Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pueblo Living

Our street in Sobrado
One ordinary September day, I was walking through our village of Sobrado do Bispo, minding my own business. As I was walking, I came across a group of three elders, talking about who knows what in their Galician language. I continued on without acknowledging them, as I always do when I'm in Ourense. Last year, I quickly learned that smiling or acknowledging people as you pass them by is not standard Ourense behavior. Acting in such a manner provokes strange stares from women or, worse, big overtly friendly and slightly suggestive smiles from particular older males.

So, as I said, here I am innocently walking in Sobrado, and I pass by this group of elders. I continue walking, their voices serving as background music to my little Cynthia world. I'm about 20 meters away and the voices are still quite loud. 40 meters away, still loud. Doesn't sound usually get quieter as you distance yourself from the source? I turn on my "Spanish active hearing" (yes, I have been here for two years but I still have to actively listen in order to figure out what people are saying), which, in reality is only half useful because the elders are speaking Galician. So my Spanish active hearing detects something along the lines of  "HEY. Why don't you say good afternoon?". Oh f, they're talking to me! I turn around, laugh nervously, and send a "buenas tardes" their way. From that point forward, I have never passed by someone in the village without greeting them. You should see me nowadays. I'm now the one who will call out from across the street "hola" to someone who doesn't even realize I'm there. I just want to keep my bases covered.

A pretty vineyard in Sobrado
I'm not sure how many people live in Sobrado, but I would guess less than 200. There are two bars and a grocery store, but other than just a bunch of houses with huge vineyards and other big green fields. The experience of this daily life is totally distinct from that of living in Ourense. I wake up in the morning and hear a rooster crowing. When I gather the courage to run around the inescapably hilly terrain I come across some farms that reek of a manure that only induces nostalgia of days in my youth, visiting my family in Mexico. Everyone in the village knows everyone else in this village. When I come across someone new and they ask me where I'm from, they say "Oh yeah, you must be Eddie's girlfriend! The American!"

Magosto en Bentraces
Living in this village twenty minutes outside of Ourense does have its downside: the commute. The first few weeks of getting used to it were kind of awful. I've always been highly reliant on using a car and arriving wherever I want at whatever time I want (late) and thus leaving at whatever time I want. But after getting used to the commute, it's just another part of my day! What's even better is that I recently applied for a special card that allows me to buy the bus tickets for half the price. Cha CHING. Another interesting thing about the bus commute is that by riding the bus every day, I have gotten to meet some of the other daily commuters. One nice older lady, for example, commutes every day from the same bus stop in Sobrado and so we always exchange friendly hellos, or if she's carrying lots of groceries I offer to help her out. She has told me she travels to Ourense to spend time with her two daughters, but then she likes to come back to her own house in Sobrado and have her own freedom, a.k.a. she is a PARTIER!!! Just kidding. I met another man recently who lived in New York for twenty years, was too shy to speak any English to me, but told me to knock on his door anytime I'm around so we can chat. So essentially, the village people (heh heh) I've met so far have been super friendly!

Me and our friend Brais at Magosto
The community has been very welcoming, and it's been nice to see this kind of environment as opposed to city people doing their own thing in Ourense. I saw part of that community atmosphere during la vendimia (my previous post about harvesting grapes for wine) but I also saw it during Magosto. This is the chestnut party of Ourense during November, and I kid you not I have asked various born-and-raised Ourensanos and none have known the origin of the party. Last year I went up on Montealegre mountain with a bunch of other people to make a  bonfire and eat chestnuts and chorizo and drink wine and licor cafe. This year I opted for a more tranquilo event, which took place in the village next to us called Bentraces. There was also roasting of chestnuts and meat and lots of drinking of wine and licor cafe, but in a more controlled environment. Everyone from the village and surrounding villages met up in this club house-type building to eat, there was live entertainment and people began to dance eventually, too. There was also a funny older lady who was a dancing machine, going around asking all the younger guys to dance. It was very cute to see the community come together and everyone seemed to take advantage to catch up with neighbors they hadn't seen in awhile!

