a fine cup of coffee. She has also been extremely kind when subjected to our stumbling, but increasingly confident, efforts to speak Spanish.

We have rudimentary conversations now. She told me the current exchange rate is favorable for her upcoming visit to Algeria. Her eyes lit up when she shared the date she is flying home.

After our latest breakfast at Cafe de l’Abad we headed over to the Help Ukraine-Valencia shop. Valencia shuts down in August. There was a plan to shut Help Ukrainian-Valencia down as well. An ad-hoc plan was made to keep it open on Wednesdays. Word on the street is that during August we might be the only game in town.

The line outside the shop demonstrated the need that exists. It also told us it would be a busy day. We’d be living on the edge of running out of food.

Generous donations from Fabian, Lisa, Rachel, and Lorrie gave us a head start. Wael’s food supply gave us a solid foundation. The proprietor of the corner fruit and vegetable shop gave us a box of potatoes, and 6 kilos of oranges. Yuliya hit the store several times. Martha and her son made a grocery run. Donna and the Sheriff of Mariupol brought back a rolling cart full of eggs. Then they went back for milk, coffee, tomato sauce, pasta, and vegetables. A man who makes regular donations came in with bags of designer t-shirts and a wad of cash. The ear worm of the day was, “Coming in on a wing and a prayer…”

We more than doubled the number of people we typically serve on Wednesdays. By my estimate we supplied food for well over 250 people. We didn’t send anyone away empty handed. The word is out though. Next week we’ll have to dig deeper and scramble harder.

None of what I just wrote communicates the comradery within the shop and in the lines. Keeping people hydrated as they waited in Valencia’s hot soggy heat was a priority. Bottles of water were received with smiles and lots of “mucho, mucho gracias” delivered with Ukrainian accents. Passing out mini-popsicles to people who had been in line for more than hour was met with delight. We need to figure out how to pass out cold slices of watermelon!

Of course there was a bittersweet moment too. On Wednesday the woman who had dreamed so fiercely about going home to Ukraine and sitting in her kitchen came to say good-bye. I followed her out to the sidewalk and grasped her hand. We hugged. Her face was firmly set with courage and determination. Without warning tears fell unwanted from her eyes. She gathered herself back together and went off to face an uncertain future. I will carry her in my heart. Donna will find a cathedral with clear energy and light a candle.

After closing up shop and finding ourselves unable to agree on lunch plans we headed to Valencia’s Central Market. (We are after all decadent Americans.) As luck would have it The Central had a very short line. We climbed up on stools and ordered two glasses of Merseguera wine, local mussels, and tempura zucchini blossoms. We should have ordered something new, but why mess with familiar perfection.

The Central…

As Donna and I were sopping up the broth the mussels were served in a gentleman dining across from us went wobbly. His daughter propped him up. His wife fanned him with her hand. He was trying to tell his daughter he was fine. He wasn’t, and she wasn’t having any of it.

My Eagle Scout first aid training kicked in. Too much heat! His cap needed to come off. His collar needed to be loosened. Donna passed her fan over. A bag of ice was provided. Our waiter was using Donna’s fan to cool the customer down. The head waitress called 112.

There was no panic. There wasn’t any gawking. There was complimentary joking about the restaurant’s great service. A local character came up and started waving a scavenged fan. Someone brought the character a cup of coffee. He left without paying. He had done his part. No one was bothered.

There is a lesson in all of this. When a person is ready and willing to help without strings attached it’s an acknowledgment that we are all in this together. Every one of us will need help along the way. Knowing it will be there and will arrive without fuss is something you can lean back into. It feels good!

Help Ukraine, Valencia: Stories

Peace March…

A refugee’s story doesn’t always get laid out on the table. Sometimes they are revealed one piece at a time. Letting them out more quickly threatens to break a dam of closely held feelings. The tasks at hand are getting oriented, adapting, and surviving in unfamiliar territory. The pull of home is strong. A life has been left behind and with it people, places, and comfort.

