How to Cure a Cold and Find Meaning in Suffering

I’ve been back in Barcelona for a week and a half after 6 weeks in the US. I immediately started intensive Spanish courses again, then caught a heinous cold. The kind that puts you to bed way before your bedtime. Pairing that with a California schedule (read: early dinner,bedtime and rising hours) and it’s as though I am not even here as far as my social life goes. It was also the type of cold that by around the third day, your body is deficient of some uncommon vitamin so you end up eating constantly to try satisfy whatever rare mineral you are depleted of, but only succeed in stuffing your face with crap all day, and in my case, mostly chocolate.

Which is where I was yesterday. Which also happened to be the middle of the first week of my “put the brakes on the winter chub and ramp up the fitness before spring” program. Some of my more interesting indulgences were handfuls of the boyfriend’s cereal called “Choco Pillows”, which are chocolate flavored cereal squares with a nutella-esque oozy middle, sugar free chocolate bars served atop crackers, all of the remaining carob chips I brought from the US, chocolate covered flakes picked out of the cereal dubiously named “Fitness”,  several bites of various chocolate covered energy bars, and white chocolate covered flakes picked out of another cereal that consists of cocoa flakes and white chocolate covered corn flakes the size of Fritos (Note: European breakfast cereal is something to simultaneously love and hate).

So today, determined to get out of the house, off my ass and around some people, I willed my hacking, sniffling body to carry my mountain bike down my building’s three flights of stairs, ride through the Sunday city crowds to the metro, carry the bike down and up several more flights of stairs to meet up with a weekly group of mountain bikers at the bottom of Tibidabo for a ride (note: link is to my first visit up there via scooter – two years ago! Can’t believe it’s been that long). I promised myself if I wasn’t able to breathe I would turn around after the first hill and ride home (it’s downhill all the way).

I am happy to report that not only did I stick it out for the entire 4+ hour ride, I also conquered a couple of single track downhill paths that 2 months ago I would have been walking down. So yay me. Also, near the end of the ride, there was a big hill climb that had a couple people seriously toasted. I was fretting in my own head, thinking I was also too done to make it, when I decided to just set a pace and make the climb no matter how much I was suffering. And surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad. It seems it only took the decision to finish, then my body stopped protesting and just did it’s job.

Which made me think about applying this theme elsewhere in my life. I have been struggling (kicking and screaming is more accurate) to make a certain situation involving a job happen for me, and it occurs to me that maybe what I need to do is just decide that it is going to work out, then let my everyday actions and decision take care of the details. Of course, it’s a complicated situation, but there really is only so much I can do. But maybe I can just calm down a little and keep pedaling from here on out.

Meanwhile, today’s ride seems to have nearly cured my cold. I don’t have the body aches and the stuffy face I’ve had for the last four days. It also has set my fitness program back on track,  as my heart rate monitor says that I burned over 2000(!) calories on today’s ride. Which, for me, atones for yesterday completely and gives me freedom tonight to indulge a little.

You better believe I’ve been eating GP’s Choco Pillows straight out of the box this evening. By the handful.

Salone del Gusto. Part II.

We had just finished sampling some chocolate in the last post, right? Let’s move onto some of the more unusual stands.

How about some oysters?

Mutant lemons soaked in booze?Waffles.Oh please, more cheese! (Inserted here to demonstrate the overwhelming variety of cheeses showcased at the Salone)Fish fries:This photo is a little blurry, but these cakes are rounds of cheese. The one in front is covered with porcini mushrooms, the small one to the right is covered with salmon, the cakes behind offer grapes and strawberries.Speaking of mushrooms, there were lots.My favorite part of the entire show were conceptual portable food holders.

Behold the “snack holster”:

And do not overlook the utility of the “beer walk”:

I suppose the “beer walk” would be great if you were sporting a full right-angled arm cast. But regardless, how are you supposed to drink your beer without flinging your nuts and chips all over the front of you?

Salone del Gusto. I Went. Part I.

Every two years, the former Fiat factory in Torino becomes a giant salon of food at the Salone del Gusto. This is a Slow Food Foundation event geared toward protecting food biodiversity more than it is a hoity toity meeting of foodies (of which I am decidedly not. I think I burned the majority of my taste buds off through year of eating fiery hot sauce and ultra spicy dishes.)

Anyway, we went because it was something to do on a Sunday, as GP lives 35 minutes away.

The first interesting thing encountered was spiraling ceiling in the Lingotto building. This was used as car storage when it was a factory. (You might also know about the test track – on the roof of the building!)

After resolving to return when we can view the track on the roof, we entered this food fair.

Since this event is in Italy, the majority of the focus is on regional Italian foods (there were International salons as well, mostly European and South American). We sampled plenty of  Italian cheeses, like giant wheels of hard cheese covered with the post wine grape corpses(called “vinaccia”) :

Delicious cheese covered in dead grapes.