People who find out that I live in a village seem to be surprised that I opted to do so. I won't lie, I am also surprised that I was persuaded into doing so haha! But I can honestly say that life out here is superior than city life, in my opinion. I don't wake up to my windows shaking from the traffic passing underneath my window. I don't have a bitter landlady sucking me clean of all my euros. We have privacy that you don't get when you're sharing an apartment in a building. I love going on walks and inhaling clean fresh country air. Shoot, I think I just might be a country girl at heart!

Friday, November 15, 2013

La Vendimia

This year, I am living in a small village outside Ourense. It's been a bit of an adjustment, but I'm finding that I enjoy the tranquility of living in a village. I prefer waking up hearing a rooster crow in the distance, as opposed to waking up to my windows shaking from cars passing by in the busy road beneath my window, as often occurred last year.

Village living is distinct, but I'll get more into that in a separate post. For now I want to explore a very cute and ancient tradition of Ourense and the surrounding wine regions: La Vendimia. This is the practice of going out to harvest the grapes used to produce wine. It's usually a full day of family fun, and though it only consists of cutting grape bunches using sharp scissors, it gets to be tiring!

Eddie and Me
We woke up at the crack of dawn!!...just kidding, just kidding. This is Spain, only the bakers wake up early. We met up with the group of harvesters (the family of Eddie's boss) around 9:00, and ate a leisurely breakfast before getting to work. All twenty or so of us were sitting around a table, with the owners of the house urging/forcing everyone to eat the muffins and churros and to drink coffee and Cola Cao. Then the pick-up trucks (which, may I add, I had never previously seen pick up trucks in Spain. They're all about compact cars here.) were loaded up with materials and all of us packed into two trucks.  It's truly a family ordeal, with grandparents holding hands with their grandchildren, who are equipped with safety scissors, as they move along the rows of vines, cutting the grapes down. Then of course there are the middle-aged members of the family as well. Everyone has their own job according to their ability. It's very cute! We arrived to the first grape field and everyone got right to work. Me, being a noob but a competitive little sucker, ran to my own row of grape vines and started imitating what the others were doing. Some of the others were well over 60 years old yet somehow they worked faster than me! The task was simple:
  1. Cut the grapes off the vines 
  2. Fill the big black buckets with grapes
  3. Haul the buckets to the large blue sacks
  4. Call out helplessly for a stronger person to empty my bucket into the sack
  5. Repeat
My couture outfit for the day
We finished the first field in under ten minutes. I thought to myself, man, this is a breeze. What are these people talking about, saying we'll be cutting grapes for four hours??...I spoke too soon.

We made our way from grape field to grape field, my endurance crumbling progressively after each one. I will say the experience is particularly cute because it is a good way to get to know the others and makes you feel like part of the family. Of course, everyone was speaking Gallego so I constantly had my eyes squinted in an attempt to better understand, but you know what, by the end of the day I understood it better. Everyone shares anecdotes to pass the time as we're all snipping away, and it's a nice feeling. It's what kept my spirit from disappearing completely.

I'd never seen such pretty grapes!
Around 1 o' clock we finally made our way to the last field. I had been deceived 100% by the first field. It had been a grain of sand compared to the other beach sized fields that followed! (I exaggerate a little...). The last field surrounded the family's house... in every direction.... for about 500 m. Before we could muster the energy to finish this mammoth field it was necessary to refuel...Spanish style! We gathered inside the house to eat a hearty lunch consisting of boar and fish and empanada and garbanzos and salad and cheese and ham and wine everything my little Spanish mind could think of. The mother of the family had single-handedly created this feast for all of us, and for that I deeply admire her. Who would have known that a short stout woman could produce so much wonder in a kitchen!! Ugh it was so good and I ate as much as I could, and she kept urging everyone to eat more. I didn't even have room at the end of the meal for licor cafe nor dessert...that should tell you how filled to the brim I was.

