Spain

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Barcelona: Past & Present Dispatches

Barcelona, SpainIn 2007, I spent six months in Spain, and only 36 hours of that in Barcelona. Those 36 hours turned out to be incredibly eventful — long enough to stand outside the Sagrada Familia and wish we could afford the small entrance fee, long enough to get tricked into eating 15 euro frozen-dinner tourist paella, long enough for me to break down and eat the first macaroni and cheese I had in six months at a Hard Rock Cafe, long enough for Chad to lose his debit card and me to get panicky and furious when he wouldn’t let me dig through his bag to help look for it, and long enough for it to become clear why he didn’t want me digging through said bag. Thirty-six hours in Barcelona was long enough to see the most heinously touristy few miles I’ve ever experienced (hi and bye, Las Ramblas), and long enough for 20-year-old Chad to propose to 20-year-old me. It was long enough for me to realize that I had just paid for my engagement dinner of Hard Rock Cafe macaroni and cheese with my mother’s credit card that I was only to use in emergencies.

Barcelona, Spain

This time was much different. We had more than 36 hours, and though our time there was nothing short of spectacular, it was a lot less life-altering. There was less time bickering about lost debit cards and a lot more time spent getting lost in El Born. There was less time wishing we could afford to go into the Sagrada Familia and much more time spent being blown away by its interior.

Sagrada Familia — Barcelona, Spain

Never before in my life have I experienced architecture spiritually. Walking through the Sagrada Familia somehow feels like walking through a sacred forest. They literally had to kick us out at closing time.

Sagrada Familia — Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia — Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia — Barcelona, Spain

There’s something so magical and natural about the cathedral. It’s highly stylized, yet somehow organic.

La Barceloneta — Barcelona, SpainWe also had time to briefly hit up La Barceloneta and walk towards the Olympic Village. We tried to approximate the spot where Chad proposed, but it was hard to tell. I suspect it may have been along this stretch of beach or a little beyond.

The city itself is full of art and curious nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered. It feels like everyone’s an artist, eager to share their work. Like these two, who hang out by the line to the Picasso museum.

Barcelona, Spain

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Salamanca: The Mini Guide

salamancacathedralThere are so many reasons to love Salamanca. It’s just so beautiful that you can totally just show up without a plan and get lost wandering the crooked cobblestone streets through sandstone passageways and be completely content. But if you’re looking for more specific highlights, I’m sharing a few of my favorite haunts, sprinkled with a few shots from the trip.

Salamanca, Spain Plaza MayorLa Malhablada — The rest of the places on this list are my favorites dating back 7 years, but this art space specializing in microtheater has only been open since the end of May. We stuck around a few extra days, in part because we wanted to see it when the owner got back from vacation. There are several floors of smallish performance and exhibit rooms, with a homey bar with basic snacks on the top floor and a balcony overlooking Calle Melendez. If I lived in Salamanca, I’d be hanging out here multiple times a week.

Enmarte — Tourists don’t know about this spot. I found it out from asking the hippest Spanish teacher I had the semester I lived in Salamanca. I wanted to find a good vintage hookup, and she suggested this place. It’s got lots of vintage, but also small independent brands that aren’t widely distributed. I still have some vintage clothing I plucked out of the 2 euro shopping cart in the corner seven years ago. This time, I picked up a couple Skunkfunk pieces that were on sale.

Croissantería Paris — Nothing here has changed. If you’re in Spain and want to feel like you’re in France, you seriously can’t miss this. Get a “blanca y negra,” a doublewide croissant filled with chocolate on one side and vanilla on the other. Ask them to pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to make it perfectly gooey and delicious.

Salamanca, Spain CathedralIeronimus — Ieronimus is a tower tour of the cathedral of Salamanca. Touristy, yes, but the multiple cathedral yield the best views of the city from every angle. It’s also an amazing workout if you run up the stairs like we did right before they had to close.

Huerta de Calisto y Melibea — This is a really beautiful walled garden in the old part of Salamanca. The garden is named after the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, more commonly known as La Celestina, which is a really big deal in the medieval Spanish literature world. If you’ve read anything about the play, you’ll understand why the name makes sense. There are wishing wells, and it’s built high on the edge of the old part of the city. It’s one of my favorite spots to sit and chat or wander around through the rose bushes and ivy. Chad snapped one of my favorite portraits here seven years ago; we tried to recreate it this time and got close.

Salamanca, SpainDelicatessen y Cafe — We found ourselves here so many times this week. Right on Calle Melendez, it’s super close to Pension Salamanca, where I’ve stayed numerous times, so it was really convenient. They do great Spanish interpretations of American breakfasts (breakfast as we know it does not exist in Spain — getting a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast is a victory), have excellent chocolate con churros (from what I remember; we didn’t have any this time!), a full bar, and a solid menu del dia.

