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!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A little seaside stopover between a wedding outside of Toulouse (number 6 of the summer) and a couple of days in the Basque country in Spain.... can't beat Biarritz!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Viva Calatrava!

It was three years ago this morning that I first set foot in Calatrava. I remember being at the entrance with my sister and alllll my stuff, and seeing George for the first time as he opened the door and said, "BUT WHY YOU HAVE SO MUCH STUFF?!?!" The first trip up the fabled (and often broken) elevator, my first glimpses of the apartment... quiet on a late August morning because Marco wasn't up yet and Alex was in Costa Brava with Natalia.

A few hours later Marco woke up, sleepy from a night in his then-home-away-from-home, Danzatoria, which sadly no longer exists. Never mind, we replaced it with our second home Sutton Club during the second year anyway. I remember setting up my bed and desk with Nicole, wandering around the city, which seemed far emptier than it does now (don't get me wrong, it's still tumbleweed central around here), meeting all my new and soon-to-be good friends, taking in the view from the roof of Calatrava, and of course one barbecue after the next.

I saw Marco last week for dinner in London, and I talk to George regularly on Skype. But it's still not the same as waking up every morning in Calatrava, stumbling around in our underpants as we struggle to make coffee and burn toast and get to class on time. I don't miss the cases or the exams or the projects, but I do miss meeting up with friends and classmates to work on them. Mostly I just miss being able to see my friends whenever I want to. Now Alex has a baby, so does Pierre who moved in after him, and Atsh, who lived in Calatrava during the second year, has moved back to Tokyo.

I'm fortunate enough to have been able to see a lot of my IESE friends through travel for work or for fun, and Barcelona isn't a bad place to return to, so people roll through town from time to time. But on this morning of August 22, even though I'm getting ready to head out with Frenchy for a road trip adventure in southern France and northern Spain, having just dropped off my moto at that Calatrava garage for safekeeping, I'm certainly feeling a little something in the pit of my stomach.

And I realize it won't be that hard to leave Barcelona for Paris next month. In fact, it'll probably be easier than ever to see my friends (especially the London-based ones), and I won't have to worry about getting choked up when I pass by Calatrava and think of my Calatrava guapos. I MISS YOU GUYS!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Barcelona summer weekend

After four jam-packed days out of town (well three relatively chill days in Paris because very few people were working) and then one action-packed day in London giving presentations and leading meetings, I was delighted to get back home to Barcelona.

But quiet and restful it wasn't... exactly. Frenchy and I managed to fit in two big bike rides, two tennis matches, a couple of jogs, and several hours at the beach. And it also happened to be the opening weekend of the Fiestas de Gracia, the annual party in the neighborhood of Gracia which starts right across the street from my apartment.

So of course we went to check it out, and it was pretty impressive. The residents of various streets and plazas had banded together to create cool little worlds, complete with stages for bands and DJs, street bars, and food stands. Everything was handmade (well, aside from the stages, of course) and really impressive... and sometimes downright bizarre. It's good that we decided not to go to bed early Friday night because we wouldn't have been able to anyway: one of the main attractions of the Fiesta is the fireworks. And the drumming groups.

One of the streets (yes, they created a makeshift roof covering the whole street to give it an under-the-sea vibe) filled with homemade fishes. Everything was created from garbage - plastic water bottles, yogurt jars, etc.

Crazy fireworks celebration
With really loud firecrackers... ok I was a little startled, but look at the woman behind me!
That is indeed a copy of the lizard from Parc Guell, with fireworks shooting out!!
Another little plaza, which was filled with huge Smurfs. (Pitufos in Spanish.) All made out of papier-mache... they even had houses and Gargamel!!!! I told you it was a little weird...

And here's what happens when you decide to go for sushi in the middle of the biggest party of the year:

On Saturday night we headed to Camp Nou to see Barcelona play a friendly match Boca Juniors from Buenos Aires. In a strange turn of events, an inexplicable 5 minutes of extra time were added at the end, giving Barcelona the opportunity to score a second goal and beat Boca 2-1.

