CouchSurfing to the Rescue!

My last post left off with Lis and me finally–FINALLY–arriving at Dante’s place in Porto Cristo, despite Murphy’s best attempts to thwart us with his stupid Law.  This is the point in the story where our bad luck finally decided to cut us some slack for a few days, and it turned into an AMAZING weekend.

As Lis and I approached Dante’s address, we saw two men standing in a doorway conversing with each other.  Sure enough, it turned out to be Dante, and he introduced the man next to him as his brother, Matias, who lived on the floor directly above Dante’s.  Matias bid us adiós and Dante gave us a tour of his digs.  As it turned out, we wouldn’t be sleeping on a couch at all, but a bunk bed that Dante had in a room specifically designated for CouchSurfers! SCORE!  He even had a spare laptop that he said was ours to use whenever we felt like.  Within a few minutes, our host was already exceeding our expectations.

I call bottom!

He gave us a tour and was very gracious, making it clear that we were allowed to use anything in his home and to come and go as we pleased.  Lis and I found out that he’s a pretty creative guy: he’s in a band and also works as a freelance graphic and Web site designer.  He took us to a local grocery store so we could buy our food and supplies for the next few days (bread, ham, cheese, cereal, milk, yogurt, and apples), then we hopped in his car and got a quick tour of Porto Cristo and neighboring areas of the island.  He drove us to some cliffs and we were treated to spectacular views of the coastline and beaches.  I could not believe how beautiful this place is.

Feast yer eyes!

We headed back to his place for lunch (a refreshing and delicious salad), and after that Lis and I couldn’t wait any longer – after having taken in just a little bit of Mallorca’s natural beauty, we HAD to get down to the beach!  Dante said he had some work he wanted to knock out, so despite our best efforts to convince him to come down to the beach with us, Dante did the responsible thing and stayed in.  Lis changed into her bathing suit (I had been wearing mine underneath my clothes the entire time, if it’s any indication of how excited I was to go to the beach), and Operation Get-A-Tan officially commenced!  We made our way down to Porto Cristo’s beach (ah, yes, I forgot to mention that Dante lives just a 2-minute walking distance from a lovely little beach), where we spent the next few hours basking in the rays of the life-giving sun and engaging in a session of Girl Talk.

Dante’s backyard trumps mine.

After we were sufficiently satisfied with our sun soaking (alliteration for the win), we took a leisurely stroll around the town, peered in different stores, tried to understand the signs written in Catalan, made fun of the stereotypical touristy gifts (Flamenco figurines for sale in a part of the country where Flamenco is not a part of the culture in any way, shape or form are very conspicuous), and enjoyed some overpriced and delicious ice cream.  We eventually meandered back to Dante’s place, where he was conveniently finishing up his work.  The three of us made our way to his courtyard, where he revealed his hammock!  Lis and I took turns swaying on it while we engaged in a conversation with Dante, getting to know our host.  After a while, we were joined by Dante’s friend, Jeremy, who had dropped by for a quick visit.  Jeremy is a professional photographer with a very unique perspective on almost every aspect of life, so a conversation with him proved to be a fascinating one.  At some point Dante revealed that we’d be going to one of his favorite restaurants for a Mallorcan dinner, and I made my way to the shower so we’d all have enough time to get ready before dinner.  By the time I emerged to let Lis have her turn, Jeremy had left.

She’s just hanging out. 😛

But much time didn’t pass before we were joined by another one of Dante’s friends, Sath.  Sath is a professional artist (are you starting to see a trend here? Dante is a graphic designer, Jeremy is a photographer, Sath is an artist… Lis and I had stumbled upon a pretty creative group of people!), and his medium of choice is spray paint.  But Lis and I couldn’t believe it when we saw some of his art– it didn’t look like any graffiti we’d ever seen!

Much of his art carries a political or social message.

How can he make spray paint look like brush strokes??

