Monday, August 10, 2009

Breaking up is hard to do.

So yeah. I know I've been absent from this blog lately. I've just been so busy with all things work related that I haven't had time to come to the internets for fun. I hate to be one of those people who uses work as an excuse, but fun and the Internet are a foreign concept when you work for a Web site. In fact, it's an unusually slow day at work that led me here. And in the end, it's all about the journey.

When I realized that I had time to use the Internet to kill time again, I felt overwhelmed. First, I wanted to take to Twitter, which has surely suffered for my long absence. But there were so many pithy sayings to catch up on! Then I took to a few of my fave Web sites and got really bored once I realized I would never actually be able to read all I missed out on over the last few months. (LOLcats excluded. I could kill an entire lifetime on that site.)

So next it was on to my friends' blogs, all of whom are much more dedicated to their blogging craft than I am. I got to catch up on the teething issues of the adorable Anna Jae and check out Ysolt's pictures from her trip to Mexico. Then I remembered that I too, had a blog, likely with no readers at this point, and I got to thinking of whether or not I should update it, or just end it.

This blog started as a way for me to share my travels with you, back when I was working at the job of which I no longer speak, and then as a way for friends and family to know what was going on in my day-to-day when I was 6,000 miles away in Spain. I definitely took pleasure in it, and wrote with the really, really, really faint hope that this blog would land me a book deal, a sentiment I always felt guilty about because starting a blog to get a book deal is a really gimmicky thing to do, and my gimmick (is it even a gimmick? Seems more like ramblings) was just one among millions. Plus, my gimmick was not nearly as well thought out as Julie Powell's.

So lets not pretend here, people. Sure, I'm blogging today, but I don't know what will happen tomorrow or next week (except that I do know that I will be on vacation next week, where the last thing I will be worried about is blogging--not a good sign). Plus, I have to admit that there is a part of me who thinks this blog should end as is, with a beginning that chronicled what led to Spain; then Spain; and where Spain led Jay and I to (engaged, duh). That way it's like "our story" all tied up with bow, complete with an arc and happy ending. A journey, if you will.

So I've made the decision to give up the blog for now. (It will still be here, should there be a particular post you want to revisit for goodness knows what reason; I just won't be updating it.) The truth is, I'm just no longer that angsty girl who wants to flit off to Europe for an undisclosed amount of time with her boyfriend. And I cannot (Can. Not.) become someone who blogs about wedding planning. Something about it just makes my stomach turn.

But they say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Which is why I encourage you to check out my Flickr, which I will be updating every time I--er, take some photos.

So, I guess this is ta-ta for now.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What Is This 'New York' You Speak Of?

Lately, all I keep hearing about is how present-day New York is on the verge of becoming the New York of the 1970s--a time when the city was addled by high crime rates, near bankruptcy, and a malfunctioning subway system--but at least things were interesting. So I have to wonder if a return to 1970s-era New York is such a bad thing.

Aging celebrities always talk about how much "edgier" New York was back then, spawning the likes of Studio 54, the Ramones, CBGBs, et al. New York in the '70s is the New York my mom currently fears when I call her on my way home from work: "But it's dark! What are you doing out?!" which is when I look at all the suits with their lattes and the hipsters with their Macs in the Starbucks that are on adjacent corners and sigh.

Of course, I don't want to have to worry about getting mugged on the subway at two in the afternoon, but it would be nice if the New York I lived in is remembered for something other than excess and Sex and the City. There's so much more to New York than that, and I know it, but sometimes all the high gloss makes it hard to find.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Pledge

So it's been almost one full month since Jay and I got engaged. And what have I accomplished since then?

Nothing!

This is an incredibly overwhelming process that I'm not sure I'm prepared for, and I almost feel like apologizing for not having an answer at the ready for all of the well-meaning questions I'm peppered with: Have you set a date yet? No. Where will it be? Somewhere in New York, I guess? Who's in your bridal party? I have no idea yet. Chicken or fish? Um, both?

Then there are the "Oh! You should do this!" people. Luckily, I'm very good at smiling and nodding.

Here is what I do know: We will not get married in a church. Neither of us are particularly religious, nor do we like to be the center of attention, so an hour-long ceremony with all eyes on us might induce some panic on both of our parts.

I also can promise you that this blog will not turn into a platform for me to rant and rave about all things bridal. Throughout this entire process, I'm striving not to be at all like the women who post on The Knot's New York-centric Web site. Scaaary.

Mostly, I kind of want the wedding to be like the recent birthday party of Libby, Jay's now 4-year-old niece: wine, cupcakes and a karaoke machine that everyone knows how to share.

Pictures of the inspirational event here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Big news.


In high school I took a drama class where I had to memorize the most measly part of Sartre's "No Exit." (A play where the underlying argument is "Hell is other people.") I wasn't prepared, and this became abundantly clear to my drama teacher when I had to run off stage to grab my copy of the script in order to finish the scene. And so ended my career as an actress. 

I never felt comfortable on stage; in fact, I don't particularly enjoy being the center of attention. So when I walked into our apartment last Friday--after deciding to get my nails painted blue and being slightly miffed at Jay for wanting to continue napping instead of just meeting me at the neighborhood restaurant we had agreed on for dinner--and found all these candles and rose petals strewn about, I felt as if I was somewhere I wasn't supposed to be--as if I had accidentally walked on stage in the middle of a play. 

But there he was, on bended knee, asking me to marry him. I don't think I actually said yes; I shouted, "Of course!" 

Then came an onslaught of "oh my goodnesses," a Pollyanna phrase I evidently have a fondness for in moments of genuine surprise, as well as all the joy of realizing that the person you've been wanting to spend the rest of your life with really truly madly deeply wants to spend the rest of their life with you, too. And then the rest of the night--nay, weekend--more or less revolved around me. And I loved every minute of it. 

After the proposal, a car picked us up to take us to Lupa, the site of our first date close to three years ago now. (I was too amped up to eat, but knew I should if the celebratory champagne was going to keep flowing.) His parents surprised us by magically picking up the tab from Indiana, and then we walked up to Washington Square Park, a place he and I used to go to "hide out" from co-workers who didn't yet know that we were dating. From there we hopped in a cab to get to the Waldorf=Astoria (get it?), where we were placed in suite 21R (our apartment number is 1R; though Jay had no hand in this), which provided the most amazing view of the Chrysler Building to complement some chocolate-covered strawberries and my favorite bottle of $10 cava on ice. (My true tastes always shine through.)

Each event was a bigger surprise than the last, and the entire time I could not stop thinking how lucky I am to have someone so incredibly thoughtful in my life. I have always felt this way throughout our relationship, but that night it was amplified by the amazing lengths Jay went to make sure the night was filled with reminders of significant moments in our relationship. 

There was a time when I greatly identified with Sartre's idea that "Hell is other people." (See: Dater's Dish, The and, if I were to let you, numerous angst-ridden teenage and early adult journal entries.) But for the last three years, and especially this past weekend, I've known better than that. 

Clearly, Sartre was never lucky enough to date Jay Boehmer. 

So finally, after settling into pizza and watching the very bad Zack & Miri Make a Porno on Saturday, I thought the surprises were over. Little did I know Jay had planned a party on Sunday with all of my family and friends in attendance. Thinking I was simply spending an afternoon casually celebrating with some friends, I instead walked into shouts of "Surprise!" Again, I hid, and again I had that same feeling of "Oh my goodness he did it again." He's lucky I have a strong heart. 

