Working Hard, Staying Happy.

“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” – Fabienne Fredrickson

Is it really that simple? Say I was extremely passionate about surfing… If I don’t become a professional surfer or instructor, does that consequentially mean that I’m not following my calling? I’m not quite sure. But what I do know is that I feel like a dog who’s finally caught scent of something promising; I finally feel like I’m onto what will be a fulfilling career direction, somewhere in the world of marketing, social media, and public relations. That being said, I’ve also started studying hardcore for the GRE and semi-want to die. What a buzz kill! So far I’ve only taken one initial practice test, and have since hit the “Cracking the GRE Premium Edition” book daily, inundating my brain with dozens of new vocabulary words, writing sample thesis statements for the Issue essay, and slugging through annoying math problems. I am going to take the real deal in early November here in Barcelona.

IT’S ALREADY OCTOBER! What? Where does the time go!! I am very thankful that temperatures are finally starting to drop a little and it’s starting to feel more like fall around here. Sadly due to a foot issue, I haven’t been able to run much this last week, though I did manage to do get in my quickest 5k yet. But I’m hoping that with some R&R I’ll be ready to go because I have another 10k race this coming Sunday, the Corre Barri.

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Last week I had dinner at Marta’s and got to meet her two new students, Eric and John. Marta fixed up quite the spread and the guys were really nice so it was a good evening. Friday Damian and I finally went to la Pastelería Mendieta, aka the infamous Argentine bakery /café near the Encants metro stop. It definitely lived up to the hype! We got lunch there and between the two of us I was able to try sandwiches de miga, empanadas de tomate y queso, y de jamón y queso, & un arabe de carne y cebolla (typical Argentine sandwich, empanadas, and a Runza-like pastry). Then we ordered half a dozen media lunas to take home and share with Sergio. Media lunas are similar to croissants but a little different and then filled with dulce de leche and powdered sugar on top. Yum!

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Later Friday we decided to make some last minute plans to go to Valencia Saturday – Sunday, since neither of us had ever been before. We quickly booked buses, a cool looking hostel, and packed a bag to share. Unfortunately due to two unforeseen 5-minute metro delays, we missed our 7am bus by two minutes. So we did what we then had to do, wait in the Nord Bus Station until we could hop on the next bus departing to Valencia at 10am. Not ideal to say the very least, but by 2pm we had finally arrived in beautiful Valencia! We painlessly navigated to the Innsa Hostel located smack in the heart of El Carme, the old area of the city. We checked in with the amiable owner, Teresa, looked around the place, and unloaded. The hostel is a gorgeous old Spanish artist’s house, with much of the original architecture and structures in tact. On nearly every wall hang uniformly sized, brightly colored paintings. The center of the hostel is open-air, filled with natural light and greenery.

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Damian and I set out to make the most of our short trip by walking around El Carme y Ciutat Vella, strolling down the tiny side streets and innumerable plazas that dot this section of the map. We rented bikes and rode along side el Río (like a big, central park that runs horizontally down the middle of the entire city) till the City of Arts and Sciences, the recently built up area that is home to the impressive Opera Theatre, the Hemispheric, the science museum, and more. It was awesome to finally get to see that with my own eyes.

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After stopping by Los Serranos, we returned the bikes and went back to the hostel to get a pitcher of Agua de Valencia and tapas at the charming hostel bar. We did a bit of bar hopping afterwards and then ended up at Calcatta, a discoteca/bar near Plaza de la Reina.

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Sunday we had breakfast at the hostel and then checked out. We walked from there to Valencia’s pro-soccer stadium, Mestalla, about 20 minutes away. After checking that area out, we power walked back to the bus station just in time to make our bus back to Barcelona. Since we’ve been back I have done not a lot besides studying. I am still slugging, barely, through Gabriel Marquez’s Cien Años de Soledad. It just has yet to become a page-turner. Damian started working at FedEx here yesterday so that was exciting. Finally! I think that’s all for now folks… until next time!

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Top 10 (Things to Do in Barcelona): October Edition

studyabroadbcn

Top 10 (Things to Do in Barcelona): October Edition

  1. Start using Uber
    1. Uber has arrived in Barcelona! Download the application on your iPhone or android, make a new account, and then make sure you plug in the promo code: AASHILIST to cash in on two free taxi rides (each for 15 euros or less)
    2. 10639387_763727480363355_3701552301181235529_n
  2. Corre Barri
    1. If you’re new to the area and looking for runs, look no further! The 3rd annual Corre Barri will take place on Sunday, October 12th along Barcelona’s scenic beaches. This is a fun 10km race amongst the main 10 barris (“neighborhoods” in Catalan) of Barcelona, where each barri wears a different color/ designed shirt. For more info, check the FB page; signup ends on the 7th!
    2. 10655331_530755407054886_6274372587125732787_o
  3. Fiesta Nacional de España
    1. Coincidentally enough, the 12th of October also happens to be Spain’s national holiday, which is celebrated throughout the country…

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Wrapping Up September

Happy Monday everyone! Since we last spoke, I am happily all settled into Damian’s in Poblenou. A week ago at this time we were in the midst of the big moving day, but now, thankfully, I’m pretty much as settled in as can be here. So far, so good. Not shockingly, I have really been enjoying the no longer incessant back and forth that was life when I lived across the city in Gracía. Also, I was impressed at how much space Damian was actually able to make for my belongings. It’s been a good first week here and I’m very appreciative of the Obispo hospitality and warmth, like usual.

