Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In el pueblo...

We spent our last weekend in Spain relaxing in the campo with the family for the town's summer fiesta. The town fills with everyone who has moved to the city who came back for a weekend of visits, meals, and the mass for their local patron saint, the Virgen de los Dolores. With everything packed in Santiago we headed out to the starfilled cold nights and the bright sunny days in the mountians of Galicia.

 ps...a pound of fresh Galician bread...and the old wood burning oven that dinner was cooked in. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Alaska y Mario

Spain's version of MTV reality TV a la The Osbornes is Alaska y Mario. Alaska is famous for her role in La Bola de Cristal-a vanguard childrens' program made in the 1980's when Spain was taking its first dramatic steps out of the Franco dictatorship-and for the 1980's cult classic dance band named after her, Alaska. Her man, recently husband, Mario is Mario, PR rep for a few other famous Spanish stars, he's also played around in the world of music writing lyrics for Alaska and singing in his own band Nancys Rubias. Anyway, they are quite the pair- I think my favorite scene from their reality show was one of them picking out their outfits for a party together or maybe when they spent the day playing dominos with Alaska's mom. In any case, as exentric as they are you can't help but love them and they make for the best programming on MTV Spain. Here's a little intro clip-or you can watch an episode clicking on the Alaska y Mario link above.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

last days of summer...

We're off to the pueblo for the anual end of summer fiesta this weekend-lots of food, family, and parades. Can you believe summer is almost over? I'm excited for fall, but will miss sunny, sandy beach hopping on the amazing coasts of Galicia. One of my favorite things about summer is a day at the beach with a good book. What will you miss about summer?

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I'm going to need a bike for all these dreamy bike rides through the French countryside. I'd love to have a Public bike but they are a bit expensive for my price range and from what I see on the website don't ship to France. I'd love to have a Schwinn too, but a new Schwinn is expensive too and not easy to find in Europe. I'm going to check used bikes when we get to France, but the easiest choice now is a city bike from the European sports budget superstore Decathlon. This version is mid priced, comes with a basket, and can be either red or purple. I can't really decide what color I like more-red is super classic, but purple is unique. What do you think?


Brigitte Bardot

Jackie O

Lauren Bacall
ps...Lonely Planet even has a book dedicated to cycling in France-Check it out here.

Friday, August 26, 2011


As I briefly mentioned before Diego and I are packing our suitcases and about to embark on a new adventure-one year in Dijon, France. Famous for mustard-Dijon is also the capital of the Burgundy region of France, yes that means lots of burgundy wine! I'm so excited to spend a fall taking bike rides (can't wait to buy a bike-with a basket of course) to vineyards and trying new foods (really interested to taste French butter-people are crazy about it, can it really be that different?). Diego will be teaching Spanish language and culture at the university and I'll be teaching English, learning French, and hopefully taking some cooking classes between trips to the marche...haha. I know it's all so cliche, but who ever thought I would actually be living in France?! I'm going to live it up.
ikea living room take 1

While I am already dreaming about the possibilities of daily life, we haven't actually got a place to live. We'll start the search upon arrival next week. From what I've seen online most French appartements don't come furnished so,aside from thrifting again, I'm on a mission to see what I can come up with at Ikea for the cheapest possible price. What do you think about this option for about 200 euros?
(Photos on the wall, not Ikea-and I based the prices in the French Ikea site)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

chez moi...

