The way.


Camino de Santiago arrow, Logroño                      (Photo: Javier Sobrino

Sigh. It’s so true that an image (or sound/smell/sensation) can bring back a thousand memories… and though I’m not one of the innumerable pilgrims who’ve traversed the Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way) pilgrimage to the city of Santiago de Compostela (guided along their path by arrows like these as well as periodic scallop shell images ingrained into streets/walls/etc.) this arrow still pulls at something in my heart. It was a common sight in my adopted city of Logroño, which happened to be located along one of the Camino’s routes—the sight of which makes me more than a little heartsick for the place.

Until we meet again, Logroño/Spain.


Home. And the way there. And where we go from here…


I’ve got so much to catch up on, but I promise I’ll deliver it all….in due time (which may or may not take all summer, but hey! plenty of material spread out for your reading pleasure).


I’m home.

It’s been a little under two weeks, and it still doesn’t seem real sometimes.

Jake and I returned from our dream-like final vacation to southern Italy/Istanbul/Berlin with a day and a half in Logroño to cram a whole lot of loose-ends-tying into, but it all worked. We managed to close bank accounts, empty/clean apartments, pay final bills, pick up last pay-checks, furiously pack our suitcases, consume kebab/ pinchos/bread/olive oil/wine/etc. at every opportunity and do all our last minute shopping, with the most positive attitudes we could muster despite the ominous threat of our incoming departure. After a perfectly perfect final night out with friends (pictures to come soon) stuffing our face with every pincho in sight and acting like tourists in our adopted city of 9 months, a royal send-off from a half dozen friends at the bsu station and admittedly, many tears, we caught our bus to Madrid, our plane to Washington D.C./Houston/Omaha and then finally, home.

Though there have been some surreal moments (small realizations like that the people around me were, in fact, speaking English; driving my car for the first time in nearly a year; feeling incredulous/blessed just doing normal, mundane things with my family who I haven’t been around for forever; walking around Target marveling at the sheer amount of STUFF around me and just feeling a little bit out of place…) I haven’t really felt culture shock. I’ve felt a lot of culture/country withdrawal, but we’ll save that for another post.

After enjoying a lot of long-overdue family time, a wonderful wedding of one of my oldest/dearest friends, and general getting-used-to-things-again moments I have finally returned to reality. A few minor details on my to-do list of late? Finding a job (priorty #1) and planning a wedding!

This doesn’t mean that Jake and I aren’t already planning our return trip to Spain and travels beyond, because we are. But right now, it’s back to “the good life” in Nebraska (which while I debate the relativity of the phrase depending on how long its been since I’ve traveled and how antsy-to-get-out-and-see-things I’m feeling at the moment, is still very good). And most of all, it’s back to my family and friends who I’ve missed to pieces while I’ve been gone. I promise I’ll elaborate on our last few trips, more Spain musings and how I feel to be back, soon, but between bouncing back and forth between Lincoln and my parents house in Leigh (sans internet, yeah, you heard me) and job searching, I’m a bit on the crazed side. I’ll update soon, though, and all of it eventually… pinky swear.

Now for some making up of lost time.

First picture of us officially on Nebraska soil greeted by our wonderful families at the Omaha airport.

Things I love about where I live (Part 1)


Hola! So I know I’ve promised to tell you about all my recent travels, but I think I’ll save those for when I’m back (which is in a mere 3 weeks!?!) What I’d like to do is just give you random travel/culture/Spain/whatever posts until I leave, although I”ll certainly have some retrospective posts as well. Enjoy!

Things I love about Spain/La Rioja/Logroño (where I live)…part 1 of I don’t know how many.

(In no particular order)

1. Everyone is outside and social. I live in a flat above a bustling cafe/street of cafes, and whether it is monsoon-ing, freezing, boiling or what have you, there are people under the umbrellas outside on the “terazza.” There is never a time (outside of the wee hours of the night, and even then, sometimes) that I don’t see people out for a “paseo” or walk, sitting at a café, or just chatting on a park bench. It’s wonderful, it’s healthy and it’s just plain better than sitting inside alone in front of the TV or computer. (Hint hint, America). From babies in strollers to dogs to cute little older ladies linked arm in arm–it’s simply the norm to go out, get fresh air and say hello to your neighbors/friends/strangers. I go a little deeper into my observations of this lovely cultural norm here.

