Monthly Archives: January 2012

Top 5 Reasons to Visit La Rioja

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Calle Laurel--aka Pinchos (tapas) Paradise

Never heard of Logroño or the Spanish region of La Rioja before? It’s true, while the area doesn’t boast the fame of  tourist hotspots like Barcelona, Madrid, Granada or Toledo, it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the North, if only for the world famous Rioja wine and/or a trip to a bodega (winery), the incredibly tasty tapas on Calle Laurel, the beautiful landscape, warm and friendly people and the un-touristy, “authentic” Spanish experience you’ll find there.

In fact, those are precisely the reasons to visit here, live here even. While I know one can’t make it to every city when traveling abroad on a tight time schedule, I understand why La Rioja doesn’t make it on everyone’s list. However, I would have to say it’s probably an even more incredible place to LIVE, rather than visit…just fantastic quality of life (in Logroño, at least) for a city that’s big enough to have a fun/lively night life and amenities but small enough to feel very safe and to be able to get to know lots of people.

But don’t take my word for it: read what mi amiga and fellow Auxiliar, Liz,  has to say about our lovely home in her article for the Spain Scoop. (A note on Liz—she’s rather a veteran at this Spanish living abroad stuff, as she’s called 5 different cities home all over the country, so I daresay she can speak with some authority).  Top 5 Reasons to Visit La Rioja

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Today we’re going to talk about music! (Random musings on my lessons this week)

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While it may seem that I am only traveling and not, in fact, doing any bit of the “work” I was commissioned to do here….I promise, I am. I’ve actually been back in the grind with my two jobs for two whole weeks now! While it definitely was a letdown to get back to the real world of work after such a ridiculously cool holiday break (can we say universal truth?) I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my lesson topic this week (self-chosen, kind of out of default…just kept hearing nothing and nothing and nothing from my teachers in terms of what we’d be doing, so I just pro-actively decided on something) which was music. A bit broad of a topic for a one-hour lesson, but meh, I thought it would be an interesting, interactive, entertaining and hopefully educational lesson plan for the two weeks (one week in each of my two schools).

To clarify, let me explain a bit of what my role is as an Auxiliar de Conversacíon, or Language and Culture Assistant in my two colegios (elementary schools). I’m not THE teacher. Thank the Lord. I often feel unqualified for the work I do here, but I would most DEFINITELY be unqualified to be the main teacher for any group of students (as in responsible-for-their-daily-learning-and-future-life-success-etc). Luckily, my role is truly as “assistant” though sometimes I think I do more than I’m technically supposed to. Pretty much, I give presentations on aspects of American culture like holidays, schools, music, etc or whatever it is that the teacher would like me to present on (so far, this has run the gamut of random—from parts of the house to numbers to Universal Children’s Rights Day to an American illustrator for Disney named Mary Blair) and of course engage the students in discussion during the thing and practice speaking about what we’ve learned during each class. So I get almost every age group (from age 3-4 to 11) for either a half hour (for the tiny ones…and for them it’s more just a story, some songs and activities) or an hour for all other ages, and they just basically let me loose to do my own thing. It was a bit intimidating at first, to be sure, but I came to think of it more like just giving a presentation (something I enjoy doing and am confident in) but with a much more interested and engaged audience. Strangely enough, these kids, whether they understand a word of what I say or not, always seem happy and enthusiastic to hear about whatever American babble I’m rambling about that day. Much more than I can say for any of the slowly-slipping-into-a-comalike-trance college classes I’ve ever presented to.

So, to continue, I presented about music this week. It was definitely a glaze-over-the-details general look at different musical genres, but it was a great chance to learn new music vocabulary about styles/instruments as well as dive into a big part of American culture and even a bit of American history. Thank heavens the internet at both schools was working, as YouTube became my classroom assistant in exposing the students to these new tunes. We started out easy, talking about types of music like rock, pop, country, classical, hip hop, rap, reggae, opera, folk and the like, with examples of each type to help the students understand. My favorite part was talking about some of the music styles that got their start in the USA, from jazz to bluegrass to gospel to Native American traditional music. It was SO fun. It’s just incredible to see how music affects children and what a universal connector it really is.