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Since then, we’ve checked out the over-lapping Poblenou festival and the la Merce festivities. On the 24th, the actual holiday of La Merce (the local holiday here that celebrates Barcelona’s patron saint), Damian and I walked to Ciutadella Park to peruse the fountain show, food trucks, and the impressive hip-hop dance show imported all the way from Stockholm. From there we also browsed the expansive wine & cava exposition staked out all the way to the backside of Arc de Triomf.

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Thursday after work I was delighted to get to make plans with Ben Devries who happened to be visiting the city for a couple days. Gabi, Damian, Rodrigo, and myself ended up meeting Ben and his friends at Le Cyrano for drinks. Later we walked to Bling Bling (don’t mind the name), to continue the night courtesy of course to Aashi Guest List. I had never been there before and it was fun… not necessarily what I had envisioned, but fun. The best part, for me though, was definitely how well the boys all hit it off together!

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On Saturday I met up with Ben and his friends again and took them to Marmalade for brunch. Unknowingly/ sadly, they had already dined at Marmalade’s sister restaurant, Milk, but they were all good sports because the food really is delicious. I treated myself with a Bloody Mary (which anyone who knows me, knows that I usually never order, but was in the mood) and Eggs Benedict. Two thumbs up for Marmalade.

Yesterday I ran in my third (second official) 10km race, La Cursa de la Merce, here in Barcelona! The race started in the avenue between Montjuic and Plaza España, made a large loop around the city and finished at the same spot. I ran solo, and I was really happy to have finished in less than my goal time and to have felt pretty solid throughout the run. Damian and April came to cheer me on at the finish line, which was very much so appreciated. Yesterday, also happened to be the 1-year anniversary of when Damian and I started dating… time flies! Later, he surprised me with a bouquet of fresh flowers. It rained all day yesterday, but we eventually ended up going out to dinner for Italian food. It was a lovely day/ weekend.

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The (Real) Nanny Diaries.

I’m not sure if I’ve already opened with this quote, but here goes anyways: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experience on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Quote by Joseph Campbell, given to myself by my friend, Woody.

My last week has been full of changes… the highlights including that Cass went back to Nebraska, and school started here for little ones so I back at nanny life with Mar (7) and Clara (3) before and after school. Thankfully Clara now goes to the same school as her sister so it’s a little bit less running around than last spring. Because Alba and Ferran separated, I now help Ferran in the mornings of his weeks to get the girls up, breakfast, dressed, hair done, and to school on time. Sounds WAY easier than it has turned out to be thus far. The first few mornings Ferran’s mother came over, showing me how the girls like their breakfast beverages prepared, where the hair ties are kept, and how to best regulate the much-requested before-school TV watching.

Clara and I :)
Clara and I 🙂

Well as fate would have it, come Wednesday morning when we were on our own, Clara decided that she simply would not be donning anymore clothing articles aside from her underwear. Clara is the hilarious, goofy, dramatic one of the two sisters, but she is also like a bomb; when she does not want to do something, there is a loud explosion followed by tears and usually sitting on the ground and not moving. And of course, Mar is the one who needs to be at school by 8:45 while Clara enters at 9:00. So Mar was getting really mad at Clara for making us late. Finally, we were able to get Clara’s outfit on and we hurried out the door whilst Clara continued to cry that she hated her shoes. Clara made it on time, but Mar was late and was understandably sad about it.

So Thursday morning went better, everyone was on time and no tears were shed. That brings us to Friday morning. We were off to a good start- both ladies were up, ate an adequate breakfast, and were in the process of getting fully dressed for the day. As I was trying to convince/ help Clara get out of her pajamas, Mar finished dressing and announced that she was ready for hair! I left Clara to pout and went to the bathroom to start Mar’s hair. I quickly took out my bun, and was about to re-do it, when Mar glanced at my hair down and all the sudden wanted to brush it… seemed like a harmless proposition. Next thing you know both Clara and Mar are hamming it up, brushing my hair as if I were a life-sized Barbie doll. About 30 seconds went by before I lifted up my head to look into the mirror. I simultaneously realized that the round brush Mar had been using was, horrifyingly stuck in my hair (Right side, front, all the way to the scalp).

