A Sleepy Little Beach Town

Matt got up early and left for the day to go work (oh yeah, I forgot we were on this amazing Spain vacation because Matt actually had to work) and I rolled over to snooze a little longer. I woke up to find out it was already 1pm! Oops! I know the sleep was much-needed, but I was mad at myself for sleeping the morning away.

I threw on my bathing suit and walked down to the beach (about 2 blocks from our hotel). First thing I did was throw my towel down and run down to the water to put my feet in the Medditeranean Sea. It was amazing. The water was beautiful and and the beach was wide and clean. There were plenty of people also “tome el sol” so I felt safe being on my own.  I had the “pinching-myself-is-this-real-life” moment over and over again. I kept reminding myself how lucky I was to be able to be laying on a beach at the Medditeranean Sea on a Tuesday. Definitely blows any other Tuesday I’ve ever had out of the water!

I walked back up to the hotel around 5pm to meet MRH, and realized I had received quite the sunburn. Which I was secreltly really happy about.  We changed and then took a walk along the water and did some exploring around the marina. We were there for the perfect time to watch a beautiful sunset.

After our walk we headed back to the promenade (strip of bars and restaurants) to get dinner. MRH really wanted seafood since we were in a beach town, so we decided on Casa Llevanas. They had an actual fish tank in the front of their restaurant where they caught the food they served for dinner. Gross! Because of this, I ate a goat cheese salad and charcuterie platter. MRH got shrimp that came out displayed on a really neat scewer. MRH commented that the shrimp definitely had a different taste than it does in the states. It was boiled in salt water, and nothing like the spices he’s used to with his Bayou upbringing. After dinner, our waiter brought us three shots of “Moquito” liquour. We’re still not exactly sure what it was, but it was minty fresh and perfect after eating a big meal. Plus they were free, who turns down a free shot? We are thinking it was similar to after-dinner mint like in the US.

Matt’s coworker went back to the hotel, but we weren’t ready to go home yet. It was our last night in Cambrils and we wanted to explore some more. We ended up at a place called Siddharta, a beach bar, or “chiringuitos”. It had a Buddah statue and exotic feel with dark drapes and cushions on the floor. It was very unique a relaxed atmosphere. I ordered the customary moquito and MRH ordered a vodka tonic (both popular drinks in Spain). When our waiter delivered our drinks to the table he also brought a small dish of candy, similar to Sour Patch Kids. That is something we noticed about Spain is that almost every bar/restaurant brings you a small something with your drink (olives, bread, meat, nuts, etc.). We left Siddharta’s around 1am and climbed into bed to prepare for our next adventure, Madrid!

I loved Cambrils so much and would love to go back. It was the perfect, quaint, beach town with no frills. The people were all so helpful and went out of their way to assist us. Very few spoke English, which was refreshing. It was a fun challenge to try to communicate with someone who doesnt speak the language you do. I guess all those years of Spanish in high school and college werent a waste afterall!

 

Holiday in Spain

Day 3A: Barcelona

We landed in Barcelona around 8:30am and were able to catch the most beautiful sunset on our way in. The flight was an absolute breeze. The 8 hour flight felt more like 2. I feel like I’ve been on flights to Chicago that felt longer. I honestly wished the flight was a little longer because I wanted to sleep more. There were about 50 movies to choose from, TV shows, games, and music which helped to keep us occupied. We both had pillows, blankets, headphones, and a movie and we were out. The plan was completely dark almost all of the flight and very cozy. They served pasta and chicken for dinner (actually pretty decent) and a “complimentary” glass of vino. The flight attendants turned the cabin lights on with about 1.5 hours left of the flight to wake us all up and served a small muffin and coffee. Poor Matt only slept about 30 minutes and I only slept probably 2-3 hours (darn you Great Gatsby, The Internship and Moulin Rouge for keeping me up!) so we were really exhausted, but knew we had a big day ahead of us. We got off the plane, got our luggage (yes, it miraculously managed to get to Barcelona!!!) and got on the train to head for the city center.

The train stations has lockers you can rent for 24 hours for around €5. This was perfect and our shoulders thanked us for not dragging around all of our luggage all day. Since we only had about five hours until our train left Barcelona, we set out on a whirlwind tour of the city.

