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48 posts categorized "*Traveling around Spain"

City Spotlight: Segovia

Ever since I visited Spain two years ago, I've been raving about how Toledo is my absolute favorite city in the entire world.

But now, I think I’m going to have to say I have a two-way tie, because I just visited Segovia for the first time and am already in love.

Just like Toledo, Segovia is a magical place. Walking through its old, narrow streets I felt as though I had walked through a portal in time, with the city’s ancient buildings and vestiges of the past inviting me to contemplate what the world used to be like centuries ago. An overwhelming sense of humility and awe came over me as I took it all in, and as the bus took me away, I was already eagerly planning my return.

Whether or not you’re inclined to such emotional and philosophical reactions to ancient cities as I am, Segovia is certainly a place all can enjoy! Here are three reasons why Segovia is an absolute must-see:

1) Alcázar de Segovia IMG_1004
Disney fans will be delighted to know that this majestic castle is rumored to have inspired the Cinderella castle in Disney World. I would highly recommend touring the inside and enjoying the breathtaking landscape views from the castle's mighty tower.

2) Acueductos de Segovia IMG_0950
As one of the city's only remains of Roman times, the aqueducts are a glorious sight to behold. They stand tall and proud smack in the middle of the city, surrounded by adorable shops and restaurants. Also worth a climb to the top!

3) Catedral de Segovia IMG_0897
A testament to Gothic architecture, the cathedral is simply awe-inspiring. Its intricate designs and powerfully looming presence make it a worthy visit. 

Other notable Segovian sights are the Plaza Mayor, Casa de los Picos, and Barrio Judío, among many others. In short, a highly recommended and very easy day trip from Madrid!

Salamanca and Ávila

The Journey

Jenna, Maria, and I decided to take a day trip to Salamanca and Avila through a company called Smart Insiders. The company is a multicultural organization that specializes in trips and event planning. We were to meet the group at 9:00 am and head straight to Salamanca. The three of us decided to pack some to-go champagne and breakfast for the trip since we weren't going to make any stops before arriving to our destination. Once we arrived at the meeting point and were on the bus we headed off on our day adventure and it was a beautiful drive. There were rolling hills filled with small farm houses with many animals such as cows, horses, pigs, and dogs. The three of us were enjoying ourselves chatting and taking in the sites. We arrived to Salamanca at 11:30 am, and decided to take a quick break, grab a coffee, and start exploring.

Salamanca is a pretty small city so we knew we would be able to see the majority of it in the 5 hours that were allotted before heading to Ávila. Salamanca is on a hill with a University: Universidad De Salamanca, Old and New Cathedral, good shopping and restaurants, and a beautiful plaza in the center of the city; Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is a large plaza located in the center of Salamanca, used as a public square. It was built in the traditional Spanish baroque style and is a popular gathering area.The whole city seemed a gold brown color because of the ornate sandstone architecture. 

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Our first stops were the cathedrals and they were gorgeous. I couldn't believe how detailed the interiors of both were. Because we went on Sunday there were masses going on in both so it was nice to see how the church is utilized on a weekly basis.  ​​

Next, we decided to head to Plaza Mayor which is one of the most beautiful plazas I’ve seen. In Spain it is very common to have a plaza or meeting point located in the center of the city. In Madrid I live very close to Plaza Mayor, along with a few others for people to get together and socialize. Once we got to the plaza we were greeted with an old fashioned Flamenco street performance. We met some nice guys from Madrid who were also spending the day in Salamanca and we asked if they could take our picture.  ​​ ​​

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At this point in the day we were really hungry so we decided to go and grab some lunch. We went to a restaurant a little ways away from Plaza Mayor called Rio de la Plata. We arrived and ordered a wine and decided we wanted to eat some traditional Spanish fare such as pork, croquettes, and fried calamari. Croquettes are small breadcrumbed fried food in the shape of a roll. Usually the main ingredients are mashed potatoes or ground meat, shellfish, fish, cheese, and vegetables. Ours were ham and cheese and they were the best I've had in Spain so far. Salamanca is also known for their delicious meat so when I tried the pork I was very impressed with the flavor. I would go back to Salamanca just to have their meat dish again. Overall, I would rate the quality of food higher than in Madrid so I am excited to venture out of the big city to find other hidden gems in other cities around Spain. 

