3 Must-Have Spanish travel experiences

After a looong hiatus, I’ve decided to start blogging again! So why not start with some summer vacation stories!

For fellow travelers thinking about hitting the south of Spain (Andalucía), I’ve got some suggestions for a unique experience!

1) Sleep in a Cave Cuevas el Abanico, Granada, Spain

I’m not a huge fan of experimentation when it comes to sleeping arrangements. My entire day can be ruined by a lack of sleep, and I am slightly murderous before my morning coffee, but this is something I highly recommend to everyone! Not only does it have a natural cool temperature (no air conditioning required!) but the bed is comfortable and the cave comes with a kitchen and living room area as well! I wouldn’t recommend a visit in the middle of winter, as it might get too cold inside, but it’s a perfect resting place for a summer visit to Granada!

Avg price/night – 60€ for two people. Reserve here.

  

2) Sleep in a castle – Hotel Castillo Santa Catalina, Malaga, Spain

Who doesn’t want to feel like royalty for a night? You can have a temporary fairy tale and prance around the beautiful gardens of this spectacular hotel. It is a REAL castle, mostly used as a wedding venue nowadays. Make sure to book ahead of time, as they only have 8 bedrooms available! My iPhone pictures don’t do it justice. 

Avg price/night – 140€ for two people. Reserve here.

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3) Eat deliciously fresh seafood – Pedregalejo, Malaga, Spain

Pedregalejo is a small fishing village outside of Malaga city. It features a series of restaurants right next to the water, where you can enjoy a romantic evening on the beach while the chef cooks your meal right in front you!

Avg price -dinner for two 30-40€

  
   
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Everything, and nothing.

The supple raindrops on car windshields parked in nameless towns

are made of the same matter as the ice crystals

forming at the peak of Mount Everest.

The words you yell in hate,560585_10100764466614829_680102236_n

and confess in love,

invoke the same emotions in every language.

You are breathing the same air as your worst enemy.

You are entangled in a complex pattern, of the living

and the departed.

Your potential is infinite yet bounded

by the enslavement that exists in your mind

and nowhere else.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/ice-water-steam/

What To Do With Miscellaneous Travel Photos

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a billion photos after a weekend trip. In addition to 50 awkward yet identical selfies behind a famous landmark, I’ll also have pictures of the landmarks themselves, and trees, flowers, dogs – you name it.
When I moved into my apartment recently, I planned on buying the standard wall painting from Ikea – flowers blowing in the wind, contemporary art that makes no sense, or a wall rug.
Instead, I developed those miscellaneous pictures from my travel collections, and created a travel collage.
Maybe it’s not up to National Geographic’s standards, but it’s a personal memory that creates a story, a sense of nostalgia, and most of all, it generates a way more interesting answer than, “I bought this at a generic furniture store”.

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A Storybook breakfast

After having a drink at the beautiful Le Stanze bar in Bologna, I was in search of a nice place to have breakfast on a Sunday morning. I love places that offer something different- whether it be the style, the menu, or surrounding atmosphere. Les Pupitres, in Bologna, Italy, is probably the most adorable little coffee shop you could imagine.

The prices are great (cappuccino €1.20, croissant €1.00) not to mention a series of delectable baked goods for under €5.00. They also serve lunch and alcoholic drinks.

The location is perfect (near the famous Due Torri) and they play Lucio Dalla in the background during breakfast.

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The one where you accidentally meet.

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We took the same bus on that humid Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t supposed to be on it, but I got distracted by a phone call and hopped on, didn’t think twice. I’d seen you around before, you’re what’s-his-name’s friend, right? The one from Naples? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.

Our eyes met for a second. I gave you a hesitant closed-lipped smile, the “I-know-you-but-not-really” kind. You didn’t return it. You continued staring. I got painfully awkward and ran my tongue across my lips. Do I have lipstick on my teeth? Is there something on my face? It’s my hair, isn’t it? I can’t get it to look normal in this heat.

I’m sure if I looked in your bathroom, I’d find lipstick in the cabinet. Red lipstick, belonging to “her” of course. I can’t pull off red lipstick, it always ends up looking a bit out of place on my face. I don’t know who “she” is, but she must melt every time you look at her like that. Little pangs of jealousy found there way into my insides, hugging them without wanting to let go.

