Joined September 2017 Message
  • Day15

    Spain - Random/Final thoughts

    September 24, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    - Spain is WAY cheaper than we expected. When we followed the advice of our Airbnb hosts, we were able to find amazing, local, non-tourist restaurants for a fraction of the price of the US. When we ended up in very touristy areas, we spent a lot.
    - Once we figured out what we liked, the food was great. At first, it seemed all they had was meat, cheese, bread/pastries, and paella. We learned how to order some fantastic and balanced tapas meals, figured out how to get our daily servings of fruits and veggies, and ate so much delicious seafood.
    - The public transportation system is awesome.
    - Throughout the country, we found that pet dogs are rarely on leashes. They follow their owners around loyally, no matter how busy the street.

    - Madrid was a great introduction to Spain. We had three back-to-back amazing tapas dinners. The day trip to Toledo was the highlight.
    - Seville and Granada are two of the coolest cities we've ever been to. And some of the friendliest people we have met in Spain.
    - Cadiz had one of the most beautiful beaches either of us has ever seen. Some of the people in Cadiz were a little rude to us, but we figured we were probably doing something wrong without knowing what!
    - Barcelona is pretty cool. A little dirty and a little crazy, but lots of great art and architecture, cool alleys and streets to wander through, and great food. Most of the beaches are a bit rocky and shelly, but there are some sandy beautiful areas to be found.
    - Everyone speaks English in Barcelona. In the other cities we visited, not so much. My Spanish came back to me throughout the trip, but it was definitely difficult to communicate. I could get around with the basics but couldn't carry on a decent conversation. Tim had about 5 or 6 phrases down.
    - Siestas, sleeping in, small breakfasts, big lunches, and tapas dinners will all be missed!!

    - Overall, we had an amazing time. We would love to come back and do a southern/Andalusian trip to Spain, revisiting Seville, Granada, Cadiz, and hitting some of the other southern beaches. There is so much to see in Barcelona that we could return for some of the museums and attractions (and to get inside Sagrada Familia!!), but I don't know that we need to return. There are way better beaches elsewhere. Three days in Madrid was probably enough. There is also the whole northern region of Spain to see!
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    Sunshine Bwamp

    This is a great travel blog. Keep it up. How's your Italian?? Haha.

    9/24/17Reply
     
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  • Day14

    Day 14 - Barcelona - Last Day in Spain!

    September 23, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Our last day in Spain started with an unsuccessful search for the perfect breakfast! Then we relaxed for a couple of hours on the beach near our Airbnb before venturing out for a good lunch and our favorite beach. For lunch, we had a delicious green salad, shrimp in garlic sauce, and mussels in marinara sauce. Then we continued the long walk down the boardwalk to our favorite soft sandy beach. On the walk back, we decided to stop in and watch the Mountain Dew street skateboarding competition. Then, after a little rest and showers, we headed off into the crazy busy part of Barcelona for dinner. The end of summer festivities are going on this weekend and things are a bit crazy - parades, drum circles, and fireworks all over. We ended up going to a delicious ramen restaurant for dinner - not quite the typical Spanish meal for our last dinner in the country, but it was so good! We walked back and enjoyed a bit of the festivities before returning home. We fly to Venice tomorrow afternoon!Read more

    Kelly Thompson

    Looks like you have had perfect weather. This is seriously a dream vacation!

    9/23/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    Onward to Italy. Wonder if you'll find any good food there!!

    9/23/17Reply
    THJMonterey

    So pleased you're having such a great time; hope your spending time in Tuscany-- We had a wonderful time in Florence, Pisa, Siena and so many other cities/villages. And the food...!!!!

    9/24/17Reply
     
  • Day13

    Day 13 - Barcelona - Gaudi

    September 22, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We walked A LOT today!! After a yummy breakfast, we first walked about 2.5 miles to Gaudi's magnificent Sagrada Familia cathedral. Unfortunately, there was a lottery going on this weekend only for free tickets, so the purchased tickets were limited and are sold out until we leave Barcelona!! So, we only got to check out the outside, which is amazing on its own. Next, we walked another 2 miles to Gaudi's crazy Park Guell (eating Chinese food on the way!). By the time we got to the top of the mountain at the park, we were completely exhausted. We took a cab back for an early evening siesta. After we woke up, we went to yet another amazing tapas dinner. Then we walked it off on the boardwalk (with a short attempt at joining in on some salsa dancing) and through a small carnival set up for this weekend's end of summer festival.

    Tomorrow - more beach time!!
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    Patti Conrad

    Lovely.

    9/23/17Reply
    Kelly Thompson

    I thought it was supposed to be done in 2016! At least that's what they said when I was there in 2003...

