Category Archives: Travel

How to Survive Christmas Abroad

christmasmeme

All you want for Christmas is for everyone to shut the f**K up? Are you dreaming of a year without this soul sucking magnifying glass on your life, showing just how far you are away from home? How broke you are to be here? And how little family you have now that you are thousands of miles away from your least annoying cousin? Oh wait…that’s just me (just kidding cuzos…you know I love ya’ll!) I am not a fan of Christmas. Not simply because I’m away from everyone I love, but because I find the holiday commercial and magnifies just how much I am sacrificing to live abroad. So this is what I am doing this year to unfreeze my frozen heart and bring some ho don’t fuck with me cheer to the world.

1. TRAVEL far and wide. Nothing like experiencing the culture of Christmas in another country. Through your unbiased eyes you will be a witness to that country on its best behavior when every one is cold and in good spirits. It will surely put you in a good spirit too.

2. Spend Christmas with someone else’s family. Nothing like popping in for one day and one day only to see the ‘good’ and wholesome traditions of a family that you are in no way tied to. As you stuff Christmas goodies down your throat, take advantage of watching all the Christmas cheer…and shade.

3. Give back and volunteer! Under the desire to buy this cheaply made item, or that, more expensive, cheaply made item, is the true meaning of Christmas. Being thankful for what you have, and sharing what you have with others. When I get caught up in my own first world problems, I try to remember that there are people walking across Europe in the freezing cold. People in my own city of Chicago in below 0 temperatures, sleeping outside. My ability to even take a vacation or write this blog without persecution speaks to the many gifts I have already received this year. If you can share your gifts with someone else. Give back. Even if its a couple coins in a cup, a little can go a long way.

3. YOU are all the Christmas gifts you’ll ever need. Seriously, you are the most special gift you can give yourself. Take time this season to take care of yourself, love yourself and those around you.

youtubeby feather
Facebookpinterestby feather

Spain on a Budget: Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Cheap Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Broke life ain’t no joke, but its half way worth it when you spend most of your money living and traveling abroad. Making ends meet is a must when balancing a basic needs teaching salary, with a life style of the rich and the famous traveling appetite. Luckily, living abroad in Spain doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on delicious healthy cheap meals. This dish I make on the regular. Its easy, healthy, takes minimal work, and its cheap. I buy my chicken at my local mercado where they dice up a whole chicken, including fileting my breast for around 5 euros. Then I head to the local frutería (any in Lavapiés or La Latina for the cheapest freshest non organic (pipe dreams) veg in the center) where I pick up a bag of potatoes and onions. So here is what you need to make this dish, but its versatile. Put in your favorite veggies and optional side of rice for a full meal.

Prep chicken in advance the more days the better

1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (breast filet optional)

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 or more of fresh Rosemary

1/4 cup of Parsley

1/2 lemon squeezed

1/4 cup of olive oil

Sea Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Clean chicken. Coat in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In separate bowl mix 3 tbls of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, together. Coat chicken with mixture making sure every piece is coated with garlic and herbs. Put in container to marinate in fridge for as long as you can. This chicken marinated from Friday afternoon until Monday evening.

On cook day

Rustic chop whatever vegetable you want. I used

2 Turnips (peeled)

4 Carrots (peeled)

1 Green pepper

1 clove of garlic

1/4 Rosemary and Parley

Coated with olive oil and seasoned to taste.

Put veggies in pot( I used a pyrex) and stir to make sure they are coated. Place chicken on top of veggies and bake (375) with aluminum foil on top. Once chicken is done and visibly falling off the bone, remove foil and broil until browned. I coat the skin with a tiny bit of butter for crisping.

youtubeby feather
Facebookpinterestby feather

Cafes of Madrid: Acquolina

IMG_20150117_174943

On Saturday I was walking through Malasaña looking for a place to set up shop blogging and getting my socializing via the internet while avoiding the mass of crazy rebaja shopping madridleños. Feeling a bit goldie locks and the three little bears, I was looking for a cafe in Malasaña not too crowded, not too empty, but with just the right amount of people with just the right amount of deliciousness to choose from. After scoffing at 3 or 4 of the regular cafe spots I happened on Acquolina.

