Alicante & Calpe – Starting off Summer 2014!

“Keep yourself grounded and view the world through your heart. You will find balance.” – Ketut Liyer (via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love)

Well vacation is over, aka back to reality here in Barcelona (which is admittedly not such a bad reality). Damian and I took a 7am Renfe train from Barcelona Sants down to Alicante a week ago today. We both slept the majority of the ride. Upon our arrival five hours later in Alicante, population roughly 330,000, Damian’s aunt met us outside of the train station to accompany us on the bus back to their home. Damian’s family down there were super nice to let us stay with them for the first night in Alicante, as we had already booked hotels for the remainder of the trip. I soon got to meet the family including Uncle José, Emi, Mica, their little brother (which sadly I’m not sure how to spell his nickname), and the family dog, Rocky. Before you knew it, they were treating us to homemade Milanese Napolitano- it was delicious! Later that day, I went out to the town center and did some shopping with Damian’s aunt while the boys played soccer. We all met up in the evening again for dinner with everyone at 100 Montadito’s near the port area.

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Friday morning we had a lazy breakfast at their house, before heading to our hotel – the NH Alicante. Sadly after we checked in and did a once-over on the grounds, we realized that the photo of the pool area that they boast on their website was a gross case of false advertising; the rooftop pool, aka the reason why we picked the hotel, was actually no bigger than 5 bathtubs mushed together on the otherwise desolate rooftop. This disappointment aside, the hotel was awesome; hence, we unloaded our things then set out to walk along the boardwalk till we reached the city center. With a population comparable to that of Lincoln, Alicante turned out to be a beautiful coastal city, not to mention walk-able and inviting. We eventually made our way to the 16th-centry Castillo de Santa Bárbara on the other side of the expansive beach called Postiguet. We took an elevator all the way to the top, where the castle then affords its visitors with sweeping views of the city and ocean. After exploring around the castle, we walked around the town center and stopped at a bar for a bocadillo lunch.

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Thursday night we invited Mica and Emi over to the hotel, where we made mojitos in the room before heading out on the town with them. We eventually made our way to the old quarter and the area down by the harbor (the Paseo del Puerto), and Mica and Emi were great guides taking us to their favorite places and introducing us to some of their good friends along the way. As Alicante had already started citywide preparations for the upcoming San Juan festivities, the decorated old quarter reminded me of the nightlife area in Lisbon.

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Late Friday morning we packed up our things, checked out of the hotel, and caught a bus to Benidorm. Long story short here folks, the next hotel that we thought we had booked in Benidorm turned out to actually be located in the nearby resort town of Calpe, a little bit further north in the Costa Blanca. Hence, after taking in the grand-skyline of high-rise filled Benidorm, we boarded another bus to take us to nearby Calpe. That being said, once we finally arrived in our hotel in Calpe, the little extra journey was worth it. The hotel was wonderful and Calpe certainly had more charm to offer than Benidorm. So the rest of the day Friday we spent exploring the hotel, the beach (Playa Arenal), and the old town area. Calpe’s most famous landmark is the Peñon de Ifach, a giant molar escaping through the sea and reaching up to a height of 332 meters.

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Saturday morning Emi came to Calpe to spend the day at the hotel’s picturesque infinity pool with us. It was a perfectly sunny day; we soaked up direct rays for several hours before retreating to have lunch at a tapas restaurant along the boardwalk. Later Saturday night we had originally planned on going to Benidorm to go out there, but after realizing that the first return bus would not be until 8:30am the next morning we decided against that move, opting instead to give Calpe’s one discoteca a try. The night ended up being a lot of fun; we stumbled upon Calpe’s fashion week happened to be culminating that very night at the Camelon discoteca.

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Sunday was a rougher day for the boys so I took advantage of some quality alone time at the pool. I am currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest work: The Signature of All Things, so I was more than happy to get in some good reading time in the sun. Afterwards, Damian and I walked to Calpe’s Plaza Mayor where they happened to be having a festival of sorts, which involved a dozen food and drink stalls to our pleasant surprise! We got several tapas, a paella, and strawberry mojitos and ate lunch in the shade at a picnic table. Later in the day on Sunday we said bye to Emi and got gelato near the hotel. Sunday night was a nice, relaxing night in at the hotel for our last night of vacation!

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Monday we checked out and took a bus direct from Calpe back to Alicante. That bus ride unfortunately turned out to be a two-hour ride from hell. The bus was poorly air-conditioned, if at all, and I quickly went from feeling fine to being very motion-sick. Damian was great though; he rubbed my back and fanned me for nearly the entirety of the stop-and-go ride while I had my head in a H&M shopping bag. Such is life sometimes. We finally made it back to Alicante and had one last meal with Damian’s family there. Afterwards we took a Renfe train back to Barcelona, getting back to my apartment late Monday night.

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Since then, it’s been back to the work grind! I am still nannying for the Henoa family every weekday. I also do several weekend English lessons/ nanny jobs that certainly keep me busy! Thursday marked the beginning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup (aka el Mundial); I am excited to cheer on my teams for the next month – USA, Spain, and Argentina. Last night Cass, Brenden, and I went to Ryan’s to watch Spain vs. Holland. By the end of sad 1-5 defeat, we were very ready to change locations because somehow Ryan’s had turned into a gathering spot for everyone wearing orange.

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This coming week marks the one-year anniversary of Cass’ and myself moving to Barcelona! We left Nebraska a year ago on June 18th and arrived in Barcelona on the 19th. It’s crazy to think that we’ve already been here one year; it feels like just yesterday we were eating cake at Mar’s celebrating our three-month mark. Equally exciting, Cass’ best friend Larissa arrives in Barcelona for a two-week visit this coming Wednesday. I have been spending more and more time at the beach, slowly progressing from Casper-white to sun-kissed not pale. Cass and I finally got what we had been wishing for the last few months – summer is unquestionably here in Barcelona. It is hot, steamy, sticky, humid, and unrelentingly sunny- all of which makes for ideal beach weather, but rather uncomfortable conditions for an apartment without air conditioning. Fingers are proverbially crossed that we do not perish in our sleep from heat exhaustion! (kidding mom, partly).

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Interested > Interesting.

