and this is...


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Month Late and a Euro Short: Salamanca, Budapest, Vienna, and Barcelona

So, again I am making excuses about my long absence away from my blog…I could site all sorts of crap that kept me away…my crappy job that clearly has no regard for the terms of my contract…pintxo comas…homesickness…drinking to forget said homesickness (not really, as I am actually trying not to drink at all—I simply have got to stop thinking of wine as water…just because Jesus did it for one party doesn’t mean I should I should just go jamon!)…hell, I could even blame the very travels that I am supposed to be writing about…but honestly, I just didn’t feel like it…(when keeping it real  goes wrong).

This entry will primarily be showcased through photos and I will do my best to update again soon. I think it best to stop making promises, as that does not seem to be working in my favor.

So first up in the recounting, was my trip to Salamanca (Dec. 6-9, 2013):

This is a lovely (mostly college town) in the Castilla y Leon region of Spain. It was a blast. We traveled in a pretty big group so we, of course, all had different experiences. Most of the guys spent the first night getting hammered out of their minds and thus only saw the back of their eyelids or into the mouth of the porcelain god the next day. A small group of us more highly evolved females opted to call it an early night so that we could journey forth and be proper tourists. We saw nearly everything there was to see in that town.

There was a lovely little garden that overlooked the entire city, a wall with a hidden frog (that looked more like hickey on a skull’s forehead) that is supposed to bring good luck if you can find it, and the most beautiful Plaza Mayor in all of Spain.

The highlight of the trip was going into the old cathedral. We were able to climb through all of the church’s towers and even out onto the roof, from which you could see quite far into the distance over the city.  

I can’t say that there was any particularly great food in Salamanca. However, I will suggest that if you are ever there when there is a chill in the air, grab some churros and go for an evening stroll across the bridge.

Next up was Budapest, Hungary (Dec. 20-26, 2012):

This is by far the most amazing place I have ever been thus far! I loved everything about Budapest (mostly true, if you ignore the part where I couldn’t feel my toes for much of the trip).  I was finally able to visit a Christmas Market, which has been a life-long dream of mine (clearly the aspiration of a child that spent too many Christmases wrapping lights around palm trees and spraying foam snow onto the windows). The people were so cheery and the mulled wine left me with perma-grin for the entire week. I felt like I was in an ABC Family special. We tried a few restaurants off the beaten path where I fell in love with goulash soup and stuffed sour cabbage. And the people were beyond gorgeous (I felt ever so slightly heterosexual in this country...if all men looked like that, my mother would have nothing left to worry about...just kidding!)

The Parliament building was absolutely stunning and should be experienced by everyone. Be forewarned that you should purchase tickets very early as they sell out very quickly. Also, you must walk across the Chain Bridge at night; the view from every angle is stunning. Castle Hill should not be missed either, but eat before you go because you will be there for hours and all of the cafes there are overpriced and the food is underwhelming. Every visitor should also include a trip to the Old Synagogue…. standing in the midst of such a traumatic historical location gave me chills and was extremely powerful.

Just take my word for it…if it isn’t there already, add Budapest to your travel bucket list!


We then swung over to Vienna, Austria (Dec. 26-28):

This stint was thankfully quite short. I had more than my fill of Vienna.

I will say that the Palace was worth the visit but my compliments stop there. The city was stunningly beautiful, abrasively cold (and this is not a reference to the chill in the air) and senselessly expensive. Let's not even discuss how over sexed the entire city was in its advertisements while simultaneously not having really any attractive people in sight.

Sample conversation with an Austrian Police Officer:

Me: Can you tell us how to get to the synagogue?
Officer: (Looks at us-- a Black girl, a Jewish girl, and a Mexican guy) Where are you from?
RG-1: America.
Officer: You don't sound American. (Goes into most offensive backwoods country accent ever) Y'all is supose a talk lak dis!
Us: (Blank stares.)
Officer: So how is the Civil War going?
Us: (Walking away)

I guess we're still hoping for the best...fingers crossed for a Northern victory...   -_-

Since I have nothing nice to say, I shall move along.


The last stop of our winter travels was Barcelona, Cataluña (Dec. 28, 2012-Jan. 3, 2013):

Now the original plan was to spend the New Year in Prague, but since Spain is so slow in dragging its heels in just about everything (and yet consistently surprised as to how el crisis has happened), I did not have my long overdue documentation that would allow me back into the country after the 28th.

So after some last minute rerouting of our plans, we found ourselves in Barcelona. Imagine a drunken night where Miami goes out for a night of the town, catches New York’s bad boy eye and they enjoy a late night tousle.  Nine months later, Barcelona would be birthed. This analogy was absolutely unnecessary and probably more confusing than needed but I enjoyed it!

We partied, we ate, we heard no Spanish. I was mostly excited to enjoy Subway sandwiches again…  

(Note to future self: When you book a 12-person hostel dorm room, expect an 18-person room that is filled to capacity and no matter what they called for, know that Spanish police are not “ ‘bout that life”—witnessed a drunk guy assault an officer and NOT get dropkicked, tased and/or arrested).

We partied the New Year away in a fantastic club until about 7:30a.m. and then paced ourselves for the remainder of the trip (mostly because we were slowly bleeding out through our wallets at this point and lovely La Rioja didn't see fit to pay us on time...AGAIN!)