2. Ridiculously amazing Rioja wine (arguably, well, most commonly/famously referred to as the best in all of Spain). From the young ones to Crianza to Reserva and Gran Reserva, I’ve been able to sample them all. Que SUERTE yo tengo! (How lucky I am!) Most conveniently, they are also ridiculously cheap. Oh dear.

Bodegas bodegas everywhere!

3. Tapas/Pinchos/Pinxtos. All of them. Mouthwatering. Scrumptious. We’ve discussed this before.


4. How people say “hasta luego” (see you later) instead of goodbye. And not just to friends–to pretty much everyone, at least here in Logroño. It’s just better that way, somehow.

Lovely cliff/butte things near Nalda

5.The gorgeous rocky/craggy/jutting-into-the-sky geography of La Rioja. Add that to the rolling, terraced plots of vineyards, the lush forests and the winding Iregua River and you’ve got yourself some pretty fantastic landscape-eye-candy.

6. Café con leche. You may say it’s just coffee with milk or a fancy name for a latte, but I maintain that it is a sublime creation unmatched by anything in the U. S. And I’m not the only one. (See what I did there?)    🙂

7. Kids speaking Spanish. Kids are universally cute, but gosh darnit they are stinkin’ adorable when they’re babbling in español, especially the tiny ones.

8. People making an effort to look nice, even if they are only taking a walk, or going to the market. High heels for the grocery store might be a bit much, but I can appreciate the good intentions/motivation.

9. The two air-kisses (besos) instead of a handshake. Seriously. Say what you want about personal space, but I consider this custom to be 1000% warmer and more welcoming. See more of my thoughts on this here.

Flamenco in Sevilla=heaven.

10. Spanish guitar. Call me cheesy, but wow those artists are mad-talented. I could listen to it all day. And don’t even get me started on flamenco guitar/singing/dancing? Madre mía….I’m in love.

The famous bulls! The fact that they began from an advertising effort for Osborne sherry makes me like them even more (what can I say, I was an ad major!?)

11. The giant silhouettes of bulls on random hillsides throughout Spain. So dramatic and theatrical and….Spanish.


12. Helado (Ice cream) from this one shop in off the main square in Valencia. I know that helps you very little, but if you go there, just get ice cream a lot. I had mandarin and papaya and it might have been one of the most incredible ice cream moments of my life.

13. Trilling of the r’s. Don’t really know why. It also is unimaginably cute when little 4 year olds learning English trill out the r’s in green and red when practicing colors in my class. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEN! RRRRRRRRRRRRREDDD!! Just picture it.

14. The laid-back “mañana” philosophy. (Which if you don’t know, means “tomorrow.” Which I bet you can guess what that philosophy means).

15. REBAJAS (Late winter sales). While it’s true that the weather is quite cold and not the most pleasant (at least in the north) from Jan-early March in Spain, at the same time there are also the most spectacular bargains you might have ever seen in the stores nation-wide. I definitely did my part to relieve the “crisis” during those months. And fill my suitcases.

15. The fascinating cultural diversity of Spain’s many distinct autonomous communities—1) the different languages other than Spanish spoken (Gallego (from Galicia); Catalan (from Cataluña); Euskera/Basque (from Basque Country/Euskadi); and other dialects. 2) the fantastically different geographic features…from forests to mountains to beaches to to plains to rich, green, lush Ireland-esque hills. 3) the vastly different cultures and traditions of every region and even some unique to each town.

16. Festivals. Fiestas. There is always a reason (usually a saint, pero bueno…) to celebrate, and I do not hold that against them. Also, the fact that any time is a good time to parade through the street with a marching band (even a few random dudes who just want an excuse to play their instruments), drumline, group of dancers, or giant statues. Or all four, as is usually the case.

San Mateo. Enough said.

