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What To Do In Barça When Not Stuffing Your Face

After settling in, we decided to take the Free Walking tour of Gaudi. Sure we wanted to know what he had n common with Star Wars and Chupa Chups, but more importantly, it was our opportunity to connect with an insider from the city so we could learn about where to eat and where to avoid. So really, what to do when not eating in Barcelona is really just optimizing where to eat in Barcelona.

The tour was great, our guide knew where Austin was, he comes down with his band for SXSW when he can and could relate to just wanting a salad after pounds of salty cured meat. Now we would gladly trade all the vegetables back for some more jamon. The tour took us to major architectural sites, we utilized the metro and ended at La Sagrada. It was well worth the tour and we got some pretty good pointers.

If you really want to get down to the local level, we strongly recommend Eat With. The entire experience was phenomenal. First our guide took us on a tour of St. Josep La Boqueria. He showed us how to pick out fish, all the splendors the market had to offer, then told us we would not be shopping here, it was for tourists and way over priced. Each shop looked immaculate, so we were not surprised.

We toured the town from Las Ramblas to The Catedral de Barcelona until we arrived at Mercat de Santa Caterina. This is where we got all the ingredients to make a magical dinner. WE learned how to bake parsnip chips, make a wonderful mushroom sauce, how to clean squid, how to sous vide seafood and steak, how to plate, then we ate. For all the knowledge we picked up, I would not trade it for dining at a high end restaurant.

The hosts were unbelievably kind and well versed in cooking, they also had an amazing rooftop patio where we could enjoy our meal and learn more about one another. Nothing builds community better than breaking bread.

If you have the opportunity to visit Camp Nou, we strongly recommend it. We had the opportunity to see a La Liga match as well as a UEFA Champions League match in this magnificent stadium. Before you arrive, be sure and check out there three level store, filled with anything you can imagine, from blades of grass off the pitch to authentic jerseys, this store had it all. I went with a N98 Tech nike jacket. I don’t believe we paid more than 80 Euros each for the UEFS match and we were just a few rows back from the touchline of some of the greatest players of our generation. For the La Liga match, we sat a few rows behind the goal and saw an amazing pirouette by Neymar to elude a defender and strike home a beauty past the keeper.

Both games Barça won, but it is hard to pick a favorite. The whistling during the Champions League theme song was out of this world, but seeing Iniesta and Pique so close in the second match was as if something from a dream. Spanish futbol doesn’t do food like US sports, they do serve hotdogs, sell peanuts and 20oz sodas, but do not expect the works when it comes to toppings nor alcohol in your beer, Estrella Sin is the only beer you can buy in the stadium. Outside the stadium, you can find real beer at the restaurants near the FCB Megastore.

If you are in the mood for hiking, we suggest the Montserrat, a rocky mountain range with various hikes, breathtaking views and a Monastery. It was at least an hour train ride out of Barcelona but it was worth it. I was a little nervous as there was a group of students on a field trip and one little girl sitting next to me was really sick from the motion and was about to let me know what she had for breakfast. Fortunately we arrived. to get to the Monastery, you need to ride a cable car up. One look at the ascent and you know one way or another you will be getting closer to God.

I maintained my cool, but only to keep Bekah from freaking out. Once at the top, you forget all about the journey you and twenty other passengers took over the rocky cliffside of a mountain and take in amazing views of the country. We opted for an “easier hike” it was still a beast to the top, but once there we had a little picnic on the side of a mountain. Sure the threat of falling off the side to your doom was present, but if the cable car didn’t kill us, we knew we would be ok. Once done with our makeshift charcuterie plate and baguette, we set of on our descent. There is a restaurant available, but we opted out of the over priced tourist style cafeteria you would find in your typical theme park. One more death defying ride in the cable car and we were back from our heavenly adventure. It is a full day journey, but if love being outdoors, this is for you.

La Sagrada Familia, words do it no justice. It is still a work in progress but do not let that deter you from visiting. I will let the photos make my case.

Barcelona is a brilliant city to explore. Everyday was a new adventure as if each section we visited was a new city. We are very fortunate to have been able to have such a magnificent experience.

A Backpackers Guide To Eating Barcelona

Prefacing Barça

We traveled to Barcelona via train from the station in San Sebastian, we left at 16:10 and were scheduled to arrive at 22:09. As far as I recall, there were no problems with the train, the ride was long, but it was much better than a bus as you have the freedom to move around if needed and much more spacious. Funny that I used some of the time to catch up on blog posts and yet they are just being posted now! Writing can be exhausting.