We managed to get seats in the mega-rowdy Boca section, which went awfully quiet in the last minute of the match. But a perfect ambience for Frenchy's first Camp Nou experience. Add to that a full lunar eclipse, and it was pretty spectacular all around. (Though when I first noticed it, Frenchy tried to convince me it was just a cloud.... Hmph!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

18 short months ago....

It was a year and a half ago tonight that Frenchy and I finally stopped pining for each other across the IESE campus and during our band rehearsals and stole a secret (or so we thought) kiss behind a curtain at Otto Zutz. And since that moment, I've enjoyed the best 18 months of my life. An initial whirlwind turned into a dream.

Every day he makes me feel like a queen, and every day I think about how lucky I am to be with the most wonderful guy on earth. Earss, if you're French. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my time at IESE would lead to me finding the perfect guy, but hey I guess it was somehow worth the agony of accounting and the hell of corporate finance to end up with the greatest gift I could ever hope for.

Frenchy, you rock my world. Tu roques mon monde!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back on the Spanish Ranch

So yeah, traveling around to European capitals is fun and all, but there's really nothing like coming home. Especially when home is Barcelona. And ESPECIALLY when you have a really cute French guy waiting for you upon arrival... with a "veggie explosion" in the fridge.

And of course no trip of mine would be complete without some travel issues, namely:

1. After a very easy (too easy) train ride on the EuroStar from Paris to London, all I had to do was jump on the Victoria line at King's Cross station and get off at Pimlico, where my friend Lisa lives. But upon arrival, after waiting in a tube ticket line for a while, the announcement on the loudspeaker went, "Please be advised that trains are not running on the Victoria Line between King's Cross and Victoria due to a person under the train."

I'm not kidding. Apparently this is part of a "transparency initiative" to keep people fully abreast of such situations so they don't freak out over terrorism or something similar. As I approached the entrance, I asked a transit worker if there might be an alternate route. She was standing next to a whiteboard that repeated, in cute curvy writing, that a person was under a train on the Victoria line, and she told me to take the Circle line and switch at Victoria. Great!

I waited for the Circle line for about 30 minutes, only to finally go back to my starting point and learn that, "oh, the Circle line is experiencing severe delays. You can go to some other place I can't remember and then get a bus...." I left and took a taxi, 4 pounds poorer.

But hey, I got to have dinner with Marco! And that made it all okay.

2. In other news... I fell asleep on my flight back to Barcelona this evening after a long, tiring day of meetings and presentations. I woke up as the flight attendant said in Spanish (and repeated in English) that we'd be landing soon in Madrid. MADRID??? I thought for a few minutes that I'd missed an important announcement or gotten on the wrong plane somehow two hours earlier. No. She was just confused. Whew!

3. When we landed at Barcelona, we had to go through security after getting off the plane and before going through immigration. WHO GOES THROUGH SECURITY TO GET OUT OF THE AIRPORT???? It was truly bizarre and also quite useless, as every single person who walked through the metal detector and beeped (myself included) was just waved through. Very secure!

4. One last point.... does anyone else find the music that they force you to listen to on airplanes really annoying? This is a phenomenon I only noticed a few years ago. While you're waiting to take off, they pipe in music over the plane's loudspeakers, which are usually such poor quality that the "music" just comes out sounding like grating twinkly noises. The worst was when "Beautiful" by James Blunt was one of the featured songs on loop all the time... ugh! They don't turn off the music until the captain gives the all-clear to the flight attendants about 15 minutes after takeoff. And you're literally forced to listen to it, because that is the exact period of time you're not allowed to drown it out with your ipod. Does anyone else not see the point of this added in-flight irritation? Just curious.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Euro Mini-Tour

After a handful of relatively restful days in Barcelona, I´ve now spent the past three days working in the Paris office, where I´ll be more permanently come September (exact date still TBD). I guess I brought some decent weather with me from Spain, because none of the forecasted rain has materialized since my arrival, though there are some pretty ominous-looking clouds gathering over the office here in Suresnes.

I find I´m getting jerked around by cab drivers less and getting to know my way around a bit more, but it´s still difficult when you´re only in a place for a few days every couple of weeks, and then mostly in an office outside of town. Today before I head to London for meetings I´ll even check out an apartment... my first attempt at a flat search in Paris so far. Fingers crossed that it works out, because it could be a pretty ideal situation.