Ávila

After lunch we needed to get to the bus because we were heading to Ávila which is an hour drive from Salamanca. The city is the capital of the Spanish province of the same name, and is a city in the rolling hill country northwest of Madrid. It’s best known for its intact medieval city walls is known for it’s beautiful Roman architecture. On our way to Ávila I was taking in the beautiful rolling countryside. I thought it was even more beautiful than our drive to Salamanca. Once we arrived before we headed into Ávila, the tour guides took us to a looking point so we could take in the entirety of they city surrounded by the walls, and it was absolutely beautiful.  ​​

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Once we arrived in the city everyone in the group walked to the plaza, which as I mentioned before, is the center of the city. As it was getting dark the lights were illuminating on the stone walls and it was magical. ​​ Maria, Jenna, and I were getting tired so we decided that we would walk around for a little and grab some dinner. We went to this old cafe where they had hamburgers and other American inspired dishes. Since we already had our fill of Spanish food this sounded perfect to us. Once we ordered we sat and talked with our waiter and practiced a little Spanish.

At 8:30 it was time to go back to the bus and head back to Madrid. On the walk back it was dark and the city was gorgeous since you could see the lights very well, and get to see more details of the architecture.  I was happy with Smart Insiders and how they organized the day getting everyone to two cities. I look forward to more day trips like this in the future and being able to see different parts of Spain. 

From Salamanca, With Love

 

This past weekend I found myself in a beautiful place -- Salamanca.  Where to even begin?  

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My birthday trip was initially supposed to be to Granada.  But when Granada felt like too much for just a weekend, we had to regroup.  Where to go that was not too far and could be accomplished in a weekend?  Enter Rick Steves, or Ricky S, as I like to call him.  I’ve never been one to search through travel guides.  I’m not opposed to them, I think they’re quite fun actually.  And my dad usually manages to slip an Eyewitness sights-to-see book in my bag upon departure.  I guess I just rely on the internet.  This time I chanced upon Ricky S’ pages on Salamanca.  After “university town,” “Art Deco museum in a building from the same period,” and “perfect for a weekend,” I was sold.  Salamanca, ahoy!

There is a train to Salamanca that only takes 1 hour and 30 minutes from Madrid, but none of those train times worked with our schedules.  Instead we booked the train that takes just about 3 hours.  En route during sunset, outside the window we could see large, beautiful fields turning orange and purple as the sun descended.  Arriving in the dark in the US would probably bring people anxiety and empty streets.  In Spain?  No way.  We got off the train at around 9 and as we walked the streets towards our hotel, bars were packed, stores were open, and children were playing outside.  I love Spain.

We stayed at Microtel Placentinos, another Ricky S recommendation.  It was perfect: perfect location, perfect decor, perfect people.  It is behind the university and in a peaceful spot.  The breakfast included was also muy bueno: meats, cheeses, breads, croissants, yogurts, coffee, etc. etc.  I’ve grown to be slightly obsessed with these “free” breakfasts.  They save stress and money and take two seconds to get to!  Though one day I learned of Croissanteria Paris, and upon reading that one should go first thing in the morning to get the freshest croissants, I fled.  I returned with one croissant filled with spinach and cheese, one with milk chocolate, and another with raspberry jam and queso fresco.  This was pre-breakfast breakfast of course. 

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I digress!  I skipped to the croissants on Saturday morning.  Let’s go back to Friday night.  At check-in, the concierge cheerfully showed us a map of town and recommended a few places to go for tapas.  We dropped our stuff and trotted over to Bambú--apparently this is also a Ricky S recommendation, but I didn’t know it at the time!!!

No no no wow I’ve gone too far.  Let me go back to the walk from the train station to the hotel.  About 15 minutes in we hit one of the most amazing spots: the Plaza Mayor.  I was speechless at the time and I’m speechless now.  At night it is quite something, brightly lit and filled with people.  It feels like the place to be.  Will stop here and insert a photo below. 