Once we were refueled and buzzed enough to gather the courage to conquer the remaining field, we equipped ourselves with shears and headed back out. This. Field. Took. FOREVER. There were red grapes and white grapes and grapes hanging from fences and grapes hanging from an overhead trellis and grapes on the ground and grapes on trees. It was nuts. It took us a good two hours to complete it and we were absolutely pooped afterward! Once we finished, we washed the grape juice stickiness off ourselves and collapsed into chairs. The host brought us cool glasses of beer as well as rice pudding. Oh, did I ever devour both of them. I'd like to think I deserved it!

The family invited us to stay for dinner, but we declined and opted instead for a couple hours of napping at home. It was an exhausting but very fulfilling day. Here's to hoping that the family remembers us when they are handing out the bottles of wine they make with the grapes we helped pick :D :D :D

Monday, October 14, 2013

Who runs this...

So, allow me to be frank and say that the sole purpose of this post is to segue from my first year in Ourense to my second. Enjoy! 

I dedicate this post to Beyonce and her song "Run the World (Girls)" because I couldn't get it out of my head as I was creating this post... I may have switched the lyrics in my head... I apologize to anyone who may not be so fortunate as to have the lyrics memorized (which should only include, like, my dad, right??????)

[Who runs Galicia? DOMINGUEZ.]


I'm back :)))))))))

Friday, July 12, 2013

Un poco de todo

I had a ton of smaller adventures the last two months in Ourense! I could probably devote one blog post to each trip, but I think it's in everyone's best interest that I consolidate them all into one post and give brief synopses of each one. Otherwise, I won't catch up with my blog for several years. All of these trips proved to be special in some way...whether it was the fact that they all took place during the Spring and the warm Spanish sun acted as the most beautiful backdrop of each adventure, or maybe just the realization that these were the last opportunities to enjoy Spain to its either case, they were all nice little trips that remain embedded in my mind.


Just a day after my dad departed, Anna's parents arrived to Ourense! It was nice to meet them, and hilarious to see how much Anna took after them :) One day they invited me to go to Pontevedra with them and I immediately agreed. Pontevedra was a cute city! It was a beautifully sunny albeit somewhat windy day. We started out with a coffee in one of the main plazas, where we witnessed SO MANY CHILDREN CHASING AFTER BIRDS. A quick aside: I don't know how many people I have shared this story with, but, several months ago I was innocently walking through a park when suddenly I felt something akin to a punch to my face and saw feathery wings flutter away....yes, a pigeon had slapped me in the face. I haven't looked at pigeons the same since. So, seeing the children enjoying themselves with the demon birds really affected me.

We spent a lot of time in Pontevedra just wandering...sometimes that is just the best kind of concrete plan, no rushing around, just cruisin' along at a happy pace. I can't say that the wandering was completely unplanned: I was traveling with Anna, afterall, and she doesn't do "unplanned" hahaha :D So we did stop along some awesome ruins, cute and weird churches, and nice palm-tree-lined parks! We had such a typical, delicious Spanish lunch in a frenzy of a plaza, which included pimentos de padron, tortilla, croquetas, queso, and chorizo (if I'm remembering correctly), all paired with some wine of course! Sitting in the plaza was an awesome little moment, and I remember trying to take the authenticity of it all in. As I lounged back in my chair, buzzed from some cerveza, I looked up at the sky to see this beautiful sight, which is now one of my favorite pictures from Spain! The picture brings back warm fuzzy Spanish feelings and will always give me pleasant reminders of Pontevedra :)

Ribadavia Wine Festival

This had to be one of, if not THE BEST roomie adventure Anna and I experienced!

Anna has always been pretty in the know of festivals and such that go on around Galicia...but when she announced this festival to me I was beside myself with excitement. Spaniards don't joke around with their wine, and so I knew a festival that was solely dedicated to wine could not be a let down!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


After my exhausting trip during Semana Santa, I had a quick two-day turnaround to prepare for my dad to come visit me in Ourense!

