ANXO Tasting Room hosts La Vuelta viewing party Saturday, September 9th.

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Love Breakfast? Sports? Cider? Cycling? Spain? Coffee?

Make your way to Anxo Cidery and Tapas Bar on Saturday, September 9th for a special  Vuelta a España celebration and watch party.

Next Saturday the final Grand Tour of the 2017 cycling season will be rolling through the north of Spain and streaming live at Anxo’s Kennedy Street location. Given the time difference from Spain and limited coverage, the race can be tough to catch live. Fortunately on the 9th, ANXO will make it accessible for all to enjoy whether you’re a cycling aficionado, foodie, or just love Spain!

Tasting Room Bar-3.jpg  Cider Barrels-7.jpg

ANXO, which has received glowing reviews and expanded to include three full locations since opening a year ago, has built its brand on celebrating ciders both domestic and from abroad and draws its personality from the Spanish “Pinchos” style menu that pairs perfectly with their vinos, vermouth, and very delicious natural ciders from the north of Spain. Included in that offering are celebrated “sidras naturales” from the north of Spain in the Basque country and Asturias. Along with the race itself, coverage of La Vuelta provides beautiful views of and intelligent commentary on the local geography and culture.With next Saturday’s stage taking place in Asturias, what better place to watch than DC’s favorite (and only) Spanish style cidery!

In the morning, they’ll be serving up breakfast and coffee, turning towards celebratory glasses of Ciders, Wines, Beers and Vermouths. In the afternoon they’ll have the replay going as the green pastures and steep mountains of the cider centric Asturias scenery flashes behind the cyclists, many of whom are Spanish (3 in the top ten!).

Check out their Instagram handle or Facebook page for more details. You can find the beautifully designed and perfectly Spanish menu on their website.

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Basque Culture on the Mall- Smithsonian Folklife Faux Pas

A month after returning home from La Rioja, Spain, in the North of Spain, I was thrilled to find that the Smithsonian was centering their annual folk life festival on Basque culture. The Basques are hearty, mountainous and sea-faring folk of northeast Spain and southwest France.

Spanish Basque country is split into the autonomous communities of Pais Vasco (Pie-eese Bah-sko, literally means Basque Country) and Navarra. The French section is just over the Pyrenees mountains and celebrates none of the socio-political autonomy of the Spanish Basques who have maintained Euskera (the name of the Basque language) as an official language and experienced a renaissance of Basque cultural pride despite and perhaps also on account of the efforts of the pro-independence, minority, Basque terror organization ETA which has been defunct since 2012. ETA was founded in response to the harsh repression of the Franco dictatorship of 1939-75 and lost public support quickly in the years following the democratic transition and especially once Al Qaeda came onto the scene in the 2000’s. The seldom spotlighted people in the North of Spain and South of France are composed of strong, hearty folks with deep ties to the land and the sea who are resourceful, industrious, and proud.

In a big way, the Smithsonian festival makes strides in promoting the Basque Country authentically. It therefore also presents a picture of Spanish culture that is distinct from the “Running-of-the-Bulls,” siesta-sangria, beach stereotypes generated by popular culture surrounding Spain. Instead, to its credit, the Smithsonian partnered with the state government of Pais Vasco as well as the regional governments of the three Basque counties to create programming around maritime, stone working, ceramics, dance, singing, and other cultural themes. The Smithsonian also integrated the University of Nevada’s Basque Library and the Basque History and Culture Museum of Boise, Idaho to help tell the story of Basque migration to the US- something even a Hispanophile like myself had no knowledge of previously.

Given my enthusiasm for the event itself and the impressively thorough and well-presented information throughout its location between 4th and 7th streets on the National Mall, I was disheartened to find that  one of the pivotal pieces of Basque heritage and biggest selling points of Basque tourism was left by the wayside:  gastronomy. It’s a central part of the equation regardless of where we go in the world and, “How’s the food?” is one of the most common questions to ask or be asked upon return from a trip. When you’re coming back from Spain and specifically the Basque country- it’s an easy, profuse and extended answer. There’s great seafood and phenomenal vegetable dishes. There are savory meats and succulent sauces, dangerously delicious desserts and world rocking wines, not to mention the expansive array of goat, sheep and cow cheeses available. Unfortunately, the Folk life Festival misses the mark in this regard.

The Basque Country is famous for a certain type of cheese. There is a stand that demonstrates the making of the renown Idiazabal variety, including a cheese smoker. That’s a great start but, without samples or a way to purchase the cheese, it falls short of really getting folks interested in the Basque culture of cheese.

Wines from the southern Basque province of Araba are world famous and hugely important in the region’s economy. Basque country’s wine earned the most money on wine exports of all of Spain in the first trimester of 2016. Not surprising given the fact that Rioja Alavesa (Araba County) has at least 53 different wine producers alone. Given these facts, how is it that besides a single red variety for sale in a plastic cup for $7, an explanation of the history and production is lacking?

