Alicante or should I say Levante

 

Looking for a beach in Spain can be a difficult task especially depending on what constitutes a beach for you.  This weekend, my friends and I decided to head to the beach and chose to go to Alicante which is in the south of Spain.

Getting to Alicante was a journey within itself. At first, we wanted to drive there but couldn’t because none of us have international drivers license.  The process of looking for a rental company that would rent to us was annoying and we gave up and decided to go by bus instead.  The bus ride to Alicante from Madrid is 5 hrs.

Alicante is a cute little beach town. At first glance it seemed quiet due to the fact that its not beach season yet here in Spain but for me I appreciated the quieter side of things. We stayed at this awesome airbnb that was less than a 5-minute walk from San Juan beach with great views of the water, town, and mountains.

Now lets talk about the most important thing, the water.  The water really surprised me, from its color to its cleanliness.  The water had some blue hues in it and was really pretty from afar.  You know ya girl went in the water. It was cold at first touch but once you are in it feels great.  It was really windy this weekend so the water and waves were rough so I couldn’t really spend as much time in the water as I wanted to. According to one of my students the wind has a specific name here, Levante. Levante was definitely acting up this weekend.

 

One thing I didn’t understand is the fact that there were no stars in the sky.  I love to star gaze and hearing the waves of the ocean while seeing the stars play and flash on the water is one of the best things but I was sad that there were no stars in site.

Nightlife, you would think it would be dead because the town was empty but boy were we wrong.  Friday night started with us going to the Thai Corner to eat you guessed it thai food.  Calle Labradores is the street the restaurant is on and it was so busy and had a great feel and atmosphere. While walking to the restaurant we saw a big box with a bunch of post-it notes people wrote, a woman doing someone’s make-up, and a host of bars and tapa places.

We made it to the restaurant and boy were we pleasantly surprised. There was a distinct New Orleans atmosphere, from the playing of jazz music to people swing dancing.  While eating our food we got to watch some live performances. Overall I would say the dinner experience was great.

If you are looking to get away from the city for the weekend, Alicante is the place to go. There you will find a little of everything, nightlife, the beach, and great food and atmosphere. Another city of Spain down, a million more to go.

18 CHF for a Whopper Meal… Where they do that at?

Zurich, Switzerland that’s where. Last weekend I went to Zurich for the first time. Before going there the only thing I knew about it was that Switzerland on a whole was known for being expensive and having a lot of nature. Well of course in my head I knew all about Geneva because I have watched Princess Diaries 2 a million times and as you may or may not know half the movie is based in Geneva.

I did a little research before arriving in Zurich and had some idea of what I wanted to do but for the most part I was going in blind but I was excited to see what Zurich had to offer.

The flight to Zurich was pretty uneventful but I had a whole row to myself so that was exciting. I slept the whole 2-hour flight and woke up just in time to see the amazing views. Looking out the window I was able to see the most luscious green landscape ever. I was getting more and more excited looking out the window. Honestly, if the views looked that amazing thousands of feet off the ground I could have only imagined how amazing it would be once I was on the ground.

 

Do you see these views… Amazing right?

Zurich’s airport is something else. First of all, supposedly your boarding pass has the code/number to get wifi so don’t lose it else you won’t be able to get on. If you have questions about the area skip the information desk on the second floor, go straight to the tourist office on the floor you purchase your train tickets. The young lady who helped me there was amazing. She set me up with a SBB account (the train system app), my ZurichCard, and just general information about the place. She also helped me decide which other city I would visit; in the end I decided to visit Lucerne as well. Most importantly she gave me clear and concise instructions on how to get to my hostel. (especially since I had no internet to check for myself)

So normally check-ins is after 3 for hotels and hostels and since I got to my hostel around 11:30 I knew I wouldn’t be able to check in but I would at least would be able to drop my things off. My hostel was clean and safe but extremely weird, no reception area, no keys (but the outside door had a pin to enter), and no verification process (like showing your passport).

Once I charged my phone and looked at the map to see in what direction I needed to go, I left to go exploring. Zurich’s metro system is very clear and easy to follow. Also, surprisingly on the map, they have the stops labeled so it’s really easy to know what route to take or where you need to transfer. The most difficult thing about the metro and Zurich on the whole, is that barely anything is translated into English so you really have to be aware and diligent to not miss your stop. A major shocker about the metro is that nobody checks your ticket; you can get on the train or bus with no fuss. But I would recommend getting the pass/ticket because on the off chance someone checks, you don’t want to not have it. Swiss people are very honest because I saw locals buying passes and tickets. One of my hostel mates was Swiss and when I asked him about it he said if a conductor comes only a small percentage wouldn’t have their pass. That would never work in the USA or Madrid.

