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Southern Spain Preview

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It may take me a few thousand hours to comb through the photos from the week that S and I traveled around Southern Spain with his wonderful parents, R and P. While in the early stages of that combing, I couldn’t wait to share a few of my favorite photos with you.  As I write this, I’m sitting in my apartment, hiding from what is November in Germany and feeling its gray skies and dry frigid air sucking what little tan I had from my skin. Wow, that is sad. Luckily, I have the promise of a trip home for Thanksgiving to see family and friends and the fantasy-come-reality that is the German Christmas Market when we return. I also have my memories from an unforgettable trip south and I’ve been trying to determine my favorite. Was it dining on tapas in Ronda with the restaurant patio to ourselves and a view of the Puente Nuevo lit up at night? Was it the bartender in Nerja singing along to “Material Girl” while S and I sipped Rioja and snacked on freshly cut ham and Manchego? Was it the guitar player at El Molino? Seriously, is there anything cooler than Spanish guitar? My favorite moment could easily be our morning touring, admiring, and gawking at the beauty of the Alhambra. It could also easily be the flamenco show that we saw in the old gypsy caves of the Albayzin area, or the second flamenco show that we saw in Grenada’s city center, or our three pans of paella, or our five bowls of gazpacho, or our ten plates of Iberico ham, or our countless pitchers of sangria. We ate a lot. Overall, and as sappy as it sounds, I have to say that my favorite part of the trip was the time spent with S, P, and R (with the Alhambra in second place and all of the foods a close third)!

Puente Nuevo at Night (pictured above during the day)

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A lone guitarist in Ronda

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The view from the Balcón de Europa in Nerja

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Burriana Beach, Nerja

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Iberico Ham and Manchego in Nerja

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The Alhambra, Granada

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The Alhambra, Granada

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The Alhambra, Granada

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The Alhambra, Granada

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The Alhambra, Granada

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Patio de los Leones, Alhambra, Granada

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Flamenco in a gypsy cave in the Albayzin area of Granada

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Flamenco in Granada’s city center

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More to come soon!  Also, I cannot wait to get back to Southern Spain, or really anywhere in Spain.  Do you have any suggestions of other cities and towns to visit?

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Sister Trip: A Week of Road Trips in Germany and France

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Before last month, the last time that my sister, E, and I traveled together for a week was two years ago, when we spent four days in Paris and three days in Toulouse, for the wedding of my lovely friends, P and A. We ate escargot, gazed at masterpieces of the Impressionists, sipped champagne, ate (really) stinky cheese, and danced into the wee hours celebrating the newlyweds in an old French chateau just outside of Toulouse. So, when E arrived in Germany last month, we had a pretty high bar to meet and exceed if we wanted to keep our sister vacation experience trending upward. With Mainz as our home base, we set out on a series of day trips and one over-night to explore the area around my new hometown. This trip was filled with dirndl shopping, huge mugs of beer, a lot of driving on the autobahn, a lot of wine, some actual wine-making (the grape-picking part), and some more beautifully stinky, French cheese.

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The Lazy Travelers Took the LEAP!

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One of my favorite travel blogs, The Lazy Travelers, is written by two fun and adventurous women, The Wino and The Romantic, who also love a relaxing day, taking in the scenery of a new place with a nice glass red wine and some local eats.  I am thrilled to announce that they published an interview with me in their Jetsetters series, and even more thrilled (in all my super dorkiness) that they think we could be friends!  Look, Mom, I’m making friends!

If you’re looking for some inspiring travel and fashion tips, funny anecdotes, and beautiful photos, be sure to swing by The Lazy Travelers or check out my interview with them here!

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Norway Bedtime Stories and a Real Life Dreamscape

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For just about the entire year of 1994, my sister and I refused to go to sleep each night until our Dad told us a story, all of which had to be set in the town of Lillehammer, Norway during the Olympics, and the main characters had to be named after us (but really they had to be us).  As Jennifer Weiner wrote in a letter to Salon, “Everyone wants to believe he or she is the hero of his or her own story.”   In our case, we forced our dad to make us the heroes. As kids (and now), we were obsessed with a capital “O” with the Olympics.  In my little 9-year-old heart, I truly believed I would grow up to be Kim Zemescal and win gold medals all day long.  Unfortunately, my mom made me quit gymnastics after my friend Lindsey fell off the high-bar and broke her arm.  Thanks a lot, Lindsey.  Anyway, back to Norway.

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Berlin: A Triumphantly Resilient City Where B is for Burger, Not Biergarten

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I cannot begin to imagine the feelings of confusion and fear that I’d feel after having gone to bed, just like any other night, only to wake up and discover that overnight I had been separated from my family, friends, job, and certain freedoms by a fence, later to become a series of walls, manned by armed guards and other devices to prevent escape.  And yet, this is exactly what happened to those living in East Berlin one night in August of 1961.  Before visiting Berlin, it was easy for me to think of the Wall as just another pop-culture reference in a U2 or Ramones song.  However, the hardship, despair, and desperation caused by the GDR’s Berlin Wall, or, as it was officially known, the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,” instantly registered as much more when I saw the Bernauer Straße memorial to those who died attempting to escape East Berlin, heard stories of people driving trucks into the wall and digging fifty meter tunnels under it, and observed the lasting disparity between West Berlin and it’s formerly Soviet-controlled counterpart. It was just twenty-five years ago that these two halves were divided, with West Berlin an island cut-off from Soviet-controlled East Germany, and East Berlin cut-off from just about everything. The city suffered such oppression and violence and today, it continues to actively recover, rebuild, and reconnect (they’re still working to connect the water pipes and electricity of East and West Berlin). In response to it’s troubled past and a consequence of it’s current rehabilitation and renaissance, the people of Berlin have taken on a somewhat defiantly proud attitude toward their city.  In an interview in 2004, the city’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, gave his famous quote that is now the war cry of the gritty city’s young, proud, and cheeky artists and professionals: “Berlin is arm, aber sexy.” (“Berlin is poor, but sexy.”)

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Sweet Potato Matriciana

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Maybe it was the fact that I had walked 9 miles that day in 90 degree heat, maybe it was the fact that I was deliriously happy to be spending the weekend with one of my best friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, maybe it was the fact that I was in Rome, but the matriciana and dessert and wine and everything that I ate at enOsteria, a little farm-to-table place near the Spanish Steps, was the best meal I’ve ever had. Even as I was eating it, I was already trying to figure out how I’d make it in my own kitchen. Luckily, we had one of the best waiters of all time and he told us that the secret to the sauce was the orange zest. Genius! To my continual gratitude, he also steered me toward a dessert of strawberries covered in white chocolate mouse with a drizzle of olive oil. It was like a fluffy, sweet and salty cloud of deliciousness. That may need to be my next project.