    9/23/17Reply
     
  • Day12

    Day 12 - Barcelona - Best Day Ever!!

    September 21, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    What a great day! We slept in after a late night of travel (and three jam-packed and amazing, but exhausting, days in Granada). Then we worked out, did some much needed laundry, and went out for a delicious breakfast of avocado and strawberry toast with fresh orange juice! Next, we relaxed on the beach for hours and then walked a couple of miles down the boardwalk, grabbing an amazing lunch on the sand - grilled mussels, eggplant tempura, sea bass with salad, chocolate mousse, and espresso. We walked some more, swam for awhile in the Balearic Sea (!!), and headed back to our awesome Airbnb for a warm shower and some rest.

    We headed out to a local restaurant, recommended by our host, for dinner. As we waited outside for our table, several people on balconies on the street, and all of the surrounding streets, began banging on pots and pans in protest of the Spanish government's suppression of the Catalonian region's vote for sovereignty. We have been witnessing these protests since our arrival in Madrid two weeks ago.

    The small local hole-in-the-wall restaurant that our host recommended ended up specializing in fried fish. We split a small meal (fried fish and peppers) and then went to grab second dinner...the burger than Tim has been craving for about a week. Now I need to sit up in a chair and read and digest for about an hour before I can sleep!!
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    Liz Corallo

    You need to make this for me when you get home. Yum!

    9/21/17Reply
    Liz Corallo

    Courtney, you look so pretty and happy!

    9/21/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    That looks great.

    9/21/17Reply
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  • Day11

    Day 11 - Granada - Alhambra!

    September 20, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    After checking out of our Airbnb and grabbing a quick breakfast, we set off up the mountain (on foot) to visit the Alhambra - a massive that fortress overlooks all of Granada. The Alhambra visit has three main attractions - the giant fortress, the palace, and the gardens. We spent about 4 or 5 hours up there exploring. It was pretty unbelievable and the views of the city were amazing. Then we had a late lunch, picked up our bags, and we are now sitting at the airport (3 hours early) for our flight to Barcelona! We are exhausted!!

    Overall, we loved our short visit to Granada. We were staying in a cool little part of town near the university, filled with students, cheap vegan restaurants filled with healthy food options and fresh juices, and a short walk to all of the city's attractions.

    Update: Made it safely to our beach Airbnb in Barceloneta! Goodnight!
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    THJMonterey

    Originally built by the Muslims and eventually (hundreds of years later) taken by the Christians -- I think. Looks magnificent!

    9/20/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    Love this.

    9/20/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    Granada sure went by quickly. See you in Barcelona😘😘.

    9/20/17Reply
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  • Day10

    Day 10 - Granada - Best Day Ever!

    September 19, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    Today might have been the best day of the trip. We woke up and had our best breakfast yet - fresh mango juice, fresh peach juice, cafe con leche, and two falafel tomato sandwiches. Then we wandered around the streets of Granada for several hours. One of the highlights of the day (and the first real planned event of the trip) was the Arab baths and massages. 90 minutes of different temperature baths - hot, medium, and super cold, with a 30 minute massage. Followed up with a siesta and a walk up the mountain to Mirador de San Nicholas. We drank a couple of glasses of wine with a beautiful view of the Alhambra and then decided to chase the sun until we found the most beautiful sunset view imaginable. We sat there for what felt like hours, basking in the beautiful view of the sunset and the city. Then we made our way back down to the city for a delicious dinner of mussels, peppers, and scallops. Now time for a good rest before our Alhambra visit tomorrow!Read more

    Patti Conrad

    Yum.

    9/19/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    Kitty??

    9/19/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    Great photos.

    9/19/17Reply
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  • Day9

    Day 9 - Granada Arrival!

    September 18, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Spain's public transportation system is amazing. There have been zero issues so far. I thought we might have had our first today. We got on our train from Sevilla to Granada this morning and it immediately broke down. We were forced to get off the train and were told to wait for another train. I thought for sure it would take hours (or days, based on what I've seen in the US). Within 10 minutes, a new train arrived, we re-boarded, and maybe lost 30 minutes total.

    We arrived in Granada early afternoon. We got a quick lunch at a vegan tapas restaurant in the university area of the town and checked into our Airbnb for a much needed siesta. Then we headed off to the gypsy caves of Sacromonte for dinner and a flamenco show, which was really cool! On the walk back, we got a couple of beers on a cool terrace and now we are ready for bed!!! Excited for our next two days in this beautiful town - at first glance, I think we are going to love Granada!
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    Patti Conrad

    Very cool.

    9/18/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    The Lion King!!

