2012: My Year in Travel

This year was all about staying local. I ventured out of Spain a few times; once to make my yearly trans-atlantic trip home, and once to explore Lisbon, Portugal. In between those trips, I explored more of my adopted country, and consequently fell more in love with it. Though I have a long way to go before seeing the whole world, it’s hard to imagine many countries with the same diversity as Spain. I’m always impressed by how much there is to see and do–and I still have so much left!

Jimena de la Frontera, Andalucía, Spain

Jimena de la Frontera, Spain

Jimena de la Frontera, Spain

This year I really got into hiking and took advantage of the mild Andalusian winter to fit some in. In doing so, I took the train to Jimena de la Frontera and explored this pueblo blanco, as well as some of the surrounding trails. The white towns of Andalusia are something I will miss while being up north!

Madrid, Spain

Rooftop view of Madrid

Rooftop view of Madrid

I made a few different stops in the Spanish capital this year; to see the Copy Del Rey Final, to take care of some bureaucratic headaches and as a pit stop while passing through. It’s sprawling, bustling and has that big-city energy that I love.

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Conil de la Frontera, Spain

Andalucía is the place to be in the summer. Blazing heat, countless beaches and that famous Spanish nightlife we’ve all heard of. Conil de la Frontera offers the perfect formula of sun, sand and fiesta and is a town I’d go back to in a heartbeat in the summer months.

Lisbon, Portugal

A street-car in Lisbon, Portugal

A street-car in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon was my travel let-down of the year. After I fell for the pristine coastlines and laid-back feel of Portugal’s Algarve, Lisbon  and I just didn’t connect. Maybe it was because I had high hopes for a city everyone seemed to love, or maybe it just lacked that special something, but it definitely wasn’t for me.

Leavenworth, WA, U.S.A.

Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth, WA

There’s really nothing like doing a bit of globe-trotting to make you see your home with new eyes. While I was back visiting, I went to the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth in the Cascade Mountains. Fall has never looked prettier!

Mt. Rainier, WA, U.S.A.

Mt. Rainier, WA

Mt. Rainier, WA

With my new-found love of hiking, I knew I had to hit some trails in my gorgeous home of Washington State. A trip to Mt. Rainier more than sufficed.

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Spain

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria

I recently went to a medieval town I’ve been dreaming of visiting: Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. Stay tuned for a post recapping my visit!

Santander, Cantabria, Spain

Santander, Cantabria

Santander, Cantabria

Santander was another recent trip. Think rolling, green hills, an elegant downtown and more parks than time to explore them! Coming soon to the blog!

Where did you go in 2012?


Lisbon vs. San Francisco: Are the Comparisons True?

If you’ve heard someone talk about Lisbon, you’ve probably heard them compare it to San Francisco. But, is it true? Could Lisbon, founded in 1255, really have that much in common with San Francisco, founded hundreds of years later?

In short, yes. Lisbon and San Francisco do have some striking similarities:

1) The cable cars

2) They were both built atop seven hills


3) They’re both situated on the water

4) They both have an orange suspension bridge

6) An affinity for colorful apartment buildings

7) Cool street art

But between the two, I left my heart in San Francisco.

Have you been to both SF and Lisbon? What do you think about the comparisons?

Memorable vs. Mediocre Meals While Traveling

Though Lisbon itself wasn’t my favorite, I did have a great dining experience there that I won’t forget soon.

It came the day after a mediocre meal accompanied by pretty terrible service. Now trust me, I understand that not everywhere else in the world has a tipping culture like my home country, (thanks for that lesson, Spain!) but tips aside, nothing excuses being downright rude. *steps off soapbox*

I was determined to not just settle for a place out of hunger and waning patience. So, I applied a little theory I have developed as the result of despising eating at tourist traps.

  1. Never eat at restaurants that are in central plazas. You’re asking for high prices and low quality.
  2. Never eat at a restaurant that has its menu translated into several different languages. If that doesn’t say “Tourist Restaurant” I don’t know what does.
  3. Never eat at restaurants that have their waiters outside begging for you to come in. If they need the business that badly, obviously the food can’t be too good.

So what did I look for that lead me to find this restaurant where above-mentioned awesome dining experience was had? I went to the trendy Barrio Alto, known for its nightlife and chic boutiques. Here, away from the touristic center, good Portuguese food had to be found. (I initially came with a recommendation to eat at Restaurante 560, a dining establishment in the neighborhood, but it was closed-down!)

I had in mind what I was looking for. I wanted to dine al fresco, away from a busy street that took a little exploring to get to, and find a menu that would finally let me sample some authentic Portuguese cuisine.

What did I find?

The lovely Floresta da Cidade (located here: Travessa Poco da Cidade)—a French-Portuguese fusion restaurant with a menu that married the fresh seafood of Portugal with hearty, buttery sauces and cheeses of France. Mmm!

Here’s their interpretation of a croque monsieur that was recommend by my waiter:

and an octupus rice stew:

and dessert, toucinho do ceu, made of almond and eggs:

From the generous portions of this French twist on Portuguese comfort food, to crisp, sparkling white wine that was reminiscent of a favorite (Basque txakoli) to the excellent service that turned around my earlier bad experiences in Lisbon, I highly recommend Floresta da Cidade in Barrio Alto.

What’s a memorable dining experience you’ve had? How do you avoid tourist traps?