Saturday, June 20, 2015

Two Years Later

It's hard to believe, but it was two years ago today we walked into Santiago de Compestella after carrying a 13-14 month old Kepa on our backs for almost 500 miles. It remains the greatest experience of our family's life, and we can't wait until Kepa is old enough to walk the Northern Camino.  But since that is quite a few years off, we've had to continue to occupy ourselves with other types of continual journey and evolution.  As promised, since we don't do "the Book of the Face," we are back for our annual update.

We still walk almost every day, usually about 4-5 miles but sometimes up to 10 when we can find the time. Kepa loves it and looks forward to it. Sometimes we stop off at a family dive bar (only in New Orleans can those words go together!) near our house called Down the feels a bit like stops on the Camino.  Kepa very rarely (like maybe once a month?) gets to ride in the pack any more though, he's just too big.  Thank God for Bob strollers.

We are amazed (shocked?) to realize Kepa still remembers the Camino. We are sure that will eventually fade, but for now he still picks up his camino stick, walks around, and pretends to hike.  When we watched the new Camino Documentary that came out in the last year (more on that in a moment), he stared at it intently for an hour and a half.  And then he wanted to watch it again the next day.  When asked if he remembered, he replied with a tone that implies, why are you asking me that, as he said "yeah, en camino."

Two movies that are at least semi-Camino related came out this year.  The first, a documentary called Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago may be the best Camino film we've seen yet.  It has its faults, and certainly romanticizes a tad at times, but it is a well-made movie and (separately) one of the most accurate depictions of what the Camino is really like we've ever seen.  Far better than the Martin Sheen movie, The Way.  If you are the type of person who liked this blog at all (and that still baffles us!) then we highly recommend this documentary. One of the six pilgrims featured is a French woman walking with her four year old. Her reasons and experience look far different from ours, but it was still interesting to see a child featured. The other movie isn't really Camino related at all, more hiking.  But Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, may be the best hiking/journey/transformation film we've ever seen.  This is a tired, over-done genre (we've talked about that while critiquing The Way in the past).....and Wild manages to invoke pretty much all of those cliches only in order to defuse them.  There is some really annoying (and obvious) product placement for Snapple and REI, but other than that, it is sublime.

We are still in close contact with Marian, our Basque lady friend, and keep in fairly good contact with the Double-A's in Texas, Kim and David from England, and Joan from Catalunya. Kim is recovering nicely from her cancer and Marian is busy building and running Casa Rurals in the Basque Region.  Let us know if you want to rent one from her, she'd appreciate it :)

In non-Camino news, we remain active and busy (though broke) as we try to keep updating and fixing our 1885 house in the Irish Channel of New Orleans.  Brittany's academic book came out this year (a comparison between Spain and the U.S. South), Todd has an academic article (about Sofia Coppola's road-movie Somewhere) in December, he does monthly movie reviews for a tiny magazine in Houma, and Todd and Brittany have been busy on a couple of other joint writing projects. Mary Ann has now been living in New Orleans for a year-and-a-half and got her own apartment, about a mile from us, last August.  She seems to like it here, when she has time and energy to enjoy the city. Her job really is working her hard.  Todd still commutes to Thibodaux, and Kepa rides with him for daycare three days a week. Brittany is still working in New Orleans.  Kepa is working on potty training.  He's both late, and slow to take to it.  Let's hope that isn't still a topic of conversation this time next year :)

Brittany's mom passed away suddenly in December.  Her Aunt and Uncle are still Frenching it up on the West Bank of New Orleans.  And even Frencher than that, the paperwork has finally come through for both Brittany and Kepa's dual French citizenship. Now Todd is the only non-international in the house.

If all of this typing hasn't yet put you to sleep, here is our year in pictures:

Our plan had been to take the year off from travel in order to save up for a Basque trip in the Summer of 16, but Mary Ann rented a house for a week over July Fourth at Folly Beach just outside of Charleston SC and invited us along (it was her trick to get a family vacation).  Charleston is our second favorite city in the nation, has a great food scene, and Folly Beach is the (rare) beach that matches our family vibe.  So we agreed to go along.  On the way we spent the night in Nashville in order to eat at Rotier's and then see Gillian Welch, our favorite musician (along with Dylan of course), at the Ryman.  Mary Ann sat with Kepa in the balcony (planning to leave as soon as he was a distraction) and we had great seats.  But Kepa made it three hours glued and mesmerized.  After 11 hours in the car, a 2-year old stayed up for a seated concert until 11 PM.  We are in shock.  And thank goodness they played his Camino bedtime song: "The Monkey and the Engineer" The next day we stopped off in Orangeburg for one of our two favorite BBQ joints in the world, Duke's.  It was Kepa's first experience.

Upper Left: Dave Rawlings Machine/Gillian Welch at the Ryman, The Rest: Duke's
Folly Beach is one of the things that makes Charleston great.  It's literally just around the point from the mouth of Charleston Harbor, making a great, great American city also linked to a pristine, natural beach that feels untouched.  And, as yet, not run over by condos and tourists and retirees.  Folly Beach is still a funky beach.  Our place was right on it (you could walk out on the beach).  Pivo and Kepa had a particularly good time, but it was an amazing trip.  Usually we are the type always on the go, diving head first into foreign culture, when we travel.  While we have fond memories of eating curried goat at a locals-only restaurant in Ocho Rio, Jamaica and standing butt naked getting beaten by sticks in a banya in St Petersburgh Russia, coming a year after the most on the go trip ever (the Camino) it was nice to put our feet up and chill.  It also helped keep the trip on budget.