And stinky French cheese, made by mountain people in Northern France, aged by burying in the dirt or grass for various lengths of time.

Incidentally, the regional inhabitants looked like mountain people as well.

Other interesting  things cheese is buried in includes grass and animal poop. Animal poop cheese is called “fossa” in Italy. In case you were wondering.

I tried the grass cheese, and given that it tasted reminiscent of tangy grass, I skipped the poo-cheese.

Would you like some grass cheese?

In truth, there was so many cheeses from all over Italy and Europe, that after sampling a Polish cooked cheese, I was cheesed out.And ready for some wine.

We found many samples in the regional salons, though the samples were small.

Me, wondering if the wine pourer will pony up some more wine.

You could purchase another entrance to a wine tasting salon for another 6 Euros, but we passed. A glass for purchase or wine tasting/wine pairing discussions were all over the place.

And wine stewards, tired of standing in their funny uniforms all day, that could be coaxed out of a glass or two for some diverting conversation.

I also came across a cigar/booze pairing discussion. I guess Italian farmed tobacco is protected just like regional cuisine.

Come here to learn what to drink with which stogies.

And beer, including Abba beer (no relation to the band, unfortunately).After booze and cheese, it was time for something a little more substantial, of which there was a lot of at this fair: Meat!

I’m generally not a meat eater and never have been (I remember spitting steak into napkins as a child every time I was served it and flushing sausages down the toilet), but animals for consumption in Europe, especially regional specialties (with the exception of France) have natural diets, are humanely raised and slaughtered, are not treated with any antibiotics, hormones, etc that they taste entirely different and I will occasionally eat meat here. And nothing is better than a sandwich of a couple slabs of simple organic meat and bread!

Tartar that GP drooled over.

After our little snack, we sampled probably 50 different olive oils and breads. GPs favorite oil was from Puglia, which is a region full of ancient olive orchards and oil production. Some breads had branding marks on them, or no salt, or were rubbery or chewy. But all were seriously delicious.Of course, we sampled tomatoes and tomato sauces, the best in my opinion coming from Sicily.

The Sicilians have a very distinctive interpersonal manner. They are engaging and can remain stony faced while being humorous trades people, and therefore very charming to my American sensibilities. These guys were wrangling customers and no doubt were killing it with the Americans who were visiting the Salone del Gusto (I heard a few here and there).And then there was my favorite part.

Endless jams, cookies, biscuits, crackers…And don’t forget …chocolate!

“Woo” chocolate with vanilla from South America was pretty good.

I’m not sure why the racist images of blacks are ever present in Europe and associated with chocolate, but there they still are.

I have more photos to share, so this post is to be continued.

It’s random photo time again

Day to day, the images pile up on my iPhone. I mostly look at them at some later point in time and delete them, shaking my head at why I ever thought whatever it was would make a good photo. Walking through the narrow streets of Barcelona and passing a bright and colorful bakery display always makes me pause, something about the symmetry and order and variety of the displays makes them forever interesting to me.  And apparently to my mom, who also likes the food pictures.

So without further ado, I present the next installation of random images, the theme this time being bakery displays. I know I’ll have at least one interested reader, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Giant meringues - this image doesn't do justice to the actual size of these.

Plates of food made of candy. Doesn't a candy steak sound delish?

Coal for kiddies shoes at Xmas. Personally, I would dole out real coal but that's just me.

Chocolate pastries...nom nom.

My personal favorite, candy poop served in little toilets and bedpans.

The Road Trip continues

After Ibiza, we rented a car we lovingly named Shitbird. We had to stay in BCN for a day as there were a couple of flats I wanted to view before we left, since I still needed a place to live. Because, you know, returning to BCN with a car full of stuff and nowhere to live didn’t seem like the best idea ever.

So we stayed an extra day with the car in our possession(actually a huge hindrance in Barcelona). I viewed a few places and unfortunately, they blew trees full of squirrels-overpriced, too many people, too dark or too small. So not only did we lose a day of travel, we had to pay for parking the car AND my wallet got stolen while we were in the Parc Citudella.

We named her shitbird for a reason.

And we shall call her Shitbird.

The thievery here in Barcelona is getting REALLY bad. I usually do not have much trouble, but as Laura was with me and clearly was a visitor (tall, blond, speaking English) and these are the people that the thieves target. So I got nabbed, being with tall blonde Guiri chick. The first time this happened to me I was with Susanna – an ever taller, blonder English speaker (though she did live here at the time). I should have known better, but it happened and I lost 80 Euros, 40 dollars and two bank cards. I canceled the cards right away, but it meant going on our trip and paying for everything with a US credit card – in dollars. And the dollar had just dropped again, to 1.45 to the Euro. OUCH.

