08.11.2014

Dreaming of… Thailand

Temple Complex - North Thailand

Temple Complex – North Thailand

Lately, Thailand is the number one country that keeps coming back in conversations with friends and family. How can you not be lured by those beaches? And let me tell you, I’m not a beach person; I can only stand a couple of hours at a time. But if we are talking Thailand, I’ll make an effort…
My sister went there a few years ago, and fell in love with the country and can’t wait to go back. My friend spent a few weeks there too, and same thing. It was an unbelievable experience. I really hope we can go there in the next few years. I have never been to Asia, and I really want to see that other side of the world.

Stay

Phuket Beach

Phuket Beach

The offer is huge and pretty affordable. There are plenty of safe, clean hostels for the world travellers. And of course, you can find the most incredible resorts. One of them is the Katathani Phuket Beach Resort, which is a beach-front property in Phuket. My sister absolutely loved this place. It’s serene, beautiful, the service is excellent and the food is delicious.

Do

Yi Peng Lantern Festival - Thailand

Yi Peng Lantern Festival – photo credit Mark Fischer

Depending on the time of the year, you can catch the Lantern Festival. Seriously, I just can’t wait to see this. It’s a religious ceremony in Thai that happens in Chiang Mai. There’s a second English ceremony geared to foreigners that happens a week later.

Pattaya Elephant Show

Pattaya Elephant Show – I’m not volunteering for this

You can also do an elephant ride or volunteer at an elephant sanctuary, like my friend did. I have to say that if you read my post here, you’ll see that the ride is as much as I would do and after lots of begging from my husband. That’s a big stretch for moi.

Wat Chai Watthanaram Temple Buddhism Ayutthaya

Wat Chai Watthanaram Temple Buddhism Ayutthaya

There are quite a few temples to visit, with incredible culture and architecture that is just out of this world. The statues and monuments are so intricate, elaborate, and bright, so different from the Europe I’m used to. How can you not want to go there?

Eat

Lots and lots of Thai food, or food, as it is called in Thailand. I really love this food; the mix of flavors, the colors, the texture, the 1500-calorie pad Thai… Thai food is about the complexity of its ingredients coming together in a sweet and spicy way. Don’t forget to take a break for some tea. Check out TWG Tea or for tea Erawan Tea Room.

Floating Market - Thailand

Floating Market – Thailand

Sunset - Thailand

Sunset

 

Sunset

Let me know about your experience travelling to Thailand or other exotic countries.

08.08.2014

Outside Lands Music Festival

Outside Lands Music Festival

Outside Lands via Brandon Carson

The Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods of San Francisco were originally known as the “Outside Lands”, which were the original suburbs of San Francisco, before Marin County became “the” suburb. Needles to say, they aren’t suburbs any more, although they are still very quiet neighborhoods. Now, if you are familiar with music festivals then you’ve probably heard of the Outside Lands Music Festival.

Outside Lands Crowd - outside lands music festival

Outside Lands Crowd via Edward Blake

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08.04.2014

Weekend Getaway – Nevada City

Downtown Nevada City - Broad Street

Downtown Nevada City – Broad Street

We didn’t have any vacation plans for the summer. We went to Venice/Santa Monica at the end of the June, but that was it. It doesn’t bother me much because being in San Francisco, it doesn’t really feel like summer so I don’t feel the need to escape. But, we still need some nice weather, a beach, a river or something! So, enter Nevada City.

Nevada City

Little shopping area

We are very lucky to live about 2.5 hours from Nevada City, which is perfect for a quick weekend getaway. This beautiful old mining town is located in the California Gold Country.
I remember the first time I went there, a little over 10 years ago (it feels like a lifetime). We arrived at night and when we entered the main street, Broad Street, I thought the town had just been taken out from a western movie. They keep the town with that feel, with its little stores, hotels, inns, and restaurants that remind you of the Saloons from the gold rush era.

