Sunday, July 31, 2011

Roger de Flor

Tomorrow is move out day, and its finally hitting me that its really happening.  No more perfectly situated apartment.  No more shopping at the lousy Sorli Discau with expired food across the street.  No more breakfasts on the terrace.  No more listening to Radio Flaixbach on my boom box.  No more hearing the glass recycling bin being emptied at 3 AM.

My apartment looks like it did the day Sylvia and I moved in - a little bigger and very empty.  After nearly two years, I can't believe the day is now here..

Too much cava & cake
23rd Birthday

Roommates with the Christmas jamon

Moving always makes me a little sad.  But there's nothing like that first time you go to IKEA to furnish a new place; its like starting over from scratch.  I can't wait to see what my next home will be like.  Until then, I'll be sleeping on Sylvia's couch just one block up the road.

Roger de Flor, thanks for the memories.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tasting London

Can I just say again that I love London?  And if you like good food, you love it too.

I love that natural and sustainable cafes like PRET and LEON are everywhere, making healthy eating on the go so easy.  At LEON, every item on the menu says whether its gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, etc.  At LEON I had a large salad with grilled chicken, a side of flatbread, a lemonade, and a chocolate mousse all for £11.  And who said London had to be pricey?

I mentioned [here] that I wanted to eat at a Jamie Oliver restaurant.  After the long walk from Camden Town, I did make it to Fifteen in the end.

Fifteen is part of the Jamie Oliver Foundation and has an admirable apprenticeship program for unemployed young people.  Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed.  The server didn't have a clue about the wine menu, and although the food was sophisticated and beautifully presented, it certainly did not meet my expectations.  Oh well, at least my money went to charity.

What to Order: 
The basil pannacotta with balsamic infused strawberries and biscotti [aka basil flavored pudding].  I would eat at Fifteen again just to have this silky yumminess as my starter, main course, and dessert.

Olive madness
Overall, the best food in London can be found in the markets.  Its at these places that you can find a great variety of cuisines all in one place.  At the Covent Garden market I had almond-stuffed green olives for the first time.  Boyfriend says that they're common in the DR.  I'm thinking they may become a new favorite food of mine over the next few months.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Observations: London

So it didn't rain, and.. 

I absolutely most definitely fell in love with London.

-The tube is freakishly far underground but is cozy with cushiony seats - who knew that public transportation could be so comfortable?

-Al Fresco dining happens even if it might be chilly & grey.  The center is full of charming little streets with terraces.

-I'm used to colorful money living off the euro, but the pound..  Still looks like princess money to me.

-The city has amazing shopping.  I discovered Dorothy Perkins and spent a good portion of Tuesday afternoon on the hunt for a specific gold blouse.  Five Dorothy Perkins later, I found it.  Yesss.

-The TopShop on Oxford Street deserves its own postal code.  Enough said.

-"Youth" Hostels don't really mean youth hostels.  The 45 year old man sharing my room woke up at 7 each morning and ruffled through 6 different plastic shopping bags.  I would've preferred the snoring of a second young, drunk Australian than to hear about his Cambridge folk festival.

If the weather and salaries weren't crap, I would live in London in a heartbeat.  
And as for the food..  Well, that deserves its own post. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

London Time

I'm off to London this morning and I'm stoked that the weather forecast shows no sign of rain.  I've been to London once on a really, really long layover, and saw most of the big sights.  This time on my real trip, this is my list of must-do's:

1.  Venture out of the center to the Camden Town market.  I'm a sucker for markets and I'm crossing my fingers for some good vintage finds.


2.  Take a run in Hyde Park.


3.  Eat at a Jamie Oliver restaurant.


4.  And last but certainly not least:  Shop at TopShop.  Duh.


I'll be back on Friday.
Please weather, don't  on my parade. 

Monday, July 25, 2011


My dad turns 51 today.   

Baba is one of the hardest working men you'll ever meet, and is always willing to do whatever he can for my brother and I.  Whether that be taking me to Europe to look at universities, driving my brother a dozen hours away for football soccer games at dawn, or just running out to the grocery store to cook us eggs on a Sunday morning, he'll do anything to make us happy.  Even though I complain [every time] about the 2 cups of olive oil he uses to cook each egg, he makes the best sunny-side-up eggs in the world.  

In some ways I'm just like him.  And although we may not always get along, I will always admire his energy, great taste, and the success he's created for himself since immigrating to the States as a 20 year old kid.  

Happy Birthday, Baba.  Thanks for everything you do.  I love you. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ciutadella Park

Today I Saw:
-Hippies walking tightrope between trees
-Man playing a xylophone
-Capoeira practice
-Girl juggling those things that look like bowling pins
-Man balancing a crystal ball on every part of his body
-Kids tap dancing to Billie Jean while the crowd sang along
-Old man in a hot pink t-shirt with 10 white braids hanging from his chin

One thing I love about this city is that anything goes.  I spent a good portion of the day relaxing in El Parque Ciutadella, a perfect place to soak up the sun and people watch on a Sunday afternoon.  It's Barcelona's most centric park, and the finish line for my long runs.  Built in the 1880's for the Universal Exhibition, it now hosts a zoo, various museums, some peculiar statues, and lots of grass for all the wanna-be circus performers.  