Quickly Mar clarifies that it was not her doing, that when I lifted my head the brush got tangled… I manage to keep calm at first, as I try to gingerly then more desperately separate my hair from the brush, the brush from my head. You couldn’t move the round brush it was that deeply entrenched in my hair. As panic set in, visions of myself with a bald spot flashed across my mind. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get this out by myself, that they might have to cut my hair, and that the girls were not going to get to school without me. So while Mar helped dress Clara, I gathered our things in a flurry and proceeded to wrap one of Mar’s sweaters around my head (complete with brush) like a turban but much less sophisticated. We left for school early in the vain hope that the hair salon on the way to school might be open. Low and behold, they were not. Hence, we walked to school my eyes on the ground, face red with that unwelcome sting of public mortification. Once at the school, I desperately asked an administrator if the girls could possibly enter early as I was (CLEARLY) having a bit of an emergency. The sleepy-eyed Catalan started at me and responded, “No, sorry, gotta wait.” Ok, perfect! So for another 15 minutes I just waited with the girls at the front door, knee-deep in both bewildered and sympathetic stares.

After dropping both girls off at the respective classrooms, I ran for the hills and stopped at the same hair salon that now appeared open. A graying man came to the entrance and said I’d have to come back, as he was busy currently. Tears filling my eyes, I said (in Spanish) that’s fine, thank you. While I’m dejectedly turning to leave, he goes: “Do you really have a hairbrush stuck under there?”…Yes. Shockingly this is not a joke. I take off the sweater wrapped around my head, which is when the man says “Oh lord. Come on in dear, sit down.” FINALLY SOMEONE GRASPS THE SITUATION.

A grueling ten minutes later, a small army of products used, the round brush is finally freed from my hair, resulting in a bird’s nest of tangled hair the size of a tennis ball. At this point I was crying tears of joy and relief that he didn’t have to cut my hair. To top it off, he wouldn’t let me pay him anything; now that is a good person. In the end, it was fine but holy shitty Friday morning. And no, I will never again let little people play with my hair. That proverbial bridge has been burned.

Aside from nanny duties, I said goodbye to Cass this last week. She flew back to NE with her family on Wednesday afternoon. It was hard to say goodbye to the one person who has been with me here since day one. I cried alone the entire walk back to what once was our shared apartment. Every time the tears would pause, I would unintentionally drift back to another memory we share from the last 15 months abroad. (Choking down hot lentil soup at Petra’s last summer, climbing Montserrat with Ben, wine nights at the apt, nearly freezing to death last winter, the girls trip to northern Spain with Larissa). We had quite a time together!

That being said, without Cass and Wi-Fi in the apartment, it has become a bit of a drag to stay there now. I will be moving all of my stuff into Damian’s on Monday, so I am excited for that…no more going back and forth all the time, plus I love Poblenou! This Wednesday is La Merce, the annual citywide holiday celebrating Barcelona’s patron saint. Not only am I looking forward to all of the La Merce festivities this coming week, but also am very excited that my friend Ben is coming to town to visit! Yay friends! Also this week I am planning on taking my first GRE practice exam. Then Sunday the 28th I will be running the La Merce 10k race, and Sunday happens to be myself and Damian’s one-year anniversary!

Finished the inaugural book for our Book Club from Afar (Emily Giffin's Love the One You're With), while enjoying an Oreo & Nutella greek donut at Lukamus!
Finished the inaugural book for our Book Club from Afar (Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With), while enjoying an Oreo & Nutella greek donut at Lukamus!

The Long Way Around.

Where oh where to begin? Per custom, I shall begin by looking back chronologically aka that takes us to the last week of August. In the days leading up to Labor Day (although not celebrated in Spain on the same day as in the US), I was busy running, reading, nannying sweet Dylan, working on never-ending Aashi social media business, and having a bit of fun in between. Labor Day weekend I went out with Gabi, met her BCN friends in Borne, and then we hit up the recently converted Pacha Barcelona (what once was Sotavento). On the actual holiday, after work Cass, Brenden, and I met Damian at the casino in Vila, where we managed to come out 40 euro ahead! Booyah. Afterwards, we got drinks at Stoke Bar and then walked over to Jamboree, as Brenden had yet to ever go! It was a fun double date night.

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On September fourth, Cass’ mom, dad, grandma, and neighbor arrived in Barcelona. Her mom, Mag, was kind enough to bring over an entire suitcase (filled with things from my mom) for me. When my mom told me she had decided to just pack a suitcase for Mag to bring, I had imagined a small carryon type, yet as it turned out the bag was actually one of the larger ones we own. Typical Mel! Special shout out to the best friend, Hayley, for making me a goodie-box complete with notes, Jack, a lip masque, and more! It was like Christmas to open that bad boy. The best part was definitely the goodies for Abril, Damian, Sergio & Mar, and Dylan. Needless to say, everyone was quite appreciative, myself included. Since they’ve been here, I joined them for Park Guell, walking the Rambla-La Boqueria-Port Vell, and more! It has been great finally having her family here to see our city.

