November 28, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Asia, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain, Trips to the US

Sometimes you meet a soul friend — a person that, with very few words or encounters, you just feel like you’ve known for a lifetime. My friend Candace is one of those people.

It might seem like a cheesy term, I suppose — soul friend — but there’s really no better way to describe our friendship. We first met two years ago at a travel-blogging conference in Copenhagen. Both feeling somewhat out of our element, we formed an instant bond over the spontaneity of chasing down a horse-drawn carriage that was delivering the season’s Christmas beer. Sporting illuminated blue Santa caps, we toyed with the idea of a future get-together (Spain, perhaps?) but, like most chance meetings, she could have very well just ended up being one of many Facebook friends that I “met that one time when I was traveling.”

That wouldn’t be the case for us, though. A year and a half and several sporadic emails later, and Candace messaged me to say she was finally thinking about coming to Spain. Not just to visit, though, but to do the Camino de Santiago.

Hmmm, I thought, the Camino.

The idea danced in my head, both tempting and terrifying me. I didn’t have any gear, I’m not a backpacker (far from it), and I barely knew Candace. But the time was right and the Camino called.

So I went, and I had one of the most moving experiences of my life. We stayed in grungy albergues (hostels along the Camino), ran through frigid poring rain, and lamented over gnarly foot injuries. We cried, we laughed, we complained, and we covered not only ground, but probably every discussable subject possible. We saw magic on that trip in the people we met, in the pain (both physical and emotional), and in the triumph of powering through it all to arrive at our destination.

And then Candace was off again, to the States and then to India (her new home, if you can believe it). “Yes, yes, I will see you in India,” I said with the same certainty as our first conversation in Denmark, aware that only time would tell when or how our paths would cross next.

Indeed, our next chance encounter wouldn’t be in India, but instead in San Francisco. My flight was already booked home last summer when Candace told me she would be in the North Bay for a writing conference. “Will you be there? Would you like to come?” she asked on the off chance I’d be around and interested. My answer was a resounding “yes” (or more like: “You’re what?!!!? When??!! Yes!!!!!).

Even better, with the event taking place in a tiny town, she not only needed transport, but a place to stay. So for several days, we held slumber parties at my friend’s house in San Francisco, and commuted each morning through the ethereal fog engulfing the Golden Gate. Once again we saw magic: magic in the conference, magic in spending time together in a third country (our country!), and magic in the serendipity of it all.

But alas, this trip too would end with no guarantee of when our worlds would intersect once more. Again, I vowed that I’d come visit her in India, knowing that logistically many stars would have to align (those stars being my budget, timing, and more of my budget).

Of course those stars lined up just like Orion’s belt. Not only would Candace be free in November, as would I — perhaps the very best time of year to visit India — but I was able to buy a plane ticket with miles! In fact, my whole trip to India would cost me a sum total of roughly $400 (flight, visa, food, souvenirs and (free) lodging). The travel and friendship gods must have really been smiling down on us, especially since silly me didn’t realize I needed a visa until just nine business days before the trip, when it was supposed to take ten days to process; it only took seven.

And off to India I went, where our next adventure would begin.

When Candace and I parted at the airport last Friday, we embraced, knowing that even though we have no idea when we’ll see each other next, that it will happen, and there will be magic.

Thank you, Hammie Hamster, for another amazing journey!

January 4, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

When I travel home, my world comes to a grinding halt. But somehow, time still accelerates and the SF Bay Area becomes the center of the universe. Days fill with jetting around San Francisco, shopping at Stanford, and visits to Whole Foods, where I ooh and ahh over the granola aisle (it really is impressive how many different types of granola exist). I also don’t like to waste my “meal capital” on just any plate of grub. Every meal serves as an opportunity to either eat my favorite Bay Area cuisine – like Vietnamese spring rolls or good sushi – or to try fun new restaurants in the city, which crop up like gourmet weeds in a driveway every time I’m away.

Whirling around in my time vacuum, I somehow manage to escape to make critical visits to see my grandmother in Folsom, or meet up with my dad, like this time, for a few holes of horribly played golf (by me) in California’s Gold Country. Time stops, but flashes forward, and the whole thing ends up feeling like a blurry dream.

Now I’m sitting on a plane headed to Albuquerque to visit my high school best friend. Yeah, Albuquerque, New Mexico – because that totally doesn’t confuse my brain, which is already struggling to adjust to my brief stint back in the US. In what will surely feel like just a few minutes, I’ll be back in Spain, sucking down a plate of jamón, half-wishing it were sushi. Then I will order my two-euro glass of amazing wine, and everything will be right in the world again.