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What I Learned in Spain

Salamanca, SpainWe’ve been back from Spain for a couple weeks now, but I immediately dove into a barrage of freelance work and trying to put the (not-so) new place together, which left little time to reflect and craft a story worth telling. Still, I wanted to share some snippets of our trip. I’ll follow up with a fuller guide to Salamanca in a few days, but for now, this is what I’ve learned.

Salamanca, Spain

  • I like to introduce Chad to new places. Often when I’m in a new situation, I let him take the lead until I get my bearings. This time, I really enjoyed pulling him along and reintroducing him to different vocabulary words, my favorite nooks in Salamanca, and funny Spanish idiosyncrasies. Perhaps I should lead the way more often.
  • I love my Swedish Hasbeens, but wood sole shoes do not play nicely with cobblestone.
  • My favorite drink at my favorite dive bar is still delicious and still embarrassing (Agua de Valencia — vodka, champagne, and orange Fanta. Remember, I was 20 when I studied there. It’s better than it sounds, I swear), though the clientele is no longer 18 year olds. It feels like the same people who went there 7 years ago are still hanging out there. They’re just older now. The vibe is still plenty grimy.
  • I need to figure out how to eat more Spanish tortilla & ham croquettes on a regular basis.
  • I can still speak Spanish well. My accent had gotten worse, but it came back by the end of the week and I was very comfortable conversing with anyone.
  • My favorite vacations include lots of walking and eating.
  • Spanish trains are awesome, but when you can afford it, it’s sometimes nicer to fly. It maximizes exploring and relaxation time.
  • While inconvenient, a missed flight is not the end of the world. Everything will be ok.
  • Salamanca still feels like home 7 years later. The same man with the same scruffy dog still plays the same beautiful violin in the same plazas every day. The crooked, nonsensical streets are still imprinted on my heart. The things I loved about it then are the things I love about it even more now.

Salamanca, Spain

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Lunchtime Reads 9.2.14

Burro on Calle Toro in Salamanca, Spain

Hola from Spain! I’m here for a little over a week, spending a few days in Salamanca, where I studied for a semester in 2007, before flying on to Barcelona and then to Madrid to finish out the trip. If you want to follow along, I’ve been posting to Instagram like a fiend at @_lisli. I’ll be sure to share more from our trip in the coming days, but for now here are some links to get you through the post-holiday slump.

I believe in writing. Writing for yourself, writing for an audience, it doesn’t really matter. Also, Allie Vesterfelt is a doll. “Writing is incredibly healing. It is beautifully calming. It can help us find our way home.” If you write, you’re a writer.

I also solidly believe that people with humanities backgrounds can thrive in tech careers, despite whatever the toolbag bigwig venture capitalists may say. Top tech CEOs apparently agree with me.

Though I’ve decided to give myself a break this trip and not work at all, I have been thinking about the realities of working abroad for more lengthy periods of time. This is a great post that outlines some of the more practical and less glamorous ways to work as a digital nomad.

I’ve spent so much of my life in this place of total overwhelm. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this trip, because it’s completely counter to the way the Spanish spend their days, and thus the way they spend their lives. I want to be more like that. “Caught up in what I’ve come to call the Overwhelm, the thought kept nagging me: Was I not just bad at time, but was I squandering my one and only life?”

Last but not least, if you’re at all bilingual, love Spanish food, or at least love really beautiful food photography, check out El invitado de invierno, a Spanish food blog. I don’t think Miriam & I will get to meet up on this trip, but her recipes look amazing!

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Spain on the Brain

Salamanca, SpainIt’s been over seven years since I left Spain, where I spent six months studying during undergrad. While I was there, it felt so much like a second home that I naively thought I’d return often — it would never be a stranger to me.

Well, seven years later I’m planning my grand (albeit short) return. We’re headed to Spain at the end of the month and I’d forgotten that I miss it so much it hurts. The past couple nights when falling asleep, I start blabbering about Spanish fast food joints that I’d totally forgotten about. Pans and Company. Telepizza. El Gran Shanghai, a Chinese place ironically located in the middle of Salamanca where I could get arroz con pollo and a jasmine tea for four euros. Slowly but steadily, memories of cities that have just become names to me are sneaking in and I want to go to all of them. How do you revisit six months in a week?

Puente Romano | Roman Bridge, Salamanca SpainI can’t but I want to. Do we try to cram in three cities in a week? Or do we park ourselves squarely in Salamanca for the week and take leisurely day trips to places like Segovia and Zamora or, if we get really bored, Madrid?

Do we subsist on La Vaca que Rie (Laughing Cow cheese), crusty baguettes, Nutella, and a box of table wine like we did when I had $70 to last until the end of the semester and a long-haired college boyfriend with a part-time computer lab gig to fund our travels? Just for old times’ sake? Really. These are the silly questions that have been consuming me of late.