Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Things and Tings I'll Miss About Spain

I'll miss sleeping in until 9 or 10 am and going to the gym to swim or do weights. I'll miss the green peppers.  They are soooo much sweeter than the green peppers in Canada. I'll miss braves, and tortilla de patata. Especially the bravas on Santalo: SO GOOD! I'll miss the fantastic metro system, and walking to half of the places I need to go.  I'll miss walking anywhere. I'll miss the fact that everything I NEED is within walking distance of my house (the bank, two grocery stores and a fruit and vegetable stand, a Chinese market, restaurants, bars, downtown, montjuic, the Greek theatre, football, three metro lines, the hairdresser, and the copy place.) "I'm going to have to buy my bananas in bunches! Who does that?!" I'll miss Saturday morning football practice with my friends, Liverpool and Barbados and a bunch of random spanish guys (and pretending like I know how to play) I'll miss my balcony and sunbathing in the middle of the afternoon, while reading or writing.  I'll miss hanging my laundry right outside my bedroom and having it literally within reach to be checked or brought in.  I'll miss hearing "quieras?" and having Colombia stand outside my door with a plate full of some delicious food she's made and is sharing with me. I'll miss walking around randomly with Seatle in Gracia, Morrocan food with North Carolina,  and drinking tea with Colorado.  I'll miss not knowing (and therefore caring) what people around me are saying, and not being able to understand everything they say. I may be seen in Canada this summer, posing as a non-native speaker saying "no entiendo" and walking away from random strangers, especially men haha.  But most of all, I have to say that I will miss Barbados the most. Barbados has been my best friend for nearly the entire time I've been in Spain. We do many, many things together, including doing nothing at all. Barbados has shown me many a film this year that I really should have seen long ago (Lord of the Rings, Pulp Fiction, James Bond.. Yes, these are films I had not seen until this year.) Barbados and I have taken turns buying each other food and drink and paying for things. In some ways, I feel like this year would have been nearly impossible without this friendship. (let's not get the idea that without it I would have wimped out and come back to Canada sooner, I would have stayed, it just would have been REALLY REALLY hard.) This is the person that I talk to the most, and the person I've learned the most from. This is the person whose cooking I will miss the most and whose company I hate to be without the most.  But goodbyes have been said and now all that is left to do is throw the last few things into my bags and get on the plane.  Es el momento de ser fuerte.  See you soon, Canada!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Things I Miss About Canada...

First and foremost, I miss my friends and family. I miss playing with my nieces and nephew, and swimming in my parent's pool. I miss making cookies with them and being the best aunt ever and having sleepovers and hugs first thing in the morning! I miss my parents, and their coffee maker (we'll be reacquainting soon enough). I miss my grandparents and stopping by their house just in time for a meal (you have to know just when to get there to get roast beef dinner and potatoes. But really, I could show up anytime and get food!) I miss going for Starbucks with my bestie and ending up walking around Walmart at 2am (and finding fabulous shoes, which I go back for and end up being the best purchase of the summer!) I miss going to Windsor and spending WAY too much money at Suzy Shier and Jacob, simply because I need new work clothes. We only buy what looks good though. I miss going to Jay's games, heckling and making Chris laugh at my comments about each of the players. And eating more chicken wings than I ever thought I could! I miss going for beer with Kyle and pretending to be a bad influence, and trying to learn French (somehow something must have stuck, because I can still READ French, even though je ne parle pas francais). I miss going swimming or running with Donia and seeing random wildlife in downtown Toronto (that happened while running, not swimming). And dying my hair every other month just because... Though, I still sort of do that... And I have a hair-dying friend here! I miss barbecued steak and roasted potatoes. I miss barbecued anything! I miss dill pickle chips (and most other flavours) and toast done in the toaster. I miss Indian food from Little India on Queen, and sushi and Thai Express. I miss eggs Benny from Fran's and poutine and wings from SkalBar. I miss Dixie and her sweet stylish nature, and my apartment in Toronto. I miss Jenn and Heather and Shenela and Sheena and Val... And everyone else from work. I miss someone I'm not supposed to miss and I hope he knows I think of him and hope he's well, even though he's not allowed to talk to me. (I secretly cheer for ManU whenever they're playing, and I hope England does well in the Euros, even though Spain is going to kick their asses!) I miss driving. I miss my cat, and even my sister's cat, but I'm sure that will pass within 5 minutes of seeing it next. I miss watching tv on a screen bigger than 15 inches. I miss talking on the phone. I miss canoeing. I miss my good running shoes (why did I ever leave Canada without them?!) I miss painting. I guess it's okay that I miss these things now, because I'll be in Canada in two weeks time and can indulge in all things HOME. Yes, that's right! June 27th I return to Canada. Hit me up if you wanna hang out, because I'll only be there for three months! My return to Spain is on September 27th, exactly three months after I'm back, so please, please, please, let's hang out this summer!! See you soon, oh Canada!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Morning Beach Walk

I wrote this yesterday morning... On the beach. I decided this morning that instead of waking up to a fridge full of spoiled food (long story, but essentially my roommate defrosted the fridge with my chicken, cheese, milk etc still inside.) I would wake up and walk on the beach. The beach is a bit of a trek from my house, but it's actually a beautiful beach if you can drag yourself the distance to get there.  So here I sit, feet in the sand, sun on my face, and I think about how much I love this place. It's so peaceful right now, but the sun is hot and the air is fresh.  Lovely.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Quality Control... Somebody's Gotta Do It!

