Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Weekend in Aix

My parents arrived in Paris on Friday morning and proceeded to konk out for my entire work day. Which was good, because it meant that I didn't have to feel too badly for being at the office on their first day in town.

Saturday morning very early, we got up and boarded the TGV and headed south to Aix-En-Provence. None of us had ever been there, so despite the fact that the friends we'd be staying with wouldn't arrive until the afternoon, we opted for an early train so we could check out the city before heading back out of town toward their house in Cotignac. Aix is a really beautiful town, and we had a great lunch in the center of the old town before spending a couple of hours wandering around and shopping and finally catching up with our friends.

I hadn't seen them in 19 years, when our family and theirs met up in Europe for a couple of weeks in France, Switzerland, and Italy. It was the same trip where my dad didn't know how to say the word butter in French and somehow ended up mooing like a cow at the breakfast table in order to make his request understood by the waiters... who surely understood exactly what he was asking for in the first place. That was the precise moment I decided it would be a good idea to learn every single language on earth in order to never embarrass my children.

Other highlights of that trip included a tennis match on a clay court in the mountains in Interlaken where we were so inundated by horseflies that we ended up swatting flies more than tennis balls, and poor Nicole took the majority of the attack and ended up with massive itchy welts all over her body. From the horseflies, not from us hitting her with rackets. Of course, we also went on amazing hikes in the Swiss mountains and stayed at a cool old hotel on a little Italian island. It was a good trip.

And it was great to see them again, so many years later. After catching up over dinner and drinks on Saturday night, we went out with the kids for some rock climbing while the parents went on a long walk. Such a great relief to be outside in nature, and with the sun shining and our shoes off after so many weeks of rain and cold in grey Paris.

On the way back Sunday night, we were starting to prepare to get off the train when suddenly we ground to a halt and were informed that the train ahead of us had hit a boar and that we'd be stopped for a while. Half an hour later, we were still in the same place, and the conductor came over the loudspeaker to tell us that it wasn't a boar, but a herd of them. Finally, an hour later, we finished the last fifteen minutes of our trip into Gare Lyon and were able to head back home. When you're with me, even the simplest of train rides is never boaring...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Of Bakesales and Halloween Costumes

Last Friday night I came home from work and didn't immediately locate Frenchy, so I called out, "Sweetie, where are you?" And heard, from bathroom, "I'm in here!"

And that's where I found him, crouched in the bathroom over newspaper spread all over the floor, painting something that looked like boot gaiters a shiny gold. He looked at me proudly and proclaimed, "Isn't that COOOOOL? It's for my Michael Jackson costume." And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that's when my future suddenly shined brighter than ever because I realized HE would be able to deal with all our kids costumes for halloween, school plays, and whatever odd reasons kids get dressed up.

Then again, that came back to bite me the following day when HE came home and found me in the living room, super-gluing shiny gold fabric strips to a red jacket we'd picked up in a thrift store in Stockholm. He immediately proclaimed, "No YOU'RE going to make all the kids' costumes!"

Fast forward one week. (Geez, is it just one week? That party seems like a month ago already!) I informed Frenchy yesterday that, not only do I have a soccer team Christmas party to attend tonight, as a midfielder I've been assigned to bring a MAIN DISH. I told him this around 5pm of course.... and the party started at 7.

And do you know what happened next? We went out, bought groceries, I picked up a gift for the secret santa exchange, and we came back and FRENCHY MADE A PASTA SALAD. In like 10 minutes! I was so delighted I nearly cried. In fact, I think I DID cry. Because once again I could imagine the future and see one of our kids coming home saying, "Mommy tomorrow we have a bake sale and I told the teacher I'd bring 10000 brownies." And I'd be able to say, "Oh that's great sweetie. Go tell your father."

The final MJ outfits... George ended up wearing my jacket since I stayed as Madonna all night.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Big Birthday

It has been a busy week. The party on Saturday was a raging success by all accounts. Frenchy did the majority of the work to organize it, and so as a result we're now both recovering from The Birthday That Was. It was amazing to get so many different friends together from all over the place.

