July 16, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Traditions

In the spirit of keeping my blog updated, I thought I would add another to mark a couple of big events in the past week.

First, and most momentous, is the completion of all of my residency crap (sorry Dad, I know you don’t like that word). It’s been a long year of paperwork and running around to a ton of different places only to find out that you’ve probably just spent a bunch of money and time on the wrong thing and will have to go hunt it down elsewhere. It’s involved consulates, finger prints, background checks, transcript verifications, lawyers, medical verifications, notaries, employment verifications, a million photos, a trillion stamps on everything you can think of, and the list really does go on (and keep in mind, that for each of these steps, you need to probably multiply by five because that’s how many times we had to do each thing). What’s amazing, is that despite how complicated it’s been, for me it has probably been as smooth and quick as one could hope for. I know too many people here who are living here illegally only because being able to make it through this process has been too impossible for them. In fact, I’ve never met anyone here who has actually completed the process within just one year. I owe it largely to Jacob who was so persistent and would research everything to death so that we knew exactly what our marching orders were. That, and that we really were able to divide and conquer – me running around like crazy in the States during each of my trips, and him here meeting with lawyers and stalking various agencies.

Anyway, it’s been a long, ugly, messy year, but finally I am super legal, and will be until at least March of next year when I have to go through the process again (not the whole thing – thank goodness).

The next big occasion was a wedding which we attended on Saturday – the first actual wedding that I have been to here in Spain. Many things similar, many things different….and after spending so much time with weddings (doing flowers and planning), I was of course particularly “observant.” Let’s just say, the bride was beautiful, the food was AMAZING, and the party was like none we would ever have in the States.

July 12, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Spain

So it was off to Barcelona – without my suitcase. Before beginning the drive, we headed to the airport expecting it to be on the next flight, but sure enough, it didn’t show up – but instead, Guido’s did. At which point we realized we’d been tracking Guido’s bag the whole week and that mine was still in London. So, we had no choice but to continue on our road trip to Barcelona with Manu, Natalia and my meager travel bag containing my pathetic effort at packing (since I thought I would be getting my bag).

It wasn’t the best way to start the trip. At that point, I was still sick and my body was all but shutting down due to the stress of travel, work and the missing bag. But we were heading out for a weekend of R&R and fun. On tap for the first night was the U2 concert! With 90,000 people expected to attend, we knew it was going to be quite a show – and it didn’t disappoint. The stadium was absolutely packed, and the show was surreal. It was pretty cool to see so many energized people in one place.

The next morning we promptly hit the road and headed north to the region of Girona where we would be staying for the next two nights. When we arrived we checked in to our hotel in a small town called Begur. It was an absolutely charming little pueblo just above the beach. Our hotel was basically brand new too (an old restored building) and we discovered that there was an awesome jacuzzi spa in an underground cave that we could reserve for just the four of us, not to mention an awesome rooftop terraza with stunning views of the village. We were super stoked to hit that up later in the day. First stop, though, was the beach where we grabbed a late Spanish lunch at about 4PM and then laid out on the rocky beach for a bit. The beach was in a little cove surrounded by steep hillsides with houses stacked one level upon the other. It was gorgeous and super charming. After laying out, we headed back to the hotel to check out the cave spa and then off to dinner.

The next day brought the best adventure of all – we rented a motor boat and headed out on the Mediterranean, just the four of us, to enjoy the sun and swims in the water. The day went like this – lay in the sun, nap, jump in the water, swim, lay in the sun, nap….you get the picture. It was so incredibly relaxing and fun – I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Oh yeah, and it was 4th of July – so I was sad missing home, but kind of got over it pretty quickly :).

That night we drove to another small medieval pueblo, called Pals, where we walked around and then had dinner. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend the last night of our trip. The next morning, we hopped in the car and headed back to Madrid. What a trip!

And to end the wonderful weekend, I was able to go pick up my back Sunday night. Reunited at last!

July 11, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Spain, Trips to the US

I can’t believe my last blog was in May! I think with all of my travels I have just been so burnt out, that the thought of spending any extra minute blogging has been unbearable.

It’s been an incredibly busy month and a half though. With a day trip to El Olivar, a business (etc) trip to SF, and then another road trip to the Costa Brava. I will reserve this blog for the former two though :).