“Not knowing what you want to do with your life (or at least not having some ideas about what to do next)… is a way of pretending that now doesn’t matter. Being confused about choices is nothing more than hoping that maybe there is a way to get through life without taking charge.” – Meg Jay

Thankfully, only a week’s time has passed since we last spoke. Patty and Jank returned safely from Italy late Sunday night. It was really fun to get to hear all about their Italian adventures, not to mention see/touch/smell their handmade goodies they had purchased whilst in Cinque Terre and Rome. Last Monday I didn’t have to work in the afternoon so we set out on a day of exploring, tasting, and shopping in Gracia, Raval, and the city center. We had a lazy lunch at Cantina Machito in here close to home in Gracia. Later we stopped in various shops in Raval and got late afternoon beers/ wine at Betty Ford’s (the bar I used to work at). After indulging in a delicious array of Xarcutery back at the apartment, Cass, Jank, and I got ready to go out on the town. We first went to La Oveja Negra off La Rambla, then tried to venture over to Gayxiample (the gay bar area), but got sidetracked by Betty Ford’s and ended up there again!

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Tuesday morning we were up and at em’ and headed out to rent bikes! We rented them from the same place as I had earlier in Borne, and then rode through Ciutadella Park and by Arc de Triomf, then all along the beach boardwalk to the Hotel W, and back through Barceloneta. It was a great time and nothing but sunny skies! We eventually ended up at a beach restaurant in Barceloneta called Makamaka. It’s a fun, lively joint with tasty burgers, hand-cut fries, and fresh cocktails. Jank and I split the cava sangria, while Patty tried the rosé. After we returned the bikes, I rushed to get to work on time. Of course the one-day I needed to leave work by a certain time it didn’t happen. I then rushed over to Poble Nou for Mar’s birthday party at Will’s. I had just enough time to grab some flowers and a card for Mar, before Damian and I walked over to her party. Her cake was delicious!

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Wednesday Jank, Patty, and I took the metro over to Plaza España to take in the 360-degree view of the city from atop of Las Arenas. Since they didn’t spend much time exploring Montjuic, it was especially good that we go to see the whole area from up there.  From there we made our way back to the Gothic Quarter to meet Damian for lunch. While initially we had hoped to eat at a place in Plaza Real, then a place on the maps, as luck would have it we ended up at a little hole-in-the-wall tapas bistro on the east side of the Gothic area. We ordered an array of tapas and Jank proudly used her mobile translator to converse with Damian. It was an entertaining lunch and I was really happy that they got to spend some time with my man. Afterwards, I went to work while the gals sadly went home to pack up their suitcases.

After work I met up with the girls to do their last minute shopping errands around Gracia, hunting down those last gifts that still needed purchasing. The three of us grabbed dinner at the pasta bar on Asturias near our apartment; it was incredibly good food, which helps to explain why Patty and I ate ourselves sick, literally. For their last night in Barcelona, we enlisted Cass’ help and drank a bottle of cava and told stories at home. Thursday morning came too soon, and before you know it I was helping them get from our apartment to the Aerobus in Plaza Cataluña. We made sure they were on the right bus, heading to El Prat’s Terminal 1, and got in a final goodbye squeeze.

Since then, I have finally started running and working out again every other day now. Thursday Damian and I took Abril to Diagonal Mar and then we had dinner together there. Man, do I ever love that little girl! The rest of the weekend was comprised with Damian’s last soccer game of the season (he scored the first goal of the game!), going to la Maquinista, celebrating Mar’s bday round two, and preparing for our vacation this week!

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Damian and I are taking a train down to Alicante early on Wednesday morning. We’ll stay there with his uncle José’s family the first day/night, then to a hotel in Alicante; then on Friday we’ll take a bus one hour north-east to Benidorm where we’ll stay until we come back on Monday. I am SO excited! I have never seen those areas of Spain, nor ever traveled with a boyfriend, and I am elated to be crossing both off the proverbial list soon. Until then just working, packing, and researching! That’s all for now folks…

(( my rhythm n’ blues ))

Well I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s been almost one month since I last blogged. I have no excuses for myself in this regard, unless of course you’d like to hear some- including but not limited to: I have been busy working, preparing for Jank & Patty’s visit, exploring with them, planning birthday celebrations, and recovering from a nasty stomach virus type of thing. That being said, I am happy to be back at it again! Here we go folks.

So since then let’s see… Adi and I were going to go on a long-weekend trip up to northern Spain (Bilbao and San Sebastian), but (sadly for me, happily for her) at the last minute she got a modeling gig for a commercial shoot with Estrella Dam. Hence, we cancelled all of our bookings and reservations and I stayed in Barcelona. I was pretty disappointed but such is life- plus it was a great opportunity for her! Life continued to plug along hallmarked by my BCN constant variables of work, my intercambio (language exchange) at the library, exploring BCN with my new neighborhood maps, and Damian. Recently however, I am proud to say that my intercambio group has been more than willing to help me transition the group from a Spanish-English intercambio to a Catalan-English exchange. It’s awesome! I remember when we first moved here I was like I’ll never learn Catalan – it’s hard, it’s not practical or worthwhile, blah blah blah- and now I am quickly learning it! I am really enjoying learning new words and phrases daily, whether that be from the little Catalan girls I nanny, the retired women in my intercambio, or just on the street. At this point, I can definitely converse with little children in Catalan… I’m just still building up my adult vocabulary.

La Clara
La Clara

On Mother’s Day in the states, Cass, Brenden, and I went to Petra’s for a leisurely Sunday afternoon of a milanesa lunch, tea, and capped it off with some metro opera. On the 14th, Jank and Patty arrived in Barcelona! Unfortunately they missed their final connecting flight from Paris to El Prat, so I waited for them with a sign and everything for two hours before relenting to the reality that clearly something had gone wrong. Another few hours later, the valiant travellers showed up on my doorstep and it was SO great to finally get to see them and hug them! After letting them settle into the apartment digs and freshening up, we later hit the town for some welcome tapas at the ever-satisfying Taberna Blai for plates full of euro tapas and beverages. It was really fun to finally have one of my best friends from home here in the flesh! After that we walked from Para-llel to the Fabrica Moritz (a local Barcelona microbrewery/ bar/ wine bar) on Ronda de Sant Antoni. It was a first time visit for everyone involved; Patty and I sampled a few glasses of different Tempranillos, while Al had a few kinds of Moritz beer.

