What I Miss Most About America While Living in Spain.

I took some time off from blogging about our adventures in Europe. Many of my friends seemed pretty distraught during the election process and my blog was probably not a welcomed distraction.  I was preparing to take in some unhappy Americans who had threatened to leave the country (so far, no visitors!) Hopefully this Thanksgiving weekend will bring families together in the U.S. and not tear them apart. I do suggest minimizing political commentary unless you want a serious food fight, pumpkin pie and all!

This year my own family will be in Palm Desert and I’m a bit homesick.  Here in Spain, it’s a normal school day for us on Thanksgiving but we have a nice group of new friends and we are planning a special dinner at a local restaurant (including turkey and pumpkin pie) for the American ex-pats.  They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here but the stores do announce BLACK FRIDAY specials which made me laugh.

To get into the holiday groove, I have put together the American things I am extremely thankful for (and miss dearly) while we are away. Agree or disagree or agree to disagree but I contend that these things help make American great.


There is nothing like an American burger. Throw on some bacon, mushrooms and cheese and I’m in heaven. The burgers here just aren’t the same and I can’t seem to figure out what kind of meat I’m supposed to buy.  I’ve asked in the stores but I’m not that sophisticated with my Spanish and the folks in the stores don’t seem to know themselves. I’ve tried several kinds of ground meat and the kids won’t eat them.  If anyone knows where I can find amazing ground beef in Southern Spain, do tell.  When I get home to California I’m heading straight to In ‘n’ Out!  What’s your favorite American burger spot?


I miss the fact that I can find a Starbucks at pretty much any town in America, especially in the fall or winter with their cute cups – YES, even The Red One and even when they get your name wrong.  Starbucks in the one spot that embraces the idea of the THIRD SPACE and I don’t think we find that so much anymore in America. This concept was written about by sociologist, Ray Oldenberg, in his book,  Celebrating the Third Space  and is explained as:

 “…Oldenburg identifies “third places” as the public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them. Third places “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.”

My favorite thing about Starbucks is the inspiration I draw from the people inside: There are always a few students studying together, a single woman working on a new business plan or some guy writing the next great American novel or screenplay.   The friendly barristas are usually working on a few creative side projects themselves. Whether you’re a fan of the coffee or not, it gives people a sense of community with their board of activities and book exchanges.


I miss this place for a few reasons, 1.) It’s hard to find books in English here and 2.) Just like Starbucks, it offers a rare third place, where people can browse, see a published author speak and find something in common. I miss visiting there with the kids, they always get super excited about buying a carefully chosen book with a gift certificate they got for their birthday. There are plenty of bookstores here in Spain but haven’t found one with chairs where I could sit down and enjoy them for a moment.


I miss the idea of one-stop shopping at Target. Here in Spain,  I go to seven different stores to get the things I need for the week…on foot. I miss grabbing my coffee (Starbucks) and slowly going down each aisle where I can get school supplies, a bath mat, a sweater, dinner and a birthday present at the same time.


I love seeing what’s in the “Fearless Flyer” each week that would tell me about the new exotic items. At TJ’s I could get the makings of an Italian, Indian and Thai meal for the week and pair them all with a great bottle of wine. Plus, the kids are always willing to try something new that they are cooking up.  For the most part I know I’m making healthy choices for the kids too!


It would be nice to be able to see a first run movie – in English. There is a theatre that has an English screening (with Spanish subtitles) one time a week but it’s about 20 minutes away by cab. Although we are fans of the Spanish self-service popcorn stand here (we might have to import that idea!).


Here in Spain, I’m a prime candidate for the “early bird special”.  Even a casual dinner isn’t really possible until 8 pm and that’s too late for this lady. We can get coffee or some tapas but dinner isn’t served until I’m well into my PJ’s Monday through Friday.


In LA and NY (and I’m sure other American cities) I appreciate seeing the health code rating clearly in the window. It gives potential customers an idea of its cleanliness. So you know it’s totally safe to head in to your local “dive bar”. Without that information I feel like I’m working without a net. There are tons of restaurant options here but it would be great to weed out the ones that aren’t as clean. It would make choosing one much easier!


Totally random I know but it’s one of the few sources of protein my family will agree on. The kids love bean burritos but only like the black beans.  Even the Mexican section (a very small section) of the grocery stores don’t have black beans.  They have a million different types of beans that are awesome but of course, I can’t find the one I want.


I miss the stiff competition of nail salons in many cities in the U.S. where I can pretty much find a salon on every other corner (at least in Los Angeles!).  The competition in America keeps prices low and having so many salons allows me to pop in when I have time.  Here in Granada, an appointment is a must.  My friend and I walked around with our daughters all over town for a couple hours looking for a place on a Saturday – no dice!  Most places offer just manicures and the places I’ve seen for pedicures don’t have the big massage chairs that I love and the foot massage leaves something to be desired.

Tonight is said to be the biggest bar night of the year in the United States, so go out, grab a drink with your favorite people and keep it classy America!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

London’s Calling-Films to Watch

This coming weekend we are heading to London. My husband and kids have never been so I’m very excited to take on the city with all of them.  In preparation we are trying to consume some films that take place in London.  I’m compiled my list of my 17 favorites (in no particular order).  There will, in fact, be Hugh Grant flicks and memorable musicals on the list.  What are your faves?

1. Love, Actually, 2003, Richard Curtis.  I watch every Christmas and I cry every time.

2. Oliver!  1968, Carol Reed . I always had a crush on that Artful Dodger. “Please Sir, I want some more…”

3.  Mary Poppins, 1964, Robert Stevenson

4. Harry Potter (All eight of them!) 2001-2011

5.  Bridget Jones’s Diary, 2001, Sharon Maguire

6.  Sliding Doors, 1998, Peter Howitt

7. Shakespeare In Love, 1998, John Madden

8. The Elephant Man, 1980, David Lynch

9.  The King’s Speech, 2010, Tom Hooper

10.  Bend It Like Beckham, 2002, Gurinder Chadha

11.  Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1994, Mike Newell

12.  Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, 1999, Jay Roach

13.  Peter Pan, 1953, Geronimi, Jackson, Luske, Kinney

14. 101 Dalmatians, 1996, Stephen Herek

15.  Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971, Robert Stevenson

16.  Notting Hill 1999, Roger Michell

17.  Secrets & Lies, 1996, Mike Leigh

My kids and I just watched the animated film  Flushed Away because we heard it took place in London but we were a bit disappointed because the only time you saw the city itself was the very first scene.

I recently finished reading The Girl on the Train so I’m very excited to see that film.

Here are a few great lists of movies that take place in London.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on your favorites!

10 of the Best Films Set in London – The Guardian

10 Must-See Kids Films That Take Place In London – Fandango

The Top 11 London Based Movies – from Londontopia

12 Favorite London-set movies – from Indiewire

The 50 Best London Films – from games radar.com

Romantic Movies From the Heart of London – The Culture Trip