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.

1.) A BIG, FAT, JUICY CHEESEBURGER:

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?

2.) STARBUCKS:

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.

3.) BARNES AND NOBLE:

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.

4.)TARGET:

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.

5.) TRADER JOES:

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!

6.) AMERICAN MOVIE THEATERS:

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!).

7.) EATING DINNER OUT BEFORE  8:30 P.M.:

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.

8.) RESTAURANT RATINGS:

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!

9.) BLACK BEANS:

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.

10.) NAIL SALONS:

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!!!

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Rome to Madrid

At the Rome Airport my family and I met up with the baggage company, Bon Bags that we used to store most of our suitcases while we galavanted through Italy without having to carry everything.  They were on time and met us right outside the terminal with all of our bags.  I saw that some people online were skeptical of this kind of service but I can tell you we had an Xbox, jewelry, an expensive camera and all our clothes and everything made it safely.  This so such great idea but I doubt they would allow to in the US due to security concerns.

IMG_7454We took Iberia Air which I had never flown before. We got the Business Class seats which allowed us into the club. This was a fun surprise from my husband.  When we fly domestic in the US we are usually in the second to last or last row on a Southwest flight. Now I love Southwest but when you are traveling with a family of five it’s tough to find seats together and I’m not organized enough to be at my computer exactly 24 hours prior so we get “A” boarding. We are beyond our years for using the “We are traveling with small children routine ” ( our youngest is 8). Anyway… I digress.

IMG_7462We were excited to fly premium class because we enjoyed the free food, cocktails and dessert in the lounge.  The Rome airport was really easy to navigate.  Boarding was on time.  The only thing lacking was Wifi and TV’s but it’s only a 2 1/2 hour flight to Madrid.  I was so impressed at how many languages the  flight attendants spoke. Ours spoke THREE and was so excited to practice English.  My husband and I were offered red wines but were IMG_7467unfamiliar with them so he served us both!

We got to Madrid on time and the first thing we spotted was the Real Madrid store and the kids were fired up to go in. My husband was thrilled to see Starbucks and was ready for a Venti sized coffee.  The kids and I were enjoying the fact that people were literally playing soccer or futbol at baggage claim!  Outside we met a driver who was sent to get us from our AirBnB rental.  He was so nice and we practiced Spanish with him and he gave us a bit of a tour on the drive.

IMG_7472The trip went great and we were excited to visit Madrid and looked forward to arriving in this great city!