Discovered second hand online shopping in Dijon...wouldn't these be the perfect dreamy start to our new French maison?? (haha and yes, that's a piano-I've always wanted to play)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Santillana del Mar

Day four of the trip and the longest drive so far had been about an hour. The road from Santander to Oviedo was going to be around 3 hours- so Diego decided to make a rest stop in the green hills of Santillana del Mar where you won't find beaches but lots of medieval coats of arms. Diego had been for a weekend in college with some friends who had property in the city, so he was a good guide down the cobblestone streets past marmalade, cheese, and anchovy shops to the Colegiata Church-a stunning example of Romanesque art. Reaching the colegiata, the golden afternoon sun glowed on the warm stone and although we didn't go in, we wandered through the arched columns, gazed at the simple carved saints guarding the main entrance, and guessed the meaning of cross carvings all around the worn stone of the courtyard walls. 
From the steps of the colegiata the huge coats of arms wrap around corners or stand beween balconies dripping with flowers- Santillana was an aristocratic town and the coat of arms (escudos) proved the wealth and power of the past owners-even today the size and details of the escudos are impressive. The biggest of the big escudos in Santialla belongs to the Casa de los Hombrones (House of the Big men...haha) where two nearly life size soldiers stand guard between the balconies. Diego spent a weekend at this particular house when he was in college-today the house has been converted into a tourist shop, restaurant and terrace-but he says that it was the scariest night he'd ever spent anywhere-heavy wooden stairs, dark brocade curtains, paintings of old owners watching your every move...(read more about it on his website Contraportada here)

Santiallana is for wandering and wondering, imagining a medieval past-a lovely stop before heading into the Picos de Europa and Austurias. (ps...just a few miles from Santillana are the Altamira caves-prehistoric cave paintings- really really wanted to go, but by the time we left Santillana it was too late, on the agenda for next time.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Santander...one beach, two beach, three beach, four

   After a whirlwind day in culture packed Bilbao (forgot to add that we were serenaded in the Bilboan evening as Arcade Fire's outdoor concert next to the Guggenheim) and a lightening quick sleep, we were on the road again headed east to Santander. The bulk of the plan for Santander was beach, beach, and more beach- we were lucky to finally have some hot and sunny weather as we headed out of Bilbao. 
   When we arrived to the port of Santander (and probably the cleanest pension I've ever seen) the sun was even brighter than in Bilbao and we were ready for some beach, so we quickly changed, and headed to the sea. Diego had some inside info on Santander via an old friend, and we decided to head to Playa El Puntal on a ferry service that goes back and forth from the peninsula to the city every 20 minutes for just about 3.50 euros round trip.

  On the boat ride we had our first view of the elegant coast of the city- dotted with mansions and posh apartments (Banco Santander-the strongest bank in Spain hails from the city, and it's owner is one of the most important bankers in the world) and even a palace- Magdalena Palace where the Spanish kings used to spend their summers at the turn of the century. We decided what property to buy for our return trip (yes, we were already planning to return after about an hour in the city...haha amazing the power of the sun and sand) and arrived to El Puntal after about 10 minutes on the ferry. 
   El Puntal offers views of the posh city but is the complete opposite-virgin beaches with nothing more than a  dock, a little chiringuito where you can get some food, and length after length of sandy, duney, warm beaches. A perfect escape. After five minutes we were sold on Santander and we lingered on the beach until we got one of the last ferrys back to the city around sunset.

   Back to the city for dinner we explored the old town-like we'd already seen on the coast the city offers more Victorian gilded elegance and lots of bank headquarters. We ate delicious Cantabrian anchovies in olive and garlic sauce and fresh salpicon (beware the service isn't exactly friendly here-but the food is great) and headed out for some drinks with the local crowd in a plaza where we saw not only the long Spanish summer night, but also a painter set with canvas and all to capture the night, and crazy nightclub advertising-consisting of Arabian costumes, fire torches, bongo drums, and 5 inch heels circling the plaza. 

