Iceland – Land of Fire and Ice

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Iceland first caught our attention upon our return from Spain and Amsterdam. Our quick visit to a small fishing village near Keflavik, captured our hearts with the calm, peaceful and quiet atmosphere. Standing at the water’s edge, staring into the black water and white mountains, we knew we’d be back….

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Layover in Iceland, August 2017

Fast-forward 4 months, we landed (once again) in Iceland. This time we would spend our time in the capital city of Reykjavik (rey-key-uh-vick).

When we first told people about our travel plans, they looked at us like we were crazy! “Iceland… in the Winter?!” But believe it or not, Iceland has EXPLODED with tourism (all-year round). Dramatic landscapes, exciting outdoor excursions, natural hot springs and awe-inspiring natural wonders, attract and captivate thousands of travelers (such as ourselves) every year. So if you’re considering Iceland, I’d say “go for it!” but in-case you’re not convinced, here’s a breakdown of our experience…

Lodging

We stayed at the Island Apartments in what I considered, the best location of all Reykjavik. Located parallel to the main street (Laugavegur), every point of interest was within a 5-10 minute walk. 10 minutes East, the Phallological Museum (yes! more on that later), 5 minutes South, the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral and 10 minutes West, the Ingólfur Square (a.k.a. city center). Aside from location, the inside of our apartment was beautiful. There were only two cons: 1) lack of windows (we had one window that looked directly at a brick wall) and 2) our room was right next to the lobby, thus we could hear people coming and going all day and night. However, the new furnishings, clean interior, refrigerator/microwave combo and rainfall shower more than made up for it.

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Laugavegur (main street)

Food

Before visiting Iceland, we had been warned about two things: 1) the lack of edible diversity and 2) the prices! Agh! Well people weren’t kidding. If you know me, I’m not a fan of fish or seafood of any kind (yes, that includes sushi). Unfortunately for me, there was no shortage of fish in Iceland. Each menu consists of the following proteins: fish (plenty of it), lamb, duck and (if you’re lucky) beef or chicken. Portions are small and sides are rarely included. A typical meal will cost you between $35-$50 per person. If you fancy a drink, be prepared to pay $25 for a cocktail and $10 for a beer. Although the prices are high, flavor and quality are superb. You might get tired of duck, lamb or chicken but you can always try the whale, puffin or horse 🙁 Anyways, here are a couple of yummy places we tried…

Apple pie at Rossopomodoro

Rossopomodoro – One of the few places open on New Year’s Day. Italian cuisine; typical dishes like pasta, salad and pizza. We ordered the “Hottie” pizza which came with pepperoni, sausage, olives, garlic and jalapeño. So good! Dessert was my favorite though, warm apple pie, topped with cinnamon crumble, flaky crust and home-made vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Seriously, to die for! This place was actually reasonably priced in comparison to the rest of Reykjavik. I would definitely recommend if you’re craving Italian.

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Burro Tapas & Steaks – Central American cuisine – super pricey! Now don’t get me wrong, the food was INCREDIBLE. I had the two most delicious baby-sized gourmet tacos I’ve ever had! Slow-roasted pork belly, BBQ mole, corn salsa served on cilantro tortillas. *Drool*  But HOLY COW were they expensive ($25!) Rey had the roasted duck ($50) and because two baby tacos weren’t meant to be my entire meal, I was forced to order a second tapas dish. Our total meal was around $130. This may seem crazy, however most of our nightly meals were (on average) $100.

Pitcher of Sangria for New Years

Sæta Svínið This gastropub is where we had our final meal of 2017. It’s a 4 story restaurant with dim lighting, cushioned seating and rustic decor. Very trendy and super popular among the locals. Rey had the duck salad and I had the chicken breast with couscous. This place is also known for their waffle fries (my fave!) so we obviously ordered those too. The food was fantastic! We celebrated our delicious last meal with a pitcher of cosmopolitan too 🙂

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Waiting for our table at Sæta Svínið

Sushi Social – Now like I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of fish (especially raw fish) BUT it was Rey’s 28th Birthday(!!) so I was obviously going to indulge him. This sushi joint is top-rated in Reykjavik. I was lucky enough to order some Japanese baby-back curry-BBQ ribs! Gawd, they taste even better than they sound. Rey went with sushi, ordering the Icelandic roll (avocado, mango, cucumber, dill mayo, rye bread crumble, in Brennivín-soaked wrapper) and the Samba roll (tuna, cream cheese, avocado, mango, jalapeño mayo, kimchee) *Two thumbs up* If you’re craving some sushi, this is your spot!