And, oh yeah--the ring! In continuance with the entire proposal, it's perfect and is everything I hoped for: a sapphire surrounded by a circle of diamonds, with a set of circularly shaped diamonds on either side. I never thought I'd be one to be enamored by sparkly things, but I continually find myself staring at it. It already feels like an integral part of me; when it's not on, I definitely feel it. 

Oh, and? A skeptical person might be inclined to think otherwise, but I swear to goodness I had no idea what was happening when I choose my manicure color earlier in the evening. 

Some pictures here

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Everything happens for a reason.

That is such a cliche, but I totally believe it.

Back when I was weighing two job offers--one full-time with benefits, but in New Jersey; the other a long-term freelance contract in New York--I opted for the gig with health insurance and a 401(k), even though I was more excited by the New York gig. How bo-ring of me, right?

Now it seems that, for once, my practicality has paid off, as the New Jersey gig has since moved back to New York and the Web site of the freelance gig just shuttered.

But I guess hindsight is always 20/20, huh? (Hey, they're cliches for a reason.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Things I learned this weekend.

This Saturday, Sarah and I went to the American Museum of Natural History, a place I hadn't been to since the first grade. As we walked around, all I could think about was the wherewithal it must have taken my teacher, Miss Devine, to herd 20 or so 7-year-olds onto a bus headed for New York City, chauffeur them around a massive, four-floor museum and not lose a single one. The panic just the thought of it induced in me solidified the fact that I made the right decision in abandoning a career as a kindergarten teacher. 


The trip was educational, reminding me of those first-rate, first-grade nuggets of knowledge that your 8-year-old cousin spews out, causing you to think, "Wow, you're really smart," forgetting that there was a time when you used to be that kind of smart, too. Take, for example: 

  • The scientifically accepted name of Brontosaurus is Apatosaurus, after the scientific community realized that the fossils of Brontosaurus were the same as the previously discovered species of Apatosaurus. 
  • Butterflies have a life span of just 10 months. 
  • A recipe for a kick-ass vegan Caesar salad dressing does exist, which I'm adding it to the list of Things I Learned This Weekend because I did, in fact, learn it this weekend, and I'm sure there's some smug vegan first-grader somewhere that is aware of this bit of information.
A few photos here

Friday, February 06, 2009

Face Off

Emily Gould (whom I don't personally know) is one of those people whose talent I'm jealous of in the most absolutely depressing of ways. This post is a great example of how and why she has this effect on me. She's worth reading if you're ever feeling introspective, but can't quite put into words why you're feeling introspective.

I point out that post because I can relate to it in a very superficial way. While I certainly do not think of myself as one of those people who radiate "look at me waves," as she says, I do, on a once-to-twice-per-day basis, get stared at. I'm convinced this is because I am the generic person: people always think I am someone else they know. Or Anne Hathaway circa The Princess Diaries. (Anne, if you're reading this, I'm sorry.)

"Tiffany?" A man came up and asked me on an airplane once. "Are you Bob Garrett's daughter?" a woman once asked me while in line for coffee. "I know you!" said a drunk boy at a pizza place. No; no you don't, I replied. "No, really, I know you! I'm not trying to hit on you," he angrily shot back. "I know," I said, "but trust me, you don't know me." (My cyber presence isn't even immune to this phenomenon.)

And this staring problem is only compounded in New York, where you come into contact with thousands of people on a daily basis, a few of whom search my face with a look that reads, "Where do I know that girl from?" (I did that to Luke Wilson once, who sheepishly smiled and waved at me. I ignored him, which only made my faux pas all the more groan-worthy once I realized who he was.)

The reason I know these people don't know me is because I never forget a face--to an embarrassing extent. I can't tell you how many people I've been introduced to, only to run into them later where they say, "I'm sorry... What's your name again?" All this does is remind me of how unmemorable I personally am, unless I'm getting mistaken for someone else.

So, yeah, anonymity--there's no such thing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy to the New Year

So Jay and I decided that we're going to Puerto Rico (or some other similarly warmly climed place that is not Mexico) for New Year's in 2010--who's with us?! 


That's not to imply that this past New Year's wasn't fun; it certainly was, and I kicked it off by breaking my no-dairy resolution almost immediately by surprisingly enjoying an incredibly burnt piece of pizza. (Thanks Casey! [That is not a facetious thank you; I know how impossible it is to get pizza in Cincinnati at 2 a.m. This is why I will never leave New York.])

It was good to get to the 'Nati, especially since it had been over a year since my last visit. We're looking forward to Ben and Brooke's visit at the end of the month, though if the way Ben planted one on Jay at midnight on New Year's is any indication of the sort of craziness this visit will bring, then I may just have to buy an actual lock for our bedroom door. 

Oh, and yes: There is photographic evidence* of that kiss, I just wasn't allowed to post it. 

*New year, new photo-sharing service. I was having problems with Snapfish no matter which browser I used (I think it may be an anti-Mac thing), so welcome to my Flickr, mostly because you can view photos without having to register and it's just one photo stream. And! You can comment. Just be nice. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Burnt popcorn

I want to blog. Really, I do. I just don't know what's worth blogging about anymore.

Is anyone really interested in hearing about the day's banalities? I don't have a problem reading about other people's banalities. I just read about how one friend is going to ask her midwife to strip her membranes, while another shared the story of a heart-to-heart while eating Kashi's Heart-to-Heart oatmeal. But I'm not so sure you and I share the same tolerance for banality. Do you care that I just burnt popcorn while writing this post?

I get that this is the point of blogging, the sharing of the day-to-day banalities, that is. And I guess I could blog about how I bought a brand new couch and coffee table the other day, my first truly grown-up purchase, considering that the last "grown-up" item I bought for myself was the $125 Tiffany's mesh ring, which, next to the sterling silver letter opener, is the cheapest item you can buy at Tiffany's, which really isn't all that exciting of an event given that I'm almost 30.

Were I 23 and fresh out of college and buying new furniture -- now that -- that would be exciting. Because you're 23! And buying furniture! That's not from Ikea! Or Target! (It's from Suburban. How very -- suburban.) Buying furniture at 23 is so unexpected! And buying furniture at 29 is so very expected.

Wait for it, folks. I'm sure there's something more interesting around the corner.

(Off to Cincinnati for the New Year. Perhaps something interesting will pop up between by then.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Idling away

I thought by taking a job editing, I'd be more inspired to write, but instead I just find myself picking out typos in everything I read. Bo-ring.

Which is what life has been lately, though I know those of you in more exciting and far off lands check here for updates on life in New York, so I'll do the best I can in trying to make an unexciting existence sound remotely interesting.

We caught up with Ratterman, Franklin, Vicki and the Lishegos over the weekend and everyone is doing well, with the exception of a minor meltdown over the lack of enough vanilla extract for some peanut butter macadamia nut cookies, which turned out to be pretty good. (See what fun you're missing?! Octoberfest in Germany? The Great Wall? Bah.)

Next week, Jay is off to Melbourne and Sydney (and perhaps someplace else in Australia?), for the first flight of something that has the wingspan of a football field. I am making him take my camera and will try my hardest to also make him blog about it, though for whatever reason his love affair with blogging has been short-lived. What happens in Seville, stays in Seville, I guess.

On a more personal note, we had a Meet the Parents weekend two weeks ago. The Boehmers, in town for the weekend, met the Merritts in a casual yet intimate dinner setting at Arturo's. All went well and I wasn't very nervous about it until I saw that my father had managed to singe off most of the skin on his chin (not an exaggeration) from a piece of cheese on a sausage and pepper sandwich. It was the sort of thing you could tell everyone was staring at but didn't want to ask about, so I eventually felt compelled enough to explain my father's leprosy.