When you pass by the Alabardero sponsored Basque cuisine area, you’ll note enormous posters covering entire barn-sized walls of exquisitely made, incredibly appetizing pinchos. These culinary mini-masterpieces adorn most counter-tops in Bilbao and San Sebastian and are the gold standard for the Spanish tapas culinary culture. What better way to stomach savvy Americans on the merits of a foreign culture than by enticing them with heavenly little treats that also happen to be reasonably healthy and wallet sensitive (at least in Spain)? Common sense. Throw out a few varieties of pinchos on the mall for people to munch on while milling about. No. There are none. Enjoy a recyclable bowl of beef stew, cold black beans, or a cod-burger.  I’m sorry, but, WHAT IS GOING ON?!

Some of this responsibility lies with the Smithsonian itself, some influence dictated by district rules on alcohol at public events, but when the food tent is sponsored by the famous Taberna del Alabardero restaurant, the lacking of wine and cheese combined with a paucity of authentic dishes is just inexcusable.

The Smithsonian and their partners nailed the Basque connection to the sea and land. The migratory study explanation is fascinating. The traditional sports and music piques curiosity and encourages participation. Truly, they did a good job with the event. Two words for the wise, however, for anyone considering a Spain-themed event in the future: FOOD and DRINK. I could have also said, “consult me.”

So, do that- after going to see the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which is open through this weekend, Sunday, July 10th. Just don’t plan on doing lunch there.

Hasta la próxima-

El Oso Folclórico



Closing the chapter, continuing the book.

It’s been a long time coming- the final post of this adventure. If you want to skip around or just get a quick idea for you, the layout is as follows:

  1. Dickinson friends had the courage to offer me a second chance- it was worth it!
  2. Training for the Hamptons Marathon  has already begun.
  3. Lily and I said adios to España and hola to DC
  4. More Minor News….


  • Dickinson friends come to call.

In fall of 2011 I had the pleasure of studying abroad in Málaga, Spain. Before starting my studies there, I headed to Bologna, Italy for a week to visit friends who were studying there. Among them, my closest friend in college and a friend from the dorms who I liked, but knew less well. At the end of my week with them, we had planned a weekend in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest which was wonderful, raucous, joyful, unifying, inebriating (literally) and now brings a soft nostalgic glow to our eyes when we think of it as memories of beer enthusiasts shouting “Prost” and momentary rock stars swallowing full liters of beer in a swig to the wild applause of the hundreds (thousands?) of us around them in the various tents. Anyways, after that excellent experience, my two friends promised to return the favor and come visit me in Málaga. A month and a half later, I gave them the dates for a free weekend and they booked their flights.

Well, it just so happens that I had also been awaiting the announcement for an incredibly enriching cultural trip through Morocco with the Legendary Dickinson In Spain guide and wouldn’t you know, it coincided with the exact date of my friends visit. A dilemma indeed.

“Guys,” I wrote,”I’ve got some bad news. I totally didn’t realize that that is the weekend I’m going to Morocco.”

“Shoot!” (Okay maybe they didn’t use that S word), “Like, you bought your tickets and everything already?”

“Well, no. But, I really want to go. I’ve been planning on it since I decided to study here in Málaga.”

“Okay…well, go another time! We’re coming when you told us and the tickets are bought.”

“Sorry guys, this has got to happen. I promise I’ll leave you an excellent guide of the city. You’ll have a blast. I’ll have to catch up with you back in the states.”

And that’s how we left it. They, of course, did enjoy Málaga (how can you not?) and I had the trip of a lifetime to Morocco and was exceedingly pleased with the choice I had made. Except for the fact, I thought, that I owed them one.

As it turns out, they’re better friends than that. In fact, they did Lily and me a favor. This spring, separately, they both took hard to find vacation days and funds to come to visit Lily and I with their significant others.  Out of all the people to make the trip, it was the ones I had burned on previous plans. Now I know they didn’t forget that I ‘stranded’(read: left alone to enjoy) them in Málaga five years ago, but it’s nice to know that the time in between has solidified our friendship so much that they were willing to try again and give me a chance to finally be their Spanish tour guide.

  • Marathon Training Part deux.

This time with a few guy friends rather than with Lily and her sister Susie, I’m running the Hamptons Marathon on Long Island. Just six and a half months after my intoxicating first Marathon in Barcelona I’ve decided to have a go at what is rated as being one of the most beautiful marathons in the US alongside some of my good friends from my hometown. I’m following essentially the same plan as Barcelona. It alternates hill workouts with track workouts every week, and includes a weekly tempo run which is where you alternate running fast and slow practicing gauging your pace. Long runs, like the actual marathon, I am doing on Saturdays. This is a fantastic change from training for Barcelona because it leaves me time to hang out with friends on Saturday night, and the whole day to recover and be as productive as possible on Sunday. We’re currently 15 weeks out from the October 1 start.