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Happy 28th Birthday, Rey!

While finding decent priced places to eat may have been difficult, cafes were not in short supply. Finding a different cafe every morning, is my favorite thing to do when in a new city! Like most of Europe, Reykjavik had its fair-share of beautiful cafes.

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Sandholt store front

Sandholt My favorite of all the cafes in Reykjavik. Typical Scandinavian feel, warm lights, white walls, counters and floors. Their menu can be enjoyed all day long and consists of coffees, pastries, Icelandic yogurts and toasted sandwiches. My go-to: latte, croissant and strawberry yogurt. Mmm!!

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Bakery and coffee bar to-go (Sandholt)

Kaffibrennslan – Cafe by day, lounge by night. The inside of this cozy 2-story coffee house has a cabin-like feel with wood furnishings and candle-lit tables. Christmas lights are littered both inside and out, welcoming just about anyone looking for a warm drink. While in Iceland, I discovered the most AMAZING breakfast, toasted sourdough bread topped with butter, jam and cheese. A must-try when in Iceland!

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My breakfast: sourdough, butter, jam & cheese w/ latte; Rey’s: sourdough w/ tuna salad & Sprite
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Classic, latte at Kaffibrennslan

Café Babalú – This adorable whole-in-the-wall cafe is quant, colorful and full of character. Best known for their grilled cheese sandwiches and lamb stew, their booths are the perfect place to relax and escape the cold. Order at the counter (everyone speaks English) and enjoy the homey atmosphere. *Tip: If you don’t find seating downstairs, check the second floor.

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Grilled cheese & chai latte at Café Babalú

Days began with caffeine but always ended with alcohol…

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Icelandic beer flight at Micro Bar

Micro Bar – Our first night in Reykjavik we were pretty exhausted, so visiting a pub seemed like a safe bet. This underground bar served a variety of Icelandic beers and even offered flights, to try them all. They also have bar games to keep you entertained, always a plus!

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Micro Bar, underground pub
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Pablo Disco Bar

Pablo (Escobar) Disco Bar – This bar is SUPER popular among locals and plays nothing but DISCO! Located on the top floor above Burro, it looks over the city center square, has tons of disco balls to light up the place and funky flamingo wallpaper and decor to give it that 70s lounge vibe. This place gets real packed around 11 pm and even has an all-disco DJ on the weekends. They have fun drinks with all sorts of cool names and weird (but tasty) ingredients. Rey had the Coco Puffs White Russian! It was actually delicious! Think, drunken cereal. It was however, totally embarrassing when the server brought over the entire box of Coco Puffs to pour into his glass in front of an audience. Nonetheless, I would definitely recommend checking this place out. Beware: There is a dress code so be prepared to wear something a little nicer than your snow clothes, they may turn you away.

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Upstairs loft at Dillon

Dillon Whiskey Bar – Located above the Chuck Norris Bar & Grill, we stopped by on a Saturday night. We tried to order “Icelandic whiskey” but the bartender just looked at us like we were crazy. As we walked away from the bar, we noticed that about 99% of  people had beers (and not whiskey). That’s what we get for trying to fit in. *Face palm* To distract from our embarrassment, we were pleasantly surprised to find that on the second floor, two local alternative bands were playing for an audience of about 50 people. They were actually really good too! Most songs were in English but some were in Icelandic. We stuck around until about 2 AM but bars stay open until about 5 AM on the weekends (1 AM weekdays).