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For their first full day in Barcelona, we woke up, hit the Boldu bakery on Gran de Gracia (aka my fav spot for cronuts) and then walked up to Gaudi’s Park Guell. We must have had good luck that morning, because it was a perfectly warm and sunny day and we caught the talented street band Microguagua performing towards the top of the park; Patty even bought their CD. Cross pictures were taken, mosaic bench work was ogled. Later we took the metro over to the Sagrada Familia area and gorged on fresh seafood at La Paradeta. I’m not sure if I had ever had a fresh tuna steak before but it was absolutely delicious! We also got cava, muscles, and calamari- yum. Afterwards, the girls did their Sagrada tour while I went to work. Thursday night the three of us went to a flamenco show at Taranto’s in Plaza Real. It’s only a half-hour show, but it’s an intimate, authentic feeling venue and the performers were buzzing with energy. We loved it. After the show, Cass met us in the plaza and we got a table on the terrace of Ocaña. I knew it would be a good time when we got escorted to our table by a drag queen. We split a bottle of red wine and several tapas.

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On Friday the 16th we did the must-see tourist routes, starting with walking from our apartment down Paseo de Gracia all the way down to Plaza Cataluña, and down the Rambla to the Boqueria market. Al got a savory crepe from the crepe man’s stall in the market, while Patty and I shared a ration of buñuelos. Of course the fish section was a bit shocking, aesthetically at least. From there we weaved our way through the petite streets of the Gothic quarter on into the Borne area stopping in cute shops and beautiful churches. We almost embarked on renting bikes but alas, work was quickly approaching for me so we decided to put that off for another day. Instead the girls set out to see the Picasso Museum while I went work. They liked the museum and then went souvenir shopping and found their way back to the inviting Fabrica Moritz. Meanwhile, I went from work to Poble Nou to watch Jesus’ gospel concert. His chorus’ concert was so cool and I could tell he was so happy I came finally!

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Saturday we slept in and then made our way towards Bogatell beach for a much needed beach day! Thankfully it was sunny. On our way we made a pit stop at Damian’s so the girls could see Mar’s store, FIFO, and meet Damian and his family. Like usual, the language barriers were hurdled and then we eventually walked from their house to the beach to meet up with Cass and Brenden who were already there. It was a lovely afternoon of sun, sunflower seeds, and of course some cliché beach photos. Saturday evening we washed up then headed to Ryan’s Irish pub in Gracia to watch the final match up between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona. We met some fellow Americans at the pub and proceeded to drink more than I think anyone had planned. After the Barcelona loss, we walked to get Frankfurts before staking our spot in line to see Gaudi’s La Pedrera. We wanted to see La Pedrera this night because it happened to be the annual Museum Night where the majority of the major museums are free; who knew everyone and their mom were thinking the same thing we were! We ended up waiting in line for three hours before calling it quits and heading home. The saving grace was in-line beers and quality company.

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The next morning was supposed to be the morning of the Color Run, which it was, but I did not partake in the event as planned. Damian’s birthday was the following day and so last Sunday he had already committed us to a good friend of his, Marcelo’s birthday asado (BBQ). It was fun to get to meet the girlfriends of several of Damian’s soccer team friends. I was the only English-speaker at the BBQ (save for Gimee) so that was good practice. The food was delicious – Russian salad, normal salad, grilled meats with chimichurri, and birthday cake.

Last Sunday night Jank and Patty flew to Genoa, Italy to start off their week in Italy. Monday the 19th was Damian’s birthday! Although it was exhausting making sure he had a great day, I had a fabulous time celebrating his big day with him and his family. April and I made him his favorite cake – original bizcocho with dulce de leche on top. I went out to dinner with his family at their friend’s restaurant on the Rambla de Poble Nou Monday night; Damian liked all of his presents. Fun day!

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Sadly, a stomach virus and Adi leaving Barcelona marked the rest of last week. I ate nothing but white rice, toast, and apples for like 3 days. Adi left me on Thursday to head to Israel for a month before going back to Nebraska. I am really sad to see her go; we had some good times here this spring. Cass and I got dinner with Marta on the Rambla of Raval Thursday night (I got a coke). Friday, Cass’ friend Max arrived to stay at the apartment for the weekend. Yesterday the four of us went to Ryan’s to watch the soccer game, then took the metro to the tapas bar, and walked from there to Moritz. And well folks, that brings us up to today- a very overcast Sunday afternoon in Barcelona. Patty and Jank return from Italy tonight and I am excited to spend a few more days with them here. Damian and I will have been dating 8 months come Wednesday. Woo hoo! Thursday I’ll have to say goodbye to Patty and Jank as they head stateside.

Side topic: Since we last spoke, I’ve read Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, and Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade. Currently I’m reading Cincuenta sombras más oscuras, aka E.L. James’ 50 Shades Darker in Spanish. While I enjoyed all of these books, I most highly recommend The Defining Decade to everyone! It is a must read. Meg Jay is an experienced clinical psychologist who breaks her first book into three main sections: Work, Love, and the Mind & Body. She articulately and engagingly explains why the 20 something years are important. Paraphrasing all of the information she presents would be doing her work an injustice, but seriously, you need to read this book! Talk about lighting a fire under your ass. Cheers people!

Home is where your mom is.

(Disclaimer: I started writing this blog post about a week ago and am finally finishing it now)… So Mel has officially come and gone – home that is, to Lincoln, Nebraska. I miss her so much already! My mom arrived safely in Barcelona on Sunday, April 13th. Damian, April, and I took the metro and bus to get to the El Prat airport on the outskirts of the city and finally arrived to Terminal 2 almost 45 minutes after she was scheduled to have landed. I was freaking out, sweating, and so worried that she was sitting there waiting for us or even worse, had tried to get a taxi to our apartment. After about 8 minutes of frantically searching the arrivals area for my 5’ 2’’ mama, Damian spotted her as she exited the baggage claim zone. Thankfully, she had been set back about an hour due to customs lines and baggage delays. It was quite a joyous feeling to get to bear hug her and finally welcome her to Barcelona!