My legs hate me after running up these steps.. 
The pond where you can rent row boats. 
Rowing machine

Whether you want to go for a walk, have a picnic, sing Kumbaya with friends, or just plain ole' people watch like myself, this park is worth a visit.

Barcelona never disappoints in interesting characters.
I'm going to miss this place. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

La Báscula

At lunchtime yesterday, hungry PokerFace [my roommate] says to me,

"Tia, take me somewhere that will remind me of the States."  

So I took him to La Báscula, my favorite vegetarian restaurant in El Borne.  Organic eateries aren't very common in Spain, making La Báscula look like a trendy urban bistro straight out of health-obsessed America.

PokerFace ready to eat

A former chocolate factory, La Báscula has turned into a savory cafe with a funky decor.  Wooden chairs hang from the ceiling, and wooden doors are used as table tops. 


The cafe has an extensive menu, but mostly serves sandwiches, salads, crepes, smoothies, and homemade sweets.

PokerFace had a piping hot eggplant dish with salad and rice.  I had a warm pita sandwich stuffed with cooked spinach, brie, sun dried tomato and shredded carrot.  Yummy.      

Try the quiche made with pumpkin; its my favorite. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Post

This morning I checked my snail mailbox for the first time in a whole month.  Surprise, surprise, nothing exciting, just old bank statements and letters for someone I've never met the garbage can.

I wish that we didn't depend so much on email these days, because I love getting letters & packages in the post.  In May, my friend Anna and I traveled to Sardinia for a weekend away.  Each mailbox in Sardinia was unique; I think if I had one I would mail letters every day.


I'm going to finally organize my address book with real addresses.  
Friends and family, send me your post address and I promise to send you a postcard from my next trip! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Julia always says I'm nuts for going out to lunch and dinner by myself, but I love it.  I find it relaxing and I think you can appreciate the taste of the food much more when you're alone; there are far less distractions.

So today I took myself on a date to one of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona, Mayura Lounge.  Mayura is an Indian restaurant with a great tasting menu at lunchtime.  I spent QT with my Advanced Spanish Grammar workbook until my lunch came.  Then I had this:

Chicken, Lentils, Potatoes, Basmati Rice, Samosa and Naan
Not only is the food great here, but the atmosphere as well.  The restaurant is full of bright colored pillows and about half of the seating is on couches.  At night, the restaurant becomes uber romantic with all the dim lights, candles and the waterfall that runs through a long table in the center of the room.


One of my favorite things on the menu is the Pappad appetizer, which is "crackers" made from lentils, and 3 unique dipping sauces - I still don't know what they're made from.  If you are a carnivore, try the Tandoori Sea & Mountain tasting menu - just don't make the mistake I did and order this the night before your first 10k.

WARNING: Beware of the green picante hot sauce.  
I nearly lost all my tastebuds with 1/2 a teaspoon. 

Blending In, Sticking Out

The nice thing about having olive skin and living in southern Europe is that everyone always thinks I'm from the place that I'm physically standing in.  Yesterday in Tossa De Mar, the man behind the cash register spoke to me in Catalan, and I paid for my ice cream saying 'Merci' - he'll never know that I only speak about 10 words of his language.  In Spain, Italy and Greece I blend in quite well, usually until I open my mouth.

One nationality of people that I can now spot anywhere is Dominican, and Dominicans are everywhere (just like the Greeks).  When I arrived in Bilbao last week, I missed the bus {by a split second} to the city center and had to wait 19 minutes until the next one.

The next to arrive at the bus stop were 3 females.  They came up to me and asked, "Is this the bus that goes to the center?  Do you know how much it costs?" 

I knew instantly that they were Dominican, and I asked (in the Latin American 'ustedes' form - A would be proud) if they were from the DR.  As soon as I said I was moving there next month I knew that they would chat away for the next 19 minutes and then some.

Great, I hate small talk. 

It wasn't so painful after all.  They were such warm and friendly women and gave me tips on the DR, with all of the typical warnings:


Yippee, can't wait.  Of all these things to think about before moving, what I think about a lot is how I can't fake being Dominican, the way I fake it over on this side of the world..  I have a feeling I'll be an obvious gringa.  Is this weird?  I'm going to be like the blonde hair, blue eyed Swedes I see on the metro when I wonder why they're here.  I know different isn't bad, but at the same time I don't want to stick out like a sore thumb.  


I might as well get used to it and embrace being different.  I will, however, begin working on my Spain-ish lisp..  :D

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tossa De Mar

This morning I spontaneously decided to go to Tossa De Mar.  Before today, all I knew was that it was a beach town, and after my trip to Cadaques, I trusted that any Costa Brava beach would do.  I had no idea what to expect. 