Nevada City

Main Street

What amazes me the most, is that for such a little town, there’s always some kind of event. The restaurants are fantastic. There is a great Thai restaurant, and also a great Mexican restaurant, Las Katarinas – I always have to go there and I always order the same thing. There’s also Lefty’s Grill, which has a little bit of everything, and some other good restaurants. The offering is pretty broad for such a little town.

The other advantage of this town is that it is an hour and a half away from the beaches of North Lake Tahoe, to enjoy during the summer. There’s also the Yuba River, which I believe you can swim in certain areas but I haven’t really been there.

National Hotel - Nevada City

The National Hotel is supposed to be haunted

Nevada City is nestled in the mountains, literally you are surrounded by trees and hiking trails, so If you like nature, kayaking, fishing, hiking or biking, this is a good place to visit. I, for the most part, spend most of the time relaxing eating out, walking down the creek, and going up to Tahoe, especially if there’s snow (we know how bad it’s been this past season).

Have you ever been to Nevada City or the surrounding areas? Where do you like to go for a quick weekend getaway?

 

07.30.2014

What I’ve learned from my travels

Sunset - Granada

Sunset – Granada

I haven’t really traveled a lot, especially lately, but in the little experience I wanted to share with you a few things that I’ve learned from my travels:

1. Pack light. I think I’ve only packed light once in my entire life, and I’m very proud of it. We went back home to Madrid with a side trip to Prague. Both my husband and I brought just a carry on each and I managed to go shopping. Very very proud of myself on that trip. But in general, I am one of those people who feels the need to pack everything in the closet “just in case”, even if I go to a place with a washer and dryer. Oh, and that dress that I bought years ago and never worn? Yup, I’ll pack it “just in case”, even though I hardly wear dresses. Needless to say, I wear the same clothes over and over. I’m a jeans and cute top person. Why would I change that when I travel? Hitha wouldn’t be proud of me.

2. Get out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a bit. I am NOT adventurous whatsoever. No way am I going to try anything that could be called an adventure, but sometimes I’m naive and I trust people. We went to Cabo to see the whales and instead of getting into one of those big (read safe) boats, we rented this itty bitty boat to chase whales. I kept thinking, why am I in the open ocean in this tiny boat? Why didn’t I stay at the beach? I have a kid, I should be more responsible, right? No. That was fun, and very cold (freezing) too, but I wouldn’t change that experience. Not sure I’d do it again though.

Whale watching - Cabo

Whale watching – Cabo (way too close)

3. Do your research. I don’t know how many times I’ve told myself, or my husband, to do so. I never do it, but my husband tries. Problem is that sometimes we just decide to play it by ear. Well, that’s fine for a bit, but when you show up in a different country, with no knowledge of the language and no idea of where to go, you are going to need a travel guide. If you don’t do it, you’ll end up looking like a lost tourist in the middle of Wenceslas Square not even knowing where you are. Do some research but also, don’t be glued to your guidebook. Get lost every here and there.

4. Food. I don’t really need to explain this one. Just try new things. It doesn’t need to be crazy stuff but try new things. Do you know how much weight I gained in my last trip to Lima? I had to taste new things after all.

Prague- Food

Food – Prague

5. Change of clothes in your carry on. If you travel by air and need to check your luggage, please, please, please, pack a change of undies and some toiletries in your handbag. Better yet, if you have the space, make it a full change of clothes and pj’s too. I never did this because I never had a problem until a couple of years ago my suitcase didn’t make my connection and came in the next flight. Good thing they delivered it the next day at 8 am. Since then, the bare minimum needs to come with moi.

6. Talk to the locals. People LOVE to share (that’s why I’m here right?). People like to tell you about their environment, their cities, their parks, restaurants, any tips. Take advantage of that. Remember point 3? If you didn’t do your research, your locals are your guidebook.