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So, check-in, luggage left, Bambú.  The restaurant was crowded and everyone behind the counter was moving fast.  I felt we had two options: 1) we could take a seat, as most tourists might, to avoid the scary situation of having to stick out in the crowd of standing locals and fumble through asking what the display dishes are, or 2) we could conquer our fears, dive into the crowd of standing locals and own our tourist-selves.  I’m excited to say that we chose option 2.  And it wasn’t that bad!  In fact, it was wonderful.  We tried 7 various tapas and had 6 cañas (claras con limón).  The most delicious was an hojaldre of bacon and cheese.  Photos below.  Feast your eyes.

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Everyone was nice to us and we left feeling great.  We decided to walk on over to Cafe Novelty, a 1920s joint where I read they have special ice cream.  “We finished with the ice cream,” said the waiter.  Oops.  We left.  No problem!  Bambú had been a perfect first night adventure.

The next day we went first thing (after the Croissanteria Paris event and hotel breakfast) to the Oficina del Turismo in Plaza Mayor to collect our 4€ passes to both the Museo de Historia de la Automoción and Casa Lis--the Art Deco/Art Nouveau museum.  Easy peezy.  At this point I was feeling energized by my ability to go to a city in Spain and deal with tourist office things in Spanish.  We set off for the museums.

The car museum was fun--3 floors of automobiles from the late 19th century up until present day.  The Hispano Suizas were fun to see, as were the classic Rolls Royce, Ford Model-T, and Cadillac.  This museum is nice because the labels are simple, if you want to read them, and the point is really just to walk around and look at the cars.  After, we headed over to Casa Lis.

IMG_4808Casa Lis really is something to see.  Perched above the burnt orange rocks of Salamanca lies a facade of an Art Deco building, red flowers lining the multicolored stained glass windows.  Inside there are more stained glass windows that are fun to see.  The rooms hold everything from glass objects to mini-figurines to dolls to paintings.  It’s a mish-mash of things to explore.  I found the room with dolls fairly terrifying, but still interesting!  One of the nicest parts of the museum, though, is the cafe.  I sat in the cafe with a Viennese coffee while the sun shone through the windows and highlighted all of the vibrant colors of the room.  Surrounded by reproductions of paintings and objects in the museum, I sipped my coffee in what felt like a 1920s cafe.  I highly recommend this spot to anyone who finds their self in Salamanca.  Like, literally, not figuratively.  If figuratively, that’s awesome too!

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In an effort to not make this post into a novel, I’ll move on to some other Salamanca moments.  We took a 30-minute mini tourist train through the city and saw the Puente Romano from afar.  We searched for the frog and astronaut on the outside relief of the University building and Cathedral (upon renovation, fun images were added to the facades including an astronaut, a dragon eating ice cream, and more).  The frog is the symbol of the city, every type of frog is sold as every type of souvenir: snowglobes, shot glasses, figurines, fans, t-shirts, plates, this list could go on forever.  The university is from 1230, by the way.  The year 1230.  There’s something magical about the commitment to education that’s been there for so long.  And they hammer this point home for sure.  At the Convento de San Esteban, religious words are mixed with quotes that express a commitment to learning.  It’s cool, though kind of hard to accept, considering how many were excluded from educational opportunities over the centuries.  Or how many were thought to be “civilized” by this learning.  As a woman it can often be hard to see lines constantly talking of “a man’s spirit,” “a man’s this,” “a man’s that.”  But this certainly did not dull the magic of Salamanca the city.


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One highlight was taking funny photos with statues of the architects of Plaza Mayor.  Another was a band of students with horns playing Beatles tunes.  Just like these two moments the city is an amalgamation of old and new, history and present.  One minute you see Zara and Carrefour, the next you see a Gothic Cathedral built between 1513 and 1733 hovering high over the city.  Walking through the old, small streets of Salamanca, I felt alive.  It was a great place to spend the anniversary of another year of life.    