I find myself with another quiet day, after the long weekend, and simply because it is summer I decided to take a day to do whatever I wanted. So with my day off, I decided to be somewhat productive. I realized that I have been telling myself for weeks now that I would bake cookies. Peanut butter cookies. With chocolate chips. So, ignoring the heat, I decided to bake some cookies to share with whoever comes over to my house in the next few days. (who am I kidding, no one comes over. It's just me and Colombia, and I know she'll eat a cookie or two) so I made a batch... I've quality control tested the batter and five cookies. I think they're good!! So if anyone wants to come over and eat some cookies with me, I suggest you get here quickly!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Well, it's been almost a month since I've posted, so I guess it's that time again. I haven't meant to be so neglectful this month, it just happened. Here's s quick re-cap on how I've been spending my days and what I've been up to: The beginning of the month brought about an uneasy anticipation. Things are happening very quickly these days in terms of the show and my life. I've been working out regularly and I feel better than I ever have before in life. It's a great feeling getting up every day at 9 am and going to the gym (not a stuffy office) and working out your muscles. I've swimming a little more regularily, as well as lifting my own body weight in press-ups and chin-up fashion. (well, that's with some assistance from the machine I'm using, but I swear I'm doing most of it myself!) men in the gym stare at me, and I'm sure at first it was because they were checking me out (I don't consider it a compliment, they would, check out a hippo if it had the face of a woman) but it think now it's out of jealous hatred. If I do say so myself, I'm looking quite good these days. My gym buddy (aka personal trainer, aka biggest critic) called me The Terminator this morning. Along with things moving quickly, many things also stopped. My BlackBerry stopped. And them my laptop stopped. Literally within days of each other. I had had my BB fixed just weeks before, and though she was being sensitive and somewhat cranky some days, she's no different than any other woman, so it's just something to deal with. But then she just stopped one day and refused to let me even BEG her to do anything (the trackpad stopped tracking...). I borrowed a friend's old BB as a replacement, and had just gotten it unlocked so as to be able to use it here when before I could update anything or load my contacts, my laptop decided to give up and die. I had come home very late from rehearsal on the Tuesday before my birthday and was just about to settle in to watch an episode of Game of Thrones when she shut off. Just like that. No goodnight, no see ya tomorrow, just nothing. I unplugged her. I plugged her back in. Nothing. I did it again. Nothing. I didn't even sigh, I just turned to my bed, crawled in and went to sleep. Two days later, I found out that it was her motherboard that died, so it would cost me roughly 3-400€ to fix it. Uumm.. On a 4 year old computer, I'm not sure that's my best option. So... I asked a friend if it's possible to rescue information off a computer without a motherboard and he said yes. Wonderful. Cut to me researching new computers and still having rehearsals every night as well as turning 28. Yes I've now had a birthday celebrated outside my lovely homeland, Canada! I celebrated by having lunch with my good friend Seattle, and going to the theatre for a 9:30-11:30pm rehearsal. ... Okay, that's not really celebrating. (During rehearsal I also had to put out fires, metaphorically, and analyse a precarios situation concerning missing beer and the idea that the play was cursed because someone said something you NEVER say in a theatre EVER a few weeks ago. We never did get the beer back). After rehearsal, I went to a friend's house. He had bought me flowers and really nice bottle of wine. I had one drink and was drunk. It's not often that I am drunk, and certainly not on one glass of red wine. That was when I remembered that my last and only meal was with Seattle. At noon. Le sigh. I drank a lot of water and went to bed. The next day, we went to play football, which is quickly becoming a tradition on our Saturday mornings as Barbados and his roommate Liverpool used to play quite regularily back home and cannot stand to let a week pass without kicking it around a bit. Barbados is teaching me, yes me, some tricks to handling the ball, and while I think we both know I'm somewhat of of a lost cause when it comes to sports, I think it's sweet that he takes the time to show me how to do something right. After that, it was on to the beach to laze around, soak up the sun and have a few drinks. We met more friends there and had a great time. Dinner came next and back to a friend's for more hanging out it was late to bed and early to the gym the next day, but it was worth it. In all, 28 doesn't seem so bad just yet. Since my birthday, I have also completed stage managing a show. The Secret of Annabelle Veritas happened this last weekend. It was loads of stress and many late nights filled with working out logistics and making sure my actors and director keep it together, but it worked out because the shows were a success. The audiences were good, though smaller than we had hoped for, and the actors had a great time performing. My stage hands were fantastic and in between every scene change we strategized the next move so that by Sunday night we just had to look at each other to know what everyone was doing. Yesterday, after much debate, and many trips to ask questions and bother sales people, along with researching products online, I finally made my final decision and purchased my new device to replace my laptop. I went with the iPad 3! It will do everything I currently (and foreseeable future) require, and it is lightweight, super portable and easy to use. I have nothing bad to say about it and I've even stated to get used to typing on it! (that, and I'm kicking ass as Barry Steakfries in the Jetpack game I downloaded yesterday- seriously, if you can, get it, it's fun!) So that's all for now for me. We'll see what adventures June will bring when it gets here. Tell me what is going on with you :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reminder to the Sun

