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July=houseguest month June 30, 2010

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Andalucía, fiesta, jobs schmobs, Missoula, Spain, Travel.
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I’ve been on a roll with the blog this week (not to be confused with blogroll…har. A little nerd humor…) as the picked-up pace of blogging is mirroring the rest of my life. I’ve been on hyperdrive in the past couple of weeks, scrubbing, unpacking, hammering things into the walls after midnight most nights and doing more painting than seems natural. This is because I’m desperately trying to feel settled in the new house, yes, but also because I am preparing for basically one entire month of houseguests. On Friday, my dear friend Anna arrives from Sweden. We first met in Spain in 2005, when she was in my class temporarily and then, before moving on, invited me and my then-roommate out for churros con chocolate. We became fast friends and spent a semester painting the town red, making fun of Spanish dancers, and doing a lot of laughing. In 2007, I visited her in Sweden and, after the two initial awkward minutes, realized that time didn’t really matter – we still got along swimmingly and were talking a million miles an hour, in English and Spanish, as though we needed to catch up after a few weeks away.

When I moved back to Spain, she came to visit me in time for Las Cruces, a strange holiday involving lots of drinking in the streets in front of these huge floral crosses. A month later, I took the train to Pamplona, where she was putting in Spanish semester #4 after a year of Swedish uni. More going out and eliciting eyerolls from the other subdued Swedish exchange students. Our paths haven’t crossed since June 2008, as she was finishing up school in England and spending holidays in Sweden and I’ve barely left Montana.

Her graduation present from her parents was a ticket to come and see me, info I received last summer via one of our long, multi-part, bilingual letters. We’ve spent the last 6 months planning and getting ready for her two weeks here, and I’ve booked us flights to Vegas (first time for both of us) and have made Glacier plans. It’s going to be a blast.

Then a couple of months ago, two Spanish friends (a couple – she taught elementary school with me, he’s an elementary teacher in another district) sent me a message on Facebook, saying they had a surprise for me. I figured they might be getting married….but then didn’t hear anything else from them for a while. They are an absolutely hilarious Sevillano duo and introduced me to the intricacies of the fabulous Feria de Abril, flamenco-style dress and dance lessons and all. They had talked about coming to visit at some point, but have a camper and have spent most of their recent holidays at the beach in Spain or Portugal or tooling around other parts of Europe.

Three weeks ago, I get an email from them saying they are coming to the US, along with her brother, and would like to come and visit me in Montana. They’re also going to be here in July. So…we’ll have one night with all 4 of them – the 3 Spaniards, plus the Swede – staying in my house. Then I’m going to put the Spaniards on a plane to Las Vegas (one week after I’ll get back…thanks Allegiant!), so they can go and check out Sin City, spend some time by the pool, and Anna and I can finish up our time here. I think I’ll have a day to wash the sheets and then they’ll be back for 9 days here – with Glacier and possible Yellowstone plans in the works. I’m hoping to be able to join them for one of the two, and maybe send them off with my car to the other. Sorry about the lack of air conditioning, guys…the Volvo’s all I’ve got. 🙂 At least Europeans know how to drive a stick. (weird note: Anna used to work at the Volvo factory in Sweden. It’s fate.)

Luckily, there’s an extra bedroom at the house. I bought a bed on Craig’s List and spent $35 on a bedding set from walmart.com. It’s pretty cute in person, actually:

It’s been nice to have this Friday’s deadline to motivate me, and I’m hoping to be largely done with the important unpacking by the end of the week. Come August, when I return from my family reunion, there will be some other unpacking/organizing to do, for sure, and probably a couple of lingering painting projects, but in the meantime, July will offer lots of good times and adventures with old friends I don’t get the chance to see too often. I get to show all of them Montana and the US for the first time. And I’m really ready for the vacation.

Back to basics July 3, 2009

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Andalucía, design, photography.
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With as much time as I spend online, and as much as I love everything from browsing Amazon or the NYTimes online to reading blogs on Google Reader to doing a little html/CSS editing of my own, my heart is still with paper.

