domingo, 18 de octubre de 2009

Diaz Dos

Good morning everyone, it´s 5 am and I can´t sleep. I guess that my internal clock is still off considering that I´ve actually been up since 3 am, 6 pm CA time. What a perfect time to blog about yesterday´s adventures.

Our day started with the yummiest breakfast. Ali´s aunt Goli has a fridge that is loaded with tons of great Spanish food. We started with some Cafe ConLeche, 1/2 milk 1/2 espresso- my new favorite coffee drink in the world. For some reason, coffee just tastes better in Spain- it´s so rich, and smooth. We sliced up some fresh baked bread, toasted it- then smeared it with hazelnut butter and added a drizzle of honey. Simple and delicious. After our toast, we finished of breakfast with some fresh garden grown pears and strawberries. Of course, Ali, being the ¨manly-man¨ that he is- had steak and eggs.

After breakfast, Ali and I worked out by the pool, trying to burn off some of the 10 pounds that we´ve already gained from all the Spanish food.
Ali´s brother Joe made the mistake of getting too close to the pool fully clothed- so of course Ali threw him in. They both ended up swimming for about 30 minutes at 9:00 in the morning. Boys will be boys!

After the boys dried off from the pool, we decided to take a walk down to the sea. It was a beautiful sunny day with white wispy clouds in the sky. As we walked to the beach, I enjoyed looking at all of the sprawling Spanish estates that were on the way. Every house has its own name- Aqua Clara, Casa de Rosio, Zita Yuca. Ali decided that we should name our house Soto Poquito.

The beach was empty and covered with sea shells. The water actually felt fairly warm- definitely warmer than CA. I found a dead squid that that Ali wanted to take home and eat, and we found a crab that pinched Ali when he tried to pick it up.

After our walk, we cleaned up, and then headed out for our trip to the rock of Gibraltar. Joe drove our VW rental car like a pro along the Spanish streets- weaving through the winding streets and around lots of the round-abouts. Gibraltar is only about 30 minutes west of Sotogrande. Gib is actually an English settlement that is a part of the UK. It´s so weird to go from everyone speaking Spanish, to everyone speaking English with a British accent. Our first stop was Main Street that looked like a quintessential English village. We stopped at a British pub for lunch for some pints and fish and chips.
After lunch, we met up with the guide that we hired named John. John had spent his whole life on the tiny rock of Gibralter, so he knew this place like the back of his hand. Our first stop was the ¨ Pillars of Hercules¨- an amazing look out point where you can see the Spanish Coast, the straits of Gibralter, and the Coast of Africa. According to greek mythology this is where Hercules seperated Spain and Africa.

You can see the rock of Gibraltar in the middle, Morocco in the distance, and the tip of Spain on the right.Our second stop on our tour was the caves of St. Michael. The caves were full of massive stalagmite formations. They actually have used this cave as a concert hall because the acoustics are incredible. Archaeological excavations in the cave have found evidence that Neanderthals used it as far back as 30,000 years ago.

Oddly enough, the rock is covered with Monkeys! We were told not to touch them, or get to close because they could attack.... Of course, that didn´t stop Ali. Check out these close-up monkey shots...

As we were driving along, this monkey suddenly just jumped through the window into the car with us! It turns out, that this monkey has befriended our tour guide. Our tour guide called him ¨Chico¨. Our last stop on our tour was a tunnel system in the rock called ¨The Great Siege Tunnels¨. The Siege Tunnels were carved out by the Merchant Marine to defend Gibraltar from the mainland during the Great Siege of 1779 to 1783. The original goal of the tunnels was to get cannon on the northern face of the rock known as the Notch. Originally the tunnel was only 82 feet in length, but by the end of World War II, the tunnels had reached a winding distance of over 30 miles.

After our tour, we were all so tired. We figured that we had walked around 7 miles, so we were ready for some R & R. When we arrived home, Ali´s aunt had made us a feast for dinner- steak, sausage, cous cous, roasted peppers, zucchini, bread, and wine. After dinner, Ali´s cousin gave me some dry sherry that knocked me out!