Dear Sunshine in Spain,

Before moving to this lovely country, I researched and found that the warm weather starts around Easter, gets warmer in May, still warmer in June and so on. This is a trend shown through history. This year, however, you seem to be slacking in heat-giving to this part of Spain. If you could come out and STAY out, we'd really all appreciate it. I was promised lovely warm weather by May and at the moment, I don't see that happening. Please use the next two days to readjust your behaviour.



Friday, April 27, 2012

My Favorite Team

Even though FC Barcelona won't be going to the champions league final this year, and their best coach might be announcing that he is taking some time off from coaching and football, FC Barcelona is still my favorite team.

Their teamwork on the field is an example of how we as people should work together in life. They communicate on the field as clearly as we should communicate with each other, off the field. When they can't handle something, or the obstacle in front of them is coming at them too hard, and too fast to handle it themselves, they trust in each other to be there when they need to pass the buck. And they pick up where their teammates were and run with it. They assist each other and get to the goal together- as a team. They move together with a fluidity that I have never seen on the field.

I have seen this fluidity off the field in only a few situations. My grandparents are a shining example of this teamwork. One cooks, one cleans. One sews, and one prepares and tidies while the work is being done. One drives and the other navigates. Trust. Full trust and reliability.

I think it is only with time and effort that you come to that sort of non-verbal communication and flexibility with each other. FC Barcelona has a camp that they work with in very specialized ways, bringing up footballers in order that they be able to flow into the official team with ease when it comes their time. My grandparents have been married for over 60 years- they have it down-pat by this point.

I can only hope that I will be so lucky as to have as complete teamwork as both of these teams display, someday in life.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yeah Toast! And Other Luxuries in Spain

There are certain things in Spain that I feel that you should all know are a luxury, before you decide to come here.

The first thing I am going to mention is hot water. Everyone in  Spain is very aware of how much it costs to heat water, and for that reason, certain taps in each house are not connected to hot water sources, or you have to turn on the gas in order to have hot water. Long, hot showers are out of the question. This is unfortunate because, as my family can attest to, I enjoy the occasional long, hot shower. It's been a long time since I've had a long, hot shower. (Don't get me wrong, I still sneak them every-so-often when my roommate isn't home!)

This brings me to another thing that is not common in Spanish homes: bathtubs. Bathtubs are a rarity in Spain, I think. Of course if you visit a hotel, or someone's mansion, they will likely have bathtubs, however, in the average Spanish home, a tub is not something they have space for in their home. This is a tiny bit of an issue if you're larger than average, or claustrophobic (luckily, I am neither of those). It is also a problem if (WARNING: TMI moment) you, like me, like to shave your legs in the shower. Space being an issue, you can imagine my trouble at shaving in a space that is 1.5 feet square. Not ALL showers are quite this small, but I can tell you from seeing friend's houses, that their showers are not much bigger than mine. For those that are lucky enough to have a larger shower or even a tub, it is almost just a temptation to take a longer shower.

Another luxury in this country is a variety of breads. I have been finding that I have been dreaming about different kinds of breads for the last couple of weeks, waking up with an unquenchable craving for a bagel with cream cheese, or an English muffin. You can't imagine how badly I want one of the sandwiches that Dixie and I used to make in our apartment in Toronto. English muffin, dijon mustard, tomato, cheese, a fried egg, lettuce, red onion and salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Amazing. You are probably thinking: but Europe is known for bread, cheese and wine- how do you not have those?? Well, I can tell you that there is alot of bread. And alot of croissants. But as for variety, it is lacking. I can only find flatbreads in certain grocery stores, and anything in the bread family other than regular loaves of bread (be that fresh from a bakery or mass-produced sliced bread) is very difficult to come across. On that note, another thing that seems to be somewhat of a luxury is a toaster. I certainly don't have, so one of my closest friends in Barcelona has come to offer me toast almost every time I visit her house. (She is also one person who, God bless her soul, brought me peanut butter from the states!) I have discovered that another friend whose house I frequent, has at some point acquired a toaster. I bought a loaf of bread before I went over the last time, just to have some toast and honey. He thought that was weird, until he tried it.. and then he added cheese.. which I thought was weird, until I tried it.