An hour and a half later I arrived at the beach, and..



Little did I know that this Costa Brava gem would have history and that hiking would be involved.  Of course I wanted to get the best views of the village, and so I hiked up the Vila Vella.  In my havaianas.

Vila Vella
Tossa De Mar has the only medieval village on the Catalan coast  that is still standing today [thank you tourist boards].  The steep, cobblestone streets were definitely worth the climb, because they led me to discover this:

I spent the afternoon at this quiet beach, and it had the clearest Mediterranean Sea water I've seen in a long time.  Today was the first day this year that I braved the cold water and actually swam in the Mediterranean {I had to pee}.  The swim was the perfect way to end the afternoon. 

Tossa de Mar is a great day trip from Barcelona.  The separate beaches on the outskirts have better sand and less people.  If you have small children, the beach on the north end has shallow water: think toddler pool water.

Tossa De Mar is a must see while in the Costa Brava, and don't forget to try patatas bravas if you like potatoes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

La Xampañeria

I only have 2 weeks left in Barcelona and so I've been feeling a wee bit sentimental.  Looking back through pictures of the last 2 years, I realize how many memories I have at La Xampa.  I will especially never forget the time my friends and I went for a late cava lunch right before giving a class presentation - it definitely helped calm the nerves.

Fall 2009
Before Class - Not such a good idea
Summer 2010
This place is a dive.  There are huge legs of jamon hanging on hooks from the ceiling (I hear they fall from time to time) and as for the trash, you throw it on the floor.

The menu is in Catalan, but the options are pretty standard: bratwurst, chicken, sausage, burgers, manchego cheese..  You are allowed to buy one delicious, ice cold bottle of cava per every 2 food items (a burger and plate of cheese would be enough).  A bottle of cava is around 4.  You can buy bottles [I prefer cases] in the little store at the back for half of the price.  It sounds too cheap to be delicious, but this cava is the best I've ever had.  The Rosat cava is my favorite - its a bit sweet.

The place is always packed, and they stop serving bottles at 5 PM, so make sure you plan your visit during an off-time or be prepared to fight your way to the front for your order to be taken.  Also, the cava goes down very fast.  Don't plan on doing much after lunch.

What To Order:
Eat: Ternera con Queso, Pollo con Pimiento ("healthier" option)
Drink: Cava Rosado

Don't forget: order PINK cava!

The Pink Peony

One of the things I always miss most about America is the abundance of cheap nail salons.  A pedicure at $25 is definitely an affordable indulgence.  The first time I went for a pedicure in my neighborhood here, the lady sat me down in a La-Z-Boy recliner from 1990, handed me a smelly pillow, and brought out a wooden bucket lined with a black garbage bag filled with water.  No joke.  This wasn't the only time I had a pedicure in a bucket in Barcelona.  It continued to happen until the day God answered our prayers: Mia and I discovered The Pink Peony on Passeo de Gracia (the Champs Elysees of Barcelona).

The Pink Peony is in a beautiful remodeled apartment building with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the city's most centric street.  The staff speaks English incase you don't know español, and the salon uses quality products like Dr. Hauschka.  You can choose between Essie and OPI nail polish and they are always bringing in the newest color collections.

On Sunday I chose Pretty Edgy for my nails and I'm not sure how I feel about that decision.  Boyfriend made it clear over Skype that he's not really a fan, either. But my nails still look lovely. 

If you are getting your nails done in Barcelona, DO NOT TRUST ANYONE.  
Go here or get the wooden bucket treatment. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lolita Bakery

On Sunday morning Jessica and I went on a beach run.  It only lasted 25 minutes.  It was probably not the best time to run, since all we could think about was the banana cake we were about to devour upon finishing.

Luckily for us, we live close to Lolita bakery, and even luckier..
Definitely a treat in a city where everything shuts down on the day of rest.

Now some of you may disagree, but I'm just going to say it:
Spain SUCKS at making baked items visually aesthetic
And for this reason alone, Lolita's deserves a diamond metal.

{sorry for the glare}
The vintage inspired neighborhood shop sells an assortment of cupcakes, cakes, cookies and a few pastries.  The cupcakes are prettier than they are tasty, but the cakes are delicious and moist.  They even have red velvet, which is almost unheard of in Barcelona.

Lolita's just opened a second location in Eixample, right next to Gaudi's La Pedrera.  The new location is much bigger and offers more variety, but you have to take your order to go.

Order the banana cake.  Jessica agrees. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Hi.  This is awkward.

I have no idea where this blog is heading, but I've decided to start it to document some of my favorite places/foods/experiences, and to share some of these memories with you all. I don't know if I'll be blogging on a normal basis, or if I'll get sick of it by Wednesday of next week, but it never hurts to try something new.  So here it goes.