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Now that Cass’ brother, Anthony is also here, we went to Tibidabo (my first time during the day) on La Diada (Catalonia’s National Day). We climbed all the way to the top by the Jesus statue like in Rio. It was an amazing view of Barcelona and all the surrounding areas from the very tiptop.

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I have also been making an exerted effort to soak up the last of summer… think nighttime gelato dates, AM beach time, and evening park visits. It has been much hotter and more humid thus far in September, than it was in August, helping to extend summer just a bit longer! Schools are all starting if not this last week, tomorrow though so it seems that fall is inevitable.

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Yesterday Damian and I met up with Cass’ and the whole crew and Marta on Avenida Gaudi to eat at our favorite pizzeria; it was Damian’s first time meeting everyone aside from Cass. Lunch was fun and the weather was perfect to sit out on the terrace with everyone. Afterwards, we walked to the Dow Jones Bar for drinks during the FCB game.

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Today I ran my third 10k, and in two weeks I will run in the La Merce 10k race, which I am looking forward to! I have recently finished Jess’ Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, and am now reading Emily Giffin’s Love the One You’re With. Beautiful Ruins was a much more intriguing, expertly interwoven story than I had expected; definitely recommend! Cass moves out of the apartment on Tuesday, while I technically have until the end of the month to move all of my things into Damian’s. Times are a changin’ folks. Damian and my one-year anniversary is right around the corner… crazy! I am hoping to do some day trips and weekend trips in the next month, namely to Girona, Figueres, Cadaqués, and Valencia; hopefully time and money allow. Until next time…

english progress :)
  english progress 🙂
Dyl!!!!
Dyl!!!!

So much to see, so little time!

Can’t believe it’s been two weeks already since my last post on here. Yikes, August is flying by! Here’s the latest…

Las festes majores de Gracía 2014 (Gracía festival) officially started by on Friday, August 15th and lasted for the following week. Annually throughout August and September many neighborhoods in Barcelona have weeklong festivals; Gracía’s festival is well known for being the best (in terms of street decorations, creativity, nightlife, etc.). Last summer, Cass and I weren’t really aware of what exactly was happening, so this time around we were amped to participate and have a better idea of the festivities in our area. Although our personal street doesn’t get decorated, many streets very close-by go all out! Once again, Verdi Street won the best-decorated street competition thanks to their “Amazon” theme this year; it was pretty impressive! I also really liked the “Musical” and under the sea themed streets.

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One of the first evenings of the festival, Cass and I went out with Marta and a friend of hers to check out the streets and such (before Marta headed off to Ethiopia)! Saturday afternoon Cass and I had planned on going to a free ceramic workshop in the Plaza de la Virreina. After we had waited a bit for the hosts to get set up, we quickly realized that we would be being joined by half a dozen children and one mom; nevertheless, we stayed and made cute dishes that sadly never got fired in a kiln. Take what ya get I guess. Saturday night, Cass, Brenden, Damian, and I ventured out again to soak it all up and finished the night off with a reggae concert in Plaza Joanic.

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Last Monday evening, Damian and I went to Camp Nou for a non-liga match up of FCB vs. Club Leon of Mexico. Thanks to a new partnership between Damian’s team and FCB, we got free tickets! We made sure we got their early, so as not to miss the Luis Suarez presentation before the game started. It was great weather for a game and I was delighted to have my second Camp Nou experience; plus Barca won – always good!

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These last few weeks I have done a decent job of keeping up with running regularly. Looking forward to a few 10k runs in September (including La Cursa de Poblenou y La Cursa de la Merce). I have been trudging along through John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath… It was kind of hard for me to get into at first, but I now I’m over halfway done and I’m really enjoying it. The Joads sure are a tight squad of folks I would not want to mess with. In other news, this last week we celebrated Dylan’s second birthday! I watched him all day the day before his actual birthday, so we had a fun day celebrating with painting, gifts, cupcakes, and extra time at the park! What a cutie.

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Friday morning I took an express train down to Torredembarra to visit Jesús’ and his family’s place there; Jesús is a friend of mine here whom I met in my language exchange at the local library. He is like my grandpa here and graciously invited me to spend a few days at their apartment in Torredembarra, a small beach town south of Sitges. Friday he showed me around the town, the neighboring town of Altafulla, and their area near the beach. His wife, Marcela, made a delicious traditional Catalan lunch, which we followed up by a much needed siesta. Unfortunately, the weather was not very good on Friday so beach time was postponed in favor of mini-golf with his granddaughter, Anna. Friday night we had dinner at their home due to downpouring rain!