All in all, it seems that our parents were more concerned about how they came off rather than formulating a real impression of the other set. So the good news is, I think we'll all be able to hang out again.

And that, my friends, is all there is for now. I'm trying my hardest to stay away from the obligatory "I promise to update again soon!" sign off.

Oh, wait.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust


I think I speak for both myself and Jay when I say how flattered we are that our trip to Spain inspired so many of you to one-up us. We love that you didn't let us bask in the glow of our extended vacation for too long, taking away our comeback high with more exotic life happenings like "moving to China" and "exploring the world," not to mention totally stealing our thunder by blogging about it all.

And so, a few weeks ago, Jay and I said goodbye to another set of dear New York friends, Jewitt and Sue. Or JewSue. (There's also GabLu. As for us? BoehMerritt. Though these nicknames never seemed to catch on with anyone beyond Jay and myself.)

JewSue are off on a truly epic adventure, which you can follow on The Voyage of Swill. (And, as always, there will be a link at left.) Their itinerary covers South America, Eastern Europe, India and finally, an official settling in Korea, for goodness knows how long, except that I already know it's too long since Jay can't stop talking about how he no longer has any friends in New York, which is largely why he decided to move in with me, I'm sure.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Christmas in August

This is the best news I've heard since I read this a few months ago:

TheWB.com, now in Beta testing, will launch on August 27, offering classic series that aired on the now defunct WB TV network along with new web series ... The online video network will offer classic WB series Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, Smallville, Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Roswell, The Wayans Bros., Friends and The O.C. [Ed note: and One Tree Hill!], along with new series from show creators McG and Josh Schwartz.
The timing here could not be more perfect, as on August 25, I leave the confines of my couch--and as such, the ability to work while watching SOAPNet--to head back to a cubicle. And now I can take Peyton and Lucas and Seth and Summer with me.

My only concern is the absence of Dawson's Creek and Felicity. Those two shows made a network plagued by reruns of Murder She Wrote and Starship Enterprise a leader in the coveted 18-34 age bracket. You best not forget where it all started, WB/CW-whatever conglomerate.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Girl's Gone Country

I'm about as country as Jessica Simpson, but it should be said that I spent the first six years of my life with cows for neighbors. My parents eventually upgraded to a town with a convenience store within walking distance, but the people without teeth still remained.

Back in those days, probably until I was about 10, the can't-wait-for event each summer was the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, essentially a country carnival, complete with stomach aching fried foods and tractor pulls. It's where I experienced my first-ever thrill ride at the tender age of two, on some sort of red, dusty, merry-go-round contraption with a cow bell attached. Good times were had by all.

I haven't been to the fair in ages and for some reason I really wanted to go this summer. So I rounded up Jay and my parents and we took the long ride out to the fairgrounds via Route 206 in my father's 22-foot long diesel truck, for country-folk authenticity purposes.

I don't remember much about my past times at the Sussex County fair, but I have a feeling that not much has changed since my last visit, except that my father now has Jay to competitively eat against. (Usually he just eats.) Jay put up a good fight, but my father reigned, consuming a roast beef sandwich, pierogies, a cheese steak, popcorn, a slice of pizza, half of an ice cream waffle sandwich, beef brisket, corn on the cob, oysters and finally, a nectarine, all in three-and-a-half hours. For reasons unknown, the only item he refused was the remainder of my funnel cake. (Too sugary, perhaps?)

And just like always, good times were had by all. Pictures here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

Earlier today, I was lamenting to my neighbor about how life always seems to present two opportunities at the same time and of course the pros and cons of those opportunities always negate one another, therefore not making the decision process any easier.

I know you're waiting for some insight here, but it's not coming.

So seriously, what is up with that? And FYI, the response "because life is not fair" has already been taken by my father.

Monday, July 14, 2008

You don't know the trouble I've seen


...Trying to upload this video. I'll spare you the details, but it involved fights with a font program, beguiling moments on Blogger and numerous break-up threats since the video was supposed to be posted within minutes of landing at JFK.

I'll admit, I'm a little ashamed it took me almost two months to get this up. After all, I'm the Type A one. But I also think it's fitting, since the Spanish are rarely in a rush to get anything done in a timely manner. I guess those Spaniards really did rub off on me!

Two additional items worth noting:

First, Jay's good friend Gabel, along with his lovely girlfriend Luhan, recently ditched New York for Beijing. Like, permanently. He's blogging about trading democracy for Communism here. (You also can find a link under Friends & Neighbors.) The drinks, the pool games and the hugs that made up one of their final nights in New York is here.

Second, in an effort to milk this epic time waster of a blog for all it's worth (seriously, do you people even check in anymore?), I'm back to blogging. (And Twittering!)

So stay tuned, we hope you enjoy the video and a big thanks to everyone who continually checked in here while we were away. It was always an unexpected treat to have some of the blog posts recited back to us in e-mails, phone calls and upon our return, because it showed you were reading and that you cared. (Sniff.) It's nice to know we were still on your minds even though we were out of sight.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Exit Interview: Jay and Jenn

The editorial staff of See Jenn Blog has developed a questionnaire for guests, fielded the night before they leave, to get their impressions of the city. We always knew we would inflict this ritual on ourselves and when our last Friday night in Seville turned out to be a rain-soaked mess, we broke out the cava we had been saving for a special occasion, put iTunes on shuffle and commenced our version of the Spanish Inquisition. It's a lengthy one, so you might want to grab a cup of coffee before you start reading.

Jay: What was your favorite thing about Seville?
Jenn: [Long pause.] One of my favorite things was the eating experience. I love eating standing up. I don’t know how I’m going to go back to actually sitting through a three-course meal. In Spain, it’s so in-and-out and it’s so social, too. It was less about going out for food—even though the food was absolutely delicious—but you could tell people were out more for the conversation and the company than for the food and the wine. Dining just isn’t like that anywhere else I’ve been.
Jay: It’s like dining for people with ADD. You just bounce from place to place and have a little meal.
Jenn: And also, how you always talk about “plate envy,” you don’t have any of that in Spain. If you see something someone else has that you like, you can get it, and you’re not being gluttonous because it’s this tiny little plate. Overall, the Spanish really know how to enjoy a meal. What about you? PORK?
Jay: Yeah, that rolls into eating as well. The food here, I love it, and I pretty much agree with everything you said.
Jenn: That’s a lame answer.
Jay: Well, I probably enjoyed the dishes more than you since everything is very meat heavy. And I realize that favorite is singular and should be one thing, but the city itself I really like. It’s easy to get around. No cars; not even a subway. Sevici is awesome. It’s a perfect city for that and as much as I like the program I can’t see it taking off in New York, if it existed there.
Jenn: Although they are taking it to D.C., Chicago and possibly Philadelphia. New York would really have to implement a bike path like Seville has. If New York did that, I would totally hop on it. Maybe not in Staten Island, but throughout the other boroughs and bridges, I could see it working. I’ll have to take that up with Bloomberg when I get back.
Jay: We could probably have a whole conversation about our favorite things in Seville, but another thing I really like about it is the people here. I like their attitude, their patience. They’ve been very kind to us. I just wish I knew what they were saying, because I’m sure it’s entertaining.
Jenn: That was always the amazing thing. You and I have traveled a lot and you get different responses to your attempts at the native language. The thing I really like about Spain was that as long as you tried, they humored you, and they have no problem correcting you but it was never in a condescending or flippant way, so I definitely have to agree with you there. I always talk about New Orleans having the nicest people and I think Spain probably gives them a run for their money.
Jay: Although maybe if we knew what they were saying it might be a different picture. Maybe they were telling us to fuck off in a really friendly way.

