Saturday, October 30, 2010

Barcelona: Expectations Exceeded

The second largest city in Spain, beach town, historic, different.
Headed up north with Mama to Barcelona for a day and a half.
What once was a questionable destination for our trip has now become
a definite favorite.  Barcelona is extremely modern, lively, and fresh.
Basically, a day was not enough.

Boqueria Market off La Rambla.  Right in the heart of Barcelona.
We tried the coconut-mango smoothie.  Mmm.

Cathedral of Barcelona.  Incredible.

The Cloisters.  Geese, fountains, the works.

Visiting the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.
One of the most elaborate and interesting cathedrals I've seen.
Designed by Antonio Gaudy.  Construction staff busy at work
due to an expected visit from the Papel on the 7th of November.

Mother, after a happy visit to Guady's toilet.

We loved our hotel: Praktik Rambla.
Very clean, very modern, very up to Mother's standard.

Shout out to my peeps back in the U.S. of A.

Peace, Love, Whatnots,
Brooke Shoko

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Madrid: Best Friend Stops By

So . . . Let's start out with the fact that I have been thrilled for weeks due to an expected visit from a certain someone.  Mama, Mother, Little Asia, Sayud has come to town.  Happily woke up early to meet her at the Barajas, Madrid airport.  Below shows some documentation/proof/memorabilia of our three days in Madrid together.

In Madrid's most beautiful square: Plaza Mayor.

Enjoying Mercado de San Miguel yet again.
Mother got a kick out of the Jamon scene.  As do most people.
And if you're wondering, yes- the meat is sliced from as-pictured-above,
placed on bread, and eaten as a sandwich.  Tasty.  Different.  So Madrid.

Enjoying the gorgeous design found inside the Almudena Cathedral.
Beautiful stained glass and paintings.  

We loved the entrance doors.

Here's mama- showing off all of her secret pockets and gadgets.
Take that, pickpockets.

Touring the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
If you haven't heard, there's an event called the Fifa World Cup.
And Spain just happened to win this year.  Woot woot.

GARGANTUAN.  Seats 80,000 peeps.
Has seated up to 100,000.

Enjoying the in-stadium museum and trophy rooms.

The Press Room.  Great photo opps.

And this is me, shooting for who knows what.
Reciting "fun facts" on the strength of a rope.

Palacio Real (Royal Palace).  Gorgeous gorgeous.
Probably one of the most ornate palaces I have ever seen.  Loved this tour.

Jet-lagged mama, busy street, one happy gringa.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Madrid: Enjoying the Passing of Time

Today marks one month for my arrival in
Madrid.  Let's be honest here:
That was fast.  
Was just looking back on some photos
and remembering what a pain in the
you-know it was to pack, get everything
ready, etc.  Had one week at home to sort
out things from end of the summer and fit
all necessary paraphernalia for the next 3
months into two suitcases and one carry-on.
As you can see in this photograph, my room
was an ABSOLUTE disaster.

Laur visited around 10 p.m. and then at
about 1:30 a.m. to say a final goodbye.
(Isn't she gorgeous??)
At that point, I don't think I was even
half-way packed.  By almost 4 a.m. I
managed to get most everything together
and crash for a couple of hours.  Not to
worry- 17 hours of air travel (and good
friend Ambien) were enough to rejuvenate
temporarily.  Still, however, suffered from the
usual dosage of jet lag.  Woke up after my
first night's sleep in Madrid at 3 p.m. the
next day.  Looked at my clock and didn't
even accept its time as a fact.  "Hmmmm
looks like I didn't set my clock correctly."
Wrong.  Looks like you took the longest
slumber of your life: a mere 16 hours.

The to-do list I assembled the day before my
departure.  Could you say I procrastinate?  Yes.
Did I manage to check everything on this list?
Yes.  Would that have been remotely possible
without my mother?  Not even.

Spain thus far has been an incredible experience.