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Yesterday morning we got up bright and early to have a good breakfast before heading to Tarragona for my inaugural visit! Back in the times of the Roman Empire, Tarragona was known as Tarraco, aka the capital of the Roman province on the Iberian Peninsula. Jesús expertly led me around the main sites of what’s left of the Roman ruins there – including the amphitheater, the Circus stadium, and the Forum. It was all really cool and not shockingly reminded me of visiting Rome. We also walked around and saw the ancient cathedral and town square, where stopped for tapas before driving back to Torredembarra. After a late lunch and short siesta, we all walked down to the beach for an early evening dip in the ocean. I caught one of the last trains back to Barcelona last night.

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Thankfully, this week finally looks like we’re going to get back to good summer weather around here! Until, next time y’all!

You’re My Person.

“I literally have to remind myself all the time, that being afraid of things going wrong isn’t the way to make things go right.” …eek! So true.

Happy Saturday all. This last week has been a solid start to August. This month, as many locals travel to apartments in smaller beach towns in Costa Brava or down south, I am watching Dylan more frequently, whilst Cynthia takes an intensive Spanish course. The lil guy turns two on the twentieth and I am looking forward to finding a cute lil babe gift to help ring in his big day! As usual he is a wonderful baby; his mom, Cynthia, is expecting to have another baby boy and is due in late November.

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Aside from Dylan, workwise, I have also been doing one-on-one English lessons with Jesús, the adorable, retired Catalan man (from my old intercambio at the library) who also lives in Gracía. In loose terms, Jesús has become like my Catalan grandpa here in Barcelona. He is a gem of a guy and has so graciously invited me to visit his family’s apartment down in Torredembarra for a couple days in the upcoming weeks. Torredembarra happens to be just 12 km from Tarragona, so there is talk of going there as well, considering I have never been.

The third and final tier of my work life currently consists of a social media position with a prominent Barcelona nightlife promoter named Aashi. So far I have created his brand Instagram account, as well as two WordPress blog sites set up to serve his purposes. So now on a day-to-day basis, I update/maintain his Instagram and Twitter accounts, and continue to make progress on said blogs and traditional Facebook posts. I like the job so far… It kind of makes me wish I had studied marketing in college. Regardless, makes me wonder if I could see myself doing more (career-wise) with social media. We’ll see!

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On the non-work front, I spent last Sunday at Damian’s house, celebrating Sergio’s birthday. It was a fun day filled with their family and friends; April and I had made a double-decker bizcocho cake topped with dulce de leche, the Obispo boys’ favorite.

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Cass and Brenden have been in southern Spain this whole week. They flew from El Prat down to Granada, and have since been in Cordoba and Sevilla. I am looking forward to their return tomorrow and getting to hear all about their trip! This last Thursday evening, I met Damian down at Barceloneta beach for the free cinema series (Cinema Lliure). Every Thursday and Friday night in July and August, a substantial patch of Barceloneta beach hosts a free screening of a selection of international, alterative films. I picked this last Thursday because it was the only film title I recognized in the line up, and one I happened to be dying to see: Frances Ha. Weather-wise, we got a perfectly clear summer night. Subtitled in Spanish, the movie ended up being highly entertaining and witty.

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Today I started off my day at Bogatell beach and finished reading Water for Elephants. Now I’ve started Henry James’ Daisy Miller. I am excited for the upcoming annual neighborhood festival of Gracía, which officially starts on the fifteenth. I am also looking forward to the challenge of firstly, deciding which graduate school entrance exam I am going to take, and secondly, studying my bootie off in preparation for said test. That is on the fall agenda!

Closed for August.

Happy Saturday to all! Yesterday officially marked the one year anniversary of my and Cass’ move-in day to our apartment on Sant Joaquim, 40, cuarto piso. In that very apartment we have both laughed, cried, shivered, sweat, burned ourselves, packed and unpacked bags too many times to count, and grown immensely as young women. Saying I cannot believe that 365 days have already gone by is simply an understatement; as many times as I’ve complained about our little home away from home, it was a loyal, humbling, adequate abode for our time thus far living and loving in Barcelona.

In the two weeks that have passed since my last post, we have slid our way across the transition between Spain’s working-time-summer to her vacation-time-summer. You see, in Barcelona the daycares, summer camps, nurseries, etc. function until the end of July-ish. The entire month of August is known as a time when locals take several weeklong vacations to escape the city life and get to the beach. Hence, I had my last week of my nanny job for Mar and Clara until they return from vacation in September. Those two little Catalan girls have me wrapped around their fingers; they are adorable and I already miss them!

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Along with the aforementioned August transitions, I’ll be watching Dylan even more often this month as Cynthia takes another intensive Spanish course in Eixample. Likewise, I will be embarking on a new employment endeavor in a sort of social media assistant position with one of Barcelona’s main nightlife promoters. With these things along with continuing English lessons with Jesús, I am lucky to have plenty of work during Spain’s vacation month.

