July 28, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain, Traditions

Jacobo’s phone rung off the hook on Monday with people calling to wish him a happy Saint’s Day. His Facebook page filled with messages too. While we walked around Tenerife (more on that later), he chatted on the phone with his family as they passed it around so that each person could send their well wishes. Meanwhile, I waited patiently, part jealous and part perplexed.

Why perplexed? Well, here in the land of Catholicism, many folks have a bible-related name. Apparently each day of the year is dedicated to various saints, so when your name’s saint comes along, everyone and their madre wishes you a happy Saint’s Day. That’s nice.

Now, I’m not Catholic, but all this “feliz día de tu santo” stuff is leaving me feeling a little left out – leaving me thinking: why oh why couldn’t my parents just have named me Cristina or Laura so that I too could have a day of my very own? I appreciate that Jacobo has transformed my Irish name, Erin, into the faux Spanish name, Erinita, but sadly this name is not on the santoral (list of days and their corresponding saints), so no Saint’s Day for me (unless someone can pull some strings at the Vatican).

In fact, if I were born in Spain back in the day (like decades upon decades ago), my parents might have actually named me after the saint assigned to my birthday (in which case, my name would have been Pilar). But that won’t do, because then you don’t get double the fun: a birthday and a Saint’s Day.

As the disappointment subsides, I’ve started scrolling through the list of pretend Spanish names I could take so that I too may claim a day. Then I can begin calling people on their Saint’s Days, posting on Facebook walls, joining in the fun, and simultaneously informing my Spanish amigos of my participation. Brilliant!

Now that I’ve formulated a plan, I just need to decide on a name. As trivial as it seems, I don’t want to just pick one out of a sombrero. María – well, that’s too predictable. Julieta – while that’s my fake-dinner-reservation name, it has no sentimental value. Browsing the santoral list offers no spectacular ideas either….until I come across “San José Cupertino“!!! Ahh, yes – not only the birth place of my beloved iPad, iPhone and computer, but also my home region on two counts – San José AND Cupertino! While it may not be a female saint, I’ll take it!

So with that, I announce my Saint’s Day, San José Cupertino, which falls on September 18th. Let the celebration begin. I’ll be waiting for your phone calls :).

July 20, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Trips to the US

Announcement: I’m heavily considering giving up my professional pursuits to just dig shellfish. Perhaps I’m not entirely serious, but what is the deal with me and mollusks? I’m kind of obsessed.

Initially, I didn’t have any intentions of shellfishing when heading north of San Francisco to Tomales Bay a couple of weeks ago. But when my friend mentioned sun, picnic, wine and shuck-em-yourself oysters, all decision-making abilities got washed out with the tide. Plus, given my lifetime of summers spent clam digging, and my obsession with the marsicadoras in Galicia, I suppose it was no surprise that I ended up playing with oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company.

And so there I sat, shucking shellfish like it was my job (and I wasn’t half bad at, I must say), washing them down with white wine, hummus and organic cherries. Several oysters and a wicked sunburn later, we headed down the road to the famously quaint restaurant Nick’s Cove. Alone at the bar, the bartender entertained us with magic tricks while we sipped on more wine (making the tricks seem that much more magical, of course). In typical Bay Area fashion, the sun blazed at our picnic location, but just five minutes away at Nick’s, we found ourselves in the middle of a chilly fog bank.

With that, I leave you with some Tomales Bay eye candy. And now, after nearly four weeks in the US, I will return to my regularly scheduled euro blogging (you know – subject matter that includes musings on mullets and Spanish country western fiestas). I do hope I didn’t bore you all these last weeks with too many shots of shellfish and beaches – but really, isn’t the West Coast spectacular???!!!

July 14, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Expat, Spain, Travel, Trips to the US

Who would have thought that a three-week trip back to the States would have me dreading my departure from Spain? I suppose sometime in the last year I crossed a threshold – one in which I became less American and more Spanish.

Whatever the reason, I officially can’t handle being away from my adopted home country for more than a few days. So, in order to buffer the reverse culture shock, I like to sprinkle as much Spanish-ness on my American life as possible. Perhaps you’d like to join?

In order to embrace my inner Spaniard, I employ the following easy-to-implement tactics:

    1. Excessive consumption of Spanish food is essential to my survival. Fortunately, fine-foods grocers seem to have gotten the memo: Spanish cuisine rocks. From olives, to almendras fritas (fried almonds), picos (bread sticks), membrillo (a jam-like substance that, when combined with manchego cheese and bread, is perfection!), tortas de aceite (salty-sweet crackers), olive oil, wine (duh), and MORE cheese – you can find a pretty impressive spread of Spanish grub here in the USA.
    2. I take naps as often as possible. OK, so taking a siesta is by and large unheard of among modern urban-dwelling Spaniards. That said, I consider it my duty to perpetuate the concept on this side of the pond.
    3. Occasionally, I like to linger around all five smokers that still exist in California – just long enough to catch a whiff of cigarette smoke, think of Spain, and then return for fresh air. It’s the simple things that keep me feeling at home.
    4. I frequent Spanish restaurants as much as possible because, let’s face it, socializing is always more fun tapas-style. While I’ve yet to find a legit Spanish restaurant in SF – you know, one that doesn’t serve spicy dishes, hawk tacos, or San Francisco-fy their food – just a slice of dry and bland tortilla española will hold me over.
    5. I order espresso, but not just any espresso – I like to throw in a request for a cup of ice as well. Nothing makes me feel more Euro than a café solo con hielo.
    6. I like to guard my purse and belongings with extreme and unwarranted caution – after all, you never know when a sneaky Spanish pickpocket might come along.