Jay: And that kind of goes into the least favorite thing about Seville.
Jenn: All the construction outside of our window every day. When our next-door neighbor would get into a fight with his girlfriend and she would wail and wail and wail at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Jay: Really, that happened? I didn’t notice. A lot of our visitors said dog poop.
Jenn: Well, dog poop is just a given. I mean, who enjoys dog poop?
Jay: I don’t think it’s that bad. I don’t think the city is overrun with crap.
Jenn: I will say this—and I know this is going to sound really ridiculous considering what the weather would have been like back home—I was slightly disappointed in the weather. I really thought at this point, we’d be in tank tops and shorts and we’re just not.
Jay: I know. It’s a rainy Friday night and it’s not particularly warm out yet.
Jenn: It’s a waste of luggage space. I brought all these tank tops and dresses and never got to wear them. What about you?
Jay: [Long pause.] I find it hard to say a negative thing about this place. I hear what you’re saying about the weather. Wow, I’m a lame interview subject. And I know how hard it is to draw answers out of someone.
Jenn: Do I need to rephrase the question?
Jay: No, no, there’s got to be an answer in there somewhere. Um…
Jenn: Maybe how you can’t pick out your own produce at the supermarket?
Jay: Maybe that’s something and this may be Spain in general, but I’m so used to self-service. Here, you’ve got to wait in an hour-long line just to buy train tickets. At the grocery store you have to wait to have some guy weigh your fruit. I’m used to the American—but on top of that, the New York—pace of life that is so go-go-go and help yourself. Things aren’t very quick here. But that’s a good thing. It settles me down a little bit.
Jenn: It’s definitely taught me patience, but I guarantee you within five minutes of being back in New York all of the work that Seville has done will be completely eradicated. Is there anyway that you would say this experience has changed you?

Jay: I don’t know. If there’s been any change in me it’s been something really gradual and something I haven’t noticed. Almost something for people to recognize once I get back home.
Jenn: Like, “You’ve come back with a lisp.”
Jay: Yeah! But I haven’t noticed any change. Do you think it’s changed you at all?
Jenn: It’s definitely taught me patience. The patience of the population in general is something that I’m really going to miss, whether it’s not knowing exactly what I need or being able to take a table at a restaurant and just get a glass of wine if that’s all I want and not have to deal with some huffy waiter telling me tables are for food service only.
Jay: One change might be that for every wayward traveler who doesn’t speak English that I encounter in New York, I’ll probably feel for them and try a little harder.

Jenn: So is there anything in Seville that you wanted to experience but didn’t?
Jay: Nothing about Seville, but just looking at that map you put up, I see there’s still a whole lot of Spain uncovered. I wish I would have seen more. There’s the whole north, like Barcelona, that we’re not going to see, the Canary Islands—
Jenn: Ibiza!
Jay: Yes. Mallorca. It was shocking to me looking at the map how little we actually covered.
Jenn: I know. I thought, “We’ve been living here for three months and we’ve only covered nine cities? Come. On.” I kind of wanted to kick myself.
Jay: It just makes you realize that so many times when you travel, you’re not really seeing that much. You get a little notch on your belt, but it’s like that saying: the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. It’s like the more you travel, the more you realize you haven’t traveled that much. It takes a while to get to know a place. Was there anything you didn’t get to experience?
Jenn: I don’t know if this is an experience per se, but one thing I regret is just not really bulking up on my Spanish before I came here. I feel like we got comfortable in our transactional conversations and the amount of new Spanish that I did learn definitely plateaued, so to that extent, I feel like I didn’t really take full advantage of this opportunity. I was hoping to be able to come back and carry at least somewhat of a conversation and I just don’t think I’ll be able to.
Jay: I agree. If there’s one regret coming out of this, that’s definitely it.
Jenn: And too, we were both lazy in the sense that you figured you could get by on what little Spanish I know and I figured—
Jay: That I could just get by on my good looks?
Jenn: [Laughs] Nooooooooo. I figured, perhaps pompously, that there would be a lot more people here that spoke English. It was a big wake up call when we first got here. What was the best part of your trip?

Jay: I think you know the answer to this.
Jenn: Pork?
Jay: No. The road trip. I had a blast. We covered a lot. I was with Casey, one of my longest-held friends, and Kristen and you, and we all piled into a car and every day was something new, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Jenn: What you were getting yourself into—you didn’t even drive!
Jay: Yeah, but I didn’t know what each city was all about. We went from Seville, to a town on a mountain and then a town on the coast and then Gibraltar and then the next thing you know we’re in Africa. When I look back on my time in Spain those will be some of the first images. I’m sorry to say that because it kind of belittles our time here, just me and you, doesn’t it? When I think of Spain, I’ll think of Casey.
Jenn: Why am I not surprised?
Jay: What about you—best part of the trip?
Jenn: It was a lot of little things. I like all the sensory experiences. All the scents, that’s such a big thing for me, I don’t know why.
Jay: That’s a kind way to put it. You’re holed up with me for three months and you talk about the sensory experiences.
Jenn: I will say that one of my favorite things about this experience was living with you.
Jay: Damn it. You had to make me sound like an asshole. It went pretty well, didn’t it? Better than I thought it would.
Jenn: It went really well. I went into it not knowing what to expect and may have had my preconceived notions as to what it may be like and it just really exceeded them—and for the better.
Jay: I was surprised at the ease of it. On a day-to-day basis, we’re totally different people. We have different schedules; we have totally different sensibilities about cleanliness. It was very, very easy to live with you. And there weren’t any fights.
Jenn: I don’t want to paint it as if it were all roses—we definitely had some tense moments.
Jay: Yeah, like when you were grumpy, for the record.
Jenn: Or when you refused to fix the washing machine you broke.
Jay: It’s going to be fixed! [It wasn’t.—Ed.]
Jenn: But overall the experience of living with you has been a good one.
Jay: I give you an A-
Jenn: Why an A-?
Jay: Well…. I don’t know. That’s a good grade.
Jenn: That’s not a good enough explanation! Fine. You get a B+.
Jay: What the fuck—why not an A-?
Jenn: Because you leave crumbs all over the place. Anyway, here’s a question I want to ask. What’s your favorite experience with each guest?

Jay:
That’s a good question. Corrie: One, you know I love Corrie. She’s awesome and she’s a blast. I liked her total willingness to do anything. And at the time that she came, we were still discovering Seville and she really helped uncover a lot of rocks. Also; Italica. As dull as that sight was, I had a blast rocking out at Italica with Corrie. I wish her visit was lot longer than it was.
Jenn: Me too. When she left I was definitely a little sad.
Jay: Sarah: I had a blast on our prom night. Discovering the bull fight was such an other-worldly experience—I’ve never seen anything like a bull fight and I never want to see anything like a bull fight ever again—but it was cool that it was one of your good friends and it was just the two of us going out and doing something. And then Casey and Kristen… Well, the road trip. It was like a weeklong double date. What were your guest highlights?
Jenn: With Corrie, it was just her arrival. There was so much anticipation because she was our first guest and I knew she’d be a great first guest because she’s so c’est la vie. I wanted to see a familiar, friendly face and who better than nice Midwestern Corrie? With Sarah—and you tell this story to anyone else and they’ll probably be like, how boring—but our first night in Malaga, we just got cheese and wine and holed ourselves up in the hotel room for a little bit and then had dinner and we just had a really great conversation between friends—she knows what was said—but those are the kinds of moments that I really love having with friends. With Casey and Kristen, I thought it was really cool seeing Casey’s first steps into the Mediterranean. That had to be such an amazing experience for him and just to be witness to it was kind of cool. The whole night in Marbella was a lot of fun. Just us hanging out with Telepizza and booze.
Jay: That was one of the better nights, because it could have happened anywhere.

