Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm Moving!

After some careful consideration, and what seemed like endless hours of researching blog design and a bunch of other techie stuff that drives me crazy, I have decided to move to WordPress. I am currently in the process, which is why you may noticed the inconsistencies between my regular domain and my blogspot domain.

My domain is the same http://www.gringaespanola.com/.
My new feed is http://www.gringaespanola.com/feed/.

Please join me at my new site location!
In about a week or so I will be completely moved to Wordpress, so I hope to see you all there.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Greetings From Asbury Park

My cousin forced me to see Asbury with different eyes. He loved Asbury Park, even at a time when I would roll my eyes at the suggestion of spending an afternoon there laying on the beach. Before talks of development and building restoration projects, he was a fan of this beach town because of its conflicted history, not despite of it. Another perk is that it is less crowded than other favorites along the coast, although that is quickly changing.

There is something intriguing about going to a place that has fallen off most people's radar. Off the beaten path, some people call it, when you decide to explore somewhere not in the travel guides. There are many perks to this philosophy, for one you avoid the crowds and you get enjoy an experience a place few others have.

The fireworks are hailing over Little Eden tonight
Forcing a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July

Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do For me this boardwalk life is through baby
You ought to quit this scene too

This pier lights our carnival life forever
-Bruce Springsteen


Friday, July 31, 2009

Calca Market

There is no secret that I love markets. I honestly don't think there is a better, more public way of seeing a culture, all the food and customs out for display, the people gathered and slowly chatting and doing their day's work. Of course the fact that I'm surrounded by all sorts of food doesn't hurt either.

Before we started off our trek towards Machu Picchu, our tour guide picked us up bright and early, and was a little upset that we had him waiting 10 minutes while we lugged out our belongings sleepily and slowly to the car. It took us about an hour to get to Calca, my memory fails me with the exact specifics. Calca is a small town in the Calca province. We stopped to get some food and drinks and to orient ourselves before we began. We didn't see much of the town besides the market, that despite the early hour was pretty busy.

Growing up in a Spanish household, as well as my frequent visits to Galicia, have made me pretty accustomed to seeing fish with the head still attached, dead chickens with some sparing feathers, pigs feet, intestines, and most others animal parts and nasty bits that are meant to be consumed. It may not have phased me, but I could tell some of my companions were not feeling as at ease. It is important to pay attention, even if it makes you uneasy, because the items found in each market reflect the customs of a culture. It is really a question of resources. You use what is available for you.
A poor family will undoubtedly make sure to use all parts of whatever animals are available. It would be extremely wasteful to throw out anything if there was a chance to keep your family well fed. The traditions have held on throughout the years, hence why many cultures continue to cook with the same ingredients people have used for hundreds of years. Of course other factors, such as religion and wealth, also have a lot of influence in everyday cuisine. A vegetarian from Gujurat will have a much different diet than a Catholic from Kerala, for example. Nevertheless if you want an overall idea make your way over to the nearest, local market and you will see.
Warning, nasty bits are below. Scroll with caution.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vote For Mexico No Hay Dos at Photography Book Now

Vote for my Book in the Photography.Book.Now competition.
I recently entered a photo book contest at Photography Book Now. The book I entered is a compilation of photographs I took while traveling throughout Mexico. Winners will be awarded in the categories of Fine Art, Editorial, and Commercial. Along with the judges categories there is also a People's Choice Award. Please take a look at my photo book and if you like what you see, vote for it! Just press on the orange ribbon above. It was a lot of fun to create the book, and as always it was a lot of fun to travel and take pictures.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Making Conversation in Barrio San Blas

In order to reach the San Blas neighborhood you need to climb up the somewhat steep (or maybe it's just the altitude) San Blas hill. After passing lots of shops and artfully avoiding the cobblestone street, while balancing on the mini sidewalk made of stone, you will eventually reach a plaza. This my friends, is the San Blas neighborhood. The neighborhood offers spectacular views of the city, as well as its signature red tiled roofs, white washed houses, and blue doors.

In the plaza there are a few art galleries featuring Peruvian artists. The artwork is incredible, as well as incredibly priced. I would suggest buying a few pieces if you are able to bring them back with you.

On your way up to the plaza there are also tons of tourists shops where you can shop for some souvenirs.

San Blas is traditionally where many artists lived and like most neighborhoods of its kind, it is quickly becoming a trendy area of Cusco, undoubtedly attracting travelers who are more interested in this bohemian enclave. Expect less crowds than in the Plaza de Armas but there are more and more restaurants and cafes popping up.

The Church of San Blas is also in the plaza. There will most likely be people sitting at the steps as well as vendors outside trying to sell you some handicrafts.

San Blas is known for having these brilliant bright blue doors and windows.

