Hell yes.  Finally the U.S. has managed a seriously impressive soccer/football/futbol victory.  As much as I enjoy watching La Furia Roja, I gotta give it up for Team USA.

Check out the full story at ESPN.com.

PS. ESPN, why no ShareThis buttons or a similar system?  Make it easier to share your great content, por favor.

Viva La Furia Roja!

July 1, 2008

As every futbol fan already knows, Spain took the Euro trophy yesterday, ending a long dry spell of international victories for la Furia Roja.

In other news, Sergio Ramos was one class act during the celebration.

The very best time to visit the Alhambra is midnight. 

The tourist hordes have left, the sun has set, and the palace is painted with delicate brushstrokes of light.  During the witching hour everything takes on a more mysterious quality, and if you find the right quiet corner, you can take a mental journey through the centuries and listen to the stories that those intricate tiled walls have to tell.

The Alhambra

Perhaps you will meet some friendly ghosts?  Or you might hear the long lost echoes of the poems carved into almost every surface.  You may come across a charming stray cat who has made the palace his home.  A wise choice indeed. 

At Camp Nou

April 21, 2008

My brother and at FC Barcelona's Camp Nou

Although American football will always be my first sports love, the sport that the rest of the world calls football/futbol is catching up, especially after attending two La Liga games in Spain (Real Madrid vs. Sevilla and FC Barcelona vs. Valladolid).  The atmosphere is akin to a college football rivalry game – it’s amazing how passionate the fans are.

 

Since I’ve been a little light on travel-related stuff lately – too much web 2.0/new media related stuff that I just felt compelled to discuss, let’s talk about the New Seven Wonders of the World.  On a related note, does their voting system (you can register and vote online, by text message, or by phone) remind anyone else of American Idol?

The New Wonders:

I find the personalization of the selection process very interesting.  Of course, choosing the seven world wonders is a subjective thing anyways (who can really determine what someone else thinks is the most wondrous wonder?), but this sort of makes me think of the whole web 2.0 phenomenon (yes, I can relate everything back to that).

First of all, the wonders are chosen democratically – the winners were the ones favored by the people who had the ability and chose to participate in the vote.  Same thing with highly ranked websites and blogs.  Second, people and nations campaigned to their favorite picked (SEO and general promotion).  Third, well, this is technically the second list of world wonders, thus actually making these seven wonders the 2.0 version.

Now, I haven’t personally seen any of these wonders (although I’m not arguing with the choices) and since these are the 7 Wonders 2.0, part of the fun is being able to join the conversation and pick your own – in no particular order, here are my seven manmade wonders:

What are your wonders 2.0?

Deja Vu and Duende

June 22, 2007

Inspired by this post on Lonely Planet’s Thorntree messageboards:

Have you ever arrived in a new place and felt that you’ve been there before?  I’ve been to lots of places that I thought were special, that were magical, that had a certain something that set them apart from the more prosaic cities that surrounded them.  After all, there’s a reason why places like Paris and Venice are such major tourist destinations.

However, I’m talking about something slightly different – a sense of deja vu, a feeling that you’re at completely at home in what should be a strange city, a feeling that you’ve spent time there before. 

I’ve had that feeling – in Seville, the city of gypsies, of flamenco, of so much history that it makes U.S. cities look like mere blips on time’s radar screen.  From the second I stepped off the train, I felt completely at ease.  First of all, I never once got lost in the winding maze of the medieval Old Town, even after enjoying a pitcher of sangria or tinto de verrano.

Secondly, I managed to find all sorts of hidden treasures during my wanderings, like little hole-in-the-wall cafes where guitarists still play traditional Andalucian music (and don’t give a damn about catering to tourists) small weekly markets where farmers still come in from the countryside to sell their delicious tomatoes, olives, oranges, and jamon, and little shops that sell colorful fabrics and outrageous trims meant for flamenco costumes.  Of course, I’m always trying to seek out places off the beaten path, but I was particularly successful in Seville. 

Everything I did wasn’t cultural in the traditional sense, however; I had a hell of a time a Real Betis game with some newly made Sevillano friends.  The Spanish have the Americans beat at one thing – they really know how to celebrate when their team wins (or maybe it’s just been so long since Notre Dame won a really big game I’ve forgotten how it feels)

Granted, none of these things add up to a particularly unique experience on the surface, but it’s difficult to explain the deja vu – it’s the kind of thing that when you feel it, you just know.  Perhaps I’m a little bit crazy, or maybe I lived in Seville in a past life – it would certainly explain my predeliction for oversize earrings, intricate embroideries, and dramatic ensembles fit for a modern day urban gypsy.

One of my favorite books that I’ve read recently was Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer by Barbara Sjoholm.  It’s a memoir of her time in Europe, particularly Spain and Norway (Morocco, London, and Paris also play a role). 

incognito-street.jpgThe Booklist description:

Twenty in 1970, Sjoholm flew from L.A. to London to begin two months in Europe. To friends and family, she always seemed to be going away. In this entertaining if somewhat overlong memoir, she says that was the way she liked it. She took every opportunity to experience someplace new and different. She believed travel would help her grow as a writer, but the pleasure of traveling most appealed to her. Restless, insatiably curious, she wanted to do anything and everything.

She reached London in winter; it was “thrillingly foggy and damp.” Then it was off to Paris, which offered too much of a good thing: “In Paris it was almost impossible not to desire more.” Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Madrid, and Rome followed. She wound up in Norway, working as a maid and then a “ship girl” (a glorified title for a dishwasher) on a cargo and passenger ship, Kong Olav. She learned about other cultures, about what it means to be a writer, and most of all, about herself.

It’s an intensely personal book but manages to maintain a conversational tone – she doesn’t take herself too seriously and isn’t afraid to admit to her flaws, but manages to convey her emotions extremely well.  I’ll admit that I probably enjoyed the book more because I traveled to many of the same places at a similar age, but it’s beautifully written and anyone who’s looking for a inspiring travel book should pick it up. 

It was also one of the only books I’ve reread – I rarely read a book more than once but this one I wanted to savor, to pick up on the little things that you miss the first time around.

You Love the Thunder

June 8, 2007

There’s a serious summer storm brewing in Chicago tonight.  I love thunderstorms, the louder the better.  Something about witnessing the awesome power of nature – and I just like all the commotion, all the action.  Also, it’s seriously amazing to watch lightning hit the rods on the city’s skyscrapers.

The only truly frightening storm I’ve experienced happened while I was on a late evening train to Granada.  It was one of those winding mountainous journeys that aren’t normally unnerving as long as you don’t look down.  Since it was fairly late, night had fallen on the Sierra Nevadas so the views consisted of shadowy peaks and a sky liberally sprinkled with stars. 

Until a sudden lightning storm flared up.  We were literally in the middle of it (I saw lightning strike trees disturbingly close to the tracks), and trapped in the train.  There’s nothing like being in an enclosed space with bolts of electricity flying around you to spike your adrenaline levels (except for maybe paragliding in those same mountains, which I did later). 

My reaction to this situation?  After the initial “holy crap, that was close!” moment, I simply picked up my rather interesting book (Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain) and continued reading.  After all, there was nothing I could do to affect the situation and travel seems to bring out my inner Zen.

Clearly, the train made it safely to Granada, and my fellow travelers and I celebrated not getting hit by lightning with a few pitchers of sangria (although any excuse works when it comes to sangria) at a cafe in one of those charming little plazas that seem to exist in every Spanish town.

The moral of the story?  Lightning and thunder = stunningly gorgeous if you’re not penned in tincan of a traincar.  If you do find yourself in a similar situation, however, maybe you’ll surprise yourself with your response.