Shooting My First Wedding: Andrea y Carlos

I’m a sucker for a good love story. Maybe it’s the midday hours watching Spain’s answer to Lifetime: Television for Women, but having been in a relationship for the last 5.5 years, I find myself seeing myself settle down, and for real this time.

I especially love the stories when people have overcome language barriers, visa issues, and the naysayers. When a fellow blogger married her gatidano boyfriend a few years ago, I loved his English vows, claiming that a bilingual relationship is twice as enriching, twice as fun. I wholeheartedly agree. How great is making Thanksgiving for your extended family or teaching one another idioms and swear words?

I’m just one of many who have fallen in love abroad and who fumbled in Spanish for love, so when my friend Andrea called me and asked if I’d be interested in photographing her wedding to her sevillano, Carlos, I jumped at the opportunity. Being another guiri-sevillano couple it was a pleasure to help them capture their special day that was full of laughs and a ton of love. Like the Novio’s family, Carlos’s relatives have really embraced Andi and their bilingual love.

I spent hours researching shots, looking for interesting places around Triana and Plaza de España to take pictures of the pair, and testing lighting in the venue. When I turned in the pen drive with 5.8GB of photos, video and touched up shots, Andrea and Carlos told me that they would be delighted if I shared them. Shooting a couple that was in love and looking forward to their new life in Maine was such a pleasure, and I was flattered that they asked me and Camarón to join in.

I had loads of fun shooting Andrea and Carlos’s wedding, from Andi’s hair appointment into the wee hours of the morning. If you’re looking for someone to shoot special events, get in contact with me at sunshineandsiestas[at]gmail.com

The Lighter Side of Magaluf, Mallorca

Spain has a funny way of calling its recent economic downturn, especially with regards to its near crucifiction of tourism, despite being an industry that’s actually thriving. They call it the ni-ni, Spanish for neither…nor. In the case of travel, the nail in the coffin could be the fact that many of the packaged deals and the weekend getaways seem to disappear during the winter months, despite a fully operational town. There’s definitely a surge in tourists to Seville from March until October, even though the city is visitable year round.

I often get requests for suggesting trip itineraries around Southern Spain. With its beaches, architecture and gastronomic delights, Andalusia is seemingly full of options at any time of year, though resorts and tour operators are making a push already for the impending school holidays. Even more popular are the coasts and islands, particularly in the Costa del Sola and Baleares. Most workers in Spain have the entire month of August off, meaning cities are empty and beaches, filled to the brim (vale, to the orilla). I’ll be here all of August, and while I’ve considered Germany or driving my new car to Jaen for a few days, I can’t help but want to escape to the beach.

My only trip to the Baleares was a wild weekend in Ibiza with some friends while studying abroad. The islands become a mecca for party-goers who beach-hop by day after a night of jaleo and revelry. I’ve often been asked about family friendly destinations around Spain and think that many cities offer up options for the kiddos, including party-hardy Magaluf. This seaside village on Mallorca has a bit of a reputation as a party resort, blighted by excess drinking and bad behavior on the part of some of its visitors and its warnings from the British Tourism Board, though there are plenty of things to do before the parties heat up. What’s more, the city is renovated old spaces and working to attract visitors at more quiet times of the year, so now is the perfect occasion to visit.

A must-do for families in Magaluf is the Western Water Park, a Wild West themed water park, featuring scary steep water rides as well as gentler, shallower rides and wave pools for younger children. Three times a day the park puts on a diving show featuring up to three divers who perform in unison from up to 30 metres high! The water park is immense and it can easily take up a whole day, providing a great alternative to the playita. Buy your tickets online to save money, and be aware that the park is closed during the winter season.

The House of Katmandu is an upside-down Tibetan house that distorts reality for those exploring the interior. With distances improbably lengthened or shortened, unlikely optical illusions and wonderfully creative robotics this is an attraction sure to appeal to everyone. Recently the House of Katmandu has joined forces with a large hotel chain to create Katmandu Park, a combination hotel and theme park where guests can shoot out with desperadoes, play a round of mini golf or relax in their suite. Pedro Vaquer Ramis, 9. 07181 Magaluf. Closed November – February.