17. Also on the note of fiesta-ing, the fantastic social life/night life in this country. As in you’re having dinner at 10, drinks at 11 or 12, out to the actual bars at 1, then to the discos at 4 or later. They go big or go home around here. One can even spot older men and ladies (I’m talking like 70s age here) out with a vino or a beer at 11 or 12!

Viva la vida Española.

The Art of Lingering


Hola folks!

It’s a rainy Saturday, and thus I have found myself FINALLY with time to sit down and write a bit. Forgive me for the long absence (again)!

It has been so fascinating learning about and experiencing Spanish culture during the time that I have been here…sampling the food and wine; hearing new music; learning about the country’s history, its many unique regions and their respective cultures,  family roles and norms, the environments in the workplace and in schools, etc., but one of my favorite things has been simply observing the way people in Spain live their normal, day-to-day lives.

While living abroad, you often find yourself comparing, consciously or unconsciously, the country where you’re from to the one you’re in. Depending on your feelings about both countries, this can be a wonderfully mind-opening and thought-provoking experience, or it can just make you yearn for/despise one country or the other. For me, it’s been interesting–I’ve had my eyes opened  to a lot of the flaws of my own country and ways we could improve life for our people, but I’m still proud of some things we do perhaps better, but at least differently, than they do here.

That said, among the many things I love about the Spanish people, their  remarkable ability to “linger” is one of my favorites. Coming from a country of fast-paced, lunch-at-your-desk/in-the-car/as-you-walk/etc, coffee in your to-go cup, there’s-a-drive-through-for-anything, run-run-run culture, Spain was a lovely change of pace. While I get that “moderation is key,” and there are times when this impressive talent might be the source of some problems (and certainly frustration to those who aren’t used to it), we Americans have a thing or two to learn from the Spanish about slowing down and enjoying things. 

To me, an ubiquitous image in the U.S. is that of someone sipping from a “to-go” coffee cup. Now, it is true that I don’t live in Madrid or Barcelona or another bustling metropolis of Spain, so if you do, I’d love to hear if this phenomenon is the same there. However, here one simply does not see ANYONE drinking their coffee anywhere but at a table in cafe (or on la terrazza, more likely) or in their home or basically anywhere but “on the run.” It’s just not done. Coffee is for drinking, enjoying, lingering over…usually while having good conversation or at LEAST reading the morning paper. I recently found out that to-go cups (“para llevar” in Spanish) do, in fact, exist, but NO ONE uses them. I got a fair amount of stares when I grabbed a quick café solo “para llevar” on my way to work one morning and have never done so again since. Same goes for eating an apple or a cereal bar while I´m walking somewhere. Super normal in the U.S., evidently very strange here.

But the lingering-mania doesn’t stop there. It happens over tapas (quite an accomplishment, as these don’t really take long to devour), over a glass of wine, over ice cream, over chocolate con churros, certainly over meals (I’ll get to that in a sec) even over a Coke! (That one is strange on my part. To me, the most common mental image I have of drinking a soft drink is in a paper fast-food cup with a plastic lid, or in a resealable plastic bottle at a desk or in the car, not opened fresh from a glass bottle and poured over ice into a glass-made-of-actual-glass, to be enjoyed by itself or with a small dish of potato chips, as is often how its served here).

Don’t get me going on their lingering-over-meal abilities. Whether its a barbacoa (BBQ), a multi-course sit down meal (which are definitely more common than in the U.S., I think), or even snacks brought to the workplace celebrate a colleague’s birthday, it is never an eat-and-go affair. You sit. You talk. You enjoy the food. You comment on the the excellent ability of the chef.  You actually TASTE the food (as opposed to the way some Americans wolf things down). You enjoy some wine (I would say in 8 of 10 meals, for adults of course, wine makes an appearance. Ok maybe I’m exaggerating, but it seems that way). You have dessert or coffee. Usually both. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing several traditional Spanish dinners with my colleagues at one of the schools where I teach, and I delightedly discovered the way a “simple” dinner unfolds: wine and bread or a bit of something small; small appetizer/tapa type things—sometimes vegetables, other times complicated, but snack-sized creations; the “primer plato” of light-ish fare, the “segundo plato” of usually a meat or fish with a few vegetables; a dessert; a shot of liquor or a small cocktail (I once lucked out with a fruity, spiked sorbet); and finally, coffee (which one certainly needs after all that food). And that’s just the food! The conversation continues far longer than the food lasts, which is quite a while. Goodbyes (and the general deciding-to-leave/leaving process) even are a full, drawn-out affair.