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A week ago today, we threw Brenden an early-birthday celebratory BBQ at our apartment. It ended up being a great turnout. We even had homemade potato salad and a pasta salad (both thanks to Cass), bizcocho cake with cream cheese frosting, strawberry Jell-O shots, burgers, Blue moons, and more. Between taking turns grilling out and playing beer pong, we sang Brenden happy birthday and helped him ring in his 24th year. Towards the end of the night, we eventually made our way over to Otto Zutz with everyone.

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This last week began with Damian and I celebrating 10 months together; I am a lucky girl. At the last minute we decided to take advantage of the vacancy by going up to Tossa del Mar Tuesday with Cass and Brenden. Only one and half hours by bus, the winding ride is worth it once you arrive in beautiful Tossa. It’s arguably my favorite beach town in Costa Brava, and luckily for us, Damian’s family has an apartment there in a complex called Saga Barra. The four of us spent Tuesday-Thursday, playing Ping-Pong, lounging at the pool, soaking up the sun on the beach, swimming in the crystal clear ocean, and playing card games at night in the apartment.

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Wednesday evening we walked down to the ancient castle that once was the entirety of Tossa, and managed to snap some really great photos. Brenden has a super nice camera, as well as a Polaroid camera, and they let us share some so that was fun! Sometimes last minute things work out the most beautifully, and this little trip was certainly one such example. Cass and Brenden took the bus back to BCN on Thursday afternoon, while Damian and I returned Friday afternoon.

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While in Tossa I finished reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. In those 227 pages, she candidly recounts her personal experience with the grief and loss after losing her husband of nearly 40 years, not to mention other family crises also happening around that time. It was a gripping memoir that reminded me time is a gift not to be taken for granted; it also made me want to read more by Joan Didion and her late husband John Dunne. Now I am reading Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. So far, so good there; I’m excited to see how the novel will pan out in comparison with the movie version. On the horizon, we have Sergio’s birthday tomorrow. Cass and Brenden head to Andalucía early tomorrow morning. That’s all I have for now friends… until next time!

…You look weird.

Holy tolito does time ever fly! It’s been a packed three-weeks since I last had a chance to blog, so here goes a fat post. July started off with the USA’s sad loss against Belgium in the World Cup. We had a lot of fun cheering on the home team with fellow Americans at the Ovella Negra off La Rambla.

The night before the 4th of July, Larissa, Cass, and I hopped on an overnight bus from Barcelona to Bilbao, where we arrived bright and early at 7:30am. Cass did a good job picking the hostel where we’d be staying during our girls trip for the long weekend- Ganbara hostel was located right off of the Casco Viejo metro stop, aka the old quarter of town. We wasted no time in dropping off our backpacks there and then headed out to catch a bus to Bakio, a small town about a half hour north of Bilbao. Once in Bakio we took another bus further up the coastline, and then got off and started our hike towards San Juan de Gaztelugatxf (that last part is in Basque); for clarification here San Juan is a monastery out on a cool little peninsula that has what looks like a mini Great Wall. The whole area is so beautiful… the scenery definitely made up for the semi-crappy weather.

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We walked the whole way back to the center of Bakio and then bussed back to Bilbao.  We were finally able to check-in at Ganbara, cue nap. So later for the night of the 4th we went out for pintxos on Somera Street, a happening street in Casco Viejo that is lined with fun pinxto bars. After a late start to our Saturday, we hopped on a bus over to San Sebastian for some late afternoon beach time on Playa de la Concha. We then bar hopped, ate more pintxos, and got to watch Argentina beat Belgium whilst nomming.

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Sunday was a rainy day in Basque country, but we made the most of it by going to the Guggenheim museum after we checked out of our hostel. Luckily, I was able to run into the Cayla Berry in the museums atrium and from there Larissa, myself, Cayla, and her friend toured the museum’s exhibits together. My favorite parts were definitely the Yoko Ono temporary exhibition and the sound and sight room at the end. I was so happy to get back to the Guggenheim since the last time I visited was back in 2010. And it goes without saying that I loved getting to catch up with Cayla- it was like having a lil piece of the big white house with me again! Afterwards, Larissa, Cass, and I got vino y pinxtos one more time before we got on yet another bus, this time en route to Pamplona.

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Two rainy hours later, we pulled up to the bus station in the center of Pamplona. For Larissa, Cass, and myself respectively it was our first, second, and fourth time to go to Pamplona for the annual weeklong event of the Running of the Bulls, aka San Fermin. Right away we changed into the standard garb – all white with a red scarf and bandana. Next we stowed our backpacks in the bus station lockers and purchased the standard beverage of San Fermin – Kalimotxos (red wine and coca cola). Some of the more noteworthy staples of San Fermin include a truly impressive amount of trash in the streets, an equally impressive amount of drunk people in the streets, and partying until the morning where you then gather to watch the approximately 7 minute affair that is the actual bull run. In short, we danced, durum-ed, scouted at seats on the railings around 4:30am, and watched the first run of the bulls that would begin the week.