My life here is extremely easy going.  I am enjoying
catching up on all of the little things I neglect
at home.  I am enjoying sightseeing, learning Spanish,
spending time with the Fernandez family, discovering
new parts of Madrid, traveling on weekends, and
most importantly learning to appreciate what
I have.  There is much to be thankful for.  
Loves from Madrid, Brooke Shoko

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Madrid: Mercado De San Miguel

Welcome to my new favorite find in Madrid:
Mercado De San Miguel
Words cannot express how overjoyed I was to come in contact
with this glorious market in downtown Madrid.
Best of the best- pastries, fruit, seafood, sushi, flowers, jamon, chips,
cheese, drinks, gifts, you name it.

Just look at everyone.  Happily emptying their wallets.

Indulged yesterday with chocolate churros.
Polar opposite compared to your half-time treat at the stadium.
Soft and homemade with thick chocolate dipping sauce.
Heavy yet oh-so-delicious.

Oil of olives.  Can't get enough.

Today's lunch: a few of these little tasties.
1- Goat cheese with apple.
2- Roast beef and caramelized onions.
3- Spanish omlete, or "tortilla".

And what would a meal be without dessert?
Big orange pastry- Meh.
Chocolate truffle?  Delicious. Rich. Strong.
Also enjoyed the shortbread bites.

Senorita Sanchez dishing out some croquetas.
Popular Spanish item.
(Croquetas: "fried food roll" with potatoes, meat, or vegetables.)

Jamon jamon!  Really deserves its own post.  Due to the fact that
Spaniards live for Jamon.

Special friend slash best friend may or may not be coming into town
sooner than later.  Basically stoked to take him/her here. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Madrid: Siesta


midday or afternoon rest or nap, esp. as taken in Spain and Latin America.

Gringa is beginning to LOVE Siesta.
Three hour siestas . . . 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oporto: Four Days Next Door (Portugal)

Host family leaves for four days on vacation.  Thus, language assistant
(that's me) leaves on four day vacation as well.  Point of interest: Portugal.
Oporto.  A beautiful city about three hours north of Lisbon.

Saw most cathedrals, churches, bell towers, etc.
Loved the architecture and tile work throughout the vicinity.

Annnd.  Roosters/birds.  They're obsessed.
A sweet old man told me the legend.
I, unfortunately, could only make out a few
of his words through his thick, Portuguese accent:
"Men hate one Spanish man, people hang man,
man say rooster sing, rooster sing three time,
now is legend, all Portugal.  Very, very famous."

Visited the Serralves Contemporary Art 'Museu', 'Biblioteca',
and 'Parque'.  "Truck Alphabet" in the Biblioteca.

Grazia Toderi exhibition.
Cityscapes- video, animation, and photography.
Something new (for me), definitely.

" . . . Artists are prisoners of trends."
Much truth in the statement.

Pretty flowers of all types throughout the parque.

Perfect day- had been raining all week.
Lush, tranquil, beautiful.

This may or may not be the best hostel I've ever stayed in.
Best in that it was clean- the beds, decor, and equipment
also on the newer side.  Minus the fact that it smelled of body
odor off and on, this pick was great.

Peeps at the gelato place, Cremosi.
We are all now the best of friends.
Every day, every day.

Pastries. Pastries. Pastries.

The BEST PASTRY I've had thus far in Europe.

Delicious hot, cold, or at room temperature.
Perfect with a pinch of cinnamon.
Comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes with apples.
A mouth-watering egg custard baked in pastry crust.
Had at least two every day.
"Don't mind if I do."

Lots of markets, little shops, cafes.

Also stumbled upon the most ornate and gorgeous
bookstore I have ever stepped foot in.
Lello Bookshop.
(Sorry B&N... Still love you though.)

End result after having a complete stranger take
a snapshot with the "bridge and city" in the background.
Oh wait, nowhere to be found. Pity.

Casa da Musica.
Oporto's "architectural statement".

Took an evening to watch the Solistas da Sinfonica.
Violin, Viola, and Cello.
I'm a huge sucker for anything that involves the Cello.
This, was terrific.  Performed works by Mozart and Korngold
(first time hearing of him- nice name though right?).

Girl from the mountains appreciates a good seafood meal.
Fried prawns.  Yumma.

Obrigada, Oporto.
Até depois.