Some of the many highlights of the weeks teaching this lesson:

-Almost none of my students had heard of Big Band/swing music before. I RELISHED in the opportunity to introduce them to one of my favorite genres and beamed as they snapped, toe-tapped and danced around to the Benny Goodman Orchestra and were delighted by a video of a couple swing dancing to Glen Miller’s “In the Mood.” Never heard so many “oye’s” and “Que chulo’s” from one group of people at once! 🙂

-Watching my little first graders jam to the different styles….acting like gangsters listening to Jay-Z (read: 1st graders acting like they are rappers is the MOST INSANELY FUNNY & ADORABLE thing I’ve ever seen); watching them jam on their imaginary banjos listening to bluegrass; and pretending to be the world’s foremost conductors while listening to Beethoven.

-Flipping to my slide about pop music and having EVERYONE from EVERY CLASS go wild at the sight of Lady Gaga. I had no idea kids in Spain loved her quite this much, but wow. And I’m proud to say most of them despise Justin Bieber. Good kids…they know what’s up. 🙂

-Talking about classical music and having my 5th graders rattle off more composers than I could imagine (way more than I knew at that age…probably more than I knew in high school!)

-Seeing the absolute, utter looks of awestruck wonder on their faces while they watched a video of a break dance battle (part of what I talked about for hip hop)….and their disappointed cries when we had to go on without finishing it (“We’ve got lots more to see today, kids, no worries!”).

-Just the general delight I took in watching them hear new music  and just kind of get lost in it for a while. Whether foot-stomping to American folk music (an old-timey, harmony-strewn “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”), clapping and singing to gospel (the Harlem Gospel Choir singing “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In”) or throwing the peace sign in the air listening to 60’s folk or “hippie” music (“Get Together” by the Youngbloods), it was simply a sight to see.

In an age when so many schools are cutting music programs, I hope people remember how important it is…how intrinsically we all relate to music  of one kind or another, what an key part of our culture it is and what a beautiful unifying force it can be in the world.

Coming soon: a video of my fifth grade class singing “Whatever” by Oasis (Coke commercial, anyone?), brilliantly and entirely in English, I might add, for their Christmas concert this last month. 

Love to you all—hope you can give your soul some music therapy this weekend.

Besos!

Our inter-European adventure (aka holiday break). Parte Dos.

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As promised, part 2. I’m attempting to write this back to back from part 1 (quite a marathon, I might add), mostly because I think I’ll never do it if I don’t do it now, and I quite simply don’t want to go to bed. (Oh 7 pm cafe con leche, you probably weren’t the best idea…my but my caffeine tolerance as plummeted since the all-nighter days of university. But I digress. A lot.)

So, where were we? Ah yes, Munich.

We wanted to get a taste of Bavaria and the south  (in contrast to our experiences in the west) and Jake (my fiancé) is somewhat of a beer connoisseur and was practically (actually he literally was) drooling over the chance to sample the city’s world-famous brews. Minus the cold and short time to actually be there, we just loved it. I’m sure he won’t appreciate me sharing this, but Jake was simply giddy to be, as he put it, “in the presence of such beer tradition….and it’s just so incredibly quaint, too.” He even skipped. Just for a moment, but if you’ve met him you know that seeing a 6’2” football player-esque of a guy giddily skipping is rather amusing. 😉

Some highlights:

-Marienplatz and the Glockenspiel. Munich seems to have a never-ending supply of lovely quaint little squares, but this one’s the granddaddy. The enormongous (no that’s not a word, but I believe it to appropriately describe this) “new” town hall, or Neues Rathaus, makes up one whole side of the square and houses the huge Glockenspiel, sort of like a giant cuckoo clock/chiming/dancing figurine like thing, here, just watch a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb4XOBTXKDU&feature=related. We loved walking around with a Bavarian cream pastry or a bratwurst (I know, so stereotypical, but completely and utterly delightful all the same) and just enjoying the atmosphere. There’s also a large market, called Viktuelienmmarkt, adjacent to Marienplatz that’s wonderful to wander through as well.

-Hofbrauhaus. This famous brewery & beer hall got its start in 1592 (!!) at the request of Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria, due to his unhappiness with the current malted beverages  in Munich at the time–he recruited the master brewer of Geisenfeld Monastery to create  the future beer empire that is now Hofbrauhaus. The beer hall itself is crazy huge…it can seat 1300, and is a maze of wooden tables, rosy-cheeked patrons, traditionally dressed wait staff and live Bavarian music. You may not find a seat very quickly and will mostly likely have to sit with strangers…it’s still worth it. We met a cool Australian couple this way and had a ball chatting and sipping on our brews with them. Way cool. Oh right. The beer. It was amazing… obviously. Coming from not a beer-hater but definitely not a choose-beer-over-everything-else type of chica, this means a lot.