Nonetheless, off we went to France. We stayed in Nice right near the beach for 3/4 days and had to move hotels every night. Our last one was pretty good…

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We hiked around and made it up to the ancient part of town where the old castle sits. There is a large man made waterfall up there too. That was fun on a windy day. Oh and add slippery flagstone as the walking surface to that mix too.

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Last but not least, the food was awful. Way too rich or oily or just plain blah. I expected as much, but I think Laura was pretty disappointed in the food. Though the coffee revved her jets but good.

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Next stop, Monte Carlo.

Arechiga, with an accent on the e

Tonight I am due to eat of the tapas and drink of the wine in a local Basque eatery with my friend El. (El is short for Elenore, but it really trips the folks up here since it means “him” in the Espanol.) I just wanted to mention to ya’ll that my married name, Arechiga, is Basque. Now, I don’t believe the family was part of the Basque terrorist organization, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or ETA (Basque for “Basque Homeland and Freedom”), but even if they were well, that’s all over now as the emigrated to Mexico three generations ago then crossed the border illegally to have their anchor babies. And one of those anchor babies would be my father in law. Believe me, there was much name calling fun had with John-Mark and his brothers regarding their family’s historical illegal status and quasi Mexican heritage. In fact, I recall one time telling my nephew, who was three and a half at the time, to go call his father a term that involves a popular gastronimic, and delicious, legume. He did, and it was funny.

Anyhow, there are many Basque restaurants around here, being not too far from the Basque region, and also because they have delicious food. And I feel I must point out the Basque-ness of these restaurants to those all those surrounding me who might not be aware of this. Because it’s kind of cool. Not too many Basque people around here. But there is ME – and while not of that heritage by blood, its still something I feel a connection with. Therefore, my name is deserving of  a medal. Or maybe just a drink. Which is where I’m off to right now. See how that came full circle?

basque tapas - serve yourself

basque tapas (or pintxos in the Basque language) = DEE-licious

Jerez, the finale

We last left off in this little story at the end of the second test day in Jerez, which incedentally was Thanksgiving Day in America.

I took a half hour walk from my freezing hotel to the swanky hotel that my Dorna friends were staying at. Of course, halfway through I had to stop off and fortify myself with some nutritious wine and olives, both of which are most excellent in the Southern Spain region. Thus, I arrived at the hotel happier and warmer.

We went down the road to an old traditional Andalusian restaurant, complete with awesome antique bar, chummy waiters and a table full of Japanese MotoGP folk. (Evidently they always dine together.) Our table consisted of yours truly and 5 Spanish camera dudes. We ate meat and many, many fried things, including the plate of whole fried fishes that was my main T-day dinner course. They were surprisingly tasty and I would eat them again. Nothing says Thanksgiving like battered fried fish with skeletons intact. Supplemented with a couple gin and tonics, of course.

The bar/wait staff recognized one of the Japanese at the other table as Yuki Takahash, a former 250 rider now signed to the Scot Honda team. I believe they got his autograph.

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From there, we moved across the street to a bar. Being Thursday in a relatively small town, I expected a mellow-ish evening. That´s where I was wrong. The place was large, packed to the gills with dolled up locals (normal for the area I hear) and featured a local band playing Spanish music, including traditional Xmas songs that the entire place sang along to.

Drinks were cheap and we ran into an Austrian based GP journalist (oooh sorry, cant remember his name!!) who insisted on supplying everyone with some version of a vodka margarita, many, many times over.

nameless journo and me

nameless journo and me

Around 2:30am we lost a soldier or two, but friends, the night did not end there.

the drinking, it continuecd

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I am glad I had my camera, I might have forgotten such moments as these.

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When this place shut down after 3 something AM, we headed over to a nightclub. Again, packed. Everyone quite well dressed and the men all sported stylish hair-do´s. Don’t know why, but this is what I remember. That, and we invented some incredibly hip dances, such as “pitching hay”, “squint your face up with feeling”, and my personal favorite, “robot goes crazy”. We left at 5am, and the place was still packed.

The next I flew back to Barcelona. Jorge Lorenzo was in line behind me for my flight along with his…manservant or whatever, who is now his press officer employed by Yamaha. A new post for him, as last year I think he was just plain manservant. (Manservant helped me into the Redbull party at Laguna, since I had worked in Jorges garage scanning tires there.  We have spoken a few times, and did so at the test as well. )

That was the test for me. Not sure if I will attend the 125/250 test in January in Valencia unless I have a real meeting set up.  I did send out my CV (or had it sent by others) to several teams and companies.  So for now, I wait. And continue to enjoy my crazy weekends here in Spain. I´m responsible like that.