Distance award definitely goes to Huy (Dubai) but longest absence award goes to my friend Robert, who I hadn't seen in 12 years, but who flew down from Stockholm for the night anyway. Most work award goes to Frenchy of course, who also wins the Best Guy on the Planet award. Best costume is very difficult, because not only were there many many great Madonnas and Michael Jacksons, there were also a great many female MJs and male Madonnas. Just impossible to judge.

So while I won't say my actual birthday on Monday was a letdown - because it wasn't - I will say it was a welcome relief. Back at work, quiet (or quieter than usual), and blessedly calm. Had we been in Spain still, it would have beena holiday, but sadly the French don't really seem to observe the Immaculate Conception all that much... come to think about it, I guess it goes completely against one of the main tenets of French existence. The others being cheese and wine.

But on Monday night, Frenchy showed up with the best gift ever. He had to immediately strip off his shirt after walking home with this huge box and two pizzas, and of course I had to immediately take a picture.

And then I opened it... the new Guitar Hero... WITH DRUMS!!! AHHHHHHH!

I can tell that my Christmas holiday is going to be verrrrrrry productive. Merci mon amour!!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Getting Prepped for the Big 3-0

Here's the deal.

My birthday is Monday. I'll be 30. (!!!!)

The 8th of December is also the day of the Immaculate Conception. Or, in Spain, La Inmaculada. And a holiday! Not in France, unfortunately.

Madonna's first collection of hit songs is the Immaculate Collection. I love Michael Jackson. (That's actually a horrific understatement.) And I've always wanted to throw a Michael Jackson & Madonna party. Any era, any color, any Michael Jackson, any Madonna.

So I decided a while back that this would be the year. I sent out the notifications for people to save the date four full months ago. Hey, that's what happens when your birthday falls at the beginning of both ski season and company holiday party season. You gotta get the word out early.

And now the party is tomorrow night. I have two costumes... still can't decide if I'll be MJ or Madge, so I guess a mid-party costume change is in order. Frenchy has also been prepping his costume and I found him in the bathroom tonight painting some homemade MJ accessories gold... It was at this precise moment I saw the future, and realized with glee that I will never, EVER have to worry about Halloween costumes for our kids. Frenchy's got it all under control.

Besides having an artsy-craftsy boyfriend (gasp! FIANCE!!!!) I also have amazing friends who are arriving from all over the place to celebrate with me. I think Huy wins the distance award, coming from Dubai, but Mihaela has arrived from Bucharest, another dozen or so are coming in from London and Madrid, Robert from Stockholm, Xavi, Francis, and Megan from Switzerland, George and Lamberto from Milan.... I'm one lucky lady this week!

Pictures sure to come, but for now I leave you with this....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Back From Prague... With Big News!

This past weekend I took Frenchy to Prague for a romantic wintry getaway. Neither of us had ever been there, and the flights were inexpensive, so off we went.

We arrived on Friday night and checked into the Hotel Josef on the recommendation from a friend (thanks again Jason!), which turned out to be one of the best places to take loads of pictures.

On Saturday we headed out on the town to see the sights and enjoy the town. We caught up with an old friend of Frenchy's for lunch and then planned to see the lighting of the Christmas tree in the old town square at 6pm. We stopped for a gluwein or two (heh heh) and headed for Wenceslas Square, where Frenchy stopped me suddenly in the middle of everything and asked if I wanted to marry him. And of course, I said yes.

And then he said, "Oops, I forgot!" and dropped to one knee and did the whole thing all over again. So I said yes all over again!

I guess there were people all around us, but I can't really recall. What I do know is that we went straight for more gluwein. And then to the Christmas tree lighting, where I learned how fast a happy Christmas crowd can turn into a surly mob.

Upon our escape, we checked out Gehry's Dancing House and took some photos of some of the bridges and then headed back to the hotel. Where Frenchy said, "I have something for you." And gave me a book he'd had made, with a letter of the alphabet and a photo of us on each page. All photos from our nearly two years together... and when I got to Y, there was no photo, just "Y... for Yes?"

And then I burst into tears. In a good way.

And then I felt really hungry.

And now our next adventure begins!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from France!

Tonight Frenchy and I had a lovely dinner of chicken and potatoes (ok, ok, close enough) and marveled at how happy we are and how great life is. And then ...

