Starting Fresh

Well, about 8 months later here I am again! Too much has happened in between posts to explain everything. I thought I was going to be able to keep up, but that went out the window when I changed companies. Now I’m working longer hours, but getting used to the workload. I’m 100% thankful for the change, and I am no longer here under the student permit so that’s very helpful.

New job. New apartment.

For lack of anything more: I’m happy!

I hope I’ll be able to upload some info about my past trips, but at least I’ll try to make sure future trips are documented. Let’s see if I can also revive my review posts.

 

Summer in Spain Pt. 1 – Tabarca

I know I’ve been nonexistent this summer, but hopefully I’ll be able to share some exciting info soon. Now that it’s September, it’s back to the real-life grind in Madrid. The next few posts will be about the different cities I visited this summer.

A good deal of the summer was spent in Alicante. A group of us decided to spend a weekend on Tabarca which is a tiny island a short 15 minute water taxi ride from Santa Pola. The island has an interesting history as a refuge for Barbary pirates and a prison for Genoese sailors. The island is a popular tourist spot during the summer, but in winter, most families leave the island.

Casa en Tabarca

 

Tabarca is well-known for its squid and rice dishes. Since it’s an island it isn’t surprising that most of the food involves some type of fish or seafood.

Squid Caldero Caldero de bogavante Arroz

 

 

When we weren’t eating we spent a lot of time snorkeling. The water is incredibly clean and not as cold as in other parts of southern Spain. Part of the island is on a nature reserve so we were able to find many interesting things such as starfish and octopus.

Asturias and Galicia

I know this post is a little late, but it’s a doozy. In the beginning of May we took a “double couples” trip to visit the green landscapes of Asturias and Galicia in the north of Spain. It was my first trip to either of these regions of Spain, and I found them absolutely different from the arid landscapes I am used to seeing in Andalusia. I believe I could live in Asturias or Galicia one day if I could get past the frigid winters.

I believe we visited about 12 different towns along our way, so I’ve listed them below with some descriptions. Of course, with so many places and a short period of time, we visited several for only an hour or two.

 

Burgos 

Our first stop brought us to Burgos, which is in Castile and León instead of Asturias or Galicia, but it was the perfect halfway point. We munched on their famous morcilla (blood sausage) and patatas bravas and strolled the city to admire the buildings. I really liked the windows in the older part of town. The closest English translation I can think of would be “bay windows”, but I’m not certain they are the same. 

 patatas bravas, beer, and floor decorations.

You know you are in Spain: patatas bravas, beer, and floor decorations.

Morcilla from "La Favorita"

Morcilla from “La Favorita”

 

 

Covadonga/Cangas de Onís

We spent the first night in Asturias at a small hotel called Casa Asprón. The hotel was wonderful and served a delicious breakfast. This area was my favorite part of the trip. We were surrounded by forests and even a waterfall.waterfall close to the hotel

The rural house is in Picos de Europa National Park and we could see the Basilica of Covadonga from our window. Covadonga is the patron of Asturias. In the 700s, the Christian Visigoth army made a stand against the Moorish army in the caves of Covadonga. It was reported that before the battle, the Christian commander prayed to a statue of the Virgin Mary which had been saved during the conquest. The Moorish commander died in the battle, and the rest of his army fled. After the victory, King Alonso I ordered a monastery and shrine to be built there. The shrine sits nestled in the mountain and is really a sight to see.

Basilica Covadonga

Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga

Covadonga Shrine

Covadonga Sanctuary

 

I’ve never seen anything like the Picos de Europa National Park. There is a trail which circles several lakes, forests, and mountains. Everything was super-green and we even found cows grazing on the hills.

Picos de Europa landscape 20140502_125638Picos de Europa lanscape

At the end of our hike we had worked up an appetite, and the fog was so dense that we couldn’t see any buildings. We ended up following our ears, and the sound of a generator, to find a small restaurant. We ate cheese, fabada, goat, arroz con leche, and strawberry cake. I’d be willing to go back to that area and park many times! (hint: other anniversaries)

Fabada

Fabada

cheese

stawberry cake and arroz con leche

 

Soto de Luiña

We spent the next night in a small town called Soto de Luiña. We stayed at Hotel Valle las Luiñas. There didn’t seem to be very much to see in the town, but it was a short drive away from Cudillero.

