Monday, November 28, 2011

Una Mezcla de Todo

Where on earth to start with this post?? So much has happened in between Thursday and now that it’ll be difficult to condense it all. Hence, the title of this post which means “a mix of everything”. Okay, Thanksgiving. After a little Ribafrecha drama on Thursday, I was running behind on making my stuffing! My roommates and I crowded into our little kitchen practically bumping into each other trying to prepare our own dishes. We got so scared because during the middle of our cooking chaos the power went out. We had no idea what to do because we didn’t know where the circuit breaker was located. I had to call Catalina to ask for her help and she told me it was next to the door inside the apartment. The only thing next to the door was a small electricity box and no circuit breakers. Turns out it was behind a painting next to the door. Immediately after switching it back on, we returned to cooking. About an hour later, the power went out again. It certainly was an interesting preparation process. During the cooking process my family called me on my Spanish cell and it was great to talk to them!! Finally, we were finished with everything. The dishes we had in total were: mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing and chicken (because we couldn’t find a turkey in time).  Our guests were: Judith, a woman from our intercambio who is super sweet, her daughter Vega, our very good friend Adrian (he basically helps us out with everything we just cannot do and therefore is our godsend) and his brother Daniel. I wasn’t sure how the stuffing turned out, I used my mom’s recipe which to be honest is the most incredible stuffing recipe on this planet. Daniel erased my doubts because after tasting it he looked at me and said: WILL YOU MARRY ME???? Yep, it’s that good. Something I would change if I attempt to cook it again: use less bread; it kind of dominated the dish. Overall, despite blowing the fuse twice, we had a magnificent feast.

Friday, I went to San Roman, the school I help out at once a month. It is so tiny, but it is a gorgeous town. This time I was prepared and brought my camera. Last time, Javier told me the next time I came to San Roman we would all go on a walk through the town so I could see it all. At recess, the kids were playing a game and asked me if I knew it. I said I had never heard of the title, but that we had an identical game called, “Red Light, Green Light”.  BLAST FROM THE PAST. I think the last time I played that game was when I was in elementary school at Shaker Road. I didn’t need to teach them the entire game, just how to say the words differently. They loved it! We played for about 15 minutes, Javier included! Then, afterwards we all went on a walk through the town. I took so many pictures. I can’t describe how incredibly beautiful this town is. I wish I could see it more than once a month, especially because the kids are SO adorable. I’m disappointed because the next scheduled day at San Roman is the 23rd of December and I’ll be on a plane to the U.S.

Saturday during the day we went to Judith’s house to make a Spanish pastry called Rosquillas. They are basically doughnuts, but they have a lemony flavor to them. Vega dunked her hands in the bag of flour and put it on the dough. She was hilarious. It was a group effort, but they turned out great. One was in the shape of a heart. However, we had to leave directly after because we decided to take a mini-trip to San Sebastian!

San Sebastian is about two hours north of us in the Basque Country. Jessie, her friend Jamie who is visiting from the U.S., Shana and I stayed overnight in San Sebastian. It is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. In the Basque Country, they have their own language that is not even the slightest bit close to Spanish or any other language on the planet to be honest. I could see a sign that means "watch out for the falling rocks" and think, "hey let's take this shortcut, this looks good". I have no idea what any of it means. The great thing was that my roommate Shana knows the man that works in a hostel in San Sebastian. It was ranked as one of the best hostels in San Sebastian, number two I believe. It was so small and quaint! Matt the hostel employee welcomed us and showed us where we’d be staying. He’s an Aussie. While we were there we met a bunch of American and British runners who were running in a marathon the next day. We also met a girl from New Zealand who is traveling the world; mainly for surfing purposes and San Sebastian has a great surfing area. The proprietor, Rafael gave us fresh oranges his mother-in-law had picked that morning. Basically, we really lucked out. We went out that night with Matt and Niccola, the girl from New Zealand. Matt showed us all the good places. It was a lot of fun. The next morning, we began to tour the city. Matt showed us a place near the hostel that serves great tortilla con patatas and it really was delicious! Matt was more or less our tour guide for the morning/early-afternoon. We met up with Melissa, Adrian and two of his friends around 1ish. They were hungry and wanted some tapas. Matt showed us a great area and the tapas were AMAZING!!!! Believe it or not, there was a tapa made with KANGAROO meat. Shana ordered the tapa and we all tried it. I was extremely nervous…but it wasn’t bad and now I can say I’ve tried kangaroo. After, we meandered through the city, went into a few stores and I bought two scarves, shocker. I just couldn’t resist. In my defense, I WASN’T THE ONLY ONE! We had an incredible day and finished it with more food.

Shana, Jamie, Jessie and I had to catch a bus that evening to head back to Logroño, so we headed back to the hostel to say goodbye to Matt. He joked saying, maybe if you miss your bus you’ll come back to stay another night! Of course we laughed thinking it was a joke…however, it almost became a reality. We had underestimated the time it took to walk to the bus station and full out sprinted for 10 straight minutes. We made it onto the bus barely breathing. Despite the madness, this weekend was fantastic in every sense of the word and I know we plan on visiting San Sebastian again in the future. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Full of Bologna!