You weren’t particularly tall, or muscular, or any other quality that’s usually on a woman’s checklist, but you were..captivating. Your eyes were dark, almost black – with a lighter brown in the middle. It was as if two countries had a battle over your eyes, and neither really won.

I didn’t think about you after that.

I’m looking at you right now, sitting across from me, and mouthing the words to a cheesy 80s song that’s on the radio. We’re waiting for my train to come, (late as usual) inside a typical Italian cafe. The old man at the bar has a warm smile on his face, and an oil stain on his t-shirt. You slide my half of the pizza towards me, the one you divided unevenly – giving me the bigger half. You look up at me, smirk, and continue singing.

I melt.

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Working in Spain or Italy: Legally vs Illegally

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If you’ve decided to teach English and live la vita bella or la vida loca in Spain or Italy, you have to be ready for the onslaught of paperwork that will head your way (especially if you’re North American).
If you are planning on staying in either of these countries for more than three months, and you are not a European citizen, you must apply for a work or student visa in your country of origin.

Before I renewed my European passport, I was forced to go through this process which involved buying private health insurance, and printing out my bank statements in order to prove I had enough money to survive in case all hell broke loose.

The people you will deal with at the embassy or consulate in your country of origin will definitely be very mean to you. I’m pretty sure when they hire people, they ask them to sell their souls. I don’t know what it is about consulate workers, but they aren’t happy balls of sunshine.

-TIP: Photocopy- Make several copies of documentation. If the office misplaces something, you can immediately fax or send whatever may be missing ASAP.

When you receive your visa and head to your destination, you must go to the police station in order to receive a card either called permesso di soggiorno, or certificado de registro (see picture above).

-TIP: If you don’t speak the language, bring someone with you who does. The police officers probably don’t speak English, and the receptionists aren’t much better, so if you have someone next to you who can fully explain what’s going on, you’ll save yourself a headache.

Working illegally: Many Americans and Canadians choose to travel and stay in Spain or Italy without a visa. After the three months are up, they continue working and living at their destination. This is 100% possible and fairly easy to do. You arrive, you stay, and no one checks. It may save you the initial headache by avoiding paperwork and visa costs, but you run into several problems:

– You don’t have a real work contract. You have no rights as an employee, because you aren’t “really there”. They can “forget” to pay you, and you can’t do anything about it. Moreover, you don’t have access to free healthcare, which is automatic if the contract is real, and you pay taxes.

-You can’t travel. Sure, weekend trips to neighbouring countries might not be a problem, but if you go to the U.K, or have an officer look through your passport during a domestic flight, you’re screwed. (I forgot my residence card at home, and had a lot of explaining to do at the London airport customs office)

-Deportation. In the unlikely event you get caught at an airport without a visa and an expired passport stamp (you have an entrance stamp over three months old), you can get a huge fine, face deportation, and be prohibited from entering the E.U for “x” amount of years.

I’ve met people who work both illegally and legally in Spain or Italy. In the end, I highly recommend you follow legal procedures and do things the right way. A bit of stress at the beginning will save you a lot of worry in the long run. If you have any questions about travel/preparation, don’t hesitate to contact me!

A Secret Window

Once a week, I turn off my phone, my computer, iPad etc. and I go for a walk. A couple hours of complete disconnection do wonders for your sanity. It’s sad to think that going for a walk, completely alone, just you and your thoughts, is a thing of the past. I do my best thinking in these moments, everything else can wait. Unfortunately, this time I cheated a little bit. I came across a beautiful canal, a “secret” canal in fact, that locals will brag about.
My personal challenge for you is to take a walk, once a week, completely alone. You can stop for a coffee, sit on a park bench, and disconnect from outside worries (maybe even take a quick picture if the opportunity is too beautiful to pass up).

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What Happened When I Stopped Watching T.V

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I’m just like everyone else. After a long day at work, my favorite thing to do on a weeknight was to pass out in front of the television. Most of the time, it didn’t even matter what I was watching, I just needed something to lull me into my zombie-like sleep.