We took a cab to the room we rented which was in a phenomenal part of town, blocks from La Sagrada Familia, the metro rail and great places to eat. However, we were rather concerned because upon approaching the flat, we could smell cannabis fumes and the stench grew stronger with every step we took. When the apartment door opened, the wave pierced through the doorway like a sonic boom, freed from its constraints to diffuse and permeate every corner of the building and redefining the concept of a high-rise. The hosts were interesting and the cleanliness of the apartment was questionable, but that was all overlooked by the weed. Walking around in socks, we collected copious amounts of the plant on the soles of our feet. Had we stepped out into the city, i believe we could have been arrested for possession with intent to distribute. We did laundry the next morning, hung our clothes out to dry and were greeted by three 5 foot tall plants. In Spain it is legal to grew and possess for personal use, but this was a bit much. The final straw was when our host told us that her family was coming in from Venezuela that weekend. A two bedroom one bath flat occupied by us, our hosts and extended family! No way, we lied, said we were going back to San Sebastian and booked another airbnb in Barça for the remainder of our trip. We never felt like we were in eminent danger, and we are by no means putting Venezuelans in a box, hot or not, this was just not the experience we wanted. Plus there was more than enough to go around yet no peace offering. We made the most of the few days we were there.

Good Eats:

Maybe it was sleeping in residual air, I am not really sure how all of that works, but we woke up with some serious hunger and longing for an american style breakfast. Jamon was not going to cut it, we looked online for a place and found Milk Bar & Bistro. I ordered the American Pancakes with Bacon. The two pancakes were delivered in a sea of maple syrup and topped with a few delicious strips of smokey bacon. I’m glad I ordered a side of eggs, as the dish was a little small for my appetite. Bekah went with the Salmon Eggs Benedict, two amazingly poached eggs sitting on salmon and ciabatta blanketed with a delicate hollandaise sauce.

Content with our meal, we set off to explore this wonderful city. It is full of rich architecture and history that is fully appreciated and embedded in a modern society. Every intersection brings you to a new alleyway where a hidden treasure is waiting to be discovered.  We stumbled upon La Catedral de Barcelona and it was a beauty.

Close to were we were staying was a nice pedestrian/biking trail in-between Av. Diagonal near Plaça de la Hispanitat. After our daily feasts in San Sebastian, we had some major running to do. From where the path started, it was not long enough to run a 5k, but easy enough to track back and complete the run. On the path was an area of concrete ping pong tables and further down was a play area for kids. We got a couple of runs in before our departure.

Now back to food, we looked up a wonderful place to get a drink and some amazing appetizers, Granja Petitbo. It fills up during dinner, but it was a great place to work during the day. It was here where we did our research for Rome and Florence and also where a few paragraphs were banged out for this blog. Their nachos were lacking, their burgers supreme, the zumos were refreshing, and beer and wine was reasonably priced.

If you need a break form Estrella and riojas/tintos, Garage Beer Company is the perfect place. Their set up is like a traditional Brew Pub you would find right here in the States. It was tears of joy as I relished the moment an IPA hit my lips, then pure indulgence as I babysat an imperial stout. They must have had at minimum 30 international taps and quite a number of bombers in a drink case. Had we not had been stuffed be a wonderful dinner at Out of China, we would have tried what they had to offer, but with the amount of food we ate, I am surprised we could even finish a second beer.

Beer was not all we were missing 5 months out, what was really pulling on our heart was Mexican food. Hidden in the shadows of La Sagrada Familia on Passatge de Font sat La Taqueria. This was the closest to tacos we were going to get, so when we were told it was an hour wait, we said bring it! To pass time we went to their shop across the street Abarrotes Doña Cuca.

It was as if we were transported back home surrounded by all the brands we love Valentina, La Costeña, Jarritos, Sopa Maruchan, and Takis we wanted to break down right then and there. We knew wait was waiting for us across the street was going to be magical. We loaded up on some essentials for a bean and cheese taco fest later that week and before we knew it our table was ready.

We started with micheladas and queso flameado, tortilla chips, and spicy salsa. We were in heaven, how was anything going to top that? Then the tacos arrived. So close to the basilica, this had to be a sacred holy site.

Close to La Sagrada was also a delightful seafood restaurant, La Paradeta. You walk in and come up to iced bins of the freshest seafood. You make your selection, tell them how you would like it cooked and take a seat with a mug of beer. It was as fresh as fried fish can be, however, the salad was a no, for some reason the corn really stood out as an ingredient that we did not agree with.

Our last night in Spain we threw a giant feast of our favorite foods from Cataluña, which turned out to be the region we were most familiar with when it came to cuisine in Spain. We first stopped at the butcher shop, Escort Oliver on Crue Coberta to pick up some choice cuts of jamon iberico, we must have picked out three different selections, all of them divine. Then we headed over to Casa Ametller to purchase a couple bottles of wine and an olive tapenade and crossed the street to Abacus Cooperative to get some fresh cheese and olives. The feast was brilliant and the perfect way to pay tribute to nearly two weeks in Barça.