While I’ll admit I’ve had a moment or two of impatience with this practice on occasion, as a rule, I have to subscribe to this way of doing things over the more concise, time-effective American way. We need this reminder more often. We´re too far gone it seems to even “stop and smell the roses.” Baby steps…How about “stop and taste that apple,” or “stop and enjoy your coffee”? (Maybe we would be more cognizant of what we’d eat, then, and not eat so much, haha).

This is a lot of rambling on a very trivial detail, but to me, this little characteristic of Spanish culture is a very telling one. It speaks to their ability to drink in the moment, to truly appreciate food and drink; and to really savor time with the people around them. We could all take a leaf from their book.

Until next time, amigos–


Doing our best to embrace the “lingering lifestyle” over coffee and tortilla at our favorite cafe in Parque del Carmen.

Travel lessons/truths learned…(Vol. I)


I don’t claim to be the most seasoned traveler out there, but I’ve had the marvelous fortune of being able to travel sporadically throughout Spain and Europe during the last 8 months of living in this beautiful country. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned….some gems from fellow travelers or friends that’ve saved my skin; some learned on my own—more often than not, the hard way.

In no particular order (and my apologies for the utter randomness…also, some of these photos are related to the post below, others are just randomosity):

1. Umbrellas. You will never regret bringing one along. Maybe you can really rock the drenched-cat look, but as for me, it’s not a pretty picture.

Don’t hate the rain…just be prepared. Umbrellas can turn into fun photo-opps!

2. A smile, a laugh, a small act of kindness—they transcend language and cultural barriers. We’re all people. Despite our differences, there are some things that most everyone understands.

3. Layers. You read this all the time, but it really is a tried-and-true travel “clothing” tip. Wear ’em, pack ’em, do whatever you need to do. My favorite trick is to bring a fleece jacket along in my backpack wherever I travel during the non-summer months, as it does triple duty: extra layer of warmth under a jacket or raincoat; pillow on the plane/bus/train; cozy hang-out wear in a chilly hostel or hotel at night. Also leggings. They might be my very best travel friend. Wear ’em as long underwear (under jeans), under a long shirt for bed, throw ’em in your purse for under your skirt or dress when the night turns cold. And they take up SO little backpack/suitcase space. (Obviously girl-tips on clothing topic. Sorry dudes. You get it easy in this area, so you don’t need my help).

4. On the packing train of thought….my mantra? Five words: pack light and be creative. Tanks, basic t’s (long-sleeved and short, fitted), one or two pairs of neutral pants, a dress/skirt, one or two scarves, one or two pairs of shoes and your outfit combos seem endless! Another favorite mix-and-match packing item is a short-ish black cotton skirt. I can wear it with nearly every top I bring and in nearly every weather. Scarves are fantastic, functional and can mix up any outfit. They also happen to be my favorite souvenir….and/or travel purchase addiction.

5. No matter what you hear about this city or that country, there are good and bad people everywhere. Just like in your city/country. You might get swindled, or you might just experience the most incredible hospitality/warmth/generosity you’ve ever known. Call me an idealist, an incurable optimist or just plain naive, but the good people are a lot more common. Just sayin’.

Tip number 6,a : Seize the moment (and/or opportunity). If Spanish guitarists ask you to join them in a tapas-bar-serenade, do so.

6. That said, it’s never good to be oblivious to your surroundings. Be smart. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and look confident in what you’re doing/where you’re going (even if you’re not). Don’t wave your map around in the air like a flag with your purse hanging open and your passport sticking out of your back pocket like a gibbering idiot. Then you’re just asking for it.

