School’s Out-Reina Sofia-Wow!

Posted August 10, 2009 by dawniedee
Categories: Uncategorized

School is out, and now the real vaccaciones can begin! I can fully concentrate on what Madrid in summer is really all about: las terrazas y las copas. We spent one day moving from terraza to terraza, sampling the wares at every stop. From desayuno among the barrio residents to a fabulous menu del dia across town, we dined, drank and giggled our way towards the evening’s main event: tickets for flamenco at Teatro La Latina. OMG. The show was Carmen and I cannot do it justice, you’ll have to look for Kat’s review, because it was above and beyond. We laughed, we cried, we agreed that we must see it again next week, desnudo. That’s right, Flamenco in the Nude.
Ni habla!


The Chocolateria de San Gines was a real find, in a shady back alley for chocolate and churros. Near the Madrid Opera House we enjoyed croquetas and beer. All I can say after viewing the “Europa In Conflict” exhibit at Museo Reina Sofia is WOW. Some of my favorite artists were represented in a curatorial tour de force that included 1) art as advertising, showcasing some of the period’s most well-known artists on magazine covers, broadsides and other everyday applications, and 2) some of the art of WW II. Magritte, Dali, Miró, Calder, and of course, Picasso. Incredible to see la Guernica and other pieces, such as Calder’s wild insect-like metal sculpture, a label reading “Alemania” hung around the neck, a blood red drop hung out before it like a carrot before a donkey. Simultaneously chilling and awe-inspiring.


So sad to return the keys to my lovely little apartment and settle into a hotel! I was very happy there, Kat really liked it too. Muchas gracias to Lourdes, my landlady, who assured me she would welcome me back on my next trip to Madrid. We spent a lovely afternoon on the grass at Parque Retiro, lying in the sun and reading, soaking up the greenery and eating perfectly ripe nectarines.

We hopped aboard a SpanAir flight to A Coruña on Sunday and couldn’t stop laughing with joy as we discovered our room, up a spiral staircase, and out onto our private terrace over the sea. Por dios, it took our breath away. I ordered a bottle of Crianza Rioja and we settled in to let sunset wash over us. I took a really deep breath and tried to imagine leaving this country in a week. No matter. For now, the wine is as exquisite as the view, and the company is everything I could wish for.



Every Thing That We Were Lookin’ For

Posted August 4, 2009 by dawniedee
Categories: Madrid, Travel

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This is what I call living. In only three days we have covered a whole lot of ground. After a “very nice nap” Kat and I went out to a traditional madrileño dinner at El Pescadero, calamari and a pitcher of bad sangria later, we walked all over my barrio, where we followed the music to a fiesta in the calle for the barrio’s santa, or saint. Free home brewed limonada and men and women dancing in costumes traditionales, singing to the crowd! Fantastic! Viva Madrid!


Despues, we walked through the plazas and terrazas filled with the Saturday night crowds, over to the Monasterio, and into the parque, where we looked at the moon and did some k-i-s-s-i-n-g. Finally, we walked home by way of NuRielle, which has the yummiest italian gelato around. Sitting at a sidewalk table, the words to that Alicia Keys song runs through my head, the one about “everything that we were lookin’ for.” What a magical night!


Got the news from home that my Aunt Shirley died Sunday. She was my dad’s baby sister, and although she was never taller than 5 feet and she never weighed more than 100 pounds soaking wet, she was a woman with a big heart. She loved to come up to me at family gatherings and announce to everyone, “Hey, can you believe that I used to carry all this (here she would poke me with a long, manicured nail) around on my hip?” Godspeed, Shirley Jean, and thanks for all the love.


So grateful for what I’ve got! A year ago today Kat and I were dancing on the deck at Amy and Sarah’s place in Malibu–and we danced to that song, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again.” If you haven’t heard that song, or if it’s been a long time, go listen to it here:
and then find one of the special people in your world.
Put your arms around them. Some people think the song is sad, but I feel it as an affirmation of life–pura vida.

“I don’t wanna forget the present is a gift,
and I don’t wanna take for granted the time
you may have here with me.”
-Alicia Keys


Posted July 27, 2009 by dawniedee
Categories: Madrid, Travel

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The other day I passed a woman on the street who was wearing only a bra and jeans. Not a new bra. And not a pretty bra. Somehow, over the course of a weekend bender, she had simply become separated from her camiseta, her shirt. The little old Madrileñeno woman walking beside me and I shared a laugh, and when she launched into a barrage of Spanish, I understood most of it. And we simultaneously made a gesture that is universally understood: both hands in front of your chest, palms out, fingers spread, add a little shrug. In every language it means, No. She. Didn’t!

After six weeks in Spain, these types of things seem naturalmente. The sound of singing at 4 am, es normál. Fountains every other street? No problemo. Did you know there are no dryers in Spain, for your clothes? It’s natural to let the warm air serve you in some way. The washers have a cycle that is roughly 90 minutes long, pero once the clothes are hung up, they are dry very, very quickly.