Noelle: I'm very thankful for you, sweetie.
Frenchy: And I'm thankful to you too... uh, I'm thankful FOR you... uh whatever THAT means...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blog slowdown

So here is where I apologize for going nearly the whole month of November without a single post. But I apologize mostly to myself, because really this blog is for me, even if I share it with anyone who is bored enough to read it. It´s fun to occasionally go back and relive the weird and wacky moments that make up my bizarre existence.

So for my own sake, I vow to resume posting regularly!

I guess my only excuse is that the majority of my day is spent working. And though there are PLENTY of things to write about work (some good, some not-so-good, but nearly all ridiculous and often funny), I know it´s not always the best idea to blather on about work on a blog.

But even that is no excuse because my non-work time is still very busy and entertaining. At least, it is for me. Let´s see... looking back in my calendar... we´ve had an election, and a very exciting one at that, with lots of interesting and positive feedback in Europe, I´ve done some paperwork for some other interesting things, I´ve been to Stockholm and haven´t even mentioned a word about it till now, I´ve worked in London for three days, with another to come tomorrow, I´ve played my first soccer match in a Paris suburb (and been severely gashed with metal studs - yikes), I´ve been to a doctor, and to my first rugby match, and there´s still one more weekend left... which I´ll spend in Prague!

Plus, this is my last month of my 20s!!!!! You´d think I´d have written something every day in commemoration! Whoops.

So really, I have no excuse. Time to get back on the wagon! You´re all welcome to join! :)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why I'm Happy It's Election Day

Well, quite simply, I'm sick of hearing about the election. I'm sick of everyone in Europe demanding that I vote for Obama OR ELSE. I'm sick of people who have no idea what they're talking about lecturing me. It's all really old.

That having been said, being an American in Europe during the Bush years really sucks, so I'm looking forward to change. ANY change.

Last week I had to go to Barcelona to get a piece of paper that allows me to travel around while I wait for my new resident card. Another day of my life lost to a long line and paperwork. On the way back to Paris, I showed a security agent my boarding pass and passport in the Barcelona airport in order to go through security. He looked at my passport and, without even opening it, said in the most evil voice ever, "Ameeeeerican." Then a pause, followed by, "Buuuuuush. George Buuuuush."

I didn't even have the nerve to look him in the eye. It continued...

Security guard: You like Bush? Or Obama?
Me: (figuring that if he really wanted to speak English, then sure no prob) They're not even running against each other.
Guard: (confused) You like Bush or Obama?
Me: Bush isn't RUNNING!
Me: If I tell you I like Obama, can I have my passport back and go through security now?
Guard: Obama?
Me: Yes! Obama! I like Obama! I love Obama. Can I go now?

Then he gave me back my passport. And I angrily took off half my clothes in order to pass through security.

So yeah, I'm excited for this to be over. Go Obama.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

T- 5 months

Last night Frenchy and I went to see an old friend of his to have dinner and play video games. At one point we were talking about New York and I mentioned that the NYC Marathon was today, and we got to talking about marathons. Apparently Quentin's friend had run a marathon on a sort of bet a few years back.

Well evidently the conversation (or, more likely, the wine) led me to think it was a good idea to register for the 2009 Paris Marathon around 1am this morning. When I woke up my first thought was, What a funny dream! And then I realized, wow, I've drunk registered for a marathon. I wonder if Google can develop something to prevent this.

In reality, the Paris marathon is something I've been thinking about doing since August. And hey, nothing like middle-of-the-night race registration to move you from the thinking phase to the reality phase. And so I took my reality phase to the park today and ran 10 kilometers. This marathon thing is going to be a snap. (Just have to be able to add another 32km....)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Country, New Title

By the way, you may have noticed that the name of the blog has changed. Noelle is no longer in Barcelona, and my IESE ended a year and a half ago (though we all continue to drag it out as long as possible), but I am indeed a stranger in a strange land. I think I'll still feel that way even if I finally go back to the US.

So it was time for a change.

Speaking of change... a few weeks ago I started to get really stressed out over the fact that I hadn't received an absentee ballot and indeed wasn't even sure where such a thing would have been or should have been sent.