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So a recap of her trip shall ensue… On her first day of the trip, we got her settled into the apartment, showed her a glimpse of the neighborhood, and took the train to Sant Cugat to watch Damian’s futbol match in the late afternoon. It was perfect weather to sit in the sun for a couple hours and leisurely enjoy a few child-size brews. After the match, we came back to Gracia (my neighborhood) and later dined at the tasty Cantina Machito.

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Monday, Day 2, got off to an early and productive start with a stop at Boldu bakery and a visit to Gaudi’s Park Guell. Mom tried her first cronut on the way to the park, which was received with rave reviews. After having entered via the side escalators, we walked around Park Guell hitting the must-see spots like the cross, his house, the benches, and the local performers. Mom even bought a Spanish guitar CD for Scott; the musician was precious with his enthusiastic appreciation. The rest of the day was consumed with a trip to Sorli (kind of like our Trader Joe’s or Hy-Vee), lunch on the terrace, and visiting the Rambla and La Boqueria with Cass. Walking down the ever-crowded Rambla was mom’s least favorite part of the whole trip due to the excessive hoards of people and the need to be on the lookout for pickpockets. Monday evening Cass, Brenden, Damian, my mom and I made dinner at home and then attempted to go bowling at Diagonal Mar; much to our disappointment, the bowling alley was closed when we got there, resulting in arguably the only fail of her visit.

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Day 3 began with cupcakes for breakfast! We shared red velvet and crema catalana (more or less the local version of crème brulee) cupcakes and lattes at an outside table of Cup & Cake before walking all the way down Paseo de Gracia (Barcelona’s luxury shopping street, also home to Gaudi’s Casa Batillo and La Pedrera). After making that lengthy stroll, we made it to Plaza Cataluña and then tackled the tiny streets of the Gothic and Borne areas in the old (and touristic) heart of the city. We savored early afternoon gelato at my favorite gelato shop, Gelaaati di Marco near Jaume I, took in the massive beauty of the Cathedral and the Santa Maria del Mar churches, and finished off the afternoon with a shared order of patatas bravas from Bo de B near Barceloneta.

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Tuesday night Cass, Brenden, my mom, Sergi, and I went to a great tapas bar where mom got to try various tapas (croquettes, caprese salad, tortillas, salchichas y huevos fritos), sangria, and a few cañas. Very fun evening!

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Wednesday morning got off to a later start but we took on the day with our Sagrada Familia guided tour. Although it was my second time taking the tour of the inside of the grandiose Basilica, I still got a lot out of the interesting little tid-bits the guide threw in as we walked around. Mom loved it (not to mention the gift shop afterwards). Gaudi’s genius really was / is an impressive feat. Post tour, we headed to La Paradeta for some fresh seafood that made for a perfect lunch.

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Wednesday night my mom and I took the metro to Damian’s family’s house for dinner, but before we dined Mel and I did some damage at Mar’s store, FIFO. It was so fun to finally shop with her in the store and we both ended up getting really cute Seafolly beachwear items. Mom finally got her first taste of milanesa and got to spend some more time with Abrileta.

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Day 5: Picasso Museum, bocadillos, bike riding, Bunkers, and meeting Marta! Thursday, aka Mom’s Birthday Eve, aka Maundy Thursday o Jueves Santo, was quite a day. In the a.m., Damian met mom and I at the Jaume I metro stop to go to the renowned Picasso Museum in the Borne area. As a pleasant surprise I got in free! We toured the permanent collection; my favorite part is still the Blue Era, but his “pigeons” set is also awesome. Afterwards, we met with Cass to go get bocadillos in Plaza de Sant Jaume and stop by the hidden roman ruins in the Gothic quarter.

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We then rented bikes and had a blast for the next couple hours as we biked to the beach, up to the W hotel, down the boardwalk, through Ciutadella Park, and out by Arc de Triunfo on our way back. Cass was able to snag some amazing, candid photos; in hindsight this was Mom’s favorite thing we did on her visit! Afterwards, Cass, mom, and I took the bus up to the Bunkers so she could see the city from the best viewpoint of which we know. Thursday night we met Marta at Dionysus (a nearby Greek restaurant) for dinner. It was a really fun dinner with the four of us; we topped off the night at a bar called Avenue to officially ring in mom’s birthday!

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Friday aka Mel’s Birthday aka Good Friday: Cass, my mom, and I took the train to Sitges for a beach day! I think mom loved seeing a little beach town like picturesque Sitges… rocking our Seafolly buys, we spent the afternoon lounging on the beach and soaking up some much needed sun.

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Once back in the city, we got ready and had a bday aperitivo on the terrace before heading to Da Greco for her birthday dinner with Cass, Brenden, and Damian. Per the usual Da Greco did not disappoint; I tried hearts of palm for the first time and loved them. I think everyone liked what they ordered, the only complaint of the evening was that we were seated in the upper lever where the atmosphere was a bit stuffy and overly fancy for our liking. Celebratory wine and tiramisu consumed, we finished off the night hanging out at the apartment teaching Mel some new games.

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Day 7: Mel’s first and only Saturday in BCN began with catching up on rest, then some gift shopping along Paseo de Gracia before a late lunch with Damian. We searched high and low for the perfect gifts for family, friends, and co-workers. After resting our tired feet for a bit, Mom and I ventured back out – taking the metro down to Barceloneta and walking down towards the Port Vell. We found the Restaurant la Barceloneta without difficulties, and were shortly shown to table with a nice view of the port. Here mom got to try some seriously tasty Catalan dishes – bread w/ tomato spread, buñuelos (cod fritters), Codorníu cava, seafood paella, and crema catalana for dessert.

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Day 8 (Easter / Pascua): Brenden, Cass, my mom, and I met up with Damian near La Catedral de Barcelona to get good seats for Easter mass. Unfortunately, what we thought was a Spanish mass turned out to be a Catalan mass so while our party understood very little, it was still beautifully decorated and good to be in church on Easter. As the weather really cooled down this day, Cass, my mom, and I had a lovely brunch afterwards back at the apartment before a siesta.