Sometimes a story bursts forth. It’s been held like breath in a tunnel. The first shaft of light lets it go.


At the end of a shift at the Help Ukraine, Valencia shop a middle aged woman arrived. She had a lot to say. The woman came to Valencia at the urging of her daughter. Her house in Ukraine was still standing. Everything surrounding her house had been reduced to rubble. The bombs had stopped. Her house was empty.

“Someone will move into my house and take it! That leaves me with nothing. I don’t want to be stuck in Spain relying on others!

My daughter tells me to stay, but I will go home! I want to sit in my kitchen and drink tea.”

Back of the Sign...

The Sheriff of Mariupol:

The Sheriff tried to teach me the proper way to fold a plastic bag. I laughed and said, “Nunca!” He smiled. Then he got busy. The Sheriff never sits still. There is always something that needs to be done, done again, and redone.

One day I looked over his shoulder as he shared a video from Mariupol. Somewhere in the translation I missed that it was a video of his home. All I could see were fallen doorways and brutal piles of rocks.

The Sheriff saw memories…the door that wasn’t there, a warm greeting, steam from a pot on the stove. He wiped his eyes and went for a walk.

Far From Home…

A Soldier’s Family:

A handsome and very busy 4 year old found a plastic sword on the shop’s toy shelf. His swordplay was carefully choreographed. I’ve seen the same moves outside of our window in Seattle, Washington. I don’t know what young boys are watching, but they all make the same moves and sound effects when they imitate it.

This 4 year old stopped slaying imaginary dragons every few minutes to check on the baby in the carriage. He’d wave and smile sweetly at his sibling.

Busy 4 year olds are exhausting. You never know what they are going to get into. I let this kid’s grandmother know I thought he was delightful, and very intelligent. She smiled in agreement. Then she turned on her phone to share her small family’s experience.

She played a video showing her beautiful cottage home. The soundtrack was a constant barrage of artillery fire. The small group of volunteers who watched that video swallowed hard.

Then with great pride the woman showed us a photo of a young man in full battle gear. He was standing in a Ukrainian field cradling his rifle. It was her son. We looked around the room to his wife, infant, his 4 year old son, his mother…

There were no words. There were tears in our eyes, and a clear understanding of the cost of war.

Help Ukraine, Valencia! New refugees arrive in Valencia every week. More are finding their way to Help Ukraine, Valencia. The mission is to provide food, clothing, basic necessities, and welcome. If you can help, please message Donna. She’s accepting donations from the U.S. through Zelle. Thanks!

Help Ukraine, Valencia

At last count there were 80,000 displaced Ukrainians in Spain, and 20,000 in Valencia. More Ukrainians are arriving every day. They arrive with all their worldly possessions stuffed into a backpack, or a suitcase. Some of these refugees will find their way to the Help Ukraine, Valencia shop.

Donna and I volunteer at the shop on Wednesdays. It’s right around the corner from our apartment. We sort clothing, keep the food shelves stocked, and make “runs to the garage” (usually to store donated winter clothing). We are meeting people and making connections we never expected to make. Ukrainian volunteers, fellow expats, and Ukrainians both young and old make Wednesdays a lively part of our week.

With our own eyes we see our donations, the donations of friends and community members come into the shop and leave in the arms of Ukrainians who have sought safety in Valencia. We share smiles and laughter. A quiet thank you is always the last thing we hear as people head out the door.

A mother and three children came into the shop last week. The sisters were older, very polite, and self-sufficient. The three year old boy was being cautious. I brought him a toy car to play with. He played with it for awhile and then handed it back to me. I set it down on a chair. He came back to it again and again. Then his sisters discovered a box with brightly colored plastic dinosaurs and farm animals in it. They called him over and he practically dove in.

When the family was gathering together to leave Donna gave the three year old a blister pack full of dinosaurs. Everyone got coloring books. Sets of colored pens were offered, but only one set was taken. Sharing was expected.

