Here I am, another Monday afternoon, blogging when I should really be studying for the DELE. But, as time in Spain is if nothing a conundrum, I’ve just learned the format of the whole exam has changed, so as I’m waiting for an answer as to whether or not my two books are obsolete, it’s time for a survey! Throwback to the days I still had an AOL screen name!
Like the links, this is a virtual game of tag through travel blogs. Someone tags me, I answer these questions, then like one of those annoying chain letters, I send it away! Below I’ve listed a few who haven’t done it yet.
A: Age you went on your first international trip: I hopped across the border for the first time just before turning four. My dad, bless his heart, tried to translate a menu and told me he thought they had donuts. Having always had my mother’s sweet tooth, I jumped for joy. Dad no speak-o the Spanish-o and I cried for hours as my tongue burned. Good thing this is a family anecdote, because travel is one of my greatest interests, and I’ve been traveling internationally since age 15.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where: Asking me what my favorite beer is? I might as well chop off the fingers typing this to not have to choose! I love, LOVE beer. Dark, amber, red, you name it! But rather than choosing a beer, I’ve come to appreciate the atmosphere in which I’ve had it. Memorable ones? My first real Guinness in Dublin, a local favorite in Chicago with friends (312, I fully admit I am infatuated with you), toasting my beautiful cousin Christina with a Skinny Dip in Breckenridge. Favorite Spanish beer is SO easy though: Estrella Galicia. Crisp, full of body, and refreshing with a tabla of polbo a feira.
C: Cuisine (favorite): Again, this is torture and I am second-guessing my willingness to do this survey. I always say I’ll travel on the cheap,. but how can you when there’s a big old pizza staring at you in Florence, or the pastries in Paris are practically begging you to pay 8€ for 100g? I make sure to splurge on at least one good, local meal when I travel. My most memorable meal? Fresh seafood a la plancha, papas arrugá and mojo picón with my most favorite man in the world in a seaside, family-run restaurant. I remember the exact shade of pink he was on his cheeks and what we were both wearing. I was already in love with him by then, but, man, what I wouldn’t give to recreate that meal and that company.
D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why: Can I cheat and say Chicago? Or Seville? These are clearly the two world cities I know best, and being able to show my friends around either is a true pleasure. Apart from that, I fell in love with Paris and Budapest. Like Liz, I was severely disappointed with Brussels. It rained, our hostel was inhabited with stinky dudes, and I felt that, apart from the beer, it really lacked personality.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”: Standing underneath the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Walking through the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp with a German friend on a bitterly cold afternoon in January. Experiencing celebrating a World Cup victory in Spain. contemplating just how old the Acropolis is.
I’m one of those people who things even car rides can be an adventure, so my years of travel have been nothing short of a series of “wow” moments. That’s the thing about travel (think of me as a guidebook-toting Carrie Bradshaw): you somehow end up discovering that there’s more to a place than its famous sites. Each city has breathed a different form of life into me, from sophistication to hospitality to empathy. I think I’m extremely fortunate for all of this, but it’s the life I chose, and I’m hellbent on continuing it.
F: Favorite mode of transportation: Presidente Zapatero, you may be a bit of an idiot, but your dedication to maintaining Spain’s well-traversed train lines has afforded me more travel in this great land than In thought possible. I remember my first train trip in Europe: me, my best friend from elementary school, and a 20something Canadian named Heather. I loved the old-fashioned sleeper cars, letting my hands drift in the breeze outside and the slow churning under my bones. Us Americans love our cars, and it’s a shame: there’s little more romantic than train travel. I even get to take one everyday to work (although it’s a four-minute trip).
G: Greatest feeling while traveling: I think this sums it up: This is the center of the universe at this moment unless you’re looking in another direction or are thinking about something from a long time ago, in which case it will wait quietly right here until you return.
As, the wise words of Story People. Travel is one of those great paradoxes of human existence – how you can let one thing go for a bit, and return to it if you choose. Travel lets me live the here and now, to contemplate my place in a big, big world, to remember where I came from. I’m someone constantly mulling over the past and contemplating the future, but travel somehow shakes that out of me, however so briefly, until I can come up for air and realize what matters is the here and now. What else has the same properties?
H: Hottest place you’ve traveled to: I LIVE in the hottest place I’ve ever traveled to! 47º at 7pm? Not normal, Spain. Not normal.
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: I’ve been so well taken care of around the world. As most people know, European service is crap, but I will always remember my first trip to Germany. I stayed with my former roommate Eva´s family in Meerbusch, about halfway in between Düsseldorf and Cologne. Her mother, the incredibly likeable Stephanie, welcomed me at the airport as if I were here daughter, and showered me with gummibears and Kinder chocolate. The woman told me she was repaying me for being kind to her daughter, who was, in fact, a smaller and blonder version of herself. I got teary leaving their house a few days later. Amazing how a bit of kindness can go a long way.
J: Journey that took the longest: Coming home from China. Up at 3am, to the airport by 5, flight Harbin-Beijing of two hours. Wait time of five hours after my family left. Long ride from the schnazzy new terminal to the communist block of the old one. 10.5 hours next to a man who thought it ok to talk the whole trip to Paris. Layover in deGaulle. Poor airline food (ew, Salmon? Really, Air France?) and a very chatty Spaniard. Lost bag. Hour to the bus station. Six-hour ride to Seville. Ten minute walk home. Four days of jetlag.