  • Lily and I relocated.

I was talking with someone today about travelling and the things you realize. Most of all for me is that it’s never about where you are. It’s about who you’re with.  Being on a sandy beach in Mexico sipping pina coladas only feels so good before you need to surround yourself again with family and friends. But, if they’re there with you…well, maybe you never leave! Point being, Lily and I both love Spain. Even though we were leaving a place we both loved and had made many great memories, we are thrilled to be starting a new chapter in dc, despite the 6 years she’s already spent there and the 2 I’ve spent commuting. Being here in the nation’s capital now is awe inspiring, even compared to the many capitals of Europe we saw. We’re happy to be home, and happier still to have already seen many of our family and friends with plans to visit more over the summer.

Two things made the transition just that much easier. First, Lily’s childhood friend and her fiancé came to visit during our last week, not only helping us to bring our luggage down to Madrid, but encouraging us not to mope and instead celebrate La Rioja while showing off our favorite parts of Spain. Secondly,we planned a ‘strategic-transitionary-trip’ to Crete to see my older brother and fearless adventuring leader, Max, who is stationed there with the Navy. From the fresh food to the charming Cretan people, to the beautiful beaches and mountains, we were completely enamored. Lily and I would still both agree that the best part of the trip was getting to once again witness Max’s deep belly laugh and freakish athletic ability in person.

  • Lily and I are engaged!

I’ll never forget how nervous and then how happy I was when she said yes on top of Montjuic overlooking the city of Barcelona and the Mediterranean sea.

Pat, my best friend from Dickinson College, and his wonderful wife had come out for the week. He was likely sick of hearing about the fact that I wanted to ask Lily to marry me. He had known since last March when I told him of my wishes that it was coming, but like many who knew that I had the ring with me in Europe, had been patiently awaiting the proposal. Danica, Pat’s wife, was instrumental in helping to make sure Lily wore the right outfit and went along with the plan I had concocted in addition to holding the ring for me in her purse while we took a gondola ride up the famous city-side mountain.

Lily was under the impression that, since it had been Pat’s birthday a couple days before, we were there to continue celebrating and had dressed nicely to commemorate the occasion. When we got to the top, I began reading her a poem I had written and, after refocusing her attention away from the view (it was a great poem, the view was just better…) and avoiding a flock of Nordic tourists, she was hanging on to every word and beaming ear to ear as I dropped to one knee. That’s not to say I didn’t get smacked (playfully) on the arm a couple times for surprising her (She doesn’t love surprises), but still, it was beautiful.

So, that’s that. We’re engaged, about to start working, and happily living in Washington, DC. Come to run, visit, site see, eat, or all of the above.  I will have to develop a new iteration of this blog, but as one chapter closes, another opens. So, we’ll see what comes out!

Much love,

El Oso Curioso

Time to change Spanish time?

I’ve always been a big fan of all things Spanish. The food culture, the bars, the social life, and focus on family, the physical geography and the sense of style- I could go on. But, I do make two exceptions: Bullfighting, which while interesting I find extremely morally conflicting and haven’t made a final decision on, and the lunch-time closing which people erroneously refer to as “the siesta”.

Ignoring the fact that I’ve just put forth two of the most globally available clichés of Spanish culture, let’s take a look at the siesta. First of all, it just means ‘nap’. So you could take a siesta any day even without a midday break. Secondly, as a midday work break, it continuously catches me off guard and inconveniences my consumer needs despite how much experience I have living in Spain, mostly because businesses all choose slightly different hours to open and close. Also, since I was young, my father who could only ever say hola and que tal in a mighty gringo accent would say at least a few times a week: “why don’t you take a little siesta?” or “I’m just gonna take a little siesta here…” It got to the point that the suggested nap became a nuisance, either implying that my plans would have to wait because he was about to sleep, or that I was being a pest and should stop complaining and sleep off my insolence. So, the midday activity pause has always been a thorn in my side.

For the record, Dad, I now look back very fondly at those interactions.

For all of that discussion of the siesta, this post is not about that. Maybe stopping work for a couple hours in the early afternoon doesn’t quite align with other countries timelines, but if you think that there are a plethora of Spaniards conducting international business saying “Sorry, I can’t have a meeting then. That’s lunch time,” you would be wrong as for national sales, people get used to the way of life and do their shopping and financial transactions at the prescribed hours.

In fact, in 2006 the Spanish government passed a law that mandated government workers only receive an hour-long lunch. So while some private businesses still have a three hour break midday, the government has long since put an end to the siesta. But not for the reasons people normally think. They didn’t do it because people were lazy, inefficient, or coming back to work buzzed or groggy with sleep. All records in fact, point to Spaniards who hold a “siesta schedule” being exhausted and overworked, despite the known health benefits of a midday powernap. How? How can Spaniards, who live in the economically struggling land of vino and sunshine, be victims of exhaustion?