 

Cudillero

Cudillero is a beautiful fishing village. It seems to get a lot of tourist traffic, but not completely overpriced. I think I found the best arroz con leche I’ve ever tried at a place called El Remo.

Cudillero Cudillero

 

Luanco

We stopped briefly in Luanco. The newer part of the city was not very lovely, but when you reached the water there were interesting buildings and a church on the waterfront.

 

Cabo de Peñas

“Cabo” means “cape” in Spanish. We enjoyed the views and lighthouse, but we struggled to get there. First, we parked the car in a tiny village called Viodo and asked one of the locals if it was possible to walk to the lighthouse. We should have known by her laugh and response not to try, but we finally found it after getting lost in the field a few times. It turned out fine in the end. Who doesn’t like a little adventure!?

cabo de peñas

 

Candás

Another short stop in Candás allowed us to stretch our legs. We took a quick stroll to see the beach. While walking on the beach I saw many small, raised mud tunnels in the sand. When I tried to dig one that was moving up to discover the creature underneath I found nothing.

 

Luarca

Luarca is yet another seaside town. We stayed less than an hour, but drove around a bit of the town and saw the port. Maybe one day we’ll go back with more time.

 

Puerto de Vega

Puerto de Vega was another stop with marvelous views of the ocean.

puerto de vega

 

Ribadeo

Our next stop took us to Ribadeo in Galicia. This town is on the border of Galicia and Asturias. The next “Salimos el Sabado” will be about a great restaurant we visited called Casa Villaronta so I will make this section brief. There were some beautiful spots to see close to the city, such as, the Pancha Island lighthouse.

ribadeo lighthouse lighthouse galicia

 

Lugo

On the way back from our whirlwind trip, we stopped in Lugo to see its Roman walls, the Cathedral, and other sights of the city.

Lugo Cathedral

 

Astorga

We needed to eat eventually so we stopped at Restaurante Serrano in Astorga for a delicious lunch. This small town had some surprising things like the Palacio Espiscopal which was designed by Gaudí.

Palacio Espiscopal

Palacio Espiscopal

 

Salimos el Sabado – Poncelet Cheese Bar

Today I’m going to let you know about a place which specializes in one of my favorite foods EVER. (That would be cheese, in case you were wondering).

Last weekend I enjoyed lunch in  a “surprise” destination. It wasn´t my first time there, but it was my first time in the dining room area instead of the bar.

In Poncelet Cheese Bar I was surrounded by all things CHEESE. I believe it is the only cheese bar in Madrid. The decor is contemporary, pleasant, and a bit different. One wall is completely covered in a vertical garden. There is also a huge cheese case on the opposite side. Two workers were there the entire lunch-time cutting and wrapping cheeses. More than 140 cheeses are offered on their menu, but it is also possible to order many dishes without cheese. I´m not sure who would do that, but I´m sure someone is out there.

I consider myself a cheese-lover, but I had never tried burrata. It is one of the most amazing cheeses I´ve ever tasted. This cheese is made from fresh, solid mozzerella with an inside made of cream and more mozzerella. When you cut into the cheese, the cream and mozzerella runs out a bit like an egg. Maybe that’s not the most appetizing description, but it´s delicious. They have a Starter at Poncelet with burrata, tomato, and tuna. It was perfect.

Burrata cheese

Burrata – Perhaps my new favorite cheese

 

The entrée I ordered was a delicious sirloin steak (solomillo). Sadly, I forgot to snap a photo to show you.

For dessert, I tried their New York-style cheesecake. It really did taste like the real thing. The cheesecake was inside a hard shell, and sitting on top of graham cracker crumbs.

cheesecake Poncelet

Their Version of New York-Style Cheesecake

 

Before you go, check eltenedor.es for discounts. They currently have 40% off if you reserve your table through their site. The prices are a bit high, but with the discount it came to 70 euros for two people.

