Peras al vino especiado

cook & tastecafe con lecheThough it was a little bit of a splurge given the student budget I was travelling on, my day at Cook & Taste Barcelona was well worth it in my books. My friend Jane and I got up early to grab our cafes con leche on the way, and then arrived at Cook & Taste’s lovely space in the heart of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. (SO lovely. I wanted to stay and live in their kitchen.)cook and taste (5)cook & tasteWe started with a little exploring through La Boqueria. I had walked through Barcelona’s famous market a few times before, but it was great to go with our guide/teacher/food-guru for the day, María José, as we stopped to speak to each of the vendors while buying our ingredients. Jane had to jet off to Italy, so I was on my own for the cooking part of the day but my “classmates” were all super fun and friendly. I made friends with a lovely Dutch couple as we prepared mussels for the paella, and seemed to mistify a couple of nice older men from Scandinavia as to why on earth I was traveling by myself, chatted with a fellow Canuck about a certain crack smoking mayor that was making headlines at the time, and bonded with the two Aussie sisters who were charged with making sure everyone had full wine glasses. Everyone was kept busy with tasks in the kitchen and the day went by quickly. Though I had made a couple of the dishes on our menu before, it was great to follow along with a professional. We spent a couple hours getting everything ready, and then enjoyed our delicious little feast starting with tortilla de patatas con pan con tomate, salsa romesco with seasonal vegetables, the showstopping giant pan of paella de marisco, and finishing with these beatuiful burgundy pears.cook and tastecook and taste Click to continue reading…

Barcelona, Slowly

tibidabobodega del poblet mirrorThe first time I went to Barcelona I arrived with a long list of things to see and do. I had done a fair amount of research, and had just read “The Shadow of the Wind” so was itching to wander through the Gothic quarter to find the landmarks described in the eerie novel. I’m not even close to organized most of the time, but I like to travel with a skeleton of a plan. It was a wonderful trip, but jam packed.barcelona's zebrasbarcelonetaguelleveningThis second trip was more relaxed. I was joining friends from Huelva who had plans to visit the city, so I followed their schedule and left the guidebooks at home. We walked a lot — admired Gaudi’s handiwork, wandered without a destination, napped on the beach, and explored side streets. I went for an early morning run down Avinguda Diagonal while the streets were still being cleaned and before the rest of the city was caffeinated. We climbed for views, and cooked in our hostel with Beyoncé blaring. Found sunsets and drank in a bar where the only light came from twinkling Christmas lights when their power went out.beautifulbarcelona We ate the best tostadas in a quiet sunny plaza in the old Jewish quarter…tostada

Gorged on tapas at a little family owned restaurant, Bodega del Poblet. Which, miraculously, is only steps away from La Sagrada Familia and was still very “authentic” — picture our server yelling to the back of the restaurant, “Mama. Mamaaa!” to find out if food was coming, and the owner slicing meat just oustide the washrooms…it was great.bodegadelpobletAnd finally, after a several different impressive tapas at Bar del Pla, I had a dessert called simply “El chocolate” (THE chocolate) that lived up to its name and then some. bar del plaIt’s a city worth savouring.
bodega del pobletbarceloneta stroll

Sevilla, tres veces [salmorejo cordobés]

When spending a night in Sevilla seems old hat, you know you’re spoiled.sevilla1salmorejo1While living in Huelva last year, going to Sevilla somehow became part of the travel “routine”, just a necessary stop to catch a plane or a train onto the next destination.
But, of course, Sevilla never gets old. Even the city’s oldest landmarks can fill you with awe, whether it’s your first or fifth time strolling by. The city is small enough that you can get around on foot all day–soak up the sun and the culture while working up an appetite to stop for tapas and cold drinks along the cobblestoned streets.sevilla4sevilla3sevilla2 Continue reading…