Our first stop was La Sagrada Familia. I first heard about La Sagrada Familia on a 60 Minutes episode last year. It was so amazing that I texted my dad (who I knew would also be watching 60 Minutes) telling him that I had to get to Barcelona to see the basilica in person one day. Little did I know, that dream would be a reality long before I ever expected it to. Construction on the church started over 130 years ago by an architectural genius, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi knew the church would never be finished in his lifetime, so he made intricate models depicting his vision. In an unfortunate turn of events, the models would later be destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Building slowed down after this because no one knew how to complete Gaudi’s vision without the models. A new team of engineers were brought in to reverse engineer the models. Taking fragments and pieces of clay and trying to piece them back together as Gaudi had planned. Using advanced design software typically used in auto and airplane design, they were able to figure out how to model the advanced shapes and surfaces that Gaudi’s avant garde plans demanded and building continued. The design of the church is so detailed and sets out to depict the story of the bible through carvings in the facade.  Gaudi’s design was truly revolutionary and so ahead of his time that it’s hard to fathom the way he designed it without using modern technology. I cannot do the design justice with words, I highly recommend watching the short 60 Minutes piece.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50148541n

We had tickets to tour the inside and towers for Sunday, but missed the tour because of the flight hooplah in Philly. I was super bummed, but I knew I had to see this place regardless. The massiveness and attention to detail are jaw dropping. It is incredible the vision that Gaudi had and its almost difficult to take it all in.  I was disappointed we couldn’t go inside, but was thankful that we did get it up close.

TRAVEL TIP: You can buy your tickets to La Sagrada Familia ahead of time online. DO THIS! The lines to purchase tickets wraps all the way around the church and you will be glad you purchased ahead of time when your’re skipping the 3 hour line to get inside.

From there we walked to a little restaurant called Xamfra Gaudi. It was right outside of La Sagrada Familia and probably a little touristy but we were starving and exhausted at this point. MRH and I both ordered pizzas…a safe decision. I was so tired that I accidently fell asleep at lunch, oops! It’s been since high school calculus class that I’ve felt that uncontroable nodding off feeling. Luckily lunch was was just what we needed to catch our second win. Our kind waiter gave us a map and we set out on a foot to explore.

First up was the Arc de Triomf. Encripted in the arch is “Barcelona rep les nacions” or “Barcelona welcomes the nations” – and we surely felt welcomed. There happened to  be a wine festival at the park of the citadella – right up my alley. From there we cut through the Gothic District to get to Las Ramblas, a famous street in central Barcelona. It was full of pedestrians, tourists, street performers, and vendors selling all types of things. Its about a mile long and has one of the best markets: La Boqueria. It had flowers, fish, fruit, and candy. Of course MRH had to tak ea picture of me and all of the meat – my favortite booth at the market! After a quick walk through the market we countined down Las Ramblas to the Christopher Columbus monument. This monument was constructed in honor of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas where he reported to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in Barcelona after his trip to the Americas. I tried to get MRH to pose like Chris, but he wasnt having it, hah. We only had a short period of time left before our train left Barcelona, but I pursuaded the guys to get a quick taxi to Park Guell. It sits up on a hil and was designed by Gaudi (same guy as La Sagrada Familia). The park was originally intended to be a site for 60 luxary homes. Ultimately, only 2 homes were ever built. One was supposed to be a show home and Gaudi bought the other (now a museum( it has since been converted into a park and garden. The site is covered in beautiful mosaic tiles. There was one particular blue and white cross that I loved. The cieling tiles wer quite impressive. You can climb to the top and there was a breathtaking, panaramic view of Barcelona and the bay of the Mediterranean Sea. You can also see La Sagrada Familia and the huge construction cranes to the left. I am so glad we made the time to see Park Guell. It was my favorite site we saw in Barcelona.

