Gourmet Grocery Shopping

October 31, 2011 § 20 Comments

Grocery Shopping: How I love thee!

How I love to stroll the aisles finding new products. How I find no greater smell than the bakery section as the oven doors open.

One of my favorite places to food shop in Madrid is El Corte Inglés.

El Corte Ingles is an everything store. You can equate it to a Bloomingdales that happens to have bananas and bread in the basement.

You can find anything from Prada shoes to cashmere pashminas. They have a sporting goods department as well as a bookstore. Depending on the location you will find the groceries.

El Corte Inglés is one of the more upscale supermercados in the city. But for one stop shopping it can’t be beat.

Other than the very small organic markets you can find throughout the city, El Corte Inglés has the largest selection of “specialty products.” They carry things like quinoa, rolled oats and even seaweeds.

These things are not common in Spain.

Other than the specialty section there is also a gourmet section.

“Oooo… Ahhh…”

But you will never guess what is considered gourmet. Better yet, you will never believe the price!

Behold:

I survived a better part of my junior year in college off peanut butter, Fluff and banana sandwiches. If a collegiate can afford it, it’s hardly gourmet.

Yet this small jar [objects in the picture may appear larger than they actually are] is 4.50 €. That would be about $6.40!

Another American childhood staple. But at 6.30 € or almost $9! I’ll find another way to make chocolate milk.

I associate Pepperidge Farm cookies with my maternal Grandmother. Not this exact cookie, I don’t even remember the cookie, it’s more the packaging. But I don’t think she’d pay 4 € or $6.70.

This one wins for most gourmet. But this tiny, tiny bag will never warrant almost 5 of my Euros or 7 of my American dollars.

As much as I balk at these prices, I love looking at these products. They make me feel closer to home. Closer to family and closer to sweet memories.

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If you lived in a different country, what product would you pay any price for?

An American Tale: Halloween

October 28, 2011 § 25 Comments

First of all – An American Tail – Who didn’t love Fievel?

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I have to admit I sobbed. I mean sobbed! My childhood self was traumatized when I watched this classic for the first time. At the end… will Fievel find his family? It hit me hard.

Moving on…

Today’s American Tale: Halloween!

A holiday that is sllloooowly catching on over here in Spain.

It’s strange to think of the Spaniard not growing up trick-or-treating. No huge pillow cases used to collect candy. No Power Ranger costumes. [I have no idea why I think he might have dressed up as Power Ranger.]

Last year Halloween seemed completely non-existant. This year I feel like there has been a surge. I felt compelled to snap phone photos around the city when I saw holiday fun being displayed.

There is so much more haunted paraphernalia this year. I like it!

So what’s an American to do in a country that is just catching on to the pumpkin carving fun? Meet up with other Americans of course!

This week I had the pleasure of attending a Pimp your Pumpkin, pumpkin carving party. Yes, you got that title right.

We had all the necessary tools. Complete with newspaper covered table.

It’s funny, I don’t remember the last time I carved a pumpkin in the States, but carving one in Spain made perfect sense.

It has to be noted what is on the back of the “carving pumpkins.”

A sticker with directions. If you had never carved a pumpkin before, would you know what to do? They even give you face stickers as a guide. [Not that the American pros needed them.]

I got right down to business.

My helper: the lovely Izzy!

I met Izzy over the summer in my quest for friends. And quite the friend she has become. She moves back to the States soon. [I don’t like to think about it.]

Izzy was the master seed cleaner.

Perfection.

The goop was turned into perfectly roasted and seasoned seeds.

By yours truly!

We chatted and carved and commiserated with the highs and lows of living abroad. The evening was a complete delight. Getting together with old friends and meeting new ones. I loved every minute.

And when it was all said and done…

Line ’em up.

Light ’em up!

Our hard work pays off.

Me and my masterpiece.

And what’s Halloween without scary fake teeth?

Happy almost Halloween everyone!

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What are you doing to celebrate? Carving? Costumes?

For my last American Halloween I dressed up as a Cosmopolitan. Yes, the martini. I wore a horribly great sequins covered pink gown and fashioned a lime covered headband on my head. It was a hit!

Gibraltar Bonus: Wedding Party Included

October 26, 2011 § 24 Comments

I could not ask for more from our wedding in Gibraltar. I would recommend it to anyone.

And the unknown bonus: Wedding Party Included.

Second on the to-do list for Gibraltar was the monkeys!

A very close second for the Spaniard.

Beyond weddings, Gibraltar has a lot to offer.

1) The Rock

For those of you who know nothing about Gibraltar (because I didn’t!) here is a brief overview.

Gibraltar is located off the southwest tip of Europe. The Rock is property of the United Kingdom and borders Spain. The sovereignty of Gibraltar was transferred from Spain to the United Kingdom in 1713 after the War of the Spanish Succession.

This can be a very touchy subject for the Spaniards. Most feel as though Gibraltar belongs to Spain. I stay out of it.

Although my Spaniard and I are happy about the United Kingdom ownership and their international marriage laws. Thank you, thank you very much!

On the top of the Rock sits one of the Pillars of Hercules. The other being in Africa.

2) The Monkeys

The Rock Monkeys or Barbary Macaque population is the only one in the entire European continent. There are about 300 monkeys that live in 5 troops on the top of the Rock.

But monkey viewer beware! Though very “friendly” they have been know to attack humans for food or even steel wallets and purses. I kept a proper distance.

It was pretty cool seeing all of the monkeys roam free, crawling all over the tour vans and even the drivers. The drivers carried peanuts in one hand, and a large stick in the other. I like to think they were saying, “be nice and I’ll give you a treat… step out of line and you’ll get whacked.” There was no need for whacking.

3) Beautiful Views

You can see Spain, the United Kingdom and Africa all with the turn of your head. Pretty cool!

You can pretty much explore all that you want to see of Gibraltar in one day.

It is a common Mediterranean cruise destination.  I saw many bathing suits clad women walking the streets. [Most with proper cover-ups. Most.]

Food on the other hand left much to be desired. Other than a smoothie place (that I hit up more than once) we didn’t find anything special.

We stayed at the O’Callaghan Hotel. I would recommend it for 3 reasons – location, location, location! It was your standard hotel but we were in the center of everything.

Gibraltar was a great destination for one main reason…

The beauty, the Rock and cage-less zoo were simply bonuses.

If you’re in the south of Spain and you have an extra day I would highly recommend crossing the border and exploring Gibraltar. Like I said, if it’s good enough for Sean Connery and John Lennon… and now I know why.

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