I mentioned earlier that bread, cheese and wine are what Europe is known for... that is true, and while there is no shortage of good bread (though the selection is limited, its still amazing) or good cheese (from what I know of cheeses, they have very good cheese. (I do not claim to be an expert on cheeses, so I won't comment further, but I would say that they at least know what they are doing when it comes to cooking with cheese). As for wine, I have yet to find my go-to wine. I haven't been drinking alot of wine because for the most part, I hang out with beer-drinkers who will occasionally go for vodka or rum if its good, but wine is not on their list of preferred alcohols, lest I have no one to drink wine with. That being said, the wine here is cheap (as cheap as 1,50 euros) so if you're looking for a cheap way to get hammered, that's it. As I am nearing my next 24th birthday (yes, next 24th birthday- I claim the age I feel) I do not think that my matured tastes in wine can handle more than a sip of 1,50 euro wine. Neither can my head as you can imagine the hang-over you would get from drinking a bottle of it! I am still in search of a good wine here, but I fear I may have to expand my price-range past 4 euros for a bottle. This may sound shocking that it's only 4 euro, but imagine the variety of wine between the 1,50 - 4 euro price range and you can imagine why I would sample 4 euro wines. Alas, on to 6-7 euro bottles!

Heating in homes is also a luxury. Not many people have the ability to heat their homes, which are built to withstand the hot, summer weather as opposed to helping people survive through the freezing cold winter. I may be Canadian, but I think that makes me appreciate heating and insulation even more so. Homes have linoleum floors and concrete walls. No insulation, no rugs, no heat kept inside them. Many homes also laugh at the idea of windows and balcony doors that seal properly. Drafts are a problem here, and I'm not talking about first drafts, editing and final drafts, if you know what I mean. I purchased a heater this past winter in order to get me through the long, cold nights. It would heat my room very well, but when I turned it off, the room would be cold again in half an hour. This meant that before any other part of my body came out from under the covers every morning, my hand would find its way to the heater and turn it on. Five minutes later, it would come out again, to check the temperature of the room. (little hot water and freezing cold rooms really didn't make me want to have long showers anyway, so maybe that's the plan in Spain- keep it cold and people will just keep covered up!)

Health is a luxury as well in Spain. There are alot of neighbourhoods that are build with buildings close together, and no way for air to get through the streets to bring fresh air from the sea. All other areas of town are long, straight streets from the sea to the mountains that wind just seems to whip down. (Think Bay street in the winter and you get my point). The mix of neighbourhoods that don't have enough air flow and those that have far too much causes the entire city to become sick through the winter. This is not just this winter. Bums sell tissues for money. Tissue. That has to say something.

That is all the luxuries I can think of for now. But as it is, even though this country seems to have less of the things we think are important in North America, Spain's life expectancy is an average of 81.2 years (Canada is 77.9 and the USA is 78.4) so they must be doing something right! Simplify, don't over-consume, and learn to live with extreme conditions!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Posts in April

You'll all be happy to know that I have a goal to post 6 blogposts this month! I already have another one planned, I just have to write it (Montserrat- the day I climbed a mountain!) It's only Friday the 13th, so I still have time.

Yes, this counts as post # 3 for April :)

Happy reading!

Bethalona's Barcelona

Barcelona is a beautiful city. Yes, it is a city of broken, poor, degraded people, but these people are also passionate. They know the value of friends, family and other loved ones. They are not afraid to kiss on the metro, canoodle in the streets or show affection in other public areas. It’s not the same as in North America. It’s not for show. It is only for the person they are making shenanigans with, it just happens to be in a public place. No one means for anyone else to see (except the 15 year old girl who is being tongued by her 17 year old boyfriend while looking directly at people on the metro- but they’re children.)

Everywhere I go I seem to see signs of affection. Another thing I see, or rather don’t see, is people eating “on the run”. Rarely do you see someone with a coffee in one hand and a croissant in the other (there are no bagels in Spain!) on their way to work or some other important event. I almost never see anyone munching a bag of chips or a sandwich while walking down the street. These are North American traits. The Spanish have a respect for eating and time shared with other people that I cannot explain. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, not scarfed down on the way to whatever else you have to do that day. They are a pleasureful thing that should not be rushed or brushed aside for tea and yoghurt at your desk while working on whatever important thing is going on at the office that day. They are also meant to be enjoyed with the company of friends or loved ones. Dinner time is important in Spain. It occurs sometime between 9-11pm and it is usually a home-cooked meal shared around a dinner table and not on the couch while watching reality T.V. This is also why the Spanish siesta. They take about 2 hours from 1-3pm to just relax and have a nice, sit-down lunch. They enjoy the taste of their food.

The Spanish also take time to be with each other over holidays. Where North Americans might schedule time off to go away somewhere, Spaniards schedule time off (or just have holidays) and go see family. It is a beautiful thing, really.

That's all for now.. time for bed. 

Buenos noches mis familia y amigos.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Will Give You...

A few weeks ago I went with a friend to the highest point in Barcelona. A mountain called Tibidabo. It is the mountain to the northwest of the city, though everyone refers to it as the north. (Essentially, it is directly inland from the beach, which is sort of the southeast of the city, but again, that is referred to as south).

This mountain is a landmark in this city, as much as the CN Tower is in Toronto. Everyone knows where it is in relation to everything else. For this reason, everyone in Barcelona must venture to this mountain to see for themselves what is on top.