Day 3B: Cambrils

We quickly caught a cab to the train station (where I fell asleep again) where we caught a train to Tarragona. It was a beautiful 30-minute ride through the most wonderful scenery you could imagine on a train. The train tracks were literally right on the sea line of the Medditerranan the whole ride down.  I was so impressed by how clean and easy to use the public transportation was. Way cleaner than New York or Chicago.  From the train station in Tarragona, we hopped in another taxi for a 30 minute ride to our hot in Cambrils. Cambrils is a small coastal town where MRH would spend the next two days working, and where CMH would spend the next two days loving. The town is quaint and beautiful. Most tourists are Spainards who have their summer homes in the fishing village with high quality beaches. There are many beach bars “chiringuitos” where you can enjoy a drink while listening to waves crash around you. The strip of bars/restaurants is located near the marina along the promenade area “passeig de miramar”. Our hotel (Tryp Port Cambrils) is about two blocks from the ocean and the promanade, so we walked to dinner. There were probably about 20-30 resturants all in a row.The hosts stand out in the middle of the walkway, trying to lure you to their restaurant. there is a lot of competition afterall, so it makes sense that they have to stand out somehow. One side of the walkway is the actual restaurant, but its more of just a storefront. Its where the cook the food, but they only have 1-2 tables and a bar. On the other side of the walkway is the restaurants patio, which is their main dining room. It’s a covered area with tables and a great view of the water. We settled on a pizzaria and I ordered a proscuitto pizza (again) and MRH got pasta carbonara. I ordered the cava (Spains champagne) sangria and it came in the cutest pitcher with a wooden spoon. It was amazing! MRH ordered a small bottle of red wine (about 3 glasses) for only €4! What a steal! We were all so exhausted that we called it a night around midnight.

Ain’t no love in the heart of the city

Day 2: Philadelphia

Our new flight out of Philly didn’t leave until 6:30pm so we slept until after noon. We then put our same clothes back on and caught a cab into the city. We walked up and down Walnut Street, people watching and looking for a brunch destination.  A friend had recommended Rittenhouse Square. There were so many nice shops and restaurants that it was hard to choose which one to stop at. We ended up at a cute little table on the sidewalk at a.kitchen. The brunch menu featured a Cava Bar…right up our alley for our trip to Spain in just a few hours. I ordered the Daffodil – cava with honey, elderflower and bitters. YUM!

We were about to order our food when I saw a missed call from my Dad. I thought it was strange that he would be calling because I had just gotten off the phone with him about an hour before. When I called him back he told me that he was in an ambulance and headed to the hospital. He couldn’t get in touch with my mom or sister, so he was calling so somewhere knew where he was. He had a really bad bike accident and thought his hip might be broken. I can say I don’t really remember the rest of the afternoon in Philly. I was in shock and calling my mom and sister over and over to get updates. I even considered flying home to Charlotte instead of to Spain, but dad insisted that I go on the trip.

We got to the airport and through check-in and security in perfect time to board the plane. I was able to talk to dad one more time before he went into surgey. I got on the plane with a very heavy, and worried heart for my dear-old-dad.

Wheels Up/Not Quite

Last month we were fortunate enough to spend ten days in Spain. Please enjoy the recap of our wonderful trip…

Day 1A: Charlotte

Sweet Matt kicked off our Eurotrip by surprising me the night before our trip with a basket full of travel goodies.  Eye mask, head phone splitter, Luna Bars, mini bottles, money belt (I know…we’re huge losers for this), hand sanitizer, tums, wine bottle opener, and a bottle of Cava to celebrate the big journey.  The next day we met my parents at Bricktops for a bon voyage lunch, said our goodbyes and headed to the airport.

And then we were off…kind of.  Our boarding time came and went and was then followed by an announcement that there were maintenance issues with our plane. After a 40 minute delay, they let us all on the plane. Everyone was seated and ready to go, and then another announcement was made that the issues weren’t fixed yet. I could see a mechanic coming off and on the plane, and when I saw the pilot take his belongings and deboard the plane, I knew things weren’t good. After about an hour of sitting on the plane, they told us that we all needed to get off.  There were many of us on the flight that had international connections to make in Philadelphia, and so panic ensued.  Our layover in Philadelphia was only two hours before we would catch our flight to Barcelona, so we knew we would be pushing it. We raced to the ticket counter to see if they could book us on another flight out of Charlotte to Barcelona. No luck. So we waited a little longer until the issue was fixed and we all got back on the plane. With all of the delays, our flight would be landing in Philadelphia right when our flight to Barcelona was taking off. The flight attendant assured us that they would hold the plane for us in Barcelona. Will we make it?

