Spanish Idioms, #7: El que no corre, vuela

A couple months ago, I started meeting with one of the teachers at my school for a good ol’ fashioned intercambio (a native English speaker and a native Spanish speaker come together and try to communicate in the other’s language – it’s a party). Once a week, we’d go to her house for lunch and do our best to show off our language skills. It was incredibly nerve-wracking at first, I didn’t think I’d be able to go more than a minute in a conversation after I exhausted the basics (Hola cómo estás? Que tal tu día? ¿Cómo fue tu fin de semana?). After all, I hadn’t had much practice actually speaking Spanish.

To my surprise, Spanish came pouring out of me. I became super excited to actually have the opportunity to speak, for once, and not be judged by how bad my pronunciation was. Sure, I screwed things up. To her, I probably sounded like a 4 year old on a rant. But it was so exhilerating to finally be able to speak, and it was also a big confidence-booster that I could actually speak in Spanish beyond small-talk.

On one of these days, I told her that I had been learning some new idioms. I have really been enjoying learning these from various people, I think it might just be one of those big things that I’m missing that’s keeping me away from my goal of being fluent. We started brainstorming idioms in our languages, and this came out of it:

El que no corre, vuela.

Literally, it translates to “He that doesn’t run, flies.” It implies that those who really want to achieve something will go above and beyond running, they will fly (figuratively, of course). It’s difficult to find a similar idiom in English, but after researching a bit, this is my favorite, similar phrase: “You snooze, you lose.” Both signify that you have to get up and actually work hard for something to happen. However, I like how the phrase in Spanish focuses more on the winner rather than the loser, and how you have to work hard for something to happen… not just ‘wake up’ like the phrase in English implies. Another possible English equivalent (and more formal, at that) is “He who hesitates is lost.” Again, I think I prefer the Spanish idiom here because this also focuses it’s attention on the loser.

However, this phrase is obviously difficult to translate to English… I found many different answers as I was researching this. Anyone else have any input? 🙂

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Porto: Birthplace of Port Wine and Beautiful Beyond Belief

Let me start by saying I had never heard of this place before. Sure, I had heard of Port wine (hello, wine is amazing), but I had no idea that it came from a little city in Portugal named Oporto (or Porto in English). Before going on the trip, I was lucky enough to get some great advice from my host family on where to go and what to see… and Porto was high up on their list. They advised us to take the train one night from Lisbon, stay the night, then spend all day the next day exploring and take a train back. They insisted i was such a small city that you didn’t need to spend more than a day.

Thank God we gave ourselves two days instead of one.

It’s about a 3 hour train ride from Lisbon, and as we approached this little city my jaw dropped… literally. The train passes over the bridge and gives amazing views of the city and the Douro River. It was one of those times when you see something just so beautiful you can’t believe it (which was nice after about 3 hours of seeing nothing out the window on the train).

From the train station, we took the short trek up the hill to our hotel (the entire city is located on various hills). Up at the top, there was this beautiful church called Igreja de Santo Ildefonso. I have seen many churches in my life, but this one was unique in that it had this beautiful blue and white tile work all across it.

Igreja de Santo Ildefonso

We walked down the hill in search of a good place to eat. Everywhere you looked, there was something beautiful to admire. There weren’t all too many people around, either, which I liked. It was like we had this beautiful city to ourselves.

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We found a small, cheap restaurant just to the left of this statue. Food and drinks here were extremely cheap, especially compared to the other cities we had been to on this trip. When I was researching things to try in Portugal, a little delicacy called a Franceschina popped up. People insisted that it didn’t look all too appetizing and it was basically a heart attack on a plate, but that it was definitely worth trying. And I must agree! It was surprisingly delicious, I could taste the calories as I ate them. It is basically a sandwich filled with various meats and then covered in melted cheese and a sauce of tomato and beer… YUM! We got this franceschina for about €4, one hell of a deal! Washed it down with a €1 wine. I know it doesn’t look like much, but trust me… I ended up practically licking the bowl.

Even after having an incredibly fatty meal, my mother and I were attracted to a little pastry shop on the corner. There were so many things to choose from! I had heard of pastel de nata as I was researching, so I decided o give it a try. It was fantastic! Perfectly sweet and creamy. I could have easily eaten 3-4. I also bought another random pastry, just to give it a try. It was good, but I definitely would stick to the pastel de nata.