-Neauschwanstein Castle. Ok, this is quite a bit outside of Munich, more of a day trip, but let me tell you—it is 1 MILLION percent worth the expensive travel (tip, go with a group of up to 5 on one ticket and you can save quite a bit of cash) and substantial bit of time to get there. The actual castle Walt Disney used to model the iconic Disneyland castle after, it is perched in the stunning, snow-capped mountains near a pristine Alpine lake, and a view of the Bavarian countryside (when we were there) blanketed in snow and as perfect as a painting. When we were there, the air was as crisp, cold  as could be and the walk up the mountain to see the castle (plan for about 30 minutes each way) was itself full of picturesque views of the countryside, mountain springs trickling down a slope, just the works. The “main” road leads you up to the entrance of the place, with the great views of the countryside, but no matter when in the year you go YOU MUST take the little side-path you’ll see on the way down. It leads up a really steep trail that leads to a bridge that gives you the postcard, birds-eye view of the castle…all while standing over an immense gorge filled with a spectacular waterfall. In the winter, though, this path is often closed due to ice. We ignored the signs and hopped the barriers…everyone else was doing it! Not to advocate dangerous rule-breaking or anything, and I admit there was quite a bit of ice on some very steep paths, but if you don’t mind biffin’ it a time or two, I wholeheartedly urge you to do it.

A few tips: drink the beer. Generously. The bratwurst is incredible, as well. I’m not a huge brat fan in the U.S. but I promise you will not be disappointed here. Go to the English Garden, a greenspace bigger than New York’s Central Park (though, maybe not as much of a priority to visit in winter), as well as the Nymphemburg Palace—both incredible and definitely worth your time. Eat the pastries. Join the crowds to watch the  Glockenspiel at 11 or 12. DO go to Neauschwanstein, but prepare for it to take up much of the day. We weren’t able to visit this, but if you can, visit the Dachau concentration camp outside the city as well.

    

The giant Glockenspiel!

Marienplatz by night

Just a small bit of the Hofbrauhaus beer hall.

Gorgeous view of…the other, also super cool castle near Neauschwanstein. Nestled among the mountains and the random lake. Just breathtaking.

Neauschwanstein from the bridge. One of the most awe-inspiring scenes I've ever witnessed.

And now, Paris. 

It was nearing the end of our two-week traveling frenzy, and we were definitely feeling the effects of it (in my case many blisters, ankles that felt like they would snap and an in-the-process-of-breaking boot heel) but we were excited and energized for the last leg of our journey in the “city of light.” While the weather for our big day of exploring left some to be desired (blowing wind and rain, then just rain, then rain while it was sunny, then no rain just ridiculous wind) we tried to make the best of it, and were rewarded with a lovely clear-sky day the next (sadly, much shorter) day.

Some highlights:

-The Louvre. Of course. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit this museum of masterpieces, and it did not disappoint in any way. It was simply overwhelming to be around such mastery and skill and simply works of absolute love/passion for their craft. The magnificent, vast halls are filled with more art than I think you could see (let alone appreciate fully) in a week, so don’t expect to see everything. We made a list of our priority things to see and found most all of them, miraculously, though a few had been moved to other countries for exhibition then just let ourselves get lost in whatever wing we ended up in. I just cannot adequately explain how incredible it was to spend a morning/afternoon there, just wandering amidst the genius. !!!  Also, it’s an EXCELLENT thing to do for a rainy, crappy day, as we had.

-The Eiffel Tower. Ok, I know that’s just the most touristy, shallow thing to say, but it is hard to ignore the pull of this iconic structure…we got to see it first completely illuminated at night, then in the day with green grass and a blue sky, then shining gold against a dusky cornflower/periwinkle sky. Something I’d recommend but we unfortunately didn’t get to do is climb the thing (or take the lift). The first two times we visited, there was a wind advisory that closed the top of the tower to tourists, and then the last clear morning there were lines that looked 6 miles long and we didn’t have time to stand there and wait before we needed to get going. Sad, but another reason to go back. Still amazing to simply see, though–and remember to catch the 10 minutes when they set the tower ‘atwinkling. Not something to miss.

