some pics of Spain

My weeks are filled with teaching, applying for teaching jobs, eating, stressing, stress-eating, and the like.

My weekends are a bit more chill, thankfully.

So I’m putting together a Flickr album of my adventures in Spain. Take a peek here, and tell me where I should travel on a budget!

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Where I live now: L’Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona

I live in a shared flat near Sagrada Família, in what locals call Dreta L’Eixample (dreta is Catalan for right) because it’s on the right side (and to the east) of a large avenue, Passeig de Gracia. On the left side of Passeig de Gracia, the neighborhood is called Esquerra de L’Eixample (esquerra, as you might guess, is Catalan for left).

Here’s a view from the balcony of the flat:

my flat

I feel very spoiled that I spend most dinners on the balcony.

L’Eixample is really beautiful. Full of wide avenues and even wider intersections, and made up of tall apartment buildings in pastel colors, nearly all of which are dotted with wrought iron balconies.

balconies and shops

On Sundays, the street-level shops aren’t much to look at, but during the week, those graffiti-covered doors are rolled up and the shops look, well, shop-like.

The left side of L’Eixample is closer to the University of Barcelona, and it’s also a bit trendier, as it’s closer to high end shops and more expensive restaurants. I’ve been told it’s become a popular gay neighborhood, and it’s a little livelier than the right side.

On the right side, we’ve got Sagrada Familia, so there are a lot of tourists around that block, but wind your way into the other streets, and it’s got a much quieter, local feel. I love walking around my neighborhood on Sundays, when everything’s closed up; it feels like I’ve got the entire neighborhood to myself.

l'eixample

Pink is one of the most common colors for apartment buildings. A little reminiscent of an Easter egg, no?

L’Eixample is also the location of Oxford House, where I’m taking the TEFL course:

Oxford House

It’s a 10 min walk from my flat.

Not all of the flats in L’Eixample are quite so charming and posh. Some look a little more standard:

example of a flat

This building’s a little more modern, maybe a little less swoon-worthy, depending on your tastes.

During business hours and during the week, L’Eixample is a lot more bustling, and since it’s made up of quite a few main thoroughfares, the traffic gets thick (or, what I consider thick, but the locals tell me the traffic isn’t that bad). I’m forever dodging cars and waiting for streetlights when I go jogging.

Speaking of which (this is supposed to be a running blog, isn’t it?), I didn’t run at all during the week, as I was busy with coursework, interviews and some new private classes I’m teaching (yay!). But I finally got out for a 45-minute run on Saturday, and it was glorious.

Remind me to lace up my shoes and head out for a run the next time I feel stressed, okay? It’s the best cure.

In other news, I’m eating my way through Barcelona one chocolate croissant (and bocadillo and tortilla española) at a time. I think I’ve mentioned this already, but good grief, I can eat. (Perhaps I should be making up for it in more running mileage per week? Um, yes.)

Today I went to a food festival called Mercat de Mercats (in Catalan, it directly translates to Market of Markets), where a bunch of food and wine vendors set up tents and stalls to sell samples.

Mercat de Mercats

It was forecast to rain, but we got lucky. Blue skies and lots of hungry people.

Believe me when I say it was hard not to try a little of everything, but I’ve got my budget strictly in mind so I went with tortilla de patatas (still my favorite, no matter where I go), an empañada with meat filling and pineapple slices drizzled in dark chocolate.

And I couldn’t resist a few truffles for the road:

Mercat chocolate

Too beautiful to eat, you say?

I’ve got just one week left of the TEFL course, and then I’ll be released to the confusing and maddening world of figuring out how to earn a living here. (I should note that I won’t be talking about it too much on the blog, as I’ve been advised to be discreet for various reasons, so just know that it’s something that’s likely stressing me out a bit and causing me to reach for the nearest glass of vino tinto.)

If you want to know the story behind the story because you’re considering a TEFL course in Spain – or you’re just curious – follow me on Twitter and we can chat there or by email.

So, tell me: What’s the best bite you ate this weekend? How do you find time to run when your schedule’s on the ugly side of hectic? What are the best three adjectives to describe your neighborhood?

Weekend getaway to Cadaqués, Spain

I can sum up my weekend like this:

boats in Cadaques

TRANQUILITY.

Shelby and I headed to Cadaqués, Spain by way of a train to Figueres, then a bus ride over the mountains into the dreamy bayside town of Cadaqués. It’s one of those places that takes your breath away – all white-washed buildings with blue shutters, charming older couples winding their way through the streets and children playing ball on the beach.

We had our fair share of red wine, pizza, chocolate desserts and deep, contented sighs. (Totally worth the carsickness on the bus ride there and the inflated price of tapas in the town.)

I also read a book while I was in Cadaqués! Yes, it’s true! (This is likely not shocking to you, but it shocks me since I’ve had precious time for anything but my TESOL course since I arrived in Barcelona.)

Take a look at some of the pictures I snapped with my phone (I’ll post again when I’ve uploaded my camera’s pics to Flickr), and put Cadaqués on your must-visit list when you come to Spain …

A fancy little shop:

shop in Cadaques

Shelby, leading the way to our hostel:

Shelby in Cadaques

We only got lost *every* time we tried to walk back to our hostel. The narrow streets all looked the same.

A view of the town from where I went jogging:

View of Cadaques

I think I fell in love on this run. Who wants to buy a house in Cadaqués with me?