San Sebastian: Some Food, Some Sightseeing, Sum Journey

We arrived very late on the night of October 30th, our driver dropped us off at plaza letting us know he couldn’t go any further,  that the streets to our flat are for pedestrian use only. We were exhausted from our longer than expected day in Bilbao and just wanted to crawl into bed, but we couldn’t, we had no idea where our AirBNB contact was. We arrived at our apartment with no way of ringing in so I went to look for wifi to contact our host. I walked around and tried to connect, but no use. I gave up and my wife was gone. Luckily she spotted me from the balcony of our apartment just before I walked away, turns out our host was at La Cepa, a pintxos bar next door, he saw her waiting and let her in. If that was the price we had to pay for the awesomeness San Sebastian was about to provide us with, then it was worth it.

We rented a lovely little room in an awesome part of the city. We were close to Castillo de la Mota on Monte Urgull, in the middle of amazing restaurants, and a few blocks from a great market. There was even a movie being shot that Halloween movie. From the scene we watched being filmed, looked like a romantic drama/comedy.

On Halloween, Bekah and I decided to do something completely different, go out. We never do. We found a horror movie festival at a local theatre and decided to try it out. There was a short film about clones and identity, then there was the feature presentation, Maggie, starring Arnold! The crowd was pumped, it was about time he was the lead in a zombie thriller, put him on a fifty, or rather mount the fifty onto him and before you know it there is an “Hasta la vista, zombie” and the world is saved. Well that is not how it played out. I won’t ruin the film if you have not seen it, I will let it do that for itself. The premise itself was great, what is your moral obligation and how do you deal with a slow transformation of a family member into a zombie? In World War Z it takes seconds,for Maggie, it was weeks. Needless to say, the crowd was not pleased, this was not what they signed up for. It couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes in and the heckling began. The single greatest moment was when a cop said to Arnold “I’ll be back.” The crowd erupted with applause and cheers but this was no atonement. It was Arnold’s moment to break free from the bondage of his typecast, but the Spanish crowd wasn’t having any of it.

Castillo de la Mota has phenomenal views of San Sebastian and the Bay. Do bring your walking shows, it is a short and relatively easy hike to Jesus, but the journey is a constant incline, one trail we took was cobblestone with rather large gaps between the stones. We had a fun photography session and descended using a different route. This lead us to near the beachside by the aquarium instead of by our flat, but we had all the time in the world and a few extra steps were needed due to the wonderful gastronomy of the city.

If you need more aerobics than a walk, behind Monte Urgull is a long pedestrian/bike path. I am not sure how long it goes on for, but I was able to run 4 miles roundtrip around the hill and along the beachfront with no end in sight. You might laugh at 4 miles, but try it after nights of multiple camas, foie and veal cheeks. I was already proud I was able to simply walk to the trail, so running 4 miles was as exhilarating as running a marathon. You can also run up Monte Urgull, if you hate yourself but want a beautiful view of flora and fauna.

I know there is way more to do in San Sebastian, but honestly, what we cared about most was the food, so most of the time we spent there was figuring out what we wanted to devour next. The city is beautiful, the markets are great, it is a fashionable city, not the hot pinks of madrid, so be ready to spend on the trendy clothes. Real Sociedad is the home team here, but Bilbao is just around the corner so it is perfect for football. We opted out of seeing the Celta Sociedad game, Camp Nou was on the horizon, our first ever UEFA Championship match! We love San Sebastian and everyday we are figuring out how to get back. When the going gets tough and it seems like a distant dream, I look up a recipe and prepare a dish for Bekah; we can always rely on some good eats to get us back there in spirit.

San Sebastian, 4 Days, 5 Nights, 20 Pounds. You Do the Math.

As americans, we love food; hell, we have networks dedicated to broadcasting food 24 hours a day, 365! However, I have never been more inspired and in awe of food than our experience in San Sebastian. Here food is an art. Don’t get me wrong, there are several places you should avoid, or if you must, use them as your baseline to recalibrate, for there are so many degrees in between good and great that you need to know what rock bottom is. How else could we know good without bad?

First on you list should be Borda Berri on Fermin Calbeton Kalea. Everything here was divine. This was our first pintxos experience in northern Spain and we will never forget it. Tender octopus, melt in your mouth veal cheeks, savory risotto, perfectly seared steaks where just a few items that we tried listed on a chalkboard full of dreams. This was the happiest place on earth, not one frown could be seen, and everybody’s eyes lit up when a new plate was placed in front of them. This was culinary gold.