Anyways, onto the sites. Surprisingly, Zurich is really small you can practically walk everywhere. Even though Zurich has a city feel and tall buildings it is extremely clean, like seriously clean barely any gum on the sidewalks and no cigarette buds on the ground period. Also, you are surround by mountains, forests, and the lake; just extremely beautiful. The architecture of the churches and buildings had a gothic/gargoyle vibe but on the inside was breathtaking.

 

My favorite thing to do while there was to sit by the river/ocean and watch the ducks fight for scraps thrown at them while enjoying the scenery around me. Honestly, you can see all that Zurich has to offer in a day if you just want to hit the sites. From churches, clock towers, panoramic views, a street full of different types of restaurants/bars you can find it all.

Saturday, I decided to go to the outskirts of Zurich to two of the lookout points. 1st stop was Zurich’s own mountain Uetliberg. Uetliberg is 2,875 ft above sea level where you can enjoy views of the lake and city, with the snow-capped Alps in the distance. There are a lot of different trails and hikes; you can even hike from the city center to the base of the mountain. But you know ya girl definitely didn’t hike from the city center. I took a train to the base of the mountain and walked about 10 minutes and got to a landing and was able to see some views and take some pictures. Afterwards, I walked another 5 minutes and got to the landing with amazing views. It was truly incredible on one side was the lake, city, and the Alps; on the other side was the most green landscape you would ever see.

Heading back to the city center you are able to see more of the landscape. Once back, I headed to the other look out point, Rigiblick. So it’s a very steep hill to get to the top but luckily there is a tram if you are not feeling up to it. This view is different because it is pretty much a little town within itself with many homes. You do see the city but no lake and not a great view of the Alps. If I were you, I would see Rigiblick first before going to Uetliberg.

Before heading back to the hostel for the evening I went back to the lake and had an amazing time. This group of guys were there, chilling and drinking. I guess someone dared one of the guys in the group to jump in the water in nothing but his underwear. The kicker was his underwear was a bright green g-string that sat on his shoulders.

Y’all this was one of the highlights of my trip.

The weather up to this point was really nice, clear skies warm days and around 7 or 8pm the skies would open up and it would rain for quite some time. Sunday I went to Lucerne and boy oh boy was the weather completely different. It practically rained from when I got there at 12 until about 4:30. Of course, there were times it stopped within but pretty much it rained the whole time and I was cold and miserable for quite some time. (I mean who wouldn’t be, walking around in the rain in a cold place) Other than the rain it was a really cool place. I liked here more than Zurich but it definitely didn’t have the nature vibe like Zurich did. I was able to see all the sites the city had to offer and just walk around aimlessly in the 7 hours I was there.

Don’t get me wrong I tried to leave around 4 but because of the ticket I bought (a ticket saver) I wasn’t able to catch an earlier train. But I was definitely glad I stayed because the sun came out and it stopped raining. I was able to see and walk the Musegg Wall and climb one of its Towers. Since I still had a little time to kill before my train, I got an applestruddle and you guessed it sat by the lake people watching and enjoying the view.

 

Lets talk money, if you had any doubt Switzerland is expensive but a lot of things are similar to American prices (especially New York or Los Angeles). Also, if you are from the islands, then the prices won’t shock you too much. Yes, in all of the fast food places, normally nothing is under 12 CHF, which is 11 euros or $12.34. Luckily, or so I thought, both McDonald’s and Burger King was having promotions. Ya girl had to try McDonalds out and their special was 8.90 for a burger/chicken sandwich, fries, and a drink. So I order a chicken meal thinking I am doing good and my bill came out to 11.70 CHF. Y’all they charged me almost .50 cents for each pack of ketchup (I got 2). Besides buying ice cream and my applestruddle, McDonalds was the only meal I bought, the rest of the time I made sandwiches (which majority of the locals do, pack meals and bring their own drinks and sit around the lake or park). Overall, you don’t have to spend much money to enjoy the city. I spent 80 CHF for my 72-hour ZurichCard and my roundtrip ticket for Lucerne, about 40 CHF on food and drinks, and 13 CHF on souvenirs (I got a ‘gold’ rimmed mug and a glass that had different Swiss things on them). My hostel was $117 and my flight was 74 euros. I spent about $350 for my 3-day trip to Switzerland. So no place is off limits you just need to be budget conscience and spend your money wisely. Granted, I didn’t eat at any restaurants but I was able to do a lot.

