Cava ≠ Champagne

The most important fact I learned while on a cava winery tour at Freixenet Vineyards in Sant Sadurni D’Anoia, Spain, is that though it may look and taste like a lot like champagne, it is NOT. However, I feel I can safely argue the effects are definitely the same. cava

During a recent week long visit from my parents, we ventured to one of the most popular international brand cava bodegas located 40 minutes outside Barcelona’s city center. Sant Sadurni D’Anoia is known as the “Cava Capital” as it produces 90% of Spain’s entire cava export. Because of this notoriety, anyone associated with the location is sure to well educate you on the exact production process of its cava, noting especially the differences between cava and champagne.

To start, champagne is only made in France, and only then can it be labeled as true champagne. Secondly, the process has different steps, cava goes through two fermentations as opposed to just one. The bubbly tiny balls of air are the result of this second fermentation process that takes place inside the bottle it is then and only then that the wine can legally be given the name cava. Otherwise, it can only be classified as sparkling wine, thus failing to obtain the prestigious label.

On the tour, we learned that “during the second fermentation process in the bottle, a type of liqueur known as licor de tiraje is added (made from sugar, yeast and cava) which causes the bubbles by producing carbonic gas. The bottles are corked with metal tops and stored horizontally in the darkest and coolest part of the cellar.”

Cava cellar

The next step in the process – known as el degüello del cava (taking the top off the cava) uncorks the bottles allowing the pressure of the contents that have accumulated in the bottleneck to be forced out.

And finally, the bottle is sealed again with a traditional cork, held in place by wire. The quality of cava is a question of time: the wine starts its second fermentation process in the bottle within three months.

  • The more bubbles a cava has and the smaller the bubbles are designates it is a YOUNG cava.
  • The less bubbles a cava has and the bigger the bubbles are categorizes it an AGED cava.

The last marketing step of cava production is of course, the labeling and shipping. Below is a video of this last step. Each minute, 40 bottles of cava are packaged.

Freixenet exports the most cava to the following countries:

  1. Germany
  2. United States
  3. The United Kingdom

After a very informative 90 minute tour through the winery, my favorite part finally came: the tasting! We tried the Cordón Negro Reserva. Cheers! (Or in Spain, Salud!)

Cava tasting


An American Spanish Tortilla…?

I accept that I will encounter detours in my life. In fact, I more than accept it and I actually welcome them. I believe we can all grow as people when we learn from the unexpected. However, the kitchen is no place to take your own detours when you are trying to recreate a country delicacy. Well, the tortilla española (Spanish tortilla) is not so much a delicacy (as the ingredients are merely potatoes, onions and eggs) but rather one of the most common and “easiest” dishes Spaniards make. They seem to just “whip up” these three simple ingredients into a perfect plump circle of flavor.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I attempted to “whip up” this dish and it turned out horrendously. The thing about the recipe is that there is not one. After talking to my Spanish roommates and thoroughly researching this meal on the internet I found many versions of how to tackle this popular “tapa.” In short, you pretty much combine chopped potatoes, diced onion and eggs all together in one skillet, wait 5 minutes and then flip it. Sound simple? IT’S NOT. Please view Example A below as a testament to the difficulty of this dish.


I was so ashamed of the turnout I cleaned up right away and hid all the evidence in the kitchen from my roommates that I had even attempted to try and cook it. I was so fearful of being judged as the “American who can’t even boil water.” For those of you have never had a tortilla española before, please refer to the picture below to see what it is supposed to look like.


Now, you can imagine my shame. I have tried twice more, and for my pride’s sake I will not upload those visuals. But I will say they still resemble the first picture. Though I have not given up and when I do conquer this cultural quest of mine I will share the results, and the recipe…if I can seem to establish one that works. Buena suerte, no?!