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20 Differences: Spain vs. Latin American Spanish

A Petite Traveler

When I first moved to Madrid, Spain at the beginning of August 2017, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the country, and also by all the cultural differences, especially in the language. I learned Latin American and Mexican Spanish growing up in the United States. Here in Spain, I've learned European Spanish from my host family stay and from Tandem: a prestigious language learning school in Madrid. I'm still learning from my private Spanish classes, my intercambio partner who is a native European Spanish speaker, and from living in Spain! I've rounded up 20 differences in verbs, expressions, and what things are called here for your leisure. Of course, I do not offer an exhaustive list and I will continue to add to it! Please leave comments or follow me on Instagram @KamalaAlcantara if you have any questions or comments!

(All of my photos are purchased and licensed through Adobe Stock, except the one of me above, that's just a selfie! Haha.)

 

1. Vosotros

In the majority of American schools, our Spanish teachers skip this form and we only use "yo", "tú", "él/ella", "nosotros", and "ustedes/ellos/ellas". This is because they only use the vosotros form in Spain and there are over 20 other Spanish-speaking countries. Sorry, Spain! So if you're like me and you're immersed in Spain Spanish or otherwise called "Castilian" or Castellano, it sounds like a different language apart from Spanish!

For example: "¿Como estáis, chicas?" This means, "How are you?"--to 2 or more girls/women or even more basically: "How are ya'll?"

2. Vale.

In Spain, this word means "okay" or "alright". It is used in almost every sentence, everywhere, by EVERYONE! Once you start using "vale" you're on your way to assimilating into Spanish culture. 

3. ¡Qué guay!

This translates to "cool" or "awesome" or "amazing! This word is very highly used from children, to teenagers, to young adults, and to 30 to 40 somethings. 

4. Zumo

Juice. NO ONE says "jugo", no one...unless they're not from Spain... 

5. Conducir

This is the verb for "to drive". You may have learned "manejar". In Spain, everyone uses the word conducir.

6. Coger

I know, I know!  This is something Rated R in most Spanish-speaking countries, however, in Spain, this means "to take" (transportation or an object). For example, "Voy a coger un taxi." I'm going to take a taxi. 

7. Coche

This is the word for "car". You might have learned, or use the word, "carro". If you say carro, half the time they'll probably know what you're referring to, but everyone says coche here. 

8. ¡Genial!

Literally it means, "great!" You'll also hear this ALL the time! It's almost like "awesome!" For example, "Oh, I found an extra bottle of wine for the party!" You can respond, "¡Genial!"

9. Ahora Mismo

If you say, "ahorita" (translates to "right now"in Spain, you'll get some funny looks. They know what you're talking about; but it's more common to say "ahora mismo". It means "right now" or "this very minute" but it also can mean "in a couple minutes" or something you're about to do next!

10. Móvil

It's the word commonly used for "cell phone" vs. "celular".

11. Sobremesa

In Spain, we eat dinner around 9:00-10:00pm (21:00-22:00 Spain time). Late late late into the night, after dinner is over you'll find the Spanish still talking at the same table with friends, lovers and family. This time spent after dinner still talking at the table is referred to as "sobremesa". You don't actually use it in speech like, "let's go sobremesa", no! But just know there is actually a name for it! I love this culture...take your time and enjoy life!

12. No Pasa Nada.

You will hear this A LOT in Spain. It basically means "don't worry".

If you're taking too long at the grocery store to grab your card to pay at the cash register and you say, "Sorry! Just need to grab my card..." the cashier will probably say "No pasa nada". Literally this phrase is thrown out daily!

13. ¡Hombre!

This is literally just like saying "MAN!" or "Oh man (I forgot something)" in American English. Or like "what the heck!" This is usually said in excitement or exasperation. 

13. ¡Venga!

This basically means, "come on!" and can be said seductively all the way to angrily. It can mean "hurry up", or "let's go!" It can be said when an irritated dad is rushing a very slow 5-year old. You'll hear this a lot!

15. Puente

This word translate to "bridge" but in Spain it also refers to a long holiday break from work or school (like a 3-6 day weekend due to a holiday like Christmas or Semana Santa.) 