IMG_20150117_174920

Acquolina is a cute little cafe located across from the historic plaza de Segundo Mayo. At first I have to admit I was skeptical, but as I walked around the outside I became transfixed on their window of cakes and pies. 3 shelves of deliciousness, my eyes scanned each and every one trying to discern which piece was most likely to satisfy my life long journey of true happiness. Ok, a bit deep for cake, but you have no idea how much i love a well made baked good. Truth be told I was more so in search for a good piece of cake rather than a cup of coffee, so I decided to go in.

IMG_20150117_165257

With about 6 tables its the perfect place to crack open a book and relax or bring some friends to unwind after a day full of explaining the delicate nuances of the English language. I grabbed a spot and ordered a cafe con leche  ( half espresso and half steamed milk) and I weighed the pros and cons of the chocolate and carrot cakes, and then in the last minute being completely thrown for a loop by the chocolate with strawberry frosting. I mean where they do that at! In the end I settled with tried and true carrot. And it was on point! Moist, nutty, and not too sweet, it was served with a side of whipped cream. The range of cakes is a bit out of the ordinary by Madrid standards (shitty ranging from dry and disgusting to just dry..your choice) . They have Chocolate Truffle, Carrot, Riocotta, Mango and Chocolate Mouse, Apple Pie, Banana Dulce de Leche, coffee and Cream of Vanilla, and Bizcochos. They also have about 20 different types of gelato, juices, teas.

IMG_20150117_165526

IMG_20150117_165119

Acquolina has just the right vibe, good coffee, great desserts and fresh smoothies and juices, with out the pretentious hipster vibe you can find in some Malasaña spots. Not too pricy, a cafe con leche was 1.50 euros with large portions of cake running between 2.50 to 3.00 euros. I spent a few hours there sometimes working, sometimes listening in on Spanish conversations, and sometimes watching people go about their day in the plaza.  Out of a possible 10 points I give Acquolina a score of 9.  Grab a book or some friends and check it out.

youtubeby feather
Facebookpinterestby feather

4 Ways to Travel Like a Boss in Spain

Bosses do it BIG on a little budget, just how they want on their own terms. No predetermined routes, no predictable snapshots, no over-priced paella that tastes eerily similar to a lipton rice out the box. Bosses rollup on the cheapest form of transportation possible with every intention to get down to the nitty-gritty of their latest travel destination. Traveling can be both enlightening and fun, especially so when you get out of the tourist traps and find yourself amongst locals. Here are 4 tips to ensure your next travel experience you do it like a boss!

 

touristmap

 

1. Get a map (A free one)! Everybody and they mama has a smartphone with some form of gps map. But if your are traveling from the states, these maps become undependable without wifi. If you are arriving by train or bus, head to the client information desk and grab a free map (ask first, its just polite). These maps are great because they are FREE and they usually show the most important areas, as well as some of the off the beaten path stuff too. If your are coming in by air any tourist information booth in the airport should have a map, or once you are in town, grab one and the tourist welcome center. A map will give you the layout of the land and you can decide what sites interest you the most.

 

touristcrowding

 

2. Avoid the touristy areas like the plague! Ok, don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to visit Rome and not see the Colosseum. But you also don’t want to find yourself trapped in these areas. These areas are all about draining you of that hard earned coin and giving you the most watery and sterile experience of the destination. Everything will be more expensive and less authentic in these areas. See the sights, enjoy them, but head to other areas for authentic food and drink and prices that the locals pay.

IMG_20150104_131834

3. Go where the locals go. Great! Wait…how do you know where the locals go? Here is where your map will be your new bff. Take a look at your map, look for plazas, mercados, and iglesias (churches). These places are magnets for locals! Around plazas (away from tourists) you can witness typical spanish life, where family and friends gather for socializing. Mercados are especially great for those of us who are always concerned about matters of the belly (Me!). Mercados are where spanish people shop for their daily produce. You can find fresh veggies, fish, and meat and usually there is a bar where you can grab a caña and a tapa. If you want to try local dishes in all their glory, best to try these where spanish go to enjoy them. Even if you find these places closed or dead, try a restaurant or bar near them, they usually cater to locals as well. When I was exploring Tarragona during the holidays, I was starved and broke as usually. So I took a look at the map and found a mercado opposite side of all the touristy attractions. Since it was Sunday afternoon the mercado was closed (typical in Spain), but across from it was a bar that had a sign for 1 euro pinxos (pronounced pinch-os). I had 5 of the most bomb pinxos, and was seriously stuffed for the whole day, plus a caña con limón (beer with lemon soda) for a total of 6.50  THANK YOU!