And while my four days away from Barcelona are kind of nice, I´m really looking forward to getting back home to Frenchy tomorrow night, and to enjoying the beach on this long holiday weekend starting Friday!

Monday, August 11, 2008

MadBid... Awesome New IESE Class of 2007 Venture!

So get this... You all surely remember two of my favorite pals from IESE, who have appeared in many a blog post, many a photo, and even a video or two... or more. Well now they deserve yet another.

Madhur and Juha have just launched their first venture, Basically, it's an online auction site where you bid to get cool schwag at super low prices. But I'll let their PR team tell it better...., a new Internet-based auction platform that allows consumers to bag a bargain on new retail goods, today announced their official launch in the UK.’s new online auction offers users the opportunity to snag premium retail products – ranging from gadgets such as iPods, mobile phones and laptops to lifestyle products such as holidays, games consoles, petrol vouchers and even cars and motorbikes – at a fraction of the cost.

Open to all residents of the UK over the age of 16, uses “bids” instead of direct cash to auction off the latest and greatest gifts and goodies in a fun, game-like environment. Getting started is easy: customers sign up to use the service in a few clicks and, once registered, can return to bid on as many items, as many times as they like. Bidding can take place online or through a registered account via a mobile phone.’s daily auctions are live and allow users to watch the progress of their bids in real time on their computer screens, making the process suspenseful down to the last few seconds of each bidding session.

“Internet based auctions can be an entertaining and fun way to save money on new purchases. Buy your bids to be in with a chance of winning new, cool products at Mad Prices!” said Juha Koski, Managing Director at

Friday, August 08, 2008

King Homer?

(photo REUTERS/Eloy Alonso)

How cool is this? You're counting the change in the register at your candy store in small-town Spain, and you come across one of those very rare and highly-coveted "Homer Euros" that were produced in a small, secret batch back in 1998 to test possible looks for the Spanish version of the coin. Some guys have all the luck!

(Special thanks to my friend John, who sent me this story.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

You Make My Dreams Come True

What I want, you've got
And it might be hard to handle
But like the flame that burns the candle
The candle feeds the flame
What I've got's full stock of thoughts and dreams that scatter
You pull them all together
And how, I can't explain
But you make my dreams come true
On a night when bad dreams become a screamer
When they're messin' with the dreamer
I can laugh it in the face
Twist and shout my way out
And wrap yourself around me
'cause I ain't the way that you found me
I'll never be the same
'cause you make my dreams come true
I'm down on the daydream
That sleepwalk should be over by now
I know that you make my dreams come true
(Lyrics: Hall & Oates)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Where Do I Begin?

Well we've crossed from July into August while I was away... And in that time Frenchy and I hit three states and two countries, spent time with my parents, uncle, sister, and grandparents (all in different locations), saw loads of old friends, confused ourselves with time zones on more than one occasion, had a fire drill in the hotel, took six planes, three rental cars, and a bus (but not one where anyone was decapitated, thank goodness), and... of course... rounded it all out with A WEDDING!

Not just any wedding. One of my best friends from back in my old Miramax days, Michael, whom we never thought would tie the knot. And I'm so happy for him that he has. Congrats Michael and Sarah, even though I know you'll never read this since you're both technophobes!

Oh yeah, and I spoke on the panel at the OMMA Gaming conference, which went fine and resulted in lots of exchanged business cards and plenty of follow-up emails, which I spent a good chunk of my day replying to today.

I'm not sure that I could possibly pinpoint a true highlight of the trip, since there were many, but one thing that will always stay with me is my visit to LucasArts, where my friend David now works. He and I worked together at Rockstar Games, and he's been over in San Francisco for a few years now. He took us on a tour of the ILM studios.... and I totally geeked out. I mean, the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from GHOSTBUSTERS II was just hanging on the wall in a hallway! And ET was just chilling there too. In an ideal world I would have taken like one million pictures, but I didn't want to (a) embarrass David or (b) make him lose his job. So I will just have to retain the memories. Bear in mind that I saw ET and Return of the Jedi in the theater and decided right there and then that I was destined to work in "the biz." Maybe I should get back to that....