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Jack & Coke at Chuck Norris Bar & Grill

Fun Things We Did

New Year’s Countdown – Reykjavik was listed as one of the world’s top 20 places to experience New Years. Let me tell you, it was the BEST New Year’s I’ve ever had. After having a yummy dinner at Sæta Svínið, we made our way to the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral, located at the top of hill which overlooks Reykjavik. Literally all of Reykjavik gathers together in front of the church to light/watch fireworks and ring in the New Year. Grocery stores all over the city sell fireworks to anyone over 18. Now these aren’t just your average sparklers and cherry bombs, these are LEGIT Fourth of July fireworks. They’re big, loud and REALLY dangerous. Earlier in the day, the police department had set up a 20 foot perimeter. Onlookers were meant to stand on the outside, while pyromaniacs set off their fireworks in the middle. Now these pyros were NOT professionals. The closer it gets to midnight, the crazier and more frequent the fireworks become. This experience was like no-other! It was both EXCITING and TERRIFYING. This amateur fireworks extravaganza was really dangerous! Some would go off on the ground, while others would misfire and head straight into the crowd. One even flew right past Rey’s hood and into the bushes right next to us (we moved after this). Although totally unsafe, adrenaline was pumping and energy was ecstatic! People screamed (from both fear and joy), clapped, cheered and of course kissed at midnight. This was definitely one for the books! Going into 2018 with a BANG! (literally)

Amidst the chaos of amateur fireworks!

Horseback Riding through Volcanic Landscape – I LOVE horses! I rode, jumped and competed for several years when I was younger. After high school, I stopped. Since dating Rey, I’ve consistently tried to get him to ride with me and had always failed. I finally convinced him that Icelandic horses were the perfect horses to win his heart. They were everything I knew they would be! These horses are short, stubby, fluffy and VERY friendly. We booked our ride with Íslenski Hesturinn (Icelandic Horse) and have nothing but great things to say about them. We were picked up by their company bus and driven ~20 minutes outside of Reykjavik. Upon arriving, they gave us a 30 minute introduction to the horses and a rundown of the basics of riding. They ask what your riding experience is then disappear for 5 minutes to select the perfect horse for you. Before heading out, they have you gear up for the cold. With the windchill that day, it was 13°F! Riding gear included: full-body snowsuits; helmets, gloves, and boots (optional if you already have appropriate footwear). We then headed out to the paddock where the horses were saddled up and waiting for us. They were even cuter than you can imagine! After loading up, we rode out into the volcanic landscape in single-file line. The landscape was INCREDIBLE! Although it was cold, it was a great experience that allowed us to explore one of Iceland’s many beautiful sceneries in a unique and fun way. 5 stars!

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Snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier – For Rey’s 28th birthday(!!) we went snowmobiling into the Icelandic white wilderness. We were picked up by a giant snow monster jeep and were driven about 2 hours into Iceland’s snowy desert. We geared up (helmets, snowsuits, goggles and gloves) and rode individual snowmobiles across the Langjökull glacier, the second largest glacier in Iceland. Riding snowmobiles is AMAZING! They’re super easy to operate (brake handle and lever throttle) and can go up to 60 mph. We rode from the base to a natural forming ice cave. The ice cave was wicked cool but too much time spent in there can make you feel claustrophobic. After about an hour of exploring and learning about the glacier, we rode back to base. The landscapes and views are indescribable. You feel like you’re on another planet. White snow and overwhelming volcano mountains for as far as the eye can see. If you’re looking for a thrill and another great way to explore Iceland, I’d HIGHLY recommend snowmobiling.

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The Blue Lagoon – A natural geothermal spa located in the remote Icelandic landscape, not to be confused with the tropical island from the 80s movie! Considered one of the 25 wonders of the world, and thought to have healing powers, these natural hot springs are truly magical. The water is a perfect 100°F and the perfect escape from the freezing cold. Tickets are purchased in advance. When you arrive, you are given a robe, towel, sandals and a locker. Everyone must shower before entering the lagoon. A lagoon-side bar allows you to drink both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages all while swimming in the hot water. On the other side of the lagoon, a mud mask station allows you to try on several masks: silica, algae and volcanic ash. They exfoliate, soften, brighten and make your face feel like a million bucks. This was the perfect way to end an exciting vacation in the most enchanted place we’ve ever been.

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Here are a couple extra sites to see while in Reykjavik…

Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral – Reykjavik’s iconic landmark is open to the public and free to visit. However, if you want to go up the tower and experience the views, you’ll have to wait in line and pay ~$10. The statue in front is of Leif Eriksson, the great Nordic Explorer and was a gift from the United States on the 1000th Anniversary of Iceland’s Independence.