Fortunately (or not) for me, I had added my email address to two different lists in support of Barack Obama. Meaning that I get Obamaspam on a daily or even hourly basis. (Funnily enough, I'm not the only one, as I found when I happened across this article yesterday.) Anyway, in this case it was fortunate because the spam I received just two days after worrying I wouldn't get to vote informed me that I could indeed register still and even cast a write-in ballot by just going to Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, one of the most famous expat destinations in Paris.

So off we went, Frenchy and I. There were two volunteers working there, sitting outside in the sunny and yet not particularly warm afternoon, registering a hoard of people, some of whom had even weirder stories than mine. All of which needed explaining of course. The woman in front of me explained (moments after her young daughter announced to everyone, "Mom, you have the softest, smushiest butt for hugging!") that she was from Ohio and was worried that her ballot may have been sent there, in which case ... was she completely out of luck??? Another girl carried a US passport because her mom is from Kansas, but had never set foot in the States in her life.

So finally it was my turn, and Frenchy started laughing before I even got the first words out. I explained that I was registered in New York, but that I'd always voted absentee in California. The guy told me this was impossible, that I must have voted in NYC. Try as I might to explain to him it wasn't the case, he insisted otherwise. Finally I just said, "look I don't care where I vote, I just want to VOTE!" Since my last residence before Spain (and France) was New York, he started to look up the deadline for New York state, further explaining, "See it's all about the last place you were a resident in the US and the last place you paid taxes."


In that case, my last residence was actually Boston, where I lived for two months last year. Frenchy burst out laughing. And all the other people in line let out an "oooooh" of respect. Indeed my story was crazier than anyone else's. And the volunteer guy said excitedly, "EVEN BETTER! Massachusetts allows you to register right up to Nov 4 so you can vote via write in today and you may also receive an absentee ballot here in time!" Cool, so I can vote twice!

Trying my best to understand the write-in/absentee/re-registration process.

An hour and a half later, I was registered, ready to send off my ballot, and excruciatingly hungry. We ended up in one of the most touristy areas possible (hey, we were starving and near Notre Dame) and nearly got ripped off by an overly happy Greek restaurant owner. But at least I had voted...

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Month In the Merde

Actually, it has only been three weeks, but these three weeks have been absolutely merde-erific!

The good points: I've gotten to travel a lot, have seen plenty of friends, and our apartment is feeling downright livable thanks to the amazing Frenchy!

The bad points: I've had to travel a lot, rain and scooters really don't go well together, and I don't know where anything is in the apartment. (Frenchy's plan to make me absolutely dependent upon him, clearly.)

Main lesson learned from the first three weeks of this Frangoli adventure? If you are American, I advise against working for a French company on a Spanish payroll. Imagine the bureaucracy inherent in just ONE of those three, and put them all together... let's just say an unreasonable portion of my time and energy is devoted to figuring out how to get paid, what happens if I get sick, filing expenses that no one can account for... I will stop now because job griping is something from which I generally refrain, particularly in this frigid economic clime.

I'm just looking for a good excuse as to why I hadn't posted, and if that ain't enough for ya, then come over here and try it out for a week yourself! ;)

Friday, October 03, 2008


This morning Frenchy and I got up at 5am to get ready to head to the airport for our last flight out of Barcelona. Last night after the movers left, all we had was an air mattress, two laptops and wifi that (thankfully!!!!) won´t be disconnected until mid-October. It was kind of fun, in a way. Especially because we had Wednesday´s episode of America´s Next Top Model to catch up on.

So this morning when the alarm went off it was still dark outside and I was definitely sleeping on the hard wood floor. Air mattresses don´t really hold their air very long, do they? We packed up what was left of our belongings (not much - a few towels and a sheet and blanket to hold us over until our stuff arrives in Paris tomorrow) and headed out.

We got to the airport in plenty of time since no one is on the road at that hour and so you can imagine our surprise when we were told the flight was overbooked and we were thus on standby. Now, those of you who have read this blog for some time will know that I consistently have airline troubles and so this probably shouldn´t faze me. But something about the fact that I had to get to the office in Paris, Frenchy had interviews in the afternoon, we had to get to Paris to MOVE INTO OUR FLAT, ... just everything. It was too much. And I lost my cool, just a little bit, and might have sort of used my non-indoor voice for some good old American obscenities. Ricky Ricardo style, but in reverse.

