I arrived at Almeria on December 30 at 6am the morning after my exhausting flight and full day of walking around Madrid by myself. I remember very little of this day, the whole thing is a total blur. All I know is that Philipp picked me up and we drove to the ocean. We had to drive up through some mountains to get there, so Marian and Manu, our friends, did us a solid and towed our trailer for us. Their bus has a bit more horsepower than ours, and it makes all the difference. When we go to where we were going, I got out to look around for about three seconds and then turned around and got right back in the bus and fell asleep. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired in my whole life.
While I was dead to the world Philipp drove us to Playa del Playazo, a beach that he, Marian and Manu had discovered while I was gone. They made a few stops along the way and took some photos for me. I drifted in and out of sleep and didn’t leave the bus all day or night.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I became a human again. Having now finally regained my senses I wanted to get out and take a look at where I was. It’s a strange but cool feeling to wake up and have no idea what you’re going to see when you look out the window. I opened the van door and stepped out. The first thing I saw was the ocean with that lovely clear blue color, so different from how it looks from Jones Beach in New York (I had seen the ocean yesterday, but at the time I was too deliriously exhausted to have thoughts). To the left were rock formations and a path following through the cliffs along the water, vanishing around a bend in the distance. To the right was a huge beach full of camper vans.
We had chosen a place slightly above and behind where most people had parked, which was perfect because it gave us a great view of everything. We spent some time walking around and talking to the other people that were around. We found out that it was technically forbidden to spend the night in this area, but most people were counting on whatever constable who is in charge of kicking people out still being on Christmas vacation. We decided we would stay too and see what happened.
I spent a few hours walking around through the rock formations and on the beach. There are so many little paths through the rocks and up into the cliffs. We definitely have to take a day long hike to see where it leads tomorrow.
Towards the afternoon, I turned my attention to our evening plans. Today is New Year’s Eve, so I wanted to do something special. And to me, a special evening is not special unless there is some especially delicious food involved. I wanted to make paella ever since we arrived in Spain, but normally my cooking is governed by what we find in the containers behind supermarkets, and we have not yet had the magical coincidence of all the right ingredients at the same time. But since today was a holiday, we felt that a trip to the supermarket (the inside of the supermarket, that is) was acceptable. So we all piled into Marian and Manu’s sweet yellow Düsseldorfer in search of groceries. We found a small supermarket not too far away and gathered everything we needed. The drive there and back was mad scenic.
When we got back, I prepared everything while Philipp made a fire. Sadly, we don’t yet have a paella pan, but Marian and Manu lent us their giant frying pan. We wouldn’t be able to quite get as much of that magical paella-specific crispy stuff on the bottom, but we were doing this on a fire, so I figured controlling the heat enough to get crispiness without burntness wasn’t going to happen anyway. Not sure I have the skillz for that.
It took some work but it came out SO good. I was blown away.
Seriously one of the best things that I’ve ever made and/or eaten in my life. Making something new for the first time is always a little scary because you’re never quite sure what the results are going to be. One of the cardinal rules of cooking is to never make something you’ve never made before when serving guests, and I was very conscious of breaking that rule. I was especially nervous because I wasn’t even following any specific directions, I had just researched around and sort of formed my own conglomerate recipe. So when it came out so well I was mega relieved.
Read how I made it here.
But the reason why this night was so amazing wasn’t just because the food turned out to be fabulous. It was the knowledge of having made it from scratch on a fire at the beach and then getting to enjoy it while ringing in the new year with good friends, all while sitting in front of the ocean, listening to the waves under the stars. We didn’t see any fireworks and didn’t have a toast at midnight, but this was without question one of my favorite New Year’s Eve celebrations that I’ve ever had.