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Sun Voyager Sculpture – Sits along the bank of the Atlantic Ocean shore and is said to be an “ode to the sun”. A perfect spot for a photo with the captivating mountains in the background.

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Phallological Museum – The world largest collection of penises. The entrance fee is around $15 and the entire museum can be seen within 30 minutes. If you’re bored and looking for something interesting to do, well there’s always this.

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Harpa Concert Hall – Reykjavik’s theater actively houses plays, concerts and business conferences. Although we didn’t attend a show, it’s worth walking by and checking out the cool architecture and gift shop.

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Things You Should Know Before Going…

  1. Traveling in the winter IS rough. Although Rey and I really enjoy cold weather vacations, you should be warned that if you plan to travel during winter months (they have the same seasons as us) you need to be prepared to wear layers and snow gear! Temperatures stay pretty consist all day and night but range from 20-28ºF. Thick snow boots are a MUST. Thick socks, base layers, scarves and hats also make walking around more comfortable. The windchill can often make it seem colder than it really is.
  2. On a similar note, if traveling during the winter, you should know there is only about 4-5 hours of sunlight. Sunrise happens around 11:30 AM and sunset happens around 3:30 PM. This made it really hard to try and get used to the time change.
  3. Everyone speaks English! Woo!
  4. Hardly anyone uses cash. Credit cards are the main form of payment and they make your life so much easier. The coins can get really confusing.
  5. Be financially prepared! Although we were warned, it doesn’t mean we were any less surprised about the prices. Like I mentioned before, an individual meal will cost between $30-$50 and sides and alcoholic beverages are between $10-$20. You should also budget for souvenirs because even magnets are $10 a piece!

Nonetheless, Iceland was truly magical and deserves to be on your travel wishlist. We’ll definitely be back to experience the beauty of summer!

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Ibiza – Electric Island

As a group whose origin was a consequence of raving…Ibiza had been on our top 5 must-see destinations. At the beginning of this trip, I joked that this would be the ultimate ravers mecca and would be the pinnacle of my rave career. After experiencing the party island for myself, I have both good and bad things to say about our visit…but first here’s a run-down of where we stayed, what we ate and what we did:

Ibiza

Lodging: We were warned that summer is the busiest time of year for Ibiza and finding somewhere (cheap and decent) to stay would be a challenge. So we booked FAR in advance (approx. 6 months) and found the deal of a lifetime! We would be staying at a 2 bedroom apartment in old-town, near the beach. 3 months later, we were emailed the most AMAZING news…we would be upgraded to 2 brand new KING’S suite bedrooms complete with balcony, furnishings, washer & dryer and central AC! We were set! Then, about a month before our trip, we were emailed back and told that due to renovations…our reservation was being cancelled. GAHHH! We frantically searched every website but there was not one place under $300 a night! So we swallowed our pride and booked a 2-bedroom hotel called B-Llobet Apartments. The hotel is in a decent location, about a block away from the beach (which we never actually visited) and about a 30 minute walk/10 minute drive to the main club area. There are not a whole lot of shops or restaurants nearby but the hotel did have a restaurant in the lobby and provided free continental breakfast every morning. One of the great things about this place was the central AC (which is a HUGE plus in the humid summer) but it took a while for us to figure out how to use it. After multiple attempts at changing the different thermostats in all of the rooms, we left for dinner, hoping it would just eventually cool down by the time we got back. After returning several hours later, we walked into to what Alex called “The Meatlocker”! The apartment was so cold the windows were covered in steam. It was a sweet relief from the outside heat but quickly lost its appeal after about 10 minutes of feeling like you were in a refrigerator. Needless to say, we learned how to adjust the temperature and had a very comfortable rest of our stay.

Food: Our food options in Ibiza were not as on-point as was the rest of our trip. Most of the time, we ate whatever was most convenient which sometimes included pizza or Kentucky Fried Chicken (which is a lifesaver after a night at the club). However, there are a lot of nice places you can visit, for the right price ($$$). And because it was NICOLE’S 27th BIRTHDAY we were absolutely not going to pass up a celebratory meal!