    9/18/17Reply
     
  • Day8

    Day 8 - Last Day/Night in Sevilla

    September 17, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Sevilla has been absolutely amazing! It reminds me of a Spanish Richmond. It has all of the feels of a small city, yet it's large enough to have a little of everything. There are restaurants, bars, and cafes on every street. There is a ton of culture and history everywhere you look. The people are so charming and friendly. It's cheap! There's a waterfront full of architecture, parks, water sports, art walks, and even a foodie event that we stumbled upon today (similar to "Broad Appetite" of Richmond). While we could happily stay here forever, we did these 3 days right and are happy to see what's in store for us next. We stayed in a beautiful Andalusian home with the nicest hosts imaginable. We ate some of the best food we have ever had (and checked off 7 of the 15 or so restaurants off of our hosts' recommendation list), we wandered about 10 miles a day through streets and alleyways, we explored the beautiful architecture on both sides of the canal, we saw the Cathedral, the Real Alcazar, the Plaza de Espana, and so much more.

    Today was a great finale. Another workout on the water. Crepes for breakfast. Hours of alley wandering and site-seeing. Siesta. Wine on the rooftop. More walking. Another tapas-filled dinner and people watching on a busy terrace. Now some rest and relaxation before we head off to Granada in the morning.
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    Liz Corallo

    You don't look like you're gaining weight. All that fabulous food!!

    9/17/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    Sounds lovely. Meanwhile I'm being tortured (as always) by the Redskins😘😘.

    9/17/17Reply
    Patti Conrad

    Very cool.

    9/17/17Reply
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  • Day7

    Day 7 - Sevilla!

    September 16, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Today was pretty much the first day we had to just relax and take it slow. And we needed it! We woke up late and found an awesome park on the water to workout. Then we had breakfast (and lunch!) while wandering the streets and alleys before returning for an early siesta at the beautiful Airbnb. We met our first American friend, Graham, from New Orleans, who is renting the other room in the house, as we sipped a glass of wine on the terrace. Then we wandered the streets some more, had a couple of cervezas at a local bodega, and had a nice dinner while people watching near the city center. Last, but absolutely not least, I finally got my churros con chocolate that we missed out on in Madrid!!!! Now time for an early night (and our books)!!!

    Not many pictures (and they're all of me because Tim had the phone) and a fairly uneventful day, but just as wonderful as the last. Sevilla is absolutely beautiful and the people are by far the nicest we have met so far.
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    Kelly Thompson

    Mmmmmmmmm

    9/17/17Reply
    Kelly Thompson

    What books are you reading?

    9/17/17Reply
    Courtney Johnson

    I finished Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia and just started He's Gone by Deb Caletti. Tim is reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests by Tom Wolfe.

    9/17/17Reply
     
  • Day6

    Day 6 - Sevilla Arrival

    September 15, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Well...we have said it 5 days in a row and meant it every time. But, once again, every day has been better than the last. We LOVE Sevilla.

    Cadiz had originally been planned as a day trip from Sevilla but we decided to change it to a 2 night stay. After just a few hours in Cadiz, we thought about bagging Sevilla completely and staying a week in Cadiz. We are so happy we didn't do that. Sevilla has all of the charm and beauty of an old Spanish town like Cadiz and Toledo with all of the attractions and kind people of a city like Madrid. It may not have a beach, but it has a beautiful canal surrounding the city, as well as cathedrals, museums, monuments, AND Plaza de Espana, where the pod race scene from Star Wars Episode One was filmed. And we managed to see all of this today. But, the stand out of the day so far has been the food.

    After our tapas-filled lunch, Tim and I agreed it had been our best meal yet. But even that couldn't top our tapas-filled dinner at a Michelin star "bar", Eslava. I want to write all of these tapas down so we don't forget.

    Lunch - swordfish over orange wine sauce, "Padron" peppers, dates wrapped in bacon, hearts of palm over vegetable gazpacho, eggplant topped with goat cheese and drizzled in honey

    Dinner - roasted mackerel with tomato onion pepper salad, roasted pork rib with rosemary honey glaze, artichokes with fried garlic and shavings of cod, grilled razor clams with lemon, slow cooked egg over boletas cake with caramelized wine reduction, and brick pastry stuffed with cuttlefish (we did it again!) and algae served with yogurt.

    (Each of these tapas are about 2 Euros a piece...amazing)

    ...not to mention where we are staying. We have a room in a 19th century Andalusian house that is absolutely beautiful. Our friendly hosts are the ones who recommended both of these amazing meals.

    I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
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    THJMonterey

    Wow. Magnificent!

    9/15/17Reply
    Liz Corallo

    Cool!

    9/15/17Reply
    Kathryn Ensall

    What an amazing trip you are having!

    9/15/17Reply
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