San Sebastian, Spain with the Girls!

Gosh, I am so behind on blogging. My next post will be a short and sweet restaurant review, but this San Sebastian post took AGES to get live because there were SO MANY PHOTOS to go through! I really need to stick to just 5-10 photos per post, because picking my favorites and editing through everything can be overwhelming! That said, I am happy to finally tell you all about my trip to San Sebastian with Amie, Jess, and Jess (yes, TWO Jess’s on our trip – double the Jess fun!)
IMG_0753As the girls were already planning on coming to Amsterdam at the end of April for King’s Day, we decided to tack a mini sun-holiday on to the end of their European visit. We picked a spot in Northern Spain that had ample sunshine, but during our stay the temperature hovered in the mid 60’s, which was wonderful for strolling around sans coat, but it didn’t really satisfy our desire for a beachy holiday (although there were many brave souls in minimal clothing lounging by the sea!) That said, we were more interested in pintxos, sangria, and sightseeing anyways, and fell blissfully in love with our flat that overlooked the sea! And I mean, LOOK at that view (above) from our balcony! Continue reading


Park Güell, Barcelona

Eusebi Güell and Gaudí were homeboys. Güell was a Catalan entrepreneur, and in 1890 he established a worker’s colony north of Barcelona, in Santa Coloma de Cervello. While Güell’s textile factory was the economic centerpiece of Santa Coloma de Cervello, Güell commissioned Gaudí, a Catalan architect, to build a church and crypt that would serve as the colony’s cultural and religious epicenter. I’m telling you, total bromance. Güell and Gaudí went on to complete many projects together, exemplifying Catalan Modernism in Spain. In 1900, Güell and Gaudí conceptualized a rich housing estate overlooking the city of Barcelona. Park Güell was originally intended to be the focal point of this rich community, but after the project went bankrupt, the park was converted into a municipal garden open to the city. IMG_5758

Day 3 in Barcelona started in a small cafe. I took a work call while sipping hot coffee and forking chocolate crepes. And although the air was cool and the skies were white, after breakfast a girlfriend Eva and I set off for Park Güell, intent on seeing one of Gaudí’s most renowned creations.  Continue reading

Sunlight in Barcelona

I love taking photos, but in the winter, I tend to leave my camera at home. In January, the world is dark and most of the Northern Hemisphere is smothered in a blanket of black. Amsterdam is no exception, and in addition to very few hours of sunlight, we also get snow, hail, and rain . . . none of which are very conducive for a photographer who prefers shooting in natural light. However, Barcelona in the winter is a different story. Despite the Earth’s tilt, Spain still remains generally mild in the winter, and the sunshine is almost always present, despite the season. So although we ate a lot of amazing food, wandered down colorful alleys, past historic monuments, and into cozy cafes, my favorite part of Sunday was simply cradling my camera around the city with some great company.

IMG_5576On Sunday we left the hostel quite early, despite having all tricked in sometime around 7am. Side note: I’ve never stayed in a hostel before!! I’ve travel a lot, but usually spring for a unique AirBnb or jazzy hotel justified by the fact that I really *need* a luxurious bathtub while on holiday (life is sad in a small Amsterdam apartment without a tub!) But in Barcelona we stayed at the Box Port Hostel which was my first hostel experience. It was clean, and our accommodation was fun since the 16 of us gals literally took up one whole room. It was like a massive girl’s camp weekend, or elementary school sleepover, complete with bunk beds! The only part that sucked was the one shower. When 16 women all want to bathe at once, shit can get real (or just really early, and no one wants to wake up at 8am on holiday to bathe!) So after a marathon of blow dries and back to back showers, we hit the road early in search of some hearty hangover food. Continue reading

Babes on Bikes in Barcelona

On Friday night I left work and grabbed a cab to the airport. Melissa, my longest and closest Dutch friend (I’ve told you about her here and here) had been kidnapped earlier in the day and whisked away for a surprise trip to Barcelona. Melissa is getting married in two week’s time (eee!!) and our jaunt over to Barca was her last ‘hurrah’ before the big day. Friday night in Barcelona was low-key, as we had a bright and early start planned on Saturday. We kicked the weekend off with a champagne breakfast and some silly games, followed by a walk to the bike shop where we all rented bicycles for the day. The Dutch are known for their love of bikes, and ironically the bike shop owner in Barcelona was also Dutch! After renting 16 bight orange bikes, we hit the road for a self guided tour around the city, stopping in large centers and at beautiful parks to complete inane tasks and drink more champagne.IMG_5401Most of the photos in this post were taken one-handed from the back of my bike (yep, I’m also pretty Dutch at this point!) so excuse the lack of a concentrated subject matter. Hopefully the abundance of palm trees and blue skies will make up for it :) Continue reading

Five Easy Spanish Tapas Recipes

Last Valentine’s Day B gave me a homemade coupon booklet. It contained numerous vouchers – one for a weekend off of cleaning the house, another for a free meal at our favorite greasy Chinese food spot, and so on. This sounds cute and romantic, which to some extent it was, but B got all creative and added his own terms and conditions to each card. I won’t go into the raunchy details, but let’s just say it’s been a year and I’ve only cashed in on one of the coupons.

