SOL: Tourist Indulgences, Cooking Like a Spaniard & Self(ie)-Loathing

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Tourist Indulgences

I celebrated my birthday on a Thursday in a low-key fashion, but I was determined to do something to mark the occasion on the weekend. As it was, I found myself getting up at 6AM on Saturday and hitching a ride with my hosts to Barcelona. While they went off to take care of work and exams (i.e. real-life problems) I wandered off on my own to explore the city.

I had two hours to kill before things began to open so I grabbed a tram from the port and made my way towards Plaza Catalunya. After a short walk I found a café appropriately named TapaTapa and downed two coffees while using their WiFi to map out each destination. The last time I was in Barcelona was a year ago and I never made it to the Sagrada Familia – an error I intended to rectify this time around. After a quick 25 minute walk I was stumbling into throngs of tourists and knew I had reached my destination. Construction of the Sagrada Familia began in 1882 and it became Gaudi’s pride and joy in 1883. It’s still heavily under renovation and I found that the scaffolding and cranes subtracted from the overall impression of the cathedral. I wandered around to the opposite side and noticed it was older and had a lot of character, which can be seen in the photo above. Ultimately I’m glad I went to see it and I will revisit it over the course of my stay here to gain further appreciation for its history.

After posting a photo of the cathedral to social media, a friend recommended that I read The Shadow of the Wind, a novel by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón that takes place in Barcelona. I was a bit skeptical but I ended up reading the nearly 500 page tome in a matter of two days. The story is a gripping criminal narrative full of twists; all of which is accomplished while name-dropping plazas and streets within Barcelona. I am more than a little excited to venture back into Barcelona this weekend (an hour away by train) to check out a few of the streets mentioned in the book as well as wander through the Gothic District.

Spanish Cooking Lessons

One of the few sentences I have learned in Spanish is “Soy vegetariana.” In a country full of meat-lovers and greasy carnivorous tapas, finding vegetarian food has presented the occasional challenge. One of my hosts is a food enthusiast and is constantly trying to find bio and organic alternatives for me. As it is, I learned how to cook rice à la València methods this weekend using an oven and soup broth. How it’s done is simple: In a pan, heat soup broth to a low boil and then reduce. In a baking pan, drizzle uncooked rice with olive oil until it is lightly coated and then cover it with the broth in a 2:1 ratio. After that the additions are at the mercy of the chef: I added chopped zucchini, pine nuts and garlic to my first dish and it turned out wonderfully. Everything is put into the oven at about 280 degrees for 25 minutes or until all the broth evaporates. Once it is done remove it from the oven, mix it together, and let it cool.

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I made another dish on my own today and went wild with the seasoning; this batch had brown rice, onion, tomato, zucchini, chili peppers and some curry flavour. I tossed it in the oven and due to the larger batch it took about 50 minutes to cook all the way through. It tastes amazing and now I have a week’s worth of meals ready to go (preparing several meals in advance does not seem to be a popular concept in Europe). Next up for my cooking lessons is the local favourite of paella.

Self(ie)-Loathing

I can confess to occasionally indulging in a few habits that are asinine and downright vain. Before embarking on this trip I was determined to document it more than the last time, so I invested in what has become the bane of my existence – a selfie stick. Now, before you cast judgement (which, by all means, do, I can hardly blame you) before purchasing one of these “monopods” I regarded them with a scoff and barely disguised disgust as well. That said, for a solo-traveler and a narcissistic millennial, it is a technological godsend. Considering I have been cursed with T-Rex arms, the length of the selfie stick alone has come in handy more than once. After slight deliberation (and self-loathing, as mentioned) I purchased THIS brand from Amazon.ca.

It arrived a week before I left, and admittedly, I was smitten with it upon testing it out. It extends up to one metre and it doesn’t require you to connect it via wire or use a remote; all you have to do is link it to your Bluetooth and press the shutter button on the handle. One downside is that it needs to be fully-charged every time you plan on using it but otherwise it’s incredibly convenient and if you don’t mind bemused looks, it will definitely come in handy when you visit national monuments on your own (though several museums and public areas have banned the use of the sticks on the premises).

