Friday, October 7, 2011

casa dolce casa

want to see what three years without any serious time off from work looks like?


a few weeks after this picture was taken, a friend quit her job and asked me if i wanted to travel with her to Spain. the economy is in the crapper, i thought. what right do i have to the self-indulgence of a long vacation? then i remembered the above face (who needed to remember it, i wore it half the time), and said Vamonos.

a month later, it was holllllla Espana.

this is my highlight reel:

our neighborhood in Barcelona had butterflies strung up everywhere for a local festival. the supermarkets sold wine for as little as 65 cents. they even had wine juice boxes.

in Barcelona there's a huge outdoor market. it's called la Bocheria. it's unlike any farmer's market that the States has. it's filled with every imaginable fresh vegetable, egg, meat, and fruit.

emu eggs
they even sold those fish that have both eyeballs on one side of their face.

in every city we went, there was a festival happening.

each city has their own giant people and animals that they carried through the streets on parade day.

no, they don't carry a giant corrie head. that's me!
if live music is played, all the old people in the crowd link hands and commence a twenty minute dance that involves lots of hopping and swaying. they even have special shoes for it.

in Barcelona horses hang out on balconies.

maybe because they're drunk.

people drink all the time in Spain. at la Bocheria, we sat next to a man that was having a beer with his breakfast pastry. at 8:30 in the morning. me? i waited...wait for it...until at least 11:30 to have a beer. before then drinking was reserved for cafe con leche.

i've never had so much espresso. scratch that. i've never had so much mind-numbingly, pick me up, served in a tall class or a short cup, freakin-delicious espresso.

in Barcelona, i learned that Spain Spanish is very different than Latin American Spanish in one primary way. never mind the whole "c" as "th" pronunciation thing. in Spain, tortilla doesn't mean something-to-eat taco-fixin's-out-of. it means gooey egg and potato dish that's served in the morning and then pretty much for the rest of the day.

Spanish lesson learned and heartily partaken in, next up, it was the resort town of San Sebastian.

fabulous San Sebastian. where the tapas are laid out on the bars starting around 10 am. it was the most vacationy of our vacation days. i spent a lot of time on the beach.

for the first time in my life, my bosoms saw the sun. (i'll spare you the picture.) i also got in my first scuffle.

coming out of the ocean, feeling good, and channelling my best bo derek impersonation (look her up, kids), i noticed the tide quickly pulling away from me. i wonder what happens next? was my last thought before i found out that this happens: the water comes back in the form of a GIANT FREAKIN' WAVE.

tumbling underwater washing machine style, i was dragged and thrown back ashore, sputtering, with my swim suit bottoms around my ankles.

i quickly crawled back into the surf, pulled my trunks up (only to realize when i was back on land that they contained 5 pounds of sand) and tried to wash the smeared make-up off my face. when i returned to our beach towels, my friend took one look at me and said, "what happened to you? and how come you were lying on the sand over there?"

i was still washing sand out of my hair five days later. lesson learned? don't fight with the ocean. it will win.

anyhoo, in San Sebastian there's more Michelin three-star restaurants than anywhere else in the world. since i was travelling with a chef, not trying one wasn't an option. the restaurant we chose was called Akilera. it was a short cab ride outside the city. since we'd be spending the equivalent of a night's worth of work to eat there, big time spenders that we are, we took the bus.

my friend's google map said the restaurant was a short hike up a mountain from the bus stop. we ascended. walked higher, saw some cows.

we walked higher. then higher uphill, no, up mountain. forty minutes in and ten minutes until our reservation time, my friend asked: what if the restaurants not there?

it will be, i panted.

she checked a different map. the restaurant was back by the bus stop. we ran. i tried to hitch hike. everyone kept shaking there heads and wagging their fingers at us. when we got the restaurant -- sweaty, flustered -- we sat right across from the same people who wouldn't give us a lift.

the meal lasted 4.5 hours. the waiter took us on a tour of the kitchen. it was sublime.

peaches served three ways.
we decided we needed to see wine country.