However, this past weekend I noticed that the vouchers had an expiration date (. . . only B), so in two week’s time, they would be null and void. So despite B’s somewhat disagreeable terms and conditions, I decided to cash in on one more voucher before they expired. And the most delicious looking voucher of the bunch was ‘La Cocina de España‘, an all-expense-paid evening of Spanish dining in our very own kitchen, prepped, cooked, and served with love by B.FIVE EASY TAPAS RECIPES

B lived in Spain for some time (enough time to learn how to speak fluent Spanish – envy!), so he’s got a delicious repertoire of Spanish recipes tucked up his sleeve. I’ve always been somewhat intimidated by his tapas (hot oil! lots of mayo! cooking many things at once!), but after taking notes and watching closely this time around, I’ve realized that most of his tapas are actually quite simple. So here are five excellent Spanish-tapas recipes, listed in order of ease.

– Pre-Tapas –

Before you can get moving in the kitchen, you’ll need some fuel. And there’s no better way to energize for a meal of tapas, than with some tapas! As B and I were ravenous, we prepared a big board of olives, Manchego cheese, cucumbers, Spanish ciabatta, and an extra-virgin olive oil tapenade. No cooking required here. In fact, this doesn’t even count as a recipe. Chop up your cheese, your cukes, and your bread, and pop your store-bought olives and tapenade into serving dishes. Pour yourself a big glass of Spanish vino and congrats – you’re on your way to becoming a tapas pro!


– Salad

Now before you dive into a whirlwind of grease and fried-food, you’re going to want to make something light and fragrant to compliment your meal. So grab a bowl and fill it with your favorite lettuce variety. Half some ruby-red cherry tomatoes and pop these into the bowl as well. Add some onion slices and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve your salad with vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. This is the only dish B let me help prepare, and it was one of the easiest as well!P1030643

– Pan con Tomate – 

Pan con tomate is Spanish for bread with tomato. It’s a simple dish that is often eaten for breakfast in Spain, but also makes a wonderful starter for lunch or dinner. As you might guess, for this recipe you’ll need bread (ideally ciabatta) and tomatoes. Slice your ciabatta length-wise and chop your tomato in half. Now, scrape the inside of the tomato along the top of your bread. You’ll want to leave a trail of tomato guts and seeds on the bread, so rub, squeeze and press away. Finish your pan con tomate with a rub of garlic as well, or simply drizzle with olive oil, as B did. Add a crack of salt and pepper, and serve.P1030633These first two recipes are easy, and would make a wonderful meal on their own. Here’s one more no-brainer tapas recipe that I love – something simple and quick to whip up, but so, so delicious as well!

– Chorizo – 

This tapas recipe is my favorite. I love chorizo on its own, and it’s exciting to know that with one extra step, you can turn it into something authentic and delicious! Slice your chorizo into pennies. Put a frying pan on the stove, and turn the heat onto a medium-high. Add about 1/4 a cup of red wine to the pan and wait for it to bubble. Then, throw in your chorizo.


The red wine will bring color, clarity, and a distinctive taste to the chorizo, and the heat will make the chorizo sweat and fry in all its natural glory. Fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the wine has just about dissolved and the chorizo starts to brown. Transfer to a bowl and serve.


– Patatas Bravas –

Patatas bravas are a typical Spanish bar-food, comparable to french fries or nachos in the US. They’re essentially small, fried potatoes, served with a sloppy mayo or tomato based sauce. To make patatas bravas, you’ll need one big potato per person. Peel your potatoes and then chop them up into small squares, about half an inch each.


Fill a frying pan with oil and put it on the stove to heat. Drop in a potato to test the temperature – if the potato starts to fry right away, then the oil is hot enough and you can add the rest of your potatoes. Fry them for about 10 minutes, or until the outside of the potatoes are a light brown. P1030639Use a slotted spoon to transfer them into a dish, and give them a good dusting of salt. You can serve them with plain mayo, but B and I used this patatas bravas dip mix from Oil & Vinegar. We simply mixed a tablespoon of water with a tablespoon of the mix, and then added about four tablespoons of mayo. We poured the dip over the potatoes, and served them hot on the table.

– Tortilla – 

Tortilla Española is a Spanish omelette that is made with small, fried potatoes. B ate this meal nightly when he lived in Spain, as it’s quick, easy, and filling, not to mention one of Spain’s most popular dishes. If you’re making patatas bravas, you’re in luck as you’ll already have one of the main ingredients at hand – fried potatoes. Plan on frying at least one extra potato along with your patatas bravas for your tortilla. You’ll also need five eggs, olive oil, and salt to taste. Crack your eggs into a bowl and whisk. Heat a nonstick frying pan and add a drizzle of olive oil. Once your pan is hot, add about a cup of fried potatoes to the pan.


Then, pour your whisked egg on top and wait for the underside to brown – about 3-5 minutes. When the underside of the tortilla is brown, take a large plate and lay it face down on top of the frying pan. Then, holding the plate secure in its place with one hand, pick up the frying pan with the other and flip it over. The tortilla should flip out of the pan and onto the plate. Place the plate (with the tortilla on it) onto the counter, and give the pan another drizzle of olive oil. Slide the tortilla back into the pan, now with the cooked side face up. Wait for the second side to brown – usually another 3 minutes or so. When cooked, transfer the tortilla onto a plate and serve hot, ideally with some salad, chorizo, patatas bravas, and pan con tomate!IMG_8969I couldn’t stop myself from poking over to the counter every now and then, and popping a fried potato or small piece of chorizo into my mouth! B is an awesome cook, and I need to rely on him more regularly in the kitchen.P1030653Finally, after what seemed like hours and hours of waiting, we sat down with some good Spanish wine and our tapas. IMG_8989The meal was fantastic, and totally worth the terms and conditions as outlined on the voucher – starting that I had to do all of the dishes!!IMG_8995¡Buen provecho!

xo Ali