 

Sa Punta – is right on the water and has the most incredible sunset views.  Although we didn’t get to sit by the water’s edge, our experience was fantastic! The food is delicious, service is friendly (“free” massages are available) and the decor and scenery are beautiful. Dishes include fish (mostly fish), salads, chicken, pork and steak. Their wine selection is pretty incredible too. Tempranillos all around 🙂

*Tip: Reservations are an absolute must. Try to request seating by the water and be sure to remind them again when you arrive of your request (it can’t be guaranteed but it’d definitely be worth a shot).

Dinner with rey

Activities: The one thing Ibiza is most known for are the clubs and night life. Like the Las Vegas of Europe, Ibiza has one main area called Playa d’en Bossa. Here you will find popular clubs like Ushuaïa, Pacha, Hard Rock Hotel and so many more. Our first night wasn’t that exciting. We walked the streets lined with bars and maneuvered through the sidewalks packed with sweaty people and persistent promoters tempting you with their drink “deals”. Again, we were swindled. We paid $10 for a drink and a shot which turned out to be watered down tequila with a very sugary chaser. Needless to say, we lasted for about an hour before heading home.

Our second night was 100x better. We purchased tickets to see Nora En Pure, Kaskade and Kygo at Ushuaïa. This had to be the best night of our ENTIRE trip! We showed up early to watch Nora, surprisingly it was pretty empty and were able to get close to the stage. Nora did what she does best, threw down with that deep house. Kaskade was next and absolutely BLEW OUR MINDS. We danced our booties off and had a true rave crew moment during our old school anthem, “Move for Me”. Kygo headlined and people went nuts. The crowd became a little too crazy and we made our way to the outside before eventually calling it a night.

Sweaty club-goers and watered-down drinks, lame. Sharing a moment with my soulmates, priceless.

Barcelona – Architectural Wonderland

Barcelona is one of those cities that is on EVERYONE’S bucket list and for good reason too. This Spanish city is chalk full of architectural eye candy! Known for its influential artistic history, big names like Picasso and Antoni Gaudí once called this metropolis “home” and left their mark enough to put this place on the map.

Barcelona reminded me of San Francisco in many ways including the concrete buildings, busy streets and popular tourist landmarks scattered around the city. Yet, hidden amidst the superstructures are amazing architectural gems that are sure to wow.

What we did: We accomplished so much in this big city. Here’s a rundown:

  • Picasso Museum – The Gothic quarter was probably my favorite area of Barcelona. Walking down the narrow cobblestone streets, lined with old lantern street lights and french windows, you’re transported in time. The Picasso museum is at the center of the Gothic quarter which in my opinion, was very appropriate. I would highly recommend buying tickets beforehand. 

  • Parc Güell – One of the famous landmarks created by the artist Antoni Gaudí, was originally commissioned to be a gated community for the wealthy upper class. It was later opened as a public park and is a definite MUST-SEE today! Here are some highlights…

                                   

  • Somorrostro beach – one of many beaches in the area known as Barceloneta. If you get there early enough (like we did) there are umbrellas available for rent. €10 for just the umbrella or €20 for an umbrella and two beach chairs. The water wasn’t frigid but it wasn’t warm tropical water either. Cold enough to give you the chills but comfortable enough to cool you down from the heat!

  • Museu d’Història de la Ciutat – An underground museum of the history of Barcelona. This place takes you back to the days of Barcino – the original Roman settlement. We kind of happened upon this place by (happy) accident, it’s another hidden treasure for those history buffs.

  • Sagrada Familia – The most popular and most famous of the landmarks, the Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) is Gaudí’s gleaming (unfinished) masterpiece. There are not enough words to describe the magnificence of this cathedral. And it’s not even finished yet! The church has been under construction since 1882 and is scheduled to be completed in 2026 (144 years!!). Your entrance fee includes an audio tour – which was short, sweet and to the point. Tickets should be purchased in advance.

        

          

  • Wandered the streets – Sometimes the best way to experience a new city is just to wander aimlessly. Rey and I had the opportunity to do this and although we got lost on our way back, we stumbled upon some pretty awesome sights.
Cathedral La Seu
Antique street market
Santa Catarina indoor market
  • Experienced nightlife (Goin’ up on a Tuesday!) – Our night started off with some drinks and chill house music at a rooftop bar. Once receiving the news that Nicole had passed her board exams(!) the party was on! We made our way to Deep Tuesday, a house music party at Barcelona City Hall. We were a little wary upon arriving and noticing there were NO girls (other than me and Nicole) waiting in line. However once inside, the music did not disappoint!

