best of 2017

best of 2017

Our first year in Spain has been all that we expected – and more.

We saw London dressed in her best for the Christmas season:

We wandered through Christmas markets in Germany:

We admired the snow-topped Alps from our hotel window in Murren:

We watched our oldest propose to his girlfriend at Sagrada Familia:

We explored the Alhambramore than once:

We roamed the Mezquita and the old quarter of Cordoba:

We enjoyed seafood on Mallorca:

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We immersed ourselves in culture in Italy:

We investigated the past in Cartagena:

We revisited Prague, one of our favorite cities:

We tasted wine and tapas throughout Spain:

We spent the weekend in Paris:

We became regulars at Xiringito:

We shared our new home with friends from home:

Best of all, we made really good friends in our new home:

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what we’ve learned after a year in Spain

what we’ve learned after a year in Spain

People back home ask us what’s different than we expected. Nothing, really.

We’ve learned a lot, though.

We’ve learned that paperwork takes time. And multiple trips to multiple offices. And prepayment of fees at the bank.

We’ve learned that a smile and a positive attitude go a long way toward communication.

We’ve learned to shop for just what we can carry.

We’ve learned to appreciate fresh foods that actually have taste.

We’ve learned to slow down and enjoy meals. No more 20-minute lunches.

We’ve learned to just chill at the beach and watch the waves – and the people.

We’ve learned to spend all afternoon – or evening – nursing a drink.

We’ve learned that ex-pats – no matter where they’re from – automatically have enough in common to become friends fast.

donde vive la corazon

donde vive la corazon

We’d lived in Spain just over a year when we took a trip back to Texas.

We caught up with our doctors (even though we’re healthy, getting older sucks).

We overdosed on our favorite restaurants and foods that we can’t get in Spain (Tex-Mex and Ruffles with Borden’s French onion dip and Velveeta-and-Rotel queso).

Most importantly, we caught up in person with family and friends. Facebook is a godsend, but nothing beats face-to-face with drinks in hand!

I expected to feel a bit torn between the two worlds. But, while it was great to spend time with family and friends, I missed our life in Spain. Spain had become home.

I missed our Mercado, with all of its fresh seafood and fruits and vegetables:

I missed our pedestrian lifestyle with convenient public transportation.

I missed our favorite cafes and bars:

I missed our frequent parades and fireworks:

I missed our Alicantino friends.

Texas will always be Home with a capital H, but my home now is in Spain.

Vale!

 

through others’ eyes

through others’ eyes

In our first year in Alicante we had five sets of visitors, and it’s been interesting to see our new home through their eyes.

They love our sunny apartment, with our view of the Med:

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They love our Mercado, with all of its sights and smells and our favorite stop-in: Katana.

They love our beach, with its lack of body shaming and our favorite stop-by: Xiringuito Postiguet, with its views, drinks, music, and friendly staff:

They love our castle, accessible by elevator:

They love our old town, with its sidewalk restaurants, including La Taberna San Pascual, run by our friend Antonio:

They love our neighborhood park and its outdoor bar: Sotello:

They love our sangria.

Our olives.

Our tapas.

Our paella.

Our parades:

Our fireworks:

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Vale!

a brief bit of Barcelona

a brief bit of Barcelona

fBarcelona will always be special to us – our oldest proposed to his girlfriend in front of la Sagrada Familia, and she said yes! If you declare your love and intentions there, you have to mean it!

It was a fast and furious two days – just a small bit of the city.

Of course, we started at Sagrada Familia, cuz you HAVE to do that. We booked our tickets several weeks ahead of time and arrived about an hour before our tour time to take pictures of the outside – and get engaged, of course. The exterior is, as expected, overwhelming.

 

I was afraid to go inside: with all of that going on, how on earth do you concentrate on God? But the inside was relatively much more calm than the outside. And is Gaudi’s design any more distracting than those of medieval churches would have been to their worshipers? Beautiful. And it will require several more visits to even begin to understand the layers of beauty.

 

Unlike for Sagrada Familia, we didn’t know we needed to get tickets for Park Guell. So, after tramping uphill to the entrance (we weren’t near the escalator end), we were denied entrance to the “fancy” part of the park and were limited to the open admission area. Husband and I sat and people-watched while the Newly Engaged toured the park. Next time, tickets ahead of time and start at the right end (with the escalator).

The food was awesome. Just around the corner from our apartment was Peix D’OR, where we got to pick our own fish for dinner. The woman manning the counter thought we didn’t know how it worked, but quickly realized we were just having a hard time deciding on what we wanted. The fish arrived perfectly grilled and covered with the best pesto I’ve ever tasted. YUM!

 

We had a lovely brunch at Firebug with the young set.

A visit to the aquarium – always a favorite activity!

 

Our most interesting sight: the Mercadona in our neighborhood. We entered to a foyer and check-out area much larger than our local Mercadona in Alicante. Followed the signs to an elevator lobby: the actual grocery store was in the basement! WHAT?!?! Huge, nice store, but you had to deal with the elevator to get back up to check-out with your groceries. Too weird.

 

 

first visit to the Prado – and more in Madrid

first visit to the Prado – and more in Madrid

I love the Madrid tourist bus. I do get tired of the tedious comments about architecture, but the views are marvelous. For the best photos, sit on the left-hand side of the bus.

We were very excited to arrive at Mercado San Miguel before the tourists. At 10:00 we had the place pretty much to ourselves and were able to explore and sample to our hearts’ content.

We dutifully booked our Prado tickets online, including one combo ticket that included the guidebook – a bargain if you are a collector of guidebooks, as my teacher friends tend to be. The Prado is overwhelming, so you need a plan before you go. We didn’t have one, so we ended up focusing on the 50 masterpieces. We took a break between floors for a cold drink, which helped. Still, we barely scratched the surface.

After the Prado, we headed back toward our hotel and encountered a surprise parade. It was the day of the Feast of the Virgin of St. Carmen, but I don’t know if this was that…

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The Royal Palace was beautiful. I think I can get much more out of it next visit, after I’ve had time to process a bit and read up on my Spanish history. You can’t take photos inside, which doesn’t stop many tourists, but I’m a rule follower in those regards.

We’re slowly chipping away at all that Madrid has to offer. So, until next time…

 

another visit to Cordoba

another visit to Cordoba

We trained from Granada to Cordoba – well, sort of. The first leg of the journey was via bus, since the tracks were under construction. The Granada train station is also under renovation, so we had to tow our luggage a couple of blocks away to have breakfast while we waited for our not-train bus to arrive and begin loading.

Upon arriving in Cordoba, we took a taxi to our hotel: the NH Amistad. We love Cordoba, and we love this hotel. It’s just inside the wall in old town, with an entrance outside the wall and parking in a lot underneath the wall. I expected our taxi to drop us off outside the wall, but he turned the corner into old town and made his way through the narrow streets to drop us off in front of the hotel.

There’s no way to make sense of the old town and Jewish quarter, so it’s best to just roam and let yourself get lost. You’ll find a familiar landmark eventually. And in the meantime you’ll discover lovely gardens and shops and cafes.

We headed to the Mezquita for the afternoon. Just inside the entry, an area was roped off for excavation. We couldn’t tell what was going on exactly, but I assume the work is ongoing at such an important site.

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This second trip to the Mezquita, I found it easier to understand the expansions that occurred over the years. It stirs my soul to know that so many people of different faiths have managed to worship there over the centuries.