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Per tradition, churros con chocolate were had post-run, as well as a very necessary train station nap before sleeping the whole way home to Barcelona. It was a very successful, if exhausting girls trip to northern Spain! That Monday night was sadly Larissa’s last night of her trip, which we commemorated with a pizza party at home. Down time was very short-lived however, as I had to clean in preparation for Lindsay and Maggie’s arrival the following morning!

So Linds and Mags arrived to El Prat on time and with all of their luggage; man was it good to squeeze them right out of the arrivals exit! As timing would have it, I started dog/house-sitting that day so first things first we took care of Apollo and got the girls settled into my apartment. We had a traditional Catalan lunch at La Taberna and then I let the girls sleep off their jet lag while I went to work. Later that evening we met up with Tess Gosda and some UNL friends at Ovella Negra to watch the semi-final match between Brazil and Germany. After watching that shutout we made our way down to Plaza Real and ended up in Jamboree. Very fun first night.

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For their first full day here, we walked down Paseo de Gracia all the way to Plaza Cat, toured the Gothic quarter, and explored the Boqueria market. That night we went to the tapas bar on Blai Street in Paralell and then walked to 100 Montaditos nearby to watch the ARG game. It was a boring 90 minutes, but then ARG finally came through with an exciting win. The girls got to meet Damian after the game… it was so good to have them finally meet one another! The next day we all got Boldu pastries for brunch on the go, then took the 6 bus down to Poble Nou for an afternoon at the beach. After work, I went with Linds and Mags to the grocery store to load up on supplies for our dinner. We lovingly slaved away over chicken cordon bleu, au gratin potatoes, snacks, and mojitos before Brenden, Damian, and Rodrigo came over. Dinner went really well and later we eventually taxied down to Plaza Real to get our groove on at Jamboree again.

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Somehow we managed to get up just in time to make it to the meeting spot for our day trip to Costa Brava with Excursions Barcelona. We definitely all slept on the 1.5-hour van ride to Playa del Oro in Costa Brava, but once there we were ready to go! This was my second time doing this day trip, as last August Cass and I went with Clare Maney.  The second time around was just as fun; we had great weather for a day of kayaking, snorkeling, and cave exploring. Unfortunately, our group had a few casualties during the day – Damian was quite seasick at some points, and Mags & Linds got flipped over in their kayak while going through a pass with some big waves. All in all though, great day trip to Costa Brava! We were all very happy to get back home and have a chill night in, complete with frozen pizza.

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Saturday afternoon we walked through the Borne neighborhood and ended up having a little picnic at Ciutadella Park with some tinto de verano. Afterwards we winded through Barceloneta towards the Champagneria for euro cava and cheese. On our way back to the metro we stopped by Papabubble and got to see how they make artisanal caramels – it was cool and who doesn’t love a free sample!  We had dinner at home and later went out to Opium Mar, a fancy discoteca on the beach.

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Sunday got off to a late start, but we made up for lost time by doing some power shopping for Argentina gear and Spain souvenirs. We got all ready in our Argentina jerseys and face paint and took the metro over to Damian’s. From there we went to their family friend’s house to watch the World Cup final match between Argentina and Germany.  They were awesome hosts and the night up until the very end was super fun- just not the ending we wanted!

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We were up and at em’ Monday morning, starting the day off right with breakfast at Lukamas here in Gracia. From there we walked to Gaudi’s Park Guell, entering for free via the side entrance. I think the girls really enjoyed walked around the beautiful park, especially the view from the cross and stumbling upon a band at the top. After seeing the whole park, we walked back to my apartment and had lunch on the terrace with Damian. Later we ventured out to shop, hitting up BE, Tiger, Brandy Melville, and the Moritz Factory store. That night we attempted to go to Betty Ford’s, but sadly it was closed for cleaning. Thankfully we decided to try a cute place in Raval called Marmalade. Holy yum they had great burgers and nachos! After a much overdue table push-up, we made our way over to George Payne’s- finally an Irish bar to Maggie’s delight!

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Tuesday we decided to do some more shopping – the girls were getting lots of cute things for friends and family back home. We worked our way to Bar Lobo, a luminous, airy restaurant off La Rambla at the edge of Raval. They had a really tasty menu del dia. More shopping ensued, and I had to work. Afterwards, we gathered up stuff in preparation for a sunset picnic at the Bunkers. The sunset was gorgeous and we got there just in time as it was really painting the sky. Unfortunately we didn’t stay as long as we had intended because there were A TON of pesky little bugs up there. Nevertheless, you cannot beat the view of Barcelona from the Bunkers.

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For Linds and Mags’ last day here, we took a train Wednesday morning to Sitges to get in one more quality beach day. We walked around Sitges a bit before plopping down on a spot near the water. Mid-way through the afternoon, we had lunch at the nearby beach café – bocadillos y bravas. By the time we packed up our stuff to leave, we were all a bit fried, Lindsay’s flip-flops busted, and ice water was urgently needed.