Overall, what an amazing place to visit. If you love nature and hiking, Zurich is the place to go and if you just appreciate the views and zen-like feeling like me you can also appreciate Zurich.

Margaritas anyone?

I stayed in Madrid this weekend and boy was I happy I did so.  I had an amazing time all weekend. It was a beautiful weekend, sunny and warm. Perfect sundress weather.

One of my friends celebrated her birthday that weekend and decided that she wanted to get together on Friday night for skating and dancing. Mind you I didn´t really want to go skating especially from 7pm.  I pulled up at the skating rink on spanish time lol and arrived at 11pm.  The actual location of the skating rink was on top of the Charmintin train station.  It is like a different world up there, a club, bowling ally, and the skating rink are all up there. The name of the rink is called Rolling Dance and Burger. The next step was to go dancing at this place called Opium. Hmmmm….. What a total bust. First of all, the amount of older people in this place is crazy.  It´s almost like they cater to the older and distinguished crowd (and that´s putting it nicely lol).

We ended up leaving and going to a club called Bougie. That place is extremely fun and reminds me of the American clubs. The club has two levels, the bottom level plays reggae, hip hop, reggaeton, and all around good dancing music. The top floor played a mixture as well but more rock and roll, bachata, and salsa. You know what floor I stayed on lol, you guessed it the bottom level.

Saturday was filled with new experiences as well. So in my little town, if I have online work to do I like to go to this little cafe/restaurant.  I order a burger and fries and when the lady brought my food my burger was pink. Only seared on each side to ensure no blood ran. UUUUMMMM No thank you. I sent it back and asked for them to fry it longer. They take like 8/10 minutes to bring my plate back (mind you only like 3 people in there and I was the only one ordering food.) When I get my plate back I take another bite and it was still pink, a little more cooked but still practically raw.  Y´all know I didn´t eat that right. On top of not being able to eat my burger, the lady seemed to be rushing me and saying that they were closing but come to find out they didn´t close. I like to think that she was saying that the kitchen was closing and I just didn´t understand her. Anyways, their lost. I went to the restaurant across the street and finished up my work.

I´m finally getting to the good part, the margaritas. OMG this restaurant is amazing and that´s saying a lot cause I normally do not like Mexican food. La Venganza de Malinche is the name of the place and is in the Gran Via area. The atmosphere in the place is really chill and relaxing. The food and the drinks are beyond amazing. This place is a little expensive compared to other places around Madrid. But if you are coming from the states its pretty normal pricing. A pitcher of margaritas is 25 euros and you can get at least 6 glasses out of it. Oh the food, boy oh boy its so much and you can´t possibly finish it all.  For 20 euros a person you get a four course meal to share and when I say it is massive, it definitely is.

Unfortunately, that night my phone was stolen. Like literally snatched from my hands. Yes, snatched out of my hand. The boy/man timed it well, literally right before the doors on the train closed he snatched it and ran out.

Sunday, I was a little bummed because of my phone but I decided to not let that one negative experience ruin my whole weekend.  I decided to go out with my friends and explore La Latina area. We ended going to Hotel Melia´s rooftop and it definitely wasn´t worth the 15 euro entry. Even if it was entry and a cocktail (which weren´t that great).  We ended the night going to this seafood restaurant and can I say delicious.

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Our plate of food. Definitely more than enough for 5 people.

Despite my phone being snatched, I had an amazing weekend.

The Beautiful City of Granada


I was able to bring in the month of May in Granada because it was Labor Day weekend and Madrid had an extra day of holiday on the first Tuesday of the month.  Granada is a beautiful city in the southern part of Spain.  My adventures began on Friday when I caught a 5 hour-long bus ride.  Why in the world would I do that, because it was significantly cheaper to take this mode of transportation!

Friday night was a buzz because I did a little celebrating before heading to Granada. Y’all I got my A1 certificate in Spanish.  I can officially talk in the past and present tense.  So before my bus left I went for tapas and drinks with my classmates at our favorite bar. Need I say more? Once I got to Granada, checked in, and planned out what I would do tohe next day I went straight to bed.