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That evening, my mom and I took the metro over to Plaza España to meet up with Petra and her current host daughter, Rachel. Post introductions, we took the elevator up to the top of Las Arenas and took in the 360 degree view of the city from there. We then walked over to Montjuic and staked out a spot from which to watch the Magic Fountain show. It was awesome because the inaugural song for the show was the opening song from the Lion King. I hadn’t been to the fountain show since 2011 so it cool to see it again, especially this time with my mom. Later we rode the metro with Petra and Rachel to Sagrada Familia and then got dinner together at Petra’s favorite pizzeria on Avenguida de Gaudí. We split a delicious goat cheese salad and then some pizzas (with typical Spanish toppings like egg, tuna, goat cheese, and corn). Before calling it a night, we walked down to Petra’s house so mom could see where Cass and I stayed for our first month in BCN last summer.

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Day 9: Last day of the trip was a lazy/catch-up/packing day. The weather was kind of crappy not to mention that the Monday following Easter is a regional holiday here in Catalonia, aka nothing’s open, besides some restaurants. Mom and I finished watching Mud, and then watched The Color Purple together on the futon. After finishing re-packing her suitcase, later we went over to Damian’s house for dinner. We ended up eating at La Tertulia on the rambla de Poblenou, where mom got a bocadillo con patatas bravas for one last time. We tried Abril’s mona (like a big chocolate thing with Violetta on the front) and had coffee for dessert back at their apartment before Sergio and Damian drove us home. Early the next morning they returned to pick us up and take us to the El Prat airport in the a.m. Damian and I went in with my mom and helped her get checked in and all that. It was very hard to say goodbye to her again so soon… I am very lucky to have her as my mother.

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After mom’s visit, life went back to the routine (ish) here – intercambio, working, running, reading, etc. Wednesday the 23rd was Día de Sant Jordi (the book holiday here). On this day guys buy a rose for their girls, while girls get the guys a book. It is a huge deal here in Barcelona and it was fun to participate. Adi got back from Israel… we went to the beach together on Saturday in Poblenou! Now we’re hopefully going to go to Bilbao Thursday, then to San Sebastian Friday- Sunday. Thursday is Día de los trabajadores here which is a national holiday, and as it falls on a Thursday many people will do the “Puente” (bridge) and take off Friday too for a long weekend. Damian and I just celebrated 7 months together yesterday; crazy how time flies. Well that’s the update thus far – talk to you soon!

 

“….what a slut time is…

she screws everybody.”

“That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” – both quotes by John Green (from The Fault in Our Stars”)

Happy weekend folks! I just finished reading the aforementioned novel, and I must say I basically sobbed relentlessly for the final twenty percent of the story.  I have always struggled with accurately labeling myself when it comes to romantic views – aka do I identify more with the realist or idealist camps, or perhaps I am actually of the hopeless romantic variety? Like most hard questions, I am currently unable to wholly claim one particular stance or another. I was deeply grateful at Mr. Green’s portrayal of Hazel’s Dad’s character in the novel… in his belief that “the universe wants to be noticed.” Now there is something I can agree with. I also felt a particular connection to Augustus’ sentiment, “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations,” in regards to my tumultuous relationship with writing. That’s exactly it Waters, I indeed do have what feels like thousands of fleeting glimpses of articulate thoughts that refuse to work together in forming coherent lines of thinking. Damn the creative mind and the less-than-convenient timing of mental-meets-written streams of consciousness.

Anyways, I did recently finish reading The Fault in Our Stars in a dark bedroom of a 5-star hotel in Barcelona (I’m babysitting for a couple from Holland).  At several points between 82 and 99 percent way through the Kindle-version of Green’s novel, I was semi-concerned that I would wake the baby with my sobs of grief and anger whilst reading what a shit storm Green’s main characters were going through.  It’s funny how a really good book makes you think about your own life…. Or perhaps that is just the habit of a pretty self-centered, American, twenty-something. Hard to say.  Forever my literary better half, Lindsay and I commiserated at how lovely it is to think of loving someone else as a privilege. Upon searching ‘fault in our stars’ via Pinterest, and seeing the abundance of pins in various squiggly typography relating the words: “some infinities are bigger than other infinities,” I was reminded of the countless rounds of Would-You-Rather of which I have been apart; I would still choose a heart changing, Augustus-Hazel love, however fleeting and painful it may be, over a long, safe, conventional endeavor any day. As Augustus pointed out, there is a certain triumph in being deeply loved rather than widely loved.

can't wait to see the movie version!!
can’t wait to see the movie version!!

OK! Enough post-great-book-ranting for today! Life update: Things that have not changed since we last spoke… Intercambio, running, did some more FIFO photos reading, Damian being… my champion. The Corte-Ingles 10km race went super well for Brenden, Cass, and myself! (Although it was really more like 11km, but who’s counting?) wxgf6OVYJm59CmxII7YfXrk6A3RykS2NjQuyP4sfc8Y

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I am no longer watching April everyday and instead I now nanny two Catalan girls named Mar and Clara. They are dolls.  I recently interviewed with the Ritz Carlton property here – the interview with their HRD went really well. Papers are a nightmare so we will see what happens. All in all, felt good to get a very professional, all in Spanish interview under my proverbial belt. I also recently helped Adi out as much as possible around here, as last week she had emergency surgery to remove her apendix. Although she was in pain, it was fun to hang out with her lots lately and watch SATC episodes with her. Now she’s in Isreal for Passover and I miss her … a lot!

Clara!
Clara!

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I am EXTREMELY excited for my mother to arrive in BCN on Sunday morning, God willing! We have already started preparing for her arrival and cleaning the apartment. Our Sagrada tour tickets are bought, home-stay dinner plans are in the works, and beauty rituals have taken place. Now it’s just time for her to get here already!

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New FIFO stuff!
New FIFO stuff!

 

I Woke Up Like This.

“They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The last few weeks have swiftly managed to fly by! Over a few weeks ago I met up with Jesús, my old intercambio buddy, at La Violeta for coffee and company.  Besides catching up on the day-to-day updates, he also informed me all about the La Mona traditions here for Easter week. Other highlights from that week include making my first bizcocho with Abril and Damian, training for the upcoming Corte Ingles 10k, and venturing out to the BCN casino with Damian where we tested our suerte at computerized roulette. By far the cherry on top of that night was going to a discoteca afterwards and getting a rare view of Damian’s “hip-hop moves.” That Sunday, Cass, Brenden, and I went to tour the Hospital de Sant Pau on their last free day before they started charging entrance fees again. The city revitalized and restored nearly the entirety of the old hospital, which is now mostly a museum thanks to the beautiful mosaic works.

