Food: Avocado Corn Salad

Today I’m making a little parenthesis from my Europe travel stories, to bring you a recipe I made yesterday that turned out pretty good, both looking and tasting. It was a cold avocado corn salad that is pretty much the epitome of summer foods: cool, fresh and yummy.
As it’s been often the case lately when it comes to my cooking, I got the recipe from Pinterest, but slightly modified it to suit me and the ingredients I had at hand. I had actually been wanting to make this salad for a quite while, but for whatever reason whenever I craved it I didn’t happen to have all the ingredients available, and kept putting it off. However yesterday, things finally aligned and I had just about all the ingredients to make it happen. Let me tell you, I wish I had made it earlier! It was just perfect.
In fact, it looked and tasted good enough to share on Instagram, which I did and that’s what prompted this foodie post. A couple friends commented on there that they would like the recipe, that I might add it’s ridiculously easy to make, so here it’s my take on the Avocado Corn Salad (to check out the original version, click here):

1 cup cooked corn, fresh or frozen
1 avocado, cut into cubes
1/2 cup yellow sweet onion, diced
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 of a cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy!
Makes 2 servings.

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Travel: Random Acts of Kindness

I spent the rest of my first week in Europe, in Paris…eating croissant…alone. If you’re a Sex and the City fan (as me!) then you certainly remember those scenes from the series finale, where a nostalgic and melancholic Carrie spends all her time exploring Paris all alone. Well, that was pretty much me in Paris…minus the smoking and fabulous wardrobe. Of course I was still ecstatic to be there, to walk into Notre Dame, to wander thru the Château du Versailles, to go back to the Tour Eiffel and make it all the way to the top, to spend lovely afternoons sitting at the Jardin des Tuileries or admiring the Seine River; but I would lie if I didn’t admit it got a little bit lonely at times. I mean to make such a big dream come true, to witness such beauty, and to not have someone there to share it with…yeah, it got lonely.
Paris was the only city during my whole trip where I didn’t meet someone new everyday or made friends with fellow travelers (other than my first night there). I don’t know if it was because I didn’t speak the language or because the French can be, ahem, unfriendly, or maybe because I wasn’t sharing a room with other travelers…most likely it was all of the above, but no connections were sparked. I still fell in love with the city, but my time there was for sure one of mixed emotions, bittersweet even.
At some point during that week, I decided that my next destination should be Italy. I sort of knew someone in Milan, who had agreed to let me couchsurf (that term hadn’t even been invented then!) at her place, and after that lonely week in Paris it seemed like the best idea to go somewhere where a friendly face awaited. And that someone was my friend Gaby, who would indeed become a dear, dear friend after that visit. Truth is we weren’t really friends when I first came to see her in Milano. In fact, we had barely met before that. Actually, it was so random how we met that I have to share that funny story, and this is how it goes…
My now husband, who was just a friend at the time, had extensively travel thru Europe for business back in the mid-90′s, and on a long, overnight train ride from Milan to Paris, had met a Mexican girl named Gaby, who was living in Italy. She wasn’t very fluent in English and Gregg spoke barely any Spanish, but a couple of older Argentinian ladies who were also on the train served as translators, and a connection of sorts was made between them. They never saw each other again after that train ride (’til this day they haven’t seen each other since), but email addresses were exchanged. Correspondence didn’t last very long, after a few emails back and forth, they lost contact.
One day, after first deciding to make this European trip on my own, I was talking to Gregg about it and mentioned that being on a tight budget, I was really hoping I could find some acquaintances over the pond, kind enough to offer me a roof for a few days so I could cut down my travel cost. He told me the story of how he met Gaby and said that he hadn’t talked/written to her in years, but that he still had her email address and that maybe I could get in touch with her. And so I did. I don’t know what possessed me to think I could just email a stranger saying “hey girl, we’ve never met before, but can I crash on your couch for a few days this summer?” but that’s kind of what happened. Lucky for me, she still used that same email address, and when I wrote to her telling her how I got it and how I even knew of her, she totally remember Gregg. We started some online communication, and it turned out she was a native of Monterrey, where I was living at the time. She was still living in Italy, but on one of her trips to visit her family in Monterrey, we got together so we could finally meet in person after a couple of months of online chatting. I don’t remember exactly at what point in our correspondence I actually told her about my plans to go to Europe and about the possibility of crashing at her pad if it was ok with her, but I do remember she didn’t hesitate to say “of course you can stay with me in Milan!” Looking back on it, it amazes me how kind and generous she was to me. We never really set any specific dates for when I would visit, we had just left it at a vague “sometime this summer”, so I was a little nervous when I called her from Paris to say “hey, sorry for the short notice, but any chance I can stay there next week?” Again, luckily for me, she was so cool and easy-going, and that ended up working just fine for her.
So on my last day in Paris, I sat on a street bench outside my hotel, trying to soak in all the Parisian air I could before leaving. I was just in the middle of that, when an old Italian man came to sit next to me and wanted to start a conversation. He must’ve been at least 70 years old, and didn’t speak any English or Spanish, but he was too friendly to care about the language barrier. That’s how I discovered that Spanish and Italian are more similar than I could’ve ever imagined, because we managed to communicate just fine with him speaking in his mother tongue and me speaking mine. That’s also when I first realized that after spending a week of several encounters with rude French people, I was in for a treat of hospitality from Italians. He inquired where I was headed with my luggage, and after hearing that I needed to get to Gare du Nord to take a train but had no idea how to get there, he decided he would take me. We took public transport of course, but it was nice not having to figure it all out on my own. He was so kind as to not only getting me to the train station, but also helping me find my train, and then my seat on the train, and he didn’t leave until he made sure I was comfortably situated on it. Just one more random act of kindness and generosity I got to experience on that trip.
I was so excited and ready to move on to my next destination, and so happy to get to travel by train. I grew up listening to train stories from my family because my grandpa and uncles worked on the railroad their whole lives, and now finally I was going to have my very own first train experience ever. And so off I went…au revoir Paree…ciao Milano!

