Wednesday, December 22, 2010

i'll be home for christmas

On Monday night I arrived back for the holidays! Although there have been a bajillion weather problems in Europe, I flew directly to Atlanta and had the easiest transatlantic flight ever. I am really happy to be back at home with my family and to see my friends. Happy Holidays everyone!

Gaga does Madrid

So as I mentioned in my last post, I went to the Lady Gaga concert in Madrid on Dec. 12th. There are no words to how amazing that show was. As my good friend Katie said after seeing the concert, "You will love her more and you will never want to wear pants again." So true. She was the best concert I've ever been to and a true performer. She had about 15 costume changes and 6 set changes. It was like nothing I've ever seen and on top of that she sings amazingly! I thought that she might now sound as good live but she was fantastic!!! Okay I'll stop drooling over Gaga and show you some pictures. Because I was sooooooooo far away I chose to put up some photos from one of my friends who was really close to the stage. Oh, and if you were wondering when she played Alejandro, yes everyone when crazy. Probably because half the guys there were named Alejandro hahaha.

The finale "Bad Romance"

Tory and I gagalicious for the concert.Start of the show.

Monday, December 13, 2010

most wonderful time of the year

Whew! I have been really busy lately and have not been posting as much so sorry about that! December has been an awesome month for 3 reasons. First we had a 5 day long weekend so I got to get out of Madrid for a bit, second its Christmas time, and third I went to see Lady Gaga in concert!!!! I am going to only talk about the long weekend (puente) in this post because lets be honest Gaga deserves her own. Last weekend we had another (puente) or 5 weekend! I decided to get out of Madrid for a bit a go play a frisbee tournament hosted by the Sevillian frisbee team called Chiripones. It was on the beach in Huelva, a province of Andalucia. The tournament was a hat, so anyone can go and you are put on a random team. The theme of the tournament was shows from our childhood and I was put on the Smurfs team!! My team was really nice and we played 4 games on the first day, although only winning one. When not playing games every team tried an throwing accuracy challenge and having a disc the most time in the air challenge. We had a big dinner on Saturday night and all went out together. On Sunday, although the weather was pretty bad, we played our final games and they gave out prizes. The smurfs came in 6th place out of 12 teams, so not too shabby! The highlight of the tournament for me was I won the accuracy contest for the girls! I only made 5 throws out of 24 but whatever. The important part was I won a dart board!!! I can't wait to put it up in the living room.

My team: Los Pitufos (The Smurfs)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas

Boom! Two posts in one day! I went walking around the center Friday night because they turned on all the Christmas lights. As usual, it was really beautiful and I got really excited for Christmas!
Near Gran Via
Christmas tree in Sol.
Plaza Mayor.

Celebrating Turkey Day Abroad

Happy Thanksgiving! (okay, it's a little late but thats okay) Being outside of the US for holidays is probably one of the hardest things about living abroad. Although I couldn't be with my friends and family, I was thankful to have some Americans, English, and Spaniards that wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with my roommates and I. At school, I explained to the kids what Thanksgiving was and why we celebrate it and made a pumpkin pie for the teachers. Did I mention we had to make 3 pumpkin pies from real pumpkin? Booyah. The teachers really liked all the pie and asked me for the recipe. We spent all week preparing the turkey (yes, this year we found a turkey!!!), stuffing, and pumpkin pies for our big feast. We had about 11 people come to enjoy each other's company and say thanks for all the great things that we had in our lives. The turkey and all the fixin's were a big hit! Even though I wasn't with my family I had a lot of things to be thankful for!

Monday, November 15, 2010

What is the prettiest cathedral in Castilla y Leon?

