Monday, December 15, 2008

When in Spain...

Hey All,

So we've been in Spain for 2 months now.  We've finished the first session of our Spanish class (which has really helped).  The city is all decked out for the holidays...lights are strung across many of the streets, buildings are lit up,  and every once and again you see rotating christmas trees in apartment windows which is all very pretty at snow though.  It gets into the mid 40's at night, but that's about as low as it goes here.  

As far as what's new...
-Jeremy and Mark found an office, in a really nice part of the city.  

-We registered with our barrio (neighborhood) (the first step in getting a residency card). 

-We've witnessed quite a few demonstrations in the city center.  The people here are very  on top of  what goes on in the government.  If they disagree with some decision..they gather together and go out to the streets. And we aren't talking just a handful of people, we are talking thousands.  And it's quite a diverse group...students, mothers, older folks, kids.  Though it wreaks havoc on traffic and  disrupts the normal tourist flow, it feels really empowering to it's more than just voting once or twice a year that make people a part of the system  I think the latest controversial issue is the governments desire to privatize the schools and universities here.  

I had my first clothes shopping venture...I'm really liking Zara (a reasonably priced Spanish chain that's a mix between H&M and Banana Republic).  

-We finally got a key to the rooftop terrace.  I'm sure it will be a lot nicer when the weather warms up, but we've been up there a few times to check out the views of the Sagrada Familia.

Rooftop views:

-And we are certainly keeping ourselves entertained by all the restaurants, 
bars, and clubs.  

Lovin' It
1) The bars
 There is such a variety of places to hang out here, and I can't say that I've been to one I didn't like yet.  Some of the more memorable ones:

-El Petit Apolo, the bar with beer taps at each table and lcd screens that keep 
track of each table's consumption (Justin & Kristine, thanks for the pics!) 

-kashbah. A bar by the sea that has a video DJ that cuts up these random clips from Utube or 
such and a music DJ that spins tunes to the clips.

2) the's super fresh.  Everything tastes a little different here, but in a good way.  There aren't a whole lot of processed foods, and they don't put corn syrup in everything.  Baguette-style breads are really popular here.  You can got to just any restaurant, even the little hole in the wall places, and get delicious crusty bread.  I can understand why "pan de tomate" (bread rubbed with tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil) is so popular here.

3) the donor or durum...these are turkish "street food" items.  The durum is kind of like a turkish-style burrito: thinly shaved lamb or chicken, lettuce, red cabbage, some onion, feta, yogurt sauce, with the option of a hot pepper sauce....very tasty.  the donor has basically the same ingredients only it's served in a more bready pita pocket. The veggie versions are also quite tasty.  They are made with falafel instead of meat.  A must-try if you are ever in Barcelona.  

Missin' It...
1) Smoke-free restaurants/bars...I think about half the population smokes here.  If I were a smoker I guess that would be a good thing but I'm not, so I find it really annoying.  It's not so much the smokers, as it is the lack of regulations on smoking indoors.  Nothing like inhaling a cloud of smoke to ruin a perfectly good meal.   Thankfully most restaurants have outside seating.  I can deal with eating in the cold much better than I can deal with eating in smoke. Maybe I should take to the streets in protest :). 

2)  The Rochester wine stores...Though it's really easy to get wine the supermarket, in the many Bodegas (Drink stores), at the 7-11-type places, one thing is for sure all the wines aren't good.  In Rochester there wasn't only a massive selection of wines from really anywhere and everywhere in the world, but they all were tasted before ending up for sale in the store.  It's pretty clear that that isn't the case here.  Some Spanish wines are very good (I'm not hating), but others are definitely not so good.  And it is really hard to find a variety of wines from other countries.

3) soup... Jeremy is a big soup fan, and he has been very dissatisfied with the soups here.  In general, there aren't a whole lot of soups on menus.  If there is a soup offered it is most likely cream of vegetable, which he isn't too crazy about.  Needles to say, he will be getting his fill of soups during our trip to the states.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lovin' it...Missin' it

Just wanted to introduce you to "Lovin' it...Missin' it", our running list of things we are enjoying here in Barcelona and those that we miss from home.  It goes without saying that our family and friends are always on the "Missin' it" side.  

Besides this list providing us with much to blog about, we hope it gives you a peek into everyday life in Barcelona.  

So thus far on the "lovin' it" side we have:  
  1. World news
  2. Coke with sugar
  3. Toilettes
World news...One thing that we've both found since we've been here is that Europe seems to pay a lot more attention to world news than the US.  Maybe things are more boring here...I don't know.  It's been nice to hear about the events in Africa, and Asia... I feel like  you really have to search for these stories in the states.   

It is also fascinating to hear their perspective on the US and It's involvement/or lack thereof in world events.  I know you've heard about it, but people here are especially interested in President-elect Obama.  The cable man came here the other day.  He asked us if we were from the U.S. and then quickly followed up with a fist in the air and an "Obama" was cute.  He was excited about it too.  This was the first time I've been in a different country and I didn't feel the need to apologize after I say I'm from the was a really good feeling.

Coke with sugar...Yes, sugar, not high fructose corn syrup...and  it tastes sooooo much better.   

Toilettes...All the toilettes here have buttons to push after you're the big one for a big the little one for a little flush.  It is so simple, but it must save soooooo much water to just press the small flush button after a pee.  I get a kick out of it, and I'm sure as conservation becomes more of an issue in the US, you'll probably be seeing a lot more of these toilettes popping up.  

And now onto the "Missin' it" list:
  1. Pretzels
  2. Spicy food
  3. Target
Pretzels...They have plenty of chips here, but we have yet to find pretzels.  It's not like pretzels were our favorite snack before, but there is something about knowing that you can't get them that makes me crave them even more.  

Spicy food...I was really surprised, but they just don't have a liking for spicy food here :(.   I'm sure we'll be picking up some red hot and some dried pepper flakes to bring back with us the next time we are in the states.  I will miss the hot peppers though ( so mom and dad, if you are reading this, I hope you still have some in the freezer).

Target...In Barcelona the "one stop shop" does not exist.  You go one place for your food, another for over the counter drugs, another for a cooking pot, another for a door lock, another for CDs...etc.  And unfortunately, in most circumstances these places aren't close to each other, making buying a random list of items quite the ordeal.  It's still really hard to know where to get certain things, but I guess that comes with time.