In our opinion, La Cepa wins most consistent and reliable. Our flat was right next door and when places were closed, which was often since we were in the dying stages of tourist season, this was our go to. I would call this a traditional pintxos bar, cold pintxos lined the bar, you would collect and the bartender would keep tab. The pintxos where standard but had a good taste but the one we most remember was a fried jamon and cheese croquette. We also ordered off the menu, but that meal alludes me. It was by no means horrible, and I know it was much better than some other places we visited, but it also wasn’t memorable. There was one item, however, that we absolutely enjoyed, so much so that we had to get our own as sharing would have ended badly, their cheesecake. This delicacy will have your smile stretching ear to ear and questioning whether or not it is acceptable to just stop in for one every time you walk by. You just may put yourself on a hobbit’s eating schedule after this place.

La Cuchara de San Telmo takes food to a whole new level. They open up at 19:30 so be there before. We were early, not too many people waiting, but when the doors opened people just magically appeared and it filled rather quickly. We managed getting a place at the bar, two old ladies may have been sacrificed in the process. One bite of the beef cheek ravioli and I was inspired to be a better cook. I could not believe how much flavor they packed into a bite, it was instant fulfillment. Then we had the foie dressed in honey. We couldn’t speak, it deserved silence and self reflection. Upon finishing, we made a vow that this “controversial” food would only be consumed while in San Sebastian. I have heard of a farm 5 hours southwest of Madrid that does not practice gavage and allows geese to naturally get fat, so we may have to revisit this promise. But I digress; at the present moment, I cannot tell you which is better, Borda Berri or La Cuchara. I will let you decide for yourself. One inspired me to never settle for mediocre and one inspired me to never cook unless I meant it. We felt Borda Berri was more laid back while the environment at La Cuchara felt very busy.

If you are Caña-ed and wined out, we suggest you visit Sirimiri Gastroleku. They have a great moscow mule which was a nice change from San Miguel and Riojas/tintos, however, we were not impressed by the foie artesanal. Maybe it was because of the way it was prepared, La Cuchara had seared it to perfection, where this was more of a spread. It was good, just uneventful and lacking. Even the pulpo left a lot on the table. We had been wandering around, in and out of various restaurants looking for a good place to watch the Barça match. It was better than any other place on the street, but left us wanting more.

So we left and found it, La Mejillonera. The menu is simple, mussels served 5 different ways, patatas bravas, and fried calamari as a dish or sandwich. Do not be fooled by their simplicity as the flavors will have you questioning why you didn’t just spend all your time here. Our first order was two cañas, the tigres and al vapor. Served with a sliced up baguette, we were in paradise. One dish was spicy, the other citrusy, we were in love.

There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about the food here. It was the reason we included it on our route. We entertained the possibility of dinning at a michelin restaurant, but I am not sure we would have gained anything from it. Maybe we are fools for not doing so, but I do know the money we spent on food the few nights we were there was of no regret and possibly the sum of one dinner at 3 star michelin.

Journey to Basque Country

We left Sevilla via bus up north to Basque Country, the culinary excellence of San Sebastian on our mind. We decided on a day trip to Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim and it was a splendid idea, the metro rail was a street down from where our bus dropped us off, so getting their was convenient.

With time to kill before our departure to San Sebastian, we ate lunch at SushiShop then visited the shopping district of Bilbao. It was no different than any other metropolitan shopping district in Spain, giant 7 story Cortes Ingles, Mango Man, H&M, Zara’s but it was fascinating to read signs in Spanish and see them in Euskara (the Basque language) as well, a language that has no roots to other European languages.

It was finally time to depart. It was nice to visit Bilbao, and I am sure there is plenty to do there, but our day trip left us satisfied and we did not question if we had made a mistake not staying longer. It was about a 90 minute ride to San Sebastian via bus, however, our bus was over an hour late and the bus station in Bilbao is not the ideal hangout. It was fully equipped with a small convenient store, questionable restaurant and a vending machine that sold “grilled cheese” sandwiches but all these amenities did little to calm our nerves due to a missing bus and heightened guard.

Our cab driver in San Sebastian was happy we were visiting and encouraged us to visit the south of France while on our stay, it said it was approximately 12km north and an easy drive. We had no car and wanted nothing to do with buses, roundtrip Quito to Latacunga, roundtrip Latacunga to the Quilotoa loop, roundtrip Quito to Banos, the Peru Hop disaster, roundtrip Santiago to Valparaiso, the minibuses in Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, Munich to Berlin, La Mata to Granada, Granada to Sevilla, Sevilla to Bilbao, Bilbao to San Sebastian, we were done! It was planes and trains for us from now on. So we settled in San Sebastian and they made it real easy.

Seville or Sevilla? That is the question.