Mercado

4. Go against the flow. It can feel counter intuitive to avoid the crowds and go against the flew. But I promise the most fulfilling traveling experiences come when you go against the herd. It can be unsettling to against the norm and get away from the areas most frequented by tourists. While these areas are most definitely worth checking out, I challenge you on your next trip to spain, to go against the flow, check out areas that tour guides wont tell you about. Forget taking photos of the same stuff everyone else is, go explore and you will definitely walk away with a more fulfilling traveling experience.

youtubeby feather
Facebookpinterestby feather

A Walking Tour of Madrid: La Latina

La Latina can feel like a maze of twisty turny streets lined with terraces, offering up those infamous Spanish tapas.  While no one can dispute La Latina’s bumping night life, it is also one of the most historic barrios of madrid.  Contained within the original city walls established by the muslims, La Latina is often ignored, but worth a walk through one of Madrid’s oldest barrios.

Historic Sites

Located behind the muslim wall, La Latina is within the original city limits established by the muslims in the 9th century.  The Royal Palace and the Aqueduct of Segovia border the barrio on the west.  In its center is Plaza Cebada,  a centuries old market that provided wholesale good since the 16th century.  Now it serves as the barrio mercado, as well as a community space where with a couple of cañas in hand you can hang out with friends or enjoy a normally free performance.  El Rastro is a must see if you are in Madrid on a Sunday afternoon.  The whole barrio turns into a street side flea market where you can find anything from cheap tourist stuff to kitchen knives, jewelry, or second hand clothing.   Plaza de Paja is littered with a wide range of delicious restaurants serving up everything from typical Spanish fare to vegan deliciousness.  All of which can be enjoyed on the terrace like a true madridleño.  Finally hit up both calles Cava baja and Cava Alta, for even more tapas and shops.  No matter where you go you will be surrounded by, what I believe to be the most beautiful architecture Madrid has to offer.

My tour starts randomly just east of San Francisco el Grande Basilica on calle de Bailen,  then  up calle Cava Alta  to plaza de Puerta Cerrada.  Finally, I hike it up calle de cuchilleros entering Plaza Mayor through my favorite gate, finishing up in Sol.

youtubeby feather
Facebookpinterestby feather

My Life is Better Than Yours….NOT!!

IMG_2448 - Version 2

If social media has done anything for me, it has made my life look way better than yours. The only problem is I know this to not be true. In between the depressing photos of me absolutely enjoying my new life in Spain, are the times when my life is less than glorious and downright miserable. Obviously I am not sharing these little gems, they are left for my repressed memory banks. Here are some ways my life is no better than yours.

1. I am embarrassed on the regular. Every time I form my mouth to speak a word in Spanish. I am met with a confused look, as if the person to whom I am speaking already knows that everything coming out of my mouth is gibberish.

2. I teach English to children (enough said).

3. I am most always broke. Yup. Broke. But what about all those pictures of me all over the globe? Well, my answer to that is, I live in Europe. I can hop on a 5 euro bus from Madrid to some of the coolest places I’ve ever seen. For a 50 euro flight I could be in Italy, Paris, or bloody England for that matter. With deals like this, destinations that once seemed impossible to reach are now in my grasp.

4. Loneliness is real. It just is. Yes I am surrounded by people, but they ain’t my people (Chitown Stand UP!). I am constantly surrounded by people who don’t truly love me yet. And I yearn for my loved ones, wishing they could be where I am.

5. I really don’t have a fifth one, but I think the reason my life looks so much better than yours is because despite the above downsides, I am doing exactly what I want to do with myself at this moment. Maybe you’ve thought of doing something, but have talked yourself out of it, as we all have. You’ve convinced yourself you’re too old, too busy, too attached to that shitty job you hate, or just not good enough. This is where my life IS truly better than yours. I’ve told myself the same things, but what I did instead was not listen to it and believed that I can be fulfilled in this life, and you can too.

youtubeby feather
Facebookpinterestby feather