Before even looking into the subject, I had an epiphany all of a sudden about the subject while listening to this Freakonomics Podcast episode: 1) Spaniards might be low on the economic totem pole because of sleep 2) This might be caused by how late they stay up and 3) Those late bed times may be geo-temporally influenced. Note: Geo-temporally is a word I just invented to refer to the relationship of their geographical location to their time zone placement.

The Economics of Sleep Part 2, the aforementioned podcast episode, mentions two towns in the United States at the extremes of the Central Time Zone. Huntsville, Alabama is at the very beginning, and Amarillo, TX is at the very end. The sun sets an hour earlier in Huntsville than in Amarillo. According to the American Time Use Survey, this contributes to later bedtimes in Amarillo and in all towns where the sun sets later than other areas in the same time zones.

The idea is essentially that Spain is Amarillo, TX and Germany is Huntsville, AL. Because the sun sets so much later in Spain, along with the better weather on average, lively social culture, and perhaps even due to the siesta, people stay up later at night. However, because they’re stuck in the same time zone as countries like France and Germany farther to the East and separated by the Pyrenees Mountains, they have to wake up at the same time because they are stuck in the Central European Time zone. This means less sleep overall, even with a “siesta,” which, only about 20% of Spaniards still admit to sleeping anyways.

Despite those later bed times and the fact that the sun rises an hour later in Amarillo- work starts at the same time and thus people wake up at the same time, just with less sleep. Amarillo and Huntsville are a good case study because they are more or less the same size, just under 200,000 people. Despite their similarities, the economic disparity between these two towns is enormous: the extra hour of sleep each night, when tested by scientists, contributes to 16% higher wages in that community. The national average based on data for towns that get an extra hour of sleep compared to their later-sun-setting neighbors is just 4.5%, which reveals that our example is particularly drastic although wage increases are offset by home prices.

Spain is the most westerly situated country in Europe, along with Portugal which is nestled into the north-western, Atlantic Ocean jutting Spanish province of Galicia. It is a full 1,000 miles from Germany, its hyper-industrious economic power house European neighbor, and that’s going from the middle of Spain to the middle of Germany. It could easily be 1,300 miles from the most western part of Spain to the most eastern part of Germany. In comparison, Huntsville, AL and Amarillo, TX are 865 miles apart.

So, all other cultural, meteorological, and industrial factors aside- it is clear that Spain can make one change that will automatically gain them on average 40 minutes more sleep and thus almost 4.5% higher wages according to studies: changing their antiquated Central European Time Zone alignment back to Western European time. Luckily, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is working on that as we speak, along with mandating a 6pm work-day end. Hopefully those two things will bring about a healthier working life for Spain, and will get people focusing less on the siesta and more on Spain’s improving output.

That’s all for now!

El Oso Siestoso

Sources, besides the podcast:

NYTimes article about Spanish government work schedule change, from 2006.

About Spanish sleep and siestas from earlier this month.

El Pais in english article about Spanish working culture from a couple years ago

Coverage of the Spanish PM’s intentions to change the Spanish time zone

First Marathon:✔️

Many readers may have heard through the grapevine or seen on social media, but my experience at the Barcelona Marathon was nothing short of fantastic. No, I didn’t win it. But, in a marathon, not being the winner doesn’t mean not being a winner.



Immediately post race. With, apparently, Allen, who doesn’t look quite as pleased. You’ll forgive me for not more closely reviewing the shot at the moment…


First of all, at the end I was smiling. And also at the beginning, the middle, and well…the whole time. Not just for myself but for the people around me, moving, propelling themselves forwards, progressing toward the same goal. I was happy. I was tired and my knees were sore and I could feel my thighs beginning to tighten ominously, shivers of heat running up my arms, neck and head. Despite my continuous efforts to thwart it I knew I was dehydrated. But, I was happy. Happy to be there, impressed to see the city, grateful to the crowds and performers, and even more grateful to the mostly flat race course and gorgeous weather. I smiled at the crowds. I clapped to the music in my headphones and rocked out to the bands jamming on improvised stages along the course. I cheered on the runners next to me, falling away behind me, and speeding forward ahead of me. Someone who is even more competitive would tell me I was wasting energy. I would say energy you enjoy exerting is not wasted. What would I save it for? A minute faster on my time for my first marathon?

It was one time in my life I felt very very competitive without opposing anyone. Not even myself. I was racing to join the runners ahead of me, racing to inspire the runners and onlookers that I passed, a little bit running for pride, running for myself rather than against myself.

It was a phenomenal feeling to be conquering distance and time alone. To have focused for so long on achieving a goal that solely involved overcoming physical and mental challenges for myself rather than defeating an opponent. If everyone else had done a fraction of a second worse than me and I had won, it wouldn’t change the race I made by myself. It would only change their race. “Winning” is relative. A marathoner who is racing to surpass their old time doesn’t care about a first place medal as much as they care about being faster than their previous race.