We stayed in a flat just 20 minutes walking distance from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium and a large shopping mall, which we frequented. During our two week vacation in La Mata I read The Martian in anticipation for its release. We were fortunate that the theater in the mall had a screening everyday at 4 in VOS (signifying original language). It is really interesting observing different movie customs in various countries; the patrons in Arequipa are loud during the previews but quiet down as soon as the lights come down, Santiago’s viewers were extremely quiet, even during the previews. We went to a 4pm Tuesday screening of The Martian in English that was pretty empty, so we had no real sample to gauge sevillano etiquette. The San Sebastion horror film festival had a pretty hostile crowd and Rome’s theater was strange because its owners made you wait in the lobby 5 minutes before the movie and offered no concessions.

Though we love movies, we love food even more. Sevilla was all over the map when it came to food, at times it was a flash of brilliance and others you asked yourself “how did they manage to put a char on eggs”. Don’t worry, we will supply all the insight you will need to have a wonderful adventure in the capital city of Andalusia.

TBN on Av. de Melendez Pelayo was the guilty party for charring my eggs. For an extremely cheap price you get eggs, a meat and a bread option and coffee. I thought we found the deal of a lifetime, however, it seemed everything was cooked over a grill but they somehow managed to serve an undercooked cold hotdog and eggs that had the same taste as burnt microwaved popcorn. We couldn’t find a good breakfast in Sevilla, so we opted for the grocery stores and made our own.

Now for the good stuff, Spanish ham. It is everywhere and in every form, from tiny cubes in a cup to full legs hanging in shop windows and food stalls ready to purchase. Fully embracing their love for the salty cured meat, we went on a journey of our own to find an amazing treat and La Salmantina did not disappoint.

Located in the Triana neighborhood, this tienda offers a fine selection of meats and cheeses sliced to order and for less than 3€ you can get around a kilo of meat and cheese on a baguette.

This sandwich is no joke, so we advise not to attempt if you have been munching on tapas earlier. It is also extremely salty, so have a large bottle of water ready to help you wash down this mammoth. If you are not sure what meats pair with what cheeses, do not hesitate to ask, the deli workers are extremely friendly and well versed in their products.

If you are looking for a more gourmet tapa, then look no further than El Mercado Gourmet Lonja Del Barranco. Every vendor has an immaculate station with tantalizing food displays, leaving you walking in circles not sure what to get. I cannot say that the food was out of this world, but the environment is very inviting, especially on a sunny day where they have a wonderful outdoor seating area overlooking the river. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the good food and comfortable environment, we even left our walking tour (Feel the City) for a wine and dine.

5€ ham cones to 12€ rum and cokes, so good!

There is a lot to do in Sevilla, but we felt Feel the City was not one of them. If you are in to the history of a city, then yes, we strongly suggest you go. However, we wanted to know more about current day Sevilla and what to do. Besides, we just came from the Granada Feel the City, so we were done with the past.

I am not sure why, but we also had quite a few note takers in our group who were asking a such silly questions. We did find out that the Spanish Archives are housed in the city so we decided to take a look. Bekah has an uncommon last name and we wanted to find its origin.

Some people have told her it is Portuguese, others have said it is Basque, we were now in a place that potentially had the answer. With little to go on other than crossed fingers and a few generations, the closest we got was a deviation of the name of a sailor who left Sevilla and arrived in Panama, Columbia or Paraguay in 1637.

We got a little taste of Flamenco dancing in Granada during the Noche en Blanco and wanted more so we purchased tickets to a performance at El Palacio Andaluz. It was a tourist trap, so if you can find an authentic experience, please do. With that said, our performers really worked it. We bought our tickets at the information center near National Archives and close to where Feel the City tours meet. Knowing what we were in for, but longing to see dancers, we opted out of the ridiculous dinner and show tickets. It worked out in our favor because we found a cafe bar, La Taberna, near by that served us a ginormous plate of delicious fried seafood and potatoes. We arrived to the performance early so we explored the 20 foot wall they called a Flamenco museum. That took about 30 seconds so we headed upstairs to our seats, it was first come seating so we took advantage and sat front row center stage. Before the show, a photographer came by and “voluntold” us to take a photo. During the performance, a tacky souvenir paper frame with our photo in it is left on the table to purchase for an absurd amount of money, we declined and they took it back. The dancers, singers and musicians give it their all, and if you are are sitting in the front row, you will be perspired on, another reason you should avoid eating there. You aren’t supposed to take cameras or film, but we saw a few people with hand held recorders capturing the entire performance. The show comes to an end and you can’t help but feel sorry for the dancers as they try and get you to purchase the DVD. We exited the venue and bursted with laughter, the experience was so bad that it was good. It took cheesy to another level that you couldn’t help but just live in it and take it all in.

From late August to early June there should always be a futbol game to catch, if Sevilla FC is in town then Real Betis is playing away and vice versa. We were lucky to witness Sevilla dismantle Getafe 5-0.