It’s all made with spray paint!  The above images were taken from Sath’s Web site, where you can see more of his work! www.sath.es

While we waited for one more of Dante’s friends to arrive, Dante and Sath showed us a video that Dante had put together of the trip to Thailand and Cambodia that they had taken a few months prior.  It’s an AMAZING video!  Dante has some serious video-editing skills, and it was a lot of fun to see their trip.  Click HERE to watch the video!  At one point in the vid, they suddenly show a MASSIVE spider in their teeny-weeny hotel room, and, being an extremely jumpy person with a bad case of arachnophobia, I flinched and started screaming when I saw the spider, partially because it caught me by surprise, and partially because the guys in the video were screaming, so it was contagious.  My screaming made Lis scream (told ya it’s contagious), and it was right at this exact moment when Dante’s friend, Nico, steps in.  The poor guy was so confused, walking into a room with two screaming strangers.  We calmed down and paused the video in order to be introduced to Nico, and then the five of us finished watching the video together.  No more spiders, thankfully!

Now that we were all gathered, we made our way to the restaurant, where Dante is friends with the chef.  Lis and I had no idea, but we were in for a treat!  Dante picked out a few things, then a plate arrived.  Then another.  And another.  Plate after plate after plate kept coming to the table, and some of the things hadn’t even been asked for!  And it was all delicious!  Dante also had us order a traditional Mallorcan drink called hierbas.  Hierbas is an herbal liqueur that is said to be good for digestion, so that’s why we had it after our feast.  It’s made from distilled molasses and wine, with herbs like aniseed, mint, chamomile, rosemary, thyme and fennel.  It was sweet, though a bit strong, but Lis and I both liked it.

After dinner (we each only ended up paying 13 Euros for ALL of it! Including the drink!), we headed to a bar, where we met up with Matias and his fiancée.  We ordered another local specialty, the mojito mallorquín.  It’s made using the Mallorcan liquor called licor de palo, then they add white sugar, fresh mint, 2 pieces of lime, a little bit of soda, and crushed ice.

A delicious Mojito Mallorquin

A delicious Mojito Mallorquin

As you can imagine, after eating all of that food and enjoying those two drinks, I was starting to feel a bit sleepy.  We all were, I believe!  We headed back to Dante’s home, where Dante, Sath, Nico, Lis and I chatted some more and the guys shared funny Spanish YouTube videos with the American girls.  The Spanish comedians spoke really quickly, and even though Lis and I are both Spanish-speaking Hispanics, it occasionally got difficult to understand the Spaniard comedians.  But the guys were great; they were patient and would pause the videos and explain the jokes whenever they would see our eyes glaze over or give them confused glances.  After a while we decided to call it a night, made plans to see each other again, and as I lay in the bunk bed that night staring up at the wooden planks supporting Lis’s bed, I couldn’t help but be grateful for how much better this day had been than the day before.  I was excited to see how the next day would go, and quickly fell asleep thanks to the energy-draining properties of the sun and a belly full of delicious food and a couple of drinks.

Coming up in the next post: Saturday– a day that included explorations, bumming it on another beach, tostones, more creative people, a few bars and nightclubs, and bumping into tennis superstar Rafael Nadal (with a photo to prove it)!

To those who celebrate it, have a Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays to everyone, wherever you are in this beautiful world. 🙂

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Breakfast à la Americano!

The same weekend as our trip to Córdoba, my friend Robbie and I got together at his Spanish friend’s apartment to make some bona-fide American meals!  The most important (and famous) is breakfast, of course, so we made scrambled eggs with bacon and toast, then pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream on top!  For lunch we made the Spaniards some BLT sandwiches.  Robbie entertained our Spanish host and her friends by playing his harmonica for them.  We had plans to make grilled cheese sandwiches, but everyone was way too full by then!  It was a lot of fun to make those meals to share a bit of our culinary culture, and at the same time Robbie and I got to enjoy some comfort food from back home.  It was a win-win!
Making the pancakes!And Robbie plays the harmonica, too!You know you want some.More and more kept arriving!

I Swear to Drunk I’m Not God.

One Friday in late February, my program took us on a day trip to Jerez de la Frontera and Cádiz. Jerez de la Frontera is known for a few things: gypsies/flamenco, horses, and sherry.