So, away I went with Miss Virginia on a trek to never be forgotten. We took the metro to the bottom of the mountain and proceeded to walk up it. This mountain, in comparison to others around the world, is hardly a mountain, however, it did take us 1.5 hours to walk up it, and we're both healthy, young women. We had fruit and water along the way because of course, we were crazy enough to go to the gym that morning as well (cause we needed more than just walking up a mountain to do that day!)

We only had to walk on this for a portion of the trek up, but it was fun while it lasted! 

Me and Virginia

The lazy man's way up

A view of Tibidabo

Just as from the streets of Barcelona, you can see Tibidabo, you can see Barcelona from Tibidabo (and the entire walk up there!)

The green mound in the distance is Montjuic. I live just below that hill.

At the top, we stopped in a cafe for sandwiches which were overpriced but delicious, and coffee. Then it was time to walk into the huge church that sits atop this hill and looks down over Barcelona and the surrounding cities.

For those wondering, "Benvinguts" is Catalan (the language of Catalonia where Barcelona is) and it is very similar to French, but don't tell the Catalonians, they'll get mad. 

Side view, as we approached

Temple de Sagrat Cor




We went into both the Crypt and Sanctuary of the church and took photos (no flash allowed so they're not the greatest quality) and we were just on our way out when a little old man stopped us. He asked us, in Spanish, if we would like to know the history of Tibidabo. Virginia, who knows Spanish quite fluently, and I agreed that that would be lovely. He took us into the Sancturary and we sat on a back pew. This church is much smaller in the seating area than you would imagine from the pictures, so we were actually quite close to the front of the room. He told us what "Tibidabo" means. It is Latin and it means: "I will give you." The mountain is so named because the people of Barcelona relate this mountain, from which you can see many cities, landscapes, the ocean and many other things, to the same mountain on which Jesus stood with the Devil. The Devil's offer was indeed: "I will give you all that you can see if you bow down and worship me." I will give you. Tibidabo. This reminder of the strength of Jesus in that moment is an important one for the people of Barcelona (I believe even more so since the 2008 crisis hit, because this country has not recovered). 

Stained glass of Jesus and the Devil


From what I could understand of the rest of the history lesson, there used to be a casino on top of this mountain at one point. This casino had a special room with a pistol, in case anyone had lost all their money and felt the need to end their life. Some men in Barcelona felt that this was not okay. There should not be a casino, let alone an opportunity to take one's life in such a simple way. These men purchased the land on the mountain and tore down the casino. It sat empty for years, until Saint John Bosco, coming from Italy on the train (20 hours), came to the city. He said the entire way here, all he could here with the sound of the wheels was "Tibidabo, tibidabo, tibidabo..." When he got to Barcelona and discovered that there was a mountain so named Tibidabo, he ventured to the mountain. Somewhere along the way it was decided that a church should be built on the hill, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A Spanish architect by the name Enric Sagnier was contracted to design the church and so it was done. This was all in the early 1900's. The Spanish civil war in the 1930's saw that parts of the church were destroyed by machine guns and fire, but the people of Barcelona dedicated themselves to reconstructing and fixing the church. They gave time, food, and resources to the effort. Essentially, it was requested that people not bring money, but that instead, the come help. The church was completed in 1961. Since those days, there has always been someone in the church praying. They have schedules for volunteers to come in and pray all through the days and nights, every day of the year. The building has not been left empty since the Spanish civil war, and there is also security at the church as well.

Ontop of the church there is a replica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which looks down on Barcelona. It stands a mere 7 feet tall, but can be seen from all over the city.

Inside the Crypt

Inside the Sanctuary

I know this one is blurry, but it relates to another post I will be posting soon. 

I really liked their pulpit. 


Going to church! 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Bars in Barcelona

For those of you thinking about making a travel to the beautiful city of Barcelona, I want to tell you a bit more about the bar scene here.

Of course you have the huge nightclubs that charge you 15 euro to get in and 10 euro for a drink (which you could make yourself at home for less than 2) and this is of course where all the North American tourists flock to because they don't know any better and these are the places that have advertisers standing in the middle of La Rambla, handing out flyers, complimenting every woman that passes even if her skirt is a small and she belongs in a plus. These places are generic, for the most part, and could pass for any club in any city because there is nothing remarkably special about them and the music they play is main-stream, top-40 type music, that again, you could hear anywhere. I could probably list you five clubs here and five clubs in Toronto that are perfectly interchangable, but I won't bother. I don't want to encourage anyone to come here and go to these places. There are much better places to spend your money and your time.

And then you have the Cervaiserias, which seem to be on every corner that a BraCafe (coffee shop) is not on. These places have chairs and tables outside all year round for those willing to sit in the nippy cold just to smoke their cigarettes, and those who like to sun themselves all summer long. The beer in these places is generally cheaper and generally only from Spain (Estrella Damm, Moritz, San Migel, etc.) and they generally serve a variety of "bocadillos" (or sandwiches- which are actually just bread rubbed with tomato and some kind of meat and/or cheese: no lettuce, no tomato, no onion, no sauce, no... flavour?) I realize that I used the word "generally" alot in my description of the Cervaiserias, but that is only because until you find one that has something just right, they are all for the most part, interchangeable.