 

 

 

 

Salimos el Sabado – Kintaro

Welcome to the first entry of “Salimos el Sabado”. None of my reviews are due to incentives from staff or owners unless stated in my posts. I hope you will let me know what you think about the places I review or tell me about new places I should try!

I’m a sushi girl. Back in the US, “sushi night” was an almost weekly ritual. I have been to Kintaro several times in Madrid. They have an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet for 16 euros. If you go for lunch during the week I have heard the price is 9 euros. I’ve never ordered anything from the menu so I can’t speak to the price or quality if you don’t choose the all-you-can-eat option. It’s not phenomenal, but the sushi is decent and relatively inexpensive. A plus is the conveyor belt style service.

 

The sushi parades in front of you in such a way that it’s nearly impossible not to feel completely stuffed afterwards. There are also foods to pick off the conveyor such as: soup, chicken, meat, and desserts.

 

kintaro

 

 

Introducing: “Salimos el Sabado” and Website Update

“Salimos el Sabado”

I’m happy to announce two new things: the beginning of a new bi-monthly review of eateries and this website’s update and new look.

The purpose of “Salimos el Sabado” is to showcase and review different places I’ve found.  Most spots will be in Madrid, but I may also review places I’ve visited in other cities – or even countries. I haven’t been given any incentive to select these places by the staff or managers unless I mention it in the post. If you have been to any of these places I’d love if you commented to let me know how your experience was in comparison or recommend other places.

I’ll be sending out the first installment shortly, so, stay tuned!

 

Website Makeover

I decided to move my website to a personally hosted account to have more control over my site and to save money. I’ll be testing out some new things in the days to come, but hopefully the site won’t be down for long amounts of time. I will be experimenting with the layouts and adding a few personal touches.

A Puente in Prague

Here, in Spain, we have a ridiculous amount of holidays and long-weekends (puentes). This is especially true for people who work in schools, but still, it’s extremely different from my old schedule in the US – in a good way! For our last one from February 28th – March 2nd we decided to take advantage of the free time to jump over to Prague.

It turned out to be a very economical trip. We purchased the flights and hotel several months ago in November. It only cost about 300 euros per person for a direct flight and two nights in a 4-star hotel with an awesome breakfast included. The food in Prague was surprisingly cheap. During the trip, 1 euro equaled 27.35 Czech Korunas. It did make things a bit interesting if the dinner bill was 600 Korunas. It felt like we were spending a lot of money.

From the airport you can choose to take either bus 100 to Zličín at the end of the yellow line or bus 119 to Dejvická at the end of the green line. Our hotel was on the yellow line, but it was faster to go to the green line (Dejvická) and then switch over to the yellow line at Můstek. 

Don’t make the mistake I made of trying to pay for tickets with a 500CZK bill. If you buy the ticket from the bus drivers it will be about 40CZK per ticket. You use the same ticket from the bus on the metro. The tickets are timed. You can buy a ticket for 30 mins, 90 mins, 24 hours, 72 hours, or a full month. We did a lot of walking during the trip and only bought a ticket to travel to and from the airport.

Prague Metro System

Map of Prague’s Metro System

To be honest, I can’t imagine riding the metro very often during a trip to Prague unless you are visiting areas far from the center. There is so much to see!

Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square)

Church of St. Nicholas

Kostel svatého Mikuláše (Church of St. Nicholas)

colorful Prague

Colors everywhere!

This square is, not surprisingly, full of tourists and tourist shops. Some of the most spectacular buildings are here, such as, the Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem (The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn). I had never seen anything like this huge, gothic church in real-life before.

Our Lady Before Tyn

In the background: Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem (The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn)

You can find an astronomical clock in the same area which is supposed to be one of the oldest astronomical clocks in the world. I won’t give it away, but you should watch it chime on the hour. If you go to the top of the tower you can see some good views of the city and important buildings are labeled.

Prague clock

Astronomical Clock

You can find many food stalls in this square, but we found an outdoor market on the other side of Karlův most (Charles Bridge) which we liked more. When you cross, just go down the stairs on the left side of the bridge. There was a row of about 20 tents with greater variety of food and we were in luck because a band was performing live music. Some of the best food we found was white sausages and dumplings with pork and saurkraut. I was freezing so I drank mostly sickeningly-sweet hot wine instead of beer. We saw everyone in line for some type of cinnamon and sugar bread so, of course, we followed suit.