Truly it was positive competition. Or, as I saw on some t-shirts, you could call it positive egoism. As I crossed the finish line I didn’t spite the people finishing ahead of me, I didn’t smirk at those behind me. I was simply happy. Grateful. Proud of them, of myself, of the crowd and it’s inspiring energy. Thankful for the resilience of my body, the temperate climate, the warm breeze.

I came in three thousand something overall, eight hundred something in my group of many thousand, and eight out of about 150 Americans running. It’s weird, I know, But; I feel like I won. Correction: like we won. I can’t judge those who finished after me or did not; whose circumstances including health, training, motives and history I cannot presume to know. I am merely happy for those who finished and those who gave their best intention and effort regardless of their outcome; whose willpower, belief, training, and karma helped to deliver them to the end safely, even if the end came before the finish line.

Race Ready Legs and Laces

The new sneaks on race day. I know, I know. Not supposed to debut new kicks the morning of. In my defense, I had worn them for a 5 mile run Thursday and subsequent sight seeing, all day Friday sight seeing, and for a 2 mile jaunt on Saturday. Plus, they’re the same model I’ve been wearing for 3 years.

It’s my new favorite thing about running, positive competition.
Toasting to the triumph of human spirit over athletic endeavor rather than the defeat of another person or group. It’s true, someone comes in first. On a basic level it’s the same. Be faster than everyone else. But after the first few record chasers, does it matter who beats who? I would say no. The nice part of a hugely saturated market is that it creates an enormous space in the middle where folks can compete with great spirit, and still run their own race. You can still win finishing after other runners as long as you did enough for yourself. It’s liberating to feel that way about competition.

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I can only hope to bring that same calm, focused competitiveness to a challenge of equals. When you’re not racing for between 3 and 4,000 of 20,000 it’s easy to adopt that attitude, but to focus on yourself and be at peace even while closely competing against your equals for first place might be more difficult.

Either way, I am hearted by the displays of camaraderie, kinship and good will I saw in the midst of for what many is a daunting physical and mental challenge. For that reason, I am very much looking forward to my next marathon.


In the photo I’m lifting my quarter-zip to reveal my bib so that they can tag the photo of me…not itching my chaffing pezoncitos as more than one friend has suggested. I’m sure won’t mind me throwing this up here for you all as free advertising for them. Although, how many people buy a 20euro photo of themselves when we have so many photos already? I had my iPhone with me the whole time and have pre/post and mid race pictures and videos…for free.

Now, find yourself some time to get outside and run!

El Oso Competitoso*

*Again, not a word in Spanish. I’m sorry if it seems lazy to you. In some ways it is. But let me ask you this: Was Doctor Suess lazy for making up new words that rhymed? Or an innovator for creating new uses for words that could easily be read and understood in context?

The B I G D A Y is here.

I’ll skip the apology for taking a month off (that’s an implicit apology, isn’t it…) and get right to it:


Lily, Susannah and I atop Park Güel with Barcelona and the Mediterranean in the background.

Amidst Jihadist terrorism in the Middle East, the memory of the terrifying destruction of the Tsunami in Japan 5 years ago, political terror in the form of Donald Drumpf and a world still recovering and coping with economic anxiety stemming from the 2008 financial crises, someone has to keep the dreams alive.

Cue the Auxiliar life in Spain. Zoom in on my past two beautiful weeks. Cut to this weekends exciting scene in Barcelona. Pan across the sun soaked sixty degree city by the sea prepping for a huge international event. Regain faith in humanity and hope for the world. And not just because it’s a gorgeous sunny 4 day weekend or because the sunlight shone in through the Sagrada Familia this morning like holy rays beaming down on the immaculate conception.

No, no. This Sunday is the day. No, not the day of rest. This Sunday the 13th is the Barcelona Marathon. A far cry from the fabled Sabbath of yore and a testament to the spirit of international athletic camaraderie forged by the challenge of putting 42km (26.2miles) behind oneself in a single morning in a group of nearly 20,000 people (in 2015 there were about 19,200 people running the Barcelona marathon).

It’s a beautiful thing. A challenge one can choose and a solution that’s obvious, if not easy. Put one foot in front of the other until you finish.

If we can do it with a smile on our face and sharing a few kind words with some fellow runners along the way, even better. In a world of so much calamity and crisis, that little bit of good feels like enough for now. Terror, viruses and stock markets be damned.

We’ve got our bibs and shirts and a relaxing day by the Mediterranean Sea tomorrow. Have a great weekend, and wish us luck!

Marathon Training and How Running Became Fun

Even if you don’t read the rest of this post, please, read the book “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall. Now, on with the show…


Running in Paris was phenomenal not just for the sites and easy pedestrian road by the Seine, but for the abundance of Almond Croissants and espresso. Yes, I did capitalize “almond croissants.” You would too if you had tasted it!

