Pike Place Market at Night

pike_place_market_night

While I was home last, I made a stop at my beloved Pike Place Market–one of those famous sights that’s really worth the hype and not just for tourists. After being in Spain this long, I now look at the market with new eyes, chuckling at the peeled and deveined shrimp; which in Spain is basically sacrilegious. But mostly I just daydream about living in the area, and doing the majority of my shopping there:  picking up a gorgeous $5 bouquet every week, the freshest wild salmon, and seasonal fruits and veggies.

Pike Place Market is much more than just stalls touting seafood and produce, however. There are also numerous restaurants and artisan food shops (perfect for souvenirs!), craft stalls, and an arcade downstairs featuring shops of all kinds. It’s a maze for the senses, and well worth a couple of hours shopping and exploring. As the oldest continuously operated farmer’s market in the U.S.A., we Seattleites are pretty proud of this attraction. In my opinion, Pike Place Market is the king of farmer’s markets, and I compare every market I visit in the world to it (like La Boqueria in Barcelona, this Roman market, or Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel.)

Take a look for yourself! 

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Things I Wish the U.S.A. Would Learn From Spain

There’s no such thing as a perfect country. And even though Spain has incredible food, beaches, nightlife and culture, it also has corruption, a crisis, low wages and more. However, there are some things that my country should learn from my adopted country (and vice-versa!) that if combined, would make the end result pretty close to a perfect place. Since I’ve already complained about the things I wish Spain had, back when I was a newbie expat, I’ll leave that out and stick to just the things I wish the U.S.A. would learn from Spain:

vitoria-spain-shopping

Shops and Bars in Vitoria, Spain

Saying “hello” when entering a shop. Here in Spain, when you enter a shop, you’re expected to greet the shopkeeper and/or assistants. Back home, that expectation isn’t there and usually the employee’s will be smothering greeting you first asking you if you need any help (no).

The drawn-out goodbyes. When you go to social gathering in Spain, you’re expected to personally greet and say goodbye to each and every person there; regardless of your relationship with them. Obviously this has its limits, and isn’t meant for your late-night trips to the discoteca. Think dinner with extended family, get-togethers with groups of friends, small, intimate parties, etc. I used to HATE doing this, 1) Because I’m from the land of hugs and handshakes and giving los dos besos to someone I just met used to be weird. 2) I used to get nervous that’d I’d confuse which side of a person’s face to kiss first (left, then right) and accidentally plant one on their lips!

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A café con leche

The art of the café con leche. America, please take note. A Seattleite like myself denouncing Starbuck’s may be a bit of a sacrilege, but it’s really not that amazing. A good café con leche will trump your Grande Americano non-fat 1 pump caramel sh*t any day.

Breakfast breaks. Lots of companies allow employees a 10-15 minute breakfast break each morning at around 11 o’clock to perk up over aforementioned café con leche or gobble down a slice or tortilla or two. It’s just  enough to tide you over until the big meal of the day and it makes the day go by more quickly.

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Abundant vacation days. Last year, CNN polled countries on their vacation days, and Spain topped the list with 30 days (France, Denmark Brazil and Germany also enjoy 30 days.) Back home, we’re lucky if we get 2 weeks.

The fervent love of fútbol. Ok, so we Americans have the love of the ‘other’ football going for us, but it would be nice if the emerging MLS was a bit more exciting than what it currently is. We’ll see how the state of soccer is in a few years, I have high hopes that it will continue growing each year!

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Three cuties fishing in San Sebastián

 A less individualistic society. I love the drive that many of my fellow country-men have, but the States can feel like a lonely place sometimes because we are all so damn independent. This means more focus on ourselves, and less of an importance placed on family and community–whereas in Spain, it’s the complete opposite. You’ll see families out in the bars with kids in tow, grandmas and grandpas sitting out on the ubiquitous benches chatting, and groups of friends (who’ve been in the same group of friends since childhood) meeting over cañas at what seems like all times of the day–and night.

Local businesses are abundant.  Even though the crisis is hitting small businesses hard, it’s nice to see that so many of them still exist and haven’t disappeared due to big business. I love being able to go to the local carnicería, panadería, pescadería and frutería to do my shopping and support local business.

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Pintxos and kalimotxos in San Sebastián

Tapas/Pintxos Culture. In my perfect world, the tapas/pintxos culture would exist everywhere. Here, home entertaining isn’t nearly as common as it is in the States, so the local bars function, in a way, as a living room of sorts. I love going out with friends to grab small bites and sample glasses of wine. I think it’s the heart of Spanish culture, something that from north to south to east to west is basically the same experience–finding something all of the country has in common can be difficult!

What do you think your country could learn from Spain?

 

2012: My Year in Travel

This year was all about staying local. I ventured out of Spain a few times; once to make my yearly trans-atlantic trip home, and once to explore Lisbon, Portugal. In between those trips, I explored more of my adopted country, and consequently fell more in love with it. Though I have a long way to go before seeing the whole world, it’s hard to imagine many countries with the same diversity as Spain. I’m always impressed by how much there is to see and do–and I still have so much left!

Jimena de la Frontera, Andalucía, Spain

Jimena de la Frontera, Spain

Jimena de la Frontera, Spain

This year I really got into hiking and took advantage of the mild Andalusian winter to fit some in. In doing so, I took the train to Jimena de la Frontera and explored this pueblo blanco, as well as some of the surrounding trails. The white towns of Andalusia are something I will miss while being up north!

Madrid, Spain

Rooftop view of Madrid

Rooftop view of Madrid

I made a few different stops in the Spanish capital this year; to see the Copy Del Rey Final, to take care of some bureaucratic headaches and as a pit stop while passing through. It’s sprawling, bustling and has that big-city energy that I love.

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Andalucía is the place to be in the summer. Blazing heat, countless beaches and that famous Spanish nightlife we’ve all heard of. Conil de la Frontera offers the perfect formula of sun, sand and fiesta and is a town I’d go back to in a heartbeat in the summer months.

Lisbon, Portugal

A street-car in Lisbon, Portugal

A street-car in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon was my travel let-down of the year. After I fell for the pristine coastlines and laid-back feel of Portugal’s Algarve, Lisbon  and I just didn’t connect. Maybe it was because I had high hopes for a city everyone seemed to love, or maybe it just lacked that special something, but it definitely wasn’t for me.

Leavenworth, WA, U.S.A.

Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth, WA

There’s really nothing like doing a bit of globe-trotting to make you see your home with new eyes. While I was back visiting, I went to the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth in the Cascade Mountains. Fall has never looked prettier!

Mt. Rainier, WA, U.S.A.

Mt. Rainier, WA

Mt. Rainier, WA

With my new-found love of hiking, I knew I had to hit some trails in my gorgeous home of Washington State. A trip to Mt. Rainier more than sufficed.

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Spain

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria

I recently went to a medieval town I’ve been dreaming of visiting: Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. Stay tuned for a post recapping my visit!

Santander, Cantabria, Spain

Santander, Cantabria

Santander, Cantabria

Santander was another recent trip. Think rolling, green hills, an elegant downtown and more parks than time to explore them! Coming soon to the blog!

Where did you go in 2012?