There are the bars and restaurants in the tourist areas, which are again, mostly interchangeable, with almost always terrible service and likely very overpriced. These are the places along La Rambla, Barcelonetta, near Sagrada Familia (though, not as much if you're about a block away in any direction) and near almost every other tourist attraction in Barcelona and Sitges. I tell you now that the service is terrible, only because almost every place seems to be understaffed, and because it is not customary (or necessary) to tip in Spain, no one "works for their tips". Your table may sit for 20 minutes with no one seeming to pay any attention. I've waited half an hour for a bill once... that I asked for! It was very tempting to leave (if they don't give me the bill, that must mean they don't want me to pay, right?) but I, of course, did not. I waited and paid, and left feeling somewhat like my time had been abused that day. I won't say that ALL places are like this, just a lot of the places I seem to go to. Other places, like Cafe Zurich, which sits right at the top of La Rambla, beside Placa Catalunya and at the exit of about 5 major metro lines that run through the area, are very prompt about getting their money. They literally set your beverages in front of you and hand you a bill. They might walk to the next table to take an order or deliver another drink, but you can bet that they will be back before you can even think about gulping your beverage and taking off! Cafe Zurich, though not my favorite place in Barcelona, is a place I frequent because of its location and the many tables it has outside, which are perfectly placed for people watching.

And then there are the Irish bars. I'd like to go to Ireland someday, and have a Guinness in a pub, but I am starting to wonder if there is anyone left on that little land mass. It seems that every city you go to, you can find at least three Irish bars, all staffed with Irish people and all with Irish musicians. They serve Irish beer to the Irish (and English) partons and create a haven for the Irish who have gone out into the world and just need to have a taste of home again. It seems that North Americans also flock to these Irish bars, and I haven't quite been able to figure out why. Is it their accents that draw us in, or their beer? Is it that we feel safe with other English speakers? Is it that they change the T.V.s to English for the sports they show? I'll never know. Either way, there are a lot of Irish bars in Barcelona!

One thing I have noticed in my travels as well, is that while there are tons of Irish bars, and quite a few English  bars, there are absolutely no Scottish bars.. Anywhere. I'm starting to want to go to Scotland, just to see what's so special about that place that nobody leaves!

Mexican. There are only a couple of Mexican bars here in Barcelona (that I know about anyway), but the one's I know about are good. I personally have only eaten at one of them, but the food was delicious, even though the beer wasn't much better than Spanish beer!

This then brings me to the hole-in-the-wall places that are in every city, in places you wouldn't expect them, out of the way of tourists and likely frequented by locals and those brave enough to venture down dark, seemingly dead-end streets. In Barcelona, you will find many of these places in Raval, Gotic, Born, Gracia and other somewhat shadier seeming areas of Barcelona where the streets slimmer and trendier, hipper people hang out. These are the places that you'll find real character and real heart. Often these places are decorated in outlandish, bold, artistic, musical, thought-provoking ways. One place I used to frequent, had classic old wall-paper, a naked barbie, masked people and in the bathroom there were pictures of bondage and dominatrix situations plastering the walls like wall-paper. Last night, I was in a place that had sheet music covering the entire front of the bar because it is a place frequented by the staff and partons of a venue down the street. These are the places I like going to now. I prefer to sit and have a few drinks in an interesting place with interesting people, and listen to different music than I'd hear everyday.

Anyway, all of this was to tell those of you wanting to visit Barcelona what to expect in terms of the bar scene here. Oh, yes, and I should mention that public drinking is not nearly as looked-down-upon here as it is back home. Starting at about 8pm, there are people selling beer along La Rambla and all over the "downtown" areas, outside of bars, in different squares and placas all over the city. And I'm not sure what time this actually starts at, but when you come out of the club, you will often find someone selling some sort of food. In North America, specifically Toronto, this would be the hot-dog guy with the cart placed right outside the bar exit or about 5 feet up the street, making all his money from the drunken fools that leave the bar after having drank for the last 5 hours and just need food! That salty meat smell will get you every time (unless you've had too much to drink, in which case the smell makes you want to vomit). It could also be the chip trucks that you'll purposefully find a way to pass on your way home, outside of Nathan Philip Square to get poutine, because its some of the best in the city. Here in Barcelona, you will find people selling an array of foods out of a box they carry around. If you're lucky, its a fresh box, and the food is still warm. Sandwiches and spring rolls are among the items carried in such boxes, and my ever-favorite: samosas! They usually cost about a euro, so its a steal if you're just hungry enough to eat something sold to you out of a box at 5am. And that's another thing: bars here don't close until about 7am in the summer. The sun is up and you're heading home.

If anyone wants more info about bars in Barcelona, drop me a line and I'll do what I can to give you an answer!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rainy Day Coffee and Cookies

Today it is raining. It is damp and miserable out. It would be easy to let my mood reflect the dark grey clouds in the sky and let my spirits dampen like the ground.