I’m working at a stationery shop, and I can tell you that it’s a bit dangerous. I love the texture, the smell, the way ink slides across the page. I find unlined bound journals irresistible, despite having at least ten. Maybe more. Paper cutters bring me great joy. I have to steer clear of the wooden stapler that’s calling my name. I attempt to bring home a paycheck.

And so I am loving my newest project, a scrapbook/journal/record of my year in Spain. It’s a little late, I know, which is one of the concerns. The further in the past one tries to recall, the hazier the memories often become. And I’m a little wary of the “scrapbook” title and its suburban soccer mom connotation. But now is as good a time as any, and I’ve finally found the perfect book, ordered all of the digital photos from Snapfish, gathered up all of the brochures, tickets and random paper schnipsels I’ve saved all along, and so it’s back to basics with paper, scissors, about four kinds of glue/tape and LOTS of pens.

Now I just need to find a space to spread out all of my paper goodness and get down to getting it all together. Wish me luck!

Córdoba: A food guide November 20, 2008

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Andalucía, fiesta, Spain, Travel.
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I enjoyed watching the last episode of Spain…On the Road Again, even if it was different from what I expected. They did an excellent job of giving a sense of the majesty of the Alhambra, drove to Motril and Almuñécar in Granada province, two relatively unexplored parts of southern Spain, sampled tejeringos, a type of crunchy churro, and then drove through Córdoba and 5 kilometers outside the city to Medina Azahara (more on that amazing palace later). Not bad in an hour.

I read in two or three places that a few members of the crew ate in Córdoba at Sociedad de Plateros (it’s one of their top recommended restaurants), but the last episode, “A Sultan’s View of Andalucía,” featured only about ten minutes in Córdoba, and the only eating they did was toast with tomato and olive oil.  Of course, they ate it in my favorite plaza, Plaza de la Corredera, which has an amazing history dating back to Roman times–some of the mosaics uncovered here in the 1960s are on display at the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos–and is also sort of the center of Córdoba hippie culture.

That midafternoon light I so love

Here’s a short video of the plaza (with Spanish commentary):

It’s the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon…first a couple of beers with friends, then a long and mellow (but huge) communally-eaten lunch, then more café hopping for café con leche and whatever else comes your way. As annoying as it may sometimes be that everything is closed on Sundays, it also means the day is intended for relaxing, socializing, and lots of eating.

But, since the food of Córdoba didn’t get much coverage in the last episode, and the city can be sort of hard to navigate, foodwise, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite choices. Many tourists never leave the Judería neighborhood, which is unequivocally the historical center, but is sort of a food desert–either bad touristy places with overpriced, frozen paella and a menu in eight languages or haute cuisine only really available to the upper crust of the tourist masses. But Córdoba is not lacking in good places to eat, and none of these are more than a ten or fifteen minute walk outside the main tourist areas.

Click on the individual boxes to read the full reviews I wrote on tupalo.com.

sociedad-de-plateros2

el-sotano

bar-moriles

el-torpedo

bar-santos

And if you find yourself feeling a bit peckish during that long stretch between 2 pm lunch and 10 pm dinner, there’s always potato chips.

Celebrating Córdoba November 16, 2008

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Andalucía, blog, moving, photography, Spain, Travel.
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As was well documented in this blog, Córdoba and I had sort of a love/hate relationship when I lived there. It’s a strange city, one so focused on the past and its pedigree among top historical sites that it sometimes neglects its present. Córdoba has a strong alternative side, though, a counterpart to the ubiquitous pijo-ness that can be witnessed at certain bars, in Plaza Corredera, and by the female, Communist mayor. And its traditional cuisine is famous in Spain, especially salmorejo and flamenquín.

But needless to say, there are things I miss (among those things, salmorejo and flamenquín!). And since the episode of Spain…On the Road Again airing this evening on PBS focuses on Córdoba and nearby wonderful Granada, I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate what Córdoba does have to offer, both for tourists and for those who might leave the Judería and stick around for a while.

