Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amsterdam: Weekend in Holland

For who knows how long I've wanted to see Amsterdam.  Ryanair ticket, a little bit of research, and whallah- I'm there.  This is Amsterdam Central, the train station and main hub for all of the trams. 

Went high class this trip and stayed in a hotel: Best Western. Woot woot.

This is the hotel neighborhood, just on the outskirts of town.
Endless beautiful neighborhoods bordered by canals. "Comfy, cozy."

Something I loved about this city: its international-ness . . . Which means good food from all sorts of everywhere.  Enjoyed yummy Italian, Chinese, plenty of Dutch sweets, and Mexican as well.  I've been missing my guacamole fix.

Van Gogh Museum.  Lots of explanation for each painting.  Also showed many examples of Van Gogh's inspirations.  Poor guy, committing suicide and all.  If only he knew how many admirers he'd have one day . . .

I made a few friends at the museum.  We explored the city for a bit together.

Another reason to love Amsterdam: Bikes.


Seeing the Anne Frank House. Something that I never imagined I would have the opportunity to do.  This was amazing.  Saw the whole building from top to bottom including the secret annex, the movable bookshelf, and several of the Frank family's paraphernalia, including Anne's diary.  I loved how the tour ended with a message of hope and encouragement in ending discrimination. The experience was very moving and was one of my favorite things I saw in the city.
[Just realizing how strange/insensitive it was of me to smile in this photo.  Sorry, Anne.] 

Another Amsterdam note: it was fuhhhhreeezing!  So cold that the outdoors were only so tolerable.  Shopping is fun. Shopping is indoors.  And Amsterdam's  new H&M just opened, which is now Europe's largest H&M.
I took a visit.

Red light district.  One of my less favorite things about Amsterdam.  Legal prostitution and relentless
 amounts of marijuana. Had a few friends tell me that I had to at least walk around to check the
area out and see what the district was like.  My advice: the opposite.  FILTH.

Amsterdam at night. On the second day it snowed, and the whole town was completely decked in Christmas lights.
Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Dessert tour item number 319.  "Oliebollen."

Translated directly as "oil ball".  Basically scones, but better.  With raisins, apples, whatever,
 all deep friend and dipped in powdered sugar.  Mmmmm.

Thanks to the young lad from California, who risked losing his fingers to take this photo for me.

The floating flower market.  They love their flowers here, especially tulips.
These bulbs are MUCH larger than they look.  We're talking softball size.

In front of the Rijksmuseum.

And lucky me that Holland is famous for its cheese.  :)  Lots of cheese tasting. Snagged a block of gouda for mother.
And now it sits on my book shelf. Just waiting for consumption day . . . 

The architecture in Amsterdam- unique, beautiful, appropriate.

Absolutely loved this trip.  The people I met were incredibly friendly, could have definitely spent more time there,
and didn't want to leave. I am glad, however, to have feeling back in my fingers and toes. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Madrid: Thanksgiving Overseas

Thanksgiving. Similar to every American, I love everything about it: the food, family togetherness, football season, pie night, you name it.  Something I have learned for now the second year in a row: being away from home and family truly makes you thankful for everything you have.  It is a unique and refining experience.

Thanksgiving last year:

Changzhou, China.  Just-add-water corn, potatoes, and stuffing.  Looks disgusting.  And quite frankly it was.  But in that moment it was delicious. Much better than the *ahem* food we were eating in the school cafeteria everyday . . . 

Seaweed and gelatin tofu-ness.  Don't get me wrong- I love tofu.  
But this and the chicken feet were a little much.
Completely worth every bad meal though to be able to get to know these stinkers:

Love them. Miss them.

Thanksgiving this year:

Went to the downtown market and did the best I could at pulling together a traditional home-made Thanksgiving meal.  [Boo for no cranberries, supermercado.]  From bottom-left going clockwise: mashed potatoes, apple pie, sweet potatoes, oven-roasted chicken (wasn't quite ready to attempt the turkey by myself), and stuffing.  Everything off of Mama's blog- isn't the world wide web something special?  Spent a few hours with Alex (The live-in maid, who refused to have her photo taken.) trying to make everything delicious and perfect.  Of course, I was looking forward to a great meal, but what I really wanted was for the Fernandez family to have an ideal taste of what a true Thanksgiving is.  

Here we are.  The whole family (with Christina recently returned from a foreign exchange in Ohio). They asked me to show them a traditional Thanksgiving like I would have in the Foster home. This was something new for me, and a great opportunity.  We prayed, we each shared what we were thankful for, and we ate.  A lot.  To my utmost happiness and relief, they loved the food.  It was their first time for yams and stuffing.  The stuffing was an absolute hit!  Which has always been my personal favorite as well.  The family continued to thank me for sharing this custom with them and told me it would be a family memory they would have forever. 

