Monthly Archives: November 2011

Has photography (and technology) tainted travel?

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Highly recommend this article!!

“Has Photography Ruined Travel?” by James Durston for CNN GO. 

An interesting idea to consider….don’t get me wrong. I’m about as picture-happy as an American tourist in Spain (which, incidentally, I happen to be) and I am not about to toss my camera out the window purely for “appreciative purposes.” I have seen so many things already in my year here that I couldn’t imagine trying to remember it all without pictures.

However…

Seriously, stop and think about the last time you saw or experienced something breathtaking/incredibly strange/unbelievable/etc etc. Did you truly drink in the moment and savor the whole experience, without the aid of your handy image-capturing device? If you answer yes to that question, I want to take zen lessons from you. If, like most of us, you instead scrambled for your camera, took 5 minutes turning it on, adjusting the flash and focus and then took another 5 minutes getting every angle possible (artistic shot, full-scale shot, a shot with you in front of said photograph-worthy object, a jumping in the air-pic, etc)…is that memory going to be better preserved or somewhat tainted by your photography frenzy? Do cameras capture memories or just images, and actually hinder “memory-making”? I don’t know the answer. Perhaps, a happy medium…for a monument/building/large chicken statue/etc that isn’t going anywhere in the next few minutes, maybe take a few minutes and really see the thing; enjoy it, sans camera, for a little bit and THEN take your picture (ok, maybe pictures, but I do think we get a little excessive with photo quantity at times).

In terms of the smartphone/GPS/other thing-finding-device argument, I wholeheartedly agree. As a supporter (purely because I actually do not possess one at this time) of the anti-technology side, I truly believe it is so much better to wander an unknown city (of course, bring a map, I’m not advocating complete stupidity/naivete here) by way of chance and/or actually asking real, living humans rather than having everything laid out and dictated to you by some voice in a phone. After all, from where do all the best stories come but by roaming a bit off the beaten path sometimes?

Just some random musings. We’ll see how well this works with me next time I’m somewhere photo-worthy or am lost. But what do YOU think? Technology and travel…always a match made in heaven or a maybe-they-should-see-other-people sort of pair?

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Me gusta.

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What a fabulous weekend.

It’s so much fun to be able to find interesting and new things to do close by Logroño, especially whilst attempting to save money for a fun Christmas-break traveling spree to other parts of Europe.

I don’t know what made it quite so awesome…it just was.

Friday:

  • Did some hiking around Albelda, a small town where I teach, near Logroño. Tried (unsuccessfully) to get into some more caves, but saw some lovely views along the way. Walked the 4 kilometers to the next small town, Nalda, and enjoyed a gorgeous evening and all the fall colors of the area.
  • Had fun at the Logroño version of Oktoberfest. German food, huge mugs of beer, polka music: the works. Obviously not Munich, but very fun regardless, as well as a great excuse to have some really good wheat beer. (Sorry Spain, but your San Miguel beer served everywhere leaves a bit to be desired, jaja).
  • Night out with friends. Always entertaining and eventful.
Saturday:
  • Visited the LOVELY medieval, walled city of La Guardia with two girls I’ve met here. Such a delightful afternoon of wandering through the windy, narrow streets; grabbing a cafe con leche; enjoying the gorgeous view of the valley and more.
  • Indulged in a little retail therapy around Logroño…in the city center there is an unending supply of shops (namely shoes, but lots of everything). Shopped a bit with the girls I traveled with, and then continued after we parted ways. It’s a simple, unexciting thing, but just having the time to wander amongst the busy streets of the city, blending in with the crowds and browsing through shops at my leisure…it’s a simple pleasure that I enjoyed so thoroughly. Picked myself up one of the darling brown leather(ish) jackets that so many Spaniards seem to have. Perfect for fall/winter weather, and stylish, too of course.
  • Got some great Skype time in with my best friend in the United States.
  • Went out for a few drinks with friends, always a good time…
  • Highlight of the night out: a random bagpiper materialized out of nowhere outside one of the bars. I happened to be standing next to a dear Irish friend of mine. We proceeded to break into Irish step dance. No big deal. 🙂
Sunday:
  • Had the opportunity to go back to Laguardia, this time with different people. ¿Por qué no? This time around, got to (EEEK!) visit an underground bodega or winery. !!! What a fascinating experience! Also had a glass of what must have been some of the freshest wine on the planet (taken right from the barrel/holding tank/something-like-that).
  • Upon our return, indulged in a wonderful siesta.
  • Got a text from a friend that a nearby bar was having a salsa night. !!!!!! As a certifiably addicted-to-dancing sort of person who hasn’t done really any dancing at all since coming to Spain (minus some random incidences of Irish step dancing and club dancing to techno) this was pretty much the one thing that could make my time in Spain complete. And. It. Did. A fabulous few hours getting my groove back to some awesome salsa, bachata and samba tunes, and I was in complete and utter heaven.
  • Finished the weekend with a wonderful, quiet, home-cooked meal with Jake.
I know none of that seems terribly exciting, or maybe it does. It just was a perfect weekend. Hope yours were just as wonderful.
Till next time,
Besos!
The gorgeous colors of La Rioja in the fall!
Oktoberfest! Logroño Style.