Panam of Hospital de Sant Pau
Panam of Hospital de Sant Pau

Later in the day, I took the train out to Sant Cugat to cheer on Damian’s soccer team during their big rivalry game against the other Sant Cugat team, SC Junior. They ended up winning 3-1 and I relished all of the proud girlfriend moments I could. That night, Cass, Brenden, Gabi, and I walked over to Sala Bikini for the Boyce Avenue concert! Although, admittedly I had not listened to much of their music before (or after now), they put on a great show of live music! We had never been to Sala Bikini before either so it was fun to get to check out the venue and enjoy some live music (in English!) for a change of pace.

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I started the third week of March off by celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at George Payne’s with Damian, Adi, and Matan. Armed with green beers, festive hats, and great company, I enjoyed helping Damian celebrate his very first St. Patty’s Day! Per the usual weekly routine, I had the group English lesson with Angie (8), Lara (6), Marc (5), and Abril (4) on Monday, my Spanish-English advanced intercambio on Tuesday, and took care of Abril after school throughout the work week. Training for the 10k continued, and my current routine is running every other day; I’m up to 5 miles at this point. In Spain they celebrate Father’s Day on March 19th so Abril and I made Sergio a bizcocho with dulce de leche icing, homemade cards, and Abril even picked out bright yellow tulips for the big day.

Festejandooo at George Payne's!
Festejandooo at George Payne’s!
Sergio's cake :)
Sergio’s cake 🙂

Thursday night of that week, Damian, Adi, Matan and I got together at my apartment before we went to Jamboree in Plaza Real. Although we arrived just after two and hence had to pay a cover, it was a fun night with the four of us – by the end Matan and Damian were like two peas in a pod. On the weekends, I still work with Anna’s three little kids, teaching them English through games and just playing with them. That Sunday night was the much-anticipated FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid match; after work I met Damian and his family at a local bar in Poble Nou to watch the big game with them. According to the commentators, it was the best “el clasico” in years – thankfully Barca won.

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On the job with Anna's little girls: Joanita y Claudia
On the job with Anna’s little girls: Joanita y Claudia

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So let’s see as far as this last week goes… I worked, ran, had my intercambio where we welcomed the new member Sonia from Ecuador, and celebrated 6 months with Damian! Time flies man. Some exciting work opportunities could be materializing in the near future so I will keep you posted on those… Cass and I had lunch at Petra’s yesterday afternoon; I met her new student, Rachel who is very nice and well situated living with Petra. Last night I watched Dylan again – happy to be back watching him after a long visit with their family. Also, noteworthy I finished Jane Austen’s Persuasion last night – not exactly a page-turner but happy I read it and can check that classic of the to-read list.

Dylan el loquitooo :D
Dylan el loquitooo 😀

Another highlight since the last time I blogged was my fleeting, oh-so-brief modeling career! Over a week ago now Mar asked me to try on several of the newest items in the store so that she could post the photos on FIFO’s Facebook page- I gladly accepted and we got right to it. Sadly I only could muster up about three different poses to chose from throughout the shoot, but it was a very fun and entertaining morning. Below are several of the photos that Sergio/Mar/Damian took for FIFO’s page… If you’re reading this and want to see more of the photos or are interested in FIFO’s Seafolly line of swim & beach wear, you should search “FIFO POBLE NOU” on fb and like their page! Until next time folks…

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my late bday present from Mar! :)
my late bday present from Mar! 🙂

March Madness

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli

Cool quote, no?  Funny how growth means different things to different people.  What does growth mean to you? To me, it means making progress in something, in an aspect of one’s life… Lately to me that progress has been in being more aggressive about reading and living by intention.  Since we last spoke I have been a reading machine… I read Pauo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.  Both quick reads though of vastly divergent stories, these books were both highly recommended by family and friends. Now I just need to see the movie version of The Book Thief, or as it’s shown here in Spain, La Ladrona de los Libros!

Cass and I switched back our bedrooms here in the apartment, aka I’m back to the tiny bed and smaller bedroom. It’s cozy though so all is well, plus fair is fair.  With all of Cynthia’s family in town now, I have watched Dylan and his baby cousin, Adrian, some while the grown ups go exploring in the city. I thought getting one baby to go down for a nap was tough until I tried getting two babies to go down at the same time…Rough stuff people.  On related terms, I’ve started watching Abril daily now that their store, FIFO, is in full swing! So I pick her up from school some days, we have a weekly English lesson with several other little ones, and I run errands for Mar as well.

at the park!!
at the park!!

Two weekends ago now, Cass, Brenden and I took the train to Sitges on Saturday night to celebrate the Carnaval festivities happening there! That night it sure felt like the whole town was partying, alive and loud with costumes, drink, and music. It reminded me of the feeling of the celebrations in Pamplona during San Fermines.

the queens of sitges ;)
the queens of sitges 😉

Last week, Damian and I were a wreck. I got a bad cold and his toothache became infected. Thankfully with the help of antibiotics, ice (for him), and Vitamin C (for me) we were better by this last weekend.  Friday, we had Marta over for lunch and more importantly so she could finally see our apartment for herself! As usual, her company was delightful and she gave us advice everything from boys to how to better accommodate guests.

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Saturday Damian and I went to the beach at Poble Nou. Afterwards we tried to win big at the casino on the Rambla there but ended up walking out after losing 3 euros. Ha. Saturday night I went to Boujis with Adi… It was a swanky little “pre-Sutton” club near home.  I would say we highly enjoyed ourselves but that would be a bit of a white lie; it was alright, not really our crowd.  Speaking of Adi, big congrats shout out to her for landing a Revlon deal with her modeling agency here in BCN.!!  The two of us finally tried out hot yoga for the first time on Sunday evening. We went to Yogalinda near Vila Olimpica, where the class was comprised of 6 young female students in a room held at a balmy 40 degrees Celsius. The hour-long class was taught in English and we really liked it! Although sadly we were both sore the next day.