7. If you ever have the choice of eating at a restaurant or having a meal at someone’s home, ditch the restaurant. There will ALWAYS be restaurants. Never pass up the opportunity to receive the (offered) generosity/hospitality of another human being.  You have the chance at getting to know another person(or getting to know him or her further); warm conversation; an insight to their lives/culture and an experience that is completely and utterly unique. Not to mention the food is most-likely going to be unbelievably good, and if you’re in another country, different than what you’ve ever tasted before. Some of the most wonderful memories I’ve had this year have been while enjoying a simple meal and good conversation with friends (old or new).

8. For those of you weekends-of-intense-spurts-of-traveling-at-a-time folks (like those of us on this program in Spain): It can be tempting to go long and hard every day you’ve got, trying to make the most of every moment in your exciting new location with the time you have. But sometimes you just need to sit down and have a coffee. Or sit in a nice square and enjoy the sun/shade. Or go back to the hostel and nap. You might feel like you’re wasting precious time at the moment (like I always seem to) but you’ll thank yourself later when you are fresh and ready to go later on (and happier/drier/with less-aching-feet/etc) and not crabby and wanting to collapse. Plus, you’ll get to thoroughly enjoy your city/location by night, which is nearly always as interesting/beautiful or moreso.

Coffee breaks=wonderfulness. Especially by the sea!

9. Don’t be THAT tourist. Don’t get me wrong: when you travel, you’re a tourist, no matter how well- traveled you are. But there are ways to be good ones, and certainly ways to be bad ones. The list of how to be the bad ones is endless, but one in particular stands out continuously to me—if you’re marveling at a church, temple, mosque, burial ground or other holy place…show some respect. It’s easy to get excited about the grandiose features, awe-inducing structure or what have you, but loud talking/shouting,  flippant comments and otherwise disrespectful behavior are just plain rude. Come on, folks. You’re better than that.

10. Use the bathroom before you leave. You learned this when you were 5. It is even more important now. Finding (decent) restrooms while sightseeing but not having to buy a sandwich every time you use one=skill.

More (a lot more) to come as I think of them/discover them.

Much love to you all & safe travels!



Finding your happy (and healthy) place: exercising abroad


Fitness. Working out… on a travel blog? Random. I know. But just follow me here for a bit.

Let me preface this whole thing by saying that I am not, nor am claiming to be a workout guru/serious marathoner/hardcore yoga-ite/other sort of uuber-workout individual. No offense to those people, as they are pretty fantastic and disciplined to do those things, but I think this is an important point to make. Yeah, I’m a moderately active person, but that’s mostly in the form of  some pretty casual running (and by casual I mean only in nice weather and not for crazy long distances) and going to the gym for classes or a bit of weight room time. A few times a week.  Nothing major.

Going abroad changes your workout scene. Oftentimes you can replicate the routine you had back home, but sometimes it’s a little more difficult.  I chose not to join a gym here solely for money/convenience reasons, but  luckily I’ve found other ways to stay active. To be honest, though, for the first few months, I didn’t do a darn bit of “intentional exercise” (by that I mean, the only activity I did, really, was walk to work—about 40 minutes to an hour each day). While that, perhaps, may have kept me from GAINING all kinds of weight from the tapa/wine/kebab heavy diet I started to have, it definitely didn’t get me “in shape.” After lots of trial and error and lots of slacking, little by little I’ve gotten back into a fitness routine. It’s taken a while, though.

Like I said in the title, you just have to find your “happy place.” For me, and I would think for lots of you out there, you have to be realistic and find something you at least enjoy doing a little bit, otherwise you just won’t stick to it. Finding a good exercise routine (or getting back into one) can be a great way to help yourself adjust to a new environment while living abroad (routine is SO important), help keep your stress levels down, and keep you healthy, which is always good. Looking good for the locals is a nice side effect. 😉 

Let me just cut to the chase and share what’s been working for me.

-Exercise bands. Cheap (maybe 10 euros for 3) easy and a relatively good way of getting some strength/resistance training into your workout, which I read again and again is so important. Also LIGHT. Major plus for Miss lack-of-adequate-suitcase-space-and-its-only-getting-worse, over here.