The plan was for me to meet him at the Ourense train station at the scheduled time of his arrival, and then we'd make our way to his hotel together and get him settled! Simple as pie.


I arrived to the train station at the scheduled time of arrival and couldn't find him anywhere. I waited around for 20 minutes or so in case he'd gotten himself lost in the station. Nothing. I took a bus back to Ourense center and to his hotel room. Yes! He had checked in just a bit ago, the receptionist told me. But he had just left the hotel a bit ago and she didn't know where to. I waited in the lobby for almost 2 hours before I had to go give a lesson. I went and did that, then came back an hour later, he still wasn't around. I waited another hour. Nothing. I went to my dance class and returned. The receptionist told me he was back and exhausted in his hotel room. Long story short, I was ready to kill the receptionist. My dad had specifically asked her for directions to the train station before heading out, and she didn't think to let me in on that detail. He had arrived earlier to Ourense because he didn't take a train, and then got confused about what time to meet me, I don't know. It was a head ache but I was glad we were finally together!!!! We had a light night out, getting a delicious dinner before separating to get some sleep.

Thursday I didn't want to overwhelm my dad too much since he was still clearly in a bit of a daze from the flight over. I worked in the morning and then met up with him for lunch.  We tried a place recommended to me by someone at work, and tried huevos rotos for the first time! They were's essentially slices of fried potatoes with eggs over medium (Is that correct egg slang?), topped with your choice of meat. We chose the traditional jamon iberico to go along with it, and it was delicious.

I wanted this day to be nice and relaxing, so Juan and I mostly just walked around the city. It was during these wanderings that we discovered my dad has an affinity for posing with statues...and this became apparent throughout his visit. He just wanted to be buddies with everyone!!
With La lechera in Ourense

Buddy #2: Ramón María del Valle-Inclán in Santiago de Compostela

His favorite buddies, 2 statues he dubbed "las chicas"
Later on we were able to catch one of Anna's choir concerts, which I found to be particularly interesting and Spanish so I hope my dad enjoyed it! We got some pinchos and drinks (I believe this was the first night that my dad was introduced to licor cafe...and it was not the last!) and then headed to bed.

The next day, Friday, would be our first mini viaje to Santiago de Compostela! My dad wanted to sleep in (which was tooooooootally fine be me!!!) so we took an early afternoon train.

La Catedral de Santiago
The train ride was nice and relaxing, but the real fun began in Santiago. We stopped at la catedral first, where my dad marveled at the greatness of it, as did I despite my having seen it before! Even the pictures don't seem to do it's just so enormous and old and pretty! We spent the rest of the day wandering around Santiago, through some gardens and small plazas, taking silly pictures whenever the heck we felt like it!! We ate a nice lunch and followed it up with dessert...twice. Why not! We had a ton of fun in Santiago and came back to Ourense exhausted.

Saturday was another mini viaje, this one to the Cañón del Sil. It was a pain in the butt trying to figure out how to get the cañón, there is no public transportation so we ended up having to take a taxi. But first, we went out to get some breakfast. I could tell Juan wanted something traditionally American...which is impossible here for the most part. So I figured we would go get some more huevos rotos and pretend we're eating breakfast when in fact we were eating a traditional Spanish lunch meal. Who cares!