Prague cinnamon and sugar

Prague sweet which reminded me of Cinnabun

The Charles Bridge is the creepiest bridge I have ever seen (read: I thought it was awesome). There are many baroque statues lining the span of the bridge and gives it an eerie vibe.  Crossing the bridge was worth it for the food and sights like these:

Karlův most

View from Karlův most (Charles Bridge)

 

Prague buildings

Pastel buildings on the other side of the bridge

Hradčany (Castle District)

Now that we were on the other side of the bridge, we made our way to Pražský hrad (Prague castle). It’s absolutely huge and the surrounding area is made of multiple palaces, cathedrals, and gardens. You can find some great views from the top of the hill.

Prague roofs

Beautiful red roofs

The John Lennon wall is a short walk away. There was a crowd of younger people adding to the existing layers of graffitti.

graffiti Prague

John Lennon Wall

 

Josefov (Jewish Quarter)

I loved the architecture in the Jewish Quarter and it was interesting to see all of the places about Frank Kafka.

Klausová synagoga

Klausová synagoga (Klausen Synagogue)

 

We had seen an episode of “Madrileños por el Mundo” in Prague where they visited a restuarant, Výtopna, where the beer is brought to you by model trains. We ate there the first night. The food was decent, but the service was very slow. It was amusing to see the trains in action.

Slivovitz was probably the most difficult thing I tried in Prague. I don’t know how or why, but my dad drank this clear, plum brandy as a special treat certain times of the year. For me, it was very difficult to down, but at least it warmed me up…including my entire esophagus.

Slivovitz

 

 

Valentine’s Day Origami

Happy Monday everyone!

This is going to be a short and random post, but I thought maybe some of you are looking for Valentine’s Day activities for your kids or students which don’t involve making cards.

Normally I’m not one for making a big deal out of February 14th. Everyone knows that being single on this day isn’t the greatest. Sometimes it was even awkward if I was dating someone because I felt a strange mix of wanting my SO to do something nice along with not wanting them to go through the trouble just because it’s expected by most females.  Anyway, back to fun with paper…

This is my second year making origami hearts in my 1º ESO (students around 12 years old) classes. If you search “heart origami” on YouTube you will find plenty of results. I chose the first one because the video and sound are good. A young boy(?) goes over everything step-by-step. First, I let them watch the whole video one time without touching their paper. Then, I play the video again and let them follow along. I paused immediately after the more tricky sections to make sure everyone was caught up.

heart origami

The finished product!

The origami paper I’m using is from Tiger and only cost 2 euros. You can use different paper, but make sure it’s square! Sometimes a couple boys in the class groan a bit about having to make hearts, but I tell them to surprise their mom or grandmother with them, which normally works.

I’m using the leftover paper to make hearts for my younger students from private classes.

Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?

Liebster Award Nomination

I was shocked earlier to receive a comment saying my blog had been nominated for something called the “Liebster Award”. I admit that I had absolutely no idea what a Liebster Award is, but hooray! This is my first award nomination here on WordPress. I did a little digging and found that the “Liebster Award” is to promote newer bloggers and hopefully allow them to gain followers and drive more traffic to their sites.

Look how shiny it is!

Look how shiny it is!

A big thank you to Courtney at Cartas de Courtney for the nomination! She is also living in Spain as a teaching assistant and I love reading her blog for travel ideas.

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THE RULES ARE:

ü 1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

ü 2. Answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.

ü 3. Nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.

ü 4. Come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

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Nominations:

(Quick note: I know I must have chosen a few with over 200 followers).

The Rooted Traveller – Ghezal is another teaching assistant in BEDA, but I’ve been following her blog before my move to Spain. Funny how we met and became friends before knowing we were following each others blogs.

Sunshine and Siestas – Cat writes a lot about Seville which is one of my favorite cities in Spain. I found her blog before moving to Spain and it helped drive my desire to become an expat.

