Travel Highlights from the Last Six Months of 2012

When I reflected on just how much travelling I’d done during the first half of 2012 – from two new autonomous regions of Spain to fulfilling a nagging want to see Istanbul, I vowed to slow down a bit during the second half. Not because I don’t love the butterflies of savoring a new place, but because I wanted to use this year to focus on a bit more than moving – slowing down to complete a master’s, to work on this blog, and stop to enjoy actually living in Seville.

My roommate, Melissa, used to call me Macaco after his hit, Moving. All the people moving, she said, was me; indeed, my parents claim that I never walked, but went right to running.

Go, Cat, Go!


After leaving my job and watching my friends Lindsay and David give one another the “si quiero” in the other’s language, I cheered Spain onto victory in the Euro Cup finals, had to say goodbye to Kike, and then set up camp on my own in La Coruña.

My fourth summer in this little rinconcito of Spain was just as magical as always, full of sweeping views of the peninsula, afternoons spent snuggling in bed with my computer in front of me catching up on some work, and plenty of fresh seafood. Our plans to see Fisterrea were foiled by the rain, per usual, but I left camp feeling ok about it.


My birth month found me back in Chicago, which truly is the ciudad de mi corazón. My friend Phil was back from a 2-year sojourn in San Francisco, so we spent time catching up and playing tourist in a city we’d both known for decades. Sweet home, indeed.

After 27 years and 28 countries, I finally made it to New York City. Cue Alicia Keys song, and you’ll understand my fascination. Sadly, all of my pictures not on social media were lost, but we hit all of the big places on our girls’ trip – the Rock, Central Park, Fifth Ave, Magnolia Bakery, Le Tren Bleu, The Financial District, Ellis Island. My friends Kim, Pedro, Monica and Cait all came in from Long Island and Jersey to help me celebrate my 27th birthday doing the things I love most – drinking beer, laughing like a crazed person, boating and eating well.

On the actual day of my birthday, Margaret, Nancy and I took the Bolt Bus to Boston for a family wedding. My birthday cake was made of cannolis and toasted with Blue Moons, courtesy of my father, and I ate an enormous lobster. Boston was a gorgeous city and just the right size, and I had the added bonus of celebrating my second consecutive birthday with my friend Bri and attending my cousin Thomas’s beautiful wedding on the Boston College Campus.

From there, I caught up on reading on the Amtak to Stamford, Connecticut, where my friend Christine lives. There were barbecues and flippy cup tournaments, boat rides and water skiing, and lots of laughs as we caught up in Spanglish.


Coming back to Spain after Labor Day was tougher than it has been, as I feel a bit in limbo over my future in Spain. As I got off the airplane and into a cab to get to Lauren’s house, I left my laptop in the backseat, never to see it again. There went my pictures, some semi-important documents…but I found that parting with it wasn’t the end of the world (and the excuse I needed to upgrade to a Mac). Baby steps, people.

Lauren, Liz and I attended Travel Bloggers Unite in Porto Portugal, a wonderful and oft-overlooked city with a thriving art scene. I was jet lagged, bummed about the computer and not looking forward to networking or selling myself or anything more than a glass of port and a stroll around the city’s old quarter. I was pleased to find other, well-established bloggers willing to help out and informative talks that inspired me to keep pushing on this project, making me feel less like a clueless newbie.

Kike took me to Cádiz the weekend afterwards as a late birthday getaway for us both. We explored the beaches in Tarifa (pictured above), Zahara de los Atunes, Bolonia and Zahora before the summer slipped away.


The ruins of Aracena castle

I started working with my students and a master’s all at once while adjusting to a totally new lifestyle by working in the evenings. Even with Fridays off, I opted to save a little money so I could buy a new Mac and pay the second half of my program in Public Relations. Kike and I did get to Aracena, a gorgeous white village in the mountains, for their annual ham fair. I was even interviewed while stuffing my face full of pig products by Canal Sur!


November blustered in with cooler temps, and I began to buckle down on blogging, teaching and masters-ing, taking the time to take care of my friendships and enjoy the lovely destinations in the province. We ventured north to San Nicolás del Puerto, the village where Kike’s family has property, to celebrate their patron saint’s feast day. Unfortunately, Camarón’s auto focus broke, leaving me with little else that weekend but instagram (follow me @sunshinesiestas).

A few weekends later, I was a guest in Estepa with Heart of Andalusia. This pueblo blanco in the eastern reaches of the province is famous for its mantecados and other Christmas treats, and we were treated to a lovely day out in a place I’d always wanted to visit.