Cañón del Sil
After "breakfast" we met up with my house mate, Anna, and my boyfriend, Eddie, and we set off to the Cañón del Sil! I picked this day for us to go to the Cañón del Sil because it was going to be the warmest of the days that my dad was in town. It was in fact warm and the sun was shining brightly, but once we were on the boat the wind that came along with the trip was not so nice!! I know my dad loves nature so I'm glad he got to see the beautiful valley and the waterfalls and the vineyards! I had an awesome day with these three people, I was super happy they all got to meet and we all seemed to have enjoyed ourselves :)

Sunday was meant to be the relaxing day, so me and my dad went to the Termas in Outariz, the thermal baths. As my dad and I separated to go to our separate changing areas, I explained carefully to him step-by-step that he must change, rinse off, and then I would meet him at the opposite exit so we could go down to the baths together. After our little incident with his arrival to Ourense, I wanted to make sure he was clear on directions haha. So I got dressed as quickly as I could and rushed out to meet him, but he wasn't there yet. I waited five or so more minutes before I started thinking "Dang it did Juan get lost again??" I went down to the baths to search for him, walked inside and outside quickly glancing around. I was about to make my way back up to the changing rooms when I heard "Ey Cynthia! Over here!" I peer outside and see my dad, relaxed in a pool, both arms up on the ledge, 100% at ease. I couldn't help but laugh...I guess he hadn't gotten lost after all!

Last dinner in Ourense
That night we all went out for dinner at a place Eddie had recommended, a typical parrilla which is basically a place that grills all sorts of meat, piles it onto a dish with fries and a side of sauce, sets it on your table and lets you at it. We finished the night off with some more licor cafe and buzzed conversation but settled for an early night in.

The next day my dad checked out of his hotel and together we went to Vigo! I thought it'd be nice for him to see another Spanish city, plus he had an early flight out the next morning so it would be more convenient for us to spend a night there. We had an awesome time in Vigo, walking around to the shops, getting drinks, buying souvenirs, and we ate what my father claimed was his favorite meal. It was a restaurant Anna and I had gone to before, and my dad and I ordered various raciones which included croquetas, shrimp skewers, and patatas bravas (if I recall correctly). Very typical of Galicia and topped with a typical Estrella Galicia beer. It was a nice last day :)

We woke up bright and early the next morning and made our way to the train station. I was going to take a train back to Ourense, and my dad was going to take a taxi to the airport. We had a long hug before we went our separate ways. After my dad boarded the taxi, I watched him disappear down the street, a small lump in my throat threatening to bring tears along with them. Juanny and I had such an awesome time together!!! He did drive me a little crazy trying to protect me, asking to walk me home (No, Juan, I promise you I know Ourense better than you, plus you might get lost on your way back to the hotel), telling me to be careful when I cross the street (No, Juan, here you have to just cross on your own accord or else the cars will never stop for you), telling me to be careful not to drink too much (Don't worry Juan, I went to college), etc., but I also appreciated it all. For me the trip served as a reminder of why it is he and I have come to be so very close over the years, and for that I am very thankful :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do I still love Paris?

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I'd prefer to not delve into detail of how long it took me to make the above design. It just felt necessary. It felt like the only way to demonstrate my devotion...Yah, so... I'm certifiably obsessed with Paris.

Sofia and I arrived to Charles de Gaulle, and everything felt so familiar. I remember waiting in this airport two years ago for Alex and Kelsey to arrive... seeing Alex down the long corridor and just sprinting like my life depended on it toward her to receive her into my welcoming arms.... aaaaaaaaaaand I'm crying hahahaha just kidding just kidding, but we had a grand old time in Paris two years ago and I was excited to be in Paris for the third time and to see how/if my sentiments toward the city would change!

I truly felt like a local arriving to Paris. Okay...that is a bit of a stretch. I speak enough French to not get lost and accidentally end up in Germany, and I am familiar with the airports, the RER, and the metro as well as many stops...but I think what made me so excited was the people I knew in Paris! For starters, the four friends we made two years ago all still lived in the area, and one of them, named Gamha, was even letting Sofia and I stay in the apartment he shared with his girlfriend. Then there were three other Grinnell Women's Soccer individuals who happened to be in Paris the same time I was! I know eight people, someone give me my French residency already!!

