Archive | June, 2010

Yo te amo Barcelona…

30 Jun

I transferred to a new school in 6th grade. A not so fun experience for an 11-year-old. Especially considering I had also transferred to a new school in 5th grade. No I was not a problem child. First we moved – hence the new school in 5th grade and then after completing that year I was invited to attend a smarty pants school. You know the type..lots of smart children compile into one place and have more homework. Two major changes in two years. So anyhow… on the first day of 6th grade I wandered aimlessly around the quad. Either make friends or die – at least that’s what an 11-year-old thinks. I’m still I obviously survived. Wandering around the quad that day was also another new girl, one who was having an equally traumatic experience. Her family was from Spain and after living in South Africa for many years had relocated to the grand ol’ U.S. of A to pursue the American dream. Not only a new school for my soon to be best friend but a new land and a new language too. Where am I going with all this and what does it have to do with me loving Barcelona? I’m getting there I swear I really am. Caroline (Carolina in Espana) was her name and we forged a bond that day that has with stood the test of time. We were and still are the best of friends.

This is me in the 6th Grade - I'm wearing my favorite dress!

I spent countless days with Caroline and her family. I was fascinated by their accents, their mannerisms, decor, traditions, food and especially with how fast her mother could fire out words while scolding Caroline – or both of us- in Catalan. Catalan…is a dialect spoken in the region of Spain known as Catalonia. Catalonia is one of the 17 Autonomous Communities of the Kingdom of Spain. Its capital is Barcelona. In case you were wondering – political power in Spain is channeled by a central government and 17 autonomous communities or regional governments. Did you know that ? Did I just teach you something? It must have been that smarty pants school back in 6th grade. 🙂 Bringing it back off on a tangent there..I suppose it would seem I was already smitten with Espana and I hadn’t even sent foot off American soil yet. Flash forward. Caroline’s parents sent her to private school back in Spain right smack in the middle of our freshman year in High School. I was devastated. I vowed to come and visit. It only took me 13 years to get there..but hey who’s counting? (Besides Caroline)  


Caroline and Mom


 I can now proudly say I have been to Barcelona many times and rather than tell you about a specific trip.. I will tell you about my favorite adventures. I can’t possibly fit all of them into this one blog – so I will start back at the beginning. First trip to Barcelona, first night out, first adventure. 🙂 Look for others in the future – so many great memories and I will share most – The food, the people, the sights, Tibidabo, the beaches, Las Ramblas, Festa Major De Gracia, Gaudi -the list goes on and on! 🙂  


Adventure Numero Uno – Barcelona Club Hopping Night after 20 hours of flying:  

I was so excited that I had finally made it to Barcelona that I refused to embrace jet lag or exhaustion. Exit plane, squeeeel with delight when seeing Caroline for first time in years, drive to her apartment , talk incessantly, shower, food, wine bar, nightclub and dancing – in that order.  

The view from Caroline's Apt.

Interior Apartment Shot

Let’s just get right into it. We arrive at our first club. I have never experienced Latin men like this. Whoa. They love the Americans with blonde hair and light eyes. I should mention that I have a girlfriend traveling with me that fits this mold too. We don’t have to wait, don’t have to pay and are shown right it. I’m feeling right at home and loving Barcelona even more…and it only gets better. We have an authentic Spaniard with us.. Caroline has developed an impressive repertoire of foreign languages and is capable of firing off in Spanish, French, Italian and Catalan. We are covered on all fronts and Caroline is a beauty. Life is good. We wander around the club, grab a drink and start to settle in. We had our choice of rooms to hang out in and we headed upstairs into the designated hip hop area. I’ve never been a techno girl. Now for some reason I have to admit – I was expecting the music to suck. I’m not really sure what I thought the DJ would be playing but it definitely wasn’t Snoop Dogg and Notorious BIG – so when we walked in.. I was pleasantly surprised… I can work with Snoop- definitely wasn’t what I was expecting- but it’s all good …heads are bobbin’, drinks are flowin’ and I am a happy girl.  

Sara and I

Up in da' club!