A while later, high on the sugar rush, I decided to try yet another pastry I had seen in all of the store windows… I’m not sure what it’s called, bu it looked interesting. It was gross. I had to throw it away. I was basically a partially cooked egg inside a flavorless crust (or a least that is what it tasted like).

As we were walking around, we noticed a group of singers in old, traditional clothing. That day, we saw at least 2 or 3 of these groups going around singing. I have no idea what was happening, but it was interesting to see!

We wandered over to the other side of the city to see the Lello Bookshop, famous for being one of the inspirations of Harry Potter. Unfortunately, it was a big disappointment. The store was very full, for one, and they didn’t allow pictures at all. And for a place so famous and well-known, you’d think they keep the place in shape… the famous stairs were all scuffed up and the whole place looked a bit dreary. And the shopkeepers were extremely rude. Here are some pictures regardless that you can find on google images, and I promise you it looks better in the pictures. 

From there, we wandered down the hill towards the famous Douro River. It is such a beautiful city with so much to explore! Like this strange park with floating disco balls.

Many of the buildings seem very run-down, unfortunately. In fact, a few of them had signs up saying that it was unsafe to occupy the building. However, once you get closer to the river things brighten up with vendors selling their wares and lovely, brightly-colored buildings. Oh, and more restaurants than you can count!We ended up arriving right on time to take a river cruise at sunset, the last of the day. It was €10 and well worth every cent! The views there are just unbelievable. Seeing all of the lovely European buildings spread out carefully over the hills and the handful of bridges connecting both sides… it was just magical. I’ve also never seen so many giant bridges in my life. I’ll shutup for a bit… the pictures speak for themselves.

My first west coast sunset in months! West coast, best coast.

After seeing so much beauty that we didn’t know what to do with ourselves, we decided to grab dinner at a small restaurant right along the Douro River. We got their famous assa chouriço, a sausage that cooks right in front of you on fire. It is such a fun thing to order! (read more about it here). And the view at night couldn’t be beat.

Right along the river they also had many vendors selling cheap items like table cloths, little bottles of Port wine, and various souveniers with the famous lucky Portuguese chicken on it. We ended up buying a few little bottles of Port to try them out and keep us warm 🙂 When in Porto… drink Port! And Ginja, a strong cherry liqueur.

Spanish Idioms, #6: Es Pan Comido

I was listening to the radio with my host dad as we were on our way to the school. It’s an English station that aims to teach conversational English to Spanish speakers, and it actually turns out to be pretty helpful for me as well (he explains common colloquial sayings in Spanish, so I end up learning, too!). The announcer used this expression and I was really confused – luckily the host dad was able to explain it to me:

Es pan comido.

Literally, it translates to “It is eaten bread.” He explained that you use this expression when something is really easy, such as an exam or riding a bike. The english equivalent would be “It’s a piece of cake” or “It’s a breeze.” I think this will come in handy for me! Especially as a teacher of some whiny students 😉

Weekend Getaway to Lyon, France, Part III: Les Halles Paul Bocuse Market, the Zoo, and a Sad Goodbye!

It was our last day in Lyon, and there was still so much I wanted to see. Unfortunately our flight was at 4pm, so we didn’t have all that much time. The plan was originally to have brunch, go to the Paul Bocuse market, and then the famous park. We only got 2 of them done (it’s hard to wake girls up in the morning), but it was a nice last day regardless.

We started at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, a large market selling everything from vegetables to seafood and sweets. The name Paul Bocuse holds a lot of weight in Lyon, the man has famous restaurants spread throughout the city. It was nice to see all of the different foods on display, and it probably would’ve been really nice to join many of the other French locals in having some white wine and oysters (I guess it’s a thing there?). However, I would recommend doing this on a rainy or relaxed day… it was nice to see, but there were so many other things to see in Lyon that I couldn’t relax!

There was one pastry I had never seen before: a pink pecan pie / tart. I still don’t understand how it became pink! But they were everywhere, and obviously very popular (see below). I tried a little mini tart and it was pretty tasty, but a little strange.

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Pink Pecan Pie? Say that 3 times fast.

After we saw our fill of decadence, we walked over to the Parc de la Tête d’Or (about a 20 minute walk from the market). It is a huge and very popular park on the east bank of Lyon. There were lots of people out jogging on that sunny day. The best part about the park? There was a free zoo! It made the little kid come out in all of us.15812_10153120657498162_8630147041139882711_n 19308_10153120656758162_5799640758340145148_n 10348466_10153120658878162_4053829277779108486_n 10405476_10153120657938162_1620970285394514965_n 10407314_10153120663193162_2623381908335052734_n 10616010_10153120659698162_4547364937209668876_n

Also, there was a great photo op there… and we all know how important photos are!