Today- we are heading to Marbella for a little fun in the sun. Miss you all! Tune in tomorrow for Diaz Tres....

sábado, 17 de octubre de 2009

Day Uno

Ali (my boyfriend), Joe (Ali's adopted brother) and me- left for Spain on Friday, October 16th- my 27th birthday. My boss Joanne, came to pick us up at our house at 3:45 am. Joanne let Ali drive her car, and we breezed to LAX in 30 minutes. I was a little nervous having my boyfriend drive my boss’s car.... it would be bad if anything happened, but luckily we got there in one piece. We got checked in and through customs in about an hour. Ali asked for a full body search when we got to security- which I thought was a little weird.... :)

The first leg of our flight was from LAX to New York (JFK). When we arrived in NYC, it was cloudy and 41 degrees out.

We had a 3 hour layover, so we did a little shopping and grabbed some New York style pizza and the boys had a few beers.
We convinced Joe to get a neck pillow for our long trip, and Ali got some nice noise cancelling headphones. We boarded our 767 delta jet, and ended up sitting on the tarmac for about an hour waiting for our turn to take off. We all slept almost the whole flight. Surprisingly, it went by pretty quickly. Before we knew it, they were serving us breakfast, and we could see the sun rising in the distance.
We landed in Malaga around 8:30 am. The Malaga airport is tiny! I have never been to an airport so small. We got through customs in about 5 minutes. I was impressed that I had a whole conversation with the customs official in Spanish... I guess I do still remember some Spanish from High School.

Getting our rental car took a little longer. We were supposed to get a Mercedes or BMW, but ended up with a VW- not sure how that happened, but we didn't really care- cause we were in Spain. I tried to drive, but was having some serious issues with the stick shift. Ali and I did a Chinese-fire-drill, and he took over driving. Driving was beautiful- our route was all along the coast on the AP7 toll road. It took about an hour to get from Malaga to Sotogrande.

We pulled into Ali's Aunt Goli's house- a beautiful Spanish mansion named "Golsar". Her house is a classic Spanish estate set on about a 1/2 acre of lush landscape. The house is 4 levels with several terraces and patios all surrounded by flowering vines and bougainvillea.

As we pulled up, we were greeted by Ali's cousin- Darius. Darius immediately whisked us away to give us a tour of Sotogrande. Sotogrande is the "Beverly Hills" of Spain. Most of the houses range from $4,000,000 to $50,000,000. This town is the playground of Europe’s richest citizens. If you are a millionaire in this town, you're middle class. It feels a lot like Newport Beach, without so much plastic surgery. The millionaires walking around in shorts and flip-flops. Sotogrande is a playground of Polo Grounds, Golf Courses, the Marina, and a sea port. Looking to the West from Sotogrande, you can see the Rock of Gibraltar and even the coast of Africa on a clear day. After our tour of the town, Darius took us to a cafe on the Marina. I had a glass Tinto Vino which is carbonated Sangria. I guzzled it down like soda on a hot day. For lunch I had a delicious salad with fresh salmon and cucumbers. The salmon was so fresh, there wasn't even a hint of "fishiness". We sat there along the Marina, drinking wine, and sitting in the sun. This was the start to the vacation that I had dreamed of!

After lunch, we went back to the house to relax. Myself, Joe and Darius sat around and played Spanish guitar on the terrace. Of course, there was more drinking :). I had pink champagne, and the boys had beer. Ali caught up with his Aunt Goli, who he hasn't seen in about 10 years. It's so good to see him with some blood family! I went down to our room and took a nice long bath, then a nap.

We left for dinner around 8:30- the Spanish eat dinner very late. Goli and Daruis took us to an Argentinian Steak House on a Polo field. The restaurant appeared to be an old stable. They removed all the walls and replaced them with glass windows all around. The food was incredible. We started with fried cheese and bread, then some whipped Blue Cheese and bread garnished with olives, followed by Cow balls. Yep- you heard me- cow balls. I tried a little bit, they were very salty and fatty. At this point, I was already full from the appetizers! For the main course, I had a sirloin strip steak with sweet potatoes in cream on the side. The flavors and quality of the food was amazing. For dessert, there was cafe con leche and some Vienna finger-like cookies. I went to bed with a full and happy tummy.

Today, we plan to go check out the Rock of Gibraltar and Tariffa. Tune in soon to hear all the details....