12 April 2008

How to get a free meal in the Basque Country

1. Walk around in the rain until you find a fancy restaurant next to a large convention center.
2. Order expensive, multi-course meal.
3. Wait for bomb threat.

Yes it's true. It's my first day in San Sebastian with my parents who arrived today to visit, and what better way than celebrating their arrival then having a up-close encounter with a threatened terror attack?!

Yes, my Dad and I headed out to at a nice restaurant and enjoyed olives and a cocktail, a great appetizer, and had almost finished our main dish when the waiter came over and quickly said in Spanish: "You have to leave." We grabbed our things and walked out of the restaurant along with the 50 some patrons and the wait staff and then I asked one of the waitresses what was going on. She told me that there was a bomb threat, presumably from the terrorist organization in Basque Country, E.T.A. Apparently there was a big conference next door to our restaurant where some 2,500 people were dining and that gathering was threatened. Since our restaurant was in the vicinity, it also had to be cleared. I asked the waitress how long it would take before we would get back in and she said, "Muchas horas." We waited for a while at a safe distance, but nothing happened. So, in the end, we decided to leave. The best part was we had a good meal and didn't have to pay! We celebrated with a glass of wine before coming back to our hotel after our rough and tough encounter with terror.

Remember, you're either with us or against us...or you exploit terror for a free dinner. Yum.

01 April 2008

The Threshold of a Movement

I just returned to Laredo after two weeks of Easter holidays in the white elephant of Europe. France. I say the white elephant because France is that big country in the middle that I never really had any keen interest on visiting. I stopped for two days on a whirlwind travel a decade ago, but never really got the feel for it. This time I did, and it was great! 5 days in Paris and then 3 days Nantes. Really great.

I arrived with Elisa to Paris where we meet with our friend Olivier. We walked through the metro with our bags, up and down stairs and arrived to his posh apartment next to the Eiffel Tower. He was telling us how the day before he had forgotten his keys and how it would be bad to do that now because his roommates were gone for Easter hours from Paris until Monday night. While upon inspection of all his pockets, he did just that. So we head back through the metro and stayed with his friends, who were great hosts showing us Paris and letting us take over their small apartment. We enjoyed the sights in Paris, my favorite was Monmatre, and as someone noted, Paris is really like an entire museum. It seems everywhere you walk is something historic. We stumbled upon many treasures such as an Easter mass service in Notre Dame complete with organ, multiple choirs, incense, and un monton de gente...a lot of people. We also escaped the city for a great day in Versailles where we saw the palace and gardens just like the photos in history books and also walked through the little village with little shops and streets that were so, well, French.

After Paris we headed to Nantes for a cozy visit with our friends Pauline, Jose, and Myrtille. It was my favorite part of the trip. Nantes is a university town with a relaxed, alternative feel. We found one of the coolest cafes I've ever been in: an old cookie factory converted to cafe, office space, concert scene, and turkish bath center...right on the river! The five of us then traveled in car to the coast of France and enjoyed a crepe on the Brittany coast before heading to Pauline's house in the rural countryside of France complete with cows, crops, and one of the most beautiful, rural French homes I have ever seen. Her family was so welcoming and treated us to a great meal (of Norwegian salmon!) and we had a great time relaxing in the French countryside before taking an all day trip in train and bus back to Spain.

Not only did we have a great Easter trip, we also witnessed the supposed beginning of a new movement, or so Olivier told us. I always thought it would be so cool to be on the threshold of a movement like punk in the 80's, or Woodstock in '69 or Flappers in the 20's or whatever it might be. Well, apparently the movement that will soon be storming the world is tektonik, and it's a perfect movement for me because it involves crazy dancing with lots of rubbery arm movements. We saw some tektonik youth in Paris and they all dress in kind of retro 80's clothes, very neon and bright and tight, with tight black jeans, old bright shoes, and mohawks and funky hairstyles. You can check out this video for the full effect including the trance type music that accompanies the dance. Not sure if there is a political tilt to their style or if it's just a way to create a dance that white men can do, but be on the lookout.

And wah la. That was Easter. Now back in Spain. I enjoyed a successful weekend in Valladolid where our ultimate frisbee team won La Copa de Castilla and enjoyed a great weekend of frisbee and comradery. This weekend, my parents arrive for a week of excursions and showing off North Spain. Woo hoo!

Happy dancing from Spain.