Not too much to say about El Olivar – Jacob and I headed out there the weekend before I left for SF. It was our usual weekend mini road trip. It’s so nice to have an endless amount of really cool pueblos to check out – all within an hour’s drive. It was a sweet little town where we had a yummy lunch followed by walk to see the large reservoir in the distance. Pictures speak for themselves.

My much bigger trip was of course my trip to SF. I had to head out there for a conference and brought my colleague, Guido with me. The trip was a strange combination of visiting home, working and showing Guido around (who had never been to SF, much less the US). It was great though.

What did we do – we watched a little golf (friend from college playing in a tournament), a Giants game, we drove around the entire city, dinner in the Mission, the Marina, Russian Hill and so on. In and Out, Mexican food, legitimate sandwiches, a couple trips for sushi and a couple more for Vietnamese (got to have my spring rolls), frozen yogurt, and several stops at Stanford shopping mall to get my fill of goodies. Oh yeah, and a drive from SF down highway 1. And Guido insisted on a quick drive by Google (and a photo op).

Especially fun was our stop at Starbucks – one which we had anticipated for quite some time. The elephant in the room – yes, his name is Guido and I have informed him as to why that might make many Americans chuckle (see urban dictionary definition if you are from a generation (eh hemmm, Mom) that has no idea what I am talking about). In Spain, they can’t even pronounce his name, much less spell it. One thing was certain for me though – in the US, his name could be spelled and pronounced (no problem), but a little smile, maybe a laugh, would be involved. Sure enough, when we went to Starbucks, the fellow behind the counter broke into an embarrassed smile when having to write Guido’s name on a cup….oh yes, and he spelled it right. I am fairly certain that Jacob’s sister Macarena might have a similar fate…..

It really was a very good, full trip….despite the fact that I was suffering from a death cold which kept me from having the energy to be active the way I would have wished (particularly the first day of our conference when I came down with the virus – it absolutely wiped me out!).

The trip was capped off by an incredibly long journey back to Spain, involving a stop at Heathrow (the biggest clusterf&#! of airports ever), in which Guido and I managed to get separated from each other for a period of time. But that wasn’t enough, apparently our suitcases got separated as well – from our flight. This was the beginning of a very long stressful week of waiting and wondering whether I would see my bag (and particularly all of my cherished items from SF) again. I’ve said it before, and will say it again – never, NEVER, have a layover at Heathrow. I think there’s probably a 90% you will lose your bag – so if you layover there, you are asking for it!

Before my bag ever made it home, it was time to head of to Northeastern Spain for another road trip…to be covered in my next blog.

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July 8, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine

Gazpacho in Spain is quite different than the gazpacho we know in the US. In the US it often seems to take on any form of cold tomato-y soup, usually chunky. Where as in Spain, it’s usually not thick at all, so much so that it is often consumed out of a glass, and even over ice. Gazpacho originates from Andalucia, the southernmost region of Spain, where it gets tremendously hot during the summer – so it’s understandable that a cold bowl (or glass rather) of gazpacho would be quite soothing. During the summer months in Spain, you can find gazpacho at nearly every restaurant (even McDonalds!). Often times you’ll find a dish called salmorejo as well, which is similar to gazpacho, but thicker and served with slightly different condiments.

This recipe comes from Jacobo’s mother and has been passed down for at least three generations.  His mom  has a constant supply of the gazpacho in the fridge all summer long. Jacobo will often make it as well (especially when I ask him nicely). Some gazpachos come with cucumber and red bell peppers already blended into the soup itself, but this one leaves those items out. What is very typical, however, is for gazpacho to be served with a “guarnicion” – basically condiments that include: small bits of diced bread, cucumber, onion, and red and green bell pepper. Then you can just sprinkle these items on top.

Recipe for one blender full of gazpacho:

    Bread (1/3 of a normal baguette of bread, use more if you want a thicker gazpacho)
    Diced tomato with skin (until it fills no more than 2/3 of the blender)
    2 tablespoons olive oil per blender
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    3 cloves
    3-4 thin slices of a garlic clove
    1/4 teaspoon or less of cumin
    1/4 teaspoon or less of paprika
    2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
    After you added all ingredients, fill blender with water until water covers 2/3 of the content

Directions: Blend all ingredients above, then poor into strainer (one that is almost screen-like – not a pasta strainer), and mash the liquid through such that only the liquid passes through, while the seeds and other sediment stay inside the strainer. The liquid is your gazpacho, so put it in the fridge, let it chill, and then serve (preferably with some yummy bread for dipping!)! It can stay in the fridge for about a week and still be good.

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