16. Ordenador

The word commonly used for "computer" or "laptop". In Spanish class in the U.S., you probably learned, "computadora". 

17. ¡Qué chungo! 

This word is a little versatile. Children and adults say it to mean "creepy" or "problematic". In this way it means "how creepy! or "how problematic!"

However if you were to say, as my private Spanish teacher said, "¡Ten cuidado! Ella parece una chica chunga." You're saying, "Be careful! She looks problematic", or like someone rough-looking that you shouldn't associate yourself with.

You can also say: "Estoy chungo/a" to mean something just doesn't feel right, or you don't feel well but you just don't know what it is.

18. Patata!

In Spain, instead of saying "cheeeese!" when someone takes a picture, you say "patataaaa!"

19. Cortado 

When you go into a café or one of the many delicious bakeries in Spain, you wouldn't say you want an espresso with milk, you have to say "¡Quiero un cortado, por fa!" They'll instantly know you mean you want an espresso with milk. Trust me, after 10+ cafes saying it wrong, my life is so much easier now!

20. "¡Ching ching!"

This is how you say, "Cheers!" in Madrid, Spain. It's also pretty widely used in other languages in other European countries--same sound but different spelling!

And there you have it! I'll be sure to add to this list as I learn more words!

xx,

Kamalía

 

For more travel tips and adventures, follow me on Instagram: @KamalaAlcantara

Barcelona on a Budget!

PArk Guell

Barcelona, Spain is an incredible city that you absolutely HAVE to see for yourself. You've probably heard of the famous Sagrada Familia, the beautiful Park Güell, and the epic market La Boqueria: The Mercat de Sant Josep. Travel can be quite expensive; but to be a savvy traveler, all you need is to do a little research and set a budget before going. I stayed in Barcelona with my fiancé for 3 days and 2 nights and we only spent 100 euro/per person. You could easily spend 300 euros per person in Barcelona, trust me! 

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In those 3 days, we explored the city by foot (free), bicycle (6€ for 2 hours), metro (4,50€ 1 trip), and bus (6€ airport bus)! We stayed at the Atlantis Hotel where we took advantage of the free and filling breakfast. When you go, spend a couple hours exploring and going into shops at Plaça de Catalunya, walking around and taking in the sights and landmarks like Arc de Triomf (above). We spent time strolling through La Boqueria and couldn't help but taste some of the delicacies (fresh oysters, fresh Yakisoba noodles) and of course savored some interesting yet tasty chocolates. Bring some euros with you because the minimums for credit/debit card are horrendous and force you to spend money! For example, chocolates can be anywhere from .50-5€, they also had oysters ranging from 3-9€ each, the minimums can be 10-20€. Food in Barcelona is super affordable with restaurants offering lots of deals and meals being anywhere from 2-12€! 

La boqueria

We didn't end up going inside La Sagrada Familia since there was a lot of construction and the line was longer than a new Disneyland ride line (2 hours + wait) but it was wonderful to just SEE it! 

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There are tons of really cool shops and restaurants near the Sagrada Familia; you can easily take the metro there as they have a stop that's literally called La Sagrada Familia, haha. You can buy tickets to La Sagrada Familia here!

Park Güell is also budget-friendly and you have to see it as well!  The picture of my fiancé and I above is taken at Park Güell. It's wise to purchase your ticket online (9€/per person) to enter this part of the park. You definitely want to see it! You can order tickets online here

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A list of free places to see (can fill 2-3 days):

  • Park Güell (the top half)
  • La Boqueria
  • Gothic Quarter (filled with tons of amazing architecture, narrow pathways, cheap bars and restaurants to grab lunch or dinner)
  • Plaça de Catalunya 
  • Walk along the beach, port
  • The Arc de Triomf (pictured above)

I could write so much more! Any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out on Instagram @APetiteTraveler or leave a comment below!

 

xx,

Kamalía

 

 

 

Exploring the Country

Every weekend we have a three day weekend and what better way to spend the extra day off than traveling. Some times just a day trip will suffice, and some times you can take your long weekends to travel further.  Even if the weather is awful, it is still good enough to travel. The best part about exploring is being at the top of the city and looking out at the whole city center as if you were in a movie.