   The next morning called for a big breafast at a little bakery-I think we ordered one of everything-and a walk to see the rest of the city. Heading north we passed beach after sandy beach. Santander has San Sebastian beat on beaches- long and sandy with calm deep blue waters from the Cantabrian-you can stay in Santander for a week and never repeat a beach. We decided to stay at El Camello beach, a smaller one with lovely rocks and cliffs and a view to the sea. 
A few hours of beach and a small car accident later (no one was hurt) we said see you later to the balconies and beaches of lovely Santander and headed into the green hills of Cantabria.     
(Click on links throughout the text for more info)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bilbao and beyond

During the short drive from San Sebastian to Bilbao-only about 1 hour- we were hopeful and expectant to see the clouds being left behind us and a possibility for some sunshine. But, the  first stop was the Corte Ingles to get a few dry items for the boys who were utterly soaked that morning while cleaning up the campsite. A pair of shoes and a cardigan later we headed to lunch still eyeing the sky nervously. Diego kept enthusiastically saying, "It's not going to rain, it doesn't smell like rain now" we laughed it off. 
After lunch we headed towards our goal of the day, the Bilbao Guggenhiem. With the help of some locals we headed toward the river walk and saw the definitive grey metal in the distance. I have to admit that on first arrival driving into the city the place felt a little claustrofobic. Bilbao is an old mining town, so you drive in throught the old town and feel that the city was dug out of the high cliffs that hug the perimeter. Once you hit the river the city changes completely-open and bight with an incredible variety of modern architecture blending in perfectly with the old. The urban planning of the zone is fantastic

 From a bright white Calatrava bridge we arrived to the Guggeinheim's metallic curves that flow gently up, down, and around the structure like the water in the river beside it reflecting the natural light. We headed up and around to the front where we found an old friend crossing the street (it really is a small world), the cutest of cute sculpture- Puppy by Koons, and the sun! 

 Inside the Guggenhiem (take a virtual tour here!) the art takes second place to the architecture as you see the details of materials, lines, and layers that continuously offer a play on the light, movement, and structure-making the place feel alive. Function is not the purpose, it's simply art. We spent most of the day at the Guggenheim and the river walk-and I fell in love with Bilbao-a modern, creative, and sophisticated city that has rebuilt itself on the pride of its blue collar background and has managed to stay unpretentious. Can't wait to go back for longer than one day.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Raindrops on Pintxos in San Sebastian, Part 2

The next morning we woke up in San Sebastian to cloudy grey skies and humidity-we hung onto the fact that it was only 8:30 am and the weather report we read only gave 60% chance of precipitation and drove to the Renfe station to pick Laura and Casey up. They were waiting for us and we gave big hugs and lots of bienvenidos on the quick trip back past La Concha and to the campground. As we ate neapolitanas de chocolate an "ocean mist" started blowing in, so we quickly set up their tent and went to shower and start the day. As we finished showering the clouds opened up and we ran for shelter. The camp employees told us, "Eh, it rains and it doesn't rain, you never know" and we debated on heading to Bilbao for the day, but suddenly the rain let up and we decided to go for it and hopefully spend the day at this most famous beach- by the afternoon it was going to stop raining anyway, right?

Playa Ondaretta-the smaller beach next to La Concha


 First stop the beach. Walking past rows of blue and white chairs and umbrellas, we read some of the history of La Concha and the city and we played in the waves-getting soaked-looking for shells and sea glass. When the rain started to pour again we were already soaked so we took it with stride and headed into the city.            
We we hungry and ready for more pintxos. We tried some new places and found quite a few vegetarian options: goat cheese with tomato marmalade or caramelized onions, Spansh tortillas, tiny Basque peppers, and stuffed mushrooms to name just a few- and tried the Basque white wine, Txakoli, poured from on high like Spanish cider. When finished it was still raining...we were still soaked, so we ate more. Still wet and getting colder-so we bought some sweaters and umbrellas and ate even more. By the time we lost all hope that the rain would let up-hurricane like winds were bending the trees lining the main avenues and we decided maybe we should check on the tents. They were fine so we and all the other campers took refuge in the camp bar drinking beer and mojitos and playing cards until dinner. More pintxos and rain at dinner unfortunatly made our decision to give up on seeing more of San Sebastian. After a long rainy night, we packed up in the pouring rain the next morning, said Agur (Basque for goodbye) and hope to see you again on a sunny day to the city and hightailed it to Bilbao-cold, wet, and tired-but happily, filled with pintxos.
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