The town at dusk:

Cadaques

Cadaqués doesn’t have much in the way of things to do (if you’re on a budget), but that’s part of the appeal. We wandered the streets and simply relaxed. We walked to the nearby town of Port Lligat, where Salvador Dalí lived, and we lingered over glasses of wine at several seaside cafés.

More than once, I thought to myself, How is this my life right now? How am I so lucky?

While it’s easy to get caught up in some of the uncertainties here and begin to stress about money and visas and plans and to-do lists, I let most of that go this weekend.

I’m happy to be here. I live in Spain right now. Wow.

I’m grateful for the chance to have this experience, no matter how long it lasts.

the marathon that might have been

I ran for 40 minutes today … terribly slowly. It was lovely, but slow. My view looked something like this:

park by Arc de Triomphe

near the Arc de Triomphe, Barcelona. Pardon the poor composition – I was jogging & shooting.

In another life – you know, the one where I didn’t quit my job and sell all my stuff and move to Barcelona – I’d be running the Portland Marathon today.

It makes me shake my head because, well, I’m in no kind of marathon shape. In fact, I’m hardly in running shape. (Sigh.)

Back when I signed up for the marathon, I was super motivated. I’d just come off a fabulous half marathon experience, and I thought 2012 would be the year I’d become a Runner with a capital R.

I started out with good intentions to train for the marathon.

Well, hang on. Let’s back up.

I started out with moderately good intentions to train. But, even back during the days of my running highs, I wasn’t certain I’d be able to stick to the marathon training schedule.

Fast forward a few weeks when I set my sights on Spain, and my long runs started to fall by the wayside. Then, when I officially signed up for the TESOL course here, I knew I wouldn’t be in Portland on the 7th so my training all but stopped entirely.

Since then, I’m back to being a casual runner: heading out 3-4 times per week for 40 minutes each.

Speed work? No.

Hills? Barely.

Beer gut? Kind of.

IPA in Barcelona

The beer gut is pretty much worth it, though.

At the moment, running is strictly stress relief – and a way to get to know my new neighborhood (which I’ll be writing about soon). And that’s certainly not a bad thing.

But the little over-achiever in me feels like a bit of a failure. I want to be capable of running 26.2 miles today. I want to be feeling that rush of a PR. As much as my life is an adventure right now, I want to be at the Portland Marathon.

And … if I can’t be there, is it so much to ask to get my $150 registration fee back?! ;)

IPA saves the day

Can you believe I’ve been in Barcelona for five days? In fact, it feels like nearly double that. With all of the adjustments and new stimuli, my days feel long. That’s a good thing, of course, but it’s also a bit emotionally exhausting.

In short, some of my expectations (damn those expectations!) have been dashed, and I’m having to look at this experience with a bit of a new perspective. I won’t go into details now, only to say that what I’m hearing about teaching prospects for an American here isn’t promising … and so I may need to alter my plans – or even change direction completely.

It’s too early to tell right now, so I’m working hard to gather as much information as possible, and I’m trying to stay positive. Whatever happens happens, and I may as well enjoy myself in the meantime.

Speaking of which, I finally went running today! Yeah for sweaty goodness!

sweaty goodness

It may have been a short run, but I still got a good workout, as evidenced by the glossy forehead.

And though I likely need to pick a different route next time (one in a less crowded area, with not quite so many crosswalks), I did get to enjoy tree-lined avenues:

This is St Joan Avenue, right near my apartment.

This is St Joan Avenue, right near my apartment.

And pretty fountains:

fountain

(Yes, I took my iPhone on my run so I could snap some pics.)

But the best part of the day, far and above, was the restaurant Shelby and I stumbled upon at dinnertime. (Have I mentioned that Shelby is here in Barcelona? She’s a Portland friend who’s overlapping with part of my time here, and she’s also taking some classes – not related to the TEFL course I’m taking. And, perhaps it goes without mentioning, but it is wonderful to have a friend here.)

We’ve been lamenting the lack of spicy food in Barcelona – and, actually, the food in general. It … leaves something to be desired. Sure, it’s nice to eat chocolate croissants for breakfast, but one can only take so much white sugar and white bread. Serrano ham is lovely too, in moderation, but I’m already sick of bocadillos and it’s not even been a week.

Not to mention the beer selection (or lack thereof). We’ve only seen Pilsners, and we’ve steered clear, preferring cava instead.

Until we happened upon a tiny restaurant tonight called Red Ant. We were headed to a different place, but the aroma from Red Ant literally stopped us in our tracks. It’s a noodle house with a small menu (bowls of ramen, curry dishes, crispy tofu), and maybe best of all, they have IPA. IPA! In Barcelona! (That’s unheard of.)

We may have actually got a bit teary-eyed.

IPA

Ohmygod, ohmygod, we’re drinking IPA!

The food was everything we wanted it to be and more. (DO I SOUND LIKE I’M GUSHING OR WHAT?!) But, seriously, it’s the first meal I’ve had here that satisfied me in that deep-soul-hell-yes-that’s-what-I’m-talking-about way. They even served Sriracha on the table. Sriracha! In Barcelona! (Unheard of! … Are you sensing a theme?)

Yep, I got fed tonight.

And it restored me.

curry

Documentation of aforementioned deep-soul satisfaction

I believe the universe does, in fact, serve up little reminders and omens just when you need them, and sometimes they come in the form of curry.