-Running outside. I specifically say outside, because for me, the outdoors element is what motivates me. I’m one of those people who crave sunshine and fresh air and nature, so going out and running is the perfect combo for me. Maybe you’re one of those who loves watching your favorite TV series while on the treadmill, but for me, the outdoors is where it’s at. It refreshes, energizes and revitalizes me. It’s therapy and a workout. My happy place. I love it. (I’m also lucky enough to be only few city blocks from a gorgeous park with a rushing river running through it. Man I’ve got it rough.)

-The occasional yoga/Pilates/cardio workout video. I’m going to be real with you all here. I have a helluva time sticking with workout videos. But after a while of guilting myself for skipping so much, I just went with the flow instead of fighting it. I get it—I’ve got commitment issues with workout videos. But these days I seem to be more receptive (read: actually do said videos) if I just sprinkle them in every now and then for variety. Lesson learned? Do what actually works for you, not what you THINK you should be doing.

-Sometimes just not “working out” at all. Admittedly I am not one of those people who on their weekend/holiday travels, finds a local gym or goes running at 5 a.m. I count those as my “vacations” from my regular workout schedule, but to be honest I’m usually walking an average of 6+ hours a day on those travel weekends. So I give myself some slack on those. Call me lazy, I call myself realistic. But also lazy.

And what about you? I’d love to hear from other expats/folks living abroad, but also to any of you who moved to a new place and had to re-figure out your workout routine. What’s worked? What’s failed? 

Annnnndddd I happened upon this fantastic video the other day, which sparked the idea for this blog post, which you NEED to watch. It will just make you smile, and then maybe want to go do push-ups on the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, jump rope in the middle of downtown Shanghai, or do jumping jacks on the edge of a canyon in South Africa. Much love to NerdFitness for this gem. 

Hake ladies unite! (Mom and sister visit)


Another backtrack post! I know. And I haven’t really caught you all up on things as I promised. However, in my defense, I did have a week-and-a-half traveling spree in there that I am in the process of posting about….but first things first! This post is documenting the visit of some of my family during mid-March. Then I assure you, more travel tales!

Talk about a sight for sore eyes…

It had been about 7 months since I’d seen my Mom and sister (the longest I’ve gone without seeing them in my life) and my, was it a good feeling when I (finally) saw them walk through the doors in the Arrivals gate of the Madrid airport.  And by finally, I mean after a two-hour flight delay and waiting about 45 minutes after their plane was supposed to land (their luggage had been lost and they were trying to sort it all out) all the while not even knowing if I was at the right gate, let alone TERMINAL (we had unfortunately forgotten to talk about that prior to me picking them), finally, I spotted the blonde and dark brown haired-combo of ladies I’d been so impatient to see for so long. Despite the ensuing travel delay/annoyances we ended up experiencing (missing our bus home, having to buy new tickets, having to kill time for 3 hours, waiting two more days for the bags to arrive, etc) the trip definitely improved from there.

Without going into every detail, we enjoyed a delightful mix of fun outings/experiences over the course of the week:

-A trip to the village of Nalda, of which I’m so fond, to see the old ruins of the convent, have a picnic, hike up to the mysterious caves and have the wonderful fortune to run into one of my dear sweet older friends, Maria Angelines (who, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, was one of the many wonderfully kind residents of the village who helped us in many ways when we had first arrived to the country and were temporarily living there). It’s not terribly exciting, just a pretty, quaint little pueblo, but they (my madre y hermana) loved it, I think. Loved showing them around a place where I spent so much time and that was so special to me!

Exploring the ruins of the convent in Nalda

-A wine tour! Later that day, we had the fabulous good luck to go on a wine tour with Alfredo, the boyfriend of my friend/coworker Aleksandra, whose family happens to be in the bodega-business (bodega is the Spanish word for winery, FYI). They gave us an entertaining, fascinating tour of the family-owned place, with tastings straight out of both giant holding vats and barrels…just delightful! FanTAStic wine. Check ’em out online  to see if their wines are sold near you: On Alfredo’s insistence, we headed to a darling little cafe/restaurant in the same village only to be treated to more wine from his bodega, a plate of Spanish jamón, various delicious sauteed veggies and other tasty finger-foods. It was simply the best welcome in the world for my mom and sister. I cannot express how amazing it was for him to give them such an experience and how grateful we are for it!