The supervisor politely explained to us in Spanish that it was an ordinary overbooking, which happens all the time. Frenchy responded, "ES UNA PUTADA" To which the supervisor replied with a nod and said, "It´s a completely legal overbooking," and to which Frenchy replied in turn, "ES UNA PUTADA LEGAL!!"

At or around this time I decided to march to the Air France desk in a huff, only to have a now calm Frenchy suddenly become rational and say, "Wait, maybe we should check the bags at least and TRY to get on the flight." Hmph. Fine. So we had to go back to that supervisor and ask him to check our bags, which he did with surprising zeal and pleasantness. And sure enough, when we got to the gate, they informed us that all standbys would be given seats on the plane.

I like to think it´s all that yelling and huffing we did in multiple languages that got us on board... And let me tell you, if you don´t want to feel sad about leaving a place, just get screwed over by the national airline on the way out the door. You won´t regret a thing!

Anyway, now I´m in Paris. Again. But this time it´s for real. Tonight Frenchy and I will go to our new flat with almost no furniture and welcome our very first houseguest... Marco! A mini Calatrava reunion in gay Pareee! What a perfect way to kick off the next adventure.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Last Day in Barcelona

So I'm sitting in my apartment on Diagonal, surrounded by boxes. I got back from nearly two weeks in the US (a pitch that went incredibly well, followed by a weekend in Oregon for David & Lyndsey's wedding - more about those later) on Tuesday afternoon and went straight to see a lawyer about my work permit renewal.

It's amazing how fast things can go when you know who to talk to and you take things into your own hands. After waiting nearly five months to hear about how our relocation would work (how, when, etc.) and about my work permit being renewed, I decided finally to just deal with it myself and ask the right people directly rather than waiting for someone in HR to "handle" it. And it worked!

My work permit will be ready in two months. I dropped off my passport and work visa on Tuesday afternoon after getting off the plane and picked them up 24 hours later. Incredible. No lines, no forms, no nada. Just a really awesome lawyer who took care of everything. And this morning the movers arrived at our apartment. Frenchy had dealt with finding the right moving company and getting the quotes and booking the dates (because he is the best guy on the planet) and all we had to do yesterday as a result was pack up EVERYTHING into boxes.

And you know what? While we do have quite a lot of stuff (more than I had at Calatrava because this flat wasn't furnished), it's a lot less than I expected to have after three years. And the best part is... come Sunday afternoon, I'll have my scooter in Paris as well. The movers are sending it in the truck today!

Friday, September 26, 2008

New York State of Mind

So the last few days have been a whirlwind... I mentioned my travel schedule already: Paris-Barcelona-Paris-New York in just four days. But now that I'm back in New York, I'm feeling great. I love traveling west and getting the "good" jetlag, where you wake up really early ready to face the day. (Ok, not the part where you faceplant in your food at 8pm. That's a bit embarrassing.)

My love affair with New York started when I was about five. We used to visit every summer either before or after visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania, and I always loved the soaring buildings, the bustling traffic sounds, the crush of the crowds, the steamy summer air, and the stinky subway. So it was only natural that I would want to pursue my film degree there, at NYU, which I did. What I didn't know was that I'd spend nearly 10 years there.

But when it was time to move to Barcelona, I was ready. Even New York, my favorite place in the world, had started to wear me down. And I felt like I almost knew it too well. It was time for another adventure, another challenge. But after a couple of days being back here, knowing the city well has become a positive thing again. I walked to our downtown office this morning from my hotel in Soho and was reminded how EASY life is here. Want to stop off at the gym before work? No problem, they are EVERYWHERE. Need a coffee? There's your friendly coffee cart dude, ready with your 75 cent coffee and a "good morning." Oh and in case you have to drop off some shoes to be fixed because you destroyed the heels at that last wedding, no problem. There are at least three shoe repair places on the way to wherever you're going. Need to do all of that on a Sunday? Why sure! It's just like any other day of the week! Things are OPEN. Ahhhhh.

I love New York.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Roller Coaster

Have you ever looked back on a week and just gone, "WOAH." Like, that was so totally heavy and out there and all over the place. Tears one minute, laughter the next? That kind of thing? Well, that's how the past week has been for me.