Cute menu at the cafe
First things first, we went to drop our bags off at Gamha's apartment. After many screams and hugs and quick catching ups, we made our way to a cafe for some lunch! I was happy to be able to utilize the broken French I knew to order the meal! We had a nice old lady as a waitress and she was patient and helpful, as well. FRENCH PEOPLE ARE THE BEST AND DON'T LET ANYONE ELSE TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY.

After lunch we had a fairly relaxed afternoon...Sofia and I were exhausted from all our traveling so we decided to take our time and get ready for a concert we were going to that night. We did just that. Now this band we were going to see...was not of my choosing. It was definitely Sofia's thing, a punk rock type of band that I just DO. NOT. COMPREHEND. (The name of the band is King Khan & the BBQ Show) The show itself was entertaining at least, I could never make the mistake of saying it was boring...the two guys in the band dressed up in ridiculous costumes, made the strangest faces while performing, jumped around wildly, you know, overall they delivered for their type of crowd. So I'm glad Sofia and everyone else in the venue enjoyed it... but meanwhile I was there wishing the prices of beers weren't 6 euros a pop and daydreaming about the Eiffel Tower! After the concert we called it a night... we had a lot of Paris to see the next day!

The plan for the next day was to go on the free walking tour of Paris. Of all the New Europe Tours I've been on, Paris has always been the most entertaining. The guides are the most knowledgeable and engaged, and the city is just perfect. Well, anyone who knows the Dominguez women knows that we are not a timely bunch, and so Sofia and I missed the tour. But, Sofia suggested that I just show her around since I knew the city well enough, so that's exactly what we did!

Notre Dame

Pont de Arts aka Lover's Bridge
The Louvre Museum

Eiffel Tower!
The first time I set foot in Eiffel Tower territory two years ago, I swear my heart was stolen and never returned lololol. Upon setting foot back into its territory, everything felt right again!! Maybe that's a bit much... I get very emotional and dramatic when it comes to the Eiffel Tower, sorry. I'm not going to go so far as to be the cliche of a woman who dreams of getting proposed to on the Eiffel Tower...instead, I will insist on getting proposed to while up in the Montparnasse Tower, so that I can see the Eiffel Tower while it is lit up, and on the Eiffel Tower I would like to see the marriage proposal written in lights. Purple lights, if possible. Is this such a tall order to ask? A girl's gotta have aspirations.
Me and Mackenzie
After giving Sofia a tour of Paris, we were pooped. But I still had some unfinished business...I had to meet up with my two Grinnell Women's Soccer buddies Mackenz and Al Pal!! First up was my meet up with Mackenz which, should anyone be surprised, did not go scheduled as planned and what was supposed to be a relaxed two hour catch up was a rushed half hour whirlwind talking session. It was quite the tease, only getting to see her for a limited amount of time, but it was still nice to see her!

Next up was meeting with Allison. We planned to meet up at the Arc de Triomphe...and I was 45 minutes late. I had no way of contacting her but we just made our way there and hoped for the best! We made it there, but just barely... why are there no clear directions as to how to actual get to the Arc?? It's located in the middle of a huge roundabout and there's no crosswalk. Our weary bodies were NOT about to take a chance and dash across the eight lane roundabout. Eventually we found the dang tunnel and made our way to the Arc. It was enormous and beautiful! It also made for a nice place to sit, take a breather, and enjoy the sunset of Paris...


Our silent rest was interrupted when I turn to my right to see Allison, panting, bent over a railing, sunglasses half falling off, lugging a gigantic suitcase behind her...I could not for the life of me stop laughing. Only you, Al, only you. We all went and got a snacky at a nearby cafe, and Allison proceeded to talk my ear off just like old times :) She later also joined us for dinner at Canteen Bus (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) with Gamha and his girlfriend. This restaurant holds a ton of memories for our French friends as they always went there on roommate dinners, and somehow, two years ago they let us (Alex, Kelsey and me) lodge ourselves onto the room mate bandwagon and pretend that we also hold lots of memories with them there. It was a deliciously large meal as always, and I was very comforted to see that amongst the numerous photos of celebrities on the walls, over the past two years that I´d been gone the restaurant had finally got the mind to put up a picture of Tyler Durden :)