Travel: A Mexican Girl in Paris (Part Deux)

It was early morning when I finally opened my eyes after a good 10 hours of sound sleep, yet still feeling some weariness lingering around. I wanted to sleep some more but I saw the guys were up and almost ready to walk out the door. The three amigos were planning on taking a train to Luxembourg that same day, so they didn’t have much time to enjoy Paris, let alone to sit around and wait for me. Mr. Brazil wasn’t in such a hurry since he had some time before meeting his dance crew, and luckily he didn’t mind keeping me company until then.
The first thing on my to-do list for the day was finding a place to stay that would suit both me and my budget, now that I would find myself all on my own. I had decided by this point that I would spend the whole week in Paris. It was the city I was the most excited to visit, I mean, sure I was gladly looking forward to visiting Rome, Venice, London, but Paris was special to me. I had dreamed about Paris my whole life like none other, I felt some strange connection to it, like it was calling my name; and now that I was actually there, I wanted to take my time soaking it all in.
I had gotten a list of hostels from some tourist information booth, and after finding a pay-phone, I started making calls hoping to find the right place after just a couple of calls. However, every time I dialed a number, I only got “fully booked”, “no beds available” or “sold out” as responses. I was starting to worry, the guys were leaving, I couldn’t afford our current hotel, and my options were narrowing down to zero. Mr. Brazil also started getting concerned with my situation, he didn’t want to leave me alone on the street with no place to go, so he offered to walk around with me asking at different hotels until we found a suitable place for me.
We walked for quite a while and stopped at many places without any luck. We were both getting increasingly worried and discouraged when we finally found this little place, an independently owned tiny hotel that almost felt more like a B&B, except they didn’t serve breakfast. It was owned and operated by a married couple with the funniest accents. They weren’t French, they were immigrants from I-don’t-remember-where that had been living in France for years; after working in the tourism industry for ages, they had picked up a little bit of like 7 different languages and when they spoke you couldn’t figure out which of those accents was coming thru. They were very friendly and inviting, and though it was more than I had planned to spend, it was pretty much my only choice so I took up a room.
Mr. Brazil really ended up being a God-send that day, not only did he walk with me until we found a place, but he also went back with me to our previous hotel to pick up my backpack and even carried it all the way to my new accommodations. Once he made sure I was settled safe and sound there, he wished me luck on my travels and left. I never saw him again, and unfortunately I don’t even remember his name. His kindness though will never be forgotten.
Even though I wasn’t thrilled about having to spend $45 Euros/night when I had planned to spend an average of $20 to $25 Euros/night on hostels, I was glad to have a room to myself. It was an average sized bedroom by American standards, which meant it was huge for Europe. It had wood flooring, a charming armoire and a comfortable double bed with a night stand on each side. Of course, I didn’t have a bathroom of my own, which it’s normal in Europe, most “low-cost” accommodations offered shared bathrooms; usually that means there’s a bathroom on each floor, with at least a couple of showers and toilettes, but this place had only one bathroom for the whole building, which granted wasn’t very big. Luckily this little bathroom, with only one tiny shower and one toilette and small sink, was located on my floor near my room. Incidentally, that was the best part of all, I was on the 4th floor, which was the top floor of the small building. Though I didn’t have a balcony, the room did have a window and I loved standing by it at the end of a long day of sightseeing. Even today, if I closed my eyes and let my mind wander back to those memories, I can still feel the cool summer breeze brushing against my skin as my eyes glanced over the Parisian blue rooftops of Le Marais.
After I was settled in, I went out to explore some more, but by 3pm I realized my plan to beat jet-lag wasn’t working quite as I expected. I was dead tired again, and I didn’t get very far before I had to turn around and go back to my hotel. I needed a nap desperately, but little did I know I would actually end up sleeping until the next day…that’s jet-lag for ya.

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