A former hockey coach of mine once told me that I’d probably be faster and more nimble if I lost about 20 pounds. He didn’t call me fat (not that I didn’t take it that way at first-prideful, sensitive soul that I am). He even made a point to say that I was very muscular which, true or not at the time (some fat, some muscle), was kind of him to say. I shrugged it off. I must have said something like, ‘yeah… maybe, but for lax…’ or ‘for keeping guys off the puck…’or any number of excuses.

Coach, FYI, 9 years later I’m 20 pounds lighter. And, you were right. Between collegiate lacrosse lifting regimens, buffet style dining halls and my sisters world-best-brownies, staying even close is quite a feat in itself. And, okay I’m not a FULL 20 down from high school but, I went up 15 in college then down 10 afterwards and now am down another 20. So, close enough. The big difference? I run. That is, as a sport. For fun. Instead of “running” between running into people or being run into.<—- See what I did there?


If a rainbow shines in a vineyard and no one is there to see it or chase the gold, does it really shine? You catch my drift. No running, no rainbows. Much less DOUBLE rainbows.

I saw a great quote once in an even better book. Luckily for you, you can read a sloppily paraphrased version right here without even picking up the book! ‘The difference between someone who reads, and a reader, is this: Someone who reads can see the hand of the message emanating from the text. Maybe they even acknowledge it with a high five. A reader sees the hand, extends their own, and thoughtfully squeezes back.’ The book is “Why Read?” by Mark Edmunson. Entertaining, insightful and containing some difficult questions, it’s worth perusing if only to see what that actual quote was.

The distinction between reader and one who reads is similar to running and being a runner. Someone who runs goes out and runs. You know what it is to run. I’m sure of it. Regardless of the distance, attire, whatever. However, a runner is someone who does the same thing. But they think about it. They miss it when it’s gone. They feel the surface they’re moving over as it moves them and adjust their body to it. They smile in the pouring rain. They are grateful for the opportunity.

At this point, I’ll just call myself a writer because I’m grateful if you’ve kept being a reader until now. There’s the hand coming from the text. Take it, squeeze thoughtfully and continue reading. I implore you.


On a foggy run on one of the GR’s (Gran Recorrida, or ‘long route’) in Rioja. We kept staring at the wall of white ten yards ahead hoping for those little red and white trail markers to appear.

So, Marathon Training. I used to be the kind of guy a hockey coach would tell to lose a few pounds and get faster. Now I’m a runner. Nothing just sort of happens. After my bulkier college days of spending hours in weight rooms, I reconnected with a great gal who asked me if I ran. She was a runner.  A very attractive one. So, yes, obviously I ran (behind her, panting, in too long-lumbering-strides).  I followed her everywhere she went and eventually even started leading her places. Mostly I led her to the woods, trails and occasionally to the “edge” or “up-to-here” depending on my moods. I never knew what she meant by those last two…

Now, I’ve led her to Spain. Maybe. It’s anyone’s guess, but I think encouraging that narrative may have been just a good way for her to lead me to the Barcelona marathon. Which is just what she’s done. Knock on wood please. We’re not there yet! It’s on March, 13th.

My life is better in so many ways since I’ve started actually running and enjoying it. Firstly, it gets me outside. No gym, no treadmill and no fluorescent lights except for occasional street lamps. There’s just cold air that burns my lungs and makes my eyes water; sun rays that warm my back, face and subsequently my soul; fog that mysteriously also warms my soul (go figure); and miles and miles of vineyards (welcome to La Rioja).

In a very non-millennial, un ironic and totally sincere way I tell you the following: I’m blessed. By who or what, I do not know. But, with what? A number of things. Good weather, encouraging friends, loving family, Healthy-health (ever seen that written before?) and the lovely and loving Lily that brought me here to both happiness and Spain.

Now, you’re all blessed too (go with it). I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures included here from some of my favorite runs and routes since September 2015.

Mucho amor/ much love from

El Oso Correroso

(should be corredor…but that doesn’t rhyme).

Back to Blogging, or, Winter Round Up…

Whichever one sounds more satisfyingly cliché to you. Sorry for the wait.

It took a while, but we’re finally settled in again. Supposedly the waking after a sweet dream. But I’ll tell you what, it hasn’t been half bad. I know, I know, nature of the work. The smiling children’s faces, hugs when you step into a room, cheers when you leave, cute little kids bash fully volunteering whatever English they can muster to make conversation…it’s awesome.

It’s more than that, though. Every time I’ve been on vacation, gone to Spain for a while, hiked, done something cool, gone on a weekend bender (just kidding mom and dad😉), the return to routine has more often than not been cathartic and surprisingly gratifying. Besides Thanksgiving during my first year teaching, when all I wanted was to stay home with my friends and family in CT or go back to college with my friends still writing term papers and studying for exams (among other things), it’s always been nice to “get back to reality.” I quote that because, well, even vacation is part of reality.