Jenn: In lieu of the who-would-you-rather-be-stranded-with question, I will ask who is the one person you wished would have visited?
Jay: My mom. It would have been fun, because she really would have enjoyed it all. She would have gotten a kick out of the city and there’s a lot of little places around here I think she would have enjoyed.
Jenn: I’d say my dad. You know my dad; Spain is so up his ally with the eating and the drinking. It’s a lot of meat and booze—that’s the center of the trip, really.
Jay: Yeah, you’re dad would have had a ball. He would have matched me beer for beer and ham for ham.

Jay: So this next question is kind of pointless.
Jenn: Well, would you want to do another three months? Or be here indefinitely?
Jay: I would want to do another three months here. I would love to do it.
Jenn: I’d have to say no. For as much as I love Seville and it will always be special to me, I’m anxious to get back to friends and family and I feel like there’s a whole world out there. I’d like to do three months in Prague or three months in Paris—
Jay: I’m down with that. Let’s do it. Maybe that’s the next question: Where are we going next year?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Top 5: Things We'll Miss About Seville


Yesterday, on my last jog along the Guadalquivir River, one of my all-time favorite songs, "Chocolate" by Snow Patrol, came on my iPod. The first few lyrics are: "This could be the very minute/I'm aware I'm alive/All these places feel like home." Reader, I teared up. But only a little. Here are more things Jay and I will miss about Seville, in no particular order.

Jay:
1. Tapas. It’s not just the great food that I’ll miss, but the way the Spanish eat—bouncing from bar to bar and having a few small bites and a drink at each.

2. Working From Home. I haven’t been in an office in three months, and I’ve been six hours ahead of my colleagues in New York: Add the two together, then subtract pants and shaving, and you have my ideal working situation.

3. Living With Jenn. We got along better than I could have imagined, and she is a very accomplished cleaner.

4. Old Stuff. I like old cities with old buildings. Let me illustrate: We frequently ate at a tapas bar that was founded before the United States.

5. Getting Around. For the past three months, we’ve relied on our feet and our Sevici bikes to move us through Seville. No subways. No cars. No cabs. No traffic.

Jenn:
1. The In-And-Out Process of Dining. I have no idea what a "reservation" is anymore or why anyone would ever need one.

2. Patience. It may seem like a contrast to the above, but the Spanish are soooooooo patient. I like to think the slower pace has rubbed off on me, though I'm sure New York will put the kibosh on that within five minutes of my arrival.

3. Sevici and Orange Trees. These two are intertwined because there is a specific section on the Sevici path where all you smell are the orange trees as you breeze by.

4. Adorable Spanish Children. I frequently joked with Jay (however horribly) about pulling a Madeline McCain on a number of Spanish tykes in their Sunday outfits. They just seem so much cuter and so much more well-behaved than American children. (No offense to anyone who has any.) Plus, they're on par with my level of Spanish.

5. Feeling Like I Was Always On Vacation. This, no matter how many deadlines I had or bills that needed paying. Should you want to feel this way in your daily life as well, I suggest never looking at your bank account, especially when you know in the back of your head that things may be getting dire. Ignorance truly is bliss.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sevilla Later


All over Seville you can spot the curious cipher, NO 8 DO. Sometimes it's conspicuous, on a police car for instance; but more often then not, it's less so, as on a bike rack. The above photo appeared on a park railing.

The symbol stems from the 11th century, when the Catholics launched a reconquista in an attempt to take southern Spain back from the Moors. When the war went on for too long, as they sometimes do, King Alfonso struck a truce with the Moors, which angered his son Sancho, who, in a typical bout of father/son one-upmanship, attempted a rebellion against his father, but the Sevillian people ignored Sancho's little tantrum and stayed loyal to Alfonso, which is when he uttered the now-iconic phrase, "me han dejado," or "you have not deserted me." The phrase morphed from its medieval iteration to no madeja do, "madeja" meaning wool in Spanish, which led to the compact emblem NO 8 DO, with the 8 serving as symbol for twisted wool.

I don't quite get it all either, it's so much like a game of telephone gone terribly awry. But I thought it would be a fitting story to tell, given that we "desert" Seville for Madrid tomorrow, and then on Saturday, to New York. I was going to weave it all together into a nice, succinct history lesson-cum-farewell, but we can all see how I've failed miserably at that attempt, so I instead will leave you with this:

video

Friday, May 23, 2008

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Jenn: I'm a little bummed to be missing out on Memorial Day weekend. I keep getting all these auto-replies to my e-mails about how so-and-so will be out of the office until May 27.

Jay: You've been out of the office for three months.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Help wanted!

You guys remember Quino, right? Some of you even met him and were privy to his kindness. Well, as we're about to hightail it out of here in nine days, we thought it would be nice to get him some sort of small departing gift for said kindness, plus his awesome restaurant recommendations. The thing is, we have absolutely no clue what to get him. From our limited conversations in Spanish, this is what we know about him:

  1. He owns a bar, so wine/liquor is out
  2. He has a dog named Pipa
  3. He likes the beach
  4. He doesn't like George Bush
  5. He loves to learn different languages
Based on number five we considered gag gifting "Ingles Para Dummies," but I still feel the need for something less obnoxious. We also have a small but thriving lavender plant that we can't bring back with us which I thought we could give, remembering that I once read somewhere that lavender represents friendship to some people, but Jay thinks the idea is fay.

Suggestions are welcome in the comments, including opinions on whether or not I am being overly sentimental.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Top 5: Feeding Frenzy

When Jenn proposed today’s top-five list—“foods you need to shove down your gullet before leaving”—I thought it would be easy. Then I rattled off more than 20 dishes in the same number of seconds that would vie for only five slots.

Sadly, Telepizza did not make the list. It was a tough call.

To narrow it down, I’m including only things with ingredients that aren’t readily available back home or things that would be difficult for a novice cook to replicate in his kitchen. I’m also leaving off the half dozen body parts of the pig that would have a made my top 20. I’m guessing Jenn, who generally stays away from food that once were body parts, had the opposite problem as she assessed her favorites from this meat-loving country.

In the meantime, we're left with a lot of things to eat in the span of a week. We’re starting right now as we head off to get tapas and hopefully end Jenn’s moratorium on drinking.




Jenn:

1. Queso de Cabra Gratinado. Never—never, I tell you! —has cheese been so mmmmmmm inducing. I'm normally not the biggest rosemary fan, but I'll deal when there's ridiculously soft goat cheese and sweet honey involved.






2. Bacalao. The Spanish cod is delicious when fried. (But then again, what isn't?) Plus, "bacalao" is fun to say in a faux-gangsta-rapper voice. El Rinconcillo's bacalao are a particular stand out, as they seem to be swathed in some sort of funnel-cake-like batter.

3. Croquettas. This may be a shock coming from me, I know, but during our time here we quickly discovered non-ham versions of this tiny treat, like fish, pesto, cauliflower and spinach. Though it must be said that jamón croquettas are the best, especially the ones from Bar Europa.

4. Pisto. Sometimes the food in Spain is so obvious you wonder, "Why haven't I ever thought to do this before?" That's just the delicious simplicity of Spanish cooking, and pisto in particular: Nothing more than zucchini, eggplant, onion and green and red peppers in tomato sauce, topped with an egg. Of course, the tomato sauce makes or breaks the dish.