Caroline and I

Suddenly I realize my girlfriend isn’t next to me. We’d been fending off suitors for the last hour laughing and she’d been bugging me to dance.. I figured she’d finally succumb to one of the latin love’s in hot pursuit and made her way to cut a rug. I wandered to the edge of the dance floor and noticed a small circle of about 8-10 men had formed. My girlfriend is in the middle. She isn’t putting on a show. Each guy is patiently waiting their turn to dance with her. She would dance for a few seconds with one and then move to the next round and round the circle. They were all very handsome and could really dance. She looked like a 5-year-old who had found Santa under the tree holding a new puppy with a giant red bow. I can honestly say I laughed so hard my sides hurt…I asked her after- What were you doing? She said they all wanted to dance and wouldn’t take no for an answer and she didn’t want to hurt anyones feelings. Oh boo whooo..sure Sara.  

Sara making her way around the circle.. wearing a hat belonging to one of her 8 dance partners.

The night only got better and better for Sara. Did I mention she was single and I wasn’t? The Barcelona EuroLeague Basketball team had just walked in. That’s kind of like the Lakers in Spain…need I say more? What? I can look alright… I assure you – basketball players are not my thing..but Sara does need a strong wingwoman and someone to look out for her best interests. I repeatedly have to lift her jaw up off the floor and drag her away from them.  

This was only 2 of them..there were like 14 more.

Caroline meanwhile had bumped into some colleagues from the fashion industry – (she works for Dolce and Gabbana and I think they were with Gucci) and was pondering over an invitation to Menorca on their yacht. Boy oh boy..what is not to like about Spain?  


We did have our fair share of stalky types of men that we had to hide in the bathroom from..they are persistent those Latins..but this club had a DJ in the womens bathroom so it was no trouble…just a little change of pace.  

Yes - that really is a DJ in the bathroom AKA Lovely Room

And there was actual dancing happening in the Lovely bathroom ever.

5 hours after we entered the club we eventually made our way out . It was only after the coach of the Barcelona basketball team dragged his players out that Sara would agree to leave. We exited just in time to see the sunrise. 5:30 am Barcelona time.. 9:30pm for Sara and I.  

Barcelona sunrise..

 We were still going strong and on US Pacific Standard Time- but it was starting to sink in that we had been up for like 2 days and were running off pure adrenaline and excitement. It took almost an hour for us to hail a taxi to take us back to the Plaza where we had left Caroline’s car. Have no fear..there were lots of ‘clubbers’ stranded waiting for taxi’s so the socializing and good times continued out front.  

Deliriously tired and giddy in the front seat..

And down for the count in the back seat - It'd been a hard days night!

  We got back to Caroline’s at around 7:30am. Thank God for those metal shades that roll down over your apartment windows and completely eliminate all perception of what time of day it is.  

Love those metal shades.

We didn’t get up until 4 pm that afternoon…and the next day/night started off at a little pizza place over looking the ocean right by Caroline’s apartment. The Chef made our pizza into the shape of a giant heart. He must of known that I love Barcelona…  




Venice Venice Venice!

23 Jun
Venice was absolutely my favorite destination on our recent European tour. From the most handsome of men to the most delectable cuisine, I could have stayed there forever. As seen in the picture below, I arrived in the glorious city of Venice by water taxi, closely followed by an equally glorious civilian. Though the taxi wasn’t crowded, the gentleman behind me found the need to stand close by, not that I minded. 
Our accommodations consisted of a primordial apartment building that flowed seamlessly into the timeless Italian scenery. As I was helped off the water taxi, a local woman by the name of Vivian walked us to our temporary residence. Vivian was dressed in a stylish black outfit paired with Italian leather heels. The sunglasses she bore never left her face. She walked with quick sure steps, and we had to hurry to keep up as she led the way. We waked three flights of stairs to our apartment room. When she opened the door the comfortable furnishings and exclusive woodwork pleasantly surprised me. 


By the end of the short journey I was famished and exhausted. After the day out, we decided to stay in and cook. We made grilled cheese sandwiches with olive oil because butter was not an option. They ended up being the best-grilled cheese sandwichs we ever had. 


The following morning we stopped by a local café and shared chocolate croissants and Italian cappuccinos. Afterwards we shopped and explored the local scenery. Taking cobblestone paths and skinny walkways we ventured through Venice. Along the way we stopped at a Furla store and picked up some beautiful Italian bags. I would recommend that store to anyone, the prices are much more conservative in Italy than in a Saks in the U.S. 