It is not easy to find your seats as the ushers did not seem to have an understanding of the stadium layout. Once we did find our seats, they were occupied by some fans who said their seats were taken so they weren’t going to move. After arguing with them for a few minutes in Spanish and standing tall, they finally gave in and left. Do not expect much when it comes to concessions as your choices are bottled sodas, hotdogs in bread that would normally be reserved for philly cheesesteaks, or a bag of peanuts. They do serve beer, but it is sin alcohol (0.0 ABV). There is no instant replay, so you have to pay attention, lucky for us 3 of the goals were from the spot directly in front of us. The crowd went crazy with each goal scored and the fans were authentic. I could not have asked for a better first La Liga game.

There are a few more things I must mention before this post comes to a close. The first is some of the best ice cream we have ever tasted Bolas Helados arte sanos at Puerta de la Carne is phenomenal.

It is hard to pick just one flavor so don’t, get two or three in a cup instead. Sana Sana on calle San Bernardo serves amazing food, sana is Spanish for health so they have a fun medical theme going and they serve great drinks. Finally, a huge shout out to Min and Tiff who we first bumped into in Valparaiso, Chile, then saw in Santiago, Chile and finally made plans to hang out with in Sevilla. We met at Mescal Gastrobar, a restaurant they found using TheFork app which allows you to book at over 19,000 restaurants in Europe and provides up to 50% off discounts on slow days. We had a great time hearing about each other’s experiences and sharing all the fun and tribulations that come with traveling. We are glad they found our blog and reached out to us. It can be hard to be out in the world and surrounded by strangers everyday. We took up running in La Mata and continued through Barcelona, but I must say our favorite place to run was here at the Parque de Maria Luisa. It was a beautiful run on a dirt trail through a well manicured green space. You start at the Plaza de España and after a few laps you have completed a 5k. A lot of the run is shaded but you may want to bring a water bottle.

Plaza de España.

And to answer the question, according to one website saying Sevilla in English it is similar to pronouncing Rome as “Roma”; thus, if you are not speaking Spanish, stick to Seville.

Alhambra to Piononos, What’s Not to Love

Whilst in Granada, we opted for the free Feel The City tour. We have put many miles into free walking tours and this one did not disappoint. We enjoyed the little glimpse into the historical background of each major site and nice walks through small streets we would not normally have seen. We were slightly disappointed by the lack of insight into modern day culture or insider tips into places to go and restaurants. The only modern tip we got was that Piononos originated from Granada. We found a tiny shop on our own, La Piononeria on Calle Zacatin, and they were delightful. We also found Rey Fernando off of Calle Reyes Catolicos, but we felt they put the no-no in piononos.

If you wish to visit the Alhambra but have heard horror stories of the long lines to acquire tickets, we are here to help. Do not try and secure tickets at the Alhambra itself, but rather at the Alhambra Bookstore on Calle Reyes Catolicos. We stood in line for about 20 minutes and purchased next day tickets for the time frame we wanted. There is a worker at the electronic ticket kiosk, so the purchase is fail proof.

Be prepared to spend no less than four hours at this beautiful reddish fortress. My words do no justice the beauty the gardens posses, the craftsmanship and decorative elements of Nasrin architecture, and the stunning views of Granada below.

The most beautiful flower in the fortress.

Despite the large guided tours obstructing your view and denying you that perfect photo with nobody in it, the Alhambra’s majesty allowed you to keep your serenity.

After such an intensive journey, you will be starving. We recommend Cacho&Pepe Italian cuisine to refuel and calm down your hangry partner. The restaurant itself only has 2 tables, so you can wait or do as we did, order takeout and find a lovely bench to eat and people watch. They did not have plastic utensils, but if you promise to bring them back, they will let you borrow their silverware.

They promised us two days in a row they would have a burrata for us, but every time we returned, they said they either sold out or were making it later that day. We gave up an the delicious cheese ball, Italy was on the horizon, but we will be back.

On our last night in the city we decided to go out, something we typically did not do as we were exhausted from all the walking and sightseeing. We walked out of our apartment and into a little old ladies choir singing De Colores.

We thought how cute, but how strange to have this one isolated performance out of nowhere. We were wrong, we had serendipitously stumbled upon Noche En Blanco, a night were Granada puts its culture on display.

On the steps of the Granada Cathedral, an orchestra put on an amazing performance and ended with a duet from Zorro.

In the shops, store owners offered champagne and tapas while DJs mixed beats in the store window. Another store hired dancers to perform outside their shop.

In the Plaza de Bib-Rambla, Flamenco dancers put on a mesmerizing performance while little kids setup for their hiphop dance show.

The Plaza del Campillo had a children’s Ping Pong league on display and fencers that ranged from kids to adults. The city was alive and come together to showcase its best. It was a spectacular night with hundreds of events and we had the good fortune to be able to experience it.