 

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SEVILLA: NO8DO, You Have Not Abandoned Me

Sevilla's official motto is NO8DO, No Me Ha Dejado, which means "[Sevilla] has not abandoned me, and I finally have a complete understanding of what this means. This past weekend, I decided to go back to the place I studied abroad for the first time in three years. (I went through CIEE too!) In fact, it had been 1056 days since I left Sevilla, but it felt as if it I still lived there. To be honest, I was worried about going back since my friend, Rhea, went back about a year and half ago and said it was so different. What if I went back and nothing was the same? What if all my favorite spots were gone? What if visiting would somehow taint my favorite experience, my favorite place? Rest assured, none of the above happened, and I truly discovered that Sevilla did not abandon me. A part of it has been with me ever since I left: always with my thoughts, my worries, my happiness, my thinking. Everything. Even if I didn't realize it. It has shaped so much of who I am today and just like living there was an unforgettable experience, going back for the first time was just as special. 

 

As soon as the bus pulled up, I knew I was in for a weekend of a lifetime. Memories I hadn't thought about in three years came flooding back. I recognized the place where we bought churros the first time we went out and wanted some munchies. I remembered the time Nicole and I took an afternoon to walk around Triana; the time after class we climbed the Torre del Oro; the time at the sangria place where we booked our first trip to Rome and Paris while eating doritos from "the Boxes" or what we would call, the vending machines.

 

 
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 I'll never forget when I saw Plaza de España for the first time, I cried because of how beautiful it was and this time, I cried because it was even more beautiful than I remembered.

 

To put it simply, I have never felt a more overwhelming joy — I still knew the 45 minute walk from my university to my home through the windy streets. I recognized the jazz bar my friends and I went to that one time and all my favorite spots (my favorite restaurant, bar, kebab place). They were all untouched. Restaurants I would walk past were ones I had been to once or twice. I felt like I could pinpoint every moment, every memory. 

 

My favorite memory this weekend was visiting my host family. I had texted my host mom, Manuela, a week before coming explaining that I was living in Madrid and coming to visit and would love nothing more than to see her. I never got a text back, so I decided to bring some flowers and show up, knowing she didn't leave the house very often. After feeling extremely emotional making the walk from the plaza to my house, I rang the doorbell and opened the door to the tightest hug and Manuela's standard three kisses on the cheek. To think I was worried she wouldn't remember me! How silly of me because she remembered me AND my cute sombreros that I would always wear. My travel hats live on!

 

I spent the next hour and a half catching up with her and her new three-month-old granddaughter, Alegría (who is absolutely adorable). Later on, her daughter, Carmen and son, Pepe came over with the other grandkids, Manuela and Luis who were five and few months respectively when I lived here. It was crazy to see how much they have grown! Since they speak absolutely no English, my Spanish was pouring out of the mouth like I've lived here for three years. I was very impressed with myself to be honest. Manuela asked when my parents are coming back to visit since they got to meet each other last time, and this was one of my favorite memories of study abroad. Coming back and spending time with them was an experience so near and dear to my heart. Manuela kept trying to feed me, offered me my old bed to stay and packed me a Bocadillo for the road. Nothing had changed. I promised I would be back soon.

I can't explain the magic that is Sevilla. It's a charming, quintessential Spanish city that is so rich in culture and beauty. If you know, you know. From walks along the river to visiting the cathedral, no wonder it's Lonely Planet's #1 place to travel to in 2018. It's been mine since 2014. I plan on giving my top recommendations for Sevilla in another post but wanted to put my weekend into words first. Sevilla, you are one-of-a-kind. 

A Festival-Filled Long Weekend: Continued

My stomach was rumbling, my legs were cramped, and I felt sore from sitting in one position on the bus for the four hours it took to drive from Madrid to Zaragoza. But all that discomfort instantly dissolved as we turned the corner and I caught my first glimpse of the magnificent Basílica del Pilar, with its colorfully-tiled dome tops and looming bell towers. I gasped aloud, along with most of the people on the bus, and my heart starting pumping with excitement for the day ahead.