There’s a lesson in that for America, our climate controlled inertia could be put to good use. Even the air conditioners in private homes get little use here, and honey, hace mucho calor! (It’s very hot.) I keep looking up to see if solar panels are sprouting on buildings, because that,  naturalmente, seems like a logical next step.

This is Monday, which means that Kat will be here in only 4 short days! ¿De donde ir el verano? No sé! Pero, estoy muy feliz de ver a mi mujer magnífico! It’s been an amazing and wonderful time for both of us, but we are done, SICK of Skype as our primary mode of communication. We’re ready for some of our good old natural…well, you’re with me on this, I feel sure.

A mi, está incredable! Only 1 week left of school and we’ll be on our way to Asturias, to the beach in A Coruña. I can make you a small wager, I bet you this blog will not get updated after finals and Kat’s arrival. Whatdya bet? I’m so excited, I’m singing to myself! Es naturalmente.

Easy For Me

Posted July 21, 2009 by dawniedee
Categories: Madrid, Travel

Tags: , ,


Easy metro system. Five stops to school. Super facil. Fresh, fileted-by-hand chicken breasts, yummy asparagus spears, all of which I can get five steps from my door. Joshua lived in Madrid for a year, and he sent me a valuable resource for African Americans in Madrid, a barber who cuts black hair–men and women! Not so easy to find here. I went, and I had a great experience–gracias, Joshua!


My friend Dees arrived from Amsterdam on Friday, and we had a fabulous time running around Madrid, we celebrated our friendship, which is 20 years old this summer! On Friday night we had an adult beverage at a terraza on Plaza Humiladero, then hunted around on Cava Baja for a likely dinner spot. The pescado (fish) was delightful where we landed. On Sabado, we headed out to the swimming pool, at Instalación Deportiva Municipal Casa de Campo. To call this amazing facility just a swimming pool is grossly understating the facts. Four outdoor pools, trees, showers, abuelas, ninos, pretty boys, touristas, and el sol, el sol, el sol. It was heaven, we didn’t want to leave, since heaven only cost 5 euro!! Dees took a great photo of us there, I hope she sends it soon. In 20 years, we’ve accululated many pics of ourselves on, in, or near some kind of water. Whale watching in California, at the North Sea in Holland, at Ocean Beach in SF, on Dees’s boat in Amsterdam, etc.


There’s Dees, above, right beside the Chueca metro, where we stopped for a beer. If you’ve been in our kitchen in Oakland, you’ll have seen a photo of Dees and I in our local swimming pool, in Dimond Park. The global swimming pool tour has begun! We went on to the Prado, Dees went in and I lay on a bench outside the Botanical Gardens and read my book–after menu del dia in a tiny, family-run establishment, we made our way back to C/ Toledo. Sunday we explored the gay neighborhood, la Chueca.  We really enjoyed our dinner, at a fantastic place…well, primero, let me tell you the story.

I was using an online vocabulary builder last week for my Spanish, which had graphics of building a burrito. Every time you get a correct answer, another element of your burrito flys into place; carne, lettuce, tomato, cheese.
(Don’t believe me?  click here.) I was so dang hungry for a burrito after that, and I went searching for a mexican restaurant, pero no! A burrito is not to be found in Madrid, especially not like the ones in  Fruitvale!

Entonces, I discovered, with Dees, La Panza Es Primero, near the Chueca metro which satisfied my cravings very well! I had chilequiles con salsa verde, and Dees had tacos–muy delisioso! We wandered home through the Sunday night crowds, completely sated. Madrid makes it easy for me-from the metro to chilaquiles. It was great to have a friend visit me here–besides catching up, we had so much fun discovering more about Madrid together, and I felt very proud to show off  my adopted city!

Subway Workout

Posted July 13, 2009 by dawniedee
Categories: Madrid, Travel

Tags: ,

I’m so thankful for the technology that allows me to stay connected with my family and friends over a trip of this length! It really brought up some questions for me this week. My niece, Elena, had her 10th birthday on the 8th, and basically, there have always been computers and cell phones her entire life.

Question: if the last trip you took outside of the US was more than 10 years ago, (hell, even 5 years ago) can you imagine how cell phones, laptops, Skype and Facebook have changed your ability to look for restaurants, museums, directions, print boarding passes, call home, or see pictures of your nearest and dearest? I love the un-wired, unplugged times in my life, but I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t be making it without these two things:


Question: have you ever had this much time to yourself? I mean really. There is an opportunity here for me to turn the volume way down, to hear my own thoughts and the sound of my heart beating. In our stress-driven culture, that is a boon, indeed. I feel like I’m on some sort of quest, a womanhood ritual, where I return to my village a stronger, more capable citizen. I haven’t had any visions or anything yet, but I haven’t eaten the peyote, yet either…Would it scare you to be alone here? Not me. I know Julie G. has done silent retreats and stuff like that–anybody else? Madrid is a noisy, all night city, and I find it amusing that I’m experiencing real inner quiet here.

