Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Consejos aka Advice for Living in Spain

Lately, I’ve received some questions about moving abroad and while I feel like I'm just winging it over here, I wrote down a few things I have learned since I moved. If you have any other questions, send me an email and I will be happy to answer them! 

1. Only pack your absolute favorites. I had no idea how to pack to move abroad. I’m the girl who packed her ski clothes and then had to drag/kick/push my suitcases through Madrid Barajas Airport.

Other things I packed that I shouldn’t have: hot rollers, hair straightener, sound machine and tons of workout clothes. The electricity blew out my beloved sound machine and rollers. It also ruined my Clarisonic so I recommend buying spanish products with european plugs.

Odd things I am really happy I packed: flashlights, Ugg boots, my favorite oatmeal, almond oil and coconut oil. I’ve been asked a lot how to pack lately and the best advice I can give is pack good shoes and layers (ie: scarfs, tights, cardigans, blazers, etc.) 

2. Google talk. This is amazing. For .01 cents per minute you can talk internationally through the microphone on your computer. I used it to for an interview the other day with no problem. The glitch with FaceTime or Viber is that the other party has to have wifi, whereas with Google Talk you can call them whenever and it can also be used to call corporations (ie: ATT, British Airways, Citibank, etc). 

Say yes. To the 60 euro RyanAir flight to the beach. To the date. To the birthday party. You never know who you’ll meet or what could happen! One of my favorite weekend trips was planned over wine at 4 pm on a Friday. We left an hour later. 

4. Don't touch the fruit. It really angers Spanish grocers when you touch their fruit. I don’t know how you are supposed to know if it’s good if you can’t touch it, but whatever. I r-e-s-p-e-c-t the fruit grocers. 

5. Keep a journal or start a blog. I love writing so this is easy for me, but I would encourage everyone to record their experience! So much has happened: good, bad and hilarious that I don’t ever want to forget. Plus, I love journals because it’s cool to see how things evolve. So many times I find I write about something I’m worrying over only to have the prayer answered later. 

6. Bank accounts. I use BBVA and I love it. It’s been really easy, no surprise fees, ATM’s everywhere. 

7. Phone plan. I brought two unlocked iPhones, bought a SIM card from Vodafone and have a prepaid phone plan I pay online every month. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I recommend getting whatever phone provider your friends have so you can call them for free.  

8. Get involved. Run a marathon. Volunteer. Go to concerts. Sign up for Spanish classes ASAP. Take a Spanish cooking class. Try different festivals around the city (ie: tapapies in Lavapies). There is always something going on in Madrid. Spanish people love to celebrate!

9. Laugh. Don't take everything too seriously. Life abroad is weird and can be really frustrating at times, so try to smile and have a positive attitude. If it is annoying, it will probably make you laugh later. Or not, but regardless, I don't want to ever look back and feel like I wasted any precious time being worried or upset.

Por ejempo, I broke my nose on Thanksgiving and spent it in an ambulance. The perk of that situation was we got upgraded to first class on our flight to Germany the next day because I looked so pitiful in my little eye patch. In the photo below, I was dodging being hit by truckers on the side of the road because I couldn't find the VERY CLEARLY marked bike lane 50 meters away. Hey.... just keep smiling!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Typical spanish hunting weekends

Monteria’s are the weirdest but BEST weekends ever in Spain. Typically, a Monteria is the most classic and traditional hunting method (also known as a huge party in the middle of nowhere).

If you like history, monterias dated back to the late Middle Ages, when royals and nobles developed the traditions for these formal hunting weekends to shoot wild boar and other game with the assistance of trained hunting dogs.

The weekends involve lots of typical Spanish food, drinks, parties and hunting (if you choose). They are also a great excuse to wear HATS! I’m so thankful to my amazing Spanish friends for inviting me to these great weekends away. And in case you are wondering, no I didn’t hunt. I napped (another ancient Spanish tradition). 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Turkishly Delighted in Istanbul

A 10-hour layover would normally give me a minor panic attack, unless it’s in a city you can spend a few hours roaming around. I have wanted to see Istanbul, but not been sure if it would be wise to plan a weekend there due to the ongoing conflict in Syria. There have been different protests and riots over the past 15 months so it seemed a bit hit or miss in terms of safety. However, I had nothing to lose with a long layover there because if necessarh, I could just duty-free shop and drink Starbucks in the airport.  

Luckily, I landed early Saturday and it was a beautiful winter day so I bought a tourist visa, checked my carryon and got on the metro at 6:30 am timing it to arrive at 7:20 when the sun rose. 

My first stop was at the Blue Mosque, but it was prayer time and closed to visitors so I walked down to the water and had tea on the roof of a little, random hotel. I then returned to the Blue Mosque, wrapped my head, took off my shoes and went inside. It’s a really beautiful temple with tons of info packets on Islam. I walked across the road to the Hagia Sophia and watched a little video about its history before exploring and taking more photos. Finally, I walked a little ways to find the Grand Bazaar and bought some Christmas presents for my family. I'm terrible at bargaining so I'm sure I got ripped off, but I am so happy with my jewelry, soaps and bowls I bought.
It was a whirlwind morning running around taking pictures and side-stepping all the stray cats. I'm not an expert and I didn't take an official count, but I'm convinced it has to be the stray cat capital of the world.

I flew Turkish Airlines for the first time and you can easily schedule your flight and connection to accomodate a day trip to see the city. I have also heard you can do something similar in Iceland, which I am definitely going to look into.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Marseille it ain't so

Cheap. Easy. Fast. 

McDonald's? Nope, Marseille. The perfect girl's weekend away. 

Laura and I were together one Monday night and found inexpensive RyanAir flights to Marseille for that weekend and thought, why not? We had never been to Provence and wanted to live a little and get out of the city. 

We took a day trip to Arles, where Van Gogh painted many of his famous paintings. It’s a teeny little French town and so cute. You can tour the city with stopping points at his famously painted scenes. We also ended up in a different teeny tiny, French town at the Christmas Parade following French Santa Claus’s and reindeer around the town square singing rock n roll America Christmas songs. We were the only Americans present and it couldn’t have been funnier. 

Marseille is not the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, but it was perfect for what we wanted. If you go, there is a beautiful cathedral on top of a hill overlooking the city and ocean. I’d highly recommend visiting some of the small towns around the area like Arles, Avignon, Aix, etc. because of their charm and personality. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Gracias por todos 2014

2014 was a lovely year and I'm so happy it ended on such a high note. Traveling. Teaching. Writing. Photography. It was everything I hoped for and more.

This being said, the year was certainly not without some roadbumpst. Looking back, I have learned so much from the good (and bad) and I am thankful for both and the lessons they subsequently brought.

If I had to choose a few favorite moments from 2014, I would include surfing in Morocco, laughing and lost in its winding medina, skiing in the Pyrenees with new friends who quickly became best friends, the most romantic friend trip ever through Italia drinking wine each night, the happiest, sunniest weekend in Ibiza picking strawberries and laying on beautiful beaches, a gorgeous weekend in Andalucia with my parents, learning sevillanas and dancing at Feria de Sevilla, returning to Paris and finding myself at the most magical outdoor jazz concert in the Luxembourg Gardens, exploring Berlin's history and Christmas markets, a monteria with my favorite american and spanish amigas in our hats, and falling more in love with Madrid and my job teaching 6th grade.

To be happy, healthy and have a job I love is a thousand answered prayers. I don't know what 2015 will bring, but I intend to appreciate every moment of it because all too quickly it will be July and I will be packing up my tiny spanish apartment and making new plans in a new city for a new chapter.


May God bless you and your loved ones,