Day1B: Philadelphia

NO. We missed the connection to Barcelona by TEN minutes.  I hate you US Air. It took everything in me to hold back tears. Because we missed our connection on Saturday meant that we wouldn’t leave Philly until 6:30pm the next night, also meaning we missed a full day and night in Barcelona.  Since there was absolutely nothing we could do about it, we took the measly hotel voucher and headed down to baggage claim. Only to find that our luggage was not on the carousel. It was somewhere in the Philly airport. We were told it would be held in a “secure place” and somehow make it on to our flight the next day to Barcelona. Right.  For a company who can’t hold a plane for 10 minutes for an 8-hour international flight, the logistics of all of that sounded way too hard for them to handle. Again, I hate you US Air. They gave us a travel kit and we were sent out into the dark and unknown world of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Matt had a coworker who joined us on the trip and lucky for us, his coworker had close friends who lived in Philly.  By the time the airport shuttle dropped us off at the hotel, his friends were already there waiting to pick us up. They took us all around Philadelphia and did a quick drive-by tour of all of the major landmarks (town hall, love statue, steps where Rocky was filmed). We ended up parking the car and walking to a sports bar to grab some dinner and drinks. When we left the restaurant it was pouring rain and we had a ten-block walk back to the car. Of course it was raining when we had no change of clothes or pajamas or anything. When we got back to the hotel, I used a bar of soap to wash our socks and then dried our soaking wet clothes and the socks with the hotel room’s hairdryer. A modern-day Laura Ingalls Wilder. I got in bed and fell asleep to Carrie Mathison and Nicholas Brody, enjoying our last night in an American bed.

What’s your favorite Charlotte symbol?

Does Charlotte have a recognizable symbol? Is it the Queen Charlotte crown? Or perhaps the “Firebird” sculpture. Mike Wirth had his Queens University of Charlotte students design images to represent Charlotte.  My favorite is #10. What is yours? Vote for your favorite.

Crocktober: Taco Soup

October 1 = the start of International Crock-Pot season, right? Any appliance that you can throw a bunch of ingredients in, check back in 4 hours, and voila a delicious meal appears, is something I can really appreciate. Matt was telling me about a Taco Soup recipe that his mom used to make that he loved. I asked his mom to email me the recipe and she told me the best part of the recipe was that it was “EASY!”. Easy? And a meal Matt will actually like? Cue the rainbows, chirping birds and the fast-clap hands emoticons.  You can really add whatever you’d like, and this will turn out great. We used the following:

  • 1lb ground beef (we used ground turkey)
  • 1 can sweet kernal corn
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can light kidney beans
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel (we used 2  because we like spicy)
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning (dry) (again, we used the hot seasoning)
  • 1 pkg ranch dressing (dry)

1) Brown the meat. Add some salt and pepper, cumin, or whatever seasoning you desire. Drain the grease.

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2) Add the meat and all of the other ingredients into the crock-pot. Do not drain any of the veggies. Let simmer in the crock-pot for as long as possible. The longer it simmers, the more the flavors have time to soak in. We use the Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners which makes clean-up a breeze. Making an easy process even easier? Done and done.

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The recipe tastes so much better if you make it while screaming through the entire Florida game, right MRH?

3)  Watch as many college football games as possible while you let the meal cook.

4) When you’re ready to eat, make a condiment plate to spice things up. We had cilantro, limes, cheese, jalapenos, and you can never go wrong with Fritos.

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We need to work on getting Matt some new dinnerware. Bless his heart.

4. Add toppings and  enjoy! Go back for so many refills that you don’t think you’ll be able to eat again until next weekend.

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Cancer-Free for Seventeen!

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October 8, 2013 marks SEVENTEEN years that my mom has been cancer-free! She  recently shared with me that when she was diagnosed, she said a prayer that God give her ten more years; enough to see my sister and I graduate high school. The Lord has blessed us all with seven additional years on top of that, and I know many more to come! I am thankful every day for this powerhouse of a woman; thankful she fought and won the battle against cancer, thankful for her strength and dignity and thankful I get to call her mine!

So, what can YOU do to fight breast cancer?