Those of you who are training clients, past or present –will be interested in my Subway Workout, which you could do in any city. Here’s what I do: Get on the subway and pick a station. No es importante qual estacion–en Madrid hay algo maravilloso a cada estacion! ( It’s not important which station–in Madrid there is something wonderful at each station.) Por ejemplo, Saturday, I got on at La Latina and rode to Opera. At Opera I took the stairs to the surface and walked around to the Madrid Opera House, which has an amazing fountain and garden in front of it. Bueno. I had a snack and went back underground. I rode to 2 stations past my apartment, so I could find out what’s there, which was Puerta de Toledo, a gorgeous stone arch across the roadway. Lo siento, I didn’t have my camera, so no photos! I took the stairs again, and had an uphill walk back to my place. All of this was in 90 degree weather, so it was quite a cardio workout.


You try it: Go to Rockridge BART and take the stairs all the way to the top, ride to Embarcadero, power walk down to Pier 7, and then return to BART and go home. Be sure to take stairs every chance you get! Pay attention to what you see on your stops–even in your home city there will be surprises. I miss you guys, even though this is an unforgettable experience, one I’m going to treasure forever.

Hitting My Stride

Posted July 3, 2009 by dawniedee
Categories: Madrid, Travel

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Before I left Oakland, Kat told me, based on her experiences, that probably about 2-3 weeks into the trip, I would hit the wall. You’d feel homesick, be tired of not understanding the language around you, crave a burrito from La Taqueria, wish you could see your friends–you know? She was right. Last week was hell. This week, I went to the Museo del Prado.


I saw some American boys there who were here for Pride. I walked up and said hello, are you here for Pride? Randy, from NYC, looked aghast and dragged me over to the other two. “She saw us and can you believe she thought we were GAY?” We all cracked up.


After the Prado I went to COGAM, the LGBT headquarters, and right out in front, I got a call from home! Johno called me, and it was sooo good to hear his voice! I felt reassured, somehow. Thanks, Johno! At COGAM, in honor of Madrid Gay Pride 2009, I was given every possible way to hobnob with my fellow wizards. Twenty minutes later, I was seated in front of the dance party, watching drag queens do a photo shoot, with the music booming and my hand wrapped around a Vegas-size Mohito. It sure is good to see home folks!


What’s that annoying sound? Oh, it’s my alarm going off. In the morning, I raced to make the 9 AM bus to El Escorial with my UC group. Our first stop was the Monastery de San Lorenzo, built by King Felipe II. Mucho mas pomp, kings, queens and art, I loved it!


I enjoyed a shared Marguerite pizza with some gals from the program before we went over to Del Valle de los Caidos, where Franco is buried, and where the mausoleum honors soldiers who fell in the Civil War.


It’s not-so-funny about Franco, but it was glorious country and vistas for days. I stayed outside where clouds looked as painted into the deep blue sky as the earlier basilica ceilings were. 34 degrees Celcius, which for you Americanos is “freakin’ hot.”


I had a fascinating conversation with one of my classmates about what exactly one is supposed to feel in our shoes, when tombs and dead soldiers don’t explain to us what it was really about. We came to no solid conclusions. When in doubt, I default to the beautiful…


Maybe pride has something to do with all this history–it’s great to be hitting my stride, connected, sleeping well, eating well, and understanding more of everything around me. I’ll let you know more after I’ve experienced Madrid’s pride weekend! Mohito, anyone?

Ah, Segovia!

Posted June 28, 2009 by dawniedee
Categories: Segovia, Travel, Uncategorized

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First week of classes is successfully complete! On Friday, we took our first beyond-Madrid excursion to Segovia, where, unlike Madrid, the past has been carefully and lovingly preserved. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, I was forcibly reminded of Greece–the only thing missing was the water all around. Famous for the 2000 yr-old Roman Aqueduct,  an architectural, historical and engineering marvel!


The students were suitably impressed, displaying a surprising interest in history and saying things like, “Dude, this is like, hella OLD.” Which gives you a bit of a clue as to how I might be feeling among them. Conversation is sooo not their strong suit. I have a good time with them, though– and I absolutely adored Segovia. We were led by tour guide Terese, who filled us in on all of Ferdinand and Isabel’s shenanigans, as well as pointing out 12th and 13th century art and architecture.


The weather was perfection, sunny and warm, but neither hot nor windy. For our afternoon to ourselves, I broke away from the group and  returned to the main plaza, where I had spied a 10 euro Menu del Dia offered under shady umbrellas.


Primero, the paella, light, perfectly seasoned, with chunks of chicken and seafood. Muy bien. Segunda, the chicken, con patatas fritos. Huge portion with red pepper notes swimming in a very light sauce. I watched the kids playing soccer in the square and listened to the sound check for the weekend fiesta that was being set up there. Music and entertainment in preparation for the best flan I’ve had in a long time.


Followed, of course, by un cafe con leche.


By now,  my book and I wanted a nap, so I retraced my steps to a quiet, shady park full of flowers to siesta on a bench, lulled by birdsong.


I’m continually amazed by the laid back daily movements of Spain. The timing of everything seems intuitive, in balance. Getting out of Madrid today has been wonderful for me. Ah, Segovia!!