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A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving in Spain & Portugal

I spent Thanksgiving in Spain and Portugal, and I didn’t miss turkey at all.

A couple of years ago, I spent Thanksgiving in Spain and Portugal, and I didn’t miss turkey at all. We had just completed filming for a new episode of Equitrekking, one where I rode horses on the beach, learned some new dressage moves on a beautiful Andalusian horse and visited historic haciendas in the Seville countryside. It wasn’t a bad start!

Cantering on the beaches of Donana National Park in Spain.

Cantering on the beaches of Donana National Park in Spain.

It was the first Thanksgiving that I hadn’t been seated around a table with family, and I wondered how much I would miss some of the best parts of the occasion. Besides seeing family that I don’t normally get to see, I particularly love my uncle’s creamy mashed potatoes and the brown, crispy turkey skin from my mom’s hours of regular turkey basting. With the unexpected passing of my mom several years ago, holidays just didn’t seem as great anymore. An adventure was just the remedy to shake up a time of the year that for those of us who have lived through acute family loss, can be difficult. Instead of rushing back to the USA, I decided to stay in Spain.

So what did I get to enjoy on my non-traditional, international turkey day? After renting a car, it’s less than a two hour drive from the winding streets of Seville to the historic city of Tavira, Portugal. Tavern is located in the region of the Algarve, which is now known for its “hidden gems.” Walking through the cobblestone streets, I passed a myriad of churches, including the beautiful Church of Santa Maria do Castelo with its historic clock tower.

Spotting the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, one of over thirty churches in Tavira.

Spotting the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, one of over thirty churches in Tavira.

The clock tower is thought to date back to the 13th century.

The church’s clock tower is thought to date back to the 13th century.

I was able to find a shop to sample and purchase Port for those family members back home that I was missing and who were perhaps missing out. I strolled across the old seven arched bridge to photograph the skyline of whitewashed buildings and walked up higher to glimpse the ruins of a hilltop castle. The city is easily walkable, suggesting you to slow down and enjoy the warm sun and many hidden gardens. There are fishing boats to watch, beaches to enjoy and seafood restaurants offering outdoor seating. It’s a place that when the sun is out, helps you to enjoy it.

A view of Tavira from the iconic bridge, dating back to the 2nd half of the 12th century.

A view of Tavira from the iconic seven arched bridge, dating back to the 2nd half of the 12th century.

Cool Moorish door knockers. Moorish influence is abundant in Tavira.

Cool Moorish door knockers. Moorish influence is abundant in Tavira’s architecture.

Rooftop views with traditional white-washed houses after a longer walk.

Rooftop views with traditional white-washed houses after a longer walk.

A little exploration does a holiday good!

A little exploration does a holiday good!

For my Thanksgiving dinner, I was back in Seville in time to enjoy tapas and sangria, soaking in the culture one of my favorite cities and toasting friends and family far away, but near to my heart. There’s nothing like spending the holidays with family and friends, but sometimes you have to shake things up to appreciate it and my trip to Spain and Portugal was just the thing.

Seville Spain Tapas for turkey day with views of the Seville Cathedral.

Seville Spain Tapas for turkey day with views of the Seville Cathedral.

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Travels with Darley is a travel TV series broadcast on PBS stations and on digital networks, including the AOL On Network. Host Darley Newman of "Equitrekking" fame joins locals to showcase the top food, culture and adventure attractions in the USA and around the globe.

TravelswithDarley.com is the companion site with travel guides, videos and information so viewers can recreate the adventures seen on the series and beyond.

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