What we ate: As an avid (almost obsessed) coffee-drinker, I made it my mission to find a new cafe every morning. With it being almost 100 degrees (that’s an over-exaggeration) a hot drink was not going to happen. Since “iced” coffees are not a thing in Spain, getting a coffee appropriate for the weather was somewhat of a challenge. So I settled for “cafe con leche fria” or coffee with cold milk – think hot espresso filled with cold milk = lukewarm latte.

No grandes or ventis here.

Again, like Madrid, there isn’t a whole lot of variety but these were a couple of  interesting places we found to satisfy our hunger:

Carpe Diem Lounge Club (CDLC) – Asian/Oriental themed restaurant right on Barceloneta beach! Beautiful red/gold decor, good-looking wait staff, “free” massages and of course lounge tables (if you’d prefer to lay back while drinking your sangria). This place was pretty fancy (a.k.a pricey) but well worth the experience. CDLC is among a strip of restaurants (turned nightclubs after dark) that are right along the beach. So if you’d like to come by, have a late dinner, then stay to drink and dance, make sure you have reservations and are prepared to spend some money.

Ramen-Ya Hiro – Much to our surprise Asian food was easily found in all parts of the city. After a night of dancing (& drinking) we needed a hydrating/revitalizing meal. *MAJOR side note: this place is super popular but really small. We waited for an HOUR to be seated. So I only recommend if you’re desperate for ramen.

Where we stayed: Air BnB was our go-to in this city. We stayed at a cute apartment, hidden down an alley, in the heart of the Catalonia capital. Our hostess was wonderful and very accommodating! She not only let us check-in extra early (5 hours) but she even gave us a little background history about the city and some helpful tourist tips too. The apartment had central AC (Hallelujah!) and access to a washer which definitely came in handy for our 2 week vacation. *Side note: dryers are almost non-existent in Europe, so be prepared to dry your clothes the old-fashioned way – hang them outside, undies and all!

Here are some extra tidbits of info that you should know before visiting:

  • Transportation: Unlike Madrid, walking everywhere wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Luckily the metro is super cheap! The four of us split two 10 ride passes (T10) which cost €9.95. This pass lasted us all 4 days and allowed us to travel to all of the popular spots around the city. Taxis are everywhere however drivers get pretty upset when you don’t want to go further than a 5 minute drive (20 minute walk). Scooters and go-peds and motorcycles, oh my! These guys are literally everywhere and are not afraid to run you over, so be careful! Oh and not to mention cross-walk signs last about 5 seconds so definitely no lingering!
  • Weather: We visited Barcelona (right after Madrid) at the end of July and it was HOTTER than HOT! Not only were temperatures in the 90s but humidity was around 80%!! Gahh! As someone who is not a fan of the heat (nor of weather that messes with my hair or makes me sweat more than I already have to) I wasn’t the happiest of campers.
  • Language: The primary language here is Catalan which (in my opinion) is a mix of Spanish, French and Portuguese. I will say, this was EXTREMELY frustrating when reading menus and signs around the city. Luckily, everyone speaks Spanish (and mostly English) so communicating wasn’t an issue.
  • FC Barcelona: If not known for their architecture, Barcelona is absolutely known for their famous soccer team. Attending an FC Barcelona game would have been (without a doubt) an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, the ONLY month that the soccer team doesn’t play is in July…the month we visited. So if you’re an avid soccer fan, plan your visit during a time they’re playing!
  • Pick-pocketing/scams: We were definitely warned hundreds of times about the crime in Barcelona. The large amount of tourists are an easy target. Remember to always keep your eyes peeled and your purse/wallet close to you. Although we weren’t robbed, we were bamboozled by the beach “staff”. Not until our second purchase of “sangria” did we realize these $5 drinks ($20 for 4) had ZERO amounts of alcohol in them. We were obviously pissed but what could we do…lesson learned. These guys are sneaky too! They dress up with (what looks like a uniform) walking around with drinks on trays. One homie even carried a bottle of “rum” around as “proof” that the drinks had alcohol. To our great pleasure, one beach-goer finally called these guys out in front of a large audience. Unfortunately, not even this deterred them from trying to sell them. My tip: BYOB!