-Sacré-Cœur Basilica. This one I hadn’t really heard as much about until coming to Paris (I know, I’m woefully uninformed) but it’s a definite must-see. Perched on the top of Montemarte, the highest point in the city, it’s quite out of the way (relative to other sights in the city, though much of them are spread out) but FOR SURE worth the extra metro trip. Walk up the lovely green (even in winter) hill and sit for a moment with the sun on your face, enjoy the fantastic view of the city and then do your round inside the incredible building itself. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so make sure you mentally soak up as much as you can, or better yet, buy one of the many postcards that showcase the gorgeous interior and the stunningly beautiful, bright blue and gold fresco that fills the whole largest dome above the altar.

Some tips: if you’re traveling alone, in a pair or in a group, 10-pack metro ticket books are your friend. Way better than one at a time, and cheaper too…Paris is a city that’s walkable to a point, but unless you want to keel over in the first day trying to see everything, you’ve gotta utilize the metro. It’s not hard, just know the name of the stop you want to find, use the metro maps and follow the signs. Get a decent, full map of the city. It is worth it. Our hostel just gave us a kind of “partial” Paris map, and we ended up buying a big, awkward full city map, but seriously kept us knowing where we were always. Go up the Eiffel Tower if you can, if not, spend time just enjoying its beauty and stroll the lovely park that surrounds it. WALK AROUND THE LOUVRE AT NIGHT. Cannot stress this enough–it was a sight I’ll never forget. Also, when you actually go to the museum, go early & get in line before it opens. You will not regret it when you get some of the world’s greatest masterpieces almost “to yourself.” The crowds are intense and can even detract from the experience as the day progresses. Bring an umbrella. Go to some other churches besides Notre Dame and Sacré-Cœur (of course go to them, they are incredible)–but there are SO many amazing cathedrals in Paris. A few we saw were St. Sulpice (has a metro stop of the same name) and St. Genevieve next to the Pantheon (in the Latin Quarter), both really wonderful and different. Meander along the river, day or night. You’ll feel like you’re in a movie.

Eiffel at night...the city really is incredibly romantic. Ok, ok, enough with the cheese.

Sculpture of The Winged Victory (or Nike) of Samothrace in the Louvre. So, so graceful and powerful and beautiful.

Ahhh, the Louvre at night. Heaven.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica...and our one good-weather day.

St. Sulpice...off the beaten path, but worth a visit.

Sorry for the length on these folks, but there’s just so much to say! Hope your own adventures (home or abroad) help you see the world with wonder-filled eyes.

Besos!

Our inter-European adventure (aka holiday break). Parte Uno.

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Speaking of late, I’m going to try and tackle the “big one”: our fabulously exciting (not trying to be arrogant, just being truthful) two week trip through Rome, Cologne, Munich and Paris. Wow. That’s really all I can say. (Not true. I can say more, and I’m no more capable of being that brief than I am of turning into a penguin. Which I can’t. Obviomente.)

So, I’m going to try it this way:  a few highlights, special moments and pics of all the trips, but, heck, who am I kidding it’s  going to be really long. I’m sorry. You’ve been fairly warned. You just can’t shorten some things. Oh jeez, I just need to stop all this drivel and start already. This is my form of literary/blog-iary procrastination and it will go no further. Well, it might have to be two posts… Enough already!!

Vale (ok).

So, Rome. Can I gush enough about this city? To anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of going to “the eternal city,” I promise you, it lives up to the hype. We walked for hours upon hours and while not seeing everything, (is it even possible to do so?) we saw just about everything we wanted to in the 2.5 days we had there.

Some highlights:

-Rome’s city center at night, in general. Not always a sight you’re able to see as a tourist unless you have a hotel/hostel nearby and we were lucky enough to snag a pretty decent one about a 7-10 minute walk from the Colosseum. Seeing it, the Forum, the fountains, just everything in that magical, romantic evening setting is just that. Romantic and magical.