Un Elefante, oh que grande

The past two weeks have been filled with interview after interview. And no, I am not complaining as this is Step #3 in my list of things to accomplish abroad:

3. Secure Employment √

I have successfully landed positions as a canguro (nanny) caring for children between the ages of 2 and 10. My task at hand is to interact and play games with the children in English so as to help immerse them in a “native accent” environment. I have found this to be my only, and apparently extremely valuable, edge over the ever-growing job applicant pool. Spain is yet another victim in the current financial crisis as it is just as hard to obtain a job here as in the United States.

Ironic though, right? I move to Spain to learn and practice Spanish and the only jobs available to me are those that require my English. I believe, though, that it is better to have an income and sustain a life in the culture here than be broke and monolingual in the United States. That would be a step backwards for me, and after filing forbearance on all THREE of my loans I am not prepared to do that. Moving forward.

As my duties as an English teacher and caregiver require me to provide games and activities for the children to practice their English vocabulary and pronunciation, I have spent some time channeling my childhood and doing research looking for nursery rhymes and Sesame Street-esque games. I frequent a blog that I found to gain insight and ideas on helping these Spanglish babies. It’s a blog that helps mothers figure out the best way to raise their children bilingual in a bi-cultural environment. When I begin to think about my own children, I most definitely will return to this site and utilize its invaluable resources.

Here is a glimpse of what I plan to teach Gisele tomorrow, the two-year-old I babysit on Saturdays. WARNING: Do not watch this unless you are prepared to be singing it all day in your head. It is very catchy and I’ve found myself humming it to myself on the metro. I have had some awkward moments when the Spaniards look and laugh at me as I’m sure they’re wondering why an American adult is singing a childish song in Spanish about elephants…Enjoy!

Week One: Complete

When one decides to move abroad, a plan is usually in place. However, sometimes life runs a lot more smoothly without one. Yes, this is coming from an incredibly Type A person, but I can now say from personal experience the saying “He who fails to plan, plans to fail” is not always true. Amy Kirkcaldy, a student who embarked on her own foreign journey to teach English abroad says that the most important lesson she learned abroad was to stop worrying about planning every detail. “College gives the illusion of freedom, but it is really a structured and sheltered environment. It is hard to break free from the idea that one needs to plan the rest of his or her life before graduation.”

However, if you do break free from the A-typical mold, the common steps of moving abroad usually include:

  1. Travel to destination √
  2. Find a place to live √
  3. Secure employment …
  4. Balance your budget
  5. Live day to day
  6. Relax and play a little

Step one has already proved to be a detour waiting to happen.

When leaving Germany for Barcelona on an 18 hour train ride turned into a 24 hour BUS ride, I am confident that even the best of plans do not always ensure success. We had secured a sleeper car with reserved seats and all the amenities for this overnight adventure, however an unexpected detour of our train being completely CANCELED from Zürich, Switzerland to Barcelona forced us to trade our tickets in for a 14 hour bus ride. Hence, plans made in advance do not always determine a “failure” or not.

Once we eventually arrived on this cramped bus, we were onto Step #2: apartment hunting. I will not go too much into this, but it is the understatement of the century to say searching for a place to live in this city knowing NO ONE was the week from Hell. Searching Spain’s version of Craigslist did not prove any more safer or reliable than the United States’ version. Let’s just say the apartments were either really nice in super dangerous parts of Barcelona, or really small and dirty in the nice parts of town. OR multi-family housing in two bedroom flats. After no food, no rest, and lots of determination and running about on the metro, we found an excellent apartment in the center of Barcelona near Gaudi’s famous La Sagrada Familia, with 3 other roommates our age. This was achieved 3 days ago. Whew!

La Sagrada Familia

I am currently in the process of completing Step #3, however this is the detour I expect to find the most trouble with (and take the longest). Teaching English in schools abroad most often requires a TEFL or TESL certificate, which I do not have the funding, or time for. So I plan to market my skills as a private tutor, nanny or even in alternate industries, such as tourism and hotels?

I dropped off a resume today at a local bike tour company to be a guide, so we will see where the wind takes me (this week that is).

