Sunday, March 31, 2013

Campo dei Fiori


This will be the first of several posts on Rome, because trying to fit everything into one was overwhelming. So I'm starting with one of my favorite spots, the outdoor market in Campo dei Fiori, because as you all know, I'm a sucker for food. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Friday, March 29, 2013

let's go to the mall!

It's Holy Week here in Spain (fine, it's Holy Week everywhere), which means I'm out of school for an astounding total of eleven days. As most of my friends are traveling to glamorous locales, like Edinburgh or Porto or Madrid or Seville or Ireland or NYC or anywhere in the world except for Lugo, it's been a struggle to find ways to occupy myself.

Especially since--wait for it, wait for it--it's rained every single day.

So two of my friends and I decided we would make an expedition to Lugo's mall, because it's dry, warm, and most importantly: has a McDonald's.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of the golden arches, or any other kind of fast food. It's poor quality, it's unhealthy, it promotes a mode of eating that is awful for the environment and the living creatures in it...I could go on.

However, I believe that at some point in every expat American's life, the urge for a Big Mac dripping grease, pickles, wilted lettuce, and mayo (I don't even like mayo!) will become too strong to resist. So we stopped resisting.

go America!
Other highlights of the day:
1. When we all got a little agoraphobic in the WalMart equivalent, Eroski (Spanish malls have these). How on earth am I going to re-acclimate to life in America, if even walking past a store that sells groceries and books and t-shirts and bicycles and lawn chairs makes me all freaked-out and uncomfortable?

2. I've been watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother recently, so I will leave you with this timeless classic, which I sang all day*:

*Note: highlight for me, probably a lowlight for my long-suffering friends.

Friday, March 22, 2013

a wine festival

A few weekends ago, two friends and I made an expedition to Chantada, a nearby pueblo, for the first wine festival on the Galician calendar. Because wine, duh.

Since we were beholden to the bus schedule, we had to get there pretty early in the day, around 10:30. We found the festival tent, and then settled into a nearby cafe for a coffee, but were quickly lured back out by the sound of wailing bagpipes.

Wait, you say. Bagpipes? In Spain?

Due to its Celtic heritage, traditional Galician music relies heavily on the bagpipe, or gaita. You can see a performance by Ourense's Royal Bagpipe Orchestra to get a sense of what it sounds like here. (Bonuses: playing on the Great Wall and in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade.) Obviously, the group playing the Wine Festival of Chantada was not quite on that level, but it was awesome nonetheless, especially for gaita junkies like my friend K. and I.

By the time the bagpipe concert was over, it was time to start tasting some wine (so it was maybe three minutes past noon). Chantada is in the middle of Galicia's best-known wine region, the Ribeira Sacra, so all of the vineyards were local. There were around 20 (no mom, we did not taste wine from every single one!), representing everything from large, industrial operations to mom-pop-and-grandpa bodegas. Each one was set up in a stand shaped like a wine barrel--nice touch, Chantada.

wine barrel pic stolen from my friend K.
look how happy we are!
I'm glad we went early, because even though it meant we started drinking around noon, there wasn't a huge crush of people there. We got the chance to talk to some of the vineyards' representatives, which was awesome (even if they only spoke Galician, like the lady pictured above--but that's okay, 'cause she made the best cured sausage I have ever put into my mouth). We're even planning to visit a bodega or two after K. and A. get back from their Holy Week travels--hooray!

By two, we were ready for a break from wine-tasting, so we settled down to a lunch of octopus, bread, apple pie that K. had brought from Lugo, and (of course) wine. I'm really going to miss eating octopus on the regular when I get back to America. Probably not as much as I miss Indian and Thai food in Spain, but I'll still miss it.

After another round or two (or three or four) of wine, it was time to head back to the bus. It had been pouring rain all day, but magically stopped just before we had to leave the relative safety of the wine tent. So we took a more circuitous route through Chantada's old city, which was absolutely beautiful, and along the river.

And Chantada was only the kick-off to the wine festival season! There's another one coming up weekend after next in the pueblo of Quiroga. I'm counting down the days...

Bonus: Check out these guys, who have forgotten more about going to wine festivals than I will ever know. Yes, they did bring a private cart stocked with a leg of ham, sausages and chorizo, cheese, and bread, with them.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

well...'s official. After all of the angst and stress (to say nothing of the novel-length post) I will not, in the end, be anywhere in Spain next year.

Instead, I will be back here.

Today, I accepted a place in one of Mr. Jefferson's graduate schools, and in a few months I will begin pursuit of a master's in higher education.

It is, honestly, a weird feeling. Grad school, instead of another year frolicking around Spain, is the right decision for the place I am in my life. I'm excited about my program and the opportunities it will bring me; and the thought of moving back to my city, a place that I sincerely, deeply love, fills me with joy. I want to be close to my old friends, my family, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Chris Greene Lake, the Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Riverview Park, Bodo's Bagels, the Ragged Mountain Running Store, Satan's Pony Amber Ale, brunch at the Bluegrass Grill, cocktails on the Downtown Mall, the view from Carter Mountain. Even summer humidity that you can take a bite out of, and the book-tasting air of Alderman Library.

At the same time, I'm sad to give up that second year in Spain. There are a lot of things that I'll have to put off, like hiking the Camino de Santiago, and spending the summer in Italy remembering my favorite language. I won't be able to pop back over to Lugo to visit my friends, or have mushrooms in cream sauce at Cinco Vigas. I am unlikely to ever live in Spain again--I could see myself moving back to Europe, but probably not here--and it's kind of hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this period of my life has such a definite end date now.

But it does, and I'm ready.