I’ll offer up my personal recommendations and favorite spots in the next day or two, but in the meantime, there’s really one reason people flock to Córdoba – the Mezquita. When I lived in Córdoba, I would stop in to the Mezquita, free before 10 am, from time to time. These are some of my shots from those mornings.

Music: “Córdoba (Soleá)” – Vicente Amigo from the album “Ciudad de las Ideas”

As for Granada, check out a few of my many Alhambra photos on Flickr.

An ode to potato chips November 12, 2008

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Andalucía, fiesta, Spain, things that make me smile.
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Talking on the phone last week to some of my Spanish friends, I was reminded of how much I miss them and some other things from the last year. One of the first things that came to mind was potato chips.

I’m not usually much of a potato chip eater. They are a mainstay of Spanish meals, often being served as a sort of appetizer along with anything, from beers before lunch to Christmas dinner. There’s one kind of chip that tastes exactly, freakishly like baked chicken. Even ghetto college parties include bowls of cheap chips along with the 1€ box wine. Spaniards LOVE potato chips.

Throughout Córdoba there are shops specializing in or selling ONLY potato chips, including one just down the block from my apartment. These particular chips are worth loving. Fresh out of the oil (often strictly olive) and still warm, these and Ruffles bear no resemblance.  I would stop in and buy the smallest bag, while the old women next to me would buy 1 or 2 kilos (that’s 4.4 POUNDS of chips, people). But who can blame them? Total heaven in a greasy plastic bag.

Music: “I’d Write A Letter” – Al Green from the “I Can’t Stop” album

(I had to mute out the people at the shop giggling at me, the silly extranjera.)

Spain…On the Road Again November 2, 2008

Posted by Emily in Andalucía, Spain, things that make me smile, Travel.
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I finally got around to checking out the new PBS show “Spain…On the Road Again” after having read about it in almost every single publication I know of, from The New York Times to Glamour to Food and Wine and People. It’s getting huge press, mainly because it involves Gwyneth Paltrow speaking Spanish–something she does quite well. Mario Batali of “Molto Mario” fame, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols, an actor from Barcelona, are also along for the ride. I recognize Bassols from some cheesy Spanish television but she’s been a good go-between for Bittman, the most monolingual of the quartet. She is apparently quite the communicator, as her English is nearly flawless, she was raised speaking Spanish and Catalan, and is also fluent in Swedish, Italian and French. Whoa.

They are driving to nearly every corner of the country, touring vineyards and sampling spas and doing lots and lots of eating along the way. Watching my first episode, I was a little put off by the occasionally slowish pace of the series, but it didn’t take me long to warm up to the format, one of the more laidback versions of reality TV that I have seen. They have good chemistry and seem to genuinely love the country–Gwyneth was an exchange student there in high school, Mario can’t stop raving about the food and culture, Bittman seems to be discovering a lot and surprising himself. It’s nice to see Spanish food getting some mainstream respect–so much that’s famous about the cuisine has yet to really come to the U.S. Jamón ibérico/serrano/de bellota, the famous Spanish ham that can best be called a more interesting version of prosciutto, is a key example, as it’s a cornerstone of Spanish food and yet is rarely imported and almost impossible to get your hands on in this country. When you can, it’s generally of a quality that would make Spanish mothers cluck and shake their heads.

The episode in two weeks will take us to Andalucía, with a stop in Córdoba and lunch at Sociedad de Plateros, a cordobés institution where I passed innumerable Sunday afternoons with friends. Apparently, they’ll be sampling the local specialties salmorejo, like a very tomato-y and smoother gazpacho, and flamenquín, jamón serrano rolled in pork, which is then breaded and fried…and often dipped in mayo. Check out their Andalusian itinerary, along with recipes and blogs from the show’s stars. I’m looking forward to hearing their take on the food and culture of the city where I spent the last year. As my sister pointed out tonight, Gwyneth uses the best adjectives–“exquisite” “increíble” “fantástico” and “luscious” in Barcelona tonight.

Sunday evenings on PBS. It’s a fun little departure from a sometimes drab afternoon.