Staycations have always been my favorite form of vacations. Don’t get me wrong – seeing amazing new places is outstanding and enlightening. But when you get back from vacationing elsewhere, I always need some days to recover from my relaxation. Enter: the staycation. For my family, it was always Stinson Beach. A getaway, but not too far from home (30-45 minutes, depending on your driving tenacity). For our second spring break, 5 of our 12 roommates remain here for the weekend leading up to La Fería de Abril – the GIGANTIC spring festival in Sevilla (pictures to come). We’ve been sleeping in, shopping, laying out in the park with bizcocho and ice water by day, drinking mojitos by the river during the evening, and going out to dinner at night.
Past and present favorite vacations:
Katie and I were looking less fabulous than our two companions today, in an attempt to make my sunscreeny face and katie’s eager-to-eat-cookie face look more presentable, I have converted the next photo to black and white. Please note, I am reading, so all viewers should focus on how intellectual I am and offer me jobs, grad school acceptance letters and money. Then you can look at Katie’s face and 1. laugh or 2. take a leaf out of her book and enjoy a cookie….cause they’re really freakin good.
The anticipation of a bullfight is by far the most intense part. I had, of course, no prior bullfighting experience or knowledge past their fabulous uniforms (traje de luces). The atmosphere was quite similar to that of a baseball game or horse race. The Spaniards are all dressed up, and street vendors sell beer, water, sunflower seeds, hats and seat cushions (red and yellow striped fabric, much more fabulous than the plastic SF Giants ones). The modern corrida de toros (literally “race of bulls”) is highly ritualized with three distinct stages and the beginning of each is marked by the sound of a trumpet. The whole shebang is much more than a fancy man with a red cape versus a gigantic beast.
First, the bull enters the arena to be tired out by the magenta capes of the “banderilleros” (who are kind of like the matador’s assitants). Next, a picador enters the arena on horseback with a lance. The picador stabs just behind the bulls neck to weaken it. In one of the rounds we saw, the horse was knocked over by the bull, which was the hardest part to watch. In the next stage, three banderilleros attempt to plant two sharp barbed sticks into the bull’s shoulders. They remain stuck to the bull for the rest of the show. In the final stage, the matador struts out into the rink alone with his small red cape and a sword. The matador uses the cape to distract, dizzy and tire the bull while impressing the crowd. He then maneuver’s the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. For the record, this never happened immediately, it took about 5 minutes of post-stab stabs to actually kill each bull.
REPEAT 6 TIMES. 3 matadores, 6 toros. 3 hours. I was happy for my experience watching grey’s anatomy. I was also happy I was seated far away.
Another weekend has passed containing yet another excursion. This time – Portugal! Unfortunately we traveled by bus (only 2.5 hours!) so I was unable to obtain a stamp on my passport. Luckily I gathered photographic proof that I indeed visited several beaches in this lovely country.
The region we visited is called Algarve and our first city was Lagos, where we spent a couple hours on a gorgeous beach. Unfortunately, the weather in Portugal this weekend was quite similar to a typical day on a beach in Northern California. Luckily, I am quite used to shivering while admiring the ocean. This particular beach had some really awesome geological features. I spent about an hour quizzing myself on the various types of sediments and fossils, and gathering samples, and also climbing this rope…thanks to all the friends who pretended to listen – one day when I discover diamonds in a cave, I might let you touch one of them (you didn’t listen that closely…)
On Saturday, Carley and I woke up early to go on a gorgeous run along the beach. The wind was ridiculously strong, as was the ocean smell, and my legs were gloriously exhausted afterwards. We earned our continental breadfast (nowhere in europe do they serve anything but carbohydrates for your morning meal).
La Sardina Asada – The Grilled Sardine. Great name for a seafood restaurant. They had a very helpful boardwalk for emptying sand out of my runners (which officially have zero traction left, countdown to my annual trip to Arch Rival had begun).
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales”
In the book EAT PRAY LOVE, the main character learns the phrase “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Many (southern) Europeans complain about the inability Americans have to relax and take in life. We are perpetually destination people, often forgetting to appreciate the journey. I must admit, savoring the present moment, is an art form that I have not yet mastered. The closest thing to serenity that I have achieved in my life is my ability to read a book from cover to cover.