From Madrid to Granola

Madrid sunshinemadrid poodleAfter a rather unfortunate (read: embarrassing and expensive) start to my travels, a weekend that revolved around a brunch reservation in Madrid was wonderfully restorative.  The concept of brunch seems to be taking off in Spain’s capital and my friend Britney picked out a fun little spot: The Toast Cafe (this seems like a trendy name for a Spanish brunch spot, actually), where their brunch menu includes a primero plato of a massive fluffy pancake AND a segundo plato of picante huevos rancheros…we practically rolled out of there we were so full by the end of it.thetoasthuevos rancheros at toast cafeThe sun was shining, brunch was bright, and we wandered around the city until an equally delicious dinner.  It was all about catching up and good food. Mostly talking about boys…so, a weekend of food and girl talk. Priorities! (Gracias, mi hermana!) Continue reading…

Diez días

20140416-143930.jpg 20140416-144831.jpg20140416-144838.jpgFrom Madrid, then south to Andalucía, and back up to Barcelona, it has been a sunny and wonderful whirlwind in España. After a bit of an unfortunate start to the trip, my ten days in Spain were like a dream.

It almost seemed surreal to be traveling through cities that became familiar during my time in Spain last year. Having been to all the cities before, the pace was more relaxed as I didn’t arrive with a checklist of things I wanted to see (but I did have a bucketlist of Spanish food that I needed back in my life!). More than anything, this trip was about the people. It was such a blast to travel with the friends I met last year in Huelva (and some cool new amigos), and to all be in one place again. (Muchísimas gracias to all my travel buddies and wonderful hostesses…you are all fantastic.)

As usual, I’m leaving Spain already fantasizing about my next visit, but for now it’s off to somewhere new…
Hasta pronto!20140416-144915.jpg

Stamp Your Passion Passport [Barcelona a Year Ago]

barcelona2güellJust over a year ago I was on my first budget airline flight ever, heading from Sevilla up to Barcelona. And thus began my great love for Ryanair….Just kidding. I have a love/hate relationship with that (sometimes) crazy cheap airline.guell2The ceiling could almost steal the show at the Palau de musica The ceiling could almost steal the show at the Palau de musica[/caption]flamencoIn any case, Barcelona was a blast. And one of the great things about my weekend in Catalonia is that I got to spend it with Zach. I had met Zach a few weeks earlier in Madrid through my twin brother. Zach mentioned that he was planning to head to Barcelona the next month and invited me to tag along. I was thrilled: Barcelona was high on my travel wish list, and now I had a cool travel buddy.fcbarcelonagoal!Zach at work. Zach at work

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A Spanish Snack [Tostada con aceite y tomate]

A bright breakfast back in Huelva.

A bright breakfast back in Huelva.

I’m so not done with Spanish food. I hope you’re all OK with that — I don’t want to be ‘that’ girl who goes abroad for a wee bit and then bores everyone to tears with all the wonderful things about her “second home“. But I didn’t even get halfway through my little bucketlist, so I hope you’ll indulge me (plus it will be tasty, I promise).
Snacktime in Andalucia

Snacktime in Andalucia

It was certainly a bit of an adjustment to go from gallivanting around Europe to be living back at home and working full time. Some things, though — my dog’s wagging tail, a guaranteed hot shower (no broken bombona, hurrah!), family board games, sunny evenings at the tennis courts — made falling back into the routine a happy transition.
Huelva

Huelva

So I might not be able to buy cheap plane tickets to fly across Europe on a whim for the forseeable future, but it’s the little things that life is made up of, right? I file this Spanish breakfast (or snack) into that folder of simple pleasures: tostada con tomate y aceite; toast with tomatoes and olive oil. Usually served with your café con leche, maybe some ham, and preferably a chair in the sun.
Tostada con aceite y tomate

Hasta luego, Huelva [Muchas gracias]