Magaluf was designed to cater for the needs and wants of visitors, so there is no shortage of restaurants, activities rentals and excursions. If water activities are overdone or you’re looking to not get burnt like I do, you can go-kart at Karting Magaluf, or enjoy shopping after a day in Magaluf’s sandy beaches or treat the family to a great meal out in the city center. Carretera de la Porrasa, s/n, Magaluf, Calviá, open year-round.There is also The Pirates Adventure, a dinner show that will make you forget about eating as you watch skilled acrobats and performers juggle, dance and perform gymnastic feats with a casual insouciance that belies the danger that comes with somersaulting, twisting and flying through the air meters above the ground! Camí Porrassa, 12  07181 Magaluf. Prices are 40€ for kids, 64€ for their parents.

Nikki Beach is the pinnacle of Magaluf style and sultry glamour, so leave the kiddies with a sitter and spend the day sunbathing alongside bronzed beauties, eating well and enjoying performers and DJs. The place also becomes a beach side club when the sun goes down, and it’s a good place to spot local celebrities and even vacationing stars (the Royal family won’t be there, but they holiday on Mallorca, and Rafa Nadal calls the island home). Avenida Notario Alemany 1,
Calvia, Palma de Mallorca, Baleares. The soft opening is scheduled for April 25th, with weekend openings for dinner and cocktails, whereas the big opening will take place on June 6th.

Magaluf is working on re-branding itself to be more family oriented, so now is a great time to consider a trip while on the island. Flights into and out of Malaga’s Airport are plentiful, especially to destinations in Northern Europe and the Spanish peninsula. Ferries are also available if you’re interested in bringing your car, especially from ports along the Costa Dorada. The town is a mere 18km away from the capital, Las Palmas.

What’s your favorite family destination in Spain?

Seville Snapshot: Tools of the Gypsy Trade

Moises extends his hand to me, wiping it first on the back of his pant leg. ¡Wenas noshes, hoooooooola a mis amigos, olé mis grandes señores! His greeting is always the same, and accompanied by a near-toothless grin.

I fish around in my wallet for a euro or two for him, noticing he’s wearing a turtleneck that I’m pretty sure used to be mine. The Novio offers him a cigarette and asks about his children and wife. Of all of the gypsies who live in the chabolas at the far southwestern end of town, he’s the only one I know by name, sturck by his positivity. Not all the vecinos have a soft spot for him like I do.

I don’t usually give money to beggars, but Moises is different. Sometimes, we’ll even buy him a sandwich and a beer at  Cerveceria la Tiza, which results in his insistence that I take a sprig of rosemary he’s obviously nicked from someone’s garden, or occasionally a pack of tissue. On occasion, I’ve also received flowers, and often more than I deserve for just a bit of spare change.

Stolen spices and tissue packs aside, I especially love when my coins are accepted with a tune on his cracked guitar.

¡Una rumbita pa mi americana! ¡Qué el Dios de los Gitanos te bendiga! A rumba for my American girl. May the Lord of the Gypsies bless you.

Have photos of Seville or Spain to share? I gladly accept them and run them as part of my weekly photo feature! Send me an email to sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com, or upload to my Facebook page.

Four Kid-Friendly Options in Seville

As a teacher, I often sigh thinking of how wonderful it would be to grow up in a city like Seville. The beautiful parks, proximity to historic sites and the long lifespan of their abuelitos seem to make childhood here happy and educational, even if the kids do dress up like pansies. Though it has long been known as a city with a rich history, many of the activities that people traditionally choose in Seville – museums, parks and flamenco – can prove to either be a bit dull or not youth appropriate.  Here’s a few picks for where to take your niños in La Hispalense:

Cheer on one of Seville’s fútbol teams

While my great sports love will always be the Iowa Hawkeyes, I’ve become a die-hard Real Betis fan, one of Seville’s teams in the top-tier of La Liga. La Liga is home to world famous football squads such as Real Madrid and Barcelona.  These two squads annually compete in El Clásico. Due to the match’s popularity, free tickets have been given away from a competition making El Clásico one of the grandest and much-awaited sporting event in Spain.