The underground bodega in Laguardia!Fall is fun. No matter where you are, but especially in La Rioja/Basque Country.

There was a random bagpiper. What else were we supposed to do but do Irish stepdancing?

¿Por qué no? (Trip to Girona & Barcelona)

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Marvelous first visit to Cataluña (a province of Spain), made entirely more marvelous by the presence/hospitality/helpfulness/over-all-awesomeness of some dear friends we’ve made since coming to the country.

Let me break it down a bit.

-Took our first night bus since coming to Spain. Have to say, definitely the way to travel if your trip is really long (which to Barcelona, it is: 6 hours)…slept nearly the whole time and got to our destination early that morning ready to start the day.

-Arrived in Girona and attended a barbacoa (BBQ) hosted by a friend of our friends, Gabriel & Rocio. I didn’t really know what to expect food-wise, as I’ve only ever barbequed in the States, but let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Ribs, chicken shishcabob-like things (not to be confused with the “kebabs” one finds in Spain, which are a Turkish food similar to a Greek gyro), morcilla (blood sausage…haven’t quite worked up the guts to try this one, but Jake did, and loved it), and then, wait for it, HAMBURGERS! As a farm-raised Nebraska girl, I have definitely been missing my beef, as it’s not super common in dishes around here. Grilled burgers were a welcome surprise that day! Oh, and I cannot forget to mention “pan con tomate”/”Pa amb tomàque” in Catalán–a delicious, but deceptively simple food you can make by grilling or toasting bread, rubbing it with a tomato so the juice, seeds and a bit of pulp soaks into the bread (but don’t eat the tomato), spreading some ajo (garlic) sauce onto it, drizzling with a generous amount of olive oil, and then topping it with course-ground salt and pepper. Needless to say, we ate ourselves into a stupor, which was fine with us. Add to the afternoon lots of new friends and great conversation (almost entirely in Spanish, awesomely) and it was simply a perfect day.

At the Barbacoa with new & old friends!

-After a much-needed siesta, we ventured out again, this time into the city center of Girona to see the sights and join in on the action of the Festival de Sant Narcis—aka more vendors of food/clothing/jewelry/and did I mention food than I have ever seen in one place; a carnival (or feria in Castellano) set up inside this giant forest right next to the town and lots of general merrymaking. Wandered around the gorgeous, medieval-looking city center/old quarter of Girona for the evening and got to listen to a bit of a live concert of traditional Catalán music from the vantage point of the beautiful cathedral above the plaza where they were playing. Overall, a simply fabulous night.

Lovely Girona by night

Lovely Girona by day

Next day, more wandering around Girona: saw the inside of the cathedral (evidently it’s the

widest cathedral in the world without being supported by pillars…the architect was so nervous and distraught about the thought of it collapsing that he committed suicide out of sheer anxiety), and more of the beautiful city center before taking off for Barcelona that evening.

-The last 2 evenings/2 days in Barcelona were a whirlwind of amazingness:

  • Saw La Sagrada Familia, the famous yet-unfinished cathedral designed by the genius Antoni Gaudí…I can’t adequately explain this incredible masterpiece, but please, if you have a moment, check this website http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/ to see a few pics. Quite literally the most amazing cathedral I’ve ever seen in my life, and definitely the most unique as well. Gothic with elements of whimsy from the outside and a spectacular white, dream-like, vaulted interior, it’s just something you must see to understand. Definitely worth the 12 euro entrance fee and hour or more long wait.

Outside of La Sagrada Famila

  • And the stunning inside

  • Saw countless other beautiful works of architecture/cultural sites including Casa Battló (another Gaudí); La Rambla (the famous “rambling” street in the heart of the city, filled with artists, vendors, human statues and more); the gorgeous Palau de la Música Catalana (though not inside, sadly); meandered through the Gothic quarter; browsed through antiques by the sea-pointing El Monumento a Colón; strolled under the Arc de Triomf; relaxed in Parc de la Ciutadella in front of the most stunning fountain I’ve ever seen, and more.

