Enjoy the Ride.

The last few weeks have flown by! In between Valentine’s Day and now, I have observed Lent, gotten more into my ICB Community Group, and had my last week nannying for Ferran’s girls, Mar and Clara. All last week the new nanny, Mateja, shadowed me as we got the girls all ready and off to school and then the PM routine as well. She’s from Slovenia, and seems sweet and capable; it’s definitely bittersweet, though, to see that chapter close.

Whether flying solo, with our gal’s small group, or simply meeting a friend (Hannah) for coffee, I’ve also continued trying new places and continue to fall in love with most. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m relatively easy to please, or if it’s that there are innumerable cute spots with great food and drink. Whichever the case, I am now a big fan of Oma Bistró and Caravelle.

Oma Bistró (c/ Consell de Cent, 227) is a bright, open, trendy spot as of late that’s located in Eixample. While I’ve only personally tried their original coffee (the “Stumpy” – a twist on a flat white), I’m looking forward to tasting their cheesecake, craft beers, and myriad brunch offerings. Sadly, the name does not have anything to do with Omaha, I asked; rather, Oma happens to mean “grandma” in German.

Caravelle (c/ Pintor Fortuny, 31) is an Australian owned homey café in Raval. I finally crossed this place off my to-try list when I met Hannah there last week to catch up over coffee and talk social media stuff. Our waitress was super nice and friendly (turned out she was from Miami), and I ordered a chai latte while Hannah opted for the standard café con leche. Not after too long, though, they brought out freshly baked strawberry and ricotta cheese muffins. Needless to say, we had to share one. It was heavenly… arguably the best muffin I’ve ever had. Lovely spot in general –definitely recommend!

Juicy Jones (c/ Hospital, 74) is also located in the heart of Raval. Juicy Jones, in terms of the physical space, is covered in bright, attractive murals from floor to ceiling. A juice bar and vegan restaurant with reasonable prices, Juicy Jones is sure to please the masses. I am not entirely sure what I ended up ordering but it was green and bubbling and delicious.

I already posted about my calçotada experience, which was delightful and I would love to do that every weekend. Staying with my Lent intentions has been good, though some days quite challenging. The hardest one by far has been to work on my blog daily, which if you’re unfamiliar with blogging, actually requires a substantial amount of effort and work. Especially when I got a cold/flu thing last week so that has been extra fun!

Preview for this week: an upcoming post on my take on the chapter of Ruth, Mexican send-off dinner with my awesome community group, meeting Hannah’s best friend who’s in town for the week, watching Dylan and baby Ryan a few last times, gift shopping, and packing!

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First Time For Everything

My birthday was lovely… It was my first birthday away from my family and good friends, but Damian, his family, and my friends here spoiled me. The actual birthday was spread out in about a week’s worth of festivities – one night I went to a cabaret show here (The Hole 2) with my old host-mom, Marta, and a mutual friend, Janelle, as a joint bday celebration for Marta and myself. It was a racy show and I probably blushed through the majority of it but some pretty good stand-up acts and amazing circus type performances. I was impressed and it was a fun first time experience.

The celebrations continued by having a delicious brunch at Marmalade with my gal friends here on Saturday the 7th. There are few ways I’d rather start my day than with Eggs Benedict and a mimosa. That night Damian and I went to our favorite pizzeria (Tío Mario) and then got drinks at Balius Bar, a cute old-school cocktail bar in Poblenou. On my actual birthday, when I got home from church at ICB, Damian and his dad had made a large quantity of milanesa, homemade fries, and a bizcocho cake. So far 24 has been lovely!

Día de San Valentín: The day started off lovely with donuts at Lukumas with the gals and then spent some quality time hangin’ with them. I had my first legit Valentine’s Day plans this year. For my birthday, the parents of the American family for which I nanny gave me a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant in the city, Santa Gula. So we made reservations early, and then Saturday the 14th Damian and I had dinner there – the food and wine were amazing and the atmosphere was cozy yet light. Also, first time getting Valentine’s Day flowers!

I am still loving my church here, ICB, and I am now in a new small group that is led by a missionary couple from Texas and Kansas- they are missionaries here that are working to open a dream center in Raval (a very diverse inner city area of BCN)- So I’m hoping to get involved in that helping in some way or another. Also, looking forward to going to my first ever Calçotada tomorrow afternoon in Les Planes with Awaken, the young adults group at ICB. Good company + an onion BBQ? Yep!