But I'm not letting that happen today. It's Wednesday, which is generally my busiest day, and usually I dread them, so my joy today is something surprising and delightful. I went to the gym this morning (and for those of you on Facebook, you know that my experience this morning was less than pleasant because of the gym rats who think they own the space- I pay for a gym pass too, you know!) After the gym, I hit the grocery store for some fresh veggies and little extras, and then it was home to cook up some lunch!

This was my lunch today:
Rice noodles and sauce (tomato sauce with kidney beans, tomatoes, red peppers, green onion and spices) a fried egg (sunny side up and spiced) and a slice of Gouda cheese! 

I have to say that the rice noodles part was inspired by Joseph and Danielle who used to eat them constantly! I hope they're enjoying all the noodles of Thailand!  Love you guys :)

After lunch, and many facebook messages, I made a coffee and grabbed some cookies (three, they're packaged in three's, so you can't just have two) and sat down to watch an episode of Sex and The City. Halfway through, I got a Skype call from my sister, and who did appear on my screen but my favorite nephew, Jay! (He's my only nephew, so its not bad that he's my favorite!) He's learning to talk a lot more, and apparently yells my name when the Skype is ringing.. I love that! The girls came to say hi too, and showed me their pretty skirts. What lovely ladies they are! 

After Skyping, I finished my episode and my coffee. I'm now on coffee number two and cookies number 4 and 5...  I'm allowed to have a couple of cookies today- I had a bad day at the gym! 

And soon I'll be off to start my day. I'll write for a few hours, I'll have a drink interlude and some quick dinner with a friend and then go to the theatre for 9:30. 

All in all, I expect the rest of the day to be as pleasant as the beginning, as long as it doesn't rain too hard! I hope everyone else's "hump day" is going as well as mine! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Six months ago, I sat in an airport, wondering what the next few hours would look like, let alone the next six months. I sat and contemplated. I breathed out Toronto, ready to breathe in Barcelona. I steadied myself and readied myself for the next phase of my life: a adventure never to be forgotten: the biggest leap.

I wasn't scared or anxious. I wasn't nervous or reserved. I was ready. I had thought a lot about that moment, of sitting in the airport alone, ready to take off. I noticed the people in my terminal and noted their attitudes. Some of them were excited, some were nervous, some tired and some just ready to be gone. Men looked around at me, likely wondering why I was sitting by myself. And women sized me as they usually do in North America. I hadn't thought much about what would come after getting on the plane, so when finally, it was time to board, I got up, collected my carry on and calmly walked onto the plane. As my post states, I had the works on my flight, and it was the perfect way to start this adventure: champagne.

I can tell you that when I left Toronto, when the plane took off, I exhaled. I didn't cry or get emotional, I just exhaled. I looked at my city one last time, knowing it would be quite some time before I saw that place again, and wondering what might change by the time I get back. (Let's hope the Donald Trump Building is finished.. its been years already!) Bubbles of joy started bursting inside of me, and the newly-wed couple next to me seemed somewhat confused at my happiness of adventuring alone into an unknown place.

When we landed in Barcelona, I had to catch my breath. The pain of descent was nothing in comparison to the joy I felt at beginning this phase of life. Leaping and landing are two very different things, and I had landed in Barcelona.

It's hard to express exactly what I've been through in the last six months. Every emotion has been felt, and when it is, it is heightened. In Toronto, I felt clouded like the smoggy skies in summer. But here, everything is much more clear and my senses are acutely picking up on everything.

Six months has seemed like forever, as much as it has seemed like only a few weeks. It feels as if I met my friends from school just last month and they only left a few days ago. It feels like the summer heat has been gone forever, but my vivid memory of wearing shorts late into October is returning with the warmth of the sun.  I know its been cold and it has rained, and months have gone by since school ended, but I can clearly remember so many nights of walking around downtown that it doesn't seem right that my Aussi has been gone for months, and that my boys are gone to Thailand. Houston is like a distant memory that I wish would return to grace us with her bright laughter. It seem that I've apparently broken a heart already since being here which seems like... well, something I would do, but shocking in the short amount of time it took (its not as dramatic as it sounds, but I feel he thinks it is).

September seems like last week, at the same time as feeling like it was ages ago!

I cannot even begin to express how much I have learned and grown and have strengthened my own person since being here. Coming to a foreign country, knowing no one, and only having a basic grasp of the language, I walked around the streets of this unfamiliar city wide-eyed. I knew I wanted to be here, and I knew I would eventually get to know this place, but how long I would stay, that has been an unanswered question in my mind since before I left. I came here without a return ticket, and no thought of turning back. I would take this city by storm! I would succeed in Barcelona. Succeed at what? That is a question that is still being formed, let alone answered.

I know what I have accomplished since being here. I have completed a TEFL certificate and subsequent Teaching Young Learners and Teaching Business Professionals certificates, begun to learn a language in its entirety, kept myself safe and healthy, navigated my way around to the point of knowing the metro system and streets enough to get to certain areas of town with little thought as to how, gained friends I will have forever, stretched myself to every limit possible, let myself fall and let myself feel broken again. Barcelona for me is about putting things in the right place, for me.