It is surprising how the conversation can flow so naturally with complete strangers, in particular while traveling, where I have had the good fortune of encountering many interesting and congenial people. While snapping pictures in the plaza, and completely engrossed in my surroundings, I didn't notice that I had grabbed the attention of two men selling bracelets and other handicrafts along a white fence. Luis and his friend (whose name has slipped my mind at the moment) introduced themselves and in a matter of minutes it seemed like Luis had really warmed up to me. He told me about his family and his child and his love for his country but also his desire to move away. Soon the conversation led to what I missed most about home; without any hesitation I told him my dog Nico. He smirked and asked if I was talking about a boyfriend. His cacophony of laughter proved that he was making a machista joke about men liking the company of many women or something similar. Latin men never cease to amaze me and make me laugh, especially since he clearly was getting such amusement from it all. I assured him that my dog was in fact of the canine persuasion. Luis made me promise I would send him this picture (his friend was a bit camera shy). Si estas leyendo esto Luis, espero que estes bien!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Just another Monday morning in Cusco

During the week Cusco is a completely different city than on the weekend where you will find mostly tourists roaming the streets looking for alpaca duds and pisco sours. What used to be bare streets were now packed with Peruvians following their daily routine of going to work, waiting for the bus, walking their kids to school, or snatching a part of the sidewalk where they will sell some food or handicrafts to strolling pedestrians. It was a nice change to not only be surrounded by tourists like myself, but rather a group of people who live in this city. They aren't stopping at every corner to bask at the sites, but rather they pass by the Plaza de Armas giving a cursory glance of recognition. After all they see it everyday. By being around locals you may perhaps be given a glimpse of how people really live their lives; if you're lucky.

Shoe shiners in Cusco

People waiting for the bus

Cusco is small and easy to manage, especially if you compare it to the capital Lima. The Plaza de Armas is the most distinctive image of Cusco city. Most travel paraphernalia plasters pictures of the plaza and the cathedral througout many of its pages. My second day in Cusco I was considerably less winded from the lack of oxygen in the air and made use of some time to myself to stroll the Plaza and sit at the steps of the Cathedral. My visit thus far had been filled with colonial influenced buildings and Catholic tradition. The Plaza de Armas was no different, however I knew that in a few days I would be looking out at a completely different marvel, one that had nothing to do with colonial influence. Machu Picchu, the lost civilization, would not have domed bell towers, ornate balconies, or elaborate Gothic paintings of the Resurrection. There would be no carved crosses or images of the Virgin Mary. Both cultures so different yet an indelible part of Peruvian culture.

Below is a map of the main sites in Cusco as well as some photos of what you should be looking for.

Map of sites in Cusco provided by Frommers.

Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus


Convento de la Merced

Iglesia de San Blas

Bourdain is back

No Reservations is back! The excitement started to build when I saw the episode guide on the Anthony Bourdain website. Looks like he will be traveling to many interesting places for the second part of this season, including Chile, Australia, the Rockies, and Buffalo New York. Yesterday the Travel Network offered a No Reservations marathon. While I've seen most of the episodes, I still welcome the opportunity to watch them all day on a lazy afternoon. Anthony writes on his blog that he may or may not have gone to Kerala India, which is where a very close friend of mine is from, so naturally I have a lot to look forward to this season, and so does everyone else! Tonight Bourdain will be in Chile which means there will most likely be endless supplies of meat, fresh seafood and beautiful footage of Patagonia. Another episodethis season is dedicated to the outer boroughs of New York City, which are often forgotten by tourists, but happen to have some of the yummiest dishes and ethnic food that NYC has to offer.
Can't wait for tonight!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Plaza de Armas, Cusco Photo Journal


Monday, July 6, 2009

New York City and Petanque

One of the reasons New York City is so unique is because of the conspicuous happenstances you come across everyday. You can see a businessman in heels chasing down a bus, a naked cowboy with a guitar in Times Square, the 6 mile expanse of green smack dab in the middle of a high rising metropolis, or a juggler performing on the side of the FDR Drive and merely chalk it up the the fact that anything, and I mean anything, can happen in New York City.

This past spring I was walking around and taking pictures with a friend of mine. I never got a chance to post them and I wanted to because I think they are so quintessential NYC. Not necessarily momentous, but rather a mundane and casual afternoon.

Washington Square Park finally is opened to the public. All the other times I visited in the past 2 years I had the misfortune to see uninviting gates and fence surrounding the area where I used to roam instead of attending classes. This spring day the park returned to what I remember most about New York City, the way people come together to use the public space, in particular the parks that are always bustling with people playing games, catching some rays, walking their dogs, or going for a stroll.

In the park you will often find a group of men throwing around a metal ball. We decided to ask them the name of the game we had seen many times before but didn't really understand. One of the guys told us it was a French game named petanque (similar to Italian bocce or English bowls).

The purpose of petanque, played by millions of French in the summer months, is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a wooden ball called the cochonnet. It is often played on a dirt surface which I would imagine provides an appropriate cushion for the metal balls being thrown.

You throw the ball with somewhat of an arc as you can see with the guy below. I thought the cigar in his mouth was an authentic touch, because in my mind I imagine lots of men coming together to play, smoke cigars, talk about sports, and enjoy the good weather and company. But that is my interpretation.

The origin of the games petanque, bocce, and bowls, is said to derive from Ancient Greece and Rome. For a full set of rules on how to play petanque check it out here.