I’m hoping this post’s title is witty enough to keep everyone’s attention…or is it not very original? Oh well, here goes. I went to visit my lovely friends Allie and Francesca Bruzzese in BOLOGNA, ITALY. Immediately upon arrival in Bologna, I went to Allie and Francesca’s friend Luca’s apartment. We were having an early Thanksgiving dinner! Also in attendance were their friends Anita and Chiara. The dinner was absolutely delicious; Francesca is quite the chef. She made the stuffing and the pumpkin pie. Both were phenomenal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if Thanksgiving dinner were stuffing only, I would be content forever. Meanwhile, Allie and I struggled to make frozen peas. That sentence alone defines my culinary skills and to be honest Allie did most of the work because she stirred the peas while they were cooking in the pan. We ate turkey cutlets, fried potatoes, peas, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Mmmmmm!!! It was a nice preamble to my Italian trip.

 We went out later that night and I was surprised at how busy this small city was. There were people EVERYWHERE; the streets were packed!! The city at night is absolutely breathtaking because Bologna is a series of old, medieval buildings; at night they are illuminated and the lights create a beautiful scene. I struggled the first night trying to make my camera take photos at night.  The nightlife in Bologna is definitely not dead, we had a lot of fun that evening bouncing from bar to bar.

The next day was the icing on the cake. Unfortunately, Francesca had to return to Rome where she is currently working as a Fulbright Scholar. However, Allie and I went to a restaurant with fantastic pasta. Allie knows the waiter, Alfredo. Alfredo was absolutely hilarious. He escorted me, LITERALLY, to our table.  He insisted that I be escorted because I was a guest. How friendly are the Italians??? I had to get Bolognese sauce while in Bologna. Italy’s pasta is just indescribable.  The dish was amazing. I could eat pasta forever. Alfredo was extremely nice and gave Allie and I free limoncello. That stuff is POTENT, proceed with caution while drinking it.

Following the delicious lunch, Allie and I met up with Anita and Luca and we went to the CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL. I cannot properly describe how magnificent this festival was. Tents and tents and tents filled with nothing but chocolate!! How can you go wrong!? We ate truffles as we moved from tent to tent. Luca and Allie drank hot chocolate with cinnamon flavoring, and it was incredible. I regret not getting my own cup. I could not forget to bring back some chocolate to Logroño for my roommates. They were selling large bars of chocolate for only a euro so I got five different kinds anticipating the chocolate coma my roommates and I would fall into.  For the record: two bars are already gone. 

That evening we had pizza. Italy also wins many points for its pizza. Why are pasta and pizza exponentially better in Italy?! The pizza was SOOOOOOOO good!!! We went out later and enjoyed the company of a current Holy Cross student studying in Bologna, Olivia. She is enjoying her time in Bologna.

My final day in Bologna was very exciting as well. Allie and I met up with her friend Chiara at a restaurant and had this delicious creation that I am currently forgetting the name of. Basically, it was similar to a large soft shell taco, with better tasting bread and the insides were of your choosing. My ingredients were: Mortadella and Mozzarella. It was grilled and it was MIGHTY tasty. We followed that up with Gelato. (More points for Italy) The flavor I chose was called Duo Torri (I am hoping I spelled that correctly and it is supposed to mean Two Towers). It was an ingenious flavor; I can’t properly describe it, very chocolaty maybe. The story behind the towers is that there was a competition a long time ago to build two towers and they stand next to each other in the city center. One is MUCH taller than the other, so it wasn’t much of a competition I suppose. 

The final dinner was a return to Alfredo’s restaurant, except he wasn’t there this time around. The pasta was still incredible. We finally met up with Luca and Olivia and went to a bar called the English Empire. I went up to the bar by myself to order a glass of wine. I ordered Sangiovese (shout out to my parents) and the bartender left to look for it and came back speaking rapid Italian and among the foreign words I heard him say, Sangiovese and I said Sí, Sangiovese! Clearly, I misunderstood. He apparently was trying to tell me they were out. Now what to do? I told him okay just whatever vino rosso you have. He said Chianti? I said okay, fine, sure, sounds great. A woman behind the bar came and asked me something that I didn’t understand. OVERALL, the experience taught me I should learn some Italian before attempting to order anything without my helpful Italian-speaking friends. I have to give Luca credit, he spoke English to me the entire time I was there and according to Allie he doesn’t like to use it. So hats off to him! You would think at the English Empire, they would speak SOME English….not the case AT ALL.

When it came time to leave, Allie escorted me to the Aerobus and after she left me to fend for myself with Italian, I STRUGGLED. Without Allie, it was Struggle City in Bologna.  I had no idea what the bus driver was saying to me; I almost missed the stop because I hadn’t heard him say my airline in the list he was reading off in Italian. After I got off the bus, I tried to walk towards the terminal and of course was walking in the wrong direction. Ayyyyyyy!!! Note to self: learn basic Italian. When I landed back in Spain, I can’t describe the relief I felt to understand what people were saying again! All in all, it was a phenomenal trip and I thank Allie for being a gracious hostess. I had to post this blog post as soon as possible because tomorrow my roommates and I are going to try and cook Thanksgiving dinner! FINGERS CROSSED WE DON’T BURN DOWN THE APARTMENT. My contribution will be the stuffing, wish me luck!! Enjoy the photos of lovely Bologna, Italy!