After wandering around for awhile, we had to rush back to the hostel to pick up our things and then head for the airport. It was a little stressful because we cut it very close, but alas! Luck was on our side. We made it back home to sweet, sunny Barcelona… but I am still dying to go on my next trip!

Spanish Idioms, #5: Media naranja

In class one day, we were working on making personal goals and objectives in English. After about 5 minutes, two girls called me over and asked me what “Media naranja” meant in English. Confused, I replied “Err… half orange…?” and wondered how the hell that had anything to do with their goals.

“Media naranja.”

Their usual English teacher, also a good friend of mine, overheard this exchange and started laughing. She explained that ‘media naranja’ is actually the Spanish way of saying soul matebetter half, or other half. I almost melted, I loved the expression immediately! It’s such a cute way of saying it. But why an orange?!

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However, after discussing it with another Catalan friend of mine, she told me she absolutely hated it. She says it implies that we’re not complete until we have a partner in our lives, but really, we should be whole on our own. I hadn’t thought about it like that, but she makes a very valid point. If you come into a relationship hoping that the other person will fill what’s missing in your life, I doubt that relationship will last very long.

Regardless, I think this is such a cute idiom ❤

Weekend Getaway to Lyon, France, Part II: Markets, Sweets, Chocolate Waterfalls, and Optical Illusions

We were in Lyon for 3 days, and Lyon is kind of divided into 3 parts, so we figured it’d be perfect to explore one area per day. Friday, when we arrived, we explored the west side to the left of the Saône river called the Vieux area (read more about it here). On Saturday, we decided to explore the middle section of Lyon, in between the Saône and Rhône river. Our hostel was located right in the center of the city, so it was perfect. Nearby was the Opéra de Lyon and the Hôtel de Ville, or city hall, of Lyon. Such beautiful buildings!

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Hôtel de Ville, with beautiful gold accents.

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Opéra de Lyon

Nearby the Hôtel de Ville, we met a group celebrating a bachelor party (even though it was only 10am). They saw us taking pictures and begged us to take a photo of them, and then got a picture of us with them as well.

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La Fontaine Bartholdi in Place des Terreaux

We headed north to visit La Croix-Rousse, the portion of Lyon that is situated up on a hill. We decided to walk it instead of using public transportation so we could explore, but it did take us at least an hour to finally get to the top. It had a different vibe to it than the center of the city; more graffiti (although some of it was pretty artsy, I must say) and my friends thought it seemed a bit more run down. But when we finally got to the main street of La Croix-Rousse, we really enjoyed it.

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This area is also famous for it’s Traboules, little secret passageways that the silk weavers and soldiers use to use way, way back (I also mentioned them here). We found one as we were walking because there was a big group of tourists at the front, so we decided to go check it out. We followed some vague signs (one had an arrow and a picture of a lion, another an arrow in the opposite direction with an eye) but we really couldn’t find anything of much interest… we just kept wandering around in circles through various apartment buildings. I really wish we had invested in a guide for this part of the trip, because there were no signs anywhere to explain anything. You really do need to know where you’re going to find these!

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When we finally reached the top of the hill, we found ourselves at Rue Hénon, one of the main streets. We were super lucky because there was a big farmer’s market going on there which was really nice to see. There were hundreds of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, soaps, various meats, flowers, etc. We ended up buying some beautiful pastries that were to die for!

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Where are all of the people?! The city seemed nearly deserted at certain points.

We were getting quite hungry at this point, so we began searching for a cafe. We came across this lovely square with a merry go-round, we wish it was in use… so pretty!DSCN3199

We found a nice looking cafe on the corner with a decent meal option: an appetizer, entree and drink for about €16. And the food looked great, so we gave it a go. Inside, everyone was a local so it seemed like a good choice.

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Delicious smoked-salmon salad. Underneath the salmon was a large mound of creamy dill sauce.

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My friend’s Lyonnaise salad, topped with a poached egg.

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Our fantastic main entree: chicken, the plate of the day. It was very tasty! I know, chicken seems like a boring choice… but we couldn’t really read what anything else said =X We saw another person order raw ground beef… so it seemed like a safe option to order the chicken.