What followed this evening after dinner was nothing short of...majestical. This was my third visit to Paris and I was finally going to see the Eiffel Tower in its full glory...lit up at night, with some wine in hand and wonderful people in my surroundings. It was Allison, Sofia, Gamha, his friend, and myself all waiting in the chilly Parisian night for the spectacular to begin. We had a couple of bottles of wine to warm ourselves, and we anxiously awaited the lights to illuminate. And happened...

 Up until this point in my life, the only times I've truly lost my breath were from getting fouled hard during soccer and getting the wind knocked out of me. But when the Eiffel Tower lights turned on...oh my worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd. I think I squealed and gasped and grabbed my cheeks Home Alone style all at the same time... oh my goshhhhh what a sight. This should be on everyone's Bucket List. Everyone. It's such an elegant, exciting, show that so greatly epitomizes the class act that is Paris.We went back home afterwards and I had the sweetest of dreams.

The next day was another long day on foot, and the first stop was the Louvre! On my two previous visits to Paris I passed through the Louvre entrance but never made it was time to end that streak!. Gamha and his girlfriend agreed to visit the Louvre with us, and man was it ever helpful to have two French individuals there with us. But before we got the the museum, we stopped to get some breakfast to-go...CREPES! Sofia went for a salted crepe which was delicious, but I, seeming to still have no resistance to sugar, went for a nutella and banana crepe. It was when we were at this creperie ordering breakfast that a gentle snow started to fall... the most beautiful kind of snow...the snow that falls gently but doesn't stick to the ground! I had a little falling-even-deeper-in-love with Paris moment then :)

So as I said, we visited the Louvre. Gamha had the brilliant idea of buying our tickets beforehand...and holy crap was it a good idea. When we got there the line wound its way around the plaza, and we just skipped on up to the front and were let in right away (Man, I could get used to this VIP treatment). Before entering the museum, we knew there was no way we would be able to cover the whole thing...most people have told me that it takes 4-6 hours at the very least. We decided that we would power through and see the most famous pieces of art, and that still ended up taking us about 3 hours! We saw the Mona Lisa, which was quite an unpleasant experience. There was a crowd forming a 30 meter radius semi-circle around the thing, so you had to gradually work your way toward the middle. Now, I've experienced rude people pushing in lines and whatnot, but NOTHNG like the crowd around the Mona Lisa. Everyone was "no-mercy", elbowing and shouldering to try to get the best view. I felt so bad for a lady who couldn't have been taller than 4'8" and was getting tossed around like a rag doll. Anyway, there was a lot of yelling and sweating and smelly people and I don't think the art piece is worth the fuss. It's something you gotta see once in your life though, I suppose.

There were many other pieces in the Louvre that I found to be more alluring and beautiful. I dug the Greek and Roman sculptures in particular:

My future home?

After the Lourve, Gamha and his girlfriend guided us to Montmarte There we saw the Sacre Coeur as well as the Moulin Rouge. It was comforting to see that the same amazing juggling/street entertainer from 2 years ago was still standing up on a pillar on the Sacre Coeur! We were quite beat after this visit, so we made our way back to the apartment, where Sofia and I attempted to create a Mexican meal for Gamha and his girlfriend with the limited amount of Mexican supplies available in France! It was...mediocre... I really need to start paying attention to my mom and grandma when they cook. At least the guacamole was pretty good :)

The next day was Sofia's last in Europe. Gamha was kind enough to take her to the airport so that she wouldn't have to navigate her way through the RER and metro. It brought on a lot of nostalgia to see Sofia leave... make no mistake about it, she and I fought like mad and nearly killed each other, but in the end it was awesome to see her, and I'm glad she and my other friends got to meet each other and that we were able to explore Europe together for a second time!