Spain’s commemoration of their Constitution and the Immaculate Conception means back-to-back days off, so my friends and I rented a car, got pulled over by the cops, and barely made it to one piece to La Rioja, Spain’s Wine Country. While there, we feasted like kings on the famous Calle Laurel and took a trip to Marques de Riscal’s gorgeous bodega in nearby Eltziego.

I also made it to Madrid for my cuñado (brother-in-law)’s wedding, a food tour with Lauren of Madrid Food Tour and a quick trip to visit my host family in Valladolid. The following day, my family descended upon Madrizzz and we spent six days exploring Catalonia and Andorra (country 29 and already with Christmas sales!).


2013’s travel plans haven’t been fully set yet, but my family and I are celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Plaza del Sol. In the works are an anniversary trip to Bologna, heading to Toulouse to visit friends and attending TBU wherever it may be this time around! And, without a doubt, walking the Camino de Santiago this summer!

Where are you heading or hope to visit in 2013?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Sounds like you had a great year, despite the minor disasters! I hope 2013 brings you everything you’re looking for and hope we’ll see you soon in Madrid!
    Lauren de Madrid Food Tour recently posted..Los Reyes Magos: The Spanish Christmas TraditionMy Profile

  2. How fortunate you were to be able to visit your hometown and see it through the eyes of a tourist. I think that’s a wonderful way to connect with a place we know well and may sometimes take for granted. Also fortunate that you visited NYC! I ‘heart’ NYC :-)
    Our 2013 travel plans are not definite. We’ve talked about a few places we’d like to see for the first time (Greece, Croatia, Norway) and a few we may revisit (Amsterdam & Paris with friends, Barcelona, or anyplace in Spain). Decisions, decisions, decisions…
    All the best to you as you journey along your path to Santiago!!

  3. A great year indeed…cheers to an even better 2013!
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Discovering Georgia’s History on St. Simons IslandMy Profile

  4. Great recap of your last six months. Wishing you luck in 2013!
    Kaley [Y Mucho Más] recently posted..2012: The Year Everything ChangedMy Profile

  5. what a year!! looking forward to following the journey in 2013.
    wandering educators recently posted..8 Life Skills Traveling TeachesMy Profile

  6. Wow — you packed in a lot! Happy travels to you in 2013.
    Terry at Overnight New York recently posted..Library Hotel: NYC Hotel Week ReturnsMy Profile

  7. Sunshine and Siestas says:

    Thanks everyone, and wishing you all safe and happy travels for 2013! Can’t wait to see which destinations I end up in!

  8. Wow you were in my neck of the woods this summer. Both my father and sister work in Stamford, CT. I live outside of Manhattan so I consider NYC my stomping grounds as well, I grew up pretty much in its backyard. And my mom works in Boston, so it’s a city I’ve been getting to know recently and I love it as well. Glad you liked my hometown(s)!

    Anyways you sure did travel a lot this year. I wish you more great travels for this year as well. :)
    amelie88 recently posted..Happy Holidays from Lost in Traduccion!My Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      How funny! I had a really great trip, and it was only my second time to the East Coast, if you can believe? Or maybe fourth…? Stamford was probably the highlight, actaully. My friend’s dad and grandpa own one of the boat stores, so we spent hours in the sound and laying on the deck of her grandparents’ house. So Americana. Happy New Year, A!

  9. Looks like you had quite a bit of travel the last 6 months!
    The beauty of living in Europe and having the occasional long weekend= travel is so easy!

    May 2013 be filled with many more adventures.
    Happy planning for the Camino!
    Lauren @ roamingtheworld recently posted..In Photos: London by nightMy Profile

  10. I think it’s great that you are already setting a goal to be at TBU wherever it is. While travel can often be about spontaneity, it also requires some planning! Hope that you hit all your goals in 2013 and find joy in some unexpected ones! Camino tip: invest in good shoes and socks (I was the idiot deal hunter who settled for 15 euro boots from Decathlon and suffered 50 euros for an emergency Doc visit in Ourense).
    Lauren H. of Sobremesa In Spain recently posted..Gratitude. Things I’m Grateful For #11My Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      The good botines is actually the #1 Camino tip I hear! With or without mt friend, I’m doing it! And from what I hear, TBU won’t be too far off, with a direct flight from Seville! The problem will be getting my boss to let me have an extra day off!

      Wishing you safe travels in SEA! When are you headed back?

  11. 6 months with different kind of places and experiences! How about 2013? Looking forward for it 😉
    LeX @ LeX Paradise recently posted..10 Places Must-Visit in Jeju Island, South KoreaMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Hey, Lex! I owe you a giftcard, as you won my giveaway! Write me an email and we’ll talk details. Nothing huge on the books yet, but Easter week means 10 days of travel, so stay tuned!

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