While it’s all fine and well to express my now ultra-Spanish self when in the States, I must remember not to go overboard. Here, the list of things that I must constantly fight the urge to do:

    1. Bumping into cars while blindly parallel parking – so easy, so effective, so fun, but also apparently so not acceptable in the US. That, along with cutting people off, not using my blinker, and avoiding basic traffic laws.
    2. I’m constantly tempted to throw trash on the ground at bars and restaurants as a part of my continued commitment to Spanish tradition. I guess that’s frowned upon here, however. Darn.
    3. I do my very best not to pronounce WiFi “”wee-fee” – as the Spaniards do. It just rolls off the tongue better, though, don’t you think? Weeeeee-feeeeeeee.
    5. 20% tipping? That’s outrageous! Particularly when I’m used to giving only my spare change. But because I don’t like being blacklisted by waiters and bartenders, I try to leave my small tipping habits in Europe.
    6. More than once I’ve tried to pay people in euros. If they were smart, they would take the money and run – after all it’s worth more – but so far everyone seems pretty adamant about sticking with dollars.
    7. And the number one thing I need to stop doing: greeting people by kissing them on the cheek. Every time I come home, I accidentally try to kiss at least a few folks, always resulting in me awkwardly justifying why I almost planted one on them.

Inevitably, just when I get used to all of these silly adjustments, it will be time for me to return to Spain and adapt to the reverse, reverse culture shock. For weeks to come, I’ll be paying people in dollars, dodging kisses, and picking up trash on restaurant floors. Ahh, the life of an expat.

July 5, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

Vashon Island, just a ferry’s ride away from Seattle, is and always will be my ultimate sanctuary. Frozen in time, nothing ever really changes there – not the landscape, not the picture-perfect sunsets, not the row of stationary bikes taking in the view of the water, not even my 92-year-old grandma. Vashon somehow seems like a parallel universe where everything slows down and moves with the tide. In fact, I often spend my days there measuring the hours based on the shifting sea. Relaxation is inevitable.

I’m thinking pictures might get the point across a tad better than words, so without further ado, here’s handful of shots from my recent trip.

Never a dull sunset.

Clams I dug from my grandparents’ beach. I’m pretty much a professional clam-digger.

Peonies in the garden.

I moved the crab’s rock. He wasn’t happy about this.

Ukulele lessons – the strum-in is tempting, but I think I’ll pass.

Life ring or peace sign?

July 3, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Travel

Somewhere in between digging clams and watching the tide roll in and out on the beaches of Vashon Island, Washington (yes, I do leave Spain every so often), I received a request from Tripbase and The Spain Scoop to share a few of my top blog posts. So now, as I slowly emerge from my recent sushi-induced coma (a necessary evil when visiting the US), I present you with My 7 Links:

Your most beautiful post:
Perhaps I’m a tad (just a tad!) biased, but I’d like to think my wedding day was pretty darn beautiful. The Spanish countryside, a 700-year-old monastery, dancing until the sun came up…yup, pretty spectacular.

Your most popular post:
A little while back, I confessed my undying love to the Iberian wonderland that I call home. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had a love affair with Spain, however, as folks from far and wide seemed ready and willing to share their love too.

Your most controversial post:
Perplexed by backwards cell phone etiquette in Spain, I asked my readers to weigh in on proper pick-up protocol. I think the general consensus was that the Spaniards are wrong (hehe).

Your most helpful post:
After my suegra (mother-in-law) got robbed for the umteenth time, I decided to share some “how not to get robbed” wisdom. And because I always like to lend a helping hand, I’m also going to refer you all to my trashy tip on finding good Spanish food. I’m a giver.

A post whose success surprised you:
OK, so I’m obsessed with Spanish grandpas, but apparently my readers are too. This somehow makes me feel better.

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved:
With minimal video-editing skills, I whipped together this little number featuring a trip to Granada. I actually recorded the music from a gypsy who was strumming away on his guitar while overlooking the Alhambra (as seen in the video). A pretty sweet video, if I do say so myself.

The post that you are most proud of:
Umm, can I choose the same one twice? I’m still reveling in my stellar video-editing skills in the Granada video. Aren’t you?

With that, I’m nominating five other travel bloggers (a few among many amazing folks that I follow) to share their top links. Take it away, chic@s!

Christine In Spain
De La Pura Vida Costa Rica
Seattle’s Travels
The Travelling Editor
The Viatrix