My life has been a little hectic of late, and it has been made more complicated by the fact that my situation, well OUR situation - Frenchy's and mine - has so many variables, so many moving parts. We've been waiting for the Spain-France move to be settled for nearly five months now, and frankly it still isn't. I mean, it's happening... but we were meant to have been here and been fully settled in by Sept 1, and here I am on Sept 17 about to leave the country for the rest of the month for work, without anything actually finalized.

And then there's a little nagging health issue which still hangs in the balance. And my work permit, which is at least starting to get moving now that I'm handling it myself. A flat in Paris should soon be ours, thanks to our network of IESE pals. But the most important of all, I think I have created a dream job for myself... without even having to leave my company. Details to come perhaps, but the main point is that when everything in your life seems to be spinning out of control, just finding a way to make one thing concrete and YOURS can make all the difference.

Since I wrote my "pick-me-up song list" last Wednesday morning until now, I'm feeling a million times better. I have an exciting, challenging, new project to look forward to, and it's amazing how that can make all the difference.

I'm sure this is a very strange, rambly post... and at the moment, my brain is kind of strange and rambly. Understandable, since I got up at 5am today in Spain, flew to Paris and had a day full of meetings and conference calls in three different languages, and now I have to pack again because tomorrow I fly to NYC. But hey, at least I feel like I'm moving in a positive direction again, strange and rambly as it may be along the way!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Which is why right now I'm doing everything but. Dancing in the living room, responding to emails, trying on Frenchy's hat, taking self-portraits....

This week is a little crazy: Monday Paris, Tuesday Barcelona, Wednesday Paris, Thursday New York. I had no idea where I was when I woke up this morning!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

60 Years!

Before Sept 11 was a day for crashing planes or burning trains (which will surely affect my planned trip to London on the Eurostar Saturday), it was my grandparents' wedding anniversary.

And today they celebrate 60 years of wedded bliss. Can you imagine? 60 YEARS?!?! And I thought my parents' 30th was impressive...

As long as I've known my grandparents - and that would be my whole life - they've always been kind to each other and treated each other with love and respect. I've almost never seen them disagree, and when they have it has been incredibly low-key and over in minutes. The first time I ever heard something even close to an argument was when I was 15 or so and something related to the phone company or the bank or something, and it was all summed up in my grandmother saying, "Well shit, Don, go ahead and call them if you want to!" I rarely hear my grandparents even use the "s-word!" It was awesome.

The other day I called my grandparents to see how they were doing, because my grandfather recently took a tumble down the stairs and cracked his hip. My grandmother answered and said, "I'm just trying on my wedding dress! I figured I'd see if it still fits after all these years. And you know, it does! As long as I don't zip it..." My grandfather said she looked lovely.

So happy 60th anniversary, Amma & Poppy! Thanks for being an inspiration. And the coolest grandparents ever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Music for "one of those days"

I haven't written much about the not-so-funny stuff happening in my life, because I don't see the point right now, but let's just say that while the last few months have been hilarious and wonderful in many ways, they've also been a helluva struggle. Lately I've been telling myself, "If I can just make it to October, I'll be okay...." But that used to be September. And hopefully it won't change to November.

Anyway, troubles of work, health, and home aside, I've always found that no matter how crappy I'm feeling in a given moment, I'm usually able to turn it around pretty fast. And this is how.

Instructions for fixing a crappy day:
1. Open laptop, turn on iTunes, turn on stereo speakers. The louder the better.
2. Press play
3. Get up, get moving, get on with it!

Song list, in any order: (beware, some are incredibly cheesy, but that's the point!)
- "That's All" - Genesis
- "Part Time Lover" - Stevie Wonder
- "I'm So Excited" - Pointer Sisters
- "You Make My Dreams Come True" - Hall & Oates (or any H&O, really... you can't go wrong!)
- "Don't Feel Like Dancing" - Scissor Sisters
- "I Want To Break Free" - Queen (especially when George is in your house and starts sweeping)
- "What Do All The People Know" - The Monroes
- "Here It Goes Again" - Ok Go
- "Hold The Line" - Toto
- "Party All The Time" - Eddie Murphy / Rick James
- "The Stroke" - Billy Squire
- "Catch A Star" - Men At Work
- "The Way To Your Heart" - Soulsister
- "Give Me The Night" - George Benson

If, after this, you are not feeling better (and not out of the shower, dressed, and on your way to whatever you're supposed to be doing) then you need to check your pulse.