You might think that having travelled for three whole weeks, Lily and I must have taken some monstrous super vacation just because we’re in Europe. You’re absolutely right. But, I’d like to let you all know that we weren’t the only ones with a huge vacation. All of Spain got three weeks off! Sure, we were excused from the last two days of school in December where kids reinacted The Three Wisemen bringing gifts and Santa Clauses proverbial coming to town, but still. The 22 of December to the 10 of January isn’t half bad. Winter vacation is done right, here in Spain.

Last time I wrote, my heart and mind were totally given to the charms of Paris and the romanticism of the expatriate idealization of European capitals. I’ll warn you- I’m still pretty much there. Despite that fact, I really am happy to be back. No I’m not in the states, but I’m back to routine. People know me. I have a purpose other than buying chocolates and pints of the worlds finest brews. Kids run up to give me hugs in the hallways and on the playground. They learn in my classroom. And, I sleep in the same bed every night. It’s not so bad. After one of the most phenomenal trips I can imagine touring 10 European countries in 20 days, I am reminded that at the root of our being, we need to plant roots. To belong.

That being said- the trip was absolutely unreal. There’s just too much good things to say about it. So below you’ll find a couple of pictures of each city we visited in the order I rank them. Be forewarned, we didn’t give equal amounts of time to each city, and some visits fell on holidays. I’ll alert you to my biases as they arise below.

1. Paris. The food, the architecture, the art, the books, the monuments, the side streets and old neighborhoods and cultural diversity, ease of the subway…the bakeries. Le Marais, the old Jewish quarter and the Jewish museum were particularly interesting and, coupled with our wonderful Airbnb host, gave us the impression that Paris is a “real,” livable city. It was also our first stop and our longest stay on the tour, so that might have something to do with it. We also didn’t get stuck with huge throngs of summer tourists.

2. Prague. Very different feel from the Parisian hustle, and many more tourists packed into a small space, but it had a distinct magic of its own. The Charles bridge at sunrise and sunset, the largest stained glass windows in Europe, the quaint, cobblestoned old town. Also, 50 cent half liters of crisp delicious pilsners in a cave-like brewery with endless potatoe dumplings and gravy…I mean, it’s not even fair.

3. Bruges. We stopped here for an afternoon-morning and wished we had more time. Going from the immensity of Paris to pint sized Bruges, and slugging down pints of Bruges brewed beers for pint sized prices made this former Belgian trade capital an absolute heart-throb for us. Learning the history of its thriving trade, savouring the chocolates and enjoying a variety of local beers really made the experience.

4. Salzburg. Yes, we did watch the Sound of Music at night while we were there. There’s something about the Austrian/ Southern German culture that is just so inviting. Enjoying plates of meat, potatoes and liters of beer in the Augustine Monk brewery was the icing on the cake for us. From the castle to the Mozart history lesson to the chapels built into the cliffs…We closed out our stay with a comfortable and starry eyed ride through freshly falling snow and a few inches coating the ground- pulled by a Mercedes Benz sleigh, of course.

Did I say I’d rank all of them? Well. I think the top 4 will suffice. I will mention that the Cathedral, Luini’s and the restaurant D’aGiannino d’Abruzzo are all worth seeing in Milan.

The Baths, Castle and Parliament building are worth seeing in Budapest.

Switzerland is mindblowingly beautiful (and expensive).

Vienna is a cultural, intellectual, and gastronomical wonderland.

And Colognes Christmas market are well worth a visit (we just missed the mass sexual assaults of New Years and so thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas bliss).

Also, the Berlin Wall is a seriously humbling experience and sobering reminder that we should be grateful always for the current state of Western Society although always strive for better. And be watchful of Russia…

And lastly….Visit Spain! It’s the country we came back to and the one I most love.

That’s all for now.

– El Oso

Three Nights in Paris

On Saturday we began our two and a half week euro trip. So far so good! Photos at the bottom…

Paris lives up to and exceeds its reputation. It’s a city that is larger than life, that makes you feel part of a fantasy. A fantasy that includes 4€ coffee’s and fancy things, but also a city rich in culture. Where EU students 18-25 can enter most museums for free. Where every corner has a historically important context. It’s a fairy tale and a history book. It’s a city and a village. It’s the epitome of a nations people and a city of many nations peoples. It’s a place that feels inhabited, lived in, daily. Also a place much like a walking museum. Where sunshine pours in and fills the city with love and magic. Where rain pours down and adds a little more of both. You get the point.

The hype is real. We laugh: macaroons, croissant (exaggerated like, kwah- sawnt).¡Bonjour baguette! But it’s true. They’re delicious and everywhere. The sing songy, melodic French language actually sounds much like I always imagined and made believe.