I’m also getting super excited to be coming home soon! Woo hoo! Less than 3 weeks!

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UberEATS

Free meal from Feeld Organic

 

Highlight of the day was a delightful surprise from Uber Spain… although months ago they got the legal boot from Spain, today they’re coming back strong with the debut of UberEats! While you may not be able to use Uber as a taxi service here, you can now order food from the best restaurants around Barcelona and get it delivered to your door in less than 15 minutes, guarantee! Their lunch time debut starred a salmon, quinoa, veggie bowl from Barcelona’s own Feeld Organic today between the hours of 12:30 and 15:30.

Using promo codes of “ubereatsbcn” / “zoomeats” / or “feeldorganic” your order was completely FREE up to 15 euros. Hence, for Damian and I to get a steaming hot, healthy, delicious meal delivered to the apartment in less than ten minutes from when we ordered it cost me a grand total of 5 euros! Not bad, UberEats not bad. Download the app and make sure you’re not missing out on these deals! Such a good variety of food available on their online menu too!

Cherry Lips, Crystal Skies

How today is the first day of December, signaling that November already happened for this calendar year, is mind-boggling to me. Where did November go? Time is flying! It’s been…way too long since my last entry here, but I shall attempt to make up for lost time.

Halloween: I didn’t have a costume planned until the morning of Halloween, when Mar (7) told me, considering the fact that I had nothing at this point in time, to borrow her neon-blue, waist-length wig for the occasion. She recommended I go as a “Blue Vampire.” So I heeded her advice and after nannying went to hunt down some cheap vampire teeth. At my third china-store (the Spain equivalent to the dollar store), I found a pair for 1 euro; as I tried them on my way out, I realized that I couldn’t move my mouth at all with the teeth in, which would make socializing at a party difficult. Hence, at the last minute I switched to dressing up as a blue-wigged witch for Gabi’s Halloween gathering in el Borne.

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November highlights… Bible study. Studying for GRE. Nannying. GRE. Gabi and I have continued our weekly bible study on Tuesday mornings at a wide variety of local cafés and eateries including Satan’s Coffee Corner (ironic I know), Milk, Molika, and Gabi’s apartment. Recently I finally had the chance to go to the church Gabi had been raving about, the International Church of Barcelona, and I’m sold! Compared to the aesthetically beautiful but substantially vacant masses of old here, ICB’s noon service features a live band, an amazing couple as the lead pastors, and a contagious energy that makes you want to get involved on a deeper level. I am excited to go to the women’s small group in the near future.

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So the GRE officially happened. The actual test day experience was even more formal and TSA security-like than I had expected. I was pleasantly surprised that there were noise-canceling earphones offered by the testing center. My experimental section ended up being Verbal and overall I felt like it went alright. Immediately afterwards as I stared dubiously at my “unofficial scores” for the verbal and quantitative sections I was a bit disappointed in myself but it could have gone worse. Yesterday I finally was able to see my official scores, including the analytical writing bit, and all I can say is: it is what it is. I am hoping to not have to take the GRE again, but we shall see.

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Last week I had the special opportunity to visit the Barcelona Food Bank with Jesús, my retired friend from last year’s intercambio at the library. Jesús does year-round volunteer work with them in their fundraising efforts, and he was nice enough to give a real behind the scenes tour of the whole operation. It was cool to see the actual warehouse too, the whole place preparing for the annual Gran Recapte (annual city-wide food drive). Last Friday evening I volunteered for the Food Bank at a grocery store, encouraging shoppers to donate and helping sort the donated items. Cass and I volunteered for the event last year as well, and I’m glad I got to help out again. On Thanksgiving day I had a meeting at ISA with Raquel to discuss the Masters at UPF. I’m really excited about applying for this program and getting that ball rolling if you will! More on that to come.