Alfredo, our fantastic tour guide/wine expert at Cuna de Reyes Bodega

-Next few days—shopping for them and working for me! As much as I wish I could have taken off the whole week to spend with them, I do have to hold down a job. Luckily I live in a great area of town with plenty of shoes/purses/dresses-shops/etc they could tempt themselves with!

-Their first experience going out for tapas/pinchos (both are used as names for the small, bite-sized ish portions of food served at bars usually with a small glass of wine or beer)! My mom fell in love with Bar Angel’s incredible stacked mushrooms and the pimientos rellenos (stuffed peppers) while my sis had more of a taste for the patatas bravas (small chunks of fried potato smothered in a creamy something-like-but-better-than-mayonnaise and the slightly-spicy-but-super-flavorful “brava” sauce). With my ultra-convenient flat location (Calle Laurel and the tapas bar streets are literally in my backyard) we definitely went out more than once that week.

Shrimp and pineapple skewered, then slathered in olive oil/salt/something that must be cocaine its so addictive. Just kidding. But they're really that good.

Enjoying some vino with our tapas!

-Friday/Saturday: a fun overnight trip to San Sebastian! Walking on the beach; “shuffling on the boardwalk” (don’t ask); walking through the lovely old quarter; enjoying the SUBLIME pinxtos (the same as tapas or pinchos, but in the Basque language– for example: a prawn skewered with a piece of bacon smothered in a scrumptious red pepper sauce); stopping for crepes for desert AND breakfast; hiking up stunningly green/lush/fascinating hillside path to get to the giant Jesus-statue-on-top-of-a-fortress; and just all around enjoying ourselves! Advice: San Sebastian may or may not be on your travel radar for Spain, but if it’s not….it’d better be. What a splendidly beautiful, beach-side city with fascinating everything, but among other things, food. You won’t regret making it a part of your trip!

Fancy cider-pouring and fabulous pinxtos. What more could you ask for?

The ladies on the beach!

Crazy waves crashing against the wall

One of my favorite pics I took.

-Saturday night: St. Patrick’s Day and a chance to show my mom and sis what Spanish nightlife is all about! Included but not limited to: healthy amounts of wine, obligatory Guinness-drinking, a great Irish band at Biribay Jazz Club and lots of dancing.

Our Irish entertainment...the Derty Gerties

-Sunday: a short but fun daytrip to Zaragoza to see the astoundingly large/beautiful Nuestro Señora de Pilar cathedral on the river (absolutely worth a trip to the city on its own) and La Aljaferia, the striking fortress on the outside/incredible work of Arabic architecture on the inside. Owing to my own woefully-under-preparedness, it was not open for visitors that day (ERRRRRGGH! I was a smidge frustrated and still am) but my lovely Hake ladies graciously assured me that “the outside is still really awesome!” Such dolls they are.

The amazing cathedral and my lovely mother and sister!

La Aljeferia!

-Last day: Madrid. Basically me just helping them find their hotel and spending a few hours seeing some sights…not enough time, (especially as the reality that they’d be leaving soon set in), but a fun afternoon seeing some big-city Spain. Also, an opportunity for them to get one last fix of Euro-shopping in. 🙂

Their last jaunt in Spain---Madrid!

All in all, a fabulous week with some of my favorite people in the world. It was odd and wonderful at the same time…odd in that I’ve never been in the position of showing them around somewhere they’ve never really been, nor been depended on so much for help with language, logistics, etc. Wonderful of course in that I got to spend hour after hour with these two incredible women: drinking wine, laughing, wedding planning, story-telling, tapa-tasting, drinking more wine, and just having a ball. Gah, I miss them. But here I’ve gone and wrote way too much again. You get the idea. Just a marvelous time all around. Next visitors: Jake’s mom and aunt!

Until next time…