My pile of meat and potatoes with some raclette
After dropping Sofia off at the airport, Gamha drove me to the suburbs of Paris to meet up with the rest of the guys. Now I was truly starting to feel like a genuine french woman...I was goin to da 'burbs! Strangely enough, the suburbs of Paris look EXACTLY LIKE THE SUBURBS OF CHICAGO. I guess I was expecting for the magic of Paris to trickle all the way out to the suburbs! It almost made me homesick, being in a proper suburb again. Anyway, it was a cute drive but the cuteness of the experience was just starting!

Raclette contraption
We arrived to our friend Erwan's house, where there was more squealing and giggling and hugging etc. I begged Erwan to make me some of his famously delicious crepes, and he agreed. But before he could begin to get to work...his mother invited me to eat lunch with the family!! WHATTTTTT!! LUNCH CONSISTING OF A TRADITIONAL FRENCH MEAL WITH REAL GENUINE FRENCH PEOPLE IN A FRENCH SUBURB OF PARIS. After wiping tears of joy from my eyes I agreed and headed down to have the meal with the family. Oh my was a WONDERFUL meal! It was this awesome thing called Raclette, and included an oven contraption that I had never set eyes on. Basically, you get your own mini frying pan (literally the size of my palm) where you put a slice of Raclette cheese. You put the cheese in the oven contraption (which sits in the middle of the dining table) and wait for your cheese to get nice and melty. Meanwhile, you pile on various cuts of meat and potatoes onto your plate. Once the height of your pile is satisfactory, and your cheese is browned, you take the frying pan, and with a cute mini spatula you scrape the cheese off the pan and onto your pile of food. The raclette cheese cascades from the pan, forming a gorgeous gooey puddle onto your food. And then you EAT. And boy, did I eat. Now it may sound like I just trudged into the room, stuffed my face with food, burped, and left the table. BUT I promise you that I made a legitmate attempt to speak french during this meal. Essentially, all I was able to throw out was that I was American, I was teaching english in Spain, I love France, I love the food, and thank you very much. But I'd like to think it was better than nothing! :)

After lunch the family brought out the CUTEST little cake with bunnies and eggs on it...and I thought to myself, wow that's cute, are bunnies a French thing too... wait a second ...It's Easter today, isn't it? Holy crap I am spending a holiday with a French family...SERIOUSLY now, GIVE ME FRENCH RESIDENCY!!!!!! And if I weren't full enough from that meal AND dessert, Erwan still came through on his promise to make me crepes. And they were perfectly delicious as always! It was such a pleasure to see all of the guys again (but sad that Florian couldn't join us ;) ) I literally never stop laughing when I am with these crazy French men!! I can't wait until the next time we are all together!

We are all French!!!! (Antoine, Erwan, Me, Gamha)
We made our way back to Paris center afterwards, where I slowly starting packing and also took a nap. I was meeting up with another friend, Hannah, later that night for a drink. That was half disastrous as well, because there was miscommunication and basically Hannah and I looked for each other for a good hour. I wish we had gotten more time together but even that little taste of HanHan was enough to hold me over for a bit!

So, after this I went to sleep, dreaming of glittering Eiffel Towers, succulent lemon crepes, and heart attack raclette cheese. Early the next morning I had my flight back to Spain...back to reality, away from France :(

Everyone tells me... "Well why don't you stop talking about how much you love Paris (but one wants to hear about it anymore!!) and just find a way to move there!" I have considered it. I read an awesomely informative book last year called C'est la vie about a woman who lived in Paris... basically what I gathered from the book is that I'll need to be 40-50 years old with piles of money to spare if I ever want to think about even surviving in Paris. It is expensive as hell. And honestly, I would be scared to lose the magic and giggly girl feeling that I feel every time I return to Paris. Wouldn't it all just lose its novelty? I think I'll prefer to keep my heart locked up in the Eiffel can't live without your I can't live without a bit of Paris every so often :)