Friday, February 22, 2013

Barcelona with wine in one hand and a baby in the other

My friend, Julie, is moving back to the ol' US of A in a few months and I have begun to panic for her.  Using Julie as an excuse, I've beefed up my travel plans to help her (see?  That was SUPER selfless of me!) see more of Europe in her remaining months.  This past weekend was Barcelona.

Just to make things more fun, we also brought along another friend.  And her five month old baby.  Which prompted this big life lesson: Babies really do change everything.  I long held a "I'm never having a baby" mentality and there are certain days (or evenings when I've had several glasses of wine) when I think "I really shouldn't be in charge of another living person just yet."  Amelia (mother of said child) actually kept track of things like when her son had eaten last.  I can hardly keep track of when I've eaten last!  I mean, that's commitment.  To life, really.  For a lifetime.  But her son is also SUPER cute.  Then (after I've had several glasses of wine) I see this darling little baby wearing a sweater with bear ears which is apparently a new thing, and whine to Tom "We should have a baby!!!  Look at how cute he is.  We could make cute kids.  I'm sure of it."  This is what we call a "trick baby" - an incredibly cute, well behaved kid that makes your childless friends think "we could totally do that and be good at it."  Go on a trip with a kid.  Just for good practice and to make sure that your evening spent with said kid wasn't a fluke.  This baby is totally darling and well behaved and again, totally darling.  But the idea that I'm not responsible enough to handle another life still supersedes cute baby-ness.

Traveling with a baby in Europe, especially the Catholic dominant countries (of which Spain and Italy are two big ones), is like getting the golden ticket from Willie Wonka - it literally opens doors to the impossible. 

On our return journey Julie went up to the "Last Minute" check in counter at the airport (despite the fact that I openly rolled my eyes like an indignant 13 year old (read above, not ready for children) and said "They'll NEVER let you skip this line just because we have a baby.  Don't waste your time."  But you know what?  They totally let us.  And THEN they let us skip the security line and go through the handicap security check.  And THEN when her kid was screaming on the plane (for like one second - read earlier "trick baby" comment) like 10 flight attendants came over to sooth him.  In America, 1) everyone on the plane would glare at you 2) the flight attendants would passive aggressively remind you that you should have stayed home with your child who is obviously not ready to travel.

But before I got getting way off track with tales of babies, let's turn this around and get back to Barcelona.  The food there is like an explosion of flavor.  In everything.  As I've said before, Italian food, and especially our food here, is amazing in the simplicity and pure nature of presentation.  You want tomatoes?  We'll give you the best tomatoes and they will taste like the best tomatoes.  But just tomatoes.  Nothing else.  You want fish?  Here's a piece of fish.  And one lemon.  It will now taste like fish with lemon. 

Spain has this funny idea that food can taste like more than just the sum of its parts.  We went on this amazing tapas and wine tour through Taste Barcelona.  Paul, a lanky Aussie, and Marta, his Spanish wife, took us on a whirlwind 5 hour tour of the food culture of Barcelona.  We did something similar in Prague and I felt like I learned so much about the city through the evolution of their meals.  Marta made lighthearted jokes about how the Catalans, the indigenous people of the region, are known for being incredibly cheap.  From scraping tomatoes on day old bread to the traditional toast about good health and wealth in your pocket, it was endearing to watch this young couple from two very different parts of the world make light of their different cultures.  Needless to say, this was my favorite part of our trip.  And then Paul noting on his follow up email that my emails come from my alias of "Lynnie Lou."  I can only hope that one day my prospective employers will get something similar and think "This girl is a solid pick."

Aside from eating (a LOT) we also strolled our way through this lovely city.  Gaudi's architecture seems more like gospel than just a good idea.  Having studied Sagrada Familia in college, I found it to be so much more interesting and surreal in person than in my text books.  But the whole time, I could hear my mom in my head say "I just don't get it.  It's so weird."  I think Tom and I will try to head to Barcelona again and explore it a bit more.  It seems like a town that I could find myself in on more than one occasion.

Until then, I remain faithfully yours!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Matera: This town rocks!

We were at the vet with our cat, who had been sedated and shaved, when we ran into our friend, Nathan.  He mentioned that he and his wife, Kim, were planning to go out of town this weekend and where should we go?  Regardless of the particulars, we decided to go somewhere on Wednesday and left on Saturday morning.  It's really a sweet life!

Matera is this very old town in, I suppose you could say, the in-step of the boot.  This little town has all of these "sassi" or cave houses in which people have lived for 9,000 years!  Holy cats!  But apparently in the 1950's, Italian law required everyone to move out, instituted piped utilities instead of cistern systems and the place is now re-populated with adorable B&B's, shops, and trattorias, though I do believe that some original residents have moved back in to their refurbished homes.  The Sassi house museum that we went into which was re-filled with period furniture, had a statue of a horse inside.  I mean, people lived in caves with no indoor plumbing with livestock.  So before you go telling me about gentrification, there is some element, of you know, standards of living and safety involved.

We started our trip to Matera with a much longer car ride than it should have been.  I got car sick, we couldn't find a gas station, we needed snacks.  Meandering through Italian countryside, I remembered a discussion which Tom and I had previously had - about that time that I was ABSOLUTELY sure that I saw cows and sheep in the same field and proclaimed it to be a "thing" in Italy to co-field your livestock.  "Tom, they are living a boundary-less life, like God intended."  Well, since that time, which Tom doesn't believe actually happened, I've been searching the road side on all Italian adventures for another sighting.  And, alas, have yet to see it replicated.  During our lengthy car ride, I scoured.  And Team Jacobsen joined me, not Tom, in the efforts.  Whenever we saw a field of livestock, we all started shouting and Kim whipped out her binoculars (which can we just note that only AMAZING people travel with binoculars.  Talk about being prepared!  Bincos???  Seriously.  Team Jacobsen brings the mother load on trips!) and we'd check.  Nearly 9 hours of car time yielded no second sheep-cow-harmonious co-fielding sightings BUT we did see sheep and horses in the same field and I think that's progress.  I have another year and a half to prove my point.  Which is that I'm never wrong.  Ever.

And what trip with me wouldn't be complete without at least one awkward bathing experience.  Our swanky room in our 4 star hotel was super modern and filled with incredible up-lighting (Christopher Lowell of HGTV fame would have been SO proud!).  And then there was the bathing.  There was a HUGE bath tub at the foot of the bed.  After taking a picture of us (fully clothed - fear not!), sipping wine in the ol' tub, I got serious the next morning in my bathing pursuits.  I filled the tub, and filled the tub, and filled the tub and the darn thing just wouldn't fill that fast!  So I decided to just wash my hair with the little hand wand.  Those hand wands and I just don't ever play nicely together.  I set it down for just.  one.  second.  And the whole room was soaked.  It's like a fire hose when left unchecked!  Water = everywhere!  Confounded European bathing.  #fail.