And now I'm about to take my own advice, because I have meetings to get to in London today!
(See? I'm feeling better already.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Wedding That Wasn't

Last night, Frenchy and I attended our seventh wedding of the summer... kind of. It was to be our first wedding in Spain, our first Catalan wedding, and our first wedding for someone in Frenchy's class at IESE. So even though we were both exhausted, we were also pretty excited. I rushed home from work, we both rushed around showering and getting dressed, and then we rushed out the door.

We had arranged to drive to the wedding in Terrassa with Jess and Sergio, another IESE couple of confusion (she's from Mississippi, he's from Aragon and their strange conversations rival the ones I have with Frenchy) and met them around 5 for the ride out of town. The wedding started at 5:30, and when we hadn't actually left Barcelona yet at 5:20, we figured we'd probably be a bit late. Frenchy even bet me that we'd arrive at 6:15. We shook on it, but never determined what the winner would get.

Around 5:45, well outside of town, Sergio looked at the invitation, which was written in Catalan, and said, "Joder tio, the wedding is in Barcelona and the RECEPTION is in Terrassa!"


It was too late to go all the way back to Barcelona... we would've arrived just as everyone was leaving the church and throwing rice. So we decided to head to the reception site to see if we could have a drink there. Nope, they were still waiting for the caterers to arrive. So we headed into "town" (Terrassa is small and, unlike most Spanish towns, not particularly cute in any way at all) and found ourselves a terrace and had a few drinks. While we waited and chatted, we found out that a few other people had missed the wedding as well... one had to work late, one was stuck in Madrid airport after a few cancelled flights. So at least we weren't the only ones.

Frenchy and I had to laugh because after traveling so far for so many weddings, being late to nearly all of them, and even hitch-hiking to one (Juanra's, in Belgium), we never expected to miss the one in our very own town. I got a message from my friend Gemma at one point while we were waiting for the reception. She, too, was stuck in Madrid and a little grumpy about it. I told her, "Well, imagine us... We just missed a wedding because we went to the WRONG CITY." I'm always happy to help people put things in perspective! As Sergio would say, "Joder! Que fuerte."

The dream team waiting for the reception

Finally it was time to head to the Masia for the reception and dinner, all of which were stunning. We'd all agreed to leave "early" because we were tired and Jess and Sergio had to get to another party, and yet somehow it was well after 3am when we finally got home, after a lot of excellent food and a little post-dinner dancersize workout. It was the best wedding I've never been to. :)

Jess and I got stuck in the grass in our heels, but this fortunately happened at the perfect location for hors-d'oeuvres procurement and consumption

This doesn't even do justice to the magnificent location... it was incredible

The bride and groom make their entrance. That is indeed a white napkin at top right... everyone gets a little nuts with the napkin twirling.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Costa Brava Saga

Three years ago, a few days after my arrival in Barcelona, you may remember that Nicole and I went up to Costa Brava with some new friends to run a 9K race. It was one of those perfect days (aside from the 9K race part): new friends, a beautiful beach, perfect weather, and an absolutely incredible restaurant.

Since that time, I´ve made many return visits to the seaside village of Calella de Palafrugell and to one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Tragamar. No matter what time of year, it´s always beautiful and perfect.

So it´s only fitting that, for the past year and a half that Frenchy and I have been together, I have longed to share this place with him. I mean, he loves the beach and he gleefully ingests food... what´s not to like?

But it´s also only fitting that, given our track record, something would always come in the way of our fabled Tragamar lunch. The first such incident was the day after my graduation, late April 2007. We piled my parents, my sister, my uncle and aunt, and Frenchy into two cars and drove what should have been a quick trip to Costa Brava. Something about a holiday weekend which we failed to account for.... it took us four hours to get to Calella and when we finally got there, it was 3:58pm. The kitchen had just closed. Crushed and starving, I fell into a dramatic heap on the steps leading to the sand while my gallant boyfriend did everything he could (including BRIBERY) to convince them to serve just one more meal. Even money couldn´t convince them, and Frenchy came back muttering, "Ugh, lazy jerks." Or actually, something much worse that I won´t admit to.