DSCN3202After our delicious lunch, we went out in search of a chocolate shop that people had raved about online. On the way, we passed by this amazing little sweets store and had a local French woman tell us that we absolutely had to go inside, that it was famous and was on TV. We heeded her advice and bought some macaroons – they were delicious! I couldn’t leave France without eating a macaroon… or 3. I tried caramel (per the ladies recommendation), raspberry, and violet. The place was called Bouillet, and it turns out that it is connected with the place we were trying to find, Chokola.

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It turns out that the main reason you should go to Chokola! is to see the chocolate waterfall. It was so cool to watch! It made us hungry. However, here there is less sweets in general and more random things made from chocolate. I also think it was a little bit pricier, but definitely worth the visit for that waterfall!

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About a 10 minute walk from there was the Mur des Canuts of Lyon, Europe’s largest fresco and optical illusion. When you look at it, it looks as though there are steps going up through the building with other buildings and people behind… but it is, in fact, just a painting. So trippy to look at! DSCN3223 DSCN3225     DSCN3230 DSCN3231 DSCN3232In that area, that was pretty much all we had came to see so we started wandering back towards the center of the city. I know I’ve said this before, but it really was amazing just how few people were out and about on a weekend. We stumbled upon this church which appeared to be under construction. It looked a bit creepy from outside, but we decided to check it out anyways. When we got into the small antechamber, we couldn’t figure out how to get inside the actual chapel… when we opened one door, there was another similar door right behind it. It was super trippy. We ended up power-walking quickly away from the church thinking it was haunted when we heard an old lady calling us from the doorway, asking us in French if we wanted to go inside… Super creepy, but it turned out to be absolutely gorgeous on the inside. DSCN3235 DSCN3237

After that, we just wandered around aimlessly a bit more, got some drinks, and then met up with the people at the hostel later to go to a club.

DSCN3242 DSCN3244 DSCN3246  DSCN3250 DSCN3251 DSCN3252  DSCN3255 DSCN3256   DSCN3263That night, we ended up going to Ayers Rock, an Australian themed club. It was actually pretty fun in the end, but it started out rough. It took us at least 30 minutes to get our drinks (crazily ridiculous), and some of the mixed drinks they served were disgusting. They also played some weird music for a bit, but it was a very fun atmosphere with people dancing on tables and the bartenders spraying water into the crowds during some really intense songs. It was good fun!

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Weekend Getaway to Lyon, France, Part I: Vieux, La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, and Roman Ruins

Time seems to be flying by, and I don’t like it! I’m only two weeks away from moving in with my third host family, which means there are only 3 months left in the program 😦 How did that happen?! What am I going to do next?!

My immediate reaction has been to plan as many trips as possible during my time left here. This last weekend, some friends from the program and I hopped on a plane to go see the beautiful city of Lyon, France. Haven’t heard about it? Don’t worry, we hadn’t either. But tickets were cheap and, when we asked other people in the program if they knew anything about it, a few people said it was great. So off we went!

We had set off to the airport around 5am but, but after all of the hassle of getting to the airport, the flight, and the plane ride, we ended up ready to explore the city around noon… and we were ravenous. We heard from our hostel that most of the places in the center of the city are way overpriced, and that we should head across the river to the west side that had the La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. We heeded their advice and headed on over, passing some beautiful views along the way.

La Saône River, west side of Lyon

Paroisse Catholique Saint Nizier

I have a weakness for cities with rivers. I don’t know what it is about the water, but I absolutely adore it. I think rivers and beaches make cities 100x prettier. So the fact that Lyon was a city situated along two rivers really impressed me. The way the buildings reflect off the river, boat cruises, the lights at night… it is just fantastic. Oh, and hills… I have another thing for hills. Not walking up them, of course (that’s never fun), but seeing the views from the top. I love that you can look down a street and see the entire city laid out before you.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière on the top of the hill, and the mini-eiffel tower (Metallic tower of Fourvière) to the right.

Once we crossed the river, we began a desperate search for something to eat. None of us really spoke French, which was a problem… I tried learning the basic phrases but my accent just sucked. We ended up deciding on a little cafe (Crock ‘N’ Roll) that had a lot of locals inside, so it seemed to be a good choice. The menu had various options of a sandwich, salad, drink and dessert for about €13. I got a delicious ham sandwich with a dessert of “white cheese.” We were a little skeptical about the dessert but decided to try it since, hey, when in France… eat cheese. It was tasty! It came in a glass, pretty much purely liquid like yogurt. Then you poured honey and sugar into it because calories don’t count while you’re on vacation 😉

‘The Streets’ Sandwich. Pretty tasty! French Comte cheese, Ham, Mushrooms… yum! Everyone’s sandwich was pretty tasty.