Later on we visited St. Marks Square where dozens of pigeons crowded the gathering place. Though I am an animal lover, this many birds made me feel claustrophobic. I had to escape and come back later when it was dark and less congested. When we returned the city had transformed into an elegant masterpiece. The tables that lined the small restaurants and cafes were strewn with white lights and candles. Venders were on every corner selling authentic Italian handicrafts. I was overwhelmed with the unique culture and livelihood that overflowed during the balmy night. 


Disregarding the idea of eating at one of the more famous restaurants in St. Marks Square, we found a quaint tourist free bistro. The fed us pasta and delicious wine, which I watered down as I noticed the locals did. The pasta noodles were perfectly al dente, and the live entertainment was marvelous. An Italian man, who attempted to sing the very American song, Spider Man, serenaded us. 


Later that night, being our last night in Venice, we enjoyed a gondola ride. We were serenaded yet again by our guide Alessio, who sang us an operetta Italian love song. As we glided through the dimly lit canals I was able to relax and relish the sultry pastel colors of Italy. 


The next morning we indulged in chocolate croissants and cappuccinos for a second time. We walked to Doge’s Palace where the famous Casanova was kept. We visited the Palace on a private tour where we were able to see where Casanova slept. There is a photo of me below looking at the Bridge of Sighs, which got its name from the idea that once a prisoner crosses that bridge it is most likely the last time they will see freedom or the Mediterranean. I thought my expression in the photo is quite befitting for the bridge and what it represents…I could not justify a smile.  


After exploring Doge’s Palace we were off to Florence. The part of Venice I miss the most is walking through the streets during all times of day without having to breathe it car exhaust, for there are no cars in Venice!

Venezia Venezia Venezia … Come ho tempo per tornare a te! 


Temos saudades Portugal!

16 Jun

We are back! Portugal has got to be one of the most beautiful, friendly, relaxing, and fun places we have seen so far. I guess it also has to do with how you ‘do’ your vacation, what type of trip you want to have, and how much you want to fit into the time available. Well, this trip was done just right.

Kaleo on the deserted beach in front of our condo getting ready to surf an empty wave 
Deserted beach in front of our condo getting ready to surf an empty wave


We have some incredible friends that live in Portugal named Alexa and Hugo who offered their gorgeous two bedroom beach house to us for our entire trip! The place was in one of the best areas to surf in Portugal, near Peniche, Foz, and Baleal. It’s about an hour north of Lisbon so we rented a car to get there since the rail system hasn’t yet reached all of that region. Well, the car that they gave us was simply awesome. It was a Citroen C1. C1!! Even Alexa didn’t know they made them that small! It was like a Smart Car with four doors. Seriously. We named him…. Pepe the Mule.  



More Pepe the Mule 
 Pepe the Mule


We were staying at the Praia del Rei resort area which is close to Caldas da Rainhas (bath of the Queen) and Òbidos. Òbidos (pronouced oh-be-doosh) is a little city within castle walls that was a gift from the poet King Dinis to his wife, Isabella of Aragon. They saw it in passing once and she likened it to a jewel-studded crown so he gave it to her as a wedding gift. It is a medieval town that is set in the middle of a valley of vineyards. Just stunning.

we are walking on the castle wall walkway around the city of Obidos
We are walking on the castle wall walkway around the town of Òbidos

 aleo walking up the stone stairs to the castle wall walkway that surrounds the town of Òbidos

 Walking up the stone stairs to the castle wall walkway that surrounds the town

We had absolutely no agenda on this trip. Such a great feeling when you are on vacation. Of course there were things that we wanted to do such as eat the local food, taste the regional wines, surf the world famous surf spots, hang out with our friends, hear some Fado music, see Òbidos, go out in Lisbon, etc. But we weren’t necessarily attached to the outcome of whether we checked any of it off our list or not. Well, except for the surfing. It’s not a surf trip with no surf, right? Of course, since I don’t surf I got to relax and explore a little more than the guys did, but believe me, they were not complaining. They got some great surf, most of it with little or no people out besides themselves. So not really caring what we did each day that we were there gave us such a sense of freedom. We got SO much done and still had much more time to just relax and do nothing than we have had in a really long time.