7. Travelling is expensive. Driving up and down the California coast is not that bad, but when you have to pay for three plane tickets to Europe, that’s another story. But, here’s my thought. I’m not saying that you have to go into incredible amounts of debt, but to me travelling is like knowledge, it’s an experience; nobody can ever take that away from you. You can lose your car, your house, your job, your boyfriend, anything material, but that experience? That’s priceless to me.

Top of Vernal Falls - Yosemite

Top of Vernal Falls – Yosemite

8. Travel with your kids. I know this one is tricky but I am not going to stop travelling because I have a kid. She’s been taking planes since she was 3 months old, and she loves it. I also need to add that she’s behaved better than me on planes, no joke here. Give her an iPad and she’s golden. I love to see her exposed to other places, people, food, the same as us. She loves it so much that she keeps asking when we are going back on a plane. Then again, I’m pretty lucky with her and I only have one. Not sure if I had 2 or 3…

9. Relax. You don’t need to see it all.

What about you? I would love to hear about your experiences.

07.23.2014

Walking around Madrid – part 1

Madrid-Aerial View

Madrid Aerial View – via FALCO

What can I say about my city but that I miss it? Madrid is beautiful, it has lots of history, the FOOD (I’m drooling right now), and the people… You can’t go wrong with Madrileños, they are the best (wink wink). As with most big European cities, Madrid is best discovered by foot.
You can just start walking, and walking, and walking, and once you get tired, just take the subway or a cab back home. It’s a very vibrant city where there’s always people around, no matter the time of the day, you are always going to be surrounded by people. I grew up about 20 minutes south of the city, so I would catch two busses to go back home at 4, 5, or 6 am, by myself. This is common; nothing weird about it. It’s a pretty safe city but you still have to keep an eye out for the random pickpockets.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite walks, and please excuse the fact that I only have old photos and some of them aren’t mine. Hopefully I’ll go back soon and I’ll bring you brand new pictures.

Atocha Railway Station - Estacion de Atocha

Atocha Railway Station

I like to start in Atocha train station, mainly because my husband and I used to live south of it. This is one of the two main railway stations in the Madrid metropolitan area; the other one is Chamartín. Just a note here; if you are catching a train from Madrid, no matter where you buy the ticket, please make sure you check to see what station you are departing from. I know someone (right hubby?) who waited and waited for his train in the wrong station- In the Atocha station you can find the subway, commuter trains, long distance trains, and bullet trains. The station has some stores (I used to get my scarves and earrings in these kinds of shops), a greenhouse, and a great restaurant, Samarkanda, where I celebrated my bridal shower. From there, head northwest on calle de Atocha (Atocha street). This street will take you to through part of the heart of the city. This is the downtown area and, if I were you, I would wander around the side streets and get lost there. There’s nothing better than that. You can end up in La Latina, which is a fantastic neighborhood to spend a Sunday having tapas, all day long. Calle de Atocha will take you towards Plaza de Santa Ana, with restaurants and terraces, and the Mé hotel, which is a great modern hotel that belongs to the Meliá group. Across the square from the hotel you’ll find the Teatro Español (Spanish Theater), which was founded in 1583.

Mé Hotel

Mé Hotel via Evelynmart

From here, you must go to Puerta del Sol. It’s the geographical center of Spain, and in fact, there is a plaque that tells you the exact spot where the center is and where the six main national highways start. This is the equivalent of Union Square in NYC. It’s always crowded, no matter the time of the day. In this spot you can find the clock (think Big Ben) that every Spaniard watches during New Year’s Eve when we wait for the 12 strokes and eat our grapes (more on that tradition later). You’ll find the Oso y el Madroño (Bear and Strawberry Tree or Arbutus) statue, which is the emblem of the city. Best part, there’s a ton of shopping in this area, plus my favorite pastry shop is right there (La Mallorquina).

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol – via Santi Díaz

Puerta del Sol Madrid 1857

Puerta del Sol Madrid 1857 via Recuerdos de Pandora

Oso-y-el-Madroño Madrid

Oso y el Madroño via Malditofriki

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more…