-The most fantastic pizza on the face of this earth. Not kidding/exaggerating in any way. I spent a month in northern Italy a few years ago and I fell in love (or lust, perhaps) with the stuff and knew to take advantage of every opportunity upon my return. HIGHLY recommend wandering the Trastevere neighborhood (across the river, to southwest-ish) for great finds that are a little less touristy (read: reasonably priced and extremely good quality) as well as populated by locals. We had the best experience at a packed little place full of long wooden tables, which provided a unique opportunity to meet other people, one of which happened to be a particularly friendly Roman gentlemen who spoke English and was there with his ballroom dancing club (too adorable or what?!!!).

-The Forum and the fountains. The Roman Forum,  the ruins of what was once an important center of Rome’s commercial and governmental life, is just stunning. It’s literally like stepping directly back in time or into a history book or something. Some people may think the fact that so little of it remains is a detractor, but I love the opportunity to use one’s imagination to think of the splendor it used to have in its time. And of course, the fountains. You’ve heard of the Trevi Fountain, and it’s incredible, to be certain and you must see it, preferably at night. But the sheer amount of fountains in the city, each of them unique and intricately detailed and gorgeous…is just incredible. And for a person who LOVES fountains, like I do, it was pure ambiance heaven. 🙂

A few tips: go to the Colosseum early in the morning (right after it opens or before) and you beat a ton of lines. Get pizza and gelato at every opportunity…it’s worth it. Wear good shoes. There is no such thing as “too many pictures.” Take time to sit in a plaza, let the sun (or moon) shine on your face and soak up the wonder that is Roma. Visit any one of the many catacombs (seriously, must-see). If you’re a Christian (or just interested in history), definitely see Peter’s prison (Mamertine Prison). Go to the Gianicolo (the top of one of the famous hills) and see the whole city laid out at your feet (especially at dusk or night). Go to Vatican City…get in line immediately to see St. Peter’s; it’s free (and amazing) but the line can wind through the entire giant square. See the Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museums (we weren’t able to unfortunately—next time) but be aware of the impressively large lines & 20 euro admission fee.

The Colosseum at night. (Obviously) Simply awe-inspiring.

The Roman Forum

Vatican City & St. Peter's Basilica at night...wow.

This is one of the far smaller, simpler fountains in the city, but there's something lovely and charming about it.

Pizzzzzzaaaaaaaaa. Om nom nom nom.

Now, Cologne. 

Cologne became a priority stop after we met our friend Jan, who studies in Logroño as an Erasmus student at the university. He was wonderful enough to invite us into his home (and the flats of his friends) and show us around not only Cologne, but also his university town, Münster, as well as give us the most INCREDIBLE New Year’s Eve of our lives. We love ya, man, and are in your debt till you come visit us in Nebraska. A lively, historic-meets-modern city set on the Rhine river, Cologne used to be an old Roman colony (“Colonia” means “colony,” and thus “Cologne”). In addition to a generous amounts of great pubs and restaurants, it’s also home to the busiest shopping street in Europe, called “Schildergasse.”

Highlights:

-The Cologne Cathedral, of course. A looming, impossibly tall, spire-spiked Gothic masterpiece that looms darkly over the central train station. Beautiful/impressive day and night, building on it begun in 1248 and it houses relics of the Magi (yeah, you read that correctly, the Magi or Wise Men of the nativity story) transferred from Milan in 1164. Just astounding. And, not for the faint of heart (literally), you’ve got the challenging climb up the tower’s 533 steps. Not an easy feat, and by not easy I mean absolutely exhausting for someone not in the best cardio shape like myself. But worth it, if even just for the bragging rights.

-New Year’s Eve. We somehow managed to ring in the new year on the top floor/roof-top terrace of a building with our already dear friend Jan and wonderful friends of his who welcomed us with such hospitality. Oh, and the minor detail that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in Cologne sets off fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve. So we all gladly stood out shivering in the cold, misty night on the terrace and toasted/watched in absolute awe as the whole city was practically set on fire—a panoramic view of fiery green, blue, orange, red, purple and yellow explosions lighting up the sky. Then back inside to the warmth for drinking and dancing into the wee hours of the morning. Amazing.

A few tips: go to the cathedral & climb the tower, no excuses. We were too late for the Christmas markets and too early for Carnival, but the city’s world famous for both, so I highly recommend hitting one if you can. Definitely sample the city’s own Kölsch beer, a delightful easy-to-drink brew to help you “do as the locals do.” Cross the bridge near the cathedral a night to get a postcard-esque photo of the bronze bridge leading to an almost greenish-glowing cathedral, as well as marvel at the thousands of locks fastened to the bridge’s edges– each with the initials of a unique pair of love-birds.