Until then, and until I can mentally process what day it is and where I am, I thought I’d share a couple of pictures I’ve taken on the trip. I hope everyone’s new year is off to a good start!

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Legion of Honor

Street-art spotting in the Mission

Downtown Sutter Creek

Picture I took with my iPhone while having a coffee in my old SF neighborhood (corner of California and Divisadero)

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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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May 23, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Trips to the US

I am really, really lucky. I was able to spend the week before last in Seattle for a conference for work. But the really lucky part – I was able to go back home to SF, then go to Seattle – one of my favorite places on earth.

My trip started with a stop in SF in which I was able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom and my family…and even do a little shopping :). After my one-day-visit to the Bay, I arrived in Seattle, where my grandma picked me up. Having lunch one on one with my soon-to-be 90-year-old grandma (mother of six kids, 11 grandchildren, and now six great grandchildren – to be seven within a couple months), is special enough, but I was actually able to spend three days with her. A real blessing.

On Monday after lunch, we went to visit my cousins’ then six-day-old daughter (who is also their first child). My goodness what a treat that was. She’s absolutely miniature, but perfectly adorable. I feel so lucky to have seen her at such a fleeting stage of her young life. Later that night we had dinner back on the island, where my grandma lives, with my aunt and uncle (and newly anointed grandparents).

The days passed with me commuting to and from the island on the foot ferry, which dropped me off right in front of the hotel where my conference was being held. Each day I couldn’t help but look out the window of the ferry at the choppy water, just feeling so incredibly lucky to have somehow ended up with lifestyle that has allowed me to travel the world to such special places. Going for a run one night on the quiet little island full of lush green trees and views of the water at every turn, I just smiled the whole time, thanking my lucky stars for sending me on such a trip.

On top of it being my favorite place on earth, it is especially refreshing because it is so completely different from Spain. Being around the laid back, down-to-earth people there just made me want to throw on my Ugg boots, wear my fleece jacket, get my Northface backpack, and just get comfy – no more uncomfortable shoes, impractical purses, and skirts with tights. There’s something so relaxing about the lifestyle and mentality there. Between the people and the scenery, I found that despite my incredibly busy week, I was totally at peace.

Thursday evening after the conference, I made a quick jaunt back to SF before hopping back on the plane to Madrid to begin yet another adventure. The travel may get tiring, but it’s worth it!

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March 23, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Trips to the US

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me. I spent a good portion of my time in the Bay Area running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get all the darn visa stuff taken care of. And yes, in case you weren’t certain, and because I know you were all wondering, I am officially not a drug addict, mentally insane, or a felon…these are all things I had to have verified in order to obtain my visa from the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco.

The trip home was wonderful though, as usual of course. I OD’ed on sushi and Vietnamese spring rolls, which was really the only smart and logical thing to do. On Friday, my colleague at work in Madrid suggested sushi, which basically horrified me – considering I was burnt out on yummy SF sushi, the thought of Madrid wannabe (fairly positive I haven’t used that word since the early 90s) sushi basically sounded like a crime. We went to my favorite California cuisine restaurant instead….ironic, I know.

Arriving back to Madrid is always bittersweet, and this last time was no different. It definitely helped though that the weather here has been just insanely wonderful. Better than in CA for sure. We spent last weekend roaming through Retiro Park (something we love to do rain, shine or snow), and even took a day trip about an hour out of Madrid yesterday with a group of people to a darling little pueblo nestled up against a lake. It was there that we had a traditional lunch in a rustic little cabin-like restaurant right on the lake. What a treat!

Now it’s back to work again, and back to trying to finish up all the visa stuff. I am about 95% of the way there, but there are still some last things that need to be done here. But, I am at least legal at this point! My days of rebellion are over. Shoot, I am even driving legally now (with my fancy AAA international driver’s permit) – this is no fun!

I have to end this blog on a somber note – while I was home I learned of the sudden passing of a dear friend named Katie Marsh. I worked with Katie at Perfect Petals (a family friend’s flower business where I learned pretty much everything I know about flowers), where Katie was the boutinierre/corsage guru. I simply can’t think of a memory of Katie in which she wasn’t smiling or laughing. She was just such a happy, joyful person to be around. She leaves behind two sons, one of which is exactly my age – Katie and I always used to chuckle about how I literally stole her son’s birthday because my mom took the hospital appointment for my delivery that Katie wanted for her delivery – thus her son was born the morning after me. Katie and her sunny spirit will be very missed.

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