We will miss our little Andalusian treasure, but it is a city we know we will return to. Thank you Granada for all that you offer, no we turn our journey to Sevilla.

There Is No Place Like Home, Not Saying That Is A Good Or Bad Thing

 

So we disappeared for a while and incase you all were wondering, we are fine and back home. The fastest way to have your trip end is have a family member visit you in the middle of it. Pop pop, Bekah’s dad, took us up on our offer to meet us anywhere in the world they chose. Originally it was Greece but circumstances actually pushed us to Rome. I’ll post those details later, along with the rest of Spain and some travel we did stateside so keep checking us out, I am sure y’all are tired of reading the same posts over and over.

We decided to settle back down in Austin, San Antonio is a great city, it was just lacking in tech jobs and with 14 breweries opening up in Austin this year alone, how do you pass that up? Bekah took a great opportunity with Favor as a Runner Growth Manager and loves taking on the challenges she is faced with on a daily basis. I am super proud of her and Favor got lucky landing her. I took a gig with Bazaarvoice as a Content Analyst, tried coaching 2 year olds soccer and I occasionally poke my head into the job market to see if there is anything out there I would like. I can’t see myself in a traditional job and teaching has left a void that used to be filled with service so you can see my struggle.

We have a lovely apartment in East Austin which filled up fast with the stuff we stored in various family garages and rooms. We really thought we got rid of a lot, but we were in for a shock. Traveling has taught us a lot. We have learned how to be content, that we don’t need gadgets and gizmos aplenty. Maybe that was The Little Mermaid, either way, when it comes to thingamabobs, we don’t need 20. We were also freed from the bondages of our phones, we disconnected service when we left and the 5 months we were gone removed the addiction. It is a little sad to see our society constantly trying to document every experience, but if it helps them hold onto fleeting memories, who am I to deny this?

Our beautiful sofa, our stay in Stuttgart showed the importance of a great couch!

But this is a travel blog, so I will not go on and ramble about the opportunities for societal changes. I will give some advice that may help and should have done this instead of playing FIFA15 while Bekah did all the hard planning before we left.

  1. Take a bus ride to another city with your travel partner. It is important to know what you can handle, what foods and items may comfort you or bring misery, and how your partner deals with the trials and tribulations of bus riding.
  2. While you have the comfort of your home and fast wifi, plan the countries you have no clue about first. Knowing Spanish, we could have gotten through South America with less planning, sure they all have their version of Spanish, but it is the same language. Asia is another beast, India alone has over 20 major languages and our driver a couple years back said there were around 500! Trying to balance blogging and planning while actually experiencing traveling was tough. By month 5 we were exhausted, only had one week ahead of us and the daunting task of trying to figure India out loomed large. Thus, it was easy to side on family and nostalgia and fake concern for a plane being shot down over Turkey, the day before arrival, to throw our hands up and say we are done.
  3. Start with these hard countries. Knowing the struggle was real and knowing it was about to get that much harder, had we started with Asia and ended with South America, our trip may have been prolonged.
  4. Don’t try and see everything, in fact it is ok if you don’t. It was nice to see Pop pop’s face light up with amazement at the Pantheon, the Colosseum, hell even a statue. We lost that simple pleasure. We did an awesome job of giving ourselves breaks in South America and living like locals, but somehow Europe changed us.

The lovely food we encountered on our journey, now a daily reminder in our kitchen.

If you are having second thoughts about dropping everything to go, just do it. You will never get this time back. We picked up exactly where we left off. Your job will be there when you get back. It may take a few months to find, but everything will work itself out. Just make sure you have a good reserve and make the most of your family missing you. Best of luck on your journey.

 

Spain Episode III Granada a New Hope

We are going to write the Spanish posts Star Wars style, mainly because we are behind in posting but also because we are not sure if we want to release the rights to the Madrid and La Mata episodes. As always, the brief introduction:

A long time ago in a continent far away: SPAIN 🇪🇸 our protagonists Princess Bekah and Tony Solo (and I might as well be preserved in carbonite after I thought Chew-Bekah would some how be approved and appreciated) were fighting and fleeing the dark side, Madrid, after she used her Death Star to destroy any hope we had of excellent food. Evan Calrisian (a dear friend who I taught with for three years back in Austin) let us seek refuge in his flat, cloud city, before we fled to the south.

We now find ourselves in Granada, tapas capital of the world. Travel days are the worst, not just because you have been on a bus for 20 hours or flying for 16 or on a train for 6, but because you are so exhausted hat you settle on anywhere to eat once you arrive and it is almost always the worst most expensive meal you will have in that city. Ours was a paella on the Las Navas restaurant row. The place advertised 15€ paella and said minimum 2 people. Tired, we thought “we are two people” and ordered the dish. The dish was 3 stars at best but it was our first go at the seafoody rice dish so we stayed amused, until we got our check. Bekah opened it up “What?! they charged us a Euro for bread”?! She exclaimed. I quickly retorted “you do realize we were charged 15€ each for the paella”? It hit her as the words escaped my mouth, a minimum of two does not entail quantity size, but a per person rate. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky place bread on our table and make us think it is free, then trick us with your wording to trap us into double payment of a mediocre dish. Needless to say, it ruined paella for us the rest of our trip.