K: Keepsake from your travels: When I first went to Disneyworld at age 10, my parents bought my sister and I a few of those character pins at a kiosk. Sine then, I’ve been adding to my collection from sights all around the world. My last one was from the GAA museum in Dublin; a jersey of the team my Irish family roots for. I also buy a bajillion postcards and have no idea what to do with them.
L: Let-down sight, why and where: I expected a bit more from Dracula’s Castle. while it was beautiful, I had no idea it was built and inhabited so recently! Even still, the weather was crap, so the place was menacing. And the rest stop nearby sold gummy fangs, so all ended well. As a city, I dislike both Brussels and London.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel: Maybe it was buying a knock-off Italian football jersey with my closest childhood friend in an obscure plaza in Rome. It was my third foreign country, and the nostalgia of being away from home had long worn off (hello, doomed train ride to Paris!). Megan and I have never had a lot of similar interests (she is a skilled eco farmer and aeronautical engineer. She is clearly smarter and a better recycler than me, though we did love playing Runaway Princesses and soccer growing up), but in hat moment, travel equalized us. I started to grasp the power travel has to endure common experiences. I haven’t put that Batistuto jersey on in ages, but refuse to part with it.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: Like Christene, I love a gritty hostel. But when I was about nine, my sister’s skating team stayed in Jumer’s Hotel in Peoria, Illinois, and it was so much fun sleeping next to knights. I also slept with dinosaurs and in caves with my Girl Scout troop, and have not-so-accidentally fallen asleep on beaches.
I’ve only stayed in one five-star hotel, and that was in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Kike’s friend got married there, and we went last minute. Kike offered to pay my roundtrip airfare, and I got the hotel bill. Joke was on me, because his charge was 175€ and mine 200 after taxes. Regardless, we had a beautiful view of the Banderas beach and rocky coves, and it was a nice way to end my first year in Spain.
O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?: Plenty. Street signs, food, doors. Marrakesh was like a dream to me with so many colors and interesting profiles. Careful, though! Some Muslims believe that taking pictures steals one’s soul, so many shy away from the camera. I often asked if it was ok.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where? I am too lazy to get up and look for it (we painted and things are a jumble), but I will tell you that, in six years, I have filled all but two pages.
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: My dad suggested we go to Gatorland while on a family trip to Florida, and sixteen-year-old me cringed. I appeased, as it was his birthday, and thankfully so: the place was so cheesy, but my extended family and I had a really fun day just goofing off. I also took a long trip home from Iowa City once with Lisa and visited all kinds of sights on I-80: the world’s largest truck stop (should that be a proper noun?), Herbert Hoover’s childhood home, etc.
My dream quirk place? Dinotopia, a dinosaur theme park outside of Teruel, Spain. Kike, get on this.
R: Recommended sight, event or experience: I’ve got millions, and I’m happy to offer. The biggest one I can recommend is to do some research. This doesn’t mean to plan an itinerary to the minute, nor cram everything into your trip (Hello, Danny Tanner and the Tanner family trip to Disney World!). Instead, have an idea of what you absolutely must see. If you’re in Northern Spain and was to see the Guggenheim, why not search out an idyllic beach and relax, too? Or spend out of your budget for a good meal? A little bit of elbow grease (in a technological way, of course), can lead to something really, really special.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: A good, good meal. That’s what makes traveling with Lauren so great: she’s a big (as well as talented!) cook, so my trips with her have revolved around the buen comer. Helen and I also spend loads on a last meal together overlooking the Alhambra in Granada, and taking my family and tour guide out to a neighborhood restaurant in Beijing was a delight. There are few things I love more than good food and good company.
T: Touristy thing you’ve done: My parents made me do that stupid tour bus and boat tour in Seville after I’d lived here several months. Vom.It. I will do walking tours to get some general history, but draw the line at one of those double-decker buses and headsets.
U: Unforgettable travel memory: Again, tough. More recently, I went to Romania and stayed in a traditional town of 2500 people. We were there during Easter and woke up to the nearby church prayers. My first solo trip to Florence was also exhilarating, and I drank in art and the art of the manggio with the best of them. And coming home to a supportive family is something I won’t soon forget, either.
V: Visas, how many and for where? : Two: one from Spain (scariest picture in the worldddd hello overtweezing) and one from China, from a trip I took with my family in early 2009.
W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?: I typically don’t order wine with meals, but here’s a few good recs for Seville. La Cocina del Dr. X (C/ Evangelista, Triana) and Las Golodrinas (C/Antillano Campos, Triana) have incredible housewines. I was spoiled by living in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain, one of the foremost wine producers in the country, so I love a hearty red, or an Albariño from the Galician Rias Baixas.
X: eXcellent view and from where?: I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of looking at the Puente de Triana lit up at night. Unspoiled, unchanged and unforgettable. Thankfully, my mother-in-law painted us a gorgeous view, so we can enjoy it from our couch now that I live so far away from the river.
Y: Years spent traveling?: After a quick two months abroad studying castellano, I moved to Spain to learn some more Spanish. I am now an EU resident and have logged more than four years in Europe. Funny how life is, right?
Z: Zealous sports fans and where?: Nothing and No one will ever replace my Boys in Black, the Iowa Hawkeyes, but I have to admit I have bought in to the European Football craze since the World Cup. I spent my days glued to a TV (even going so far as to leave the beach and walk a ways to watch Spain take on Uruguay!), and finally celebrated with Spaniards and Dutch alike the the Plaza María Pita in Coruña. But, I’m a true verdiblanca. ¡Viva Er Beti!
Oooh who to choose?