The empty break in our front yard
 The empty break in our front yard

Porto Batel on our first day

Porto Batel on our first day


If you could design a dish that’s perfect for would be found in Portugal. Oh my gosh… Especially at our favorite place called Rio Cortiço which was hidden deep within the woodsy, beachy area that we were staying. Through the trees and down a white sand road into a clearing is the cutest little restaurant on the beach. You just park on the sand in a make shift lot, and walk to the restaurant that has only outdoor tables. It’s set up on a deck a couple of feet up off the sand and has hanging rice paper lanterns and a bamboo shade “ceiling”. The fish that was caught that day is grilled right outside on an old school homemade grill so you can see what looks good as you walk up. The fish is prepared just grilled, some as is, others halved and grilled in two with only sea salt as a seasoning. When you order a fish it is served with a side of boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a salade mixta, or lettuce, tomato and onion salad with a tiny bit of olive oil, vinegar and sea salt for flavor. Oh wow. I was in heaven… Pair it with a glass of the house wine which is the Vinho Verde (like a very light, dry white wine with the slightest bit of sparkle to it) or a Super Bock (national beer of Portugal) and some meláo (a huge slice of melon that is kind of a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe. Honey-loupe? or Canta-dew?) for dessert. We must have frequented this place about 5-6 times while we were there. The owner, Susana was trying to get Kaleo and Remy to play a Sabotage show there…  Which is a funny story because our waiter was this cool Brazilian guy named Luciano, who looked like Seu George, one of our favorite Brazilian musicians. He barely spoke English and my Portuguese at that time consisted of ordering food, so using a lot of hand motions, we figured out that he liked the same music as us. The guys gave him a Sabo CD, which was the only CD we had in Pepe. The ext time we came back for dinner they decided to put the CD on for the restaurant. If you’ve heard the CD, you know that it may or may not be for all ears during dinner, depending on how open your mind is. And Susana and Luciano most likely didn’t understand anything the songs were saying because of their limited English. Cool beans, right? Well the clientele at this restaurant is basically British and Irish tourists. Who understand English. I know! I’m laughing too! So I was having a blast watching Kaleo and Remy squirm a bit at first as we looked around the restaurant. What did we see? Everyone was grooving! Even this man who was in his 60′s wearing a lemon yellow sweater vest and white yacht pants was literally dancing in his seat. A mother was bouncing her kid to the beat, another woman was tapping her feet and people all around were just loving it. It was a cool scene.

on the road that goes to our beach house in Praia del Rei
On the road that goes to our beach house in Praia del Rei


Every morning at the casa we would wake up at about 8,  do some yoga and stretches and check the surf while I made breakfast. By then the clouds would burn off and we would head out to the beach. Hugo tried to surf with us everyday, work permitting, and as the locals say, he is like the unofficial mayor of this region. At least in the beach areas. He knows everyone! Perfect way to be introduced to a local break, just paddle out with Hugo Amado. The Portuguese are so kind and welcoming, it felt a little like being back home in Hawaii. 

Kaleo, Hugo and Remy
Kaleo, Hugo and Remy
Entering Ferrel Fest
Entering Ferrel Fest