Be careful in how you answer that questions amigos, you could spark a war between leoneses (people from Leon) and burgaleses (people from Burgos). They love to joke with each other about who has the prettier cathedral and which has the better morcilla (blood sausage). This weekend I went to a casa rural in Leon with Alberto (pictured above) and his friends. Half of the group was from Leon and half were from Burgos. Which province had a better cathedral was a debate all weekend. On Friday night we drove to the middle of nowhere Leon to find the casa rural we were staying at. Casas rurales are located all throughout pueblos in Spain. They can either be a bed and breakfast type deal where there are owners that cook for you in the morning or it can be an empty house that you rent out with a lot of people. The house that we stayed in was kind of like a cabin with a fireplace and everything. It was really relaxing to sit by the fire and talk (although sometimes I got lost with the 8 conversations going on). We even roasted chestnuts! I felt like I was in a Nat King Cole song, minus that it isn't Christmas yet. We woke up on Saturday morning to go on a hike through the mountains in Leon. Unfortunately, we didn't have great weather so we didn't do the entire 5 hour loop as planned. It had rained the night before and was cloudy and foggy. We started hiking on a cow path through the mountains and it was absolutely beautiful. Everytime I go to a new region of Spain, it never ceases to amaze me that the landscape can be so different. In Leon, everything was so green and all the leaves on the trees were changing. Although I was trying to dodge cow poo and slippery rocks, I had to look up in awe at the huge rocks surrounded by mist all around us. It was amazing! Here are some pictures from the hike.

After a 3 hour hike we headed to the only restaurant around for some cocido de Leon which is a 3 course meal consisting of soup followed by chickpeas and vegetables and finishing with an assortment of meat. Think that's a lot of food? Well fasten your seatbelts, there is a dessert plate coming. It was the best desserts I've had in Spain, truffles, turon cake, flan, natillas, and cheese cake. I was in heaven. The best part about huge Spanish lunches is that just when you think you are going to have to have a siesta in your chair. They bring out the coffee and digestive liquor to resuscitate you (side note although I was awake I had to be rolled out of the restaurant). We headed back to the casa rural for a shower and some down time. Even though I was not in the least hungry at dinner, one of the girls Maria made us a light meal of some mashed potatoes and fried pork fat. Did I mention I am trying to lower my cholesterol? Well, I am slowly discovering Spain is the worst country to do that in haha.

The next day we headed to Leon, which was about 30 minutes away. From there we walked around the city and went tapeando, or eating tapas. We would stop in one place order a beer and get a tapa that they gave you for ordering. However, we would never spend much time in each bar. The idea was get your drink and food, spend about 15 minutes eating and drinking then move on to find the next one. I think we went to about 5 or 6 in all and it was really fun (and delish of course). After we all said goodbye to one another I went to take a look at the Leon cathedral to try and decide if it was prettier than the Burgos cathedral. Although it had the most beautiful stained glass windows of any cathedral in Spain, I think the prettiest cathedral is...Sevilla's!!! Hahaha well you can decide for yourself:

The Burgos Cathedral
The Leon Cathedral

Monday, November 8, 2010

watch your back paula deen!

As a part of developing my cooking repertoire and eating healthier, I have been trying out lots of new recipes. Since I have Mondays off, it has become my cooking and errand day. Although I enjoyed cooking in college, I get really excited now about looking for recipes that call for the ingredients that are really easy to find here. As well, I have been frequenting the fruit and vegetable store near my house and they have a fresh herb every week (cilantro, mint etc). Last week, they had basil and I almost let out a scream in the store. I have had a hard time finding fresh basil and a lot of recipes I want to try call for it. Since its getting colder here I decided to make some tomato-basil soup, courtesy of Ina Garten. It was so delicious!! Here is a picture to make your mouth water haha.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gaga oooh la la

Even though I celebrated Halloween at school the party didn't stop there, I went to 2 parties during the weekend. We had Monday off for the Day of the Dead so there were Halloween parties both Saturday and Sunday. Since I did nothing to celebrate Halloween last year I wanted to make sure my costume was fantastic. Remember how I said that everyone in Spain is scary for Halloween? Well I decided to go as Lady Gaga which is the popular thing to do in the US, but in Spain is totally original. Score! Obviously my costume was the bomb. Check it out:

My Lady Gaga album cover.

With my roommate Allison who was a Frenchman haha. I was going to get a microphone to hold but olive oil is much more Spanish right?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jappi Jalogüin!