The German Honor Code

I have officially been off U.S. ground for one week now and have come to realize more than a few differences between the lifestyle I had so easily become accustomed to. For one, Germans do not break the law. Yes, this is a very generalized statement, however I have yet to witness one German cross the street without permission from the “green man” or not return Euros fallen out of an owner’s pocket. German dogs even follow this unwritten honor code. They sit patiently outside coffee shops and bakeries waiting for their owner without sniffing around or wandering off, I’m not even sure I’ve hear one bark yet! Leashes and collars are also unheard of. This trusting and very honest lifestyle is one that I hope to carry with me onto Spain, however the environment in which one attempts this “honor code” must be reciprocated as well. From my previous experience in Barcelona during my 2006 study abroad, this was not the case and I must never leave my belongings available to the public eye.

We will find out soon enough, as Matt and I head to Barcelona on Monday. We are traveling by train through Switzerland and the French Riviera on an 18 hour train ride. This could be the best or worst idea yet, but most definitely the most cost efficient, as rail is a very economical means of transport in Europe.

Here are the latest pics of this gorgeous German city. Many believe Tübingen is one of the prettiest and most historical hidden jewels of southern Germany.

NeckerMüller RiverMatt & Jackierooftop viewCity Hall & center market

Schloß Castle

And the biggest detour begins

Insert life. Now press play. This is how I began my latest adventure just 3 days ago. I packed up my life in St. Louis (a total of 150 lbs in 3 different bags) and headed across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. My final destination is Barcelona, España, where I plan to teach English and establish residency in order to perfect my conversational Spanish for future career endeavors, whatever those may be. Dr. Carolina Acosta-Aluzur, a very wise professor whom I greatly admire, said something a few years ago that has resonated with me since. She wished that all her students “become conversant in a second language and culture. Diversity being it inside the U.S. or in the international arena, is a fact of life. Learning a foreign language and culture is a great way to realize these differences and embrace them. It helps us break damaging stereotypes that impede communication and understanding.” I attribute a large majority of my confidence and courage to take this big leap out of my comfort zone and move to another country to this wonderful woman. She helped me see outside the box and strive to be different.

As I figure out who I am, Matt (the boyfriend) is gracious enough to embark on that qwest with me.  We begin this journey flying into Frankfurt, Germany where we met my brother Fletcher and will stay with him in his student apartment in Tübingen (southern Germany) until we can figure out a place to live in Barcelona. This picture is one of many I took to document my last few views of United States soil.

Unites States soil














I must admit, I am not handling jet lag very well, and the all night techno dancing at the German discos are not helping establish a normal routine…thanks to my brother’s new lifestyle influence. As soon as we arrive in Tübingen (after 6 hours of train hopping) we shower, get on a bus and starting drinking on our way to Fletcher’s 21st birthday party his favorite bar in town was throwing him. No time to rest. 

German Bus + German Beer

After two nights of back to back playtime, I hope to get some rest and figure out what this city actually looks like in the daylight, as I have yet to be awake and venture out during normal hours.

The first job

Leaving the college life and entering the work world is going to be a tough transition, however it is an inevitable one. While I do enjoy what free time I have now as a college student, which honestly is not much, I am eager to enter the consistent and steady world of work. Yes, I’m going to miss those late nights and lazy mornings, but I’m ready to publicly apply everything I’ve learned and gained at college. After all, it’s what I’ve been preparing these past four years for: the job.

While I do not have one just yet, I value every experience and responsibility I encounter along the way to help me prepare for this eventual endeavor. These are 5 C’s of Success I’ve found to establishing and maintaining yourself in the workplace:

  1. Character
  2. Class
  3. Confidence
  4. Competency
  5. Chemistry

For more detail on these, Listen to some tips to know how to function and manage yourself on the job. I am by no means an expert in this area, as I will have recently graduated, but hopefully the advice of a college kid can help those who will eventually be professionals out there with me.