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In other news I saw the movie The Heat, which was hilarious. Cass, Brenden, and I have signed up for a 10km race in Barcelona that will take place on the morning of April sixth. Cass and I are pumped as this is the first 10km for both of us! Best part is that it was free to sign up; thank you Corte Ingles. Jank and Patty officially bought their tickets to come visit me in May!! The best is yet to be 🙂

 

 

Boy Meets Girl

I cannot believe we are almost in March of 2014 already! Life in Barcelona is going well, better than well; I cannot complain.

just a day in the life :)
just a day in the life 🙂

Last Thursday I celebrated several belated and upcoming birthdays with Cass, Marta, Stephanie, Ellen, Janelle, and Jacques. Janelle expertly picked a cheap and tasty tapas bar and restaurant in near Parallel. There the tapas selection was wide and colorful, displayed pintxo-style: each item proudly staked with a toothpick making for easy self-service access. The deal is that each tapas is 1 euro and business is ran on the honor policy, that is to say that you’re just expected to keep all of your toothpicks till the end and that’s what you pay. They had everything from mini burritos and cheeseburgers to tuna croquettes and mini crema catlanas (more or less like the Spanish version of crème brulee). Delicious variety + affordable drinks + quality company = great evening.

Blueberry muffins made by yours truly y la abrileta
Blueberry muffins made by yours truly y la abrileta

Last Friday we went to Opium to ring in Josh’s 23rd birthday – it was nice to finally get to see the Sant Cugat crew again since coming back to BCN. Opium was the usual – dark, same music, and lame rich people, but we managed to make it a good time nonetheless. Our beloved Olympic is (temporarily, I hope) closed. The rest of the weekend was spent watching Dylan and continuing birthday festivities with a celebratory picnic hosted by Janelle in Ciutadella on Saturday afternoon. Luckily, it was the perfect day for a picnic – late February and it was sunny, no wind, 60s!  Janelle’s invitees really comprehended the potluck picnic idea – it was a fabulous spread; Cass and I brought a fresh fruit salad.  We also wished Janelle well on her way as she has since flown to Brazil for Carnival there.

Dylan in their new apt!
Dylan in their new apt!
Me, Marta, & Cass at Janelle's Bday Picnic!
Me, Marta, & Cass at Janelle’s Bday Picnic!

Other highlights since we last spoke include: in the last week I read Gone Girl. What a page-turner! I thought the book was haunting, creepy, and really enjoyed the writing style of the dual narrators. It’s always inspiring to me when authors can ever-so-slyly make readers fans of a character and empathize with them, and then all of the sudden you realize it was all a façade and that they’re actually psycho. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the film-version of Gone Girl this year on the big screen with none other than Ben Affleck – sign me up! I’m still going strong with my weekly intercambio and keep myself busy with nannying and English lessons. Last night Adi and I went to our favorite pretzel shop in the Borne area and then walked down to Barceloneta where we spent a few ours sipping cava at La Champagneria.  I would not particularly recommend the fuet there and the bocadillo con butifarra y cebolla was so-so. The rosé cava on the other hand was wonderful. It is fantastic to have Adi here and get to hang out with her and show her some of the best parts of the city.  Hopefully we can get some weekend trips on the books and I’m already amped to meet Matan in person when he visits in March. Also SUPER exciting – my mom finally bought her ticket to come visit BCN!  This happens to be the first time she’ll ever travel outside of the United States and we are already planning, scheming, and counting down the days!

cava on cava on cava
cava on cava on cava

22 / 23

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the ole blog—a lot has happened over the last month! Getting a stomach virus marked mid-late January.  The week started off well as we went to Cantina Machito with Sara on Sunday night. There Sara and I both ordered the white fish tostadas with avocado, which proved to be delicious though overpriced. Come Monday morning I was starting the workweek with watching Dylan, the adorable American 16-month old in Poble Nou. As those close to me are likely aware, I had always considered myself more of a fan of older kids, rather than younger kids and babies. However, I am quickly realizing that it is often times much more enjoyable to spend an afternoon with a precious, happy baby (or toddler) than it is a 6 – 10 year old child.

That week Dylan and I spent about 6 hours a day together; we went to the nearby parks, walked down to the beach, ran errands, had approximately 100 snacks, and read Bubbles, Bubbles more times than I’d like to recall. All in all we had a lovely week together, and I’m excited to watch him more in the future for when Cynthia takes Spanish courses. Between watching Dylan in the A.M. and Abril and Romina in the afternoon/ evenings that week, I came down with a nasty stomach virus Tuesday night. As much as I wanted to join in on previously planned outings with Cass and Sara, I ended up posting up at Damian’s for several days and just recovering slowly but surely. He was a trooper for seeing me at my worst and not batting an eye.

Dylan!
Dylan!

That brings us up to Cass’ 24th birthday, which unfortunately I was still recovering during her big weekend. I surprised her with an Oreo cupcake and her gifts, and later that night we went to Ryan’s with the Sant Cugat crew. Finally I was able to kick the virus and I worked a bit with Dylan and Abril the following week. Thursday of that week (Jan 23rd), Brenden arrived to Barcelona in the morning! We had been looking forward to his arrival for months- as an added bonus, he also brought with him my amazon.com goodies!

Later that day my mom called me with the news that my (great) uncle had passed away earlier that morning. While the news was not entirely a shock, as he had been in the hospital for over a week, it was still unexpected and surreal to hear. Within a couple of hours, I had bought my ticket to go home for the funeral and support my small but mighty family. I hastily packed up my backpack and headed across the city to Damian’s. The following morning he and his dad drove me to the El Prat airport and wished me well on my way. Just shy of 24 hours later, I was once again walking up the arrivals ramp in the sprawling Omaha airport.

My mom, aunt Lori, Dave, and Hayley and Beth all surprised me at the airport! It was so great to get to wrap them all up in my arms again after more than seven months of physical distance! My first day home my mom, Lindsay and I went to brunch at the Green Gateau- how I had missed that place. Lindsay, being the unfailing amazing best friend that she is, drove up from KC just to spend a couple hours with me as she had prior engagements planned the remainder of my time home. That night my parents, Hayley, and Beth and I had dinner at Lazlo’s; the next day my mom and I flew into Baton Rouge, LA and then drove over to Summit, MS.