5. Salmorejo. Blend tomatoes, olive oil, day-old bread, garlic and sherry vinegar; chill—both the soup and yourself, that is, because this is clearly a very exhausting dish to prepare. You could also add chopped bacon or scallions, but you most certainly will want to have a hearty, grainy bread on hand for dipping.

Jay:
1. Queso de Cabra Gratinado. I knew Jenn would lead her list with this, but enough praise can’t be lavished on this one. It’s also been a favorite of nearly all our visitors.

2. Jamón Serrano. Cured ham, hand-sliced thin right from the leg. This stuff makes even the best prosciutto seem like Oscar Meyer baloney. Quite the delicacy, it retails for more than $100 a pound in the U.S. I’m going to miss it.

3. Carrillada. This is pork cheek. I’ve had it prepared a few different ways and every time it’s more tender than the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve had.


4. Boquerones (at right). These are fresh anchovies, sans the head, deep-fried and served with a little wedge of lemon. I’ve never been a huge fan of anchovies—associating them with those salty gray little bastards you find in the jar. Fresh and fried: It’s a whole different story.

5. Flamenquines. This is cheese. Wrapped in ham. Wrapped in pork loin. Deep-fried. Elaborating is unnecessary.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hi. My name is Jennifer. I may or may not be exhibiting signs of alcoholism.

Over the last few days I've been going through a self-inflicted detox of absolutely no alcohol. Frankly, I'm a little alarmed about the ferocity of which I've been able to toss 'em back lately--and barely catch a buzz. For Pete's sake I kept pace with Casey when he visited! And for those of you who don't know Casey he's no wisp of a man. So, I've decided to give up the sauce and get back to being the lightweight you all know and love.

Except now I'm exhibiting signs of withdrawal: I'm a bit shaky; anxious even. My lips are tingling and I get nauseous at the sight of dinner unaccompanied by a glass of wine.

This can't be good.

Top 5: It's over.

There is NOTHING* left to write about. We've seen all Seville has to offer. And Spain? Over it!** We're ready to shake this little town for the city that never sleeps. (Actually, given how many times those damn kids on the Alameda woke me up with their 5-a.m. antics, Seville may have New York beat on that one.)

No matter! Who says you can't go home? Certainly not Jon Bon Jovi, and he's been around the world, so he knows what he's talking about. We've been there, done that; there's only one place left we want to go: home. Herewith, the Top 5 things we can't wait to get back to in 11 days, in order of most importance ...

Jay:
1. English Speakers, Particularly Friends And Family. The Spanish are among the friendliest and most patient people I’ve encountered, and though my skill at speaking the language has improved (it’s not hard to build on a baseline of nothing), I’m still craving good conversations and encounters with friends and family.

2. Burgers. While Spanish food is some of the best I’ve had, and the abundance of pork, fried cheeses and fresh seafood have left me little to desire, there is one thing I miss: the humble American cheeseburger.

3. A Proper Haircut. My lack of Spanish has led to the disaster on top of my head. Barbers are a garrulous bunch who require constant instruction—“A little off the top” or “Oh no. Please stop cutting.” I simply don’t have the command of this language to direct a barber. Instead, I have relied on the kindness of others: Jenn’s occasional removal of neck hairs; Casey’s American-voltage clippers that blew up midway through a trim; and a late-night, wine-fueled haircut, courtesy of Kristen.

4. Television. I hate to admit it. I miss American television. Though we have a stable of DVDs and have taken advantage of the new iTunes movie rental service, I’m looking forward to the feel of the remote in my hand and hundreds of channels of English-language crap at my command.

5. My Kitchen. Currently, we have two electric stove top burners, a microwave and a sad supply of cutlery, pots, pans and utensils. In New York, I’ll return to sharp knives, skillets whose surfaces don’t cling to everything they touch and an actual oven.

Jenn:
1. An Eyebrow Wax, Manicure and Pedicure. Yes, this actually trumps seeing friends and family. I'm just that vain, apparently.

2. Friends and Family. Simply put, I can't wait to see everyone! But not before I have some maintenance performed.

3. Having a Menu at MY Mercy. Lord, how I can't wait to get my hand on a menu where I actually know what I'm ordering. And if I don't like what I see, I can get all Sally Albright on any item.

4. A Looooong, Hot Shower. There is an endless supply of hot water to be had at my apartment in Astoria. Here; not so much.




5. Summer Reruns. Finally, I can actually watch Blair spar with Chuck and Jenny, instead of having to read about it. The quips just never translate as well.






Look for more Top 5's throughout the remainder of our time here--as I said, there just isn't much to write about anymore!***

*This isn't exactly true.

**For the record, Jay isn't "over" Spain; he just lacks a flair for the dramatic.

***See first note.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The End is Nigh

All things must come to an end and so it is that it is our last full week in Seville. My, how time flies! It seems like just yesterday I was worried about shoving three months' worth of clothing into one suitcase. Now I'm concerned about shoving three months' worth of clothing plus three months' worth of souvenirs into one suitcase that doesn't work properly.

We expect the following days to be a scramble to do and see things we've been meaning to, like trek to the top of the cathedral (which we did this weekend) and buy some dulces from the nuns (which we're hoping to do this weekend). We also have some other things on the agenda, like fixing the washing machine that Jay broke in frustration a month ago and trying to figure out if Madrid merits a one- or two-night stay.

Madrid will be the last of our Spanish excursions and it's amazing to realize how little of this huge country we covered, despite all of our travels (the map at right will give you an idea of what I mean).

Here is what will likely be one of our final sets of pictures we will share with you from Spain, covering some Seville leftovers and our recent trip to Granada--partly in celebration of our two-year anniversary, which I made Jay celebrate even though he's against "datingversaries," thinking such festivities should be left to real unions, like marriages, but since as the girlfriend it's my job to be annoying, I made him acknowledge it with a weekend away. My crazy milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, I know.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Conflicts of Interest

Two articles on the Times web site today particularly interested me and it wasn't until I was flipping between one and the next that I realized how starkly different, yet interconnected, they are:

The first, "Five Basics for Building a Solid Financial Future," caught my eye because I’ve been thinking that, oh, I don’t know, maybe I should start accumulating grown up things like health insurance and a retirement plan once I’m back. The columnist writes:

Few employers want us around for 40 years, so our income is likely to have ups and downs and disappear altogether for brief periods between jobs. Saving for retirement is now mostly our responsibility, too. Health insurance, for those of us who have it and manage to keep it, requires increasingly large amounts of money out of our pockets. The list goes on and on ... Given the stakes, it is hard to avoid the persistent low-grade fear that we have made wrong choices or cannot find the right ones, even though they are out there somewhere.
The second, "Chasing Utopia, Family Imagines No Possessions," profiles a successful young family from Austin, TX, who are donating everything they own to live a simpler life off the land in Vermont, a current fantasy of mine. (They are, of course, not going so simplistic that they can’t blog about the experience.) The Times dubs this part of "the voluntary simplicity movement" that started so, so, long ago, in the 1980s:
"The idea in the movement was 'everything you own owns you,' said Dr. Grigsby, who sees roots of the philosophy in the lives of the Puritans. "You have to care for it, store it. It becomes an appendage, I think. If it enhances your life and helps you do the things you want to do, great. If you are burdened by these things and they become the center of what you have to do to live, is that really positive?"
Methinks not.

There's a great appeal in this idea, chiefly because it's such a great excuse for the sorry state of uninsured and quasi-unemployment I'm in right now. So, in the course of reading these two articles, which essentially totaled the time it took to drink one cup of tea, I’ve decided to eff it all and become a socialist, as money is the root of evil. Must be the current Spanish administration rubbing off on me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Call us! We should totally hang.