But especially the sherry. Free wine tasting, here I come!

¡Salud!

Jerez de la Frontera has a world-renowned wine industry. Jerez is what the word “sherry” is named after, and this famous wine originated here. So, naturally, we went on a tour of one of the oldest and most famous bodegas in Jerez. Followed by that free wine tasting I mentioned. Weeeeeeee!!!

The bodega was really cool though. I saw tons of large wine barrels piled pyramid-style on top of each other, and the rows were endless. Someone could get tipsy just by walking into the bodega. As soon as you cross the threshold, the smell of wine and fermentation smacks you in the face. It was intoxicating (Haha! Get it?!?!).

Wine barrels forever.What the inside of a barrel looks likeFundador brandy, also invented here.

After the tour of the bodega and the wine tasting, we went on a small tour of the city of Jerez itself. Our guide was a gitana! She was so cool. She knew everyone who passed by on the street, and she was very welcoming and warm. She explained some of what it means to be a Gypsy, including their belief that they are citizens of the world. They don’t believe they are better than anyone, but they also believe they are no worse. The Gypsy population in Jerez is one of the most well-integrated in the world: they own businesses, their children go to universities, and they aren’t looked upon like a scourge. When the people of Jerez talk about their Gypsies, it’s with pride. Jerez also has some of the best Flamenco in all of Spain.

I was only in Jerez for a couple of hours, but if I get the opportunity I’d love to return. I want to eat Gypsy cuisine, watch a Flamenco performance, and enjoy a copa of wine. 🙂

The One of Shame

The One of Shame (La de la Vergüenza)

As promised [*coughJANNAcough*], here’s my post about the Spanish etiquette that had to do with the last bite of food (I love this).

In Spain, when you’re in a group setting and all are sharing from communal plates (think tapas-style), you must never ever EVER take the last piece. Not unless you’ve harassed everyone else around you (ask each person like five times) to take it instead.  It’s not that it’s considered rude or improper if you do eat it, it just gives the impression that you’re greedy and inconsiderate of others if you take it for yourself without asking everyone else first.

This dining practice and phenomenon is so common and widespread that it has earned a name for itself: La de la Vergüenza (English translation: the One of Shame). “The One of Shame” refers to that last piece of bread, or the last fruit, or last olive, or whatever, that nobody dares to take because they don’t want to be THAT GUY.

“Oh yeah, remember that guy who took the last chorrizo without even asking if I wanted it? What a jerk.” <— What caused the creation of La de la Vergüenza.

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Market Day

I finally got a GREAT night’s rest and caught up with my sleep the night of Friday Feb. 3, so on Saturday I was up bright and early. After breakfast (which is always toast with olive oil — YUM!), Margarita asked me if I wanted to accompany her to the market! Of course I said yes, and I brought along my trusty camera because I knew I was bound to see some great stuff. And I was right. Here is some of Sevilla’s Saturday morning market.

Fresh fruits at the mercado

What is THAT?!!

Something smells…. fishy…. Hmm. I need to hire someone to write jokes for me.

Some of the fruits and veggies were so exotic! We got a LOT of food, it filled up our whole cart — and it was only 30-40 Euros! That same amount of produce would have cost over $100 back in the U.S. In our apartment in Sevilla, we always had a giant fruit bowl filled with the most delicious fresh fruits, and that’s what we snacked on during the day. I had wondered how Margarita managed to keep it so well-stocked, and that day at the market I got my answer.

Cooking Lessons

[Journal Excerpt: 7 Feb, 2012]

So, my host “mom” Margarita loves to cook, and she says she’s going to teach us how to cook Spanish dishes! I’ve already helped her make Tortilla Española (and by “helped” I mean “peeled and cut potatoes”). But I’m looking forward to it! My mom gave me an ultimatum before leaving: “Don’t come back home without learning any Spanish recipes!!” Well, Mama, it looks like I’ll be coming back with a few! 🙂

NOTE: I came back knowing how to make Patatas Bravas and Migas.