An Aussie celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in Spain.
It’s not exactly up there on the “Top Things to Do in Spain” list and you probably won’t find a TripAdvisor forum about it.
But, it should be and I can’t believe it hasn’t been written about yet.
Alas, I guess I’ll have to be the pioneering writer bringing this idea to the masses.
Because that’s how I spent my weekend: in the mountainous desert region of southern Spain, cup filled, plate loaded, surrounded by new friends and three cats.
Let me firstly address that burning question of yours, “What is Canadian Thanksgiving?”
The simple answer is that it’s pretty much just like the American version of Thanksgiving you should be familiar with if you are alive, except it’s celebrated on the second Sunday/Monday in October rather than the fourth Thursday in November.
Oh, and it’s way better.
Yes, Barney got in wrong in How I Met Your Mother when he told Robin that Canadian Thanksgiving was a lie.
Okay, so I can’t honestly say that not having experienced an American Thanksgiving, but good luck to anybody who tries to compete with my Canadian experience.
I’ll get more into the actual day in a paragraph or five, but let’s take a step back to Friday when I arrived in Almeria (a six-hour train ride from Madrid) to begin Thanksgiving celebrations.
Unlike Canada, which is currently experiencing cooler autumn temperatures, Almeria is what you expect of Spain year round: hot and dry.
My Canadian friends greeted me in Almeria to drive me the almost two hours to where they were staying, Albanchez.
I met Celia and Ben – the Canadians – in Scotland at the organic farm. With a similar humour, shared distaste for hoeing leeks and a shared love of charades, we convened a roundtable and decided we could be friends.
Six weeks later, we’ve found ourselves both in Spain: me as an au pair and them as house sitters.
So, of course, we convened another roundtable, wrote a list of pros and cons and determined it would be an appropriate amount of fun to meet up and hang.
We consulted the stars and scheduled a weekend catch up. That it was the same weekend as Canadian Thanksgiving was a work of the Gods.
The car is filled with talk about what we’ve both done since we last saw each other and soon we are parked at the Lidl supermarket in Albox, the neighbouring town to Albanchez.
This region of Spain is pretty spectacular if you don’t mind there being no trees and just a lot of sprawling mountains and dead cacti (some new insect decimated them this season).
Celia tells me it reminds her of Mexico and the next day we pass a man riding a donkey.
Surprisingly, the region is filled with British retirees. After my time in the United Kingdom, I can understand why they would seek drier, warmer pastures, but I’m downright flabbergasted why they would choose here as a retirement oasis.
I guess there are mirages here with the heat so maybe that, coupled with their villa’s pool, helps to give the illusion of paradise.
But, they all buy bottled water – I never got to confirm whether the water was drinkable or not because the house owners had left their own supply of bottled water for us – and have to dispose of their toilet paper in a bin, rather than in the bowl with the rest of their product.
Not my idea of retirement.
Anyway, after these grocery-shopping observations of mine, we arrive at the casa that Celia and Ben are sitting.
It is nice. Secluded, with its own pool, quiet surrounds, and plenty of space, I can kind of see more reason in the British retirees decision to live here.
The casa also comes with three cats that are used to being fed at specific times of the day and that all require different types of sustenance, determined not only by their age (and therefore teeth), but also their own preference.
Oh to be a cat. I would even settle for being a stray cat, well at least I would be one here because the owners feed the community’s ten strays daily.
I do not lie or joke when I say their fur looks glossier than my own hair. Stuff L’Oreal, you clearly are what you eat – serve me up some cat food!
Sangria and stories fill up the rest of the night and all of Saturday. That and feeding cats, more shopping for Thanksgiving, and a brief dip (for me, at least) in the pool.
I miss the warm waters of North Queensland. Celia and Ben miss their private naked dips without me there. It starts to become clearer why these retirees live here.
Then we make it to Sunday, Thanksgiving.
We move slowly through the morning – me cooking lamingtons, Celia and Ben cooking everything else.
When we sit down to eat there’s turkey (of course), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a cheesy green bean dish, stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce, salad, and gravy.
And, not just at portions to feed the three of us. Enough to feed a family of 10 and still have leftovers. Or, as Ben likes to call them, pig troughs – “mix it all in together in one pot and I’ll just eat from that” he jokes (at least, let’s be polite and say he was joking okay?).
We start by joining hands and saying grace. I chuckle a little because life feels so unbelievable at this point – I’m in Spain with two new friends about to gobble down a Thanksgiving dinner.
Four months ago, I was pushing paper, doing the same thing daily. How could you not laugh at such a change in fortune?
Once we’ve cleaned our plates ensuring a good year of harvest and celebrating our respective pilgrimages to Spain, it is time to serve dessert.
My lamingtons were joined by, none other than, Celia’s pumpkin pie and I would lose any quiz show that asked me what was better dinner or dessert.
I urge you all to bake yourself a pumpkin pie and discover this dessert if you haven’t already.
I’m tempted to stop typing to source something sweet just to try and fill the void of missing that pie. Resisting for now, but only because I know these Spaniards are too healthy to have what I want in their fridge.
Let’s quickly get back to the pie itself and then move on to the toilets or something that will keep me from phantom hunger pains.
The pie itself was almost not a possibility: pumpkin is hard to come by in Spain.
But, just as Ben had innovatively purchased two drumsticks and two breasts to form a whole turkey, Celia managed to find a few hunks of pumpkin to bake that pie into existence.
It only seemed right for us to eat a second dessert later that night, although we were as stuffed as that turkey had been. I was even suffering the strange cooler temperatures rather than get out of my elastic shorts and wear jeans a smidge too tight for me.
I guess that’s what Thanksgiving is all about, sacrifices. Sacrifice that turkey for the good of the harvest. Sacrifice your trim beach body to adequately celebrate the pilgrims.
Or, something like that.
“Geez, it sounds to me like all you did was eat and drink. You didn’t see any of the city’s monuments, or hike the incredible landscape. How can you call this a travel must-do?”
*Blink, blink* Uhmmm…firstly thanks for taking your time out of your campaign to be the next American presidential candidate. I can only assume that’s what you aspire to be with such ridiculous notions of what ‘great’ looks like.
You want to make America great again? In fact, you want to make any country, any city, any day of the week great? Why don’t you try immersing yourself in a new culture, or three like I did on Spanish Canadian Thanksgiving with Australian lamingtons and laughter?
Because that’s what greatness looks like. A coming together of friends. New shared experiences. Learning from each other. Being still. And, that’s what travel can look like too, if you’ll let yourself be open to a new kind of travel.