As the family was leaving I noticed the car still sitting on the chair. I grabbed it and handed it to the three year old. He handed it back as if I was making a mistake. I handed it to him again. He looked at his mother for assurance, then back at me. I gave him a thumbs up. His mother nodded. A smile spread across his face. He held the toy car in the air and said, ”Vroom! Vroom!”

The Garage…

Despite spontaneous shopping trips to the stores across the street, and community members delivering bags of groceries all the volunteers knew we were running out of food. We knew that before we opened the doors in the morning.

As this humanitarian crisis and insane war continue the needs will grow. At the end of the day with equal measures of hope and sadness we locked up the shop knowing the food shelves and cupboards were bare.

My thinking about giving continues to evolve. At the core I believe giving, making sure everyone is fed, and lending a helping hand are essential in a society that values its peoples’ success. I thank my own parents and the Tulalip tribal community for these teachings. In my heart I call the names of the elders who held fast to these values.

My message here is simple. Give what you can, when you can, and where you can. May we all prosper!

Help Ukraine, Valencia donation information below.

Dumpster Diving With Donna

Hydraulic Tiles…

When I say dumpster diving with Donna I don’t mean I actually climbed into a dumpster. I stood next to a dumpster and tried to maintain quality control. Donna found the hydraulic tiles she’d been dreaming about. Any tile worth saving was going to be saved!

Hydraulic tiles were first created in Spain during the mid-1800s. They are produced by hand using cement-based raw materials. It is a decorative tile made by compressing these materials in a hydraulic tiling press. They are durable and colorful. Spanish building contractors think the old stuff is junk. Newer modern versions are popular. That’s why our tiles were in a dumpster.

My initial thinking was to fill up our little rolling grocery cart with one load of the ’best’ tiles we could find. Good tiles were put in the cart. Cracked, chipped, filthy, solid color, and questionable tiles were set aside. That process lasted until the first cart made it up to the terrace of our tiny Valencia apartment.

When we took the first load of tiles up we set off the overweight signal in the elevator. It’s a two person elevator. The tiles weren’t going to take the stairs. One of us had to get off the lift.

As the process progressed we got faster and less discerning. Tiles were unceremoniously stuffed into our cart and some heavy duty shopping bags. On the terrace we placed tiles in rows of six, swept them off, and hosed them down. Eventually there were ninety-nine tiles lined up. Donna said, “We just need three more.” She paused for a second and added, ”Or…nine!” At this point in the process my answer was, ”Three! Only three! Three!”

Below the Apartment

We had started attracting some polite notice. There was one wry grin and several averted eyes. A kid driving his Vespa nearly crashed when Donna popped up from the depths of the dumpster. Dropping your jaw and doing a double take at the same time is a tough maneuver on a scooter that’s going too fast on wet pavement.

Of course we brought back nine tiles! As we lay in bed figuring out which muscles were going to ache in the morning the last thing I remember saying was, ”If you decide to make another dumpster run at 6 AM, I’m not going.”

Simple Pleasures

If you expected 2022 to bring anything back to normal, I expect you have been disappointed. It’s been a strange year to write about. From our privileged perch in Spain the humorous complaints we have compiled seem petty. Sharing wonderful experiences while bombs fall in Ukraine feels like crowing. Writing about good deeds large or small feels like joining the virtue signaling competition. My typing finger has been idle.

We met with some fellow expats in Valencia to rearrange a garage that will become a makeshift distribution stop for Ukrainian refugees. Lots of hands made quick work of it. Afterwards the organizer, Graham, shared a few stories. One of them stuck with me.

Graham was visited by a woman who came to Spain as a refugee from Kazakhstan. When she met with Graham she brought a wad of cash, military grade night vision binoculars, and two pounds of rolling tobacco. It wasn’t a combination he expected.

The woman was a voice of experience. She found when a person has been displaced, is cold, hungry, and somewhat disoriented, rolling and lighting a smoke is a greatly appreciated pleasure. Graham added that kicking a tobacco habit during an armed invasion of your country probably doesn’t make much sense.