the capital of wine country in Rioja is Haro. we expected greenery, vineyards, quaint architecture, cobbled streets. instead we landed in the armpit of Spain. lesson? if you're going to buy a guide book, read it before you plan a day trip. Haro: This unattractive capital of Rioja... mine read.

we also met The Snobbiest Toronto Man Alive. when he asked us about accommodations in San Sebastian and i started to tell him about our awesome hostel, he cut me off with a I'm past the point in my life where i need to stay in hostels.

um okay. you asked. dick. then he made me taste his wine.

it wasn't all bad though. i mean, there was wine. (not previously drunk by a fuddy-duddy). and pretty cute bodegas serving it.

maybe there was too much wine.

we left northern Spain for southern.

i never knew Spain had been through so much upheaval. right from the start, one civilization wiped out another from the Phoenicians, to the Romans, to the Muslims. mosques were turned into churches. entire Jewish neighborhoods were slaughtered and repaved. in the 1930's there was a civil war. Franco took over. up until the 1970's women didn't have their own passports, they had to be on their husbands. and while the architecture was incredibly beautiful...

i swear, that chaotic, bloody history is still in the air because southern Spain is WEIRD.

paparazzi-style, a man took photos of me with his giant-lensed camera while i was sitting in a cafe. i got into an argument with a gypsy, and a few hours later a mysterious scratch appeared on my cheek. and the gelato is made with black magic. it must be, because it's so evilly good.

but as much as southern Spain gave me the creeps, it was stunning. you turn a corner and BAM! giant cathedral. or stuff like this guy. erm. cover your eyes kids.

we went dancing until 5 a.m. ate lots of tapas (they come free with purchase of a beverage) and went to the Alhambra. it's Spain's answer to the Taj Mahal.

then it was back to Barcelona (actually, first we stayed with a friend of a friend and slept in his bar) and then it was back to Barcelona for a last meal of scorching hot peppers and patatas bravas, a few more beers and yet another night of absolutely no sleep in a hostel --it's so hot in here, it's like dying, said the male bunk mate across from me. next an 8 hour flight with the gaping mouth guy snoring on my shoulder the whole way and i'm home.

it's weird being back. i'm changed, yet i've returned to a place where my life is the same.

but i found my happy. somewhere between the nude sunbathing and Spanish word confusions -- fyi Quisiera una bolsa de crema, does not mean, I'd like a cream bomba (local pastry) it means I'd like a cream bag -- i found this girl:

the one who's inside the one who used to make that other face. because i realized *ahem* that i'm past the point in my life when i make that unhappy face and don't try to do something about changing it. so maybe next time don't wait three years to do a little travelling when it makes you feel this good. and you, too, out there, don't put off being good to yourself. 'cause i'm here to tell you, doing nice, soul-expanding, completely self-indulgent things for yourself? it makes you feel happy. who would have thunk it?

yes, all together now, no duh, corrie! everyone thunk it. happiness and rejuvenation are the whole point of a va-ca-tion.

it's also the point of espresso.

hola everyone! it's good to see you again.


  1. yaaaayyy! glad you had fun :D awesome pics. WE DEMAND MORE. ahem.
    this does make me wanna go back to barcelona though, hehe

  2. You left all the dirty details of drunken hook ups with swarthy Spanish matadors and too young American college students studying abroad - i know they happened!!!

    Now that you're back, I demand to see you for some Brooklyn adventures.


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  4. happy to hear you had a great time!! :)

  5. Oooooh, what did the Best Hotels & Hostels comment that made you delete it?!

    Great blog entry. Sounds like a glorious time! Also, I didn't beleive that gypsies were still around, or that they are thieves - until I went to Bulgaria. Then I had to tell my dad I was sorry for not believing him, lol. Paula

  6. haha, it was just some kind of spam message. like: great post, if you loved staying there you should try etc. it was my first blog spam message. i felt so violated. (though i didn't think they'd show that i deleted it on screen. sigh) and ooh how did you like bulgaria otherwise?