 Alexa and Hugo told us about this festival in the town of Ferrel called, well, Ferrel Festival. It lasts for an entire week and they practically shut everything down to move in an huuuge stage, lots of gypsy vendors, caipirinha and Super Bock stands, bumper cars, some octopus-like ride that made me feel woozy looking at it, churro and fartudo stands and most importantly… donkey races! Oh yeah. I wanted to race a doney SO bad! Hugo and Alexa said that anyone could enter, so I was going to find a donkey and race it. Of course since I grew up riding and showing horses, I thought it would be a piece of cake, no problemo! We had to pass through the town of Ferrel to get to the beaches everyday and I secretly would bring an extra bag stashed in the very back of Pepe that held my jeans and boots JUST IN CASE that day would be the day that I got to race my donkey. The festival had been going on for three days and we still hadn’t stopped once! We were waiting for Saturday when Hugo and Alexa could come with us sans the kiddos. Saturday came and we were invited to Hugo’s friends birthday party and then we were to hit the Ferrel! I got dressed for the party in a cute black, short, frock (I just said frock. who am I? I think I’ll leave it) with my slippers. Dressy casual for a Portuguese party that I had no idea what to expect. But how could I ride a donkey in this?? So I re-packed my donkey-racing-clothes bag. Busted. Remy walks by my room and says, “Sister, what are you doing, bringing like 3 more changes of clothes for the night? Just wear what you have on.”  I told them that I really DID want to race a donkey (I think they thought I was kidding), and they laughed hysterically at me! Whatever, I’m bringing it. After the party we went to the Ferrel. It was so packed we could barely get through the crowd. We saw some of Hugo and Alexa’s friends and danced a bit to the crazy Brazilian pop stars on the massive stage, got a caipirinha, browsed the gypsy wares, and ate a fartudo. Now, I’m sure most of you know what a churro is. It’s basically dough squuezed into hot oil and fried then rolled in sugar and cinnamon. It’s about an inch thick and maybe 8 inches long. A FARTUDO is the same process, but it is about 4 inches thick and over a foot long! Cra-zaaazy. Now nicknamed the burro churro. Figure it out. So it was all fun and games, but no donkeys were seen! I was bummed, but I figured we still had a few more days to find the mystical donkey races. On the way home, I asked if the donkey racers were just locals who were drunk enough to want to ride a donkey, because I figured that I would be stone cold sober and bringing my A-game and would take this thing. Well it turns out that the adorable little old Portuguese men that I kept seeing on the side of the road in their cool hats were my competition. And they practice all year long for these things. Whoa… Ok so reality is hitting me a little bit and suddenly I am a little intimidated! But I still persisted on riding a damn donkey. The next day we were at our local little restaurant and Remy saw a poster for the Ferrel. Turns out, the donkey races had happened on Saturday, but it was early on in the day… Alas, I rode no donkeys on this trip. I guess I saved face though, because I probably would have been last and made an Ass out of myself and my donkey. Pun very intended. 

Temos saudades Portugal!


“The Big Apple” What does that mean anyway?

9 Jun

NYC… I heart NY – “the big apple”.  What does that mean anyway?  I read it has something to do with horse racing.  Anyway, always fabulous to be in NY.  I was there taping the Dr. Oz show and had the girls meet me to spend a few days in the city.   My favorite part about NY is the subways.  Living in LA and always in my car, I find it truly fascinating that you can walk underground and be in a new part of the city in minutes…amazing!  Maybe that’s where the song “In a NY minute” comes  I especially enjoy people watching on the trains…you never know who or what is coming and going in NY. 

Radio City Music Hall

The girls  and I have a past time of visiting the Mercer Hotel in Soho.  After shopping, we love to go downstairs to the bar for a glass of bubbles and oysters (well not everyone will eat the oysters).  Always a great crowd and attractive bartenders, a good scene.  This time we found a great sushi restaurant in mid-town called Blue Ribbon Sushi, great late night sushi (until 2 a.m.), and a chill atmosphere. 

Backstage at the Dr. Oz Show

I taped the show on a Thursday afternoon and  spent the remainder of the weekend playing.  Wow, what a highlight meeting Dr. Oz.  Yes, he’s just as wonderful in person as he is on his show.  My friend Jenn was in the audience and they shot a close up of her unintentionally making a silly face…we laughed about it for days.  Shopping, dining, rooftop lounges, and of course making friends everywhere we went, we had a blast in NYC.  I have to mention the absolutely fabulous lunch we had at Pellegrino’s Italian Restaurant in Little Italy.  Fantastic wine list, authentic ambiance and delicious food.   If you’re in the neighborhood I highly recommend you stop in.

Little Italy

 On our last night at the Dream Hotel, we discovered that downstairs in Rm.Fifty5 salsa night was happening. Rm.Fifty5 is a swanky, upscale lounge – very sexy with  fantastic neo-gothic decor that is  located right off the lobby of  Dream. It was my first salsa experience…probably my last too.  As we were  spun around the room by professional salsa dancers, we suddenly realized that we had all lost each other and when  I looked up at my partner I realized I was in the arms of a very happy toothless man.  There is something about spinning in circles with a toothless man, while drinking mojitos, that doesn’t work for me. Only in NYC!

On the dance floor during Salsa night at Rm.Fifty5

NYC has such great energy, always a new adventure!