A Mild Addiction

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I remember in the months leading up to beginning my journey as an expat, I naively believed that I would become an instant minimalist, forever moving through life with no more than a couple of suitcases. As it turns out, I can fill up an apartment remarkably quickly. For the most part, we have tried to avoid accumulating more than what is necessary to live comfortably. That being said, we all have an Achilles heel and ours seems to involve coffee mugs.

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It all started with this mug, a cool and thoughtful Christmas gift from my husband. Before that, we had been using drab, secondhand mugs left behind from previous teachers.

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Just a few weeks later, I acquired this amazing, nerdtastic beauty as a New Year’s gift from a student. When I asked him how he knew I was a Game of Thrones fan, he simply responded “I didn’t.” To this day, I wonder what it was about FIRE and BLOOD that made him think of me. In any case, I love this mug.

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Generally speaking, I’m not much of a Starbucks fan, but it is so ubiquitous that a frequent traveler can hardly avoid the place. I actually fell in love with the Istanbul “You Are Here” mug on an outing with friends and bought it for Dakota. When I went to NYC last summer, I couldn’t help myself.

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We bought these lovely Gaudi-inspired pieces on our trip to Barcelona and I just love them. Perfect for cortados.

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These were a cheap and frivolous purchase from our summer trip to Alaçatı. I love the colors and textures.

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Our most recent addition to the collection is this set of mini mugs that we purchased in Jordan. They are slightly larger than espresso cups and have very interesting designs.

Sometimes I look at our cupboards and lament the fact that we have so many damn cups we don’t need. Other times, I stare at them all one by one as I am reminded that each one of them carries a story with it. I can’t imagine parting with any of them and yet I can’t imagine packing them all in a suitcase. That is what is so hard.

The thing about being an expat is that you never really know when you will move on until you do. We have gotten so comfortable in this stage of life, but something in the air has been telling me that it’s time to start thinking about the future. I guess this is my way of recording this time and these memories while I am still in this moment. For now, I can enjoy my collection just a little longer.

Back in Barcelona

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I was excited to re-visit Barcelona after almost a decade, especially because it would be the first time I ever returned to an international destination (unless you count Turkey, of course).  I was also a little nervous.  I fell in love with the city immediately the first time; I loved it even more than I loved Paris, which is really saying something coming from a former French major.  I wondered how different it would be, and even though I couldn’t possibly expect it to be the same, I hoped I would love it just as much.

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The moment I stepped off the bus and into the city, I wondered what I had even been worried about.  Even though we were exhausted and it was late, the second I set eyes on the beautiful Casa Batlló all lit up under the night sky, I felt elated to be back.  We struck gold with our accommodation, scoring an incredible apartment with a balcony in the city center with one of the kindest hosts I have ever met.  It was after midnight when we arrived, but she waited up for us, ready with maps and all the advice we could possibly need to explore the city.  I couldn’t recommend the place enough!

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When we woke up from a good night’s sleep ready to explore, we headed first to the famous Sagrada Familia.  I was curious to see how much it had changed since I had seen it last and was amazed to see how big the crowds were and how much had been added to it!  I really do wonder if it will ever be finished.

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We continued on to the other Gaudi essentials in our area and then headed to the Gothic neighborhood, which was something I hadn’t done on my first trip.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day and there were tons of people and street performers in every alley!  There were also a lot of delicious restaurants and we definitely overindulged on chorizo.

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We slowly made our way to the marina, where my husband – who is something of a nap enthusiast- took a nice siesta in the sunshine.

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Before the sun set, we made it over to Park Guell, another of Gaudi’s masterpieces.  We got some really great views of the city up on the trail.

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After a long and tiring day of trekking all over Barcelona, we ended our day perfectly with an enormous pan of paella!

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I was so not ready to leave Barcelona, or Spain in general, and I remember snapping this sappy last photo from our balcony window!  Barcelona, you still have my heart.

La Alhambra

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What a beautiful, magical place this is…certainly fit for royalty.  A feast for the senses, to be sure, with lavender-scented air, sunshine, a light breeze, and some of the most stunning architecture known to humanity.

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It is impossible to fully capture the beauty of this place, with its intricately carved pillars, arches, tiles, and ceilings…but seeing it in person was the real treasure anyway.

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I dare you not to pretend you’re on Game of Thrones when you see these chairs.

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If you want to visit, you have to be diligent and plan ahead.  The tickets often sell out weeks in advance, especially during peak season.  They also do not issue tickets anywhere but at the palace, so you have to be prepared to wait at least an hour just to retrieve your reserved tickets…and then you have to be sure you can make your appointment to the Nasrid Palaces (the most beautiful part by far) because you will not be allowed to enter at any other time.

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In spite of the logistic difficulties, it is more than worth it to see this small slice of heaven. Don’t forget to enjoy a cold Spanish beer in the courtyard after your tour and let it all sink in.

Sunny Sevilla

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Perfect weather, fabulous food, and outstanding aesthetic that is typical of Spain were waiting for us when we arrived by bus in the early afternoon.  Right away we opened our city maps and started exploring.

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First on our list was the beautiful and enormous Seville Cathedral (the 3rd largest church in the world!).  The highlight was definitely climbing the bell tower to take in the panoramic views of the city below.  Fun fact:  the giant bell tower was once a minaret.

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Our next plan was to see the Alcazar, but unfortunately they were all booked up for both of the days we would be there.  We didn’t want to waste time on mourning, so we set our sights on exploring the rest of the city, including the cool and quirky Metropol Parasol.

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On day two, we spent most of the day at Plaza de Espana, which was  incredible!  We rented a rowboat for a better view and afterward, we rented a tandem bike and rode through the whole park.  Talk about a magical afternoon!

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We walked back towards the cathedral for a good dinner (pork covered in pork with a side of garlic and more pork…) and a pitcher of sangria.  We especially enjoyed watching all of the street performers, among which included some snazzy flamenco dancers.

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We only had two days, but it felt like we were able to do so much and easily could have stayed longer and found more to do.  It was an amazing leg of our journey and definitely a must if you’re visiting Southern Spain.

On the Streets of Andalucia

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I fell in love with Spain when I first visited in 2009 on my very first trip abroad.  The people were friendly and laid back, the food was delicious, and the architecture was out of this world.  I knew next to nothing about travel at that time, but even then, I knew that Spain would be a place to go back to.

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My husband – who is a bit of an architecture and street photography junkie – suggested it as a Spring Break destination and it just felt right.  I was stoked to see an old favorite place with more experienced eyes, as well as explore some new parts of the country.

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On my first trip, I only made it to Barcelona and Madrid; this time, I had my heart set on the sunny south.  I wanted to see the enchanting remnants of Moorish architecture and wander the streets in search of new tapas.

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From Granada to Sevilla and back again, every twist and turn looked like something straight out of a storybook.  If you find yourself on the streets of Andalucia (and you certainly should), don’t be afraid to get lost.  That’s half of the magic.

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