NOT the paella place. Keep a lookout for restaurants with daily menus which are usually 3 courses or 2 and a free drink!

Diamontes rectified the situation, how could such an amazing place operate just a few doors away from our big disappointment. We saw it before the paella disaster, but it was so crowded we couldn’t bring ourselves to going in and fighting off the swarms of patrons. After the disaster and still wanting to experience the night life, we went in. Wow, I ordered two cañas and our first tapa was mushrooms in a delightful gravy. Our disaster restaurant gave us the same tapa, but somehow managed to butcher it. Impressed by the flavor of the simple yet satisfying dish and the food calling happening behind the bar, we pressed our luck again, this time we got an anchovies fish fry. They were cooked to perfection, the breading was light and crispy and the fish had the perfect balance of acidity and saltiness. We couldn’t believe our luck and decided to press it one more time, this time we got 2 riojas (red wines) a couple of minutes later we were called to the bar to claim our last tapa, a plate of clams cooked in butter. They were heaven, each slurp lit up our faces like kids seeing fireworks for the first time on the Fourth of July. The barefoot contessa would not only have been proud, but inspired as well. All this joy and we were only at half the cost of our swampy paella just moments before. The night was saved, we let go of our anger and used the force of Tapas. We were in Granada for less than a week, but became regulars.

A few pics from the broken phone…Common trend is our favorite times are left un-photographed

Not all tapas are created equally, we walked into a bar with very promising beer list (Estrella, Mahauo, and San Miguel grow old after a while) and equally impressive sounding tapas. Our first was fried calamari, the portion was big, but it tasted like it had been fried the night before and then poorly microwaved 30 minutes prior to our arrival. The manager was phenomenal, he asked if he could exchange the tapas for another, but we politely declined, paid for our beers then headed back to Diamontes. Depending on the bar, they either start you off on a progression of Tapas and you work your way up as you drink more, or they have a list and let you decide. We are not sure on the etiquette of tapas, but if we didn’t see a list we considered the tapas a gift and would not insult the restaurant by asking.

Not our favorite

If you really want to indulge, then we recommend 2 places, the first is Bodega los Tintos. Beer is about 2€ for caña, wine around 3€ and you get your pick of insanely amazing tapas per drink. The list had 12 tapas, our favorites were the snails and the meat in garlic sauce. The atmosphere was so relaxed and there are more tables than Diamontes, but we advise to get there within the first 30 minutes to an hour of opening to get a seat, otherwise it is standing room only. If you are like us, you will be there 10 minutes before it opens because dinner at 8:30 is  way late for us. Sure it was just the two of us in the beginning, but by our third round, the house is packed!

Our second place we insist you visit is Taberna de Jam. We really recommend the large assorted meats and cheese dish to get a full taste for Spanish hams. It was not only delicious but well priced. The service was beyond what any establishment in Europe will provide and we loved the wine pairings recommended. We can say from a week of free tapas in Granada the offerings here are higher quality than most and very well executed.

Believe it or not, there is more to love about Granada than food and drink (although that could be enough). We will follow up with more soon!

RTW Vacation? Two Weeks in La Mata, Spain

With limited vacation time in our careers, we chose to spend our travel time immersing ourselves in culture, nature and new activities. We had never taken a beach vacation prior to the RTW trip and since we tend to prefer mountains or urban settings, it wasn’t high on our list. However, 3 months into our trip we were more than ready for some time to just relax.

We spent 2 weeks in La Mata, Spain. This small resort town, about an hour south of Alicante is one of a string of small towns that thrive only a few months a year. We arrived in the shoulder of the shoulder season, experiencing an area of merely 10,000 inhabitants where only a month prior there would have been more than 100,000. We wanted slow and quiet and that is exactly what we got. One quiet, super sunny week enjoying the calm Mediterranean waters in almost complete solitude (we shared with scattered groups of local, retired, nude, leathery tanned friends). The following week brought several days of cool rain, but we took the time to plan our next steps, read, and catch up on the hours of Big Bang Theory that played on our UK cable in our Airbnb. Mixed weather comes with the late summer/early fall booking but it is more than worth it if you are looking for a low key beach experience. We will definitely try this again!

Pictures weren’t high priority but we were able to get a few with our Virb camera.

Morning chocolate con churros at the weekly market where we had to stock up because all the nearby shops were closed for the season.