"She takes soy milk in her coffee. He thinks pork fat is a perfect pizza topping."

All the more reason why I wish Jay and I had run into Gwyneth Paltrow--perhaps my favorite actress no matter how many people hate her--and Mario Batali--absolutely Jay's most favorite chef and restaurateur no matter how much people mock his penchant for orange Crocs--as they take a foodie road trip through Spain for a show that debuts on PBS this fall.



We're still here and this video makes us nostalgic. It also makes us wish we had a professional camera crew following us in our convertible these last three months and that at least one of us possessed Gwynnie's command of Spanish.

Oh, and? NB to Gwyneth: I think I gained those 10 kilos on your behalf.

These Dreams, Cont.

I've previously documented the dreadful dreams I've been having since arriving in Seville, and now, it seems they've become contagious.

First, it should be noted that I am a very light sleeper. The slightest wiggle of a bed mate's toe will cause me to immediately come to consciousness. So I wasn't surprised to be woken up when a fully asleep Jay shot upright in bed late last night.

"Are you OK?" I asked with sleepy concern.

"Yes," he said. "It was just a dream."

"What was it?" I replied, thinking it involved the impalement of a family member or the premonition of a fiery plane crash on our way back to New York.

He turned to me. "I dreamt that I was at Shake Shack,"--that famous New York burger joint--"and the burger was terrible."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It figures.

This news comes after 10 weeks of living on a crappy conversion rate, with only three more to go:

After six years of stumbling against the euro, the dollar may be showing signs of getting back on its feet.
And another thing...

I've read so much about the amazingness that was Monday night's ep of "Gossip Girl" that I decided to brave the craptastic streaming video capabilities here to watch it. Alas, I arrive at the CW's video page only to be told: "We're sorry, but our viewer currently does not support users outside of the United States."

"But I'm American!" I wanted to scream.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Exit Interview: Casey and Kristen

The editorial staff of See Jenn Blog has developed a questionnaire for guests, fielded the night before they leave, to get their impressions of the city. We were very conflicted about the arrival of Casey and Kristen, our final guests. It’s not that we weren’t thrilled to host them; it’s just that we knew the end of their trip marked the beginning of the end for our time in Seville. Now that they’re gone—and with less than one month left to go for the two of us—we couldn’t think of a better note to go out on.

Jenn: What was your favorite thing about Seville?
Casey: Mine was Basilica de Macarena.
Jay: Diamond tears?
Casey: Yeah.
Kristen: I’m going to say that was one of my favorites too and also the food.
Casey: The food is dynamite.
Jenn: The dates wrapped in bacon—is that the favorite?
Kristen: The goat cheese, that’s the favorite. Casey’s favorite is probably the dates wrapped in bacon.
Casey: Or the croquettas.
Jay: I guess boquerones [fried anchovies] don’t go on there because that was in Ronda.
Casey: Yup. David Faustino’s specialty. [The restaurant—a Rick Steves recommendation—was called Faustino’s, but we took to calling it after the actor who played Bud Bundy on Married With Children—Ed.]

Jay: What was your least favorite thing about Seville?
Casey: The driving. It was awful. Scooters are also bad. I didn’t like the scooters.
Kristen: The bathrooms with no soap or paper towels.
Jenn: Thank God for lavender-scented hand sanitizer!
Kristen: I also didn’t like how the light switches were all outside of the bathrooms, so I’d get in there and fumble around.
Jay: Jenn had a little incident with one where the light was timed and went out before she was finished.
Jenn: Thanks for bringing that up.
Casey: And you can’t take that out because it’s in the transcript.
Jay: Sorry Jenn. Can’t undo it now.

Jay: Was there anything you wanted to experience but didn’t?
Casey: Isla Magica or the Cruzcampo tour [Isla Magica is a Great Adventure-like theme park we don’t think Casey really wanted to go and Cruzcampo is the Spanish Budweiser with a brewery in Seville, which we think Casey really wanted to go to—Ed.]. We don’t even know if they give them, but in my mind, they do. We’ve been drinking your beer for two weeks now, pal, lets take a look inside.
Jay: Yeah, we already paid for our tour.
Casey: But seriously, we saw all of Seville. We covered all the major tourist attractions.
Kristen: Yeah, we saw everything.

Jay: What was the best part of your trip?
Kristen: The monkeys in Gibraltar.
Casey: Gibraltar.
Kristen: I liked the views through Gibraltar too.
Casey: I did like late-night swimming in the Mediterranean, too. That was pretty cool.
Jenn: You guys have been friends for a really long time, so where would this trip rank in terms of memorable moments?
Casey: It’s probably one of the top ones. It was an amazing road trip and the only other event that I could compare it to is the first time all of our friends went to Michigan. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us because it was our first time, and for us on this trip, it was all new, too. It’s definitely the top road trip I’ve ever been on. Multiple stops, multiple cities, three countries, four days—I don’t think you can top that.
Kristen: You can’t.
Jay: We encountered apes, camels, cobras—
Casey: Morrocans.

Jay: Now this is always the tough one. Who would you rather be stranded in a foreign country with for three months: Jay or Jenn? And I’m sorry, but Rick Steves isn’t an option.
Casey: I have to take Jenn, she spoke the language.
Jay: And she can drive stick!
Kristen: That’s true.
Casey: If not for you, Jay and I would be starving and not be able to go anywhere.
Jenn: [to Jay] Your Spanish has gotten a lot better.
Jay: Hmm. Well, that’s because I didn’t speak any when I got here and now I can order a meal.
Casey: That’s all Kristen and I really learned how to do: order food and wine.
Kristen: And counting.
Jenn: All right, this is probably the more accurate question: Could you see yourself traveling with us for an extended period of time again?
Kristen: Yes, absolutely.
Casey: I’d say definitely. We got along really well, no conflicts and everyone was interested in accommodating other people. I thought it was great.
Jay: And I’m glad that you guys were so flexible, because there was that moment in Marbella when we were trying to figure out a hotel room in Tarifa and I’m just so glad we did it, because it allowed us to see another city, go to Gibraltar and actually go to Tangier, because we probably wouldn’t have made that 9 a.m. ferry if we had stayed two hours away in Marbella. That made the trip and it added a little level of, um—
Jenn: Spontaneity.
Jay: Yes, spontaneity. Thanks, Jenn.
Casey: Would you guys travel with us again?
Jay: Definitely!
Jenn: Absolutely.
Kristen: Definitely Casey, maybe me.
Jenn: Are you kidding? At least if you’re around I can be like, “you two just go, she and I will go to bed.”
Casey: Jay and I like the cocktails.
Jay: Yes. Yes we do.