That said, taking pictures of ourselves was popular long before some jackass decided to coin the term “selfie,” thus condemning the action to pop-culture phenomenon hell. If you need to find me this weekend I will be the obnoxious tourist reeking of North American influence, brandishing my selfie-stick with an inane mixture of loathing and pride.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Champagne Problems

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Four days of relentlessly pounding pavement in Amsterdam have left me absolutely knackered. I’m fairly certain my feet have eroded and I’m hobbling on stumps at this point. My whirlwind tour was 110% worth it and my only regret is that I can’t spend more time here. I am already anticipating my future stays in this captivating city. Dank je wel, Holland!

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Considering I decided to be carefree and careless during my tourist session this is my dinner – thrice times super juice and green tea. I wanted to indulge in everything Amsterdam has to offer. Life is too short to not sample the coffee, stroopwafel and poffertjes! I regret nothing.

I have another hellish trip back to Paris on the night bus, arriving around 7AM tomorrow and then it is my LAST DAY IN EUROPE. The past few months have flown by; it feels like it was just yesterday I was planning this adventure as a way to pass time at work.

I want to thank everyone who has followed my posts thus far and to my friends and family who have supported me and kept in touch throughout my journey! I am so absolutely blessed to have such amazing people in my life.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Travel Updates

“I Don’t Speak Freaky-Deaky Dutch.”

Unexpected travel surprise; upon accepting placement at a campsite in the south of France I assumed I would be forced to flex my française chops all the time. Erroneous on all counts! Turns out not only is there a massive influx of Dutch and English expats to the southern regions of France it’s also a popular vacation destination. As it is I have been hearing more Dutch than I ever expected to hear in my life over the past six weeks of high season. With my blonde hair and fair skin they automatically assume I am of Dutch descent which leaves me nodding frantically as they ramble on in their Netherlands tongue. Sadly, I have picked up zero Dutch language skills while here.

Packing Woes

A month or so before I embarked on this trip I posted a brief description of what I’d packed. I’ve since reread said post, and I would like to make one addendum: I AM A BONAFIDE IDIOT. All the items I painstakingly purchased and packed have been collecting dust in my suitcase. I’ve been wearing the same pair of flip-flips to work on the pool every morning; I hit up a few Vide Greniers (basically an open-air thrift store that circulates from village to village each weekend AKA my utopia) and grabbed tees and hippie digs for 50 centimes each. They have been my lifesavers while coping with the intense humidity of the region AND they carry the added bonus of being tossed without remorse at the end of my trip. I could have easily, and I cannot stress this enough, cut out at least half of what I brought with me, but if I’m being brutally honest with myself 3/4 of my precious packing could have been left behind. This travel rookie is slowly learning the ropes. When travel blogs tell you, “Take whatever you’ve packed and remove half,” they are not messing around. Oh, how the ignorant flounder.

Reaffirming My Faith in the Kindness of Strangers

I mentioned earlier that a lot of people voiced their concerns about me partaking on this long trip by myself. Admittedly I worried I was going to have a complete mental breakdown after months of solitude, but it never happened. By traveling alone, especially with the Workaway positions I have taken, you are welcomed into people’s homes and lives with open arms. I am forever in awe of the acceptance I have received while on this trip. It is a sweet reminder that beautiful souls reside all over the world. We are conditioned to live in a state of perpetual fear (have you seen the news lately?) but when you step outside your comfort zone and experience the world you realize how many truly spectacular people are on this planet. The people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my trip have been so accommodating and gracious I cannot believe my good luck. I have had such an amazing first experience with Workaway I am already planning out another adventure!

In a few days time, I will leave my hosts in the Lot Valley and spent a few days visiting family near Dijon. Afterwards, I cap off my trip with a few foolish days in Amsterdam and then before I know it, I will be back on home turf.

Safe travels.

Namaste,
AS