Because you can only eat during very particular hours in Spain, the only option was a quickie pizza joint. My romantic post-graduation, Costa Brava family plans were dashed, but I kept hope alive for another chance...

And that chance came about a year later, Easter weekend of this year. Frenchy and I planned a trip up to Cadaques, further north, and agreed to stop en route at Tragamar for lunch. The weather was awful that day - lashing rain, freezing wind, dark cloudy sky. Not really beach weather. So imagine my dismay when we got to Tragamar around 2pm and were told we needed a reservation. The beach was desolate, but apparently the restaurant was full. This time, even the pizza place was closed, and we ended up at some truck stop eating really nasty spaghetti because there wouldn´t be another place to stop for a few hours.

So on Wednesday, on our way back to Barcelona from our mini roadtrip, we were discussing driving to Costa Brava the following day, since we still had another day on our car reservation. It was 9pm and I decided that if we were to have lunch at Tragamar the following day, I´d do everything in my power to be sure we weren´t cast away. I googled the restaurant right there in the car and called and made a reservation for 2pm the following day.

Early Thursday morning, Frenchy and I packed our roadbikes in the car and headed up toward Calella. We did a hellish hourlong ride in the hills (beautiful views, though!) and made it to Tragamar at 2:03. I know this because I was ridiculously stressed out for the final 20 minutes of the trip that we'd be slightly late and some German family would steal our table. But we made it. And there was even a table for two free on the terrace overlooking the beach. I nearly cried. And then I ate more seafood than should be legally permitted. And it was SO WORTH IT.

I told Frenchy, "Okay, we´ve been here. Three years to the day after my first visit. You´ve eaten here. The circle has closed. Now we can move to France." Which, incidentally, is a different story altogether.

On the way back home to Barcelona that night, we passed that spaghetti truckstop and laughed. Then we had to stop laughing because our stomachs hurt.

Friday, August 29, 2008


This past week I finally took a few days of vacation. No one has been in the office all month (and, frankly, I prefer it that way) and I was told I must take a week off during August, so I did. I was tempted to spend the majority of the week packing my things, but considering I don't have a contract for my transfer to Paris, or anything else, Frenchy convinced me that spending my short time off packing would probably just make me mad in the end. And he would have been right.

Instead, we headed out of Barcelona on Friday night, due north toward Toulouse. A few hours later, we found ourselves in the French epicenter of rugby, aerospace, and cassoulet and foie gras.

Taking a walk along the river.

At the Space Museum on Saturday morning.

Sporting our rad 3D glasses

Saturday afternoon, our 6th wedding since the end of May. 4 in France (all in different cities), 1 in Canada, and 1 in Belgium. Next up, one in Spain next week and another in Oregon at the end of September...

After an afternoon of wedding recover on Sunday in Biarritz, we moved further south and west to San Sebastian, which quickly became one of our favorite cities in Spain. Beautiful beaches, amazing food, and plenty to see and do.

Frenchy and I have decided that since Spanish, English, and French are spoken all over the place, we need to learn Basque so that when we want to talk about the people around us they won't get it. The language apparently has no relation to any existing language... bonus!

So I guess we'll have to go back soon to learn and practice. And also to continue our food explosion...

After two fantastic days in San Sebastian, we drove further west to Bilbao, were we took in the Guggenheim, a conference call (ok, so vacation isn't ALL fun, you know), and another pintxo dinner with Jess and Sergio, who graduated with Frenchy in May and who have a similar background mix and thus regular miscommunication. (She's from the southern US and he's from Espain.)

Anyway, the Guggenheim was pretty breathtaking, and the food was great, but we were glad we didn't spend more than one night in Bilbao. In fact, we could've just driven over from San Sebastian during the day and happily stayed there another night instead.

The following day (Wednesday) after one last pintxo stop at a small bar in the old quarter of Bilbao, we headed back south and west toward Barcelona. We stopped in Zaragoza for lunch and some sightseeing and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a really cool town. Definitely worth the stop.

The Catedral del Pilar, Zaragoza

By Wednesday night we were back in Barcelona and ready to spend the next two days on the beach, first in Costa Brava and then in Sitges. Not a bad week at all!