Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

Libros de España

libros viajes casa del libro sevilla

As regular readers know, earlier this summer, I returned to Spain for the first time in nearly a decade. Naturally, my favorite way to prepare for travel is to dive into a stack of relevant books.

Besides the excellent Lonely Planet Andalucía, which I found indispensable, I discovered several books that made my trip both más fácil (easier) and más divertido (more fun).

Patricia Harris writes with verve and a keen eye for detail about 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go (which I picked up at the Book Catapult in San Diego this spring). Divided by region, Harris’ guide includes all the classics: Granada’s stunning Alhambra, live flamenco performances, tiny tapas bars and sprawling markets. But it’s also full of quirky gems: an olive oil tasting workshop; the house of a former duchess, now a museum; a meditation on the title character of Bizet’s opera Carmen. Harris’s book sparked my enthusiasm and inspired me to take in a few unusual sights.

While I did rent a bike one afternoon in Sevilla, I still stand in awe of British cyclist Polly Evans’s intrepid journey through Spain on two wheels, chronicled with dry wit in her memoir It’s Not About the Tapas (which I read years ago, on another trip to Spain). From San Sebastián to the Costa del Sol, Evans battled fatigue, recalcitrant bike gears and the local wildlife (including goats), as she sampled the food, culture and cycling trails in every region of Spain. It’s a highly entertaining journey through a vivid, fascinating country.

My vacation reading stack included Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind, which I’d been meaning to read for years. Though I didn’t visit Barcelona on this trip, Zafón’s utterly bewitching novel of postwar love and revenge–set in a bookshop!–had me spellbound on our bus rides between various cities.

Needless to say, I’m already planning my next viaje a España–and the requisite reading material. ¡Olé!

Note: I originally wrote most of this post as a column for Shelf Awareness, where I’m a regular contributor.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

libros viajes casa del libro sevilla

Hello, friends. I’m back from a glorious 10-day vacation in Spain, which included (among other things) lots of librerías.

I’m not fluent in Spanish, so I couldn’t read most of the books, but I loved seeing foreign editions of books I know and new-to-me libros in Spanish. This shot is from Casa del Libro in Sevilla.

I brought along a pile of English-language books to read, and here they are:

My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan
Roxanne sent me a link to this book and of course I had to pick it up: a young American woman who’s always dreamed of Oxford goes there as a Rhodes scholar, and falls in love with the city (and more). A little frothy, but with surprising depth, an engaging cast of characters and so many wonderful details about my favorite city.

It Happened Like This: A Life in Alaska, Adrienne Lindholm
Lindholm has always had a taste for wildness and open space – so she moved to Alaska in her twenties, chasing both. She chronicles her journey in an honest, luminous memoir of her years working for the National Park Service and building a life in the backcountry. Thoughtful and compelling and lovely. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 21).

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Barcelona, 1945: Daniel Sempere visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books with his father and discovers a novel by an obscure author called Julián Carax. As Daniel digs into Carax’s life story, he gets caught up in a twisting narrative of love, revenge and family secrets. An absolutely fantastic, dark, witty, absorbing novel – reading it on bus rides between Spanish cities was just perfect.

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, Mario Giordano
When she turns sixty, Auntie Poldi retires to Sicily, intending to drink herself peacefully to death. To her surprise, she finds herself enjoying her new hometown. And when her young handyman is murdered, she tries her hand at a bit of amateur sleuthing. A witty, vividly described, slightly madcap mystery romp full of colorful characters. First in a new series. Recommended by Anne (it’s in her Summer Reading Guide).

Jolly Foul Play, Robin Stevens
When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong return to their boarding school, an unpopular fellow student is murdered right under their noses. But who killed her, and why? Who is spreading rumors and secrets around the school? And can Daisy swallow her pride and let a few other friends help with the detecting? Stevens’ fourth mystery had both an excellent plot and some keen insight from Hazel about how people treat one another.

The Secret Ways of Perfume, Cristina Caboti
Elena Rossini comes from a long line of female perfumiers, but she’s fought against making perfume her career and life. At a crossroads, though, she moves to Paris and begins to embrace perfume. This novel started strong (and the scent descriptions are wonderful) but fell a bit flat toward the end. Still fun. Found at Librería Reguera in Sevilla.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »

It would be a stretch to say I measure my life by the Olympics, since I’m not all that athletic and I don’t follow most of these sports in the intervening years. But my memories of certain Olympic Games are definitely tied to memories of what was going on in my life at that time. As we’ve watched the drama and glory unfold in London, I’ve been remembering other Olympic summers.

The first Olympics I remember were the ’92 Barcelona Games, not so much for the Dream Team (though I did watch them) as for the gymnastics. My sister is the one who took lessons, but my whole family watched in awe as Vitaly Scherbo dominated the men’s competition. The Berlin Wall hadn’t been down all that long, and there was a lot of confusion over where, exactly, all these countries from the former Soviet Union were located.

(Twelve years later, as a college student, I walked through Montjuic, the area of south Barcelona containing many of the Olympic venues. After nine days trekking through six Spanish cities and a near-miss when terrorists bombed the train station in Madrid, an afternoon in Montjuic, with its pools and parks, was balm to my soul.)

olympic pools montjuic barcelona spain

Olympic pools in Montjuic, Barcelona

I was 12, just old enough to be captivated, when the Magnificent Seven dominated the women’s gymnastics competition in the Atlanta ’96 games. I cut out newspaper clippings of Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller and their teammates, to glue into a scrapbook streaked with red, blue and silver glitter. I remember Dominique Moceanu’s sassy floor routine to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and standing in the living room gasping and cheering as Kerri Strug completed her historic pair of vaults. Every time they show that clip on TV, I can hear my dad’s voice saying, “Girls, you’re watching history.” And we were.

The 2004 Athens Games began as I returned to Abilene to begin my junior year of college (after spending the spring in Oxford). The day after the Opening Ceremonies, my friend Cheryl was killed in a car wreck, leaving our Oxford group stunned and numb. Those Olympics are mostly a blur now, though I remember spending hours at the house we called House 9 (our group’s headquarters till we graduated from college), watching swimming and diving and gymnastics without really seeing them, trying to take in what had happened. The joy of the Games was a stark contrast to the first real tragedy I’d ever had to deal with.

When J and I got married in June 2008, we inherited an old, bulky TV from my parents – an unwieldy number, nearly as deep as it was wide. We had neither a cable subscription nor a sufficiently wide stand, so we set it in the corner of our living room (classy, I know). Between finishing a master’s thesis (me), working on graduate school assignments (Jeremiah) and unpacking our new home and settling into life together (both of us), we watched Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin wow the world in Beijing, and watched Michael Phelps rack up more and more and more medals, and flash that smile of his after every race.

This Olympics began for us in D.C., where we toasted the London opening ceremonies with tea and scones at Jaclyn’s house. We’ve had the TV on every night (unusual for us), watching the stories unfold. We particularly love the swimming (Michael Phelps! Missy Franklin! The entire U.S. team in relays!), the gymnastics (Gabby Douglas and the whole women’s squad), and women’s beach volleyball (Kerri and Misty!).

The Olympics are the only sporting event which excites both of us equally (I’ve been yelling at the TV even more than Jeremiah). We make fun of the commentators’ hyperbole, we beg for more coverage of  non-U.S. athletes, we roll our eyes at the hundreds of commercials. But we can’t tear our eyes away. We love the thrill, the glory, the drama, the stories. And I love that the Olympics, winter and summer, are now bound up with the story of our life together.

What do you love and remember about the Summer Olympics? I’d love to hear your memories.

Read Full Post »