Believe the hype. Paris is for lovers.

And for artists and lawyers; Jews, Muslims, Protestants and Catholics; seamstresses, book sellers and car salesmen. Paris is the city of cities. Cobblestones and statues, softly lit streetlamps, corner cafés, literature and romance. You know the clichés. I can’t stress them enough. That being said (SPOILER ALERT), I’m not an expert. I was there for 3.5 days. I’m not French nor do I speak it. But, I know how I feel. I digress.

No, it’s not too early to book your flight! I know, I’m sorry, my laudatory and amorous outburst was so persuasive that you now feel the ‘need to go’ more than my sister after three full Nalgenes of water in gridlocked traffic. Sorry, wrong use of ‘need to go,’ perhaps…Regardless, before going, learn a few French phrases and some rudimentary pronunciation. Brownie points for trying might not help if it’s life or death, but it does win smiles and laughs (more laughs than anything else, for me) and that’s enough to brighten your day and make the city even a little more magical. Do everything the guidebooks, guides and former residents and tourists tell you to. And make sure to leave yourself two hours: a half hour to wander until you lose the tourist masses and find a relatively tourist free (and probably less expensive) café or bar. An hour to open a book, the news paper, or cross word, sudoku (if the place has no internet, even better) and sit and breathe and listen and sip. And a half an hour to find your way home.




À bientôt, mon ami!

– El Oso Francoso


Updatón! Overdue update.

Happy Hollidays!

I know I know, it’s been a record breaking silent streak for me. We’ve been great. I’ve just been terribly undisciplined about updates. Lily and I have kept ourselves busy the last couple weeks taking care of logistics mostly- bank and official residential things, arranging flights, trains, buses, hostels, hotels…all in preparation for our big trip this Saturday through Europe.

Between and during these goings on, we were also able to squeeze in a trip to the island of Gran Canaria (Las Palmas, in English) in the Canary Islands and I also dropped down into Madrid for a night and a day with a friend and colleague from the lacrosse staff at Camp Skylemar this past summer.

While in Madrid with Oshane, we spoke a lot not only about the incredible city that Madrid is, but about the coincidental and happy circumstance in which we found ourselves lucky enough to meet- thousands of miles from our homes, our second home up in Maine at camp, and our rival colleges back in Pennsylvania. I think I speak for both of us when I say that not only do we consider ourselves blessed and fortunate for the opportunities that had been put before us, but grateful that we had reached out and taken them. It’s easy to look back with 20-20 vision and say, “of course…” But the reality is that in the hyper destructed world we live in, with so many options, being decisive isn’t always easy. I’m glad we chose the road less traveled, even if there are more and more people choosing it now than ever (studying or working abroad, that is).

Besides more options and more global connectivity, I discovered that the modern, middle class American society brings with it another challenge relative to traveling the rest of the world: the comfort of the automatic vehicle.

Indeed, people think it’s “cute” to put their car into sports mode, “manumatic,” or use paddle shifters. But even these adaptations of the original shield us from the truth. A car is more than a simple consumer convenience moving us from A-B. It is a machine. I got my first real taste of the improbable reality that all these heavy, fast, relatively dangerous machines can whir about and coinhabit the same skinny roads while driving in the Canary Islands.

Stick shift. For the first time in my life more than 5 minutes. In downtown traffic, on hills, on one lane roads with two lanes of traffic on the side of cliffs. At this point I’ll just say, thank God for my brother, Max. Also thank you to Lana, my cousin Ben, and my good friend Javi for all at different moments and for varying amounts of time risking their wellbeing and that of their cars to let me practice driving manual simply because Max had instilled in my an irrational curiosity about driving a “real” car. Those lessons made the endeavor of renting and driving my first manual car only slightly less terrifying but much, much more successful. Although, Lily will tell you that being the first go, it was not without its fair share of stalls, tense moments, and borderline nervous breakdowns (hundred foot sheer cliffs and impossibly steep ridges inducing rapid drops from 4th to 1rst gear with oncoming tour busses around hairpin turns have that effect).

But it went well. No near misses or particularly dangerous instances and we got to see the sunset over the ocean and feel the sun crisp our skin during a couple of beach days. Not to mention, the Honey Rum from the town of Arucas works magic on the nerves….after driving, of course.

Throughout all of the trip taking and planning one thing has been a constant. Well, okay, three things. Running, playing cards, and us very happiy, laughing like maniacs.

We’ve established our route from Paris to Bruge, Cologne, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg, Interlaken, Milan, and then all the way over to Santander! Our itinerary including how many miles and the type of workout is made (by Lily, obviously and thank heavens), the hostels and airbnb’s are booked, eurorail passes in hand, and guide books at the ready for reading up on what to see and (more importantly) why!

I’ll leave you with some pictures of the above chronicles.

-El Oso Viajoso