20130605-172512.jpgAnd so, just like that, eight months flew by. 20130605-172831.jpgI’m having a hard time avoiding clichés to describe how much I loved this past year (“time flies/it was the experience of a lifetime/unforgettable!”); the little adventure I wanted abroad surpassed all my expectations.20130605-173127.jpgThe last week or so was filled with despedidas, farewells and parties with my students, colleagues and friends. Every time we went somewhere we were aware that it was our last time (at least for now!). (Sidenote! one of the great things about living in Huelva is that it is actually financially feasible to eat lovely tapas on lovely terraces with lovely drinks everyday for a week…) Days at the beach, cocktails at sunset, dancing til sunrise; it was crazy, sleep deprived, and a perfect series of fiestas to say goodbye (for now!).20130605-222909.jpg20130605-222600.jpgHuelva quickly became a second home, and it was sad to leave. My wonderful amigos woke up early with me to have one last café con leche together and see me off (I almost made it onto the bus without any tears!). Like anything, the people make all the difference, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have met the friends I did.20130605-223334.jpgSigh. So this year saw me grow up a whole lot (I think!), and I’m leaving Huelva a little wiser, a little more confident in my adventurer abilities, with so many great friends, memories, muchísimas ganas to come back to España, a perma-smile and a happy heart.
20130605-223845.jpg20130605-223824.jpgAnd so, eight months flew by, and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. Muchas gracias to all my guiri friends and la buena gente española in Huelva for the chulo-est time, to all my friends and family back home for the love and support I could always count on across the ocean, everyone I traveled with along the way, and to you for following along. Now, I’m taking a scenic route back to Canada…the European fun isn’t quite over!
Hasta la próxima! Un beso!20130605-230159.jpg20130605-230206.jpg

Melancholic Mung Bean Monday [mung bean salad with roasted hazelnuts]

20130527-205206.jpg20130527-204908.jpgOur water heater has been broken for much too long (and our landlady has been terrible), so that doesn’t help anyone’s mood in our apartment. But the melancholy Monday came because change kind of freaks me out (and I sometimes think in alliterations). The first time I realized this was when I was graduating from high school (which was my super cozy comfort zone at the time)– I was excited about graduating and the “next chapter” of our lives, but I woke up a few days after prom and just felt a little mopey and unsure about life. Since then, like many young twenty something’s I’m sure (I hope), there’s been a ton of little bouts of uncertainty. Sometimes this spirals into a mini-existential crisis party for one. “What am I doing?” “Did I pick the wrong university program?” “Why are boys silly?” “Where am I going?” “Why can’t I just get all the skin off these hazelnuts?!”– you know, life’s typical big questions at my age.20130527-205150.jpgI leave Huelva in a week. We had a great weekend, but I woke up this morning feeling slightly hungover from all the fun (not the alcohol, mum). It was that same melancholy feeling I had after high school. I’ll soon be leaving this little city in which I was once so homesick (and now love, of course). But more importantly, I’ll be leaving the people I have seen almost every day for nine months –so you know, kind of like high school, right?20130527-205143.jpgLuckily, I’m usually pretty easy to cheer up. A few dances around my room, a quick run in the Spanish sun, packing with some TED talks in the background and I was ready to have some friends over for dinner. Unfortunately, along with that broken water heater, we have no gas for the stove, so cooking has to become slightly more creative. Thank goodness mung beans sprout on their own!20130527-204920.jpg

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El Rocío

20130527-133736.jpg20130527-133749.jpgEmpty for most of the year, the little town of El Rocío becomes flooded with millions of people and their horses, caravans, and guitars during the romería de el Rocío.20130527-133847.jpgIt feels like you’ve gone back in time, or have somehow stumbled upon Andalucía’s Wild West. Flamenco can be heard from every porch, and you have to keep your wits about you lest you be run over by a horse.20130527-134006.jpg20130527-134041.jpg20130527-134057.jpgI was in the town in October when it was sleepy and dusty and could hardly believe the difference when we were there last Sunday. Next time I live in Spain I’ll have to get a proper dress…