Showing posts from September, 2014

Photo Post: Impressions of Lisbon, Portugal

The famous Tram 28 Before visiting Portugal , I had always had this image in my mind of the country as warm, sunny, and kind of dreamy. Lisbon, the capital, lived up to all those preconceptions, but the actual, living-and-breathing city turned out to be much more interesting than I thought it would be when I visited in April. Orange blossoms in the Moorish Castle I was really struck at the similarities between Lisbon and its southern neighbors in Spain, like  Sevilla , Málaga , or Córdoba . The hilltop Moorish fortresses, the red-tile roofs, the winding, whitewashed streets, and the warm, refreshing atmosphere reminded me so much of Andalucía . It really shouldn’t be so surprising, though, because it wasn’t until the 1200s that southern Portugal was separated politically from Spain. I thought it was too good to be true when I happened upon some orange blossoms by the cathedral. Their delicate springtime fragrance became synonymous with springtime in Andalucía for me, so t

My 5 Favorite Overlooked Cities in Spain

So many people who travel to Spain often focus on the country’s “Big Four” touristy cities at the expense of the rest of the country: Madrid, the city that really  never sleeps; Barcelona, with its medieval and turn-of-the-century charm; Sevilla, the beating heart of Andalucía; and Granada, whose Alhambra is the finest expression of Islamic art anywhere in the world. Roman walls of Lugo I’m not trying to discourage you from visiting Spain’s major tourist hotspots; if there weren’t anything worth seeing and doing, they wouldn’t be the popular places they are today! I’ve had wonderful experiences in all four cities and believe they give a great cross-section of Spanish history and culture. There’s just so much more to Spain than just Madrid or Barcelona! Even though it’s only the size of Texas, Spain is an endlessly varied country where most folks identify more strongly with their town or region than the nation as a whole. Some of my favorite cities I’ve stayed in and experienc

A Taste of Spain in Dallas, Texas

The auxiliares de conversación  program that lets English-speakers like me stay in Spain between October and May kind of leaves us hanging in the summer months, when I have inevitably come back home to Texas work at my summer job, save money, and spend time with my family. Plato Ibérico from Café Madrid To hold me over from my last menú del día  meal in Madrid and to satisfy my love of Spanish painters, Dallas thankfully has a lot of Spanish-themed offerings, all within the same general area. Meadows Museum The Wave by Santiago Calatrava Set on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas’ elite Park Cities enclaves, the Meadows Museum might be the premier collection of Spanish art outside of Spain. It opened in 1965 as a result of countless donations from the private collection of oilman Algur H. Meadows. As head of the Dallas-based General American Oil Company, he frequented the Spanish capital of Madrid in the 1950s, as his company was searching for oil re

What to Eat in Porto, Portugal

When I went to Portugal for Easter break this spring, my first stop was the country’s second-biggest city, Porto. While this northern city’s glorious church architecture, hand-painted tiles, and Harry Potter pilgrimage sites  initially drew me here, Porto’s rich and tasty cuisine kept me firmly in one place: the table, that is. Read on to learn what dishes to hunt down when you visit this beautiful, crumbling city along the Douro River. Porto’s old quarter seen from the Torre dos Clérigos Francesinha (sandwich) View this post on Instagram Obligatory francesinha shot: call it the typical meal of Porto, a heart attack on a platter, or a great midday pick-me-up, a "frahn-sih-ZEE-nyah" is a sandwich composed of ham, sausage, cheese, and usually a fried egg on top. It's served floating in a beer- and tomato-based broth, often with a coterie of french fries. Mmmmmmmm // #food #francesinha #porto #portugal

Photo Post: Remembering the Space Race in Houston, Texas

Saturn V rocket A month ago I was back in Houston, Texas, for the weekend applying for a student visa at the Spanish consulate , which I need to go back to work in Spain as a language assistant for one more year. Because the Megabus schedules didn’t allow for me to leave Dallas early in the morning and return from Houston later in the day, I decided to make a city trip out of the whole ordeal and spend two nights in the local Hostelling International hostel. Third stage of the rocket I was first in line to apply for a visa at the consulate, so I ended up having more free time than I thought I would. Thankfully, I had brought my library’s copy of Alas Babylon  with me, so I spent several hours in Starbucks over the course of the trip engrossed in this highly realistic account of what might have happened had the U.S. and the USSR engaged in nuclear war. Written by Pat Frank, the book trailblazed the post-apocalypse genre and was published at the height of the Cold War in 195

Finding Harry Potter in Porto, Portugal

Confession: I never read the Harry Potter series growing up —even though I came of age as J. K. Rowling was publishing one book after another. My parents didn’t let me read the books in elementary school (yet The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  was fine?), and as I grew older, my inner hipster mindset wouldn’t let me deign to read mass-produced fiction. I soon came to my senses and ultimately read the entire series during my first school year working as a language assistant in Spain, and I even signed up for and got placed in Ravenclaw house. Porto’s old quarter seen from the Miradouro da Vitória Now that I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, I was convinced to visit Portugal’s second-biggest city, Porto, over Easter break not only because everyone I talked to raved about the city but also because of its intimate connection with Rowling herself. Pronounced “POR-too” [ˈpoɾ.tu] (not “poor toe”!), this city was home to the author between 1991 and