  • Self Examination – I vaguely remember awkwardly glossing over the topic in 8th grade health class, but that’s about it. So here’s a link if you need a refresher like I did: Breast Self Exam
  • Yearly Mammogram – Beginning at age 40, yearly mammograms are a necessity for all women. Those with breast cancer in their family history are recommended to start these earlier.
  • Run or Walk in a Race- Challenge yourself to run in a 5k race and set a monetary goal. This past weekend, the Komen Race For A Cure race in Charlotte raised over a million dollars. With locations all over the world, there’s no excuse to not participate.
  • Purchase Items That Support Research: Women love to shop, so why not buy items that also support breast cancer awareness. Here is a great site with 55 products that support breast cancer awareness.
  • Limit Alcohol Usage: Women who have three to six drinks a week versus women who don’t drink have a 15 percent higher risk of developing cancer.
  • Limit Plastic Usage: Plastic carries the chemical BPA, a weak synthetic estrogen that acts as a hormone disruptor. BPA affects how estrogen and other hormones work by blocking or mimicking them, throwing off hormonal balance and increasing the risk for cancer.

The best news is that when detected early, the survival rate is 99 percent! Do what you can to protect the women in your life.  I love you Mom, thanks for being a fighter!

Go Shawty…

This past Thursday was Matt’s 28th birthday. And since I know all of his friends are anxiously waiting a rundown on the weekends events, here y’all go (and thanks for following the blog fellas!):

Thursday: This was Matt’s actual birthday and he somehow managed to pull-off playing in a company-sponsored golf tournament all day. A day at the course certainly beats working on TPS Reports all day. Still not sure how he finagled that one. After his “grueling day”, we met at Brixx for his his “birthday dinner”. I love birthdays…so much that I try to celebrate the entire month of February, and then again during my half-birthday in August. Matt however, does not, and prefers to keep things simple. Thus why we ate at Brixx, the same place we eat every Thursday. To commemorate the birthday, we took a tequila shot. At Brixx. Who does that? We also split one shot two ways. Things were getting CRAZY! Is this what happens when you get old….?  After dinner we headed over to Common Market, one of our favorite hang-out spots. Matt bought a six-pack and only drank one beer. Wow, if only our 21-year-old-selves could see us now. They would be highly devastated.

We ended the night opening presents and cards. I got Matt a new needlepoint Florida Gators key chain (I chose to purchase this one vs. making myself like the belt), a book about the Charlotte Beer scene and a new yoga Matt. Poor boy had been using the ones the Y provides; gross and too short. My parents got Matt these awesome ice ball trays that make the perfect ice sphere. The spheres last much longer in your drink vs. typical cubes and prevents it from getting watered down. Ain’t nobody got time for diluted whiskey.

Friday: Matt thought all of the birthday surprises were over, but I had one more up my sleeve. Friday morning I snuck over to Matt’s place and quickly straightened up for the surprise visitors that would be arriving later in the day. One of Matt’s high school best friends and his wife drove up from Florida to help celebrate the birthday boy. All day I had been texting Matt telling him to leave work early. He finally complied around 4:30 and I told him just to meet me at Sewlyn for a drink. Boy was he surprised when he walked into the bar to see Brett and Gabi sitting at a table with me. We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up and enjoying the beautiful weather. That evening we took them to Mac’s Speed Shop (one of our favorites) for dinner and then back to Common Market for a night cap.

Saturday: We wanted Brett and Gabi to be able to see all the cool parts of Charlotte, so we decided an afternoon in NoDa would be a great way to spend the day. Unfortunately, Brett had a little too much fun the night before and wasn’t able to make it out. That was OK because Matt, Gabi and I had a good time anyways. We had delicious BBQ Fish Tacos from Cabo Fish Taco and then enjoyed local craft beer from NoDa Brewing Company and Bird Song Brewing Co. We enjoyed being lazy, eating peanuts , playing Jenga and recounting all those infamous high school memories. We all went home and napped for a bit, and then reconvened to watch the Gators and Gamecocks both pull out a win.

Sunday:  I said my goodbyes Saturday night because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make brunch on Sunday. Matt took Gabi and Brett to 300 East, a Dilworth staple. Unfortunately, I had to go early to help set up for the annual company picnic. Because isn’t that what everyone wants to do on their Sunday? Hang out with the same people they see 40+ hours a week AND their spouses AND their children? It actually ended being a fun event and I know that it was exactly how Matt wanted to end his birthday weekend.

Matt – Cheers to being 28! I love you and cannot wait to see what this year brings. The best is yet to come!