Six months seems the perfect time to have life-altering questions, life-changing decisions, and mind-blowing realizations. I had one of those last weekend, and it couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Only myself and the entity which provided the realization can ever really know how much that one moment has changed me. Life is clearer still. You may be wondering what the realization was, and so I will tell you in the simplest form: "they are not the same age as you". For years I have been telling people that "age doesn't matter, life experience does". And while you may think that that's a load of ****, I believe it whole-heartily. I believe that as you age, and as you add the number of days that you have literally woken up, gotten out of bed and survived yet another day, your life experience increases. What is important to a fifteen year old is not always important to a twenty-one year old, and what is important to a twenty-one year old is likely not important to a thirty year old and so on. While I am keen to admit that I am 24 in groups of people I do not know very well, I cannot help but admit eventually that I am older than that. This is not because I LOOK like I am aging, quite the opposite. It is because I find that people assume that I have less life experience because I am "24". I cannot fault them in this, I do the same. I met a man a while back, and simply because of his young face and the fact that almost every other male I had met through my TEFL school seemed to be "22!!" I assumed he was of the same age range. It wasn't until someone asked him how old he is and he responded "I'm 29" that I paid any attention to him. It was in that moment that I said to myself "this is a person I should talk to." It so happens that that afternoon, he and I went for a drink and have been close ever since. It is so nice to talk to a person who understands what it is like to leave an actual career to go and do something else, instead of people who are fresh out of school looking for a new adventure before settling down. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the rest of us need our own kind of support and alliance in these situations.

So my realization that these people are "not the same age" as me has little to do with the number of years old they are, but rather it was a reminder that they have had significantly less days, weeks and months of getting up and facing the day. Less days to wonder if it will rain, or if it will shine. Less days to wonder if they'll be fired from their job, or if their sibling will have a baby that day and change your roles from simply "sister" and "daughter" and add "aunt" which caries with it responsibilities all of their own. Less days get their hearts broken or to fall in love. By their age, I was falling for a man who has since broken my heart twice and introduced me to someone else who has forever changed me (for the better, I am stronger because of it). I have moved out of "home", had a career, volunteered, been on more bad dates than I care to remember and experienced the business world. All of these things have shaped who I am, and I believe it takes time to acquire these experiences, and they simply haven't had the time yet. I can't fault them in that. There is no point in being angry because someone doesn't understand you. Simply explain (if you have the heart to do so) and carry on.

These six months have added so much to my wakings up and goings about the day. It is a strange feeling to wake up for the first time in a place and realize that you're not on vacation; you're not "going home soon". I've been walking around, having tiny moments of "I live here. I live HERE." I know my way around, I have a gym, and friends and things that I do on a daily and weekly basis. I've made friends with the guy in the copy place down the street, simply because I see him on a somewhat daily basis. I don't have a coffee shop that I frequent yet, but I have a feeling the one that just opened up down the street is going to quickly become that place.

It is a good feeling to know that I have been here for six months. :)

Okay, enough babbling.. I'm going to celebrate the day and have ice cream on the beach!

Bon Dia mis amigos! Hasta luego!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Traditional Valencian Paella!

I actually started this blog two weeks ago and the pictures wouldn't load fast enough and this is the first I'm getting back to it, but I'm being VERY productive today (2 blog posts in one day!) and its only 8:42 am! Go me!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know its been WEEKS! That's what happens when I start working and start actually having a life again. Oh yes, and the weather has been so lovely that sitting inside typing is NOT an option! (In fact, later today, I am going to sit on the beach with some friends!)

A few weeks ago, my good friend Seattle invited me to learn how to make traditional Valencian Paella. (pronounced: /balenthian pie-aya/). Paella is a rice and seafood or meat dish, created in Valencia, made in a large, flat pan (one dish meal!) for two or more people. Once cooked, it is served entirely onto however many plates as there are people, and usually its a HUGE helping, and everyone digs in!

This is how it all went down:

Our wonderful instructor in the afternoon's cheffery. He is holding a plate of chicken and rabbit, which will be the meat of today's paella. We'll call him Valencia, since he's actually from there!

Assistant Seattle, cooking the meat in the large paella pan.

I was cutting up peas and Valencia decided that if pictures were going to be taken, I'd have to be in some! (Notice the turquoise pants- findin' my style continued!) 

Mataro measuring beans and Seattle, still making sure we're not going to get sick from under-cooked meat!

Once the meat is browned, add in the beans and the peas! (make sure the wash the peas first though, lets be sanitary.)

Tomate Frito. Just a couple of spoonfulls.

Spice it up!
Hot pepper, colourant, more colourant, rosemary.

Before the sauce and spices...

Valencia posing with the tomate frite.

After the spices, add some water... 

Starting to look really good... 

The boys of the day

The girls of the day (everyone lives together except me- I'm an honourary roommate)

Once its boiled a bit, add in the rice. This is a process. You can't just dump it in, you have to carefully spread it around. 
Let it simmer, and put some tin-foil over top to let it cook up a while. 

The finished product! Traditional Valencian Paella!

Massive heapings on every plate, and we all finished every bite! 

Thanks Valencia for teaching us how to make yummy paella! When are we doing this again?