The Estadio Benito Villamarín hosts Real Betis home games and has a capacity of 45,000 spectators.  They say that only Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have more fans than the verdiblancos of La Palmera, and football is not just a sport, but a passion for fans. Tickets are usually cheap, and the thrill of constantly teetering between victory and defeat gets anyone’s heart racing. Your kids likely won’t understand the choice swear words for the referees, called árbitros, anyway!

Visit the Museum at the Plaza de Toros

The Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza is the second oldest modern bullring in Spain and home to one of the most well-known bullfighting festivals in the world. Even if you do not like to watch bullfighting matches, it is still worth a visit. The mustard-colored albero sand and the stark white of the building is insanely gorgeous.Construction began on the structure in 1749 and the building has been maintained until today.

There’s also a small but informative museum that celebrates the history of the sport, explains its three parts and pays homage to the toreros who compete, which can be conducted in English. You can even see the head of the mother of Spain’s most famous bull – the one who killed prominent bullfighter Manolete. According to tradition, if a bull fatally gorges a bullfighter, the mother of the animal is slaughtered.

Seville Bike Tour

If you are only going to be in Seville a couple of days and want a way to see as much of the city as you can, consider taking the Seville Bike Tour.  A bike rental is included in your fee and your tour guide takes you around to the best places in the city while explaining to you the history of Seville.  Tour guides speak English, Spanish, and even Dutch and are very friendly and accommodating.

La Reserva del Castillo de las Guardas

One of the largest wildlife parks in Europe, La Reserva del Castillo de las Guardas has over 1,000 animals and 100 different species in settings nearly identical to their natural habitat.  You can drive through the habitat on your own or have a guided tour while seeing lions, zebra, and all sorts of wildlife as if you were on Safari.  In addition, there are also exhibitions and live shows separate from the wildlife habitat that include sea lions and even a recreation of the American Wild West. La Reserva of Castillo de las Guardas is located about one hour north of Seville in the town of the same name.

Other museums like the Pabellon de la Navegacion or the Castillo de San Jorge are cheap and kid-friendly options, as well as the wealth of parks and plazas. If I were a kid, I’d been in and out of the fountain in La Alameda de Hercules during the hot summer days (but mostly just to get a funga face from the Naners)!

Where do you mommies and daddies hang out with your kids in Seville?

Seville Snapshot: The Plaça Reial of Barcelona

Over the holidays, my parents and  sister arrived to Barajas jet-lagged but 15 minutes early. I was typing away on a story at the cafetería next to the arrivals gates and just happened to see my mother, bewildered, looking around. A wave of relief washed over me that they’d not been delayed 15 hours like their previous trip and, five years late, I could show them Spain my way (and be able to full translate a menu and not just say, “Uhhhh, I think it’s a pig part”).

Winter is one of my favorite times to travel, and my family was blessed with unseasonably good weather, making our days in Barcelona and beyond bright and perfect for exploring. After their bodies adjusted a bit, we were out to explore La Boquería and my favorite little rincón of Barcelona, Plaça Reial. I’ve watched concerts in the shade of its palm trees, shared hunks of cheese and a baguette next to its fountain and gone underground to a disco right near the arched colonnades. Even in winter under a dull morning sky, the yellow facades popped, livening up my familia.

I’ve got loads to share about Cataluña and New Year’s in Madrid over the coming weeks! If you’d like to contribute to my weekly snapshots, send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ gmail [dot] com, or you can see more photos of my trip on Sunshine and Siestas’s Facebook page.