(This one gets its own bullet because I loved it so much) Basked among the dream-like creations of Gaudí in his famous Park Güell amongst intricately detailed, mosaic-ed benches/ceilings/and one large lizard; gravity-defying columns, houses that look like they’ve been plucked straight from Hansel and Gretel, etc. See photos below…

  • Parc Güell

    The iconic Gaudi lizard
  • Spent Halloween night in a “karaoke bar” that looked more like a concert venue, full to the brim (and by brim I mean probably like a hundreds and hundreds capacity) watching the most bizarre “karaoke on steroids” show I’ve ever witnessed. Definitely an interesting experience.
  • Most wonderfully, got to spend time with our dear friends, Gabriel and Rocío, meet and experience the unending hospitality of their families (including Rocío’s lovable German shepard, Crum) in addition to eating incredibly well. Our send-off meal was a mouth-watering combination of a huge skillet full of seafood paella (but with small macaroni noodles in place of rice) complete with fresh shrimp PLUS this tastes-way-better-than-it-sounds “Coca Cola chicken”; roasted chicken marinated with a combo of coke and onion soup. I have no idea how we did not all gain 15 pounds from this trip.
  • One of our wonderful hostesses, Rocio's mom!

Crum!!!

All in all, amazing. Thanks so much to our new & old friends for making it so!

The girls (Rocio and I)

The boys (Jason, Jake and Gabriel)

A night to remember…

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Ok, my apologies to you all for the dry spell without a post, but I hope this one will be worth it.

So…two weekends ago, on a night that didn’t seem like it would be anything out of the ordinary I got the surprise of my life: my boyfriend, Jake (here with me in Spain of course), proposed!

I won’t get into every detail, but I must tell you a little….it was as romantic and dramatic as I could have possibly hoped. 🙂

So we had planned to travel to Pamplona, a beautiful city about 2 hours away, the weekend of October 14th, but after a stressful week of work and me (again) feeling under the weather (I’ve seemed to pick up every germ in the entire country, but then again, such is life when you work in an elementary school) we decided to postpone it a day…I was thinking we might go Saturday instead, but Jake insisted Sunday, as there was going to be a fun get-together with some of our friends   in the Erasmus program on Saturday night. I thought this was a bit weird, as we had been really excited about going to Pamplona and had found a good hostel to stay in and had it planned out, but shrugged it off. Instead, the day was more relaxed…sleeping in and doing some hiking around Nalda, the small town where Jake teaches and we briefly lived. We also wandered around the overgrown ruins of an old convent. If you’ve ever seen the movie Ever After, think of the scene where Danielle and the prince are in the old castle in the forest: it is pretty much like that.

Anyway (so much for not going into detail, but setting is important), we came back into the city to get ready for our night out and I was told we were meeting all of the people in front of the cathedral in the Plaza Mercado: a landmark of the city and a popular meeting place in the center of the city’s historic old quarter. As we walked to the plaza, I noticed only three of our friends were there, and thus figured we were early and would have to wait. After greeting everyone and making a bit of small talk, Jake asked if one of our friends would take a picture of us in front of the cathedral. Now this I thought was very strange…not that the cathedral wasn’t beautiful or picture-worthy, but we had seen it hundreds of times and taken many a photo of it. Not thinking anything of it, I shrugged and backed up away from our friends to take the picture. As I posed ready for the flash, I looked over to Jake, who had suddenly dropped down on one knee. WHAAAAT???? While I had known this moment would probably come sometime during our time in Europe this year, I was still completely and utterly blown away that it was actually happening…now at this moment!!  As I fluttered between shock and joy, hardly even able to make coherent sentences other than “oh my gosh, oh my gosh” he asked me to marry him and opened a black box containing a beautiful ring.

While you can probably guess what my answer was (a resounding YES), at the time I had no idea that the surprise had yet to be completed. I looked up for the first time since he “asked me to take the picture” only to find that all of our friends we had made in our time in Spain (Erasmus students from all over Europe, fellow Americans in our Auxiliares program and other Spanish friends) were gathered around us, cheering, congratulating and popping open bottles of cava (a Spanish version of champagne). They had been concealed in different parts of the plaza (in shops, or cafes or just around) until “the moment” happened and they revealed themselves (plus, our three friends who met us at the cathedral caught the whole thing in photos and on video…how amazing!) After lots of hugs, laughing, and general euphoria, Jake, myself and the whole group went out on the town to celebrate. To say the night was incredible was an understatement. While we wish all of our friends and family back home could have been around to partake in the moment, it was an incredible opportunity to share this part of our lives with our new, but dear friends here; given the unlikeliness of them being able to travel to Nebraska for a wedding.

It simply was the perfect night.

 

Our amazing friends!

The moment!