The majestic, looming Cologne Cathedral.

Jan (far left) and our new friends--thanks for making NYE unforgettable.

Fireworks at midnight NYE...from the roof. Unbelievable. Couldn't even see the cathedral in the distance there was so much smoke.

What a view!

Lovers locks on the bridge…there must have been hundreds of thousands.

Christmas in España

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So I know this is uber late, and I know I’ve got a lot of catching up to do…(I think this is how I’ve started every blog post since arriving to Spain…oh dear) but let me backtrack a little bit and get you fantastic people up to speed.

So…Christmas. As I alluded in my pre-traveling spree blog post, Christmas was good–very different and at times very bittersweet, but it was still enjoyable and I’m sure an experience I will always remember.

To start, Jake and I threw a pre-Christmas Christmas party about 2 weeks before the fact  that also served as somewhat of a going away party for our dear Dani, a fellow American teaching at the academy who decided to return home permanently for various reasons. We tried to put aside our homesickness and sadness at her leaving and have a good old-fashioned fun time, and we succeeded. Between giving our German friend and Irish friend their first experience of the movie “Elf” (such a classic) to dressing up in our finest and drinking good wine (I have to specify “good” because we are most often drinking “bad”, basically cheap wine that we mix with either Coke or lemon Fanta)  and cava (Spanish version of champagne), it was perfect. We had initially considered making a big fancy dinner, but ended up landing on the decision for doner kebab, a type of “fast-food” that was initially brought over by the Turkish people and is sort of similar to a Greek gyro, but with spicy sauce, too. It was a rather laughable sight, seeing the 6 of us all decked out in nice clothes strolling along the old town of Logroño only to get our “Chrstmas kebab” and come right back. Jeje, whatever it takes to make the occasion special I guess.

  Our dashing group of hombres

Dani and me...we miss you so much lady!!!

Enjoying our Christmas kebab

Ok, so now for what we actually did for Christmas. We had all these grand plans for a night with friends and some of the old traditions from the States, and some of it worked, some not so much. Going to a Christmas Eve service is a really important part of both of our Christmas traditions, and we’d wanted to attend in Nalda, the town where we had lived for a while, but found out the buses wouldn’t run late enough for us to return back to Logroño. Then we attempted to go to a service at the beautiful cathedral in the Plaza Mercado (the site of which, you might remember, is kind of significant to us)…we “thought” we read correctly that there were services every hour and then a big mass a midnight, so we dressed up, got to the church with our friends Jason, David and Miriam, and waited. And waited….and nothing actually happened. We later found out that the only real service was only at midnight, but it was nice to just go in, pray for a while and enjoy the beauty of the cathedral. Aside from that hiccup, the night was still good. It was clear, crisp and cold and as we walked outside a man was playing Silent Night on the accordion, just the perfect moment.

The man playing Silent Night as we walked out of the cathedral

humongous "christmas tree" in Plaza Mercado

So lucky to be together on Christmas. ❤

Next, we went to the Plaza Ayuntamiento (town hall plaza) to see the huge “belén”, an almost life-sized nativity scene…but not just the Mary, Joseph, Jesus, sheppards, angels bit you usually see…this was almost an entire village created around the actual stable scene to make it feel like you were walking into the story. Very very cool…hadn’t ever seen anything like it.

on of the Belén scenes

It was huge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So after browsing through some of the Christmas markets near the Belén, we headed back to make our night as “merry” as we could. Jake accompanied us on guitar as we sang our favorite Christmas carols, then we ate a special Christmas Eve dinner of salmon, asparagus, roast potato wedges and Reserva wine (the oldest “type” of wine you can buy, extremely high quality). The boys managed to whip up some incredibly good eggnog from scratch and we spent the night being goofy, reminiscent and full of thankfulness for being together. It was kind of nice, though, while we did get each other one  small, inexpensive gift, to focus less on the presents and more on togetherness and the reason for the holiday, the birth of Jesus. All in all, it was terribly hard to be away from our families, but we made the best of it and had a unique Christmas with who and what we had.

Eggnog-making machines

Coming soon: updates on the Rome-Cologne-Munich-Paris trip! 

Happy New Year and talk to you soon.

Besos!