One of the most startling things about working in a Spanish school is how much they love to celebrate holidays. Coming from the US where celebrating holidays in school is usually considered a violation of personal rights and a waste of time, going bananas to celebrate holidays is really different. But Spaniards love a party, so I guess it makes sense. I have enjoyed celebrating holidays at school and the kids get SO excited for them. Probably because we get an entire week to make decorations for the school but whatever. We celebrated Halloween on Friday of last week but most of the week was spent making treats, decorations for the hall, and learning the trick-or-treat song. I'm not going to lie our school was tricked out from top to bottom with every classroom or hallway having something Halloween-related in it. My co-worker Carmella and I even put on a show for everyone at school on Friday. Do you remember doing that experiment in elementary school where you have cold spaghetti in a box and you put your hand, and it feels like brains? Well that is what we did but times 10. We decorated the library to look like a lab and the teachers found several black lights which made all the white super awesome. Carmella and I came early on Friday to do our make up and put on our costumes. Here's what we came up with:

Can you say fabulous? Anyway, every grade came down to our "lab" and we told them that we had just cut up Frankenstein's body but forgot where we put the parts. The kids had to put their hands into the boxes and tell us what "body part" they thought it was. Watching the kids faces as they touched the spaghetti/tomatoes/hot dogs/mushrooms/peeled grapes that we had was pretty priceless. Even though they cried "Que asco!" (Gross!) I know they were totally loving it. After we finished our show for every grade we went out to the playground to see all the kids dressed up in their costumes and get some candy. All the kids were so cute in their costumes although for Halloween in Spain everyone only dresses in scary costumes. Below you can see some of my little vampires, witches and monsters! Are they precious?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tales from la ruta de Don Quijote

If you read this blog, then you probably know that I have a Spanish boyfriend (Alberto) who I met here last year. Last weekend was the weekend we met met last year so we decided to celebrate (cue awwwwws). Alberto wanted to go on a little trip but he wouldn't tell me where we were going. We met on Saturday morning and I took a siesta the entire car ride and woke up in a small pueblo somewhere in Spain. Groggy and confused I asked Alberto where exactly were we? Well, it turns out we were in Castilla La Mancha in a pueblo called Mota de Cuerva. What in tarnation does that mean, you might ask? Well, I found out its where some of the windmills that Don Quijote and Sancho fought are preserved (makes sense because our frisbee team name is Los Quijotes). They were so pretty and really well taken care of. I felt like I was in Holland! We stopped to take some pictures and walk around. Then on to the next part of the route! We drove down the road to another pueblo called Belmonte which had a castle (see picture below) that was featured in both DQ and Lord of the Rings. Fantastic! The town was really small and we went to the only restaurant there to eat an enormous lunch. Trying to break out of the food coma, we went on a tour of the castle. Several excommunicated Spanish royalty lived there as well so we went through and toured (free audio guides what upppp). The castle was really well preserved and had great views of the surrounding area from the walls.
Not wanting to waste any hours of the day we continued on our journey to Cuenca, one of the famous towns in Castilla La Mancha. Its famous because the town was built where a river used to be and so is on a spur with 2 huge gorges surrounding it. Because of the unusual geography, there are "hanging houses" which are apartments stacked on top of one another that literally hang off the edge of the town. We reached Cuenca right around dusk so it was hard to get good pictures but the town itself was adorable. You had to cross the gorge on a narrow bridge to reach the town. It was so quiet and we walked around just taking pictures (like the one below). We stopped for tapas at a place in the new part of the city and then stumbled upon a free concert in the middle of town!

Exhausted we drove to the casa rural which was 30 minutes outside of Cuenca. Casas rurales are bed and breakfast-like spots that are all over Spain. A lot of times Spaniards will go to to a casa rural with a lot of their friends for a weekend to get out of the city. The one we stayed at was really cute and served a delish breakfast. After leaving the casa rural we went to see some Roman ruins that were in the town then drove on to see la cuidad encantada or the "enchanted city". Well it turns out it wasn't a city or enchanted, but lots of really cool rock formations in one concentrated area. Voila, tourist attraction! Alberto and I got a picnic for lunch and set about walking around the "city". We got to see rocks like this one:

After a 2 full days of touring around Castilla la Mancha we headed back home to Madrid. Although I love Madrid, it is really nice to get out of the city every once and a while to breathe the fresh air and enjoy how quiet it is.