The Book of Ness – Vanessa’s blog is a mix of expat and entrepreneur posts.

Kaley…& Más – Kaley’s posts make me realize things which are true, but I never really considered before.

Lady in Spain – A fellow Marylander, Yari, really helped me when I was trying to make my way through the pile of paperwork needed for my visa to Spain.

The Expatriate Adventures – Dan is a fellow BEDA member who writes about his travels and life in Madrid.

Hola Yessica – Jessica’s blog is another I followed before I became an expat myself. Her posts are mainly about Barcelona.

Curiosity Travels – Jessica has a colorful and fun blog with plenty of posts about travel and teaching English in foreign countries.

Estrella Explores – Estrella is another English Language Assistant in Madrid and her blog is about her life abroad.

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1. What do you consider “home”?

For most of my life, Maryland was my only home since that is where much of my friends and family – my “roots” -, are located. After that, New York and Wisconsin were close contenders because I’ve visited many times to see family. During my first trip to Spain this idea of home was skewed. How could a place I had never been to before feel as comfortable as home? Right now I suppose I have two homes: My USA Home and Spain Home. I’m comfortable with that for now.

2. How long have you been traveling or living abroad?

The first time I traveled outside of the US (other than Canada) was to Guatemala when I was 17 years old. Before I was born my parents traveled all over the place and lived for a while in Guatemala. When we went, my family and grandparents spent Christmas and New Year’s there so we could see the village where they used to live and experience the country. My first trip to Europe was in 2011. After travelling with a friend in Spain I continued alone to Paris and Berlin. During this trip I was overcome with the insane idea to quit my job and move to Madrid. Somehow I made it a reality and have been living in Madrid since September 2012.

3. Do you have a favorite destination? If so, what is it?

I absolutely love Seville and Alicante. I have known Seville for longer and the atmosphere is amazing along with the sights. Alicante has great weather and beaches. It is much more relaxed than Madrid. Sometimes I consider moving to one of these cities for a change of pace.

4. What is your biggest struggle as a blogger?

Bah! I have two I constantly struggle with. One is that I don’t find it easy to be a creative writer. Sometimes I write something and think, “Seriously? That is the most boring and dry ‘ish’ I’ve ever seen. You should be ashamed of yourself.” The second problem I have is getting into a writing routine. I have an idea for a weekly piece, but I just haven’t gotten around to starting it.

5. What is your favorite blog and why?

At the moment, my favorite blog is Nowhere to Go but Everywhere for its beautiful photographs and simplistic style.

6. If you could spend a month anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

A month in Thailand would be amazing. Send me to the sun and sand!

7. After being away, what is one thing you know you took for granted at home?

I have to choose being around nature. My old home was surrounded by three different bodies of water and a forest. Here in Madrid the atmosphere is very different and you can smell and feel it.

8. What is your favorite music to listen to during a plane ride/bus ride/commute?

If it’s on the AVE I listen to Telepopmusic or Thievery Corporation. This sounds strange, but the first trip I took on the AVE I was listening to those groups so now whenever I travel it’s my traveling music while watching the countryside.

During day-to-day commutes I listen to a playlist of over 500 different songs I have on Spotify. Chromeo and The Prodigy were made for Monday mornings in the metro.

9. Do you consider any certain item a “travel necessity”?

My travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste!

10. What is your favorite book and why?

It’s a strange book, but 1984 has been my favorite since I was a child. It’s so warped!

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New Questions for My Nominees:

1. What is your favorite blog right now?

2. What’s the strangest food you have ever eaten?

3. Do you have a favorite travel destination?

4. Now choose the song which bests describes that destination for you.

5. Describe a moment you decided to make a drastic change in your life.

6. If you were given 500 euros where would you go and what would you do?

7. Explain something you do well as a blogger? Then, describe something you struggle with.

8. What is one thing you found while traveling that you would bring back to your home country?

9. Were you ever in a dangerous or awkward situation during your travels?

10. Where do you see yourself ending up? Will you wander the globe forever?

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Thanks for reading and thanks again to Courtney for the nomination.

Happy Travels!