October 27, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine

Another week gone by here in Madrid – this week was all about recovery from the last couple of weeks which were jam packed with stuff. It was still quite busy though. Each night during the week I had to head off somewhere, which meant a lot of time with my new car and a lot of time getting more used to the crazy driving in Madrid. Thank goodness I have GPS on my BlackBerry, otherwise I would never make it anywhere (and would have quite possibly hit a few things and/or a few people – knock on wood).

Saturday was a busy day full of running errands. I actually managed to find an American hairdresser here that is from San Francisco. I trekked to her salon and managed to get yelled at by some crazy drug addict because my car door was open for about five seconds and apparently in the way of her needed 20 feet of sidewalk space to meander back and forth – good news is that my trusty boyfriend has taught me my fighting words, so I didn’t take the crazy woman’s words without giving her a piece of my mind too. Don’t mess with me!

That aside, the trip to the hairdresser was a nice break as I had a chance to reminisce about home and commiserate about the trials of living in this new city (apparently finding brown sugar has been an obstacle for her too). Oh – and she referred me to American dentist…it’s these little things that get me excited!

Sunday was a beautiful day – probably about 75 degrees, with a San Francisco-like chill in the air. We started our day by going to a cata de quesos – a cheese tasting! Yep, we tasted a whole bunch of cheeses (with wine too!). It was delicious, although I think I may still be full.

After the cheese tasting we decided to head to Retiro Park to enjoy the beautiful weather. There is a lake in the middle of the park with boats for rent – a must-do in Madrid that I’ve somehow never done! So we got ourselves a boat and rowed around on the lake for a bit just enjoying the sun. It was a perfect way to enjoy the day.

Ah yes, and apparently Saturday night was day light savings time here in Spain, but Jacob and I had zero clue until today…thankfully our BlackBerries had updated for us and we were right on schedule all day yesterday and today. I must admit though that I am rather disappointed that I didn’t get to savor that extra hour. Too late now!

I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me, but more to come on that later. Happy Halloween to everyone!

October 21, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Europe

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit one of the world’s most beautiful cities a second time, in one year! It was so great to return so soon as everything was still so fresh in my mind – I knew what to see, when to see it, and how to get there. This was all especially nice for Jacob who had never been there before.

What was so nice about this trip was that there was no sense of urgency to see things or take things in with the same mental intensity that I did the last time around. Instead I could just relax and enjoy seeing everything for a second time, which is especially valuable in a city like Rome that has so much to take in. The weather was amazing too – I literally had to go buy a dress (I know, don’t you hate that? I had to go shopping) because it was so warm, probably mid 70’s to 80. We stayed at a hotel south of the main city which also allowed me to see a different part of Rome – its tree lined streets were just gorgeous this time of year.

The food this time was insanely delicious! Last time it was good, but no grand departure from Italian food I’ve had before (and honestly, I had still maintained that the best Italian food I’d had was in Japan). This time, however, Jacob and I kept hitting the jackpot in the food department. It was one amazing dish after another – I think my phrase for the weekend was “what did they put in this????!!!!” I never knew soup could be so good. The things they do with mushrooms are just beyond me, all I know is that I’m obsessed.

I also appreciated that Jacob would speak Spanish with everyone in Rome as well. I tried to pull that trick last time and figured that they all just thought I was a stupid American who didn’t understand that Italian was spoken in Italy, not Spanish. But truly, it’s quite hilarious the exchange that goes on – Jacob spoke Spanish, they spoke Italian, and everyone was happy! The languages are similar enough that you can get by speaking only one of them.

I headed back Sunday night by myself while Jacob remained in Rome for his conference. Now I am trying to catch up on some rest after a very long couple of weeks. I think I should be staying in town (and by town, I mean country) for at least a month or so until I head off to Paris for a conference with work. And then I go home!!!!!

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October 14, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Uncategorized

Wow, the last week has been a bit surreal! This last weekend was my birthday – Jacob wouldn’t let me in on pretty much any of the details regarding what had been planned…and I had a feeling that my pleas for a puppy would go unanswered (and rightfully so). But little did I know what he had in store for me.

On Thursday of last week, Jacobo told me that he would like to meet me at my work for lunch. I headed down all seven floors to meet him outside. When I approached him he seemed really nervous, telling me that he had to show me something, that even though it wasn’t my birthday, bla bla bla (it’s really all a blur)…then he turned my around, and my dear friend Kenny was standing there!!! Oh my gosh, I screamed and cried, and cried some more, all on this busy street in the middle of Madrid. I spent the entire lunch and the rest of the day nearly sick from the shock of the surprise. Apparently Jacobo had been planning it for months, intricately coordinating to have Kenny fly out and blindside me completely! I have never been so pleasantly surprised in my life!