Thinking about those two pounds of tobacco reminded me that simple pleasures are often the best. El Cafe de l’abad is right around the corner from our bolt hole apartment in Valencia. They serve the best cortado I’ve ever had. In Central Market we bought clams that reminded us of the ones we gathered in Washington State. They made an incredible Bucatini Alle Vongole. That was washed down with a bottle of Merseguera wine.

The Merseguera was an unexpected pleasure. Plantings of this grape are few, and centered in the vineyards of Alicante, Valencia, and Jumilla. It was a grape we’d never heard of. One sip had Donna exclaiming Merseguera could turn her into a white wine fan. Two bottles are chilling in the fridge. Luxuries of course, even at 5 euros a bottle. The memory of that first sip will linger. Lingering memories are the point here.

The woman from Kazakhstan’s story reminded me that so many are denied simple pleasures. Necessities are denied as well. It seems that when a person is displaced, cold, hungry, and somewhat disoriented a simple pleasure would be a sweet reminder of better days. Not hope, but perhaps it would provide a moment of respite.

Simple pleasures…coffee, tobacco, chocolate, familiar foodstuffs. When the bus leaves El Carmen and heads to Poland with supplies for Ukrainians we’re going to ensure a few simple pleasures make the ride.

Bok Choy Slaw

Sunday dinner at Seattle’s Corson Building inspired this salad. Their salad was endive based and included a dressing. I used bok choy and plain rice vinegar instead. I sliced everything fairly thin and ditched the oil. It’s a light, refreshing, palate cleansing salad that pairs well with meat dishes and oysters.


Two cups thinly sliced baby bok choy, five radishes sliced thin, 1/4 cup English cucumber sliced thin, 1/8 cup shredded Murasaki sweet potato, 1/2 unpeeled apple cut into thin triangles, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp coconut sugar

Slice bok choy, radishes, cucumber, and apples and put them in a serving bowl. Peel and then shred the Murasaki sweet potato (discard the skin). Add dried cranberries, rice vinegar, and coconut sugar. Gently stir ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. Gently toss ingredients before serving.

Quotes for New Beginnings

I am not usually a big fan of quotes taken out of context. Context matters. It is something that has been dispensed with though. We have entered an age of context and content free news cycles.

In journalism classes they used to claim 15 minutes of reading the newspaper provided more information than a hour of television news. That was back when television was providing a nightly headline service. Television news is less than that now, and social media serves as its Pong-like echo chamber.

We grasp at nouns as they bounce past. “Guns, abortion, Supreme Court, beer, vaccines, masks, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Biden, windmills, sports, and weather…” The audience fills in the blanks with whatever it is they think they already know. There is no consensus. There is no news. We are fed static designed to fan the flames of outrage and stoke divisions.

A new year requires a little sand thrown into the gears. There have been sign posts on our journey. I have selected 10 of them to reflect upon.

#1. ”In the beginning was the Word, and the word was, “Yes!” What else could it have possibly been?” ~ Antonia

#2. ”There may not be one Truth – There may be several Truths – but saying that is not to say reality doesn’t exist.” ~ Margaret Atwood

#3. ”There can be no doubt that the average man blames much more than he praises. His instinct is to blame. If he is satisfied he says nothing, if he is not, he most illogically kicks up a row.” ~ Golda Meir

#5. ”A life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~ Anais Nin

#6. ”Our age not only doesn’t have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which proceed and follow them.” ~ Flannery O’Conner

#7. ”You can’t take it with you, and even if you did, it would probably melt.” ~ Dorthy Parker

#8. “If the future is to be open and free, we need people who can tolerate the unknown, who will not need the support of completely worked out systems or traditional blueprints of the past.” ~ Margaret Mead

#9. ”You must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding.” ~ Marilynne Robinson

#10. “It doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are. If you don’t use your power for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem.” ~ Coretta Scott King