Later on Thanksgiving day I took the metro over to Cynthia and Will’s for a holiday get together with their friends and family. The best part was definitely getting to meet Mr. Ryan Alexander, the newest addition to Dylan’s family! He is a precious little baby who slept right until we all sat down to eat, naturally. It was wonderful to get to celebrate on Thursday with great people and a yummy homemade spread. Saturday Night Damian and I went to a belated Thanksgiving celebration at Janelle’s apartment near Lesseps. As I sadly have, in my mind, too little experience in cooking the traditional T-day side dishes, I opted to bring a fresh fruit salad to the potluck meal. Per the usual, Marta was the life of the party and had us all in stitches with her stories and contagious laugh.

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In other news, my virtual book club’s November read was Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. I saved her novel of essays until post-GRE, but I finished it within a few days. I have also now watched the first season of her hit HBO show, Girls. I appreciate her dry humor and honest portrayal of the ups and downs of life of a 20something. I am now reading Janet Fitch’s White Oleander and would (thus far) recommend both. Damian and I are apartment hunting, hoping to move into a new place by the new year. My effort on this search so far has made me realize how incredibly lucky Cass and I were last year in how we found our place. It takes time and effort but I’m really excited by the thought that Damian and I will soon have our own place to call home!

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Be Intentional

Holy smokes – it’s been nearly three weeks since my last post! Eek! Well for starters, I wish I could explain away that happening by saying that I have been busy traveling or doing other equally wonderful things, but the sad truth is that I’ve been spending a large chunk of my time studying for the GRE. Boo standardized testing. Boo math. Boo 30-minute time limits. Studying for that is, needless to say, my current Everest. But alas, I have already taken two practice tests and I have seen some progress thus far, so thank goodness for that.

@ Granja Petitbo
@ Granja Petitbo

Other than that time-consuming venture, I have also been kept busy by nannying Mar & Clara and Dylan, as well as doing two social media freelance positions nowadays (Barcelona Nights and Family Box). I really enjoy the social media marketing work and I’m looking forward to further pursing like-minded opportunities. Dylan is about to become a big brother any day now… I can’t wait to meet Cynthia & Will’s second baby boy!

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I am still actively enjoying learning how to cook. Recently, I have gotten pretty good at making baked tacos and a chicken pasta casserole dish. Most notably, I made Scott’s recipe for banana bread; it turned out well overall, with some room for improvement. Due to studying, I sadly haven’t been reading as avidly as I usually can here. But to counter that, among other reasons, I have started a weekly bible study with Gabi! We did our first one last week at a cute Italian café in Borne. It was refreshing to discuss her daily devotional and work through some scripture.

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As I took my second practice test this last Friday, I gave myself the weekend off. Saturday evening Damian and I went to a nearby bar to watch the el clasico (FCB v. Real Madrid) match. Sadly, Barcelona lost 3-1, but watching Suarez play for the first time plus two mojitos made for a good time nevertheless. Afterwards we took the yellow line to Barceloneta to finally try out Cass and Gabi’s recommended steak spot – La Malandrina. Damian got the entrecot with fries, while I ordered the entrecot with the famed patatas a la crema. So good! Too good, in fact, as I ate myself into a food coma. Add into the equation their homemade chimichurri and diced pepper sauces, provolone cheese dip, beer, and you get an affordably priced Uruguayan slice of heaven on earth.

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Yesterday I went on an all-day trip to Girona, Figueres, and Besalú with Barcelona Trips. At first I had been planning on going to Girona and Figueres on my own, but considering that it was cheaper and less planning involved to hop in with that group, that is exactly what I ended up doing. In Girona we had a historical, yet humorous, tour of the main part of the city and then had free time for a couple of hours. Girona is a beautiful Catalan city and it was quite bustling with activity for a Sunday afternoon.

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From there we bussed to Figueres, hometown of the famous artist Salvador Dalí, and now home to his museum. I had an idea of what I was getting myself into, obviously Dalí is known for some pretty out-there works… but his museum is something else! The building itself, on the outside and inside, makes you stop and constantly do a double take, thinking to yourself: “What the…?” I’m definitely glad I finally saw the Dalí museum, but let’s just say I’m not dying to go back in the near future.

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Last but not least, we stopped in Besalú, a medieval town nestled into the hills of Catalonia. Unlike Girona, Besalú was pretty dead by the time we arrived (early evening). I took in the views and stopped in several cute local shops. Then it was back to Barcelona!

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!

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!!!!

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!