Tag Archives: Logroño

Things I love about where I live (Part 1)

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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.

Pinchoooooooooos!

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.

Heladdddoooooo

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.

Un momento español…muy típico.

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Primero: Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Promise to fix that…tonight. Prepare for an onslaught of blog posts the likes of which you’ve never seen (well, actually you most likely have–but the dramatic phrasing seemed necessary).

Segundo: The post.

Ok, so let me preface this by saying I’m having preemptive separation anxiety from my adopted country and find myself wistfully saying “I’m going to miss this so much” once or more per day. I know. I haven’t even left yet and I’m already missing the place. In my defense, I am now doing my best to cherish and savor every one of these last moments I have here, which sometimes one tends not to do until they have a mere week or a few days left in a place. So for these last two and half months, I’m going to be doing a lot of enjoying of all this lovely country has to offer (more than usual, I think).  I know…rough life.

Step one of “Mission: Appreciate Spain” — re-develop that wonder-filled, starry-eyed awareness of a beautiful moment while you’re in it. Check. Moment in question? What I would call a “muy típico” (very typical) Spanish moment, from what I have seen of Spanish culture thus far: sitting outside a cafe, just drinking in the moment (and a cafe con leche) and enjoying a beautiful evening. Let me illuminate…and sadly this one moment I wanted to capture so badly in a photo, I didn’t have my camera on me, so words will just have to do.

The scene: sitting at a table outside a cafe in the Plaza Mercado, a very popular square  in old-town Logroño. It’s early evening, but with spring fully arrived and the time change just….a’changed, the sun is still shining enough to make the cathedral’s facade glow against the bluer-than-blue sky, as well as stretch the shadows of the people walking by (rhyme non-intended).  And yes,  it happens to be THAT cathedral, yes, that one where a certain someone got down on one knee in front of our friends and the whole plaza. And lucky for me, I have that someone sitting across from me, busily engaged booking hostels for our upcoming trip on his laptop and sipping on an espresso (cafe solo, as it’s ordered here). The air is a perfect cool-but-comfortable temp, just right for sipping a hot drink but that still makes you want to linger outside. The plaza is milling with people of all ages eager as I am to take in the last of the days lovely weather.

The soundtrack? A street performer strumming a tune out on his guitar at a nearby cafe mixed with the lively chatting of the paseo-takers. Paseo-ers. Paseo-adores. Pase-what, you might ask? Paseo. The evening walk taken by what seems like every man, woman, child and dog in our city, if not everywhere in Spain. The purpose? Any Spaniard would probably be offended at such a question. Why indeed would one need (or wonder about) the purpose of such a normal activity? But this is my favorite part about the moment I’m in. Watching this so authentically-Spanish tradition….the darling little older ladies walking arm in arm in their Sunday best (which until just recently was fur coats) or with their equally cute older man counter-part in his hat and cane (the latter purely for aesthetic/style purposes in many cases); the young-and-in-love ones holding hands and looking more at each other than their destination; the families with giggling/snoozing/cooing-child-filled strollers (these make up about 1 in 3 if not more); the occasional weather-worn, backpack-&-walking-stick-sporting pilgrim (a walk/bike/ride -er of the famous Camino del Santiago whose path runs through Logroño) and finally, the multitudes of dogs walking their masters (or the reverse? It’s hard to tell sometimes) from the tiniest of tea-cup types to the giant fluffy German shepherds…while often wearing the most surprising collection of dog clothing–from rain ponchos to sweaters to hoodies.  And the crescendo to this lovely reverie? The bells of the cathedral, swinging their little bell hearts out for what must be only the pleasure of the people in the plaza.

Needless to say, it is a lovely hour or so of sipping on my drink and simply relishing this moment of perfection. I once came across the phrase “il dolce far niente” or “the sweetness of doing nothing” in a book….supposedly a beloved Italian mantra, and I think the Spanish must surely subscribe to the same dogma. There is an art, of which many Americans (myself often included) cannot quite achieve and/or understand, of simply enjoying moments of sweet, perfect not-doing-anything-ness. It’s something I admire about Spanish culture and aspire to be able to do. Anyway. You get the picture, I hope.

I know I said I didn't get a picture, and I didn't....but I had to give you some sort of visual, at least of the cathedral in this sort of light... Photo source: http://bit.ly/HAio7r

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