Jay: This is the final question. Can you see yourself living in Seville? Why or why not?
Kristen: It’s beautiful and I really like it, but I don’t think I could do it.
Jenn: Why not?
Kristen: If I spoke Spanish it would be different.
Casey: I would say no for me as well. Beautiful, great food, very nice people, but too laid back for me. I like to get things done and then do my relaxing and here it seems like they relax and get things done whenever they want.
Jenn: Which was exactly my entire reason for coming here. To reverse my OCD.
Casey: Maybe if you stay here for a while you get used to it. It’s not that I don’t like the city—I don’t want to give you that impression, it’s just like, I think, living in the Southern United States. It’s very laid back and you get things done when you want and that’s just not what I’m used to.
Jay: You’re too rigid, Cas.
Casey: I’m just not comfortable with it.
Jenn: Plus, you probably don’t like the way the dollar is measuring up against the euro right now. [Casey is admittedly on the frugal side—Ed.]
Casey: It hurts a little, but that wasn’t a major contributor in what we did or didn’t do.
Kristen: I’m just too much of a control freak. I have to know where everything is and how to say everything I want to say.
Jay: It’s not without its frustrations.
Kristen: I had a hard time with the lines—that no one was getting in any.
Casey: Can you guys see yourselves living here indefinitely?
Jenn: I don’t think I’d move here indefinitely. Three months is a good amount of time.
Jay: No, because I don’t think I want to endure a summer here, because I hear they’re just awful. I don’t know, but we’ll see when we do our own Exit Interview if we want more or less by the time we leave.
Casey: But I don’t think there’s anything cooler you could do. We saw mountains, we saw ocean—
Jenn: We saw two oceans!
Kristen: Amazing views.
Jay: That ride down from Ronda to Marbella—that was amazing. Every turn was something different and then eventually there was the ocean. It really is beautiful.
Kristen: It’s amazing when you think about how much we did and it already seems like so long ago, like Morocco.
Casey: I’m glad we didn’t get Hassan’s Revenge. [The Moroccan version of Montezuma, duh—Ed.]
Jenn: It’s the one thing Rick Steves was wrong about.
Casey: Thankfully, yes.
Kristen: Well, he probably gave us a little scare that we needed.
Jenn: [to Jay] Yes, because otherwise I can totally see you going for street meat.
Jay: Yeah, totally.
Jenn: If he hadn’t inflicted the fear in you… Ohmigod.
Casey: This is boiled cobra, would you like to try it?
Jay: Yes!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This is the last time I answer this question.

Scores of you have asked whether Jay and I are sick of each other yet, given that we've been in one another's company essentially nonstop for the last 60 days. The answer is, saccharinely, no. In fact, just this morning I received the following e-mail, which warmed my heart:

To: Jennifer Merritt
From: Jason Boehmer
Subject: A band from NJ

It's after midnight on Saturday, and you're sleeping in the bedroom. I'm listening to a punk(ish) band from New Jersey on the Internet, and I like it. Thought you might too. j

http://www.myspace.com/titusandronicus

To: Jason Boehmer
From: Jennifer Merritt
Subject: RE: A band from NJ

God, I'm so lame.

Now, it's after 10 a.m. on Sunday morning and you're sleeping in the bedroom. I'm listening to the band and I really like them. We should attempt to check them out once we're back.

xoxo,

j.
See? We're not sick of each other. We've just taken to communicating with each other solely via e-mail. (And, it should be noted, the aforementioned band proclaims to "never sing songs about love, only about hate.")

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Exit Interview: Rick Steves

The editorial staff of See Jenn Blog has developed a questionnaire for guests, fielded the night before they leave, to get their impressions of the city. Rick, who has visited Seville before, was an unexpected guest, arriving under the arms of Casey and Kristen, but he earned his keep by offering up delicious and cheap restaurant recommendations, accurate city observations and flawless driving directions. We wish he'd stick around longer, but sadly, he must return to the library in Columbus, OH. Herewith, his words we came to live by...

See Jenn Blog: What was your favorite thing about Seville?
Rick Steves: Seville has a soul. It's a wonderful-to-be-alive-in kind of place.

SJB: What was your least favorite thing about Seville?
RS: The gateway to the New World in the 16th century, Seville boomed when Spain did... In the 17th century, Seville was Spain's largest and richest city... Seville's Golden Age--and its New World riches--ended when the harbor silted up and the Spanish empire crumbled.

SJB: What was the best part of your trip?
RS: Seville has its share of impressive sights, but the real magic is the city itself, with its tangled Jewish Quarter, riveting flamenco shows, thriving bars and teeming evening paseo.

SJB: Who would you rather be stranded in a foreign country with for three months: Jay or Jenn?
RS: [My] wife (and favorite travel partner) Anne... Rick has spent four months every year since 1973 exploring Europe. He's researched and written more than 30 travel guidebooks, writes and hosts the public television series Rick Steves' Europe, and also hosts the public radio show Travel With Rick Steves. [So neither of us, apparently. And we don't blame him--Ed.]

SJB: Could you see yourself living in Seville? Why or why not?
RS: If there ever was a Spanish city to linger in, it's Seville.

Photo: Rick Steves
Excerpted from
Rick Steves' Spain 2007

Friday, May 02, 2008

Travels With Rick (and Casey and Kristen and Jenn)

Most people know Rick Steves from his PBS television series on European travel, his line of guidebooks or, perhaps, any number of rallies at which he promotes the legalization of marijuana. He’s American, affable, geeky and roughly my parents’ age. He also makes a terrific travel companion. Or, at least his books do.

Last Wednesday, the five of us, along with Casey’s luggage that approximated my height and weight, packed into a compact European rental car to see Andalusia. Over the four-day road trip, we hit five cities, three countries and two continents, stepping on the banks of both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. We encountered apes, snake charmers, camels, and Moroccans. We did it all on one tank of gas, and we did it all with the help of Rick Steves (or as we’ve affectionately grown to call him: Ricky, RS, Stevesy or just Rick). Here’s a quick rundown of the trip:

Ronda


“Ronda’s breathtaking ravine divides the town’s labyrinthine Moorish quarter and its new, noisier Mercadillo quarter,” Rick said. He is correct: It’s a beautiful town of all-white buildings perched atop a gorge and surrounded by mountains. Ricky also was spot-on in his restaurant recommendation of “the no-frills Café & Bar Faustino,” where Casey and I became devotees to boquerones, or little fried anchovies. The one thing Rick’s guide to Ronda was lacking was an entry like this: “If you forget to pack underwear, don’t shop at Costa Sol, where the three-euro bargain bin is filled with tight-fitting and boldly designed men’s undergarments.”

Marbella

Rick had little to say about this coastal town on the Mediterranean, so we simply went to the beach, then to the grocery store for beer, wine and snacks and then back to the beach for spontaneous midnight swimming. His lack of restaurant recommendations left us stranded with Telepizza—the Spanish equivalent to Domino’s. Though I’m sure Rick, whose mantra is to live like a local, would have recommended something along those lines.

Gibraltar

Casey asked our tour guide, who drove us up the famously perilous rock, if the Barbary apes that inhabit the British territory had ever bitten anyone in his tour group. He replied, “Not until this morning. One of them bit a little girl.” If that wasn’t ominous enough, RS warned us to “keep your distance from the apes and beware of their kleptomaniac tendencies.” We didn’t heed Rick’s advice and three-fourths of us allowed the apes to hang out on our shoulders. No one was bitten or pilfered. We named one of them Mr. Baloney for no apparent reason.

Tarifa

We canceled our second night in Marbella, going instead to a hostal in Tarifa recommended by our boy Stevesy. It was a pleasant and very windy town, where we spent one low-key night in anticipation of our trip to the northern tip of Africa.

Tangier


Rick listed his Tangier warnings in rapid order: “Most of the English-speaking Moroccans that the tourist meets are hustlers. Most visitors develop some intestinal problems by the end of their visit. Most women are harassed on the streets by horny but generally harmless men. [I think this is a very cheep shot at Casey and me—Ed.] Things don’t work smoothly.” We went anyway. Rick further cautioned: “When you get diarrhea—and you should plan on it—adjust your diet.” Heeding his warnings, Jenn stashed granola bars and peanuts in her purse. The rest of us dove into the spicy but very tasty food and thankfully didn’t have to break into the Immodium.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we posted 190,000 words on the trip on Snapfish. View them here.

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