Although I was not a fan of the weather, nor was I impressed by the smell (dog pee and rotting trash) I will say that I enjoyed the popular points of interest and would agree that it’s a definite bucket list destination (just maybe not in the dead of summer).

Madrid – Andalusian beauty

Madrid was by-far my favorite Spanish city. The cobblestone streets, adobe buildings, outdoor cafes and plazas every few blocks… how could you not fall in love with this old-fashioned Spanish town!

Lodging: We were lucky enough to find a beautifully located Air BnB in the heart of the city, near Plaza Santa Ana. We were fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to visit during summer so the weather was HOT! Our apartment had AC in the living room…and that’s about it. We ended up trading off nights sleeping in the living room because the actual bedrooms were just too hot. I would highly recommend a place with central AC if you plan on visiting during July-August.

FOOD: Tapas and wine galore! We ate “jamon y queso” and sangria (because it was too hot to drink wine-wine) almost EVERY day! Although the variety of food is pretty limited, the number of restaurants and cafes is definitely not in short supply. Some of my favorite spots included:

Stop Madrid – a classic tapas and wine restaurant that serves all types of fresh ham and cheeses. This was our first experience with Spanish tapas on our vacation and they did not disappoint.

Lateral Santa Ana – trendy, popular restaurant with a variety of dishes that are sure to appeal to anyone. Lateral has several locations all over Madrid but we visited the one in Plaza Santa Ana because of its close proximity to our apartment and because of the beautiful patio seating we just couldn’t pass up on.

We did wait a good 30-45 minutes for a table but were lucky enough to find seats at the bar while we waited. Their drinks are EXCELLENT! Made with fresh/exotic fruits, you can’t help but try one.

Patiently waiting at the bar 🙂

Patio seating was definitely worth the wait too! Very romantic (as is most of the dining in Madrid).

      

One thing to know is that Spain practices “siesta”. Between 3-6 PM many places shut down for a quick “nap” or rest. Locals usually enjoy dinner around 10 PM so be prepared to eat late! OH! And if you are not a night owl (like Spaniards) try not to get too upset when you hear them yelling and screaming outside your bedroom window at 5 AM.

Fun things we did: Most people will say that Madrid isn’t the most exciting place to visit which is partially true (in comparison to Barcelona) however, it’s the best place to sit back, relax and let the world pass you by. We definitely did this by spending a day in Buen Retiro Park (direct translation “Park of Good Retreat”).

Playing Uno/listening to music/drinking wine
Cuties <3

Aside from the relaxed park life, we also did some other cool things:

  • Tour of the Royal Palace
  • Plaza Mayor – people watching (while drinking Sangria) & shopping
Alex was a pro by the end of this trip!
  • Mercado de San Miguel – indoor market with LOTS of tapas, weird fish, fruits and drinks.
  • Plaza Sol – shopping
  • Azotea rooftop bar – drinks & sunset over Madrid  (chill house music playing in the background).

  • Eat churros and chocolate – a MUST try! They are literally TO DIE FOR!
Thanks Snapchat for the cute location tag 😉

Let’s just say, our 4 days in Madrid were not wasted. Major THANKS to my friend Sofia for providing stellar suggestions on places to eat and visit. For cute travel videos, check out her vlog, Midnight Travels!

For our full Madrid album, visit our Shutterfly website: Adventures w/ Rey.

 

 

Hello world!

My name is Monica and I’m a 26 yo from Northern California with cosmic wanderlust. I always knew I wanted to travel but never realized I’d fall in love with the world as much as I have now.

I’ve decided to start a travel blog because 1) family and friends have expressed interest in the details of my trips and 2) I think it’d be a great way to keep track of my adventures throughout the coming years.

My goal is to share pictures (obviously) and provide suggestions on places to eat, drink and fun things to do.

Rey is my travel partner (and boyfriend of 6 years) and without him this travel blog would not be possible. You can follow us on our adventures by reading about them here.  At most, I hope my blog inspires you to travel beyond your own backyard and at the very least, you get a kick out of my horrible writing and awkward pictures. Enjoy!