And one last thing . . . 
Birthday girl this year (today):

Mother. Missing her delicious and incredible Thanksgiving feast.  Missing her pies.  Missing her stories, her humor, her funny whistling noise she makes.  Missing my travel buddy and best friend.  Another obvious reason to be thankful.  

*  *  *

All in all:
I am thankful, I am happy, and life is good.
Happy Thanksgiving.
With love and besos from Madrid.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Madrid: Reina Sofia Museum

It was about time to visit another incredible museum within
Madrid: Reina Sofia.  The collection was donated less than
twenty years ago, mainly comprised of modern art. It was
raining during this particular day, so good timing I'd say.

Lots of "this".
"Hey look, I'm Picasso."

I loved watching these two men argue their interpretations.

Several photos from the mid 20th century.  This was my favorite
find of the night: "Woman and Children" by Walter Rosenblum. 1946.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Madrid: Harry Potter ya las Reliquias de la Muerte

Saw it. With host family. In Spanish (they change the
 audio over here).  Loved it. Understood most of it.
Started reading (7th book) the next morning. 
Good times Madrid.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Madrid: Autumn Playlist

You know when you listen to a song so many times that it would be easy to replay the whole thing in your mind?  But instead you listen to it over and over.  Just for personal satisfaction because the song is that good.  Most days I use mass transit for almost two hours (bus, metro, metro, bus).  Thus I have had ample amounts of time to pick apart the iPod. Plenty of time to find new favorites and appreciate old ones as well.

Autumn Playlist:

mgmt- pieces of what
rjd2- ghostwriter (they are coming to SLC soon. woot woot.)
the black keys- everlasting light
miniature tigers- dino damage (my music palette tells me to hate this song.  but i love it)
feist- mushaboom (basically every day)
queen- let me live
michael buble- haven't met you yet (my itunes count on this is 1978 plays. this cannot be possible.)
sia- you have been loved
enya- may it be (yes i love enya and yes i love LOTR. judge me.)
john mayer- 3x5
band of horses- for annabelle
the beatles- girl (and how is it that i have just discovered this gem?)
jack johnson- turn your love
elton john- your song
greg laswell- girls just want to have fun (one of my favorite covers ever.)
norah jones- december
katie herzig & matthew perryman jones- where the road meets the sun
priscilla ahn- rain
ben folds- losing lisa
adele- daydreams

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Barcelona: Take Two

Back to beautiful Barcelona.  Elyse and I found roundtrip tickets via Ryanair
for only 20 Euros.  Gotta love cheap European travel.  

Meet Elyse.  By coincidence we live directly above/below each other in the
same apartment complex.  Yes she is great and YES she is 6' 2".  It's a beautiful
thing, being able to look someone eye to eye.

Started off our trip by visiting the Picasso Museum.  Interesting to see the
transition of style from his earlier days to what most recognize as "Picasso".

Bed thirty one.  My place of rest and relaxation for our three night stay.

Visited the Park Guell.  Another famous Gaudi work.

The park was actually situated on a hill, giving us an incredible view of
Barcelona from a few different areas.  The weather this weekend: perfect.

The leaves here (in Spain) have just started to change.  Found this beautiful
fence on our walk beside the Guell Park.

And more finds of fun colors here and there.

Back to La Rambla.  Possibly my favorite street in Spain.  The towering
trees on either side, shops and tapas bars everywhere, leads directly to the
coast.  It's basically a great place to find yourself while in Barcelona.

And yes, back again to the Marcat.  Even busier this time with more things
to look at (which ultimately means more reason to empty my wallet).

The natural fruit juices.  Enjoyed a couple of these again.
Strawberry Coconut.  Mmmmmmm.

Egg Lady.  Not looking so happy.

Favorite gelateria/bakery/coffee shop in the area.

Love love their light fixtures.

Dark chocolate ice cream crepe sprinkled with powdered sugar. Yes.

Tomate Melmelada: Tomato Jam.  Delicious on toast.

Was I possibly raised in a family where soccer was not considered a "sport"?
Yes.  Have I ever had a genuine interest in the game or participating? Not really.
Was this one of the best things I've done/witnessed in Spain thus far? Absolutely.

Grabbed some nose-bleed tickets for the Barca vs. Villarreal.  INCREDIBLE.
I don't know a lot about the sport, and I can't say that I could tell you which
"plays" were great and which were horrible.  Still enjoyed it.  Still was in complete
awe at the positions the players would twist their bodies into. They made it look
so easy as they maneuvered the ball at lightening speed between their team mates
and opponents.  Annnd on another positive note, Barca won!  3-1 Final Score.

Before church on Sunday.  Had some time to burn so enjoyed the park nearby.
This precious little guy kept walking up to me.   So friendly.  He is two.
His name is Taja (sp?).  

Dessert tour 2010 item number 248.  Bombon and fruit. 

The tour continues with flower-scooped gelato:
 white-chocolate raspberry and coffee.

Back to Madrid with two long time pals.