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We were herded off the bus, handed tourist maps, and set free to roam the city to our heart’s content. My friend and I immediately made it our mission to visit as many of the historic landmarks as we could. Lucky for us, they’re all pretty much located on one quadrant of the city, starting at the Basílica. As we walked, we passed something old and beautiful nearly every couple of minutes, and squealed in awe every time.

Then, for just five euros (student discount), we could tour the museums of Zaragoza’s ancient theatre, public baths, forum, and river port - remnants of the city’s Roman origins. At the theatre museum, I was utterly fascinated to learn that the ruins had been so buried underground that no one had realized they even existed until 1972. I stood there, surrounded by the crumbling benches, and closed my eyes, trying to imagine the once magnificent, three-story theatre. I could picture Romans filling the rows, laughing and reacting together to the performance before them. What a sight it must have been.

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Suddenly, the upbeat sounds of a marching band interrupted my nostalgic thoughts and I was brought back to the present, to modern-day Zaragoza. The music was wafting down from the streets above, signaling that a parade was passing by. My friend and I decided to join in the festivities and hurried out of the museum to fall in line with the crowds of people dancing and marching down the street. Many were dressed head to toe in a bright royal blue color, with scarfs that had the word “Zaragoza” printed in crisp, white print. Many also carried bottles of wine with glasses, taking advantage of the fact that during the festival it is legal to serve and consume alcoholic beverages on the streets.

We then made our way to the riverfront, where countless artisans had set up stalls to sell their homemade goods and food. We passed a giant shrine of flowers made to honor saint Pilar, and a stage where local artists played their sets throughout the day and night. Spontaneous traditional dancing filled the streets - the kind that makes you wish you knew the steps so you could jump in. And, of course, fireworks went off at night to celebrate the end of the festival.

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By the time my friend and I re-boarded our bus at 2:30 in the morning, we were dizzy from the whirlwind adventures of the day. As I dragged my extremely exhausted body back home from the bus stop at 6:30 in the morning, head pounding and feet aching, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. Grateful to be here, living in Spain, and having the opportunity to experience magical days like the Festival del Pilar, and hopefully many more come!

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Wanderlust

The most amazing part of traveling is exploring and finding yourself. The best part of getting lost is not always knowing where you are going.

Remind yourself, it is okay to wander.

It is okay to not have a plan, to take each day moment by moment and just appreciate the now. 

Spur of the moment, I bought a bus ticket to Nerja for a long weekend. An eight hour bus ride later, I was standing on the sand of a beautiful beach, looking out across the Mediterranean Sea. The African continent lay just across that beautiful stretch of blue.

And that was mind blowing.

Staying at home, safe in our bubbles, we forget how large and how grand the world is. There is more out there than the web that we create. Even as I become more comfortable in Madrid, and create a network between my piso, my school, the metro lines I take everyday and the markets that I visit frequently, I have to remind myself to stop, and to look around. To appreciate the magnificent city that I live in.

I also have to remind myself to keep going, and to keep pushing the limits. To be safe and secure is to fall into idle fantasies. Safety nets only make us complicit. 

I want to keep exploring, keep pushing the limits, and see where I can go.

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Maybe, just maybe, that is how the original explorers felt, standing on the edge of the Mediterranean and looking out, wondering what is out there. Maybe we aren't so different than the famed Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Colmbus, or Amerigo Vespucci. 

During my time in Spain I have already realized that comfort is overrated, and only when pushed to new limits can we expand our minds.

I think I will go further, and push into Africa next. Morocco, anyone?

Top 10 FREE MUST-HAVE Mobile Apps in Spain and the World!

Top 10 Mobile apps

Apps are an integral part of our lives; we use them DAILY. Below is a top ten non-exhaustive list of the apps I use to enjoy Spain and the world in order of HOW often I use them.

Navigating Europe has been so much easier for me with these apps; I wanted to share them to help make your life easier too!