Green Gateau brunch
Green Gateau brunch

Once there, we caught up with Uncle Bill’s side of the remaining family and tried to help Aunt Charlotte as much as we could in terms of preparing for the funeral and everything the next day. From the minute we got there I was very glad I had made the decision to come home and be with my family during this time. Monday came and from the moment the sun came up people started delivering food to the house. Around mid-day we made our way to the funeral home; it was quite difficult, for me at least, to see my Uncle Bill in his casket at the viewing. His funeral was well attended; my mom and I each read a poem during the service. After the burial in the local cemetery, family and friends all came back to Aunt Charlotte’s for “fellowship,” aka a huge feast of homemade southern food. Highlights included chicken pie, peach cobbler, chocolate pound cake, and cheesy potatoes.

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The rest of my time at Aunt Charlotte’s was mainly spent relaxing and spending quality time with my mom and Aunt C. We watched movies, played some heated rounds of Scrabble, and ate more leftovers (mainly cake) than I’m proud to admit. Also noteworthy, it snowed 1-3 inches in southern MS and that basically shut the state down for the majority of my visit. By Thursday afternoon the highways had finally been re-opened and I was able to catch my flight to DFW for a long weekend visit with my Dad, Julie, and Alan in Southlake.

While in the lone star state I got to meet the two new boxers, Punchy and Rocky. The weekend was filled with shopping, dining out, movies, and family time. My “little” brother is now 6’2’’, 250 pounds, and wears an XL in polo shirts. It was a really fun weekend in Southlake; I would say the cherry on top was having a surprise early-birthday dinner at Bob’s steakhouse.

Early bday dinner at Bob's :)
Early bday dinner at Bob’s 🙂

My remaining week home was a blur of snow, face-blisteringly cold winds, family, and great friends. I certainly tried to make the most of my time at home, which included everything from catching up on Modern Family with my mom to going to the dentist, and from having mulligatawny soup at the Oven to seeing my 108s at my birthday gathering. Regardless of the brevity of my visit home in Lincoln, I was once again reminded of how lucky I am to have such strong bonds with such high quality people. My mom enthusiastically hosted a 23rd birthday celebration at our house, which proved to be a huge success as I got to see lots of friends and catch up with a good amount of my favorite Nebraskans.

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Mom & I on my 23rd!
Mom & I on my 23rd!

Before I knew it my visit home was coming to a close a week ago. I wrapped up the trip with a family dinner at Florio’s, and then went to Aunt Lori’s in Omaha where we watched Downton and had leftover birthday cake. Originally I was supposed to fly from Omaha to Minneapolis to JFK to Barcelona, however, due to several unforeseeable delays, I ended up flying from Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Barcelona. It was a stressful and tiring trek, but I very happily made it back to BCN in one piece, only an hour late, and with my checked baggage. Upon seeing me walk out of the baggage claim area, Damian’s face was priceless and something I will never forget.

The last week back in Barcelona was spent settling in again, unpacking, spending time with people, and getting back into the working-gal groove here. It has been so nice to once again have grits, pretzel M&Ms, Emergen-C, and Trader’s Joes candies among other things. We’re celebrated some belated birthdays this week and I’m looking forward to a good upcoming weekend. Not to mention the lovely little fact that Adi is now here!!! We went on a gal date last night to a cute crepe place on Via Lietana; the food, wine, and company were all delightful and I’m so glad she’s going to be here all semester!

@ La Creperia con Adiii
@ La Creperia con Adiii

Kings & Beans

I am going to attempt to be better at posting something at least weekly on here; I know I have gotten a bit slack with my frequency lately. So a week ago today (Jan 5th) I went to Poble Nou for La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, aka the 3 Kings Day parade. I forget if I’ve said any of this before, but here in Spain Jan 6th is a big nationally celebrated holiday known as Reyes Magos.  Kids get presents again just like Christmas, especially given by grandparents. The night before is the Cabalgata or parade and then on the actual holiday, no one works and people get together to eat with their families. I met up with Damian’s family and friends at La Biennal, their local spot on the Rambla of Poble Nou, for coffees beforehand and then we went to stake out our spot on the Rambla to have a good view of the parade. The little kids were all so excited; April, Ona, & Bet were busy throwing confetti at one another as the anticipation built. Anibal, Sergio and I caught as many caramelos as humanly possible while the parade went by. It was a great time! After the festivities died down, we went back to Damian’s for homemade milanesa. Yum!

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On the 6th we had a good lunch at Damian’s, finished off with a traditional cake that is usually in the shape of a ring. The deal with the cake is that there’s a little plastic King and a little plastic bean both inside of the cake somewhere. Whoever gets the king in their slice is said to have good luck for the New Year and gets to wear the accompanying paper crown; whoever gets the bean in their slice is supposed to pay for the cake. Needless to say, I nearly broke a tooth chomping down on the bean that was in my slice. It was a fun tradition to get to experience with his family.

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On the seventh things started going back to routine, namely my intercambio at the library started back up again. We welcomed a new member to our group, Juan Carlos, and he is awesome. He’s from the Canary Islands but has lived in Barcelona for 40 years. He happens to be deaf but speaks great English, and he won me over by complimenting my Spanish. Cass and I ran up and around in Parc Guell, which we’re happy to report that you can still enter the park for free, you just have to pay to sit on the mosaic bench area or go by the very front part. Running on the city streets here has been killing my knees so I think I’m going to look into buying a pair of those little knee support bands.

This last week I met Cynthia and her family, who have recently moved from Seattle to Barcelona thanks to a job transfer.  They have a precious little 16-month old son named Dylan, who I will now babysit everyday this week and ad-hoc in the future. They currently reside in the Poble Nou area so that’s great for me. I’m definitely getting more and more familiar with that area. I even checked out their library branch last week. Speaking of that, I am still trudging through David Copperfield. I am hoping to finish it by February so that I can start Gone Girl finally!

After several flight changes and delays, Sara (Cass’ best friend) arrived on Friday morning. Unfortunately but not super surprisingly, her luggage didn’t come. So far her suitcase has arrived, but they’re still waiting on the suitcase full of Cass’ stuff to get delivered. What a nightmare! Cass and I took Sara out to Opium, Shoko, and Vila over the weekend and gave her a taste of Barcelona nightlife. Sadly, we caved and bought durums on Friday night. We also managed to run into Aashi (a promoter friend) both nights, which was nice. Despite some mishaps at Otto and rain, we had a good weekend; it’s been great to have a fellow NE lady in our midst.

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