As if that weren’t enough, really! The weekend rolls around and I am expecting nothing special expect for dinner on Saturday night…I did start to suspect something was in the works, but couldn’t quite figure it out. I decided that it must just be a dinner with more people than I expected, and that that would be it. There was something fishy about it all though. We ended up driving by Jacobo’s sister’s house, and somehow we just had to go inside. I was onto them at that point – not really knowing what to expect, but knowing that something was up. We got into the house and his sister gave me a healthy shove into the living room at which time a group of probably 25 people screamed “sorpresa!!!”

Nope, that wasn’t on my radar at all. A dinner with the family and a couple friends, sure, but all of these wonderful, generous people came just to wish me a happy birthday and make me feel at home because they knew it would be my first birthday here and away from the States. Jacobo’s sister, with the help of others, so generously coordinated and hosted the whole thing – his family continues to make me feel like this is my home away from home.

On top of everything else, here I am an ocean away and so many of my friends and family have called and/or sent emails, cards and packages, all making me feel so close even though I am so far away. What could have been a very lonely day was really one of the most special days ever. Oh, and they even threw a parade for me here in Madrid!! Ummm, ok, it wasn’t actually for me, but you know that guy, what’s his name – Christopher Columbus, that’s right, he made his little discovery a few years back and as a result the 12th of October is Spain Day. Lucky ol’ me gets my exact birthday off every year, no matter the day of the week ;). Not too shabby!

My friend Kenny will be here until this Friday, and then that same day, Jacob and I fly to Rome. I know, my life is way, way too rough, it’s quite ridiculous actually. Jacobo has to work in Rome next week, so we are flying out early to enjoy the city. So, until next week, ciao!!!

October 5, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Europe

Yes, folks, it’s been a big week! First of all, Romania – Bucharest, Romania to be exact. I’ve clearly taken my travels to new level, huh? This past week I traveled to Bucharest for work to visit our larger office where the majority of our team resides. I had no idea what to expect. What is tragic, is that I really didn’t get to see much at all of the city, mostly just the inside of our office, and then the J.W. Marriott. The small picture above of the landscape is the view from my hotel room, and sadly the only picture that I took on the trip.

Our team in Bucharest is fantastic though – a young, passionate team and so friendly. One of the days I was there, a couple of them took me to lunch. We went on a scenic walk through the city and then ate some Romanian cuisine (I am still not exactly sure what it was, but I enjoyed it). It was the highlight of the trip to see their culture a bit more through their eyes. My main take away from the trip was that the Romanians are very kind and polite people – at least those on my team anyway. I hope I can get to know the country and culture better during future visits.

As for the new car, I decided to start the search for a car a couple of weeks ago. Since we live in the outskirts, not having a car and having to go to work each day has become a real challenge and burden. Last Monday I decided which car I wanted to go with, and then departed for Bucharest, leaving Jacob with the challenge of tying up the loose ends (the car will go under his name since I don’t yet have a resident driver’s license). Here, when you buy a car, you don’t take it right off the lot, you must wait a few days while the papers are finalized with the DMV (cars never leave the lot without a license plate like in the States). The expectation was that I wouldn’t have my car until this coming Monday…but when I got home on Friday, Jacob had already brought it home for me!

I’ve driven around my new (used) car the last couple of days and I must admit I feel a bit like I am cheating on my car at home. I love my new Smart car, but nothing will beat my Jetta – it’s cozy butt warmers, satellite radio, and at this point, spaciousness! In reality though, Madrid is not a car friendly place because parking is a pain, and cars get very beat up – not a good home for a nice, new car. So I am embracing the used Smart as a cute, fuel efficient, economical and environmentally friendly car. I miss my Jetta, but it just wouldn’t work here (plus the only Jettas here are literally the white taxis – I otherwise never see them). If anyone is in the market for a new car and is interested in my Jetta, let me know! As much as I’d like to have a car in each country, I just don’t think I can pull it off for much longer.

These next couple of weeks will be quite busy. At work, we’ll be launching our new site (more to come on that in a future blog) which means a lot of work to be done. Lots of birthday celebrations too – Jacob’s mom, sister-in-law, a good friend of ours and myself, all in one week! I am anxious for the holidays to get here so that I can come back to the States and visit with everyone….I’m getting homesick!

Until next week amigos…