This past summer, I decided to move to a different city here in Italy. After having lived in Milan for several months, I decided that I hated the city. It was too grey, too expensive, the people are always pissed off, and most importantly, it was full of litter with few green spaces (a big deal for a Canadian). So I headed off in search for a new apartment in my new city of residence, Bologna, Italy.
After having found a temporary apartment, I met with the landlord.
“You know there’s no television at the moment, right? We can look into getting one though, if you’d like?”
WHAT?! You mean no re-run marathons of my love-to-hate reality shows?!
“Nope, it’s no problem for me, I don’t want one.

Now don’t get my wrong. I love films and t.v series (Big Bang Theory and How I met Your Mother in particular), but I felt that the 2-3 hours of “couch potato time” per night was taking away from self-improvement and productivity.
So what did I do with the free time I was suddenly given?

1. I started my blog. I forgot how much I loved to write. It would be a waste not to write something down in my situation. I’m living abroad and moving from place to place, yet I didn’t even have a journal! Even if nobody reads what I write, I’ll have something to look back on after my 20s are over.

2. I started taking classes at the gym – I love the gym, but it’s hard to commit to going regularly, especially during the winter months when you want to curl up in front of the television. Since I didn’t have the t.v option, I forced myself to look at the classes offered at my local gym in the evenings. I signed up for body pump, among others, and made this a regular habit before bedtime.

3. I started reading regularly – I’ve loved reading since I was a child. It’s a habit I’ve carried with me throughout high school and university, but it died down a bit once I began working full time. I replaced the t.v stand with a bookshelf, and I choose something to read before I curl up on the couch and fall asleep. Reading makes me feel positive. Each time you read a new book, you open yourself to a new world of imagination, something that’s obviously missing from many television shows.

4. I made things – A travel box (see post), scrapbooks, photo albums, etc. making things makes you feel better, especially when you feel down. It’s really great to see a finished project that you designed yourself. The feeling of fulfillment that used to come from coloring books and crafts as a child has followed me into adulthood.

5. I stayed informed on my own – The news programs we see are biased. If you don’t make an effort to look for a second opinion, you don’t see both sides of the story. The internet has a mass amount of information from different countries with different political and social opinions. It was great to see how Italian television, BBC news, and CNN, all morphed the same news stories for their own benefit.

6. I had a drink with friends – When you’re exhausted on a Monday evening, the last thing you want to do is get dressed and go out. Actually, don’t even need to get dressed, just go out. Having a drink with friends after work was surprisingly therapeutic. Laughing about my current frustrations allowed me to sleep better, and I found myself walking home smiling after catching up with some friends.

The purpose of this post is to remind you that you’re full of ideas and creativity. Routine has a way of draining us of our imagination, but we don’t have to let this happen. Staying informed is easy with the internet, so you won’t be missing out on anything, but discovering a new sense of self that you thought disappeared a long time ago.

What’s that smell?!

You know those 1950s commercials where the man comes home with a briefcase and melodically states “honey, I’m home!” He is greeted by his made-up wife in a polka dot dress and a warm apple pie in her hands.
Well, I am the exact antithesis to this young gal. I’m a disaster in the kitchen. I’ve been given advice from a range of people including an Italian chef and my Polish grandmother. I don’t know how people grow and nourish this type of talent.
In Italy, they’ve got a show called “Junior Masterchef”. Basically it’s about 9 and 10 year olds from different regions in Italy who compete for their winning dish. Their hometown masterpiece. I hate these kids because they make me feel even more embarrassed at my level of incompetence at 24. I’m the age of two of these kids put together, yet I sometimes burn my toast a little too much.
Last night, I tried to cook something, and as usual, it went horribly wrong. The Spanish omelette or “tortilla de patatas” is a combination of potatoes, eggs, and onions, that are fried together in harmony. I used to eat it on a regular basis while living in Spain. The YouTube video made it look easy anyway.
The instructions said to add a “substantial amount of oil, but to be careful not to make it too oily.”
I went a little bold with the olive oil, then started freaking out that the potatoes were drowning in it, so I poured a lot of it out. Then I realized that I was unable to flip everything over to fry the other side because there was too little oil and it started burning.
The result was a smell that surprisingly avoided an emergency call to the fire department. Unapproved for human consumption, I may have unintentionally discovered a new brand of dog food because the dog was all over it like a new box of kibbles.
I present you, my piece-of-shit tortilla that smells like burned fossil fuels. Here is a comparison between my “creation” and a real one from Google images. RIP.

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