I read fast. I don’t intend to boast; it is simply a fact. My childhood summers were filled with trips the local library, which I had to visit multiple times a week due to their ludicrous 10 book at a time limit. The amount of Baskin Robbins coupons that I compiled from their reading incentive programs was astounding I’m sure. As I get older, I have had to accept the fact that I cannot read 3 Boxcar Children mystery novels in one day because I must instead be a real human. Luckily, Spanish culture had given me the delightful opportunity to jump back into my childhood and hunker down with a solid storybook.
Yesterday I made a date with my balcony and the book pictured above. After avid sunscreen application, I was completely focused for two hours. Dr. Taylor’s 175 page memoir details her journey as a neuroanatomist who undergoes a severe stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain (all you cool kids can stop reading now, fellow nerds here is a link to what the left/right sides of your brain are responsible for). She, as the stereotypical scientist, is forced to grapple with the oh-so-foreign right hemisphere of her brain functioning as the dominant half. Suddenly emotions, feelings, energy and the present moment are the only things that register. Accepting her perpetual journey of recovery and the importance of right now – she tells an inspirational story. To this day, her email tagline is a quote from Einstein.
“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be”
Anyone who knows me was incredibly confused when I told them I was going to Amsterdam. I suppose it doesn’t exactly seem like “my scene”. Well, it wasn’t. I had visions of small blonde dutch children dancing around in clogs! I did not see one child the entire weekend. What I did see a lot of were bikes. When the people of Amsterdam get on their two wheeled contraptions, they become monsters. “If you hear a bell, run like hell” said our tour guide. By that rule, we were supposed to be running like hell the entire trip. Fearing for my life was only the start…
I’d like to attribute our HORRIFIC experience to our hostel. It was called The Bulldog. The people who worked there were about as friendly as bulldogs. Oh and it was located smack dab in the middle of the red light district. Oh and there was a “cafe” in the lobby. Poor Carley had a worse experience, as her bunk mate(s) were of a…diverse nature. I’m sure she will post a detailed account once she recoveres here.
Frighteningly uncomfortable hostels aside, Amsterdam is home to some incredible architecture, museums, and lots of tulips! We were able to visit the Rijksmuseum (home to the majority of Dutch art, including pieces by Rembrant and Vermeer), the Van Gough Museum (his paintings in chronological order), and the Anne Frank Huis. Another amazing part of Amsterdam was the diversity of food choices (you mean I don’t have to eat small slices of Iberian ham for breakfast lunch and dinner???!). We had tomato soup, cous cous, chinese and indonesian. Also, we found a spot. An adorable lunch/coffee shop that I would like to move into. We also managed to find some incredibly quaint clothing and home stores in the tiny canal streets. Shopping put us all in a much better mood, especially after attempting a walking tour in 20 degree weather. I was not a happy camper. Hopefully my pictures will shed a more positive light upon this small Dutch city.
I should elaborate on the Cous Cous Club – pictured above. We stumbled upon this restaurant on the outskirts of the city. As we walked in, the small space was packed, but the owner quickly came out and lead the five of us through the kitchen and into their second dining room, which he had opened just for us. The waiter proceeded to recite the three items on the menu: vegetable cous cous, vegetable cous cous with lamb sausage or vegetable cous cous with something I didn’t understand (I’m assuming it was meat). As we waited for our food, our new restauranteer friend sat with us and explained that he picks out the vegetables at the farmer’s market every morning himself. Everything is steamed, there is no grease allowed in the kitchen! The food was amazing. Finally, a real home cooked meal. Afterwards, he offered us seconds! It made going back to the bulldog a bit more bearable.
And now for the best part of Amsterdam: De Laaisie Kruimel
It had just opened three weeks ago and was already published in 5 articles. Owned by an adorable dutch couple who make everything by hand in that very building. We went there for an embarrassing number of meals and would spend hours at a time hiding from cold, scary amsterdam with their large brownies, delicious coffee and fantastic sandwich combos. The wife does all of the drawings on the menu, windows and labels herself, which made the place all the more special. We were all ready to trade in our lives as students of spanish and become their students of scone making after our 3 days there!