 

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WhatsApp - (GLOBAL) This app is EVERYTHING. It is your communication to ANYONE, ANYWHERE around the world. You can text, call, video call, send pictures, and videos all for FREE as long as you have data or WiFi. You NEED this, if you don't have it, DOWNLOAD IT NOW. Tell your family and friends to download WhatsApp to communicate with you for free.

UnnamedGoogle Maps (GLOBAL) Google Maps is extremely reliable when navigating the streets of Madrid, and other major cities and countries. It also gives you accurate wait times for metros and factors this into your travel time. It gives you multiple train line options as well. Literally, I use this app every single day to calculate fastest routes, best routes, look up how far airports are in different countries, map out multiple destinations for a day and to get home!

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SkyScanner - (GLOBAL) I have a method when it comes to buying cheap European/African flights. First I go to Google Flights because you can see a calendar of low fares and it's easier to determine WHEN you should fly and for how long. I use SkyScanner second. It's a nifty app to have because it searches for the best bang for your buck, shortest and cheapest flights. I always use both in tandem to locate the cheapest and shortest flight.

Unnamed-2TransferWise (GLOBAL) This is a LIFE-SAVER app that I used to cheaply transfer money between my American bank account to my Spanish bank account. Seriously, transferring money is SUPER easy with this app. The exchange rate for amounts up to 100 euros is typically only $3.00 when most banks charge $30-50.00. I will also be using it to transfer euros to USD when my American bank accounts start to run low (I'm still paying for my car and student loans...).

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TripAdvisor (GLOBAL) I LOVE to use Trip Advisor to find top restaurants and THINGS TO DO! You can just walk around a new city and find new things, but with Trip Advisor, you can get insider opinions on wait times, what hotels REALLY look like, tips on how to make the most of your time and more. You can use it ALL over the world to see what are the most popular attractions, parks, museums and things to do! I use it almost religiously to plan trips locally and abroad.

Unnamed-4DuoLingo - (GLOBAL) FREE language learning app, why not!? You'll find that a lot of travelers have this app. It's very easy and fun to use and you can learn multiple languages on different accounts in your app. For example, I'm going to Rome, Italy and Amsterdam very soon so I have accounts for Spanish, Dutch and Italian, all seamlessly switchable and holds your place. For more tools to learn languages, check out my other blog on language learning tips.

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El Tenedor (The Fork) - (GLOBAL) Spanish people LOVE this app. Yelp is super popular in the U.S. Trust me, I didn't eat at a new restaurant unless it had AT LEAST 4 stars on Yelp, and I used the pictures uploaded to help me order. Yelp isn't very popular here and you won't find many reviews. But you can reserve restaurants, see reviews and find top restaurants as you would with Yelp.

Unnamed-5myTaxiThis is what it sounds like, a Taxi app. There are TONS of taxis in Madrid, and major cities, TONS. But sometimes you want to schedule someone to just pick you up for the airport at 4am or schedule a 5-seater van for a trip on the weekend. Or maybe you're pre-gaming and need someone to grab you and your friends in 30 minutes or now and you don't have time to head to the streets and flag someone down.

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GoEuro - (EUROPE) GoEuro is a convenient transportation app that shows you logistics such as fastest travel time, best way to travel and different prices. For example, on our day trip to Segovia, it suggested: flight, Taxi, Uber, BlaBlaCar and Renfe pricing with travel time included. Our best option ended up being the Renfe because it provided the best travel times. It's almost like a travel companion with the answers for, "How should I get there?"

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Bla Bla Car - (EUROPE) This is a VERY popular and CHEAP way to travel around Spain. Bla Bla Car is literally a carpooling system where you put the date of travel, and location and it searches for users who just happen to be traveling to your destination on those dates.  I have SEARCHED for trips on Bla Bla Car; but I have not yet actually booked through Bla Bla Car but my friends who have used it enjoyed it and are still using it for CHEAP travel!

Don't forget to leave me some love or questions and comments below--for more travel tips contact me on Instagram: @kamtheadventuress, I'd love to hear your opinions and travel stories!

xx,

Kamalía

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