Thanksgiving Turkeys and Triumphs

Can I admit something, at the risk of sounding like a bad American?

I never liked Thanksgiving as a kid. My mind keeps going to the hours of preparation at my grandmother’s house, clipping off the ends of green beans and trying to ignore bickering. I’d eat far too much, fall asleep watching football and feel groggy for days straight. Aside from the long weekend, I didn’t see the point of spending a whole day eating and watching TV, all in the name of spending time with family and glorifying a bird.

Then I moved away from America, to a land where cranberries, pecans and even turkeys are scarce (after all, pavo is the Spanish way of say a buck).

All of the sudden, Thanksgiving became a good excuse to get together with those closest to being my kin.

Our Thanksgiving celebrations in my ever-changing group of friends has never been just about us Americans and our traditions – we teach Spaniards about the hand turkey while drinking the garnacha-based wines (which, according to Ask.com, are the best matches for turkey!) and chattering a half a dozen languages.

Yes, I am thankful for my amoeba of culture in Seville – something that is just as much Spanish as American with a smatter of German, Mexican and everything in between.

But this year, I promised Kike a turkey, cranberry sauce and everything that my grandmother made him as breakfast last Christmas in Arizona (he no longer scoffs at my weird breakfast choices – mine is the type of family that eats waffles for dinner and cold leftovers for breakfast). He played his part by bringing back over a few cans of pumpkin and gravy mix and urged me to call on a turkey from a neighborhood carnicería. I began gathering recipes and making a rudimentary plan for how I’d make a full-on Thanksgiving dinner with one oven and two hands.

Then his dumb job sent him abroad nine days earlier than expected, effectively missing Pavo Palooza.

Still, the turkey show must go on, I thought, and I extended the offer to his mother and friend Susana again, not wanting to have to eat turkey bocadillos alone until Reyes.

I was not without challenges, from the lack of a microwave to last-minute changes in the menu due to no  fresh green beans, sage and evaporated milk in the supermarket or even a can opener from the American goodies I brought back with me. There’s a reason I’m the go-to giuri for plastic forks and wine at our parties.

Menu:

Pumpkin Pie. Stuffing. Cornbread. Carrots and Garlic Green Beans. Mashed Potatoes. Gravy. Cranberry Sauce. Turkey. Tinto and Beer.

Turkey: 18,40€

Groceries not at home: 51,59€

New can opener: 5,15€

Total: 85,14€

Even the Brits I work with suggested that I start preparing a schedule ahead of time, and I did: cleaning, pie, vegetables, cornbread and stuffing on Friday, turkey and potatoes on Saturday. I was up before the sun on Saturday when I realized that the evaporated milk I’d refused to buy out of principle was going to be necessary for the pie I was too lazy to make the day before.

I wrote on Kike’s Facebook wall for our anniversary, stating that he would have enjoyed watching me fight with a ten-pound bird more than consuming it. For four hours, I set my alarm every half and hour to give the turkey a little broth bath, nervous if I hadn’t gotten all of the gizzards out or I didn’t let it cook enough inside. When my guests – Carmín, Alejandro, Susana and Inma – showed up right on time, I offered them beer and wine, and they marveled at the sudden transformation of an anti-housewife as I shooed them out of the kitchen. The only person I’d let in was Luna, my friends’ two-year-old daughter, who chowed down on cornbread and checked the status of the turkey.

In the end, the meat was cooked, no one cared that the stuffing was a bit cold and I didn’t end up with too much leftovers. We spent the afternoon laughing, telling jokes and finding places in our stomach to fit more food in. Wanting to do everything al estilo americano, I had to teach them the gravy volcano, explain that they’d probably fall asleep after consuming the turkey and look for American football games on YouTube. I felt lucky (thankful, if you will) about having friends and family who were open to trying out my holiday and easing the ache I sometimes feel for being so far away.

What Kike has got is mala suerte, heaved my beloved Doña Carmen. This food is making me think twice about American cuisine!

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