The bathroom at the restaurant. A strange thing to take a picture of, I know, but I thought the collage was pretty cool!

After that, we wandered around the Vieux part of Lyon, a renaissance district and famous for it’s bouchons (nice restaurants) and traboules (old secret pathways used during the silk-weaving period and also the war). It was a really nice area to explore because it was just so French-looking. I’m sad we didn’t make it to a bouchon this trip (they were a tad pricy), but the whole area was beautiful.

  Another thing about France that I suppose is to be expected… There are more pastry and chocolate shops than you can count. And everything just looked so amazing! Even after eating a full meal we’d always stop at one of these shops and stare into the window, salivating. They were very creative with the way they presented everything. Some of the chocolates didn’t look real, and others (like in this picture) were made to look like corks and wine bottles. Yum!

I happened to notice a couple tourists enter this small alleyway, so we followed them since I was aware of the Traboules. I kind of wish we had hired a guide to show us around because, during the whole weekend, we only found a couple of them and didn’t really know the history about them. You really have to know what to look for, I hear some of the traboules are only accessed by knowing which closed doors you can go through. I was afraid of knocking on someone’s front door! Especially with my limited French.

After that, we stumbled upon the beautiful Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Unfortunately it was under construction on the inside, so we didn’t get to see much, but I was struck by the exterior. I loved the detail in the circular window at the top, which was a bit difficult to capture by camera.

Because you can never see enough churches in Europe, we decided to trek up the hill to see La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. It is definitely worth the climb, but try to ask locals for the correct way to go! We ended up taking a very long and roundabout route and got lost a few times. Luckily, because we went the wrong way, we also stumbled upon the The Ruins of Lugdunum, Fourviere Hill. They are ancient roman baths, and it’s interesting to wander around and maybe have a rest by sitting in one of the grand ampitheatres.

Just a short walk away from the Roman ruins, you find the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. I am not impressed by too many cathedrals since I have seen so many in my life that they start blurring together, but I really enjoyed this one (another that stands out in my mind is the mind-blowing Sagrada Familia). There is a lot of detail on the outside, including the golden man on the tower, but the inside is what really impressed me. There was so much gold and color, it was incredible.

  There’s also some amazing views from right outside the cathedral. I’m a sucker for cityscapes. We met some really nice guys there who were living in France, they were nice enough to show us around a bit.

On our way down the hill, we decided to take a different route. There are billions of stairs every which direction, such as the one shown below. We neared the bottom when a guy asked us nicely to wait a moment because they were shooting a film at the bottom steps. It was super cool to see all of the film equipment and the filming in progress. Now I want to see it!

After that, we just wandered the city aimlessly to take it all in. It is such a gorgeous city to walk around, but it was surprising because there weren’t many people around at all. Such a big city, so few people! But everyone came out at night in the clubs.

The coolest entrance I have seen to a bookstore!

We met some fun people at our hostel and went with them to the Boston Café right behind the statue shown above. I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone to go… it was alright, but (as with many French people, I have noticed) the staff were incredibly rude to non-French speaking people. Order in French or they’ll chastise you that you are, in fact, in France and need to speak French. Or (like me) attempt to order in French and have them still glare at you because your accent isn’t perfect.

Anyways, another thing to mention about Lyon is that drinks are pretty damn pricey.  It was hard to find a beer for under €5.50, which was surprising because that’s on par with Dublin‘s crazy pricing (which makes more sense, since Dublin is known for their beer). We ordered beers at Boston Cafe, and a couple of the girls added syrup to theirs. I guess it is common in France to flavor your beer with syrups like peach, raspberry, strawberry, etc. I had a taste of one of my friend’s and it didn’t taste awful, but I definitely prefer my beer straight up.

The bar played some strange music… we were there for about two hours and the music didn’t get any better. There were some old hits that we could get down to, but the majority was really strange. Again, I wouldn’t recommend going there.

We ended up leaving and pretty much as soon as we left, we were approached by a group of 4 guys begging us to go back into the club with them and they’d buy our drinks for us. I was really thrown back by this; I guess it is really difficult for men to get into a club without women because they want a higher ratio of ladies. We politely declined but they kept insisting. We got even further and yet another group of guys approached us asking for the same thing. After saying no for the 5th time, a girl from their group came up to us and said “You guys want drugs?” Wow, that escalated quickly. We quickly said no and rushed off. A definitely strange end to the night!