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Once back in BCN, we got ready and made it to Da Greco just in time for our dinner reservation.  Per the usual there, the food and wine was delicious. It was fun to celebrate their last night here by saving Da Greco. Afterwards we decided to go to the cocktail bar across the street, Old Fashioned; we all ordered something different and each drink was made with so much care and attention to detail. I had a small-world moment when we realized that the guys who were also sitting at the bar with us just happened to be the owners of POPS, the fabulous champagne bar in Chicago. Before calling it a night, we made a pit stop by Otto Zutz and then walked back to the apartment.

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Thursday morning we lugged their suitcases back down the five flights of stairs in my lovely building. As I saw them off onto the handy Aerobus, we had a teary goodbye. It really sucks to see your best friends go… but such is life (or at least right now). Since then, life is settling back into a normal pace. Cass and I switched rooms for the final time yesterday. I’ve loved getting to watch Dylan this weekend.  We are already starting some plans for Brenden’s early-birthday BBQ this Saturday so that should be a good time. My apologies for the novel this time- just lots to recap! Until next time.

He Deserves Balloons.

Good morning to everyone from this cloudy Monday in Barcelona!

It’s been about two weeks since my last blog post, dang it. The idea of weekly posts is so sexy yet so seemingly unattainable I have come to find. Regardless, some cool things have happened since we last spoke. Namely, Cass’ best friend Larissa arrived in BCN on the one-year anniversary of Cass and I leaving Nebraska to set off for Spain. It is so wild to think that (over) a year now has already flown by! Also noteworthy happenings: Damian and I have been going strong as a “we” for nine months now, the US and ARG are still (knock on wood) in the World Cup, though sadly Spain got the boot rather quickly, and sweet summertime is finally here in all it’s humid glory.

So fun to get to catch up with Christie while her and Heath were in town! Post-drinks at the W!
So fun to get to catch up with Christie while her and Heath were in town! Post-drinks at the W!

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Nothing says hello summer like the celebration of San Juan here, aka the major holiday that falls annually on June 24th (celebrated the night of the 23rd). As Cass and I had already spent two San Juans in Barcelona, we decided to plan our festivities to take place on Ocata beach this year, joining our friends from Sant Cugat. We made sure we were well prepared in advance this time, attempting to leave nothing to chance. Brenden and Damian joined us and we took a train to Ocata, and then met up with the crew the evening of the 23rd. We picked a prime spot of real estate on the beach and proceeded to make the hoguera (bonfire), and set up all of our stuff surround the hoguera. Throughout the night everyone had dinner, drinks, played games, and did fireworks. It was a very successful San Juan; we eventually caught an early morning train back into the city, thank god!

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Besides showing Larissa around the city and its hidden jewels, we’ve just been busy working, finishing up our intercambios (they take a remission during July and August), enjoying the World Cup, and getting excited for our upcoming weekend getaway trip up to Bilbao, San Sebastián, and Pamplona. Larissa, Cass, and I will head out on an overnight bus to Bilbao on Thursday night; we will return via bus by Monday night, as Larissa has to catch her flight Tuesday morning (not to mention Lindsay and Maggie arrive that morning as well)! I am stoked to get to re-visit Bilbao after all this time, go to the Guggenheim, and experience San Fermines (running of the bulls) for my fourth time!

Marta and I cheering on the USA at George Payne's!
Marta and I cheering on the USA at George Payne’s!

Now, some things I have learned after living in Barcelona for over a year:

  1. While there are of course exceptions to the rule, in general you can buy crap-brand products and they will still get the job done just fine – think shampoo, laundry detergent, alcohol.
  2. Never assume that oncoming foot traffic will move for you on a narrow sidewalk, it’s just not going to happen so step into the street before it gets too late.
  3. Dos beso-ing is not about efficiency. So you best believe you’ll be doing it upon greeting people and saying goodbye.
  4. Never be embarrassed to sprint to catch the metro as it’s about to leave. You don’t know the people in the last car.
  5. When in doubt, order a caña.
  6. Need cheap clothing items? Primark. Household items? Al Campo. Also, never forget the Sorli customer card!
  7. Puree de tomate can and is frequently used for innumerable dishes – over rice, pasta, fideos, you name it. Never be low on the tomate.
  8. Wifi is gold. Personal network passwords are ridiculously long. Public hot spots are a godsend.
  9. Life is too short to work 65 hours a week. (Think Eat, Pray, Love- “Americans know entertainment, but they don’t know pleasure.”) Sometimes you just gotta enjoy…
  10. It is the people that make life worthwhile. You choose with whom to share your time.
View of BCN beaches from las Golondrinas!
View of BCN beaches from las Golondrinas!