(SN: Can I get a WOOT WOOT for me finally figuring out how to make a slideshow for my blog!)

So those were my winter adventures! There are a few more on the horizon…(Prague has been pushed back to the week of Spring Break). Also, I am in the process of containing my utter excitement because two of my best friends are headed across the pond to join me here in Spain and for a quick hop to Amsterdam.

Update you again….soon-ish!

¡Hasta Pronto!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Better Late...: Bilbao, San Ascencio, Halloween...just stuff you missed

So I am totally behind on updating my blog…I know, I know…I suck. But, to be fair, if I were typing all of the time, would you even believe me when I said that I am having a good time?

I will pause there to say that homesickness is, in fact, real. No matter how good of a time you have traveling, there is a definite hole that begins to form and grow in your chest when you are on the opposite side of the world from all that you know and love for an extended period of time. I will not dwell on this or go into monotonous sappy detail. However, for future folks in this situation looking at this blog for advice and an idea of what’s to come (like I did with other blogs last year) I felt it would be a disservice to not honestly disclose that sentiment.

Moving right along…

A few weeks ago (told ya I suck) I made a lovely trip to Bilbao with a lovely group of girls and we had a lovely time eating lovely food and seeing lovely sites.  We visited the Guggenheim and the Basque History Museum, we watched a beautiful impromptu violin concert in the street that brought us to tears, we walked through the most picturesque plazas and squares, rode the cleanest subway system on the planet, and ate food that tasted like art.

There really aren’t very many words that can describe how much I loved this city and I hear tell that pictures are worth a thousand so I shall let a few photos do the talking…
Even on a rainy was beautiful... 
I really appreciate Spain for automatically cooking steak medium -rare.

He was really incredible...I'm sure he must be an actual professional moonlighting for fun

Nicer than American water fountains...but I'm just as scared to drink from them

The Guggenheim

A river runs through it...

Everything worth seeing was me on this! Very strange art...

There were actually white balls in the bottom that looked like spider eggs

I could live in this bar...

Pan seared pork with a curry dijon sauce

Spinach and Potato Mousse...yum!

Delicious ceviche

Cod fish with fruit and and veggies

German Dinner: BEFORE 
German Dinner: AFTER
(One day I will learn how to bunch my photos and not present them all in a day...but not today...)

If you are ever in Bilbao you MUST check out these restaurants…some of the BEST food I have ever had…and that is saying something…. I’m Southern….

It was exactly the type of vacation that I was in need of…really relaxing, cultural and consistent stuffing of my face with delicious goodness. I spent several hours in a food coma and it was fantastic. It was, in short....LOVELY!!!

Oh, and we also had Halloween here, of course… we didn’t do much, as Logrono is sorely lacking in the Halloween spirit. But we did dress up and go out to confuse passing Spaniards and have a drink before calling it a night. I went as Medusa!

Another quick item that was crossed off of my bucket list recently: Grape Stomping!!! We went on a quick day trip to the nearby town of San Ascencio where a local bodega was hosting a wine event. We were able to tour an underground wine cellar, taste some of the best wine on earth, eat some of the best chorizo I have ever had and of course smush our toesies into some grapes…note for future stompers: Get a pedicure first. You will be judged for chipped polish. I learned the hard way.

(I wanted to include some pics from San Acencio--there were plenty--but my comp is just not having it today! Sorry)

So I believe you are all caught up on my shenanigans…

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are planning a big AmeriBrit dinner (I’m trying to convince the Brits to dress as pilgrims…this feels appropriate to me). And we possibly may head into another nearby town for a night to stave off any residual holiday blues…

What is on your bucket list? Where did you have the best meal of your life? Please share, for every one thing I cross off of my bucket list, I want to add more…keeps the heart pumping and whatnot…

¡Hasta Pronto!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Feeling the Thrill Across the Pond: Obama!!!!!

It is a very unique experience to be on the other side of the world, knowing that the very landscape of the home you left behind is going through the most major shift of your lifetime.

I have not been immune to the propaganda and mudslinging just because I have been transplanted. In fact, it was quite a heady thing to realize how much the people of the world, not just citizens of the USA, have been waiting with baited breath to find out the results of this 2012 election process.

Of course, I was rooting for Obama, again...I believe in him and his vision, I believe that it takes a country to move a country and I generally shy away from the "every man for himself" mentality. I am always confused by the push for Christian morals on politics while those very "Christians" eschew any and all responsibility to care for and uplift their fellow  Christ did? ((I would not normally shove my ideas down anyone's throat but's MY blog! lol))


The race is over and we can steer away from these controversial topics once again and focus on such important matters as whether or not Kanye and Kim will make it last and how I will see the final Twilight Saga movie without having to suffer through awful Spanish dubbing.

I stayed up as long as I could (dozed off about an hour before he was announced--cut me some slack, that was around 5am my time) and woke up to great news!!

I, of course, then accidentally slept through work and have spent the remainder of my week paying for it by making up the time on my days off... One of the teachers tried to give me crap about it but I was quite unapologetic. I always admire Spain's involvement in their government and there have been 2 strikes in the past month. So, I felt no shame in missing a day in support of my nation...

I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying all of the congratulations that I have been receiving...Yes, dear Spaniards, I also believe that this was all my doing and that I am now about to lead America as Obama's right hand woman...yes, indeed!

Barack is Back!!! Photo Credit: Getty Images