Folly Beach SC
While we mostly went low-budget in Charleston, we did have a lot of fun.  We ate some amazing fresh tacos at a dive on Folly Beach, made a trip to the heart of Gullah country for an amazing lunch, and one night Todd and Brittany splurged and ate at Husk.  Sean Brock is helping to reinvigorate Charleston cuisine (once one of the most important food areas in the USA) and the restaurant is sublime.  We particularly enjoyed the pigs ear lettuce wraps and the oysters.  We are sad we didn't have the nerve to try his infamous Husk Burger, but we couldn't quite get ourselves to order a burger at a fine dining establishment.  That said, we've made it a zillion times out of his amazing cookbook and it is now our standard home burger.  It is fantastic.  Husk was one of the five finalists for the 2015 James Beard Chef of the Year (along with Nola's Donald Link) and it is well earned.  All of this said, it was also quite refreshing to realize that while we LOVED Husk, and hope to go back, it would probably not quite crack our top-5 restaurants in NOLA.  Just when we thought we over romanticized our hometown, outside experienced reaffirmed our love of our hometown.

Bri in front of Husk
The rest of the summer was mostly reserved for teaching summer school and working on our research/publications.  But we did take time out to (yet again) do the NOLA Running of the Bulls and local Bastille Day celebrations.  Kepa quite enjoyed himself at Bastille Day:

As usual, our biggest Fall activity is hosting tailgates for Tulane football.  This year was a particularly fun yet challenging year because for the first time in almost forty years Tulane football moved back on campus, to brand new Yulman Stadium.  The tailgating scene on the quad is some of the best we've ever seen anywhere in the south, and that has made gameday much more fun. Alas, the team couldn't quite match the new enthusiasm, going 3-9 for the year.
You'll Love Yulman Stadium.....Kepa does!!!!!
A picture of Brittany and Kepa at Homecoming also got snagged by Tulane and placed on their homepage, where it still lives about 50% of the time.  We think it is a phenomenal picture.

Bri and Kepa on Tulane's Homepage
And if that wasn't enough time in the media spotlight, footage of our tailgate krewe got used in a commercial for Tulane football!
Bris is front and center, but Todd was off meeting Kepa and MaryAnn at the parking spot, so they missed out! 
We also had fun at NOLA's Oktoberfest and celebrating Halloween.  Kepa went as a cowboy.  We trick or treated at tailgating (Halloween was a gameday), but Kepa didn't seem to mind.  Overall, though, he had even more fun picking out and cleaning his own pumpkin the weekend before.
Pumpkin Patch Lovin' Cowboy
XMas consisted of doing most of our NOLA Family traditions---going to see the decorations at the Roosevelt hotel, caroling in Jackson Square, Christmas in the Oaks at City Park.  It was a lot of fun to see Kepa old enough to really "get" it.  He was in awe on Christmas day.  His biggest gift was a teepee (with lights inside) that Brittany and Pivo spent days sewing.
Upper Left: Kepa in the window at Sucre. The Rest: The Tee-Pee
We all had a really good Carnival season with nice weather (though really cold on Mardi Gras Day).  Kepa had a blast at the parades and Mary Ann joined a faux dance troupe, the Oui Dats, who dress as Marie Antoinette's and march in two parades.  Todd and Brittany are still in Krewe du Vieux.  Our family Mardi Gras Day costume was all of the characters from Pixar's Up, but at the last minute Kepa rebelled about some of his costume, so he doesn't look SO much like Mr. Fredrickson.  Kepa doesn't watch tons of TV, but he has his father's obsession with the things he likes, which, for Kepa, are: Singing in the Rain, Toy Story, Up, Peppa Pig, and, above all else, the almighty Smurfs (the original ones, not the recent movies).
From Upper Right, Counter-Clockwise: The Family on Mardi Gras Day, Kepa enjoys a oversized tooth brush thrown from a float, Mary Ann in her Oui Dat costume, & the family at the Irish Channel St Patrick's Day Parade

Some family celebrations included our dear friends from South Carolina, Scott and Nicole, visiting. Nicole's Kazakhstan adoption blog is one of the best reads we've ever had and her political blog is pretty awesome too. They are kind of our heroes.  And in June, we celebrated our stupid ol' Kenne-Day celebration again.  Any excuse for Fried Eggs, French Fries, Chorizo, and Bacon.....Right?
Scott, Nicole, Bri, and Kepa on the left. Torta de Santiago from Kenneday on the right.
Spring is also Festival season in NOLA:
Left: The family races to finish turtle soup at French Quarter Fest, Top Right: Boudin Stuff Fried Chicken from Patois also at FW Fest, Lower Right: Kepa blows his bubble gun at Jazz Fest
The biggest family news is that Mary Ann is considering using the money she got for selling her house in Virginia in order to buy an apartment in Donostia in the Basque Country.  Basically, we convinced her that our retirement dream was her retirement dream.....meaning we will all get to enjoy it sooner.  We are mostly skipping travel this year in order to save money for a trip to the Basque Country next year, and, fingers crossed, to buy the apartment while there.  Wouldn't it be awesome if next year's post included pictures of our brand new Basque House?  And we can't think of a better childhood for Kepa than 9 months a year in New Orleans and 2-3 months in Euskal Herria, all while holding a French citizenship. It will give him a lot of options and life experience that we all could have only dreamed of being raised with.

So two years out of Santiago, we're still trekking on, even if a bit closer to home.  Kepa says hi.....