Enjoying  celebratory drinks and tapas.


Saturday was a new day and definitely an adventure.  The plan for that day was to go to Alhambra and then head over to the Sacromonte caves.  Hmmm, boy did that plan fail. Some how I missed the street I was suppose to turn off on for the Alhambra and ended up walking on Carrera del Darro. Of course I wasn’t disappointed because it was such a beautiful walk with a river and the view of a castle or so I thought.  A little back story, apparently if you want to visit Alhambra it is best to get tickets online and being that it was a holiday weekend no tickets were available until the following Wednesday (mind you I left Tuesday morning). The only way to possibly still get tickets is for an individual to wake up from 4am to line up outside the ticket office.  You should have seen my face when I heard that.  Please, nothing is ever that serious. Anyways, back to my adventure.  So I am walking down this beautiful street taking pictures, strolling, listening to the river, really just taking in the ambience.  I get to the top of a hill and stop to ask the receptionist in Casa del Chapiz how much longer until Alhambra cause on the map it looked like I had past it.  Chile, the lady told me how I past the street 20 mins ago and pointed to Alhambra and would you believe it was the pretty castle I was taking of pictures of.  Now just imagine if I had actually waited in line from 4am, for a place I didn’t even know what it looked like.

Apparently I was at the entrance of Sacromonte without even knowing it.  I decided to explore the caves and I walked and walked and walked and of course there were no caves but the view, absolutely amazing.  Finally I stopped a local and asked him, ´´where are the caves?´´  He said, ´´how technically I am walking through the caves and how it was built up but in another 100 meters I would see the natural caves.´´  (now you know I agreed with him but I in my head I was thinking how far is a 100 meters.)  I thanked him and he continued to walk his big ole dog. I basically walked for about 3 hours in Sacromonte alone looking for the elusive caves.  But can I tell you, the views were absolutely stunning and there wasn´t a soul in site because it was a cloudy/rainy day.  I finally went up a road that led to Abadia del Sacromonte (of course it was a road I had passed hours before) and got to the top and saw this beautiful church and when I looked to the left, OH MY GOODNESS that view was spectacular.

 

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By far the best view of the whole city. This picture does not do it justice at all..

After spending about four hours in Sacromonte, I finally left and made my way back to the Alhambra. Of course, to actually get to Alambra requires going up yet another hill. Finally I make it to the entrance of Alambra and walk inside. Honestly, the architecture and the views is beautiful but doesnt blow me away. To be fair, after seeing the view of the city from Sacromonte nothing could compare after that. Also to be fair I could only see the free sections of Alambra but my hostel mate had a ticket and went inside and see showed me the pictures and it was ok to me. I say that because the Alambra has a very heavy moorish/arabic presence. The fact that I just came from Morocco and had my fill of moorish architecture I wasn´t sad that I didn´t get a chance to see inside the Alhambra.


I did some serious exploring my first full day here. Well really it was more getting lost and finding amazing views and I wouldn´t change it for the world.

Saturday night I meet a fellow solo traveler and we made plans to explore the city together Sunday. We both hadn´t explored the Albacin portion of the city so that was the plan for the day.  I got up pretty early because I had to check out of my hostel and check into another one so by 10am I had already moved and eaten breakfast.  My new friend hadn´t even gotten up as yet so I decided to explore a little while I waited for her. I was strolling around and stumbled upon the catedral. It didn´t look like much on the outside but I was pleasantly surprised when I entered. Inside was breathtaking, so grandiose and had a lot of much detail. We finally meet up at the catedral and had a leisurely walk throughout the Albacin.

Monday was suppose to be a chill day for me because I had already seen majority of the city but I still ended up walking quite a bit. I explored the jewish side of the city.

Granada has some of the most beautiful churches in the world.  The attention to detail on the inside of the churches is incredible.  Not to mention the fact that from the outside it looks like an ordinary building.

Are you wondering what the food is like here? Granada is known for giving their customers a free tapa with every order of drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks).  The tapas here are amazing, so flavorful and delicious.  I pretty much ate tapas the whole weekend. I tried Poes Bar because they had 4.9/5 stars for quality of tapas and drinks. Boy oh boy, they deserve 5 stars. You have 9 tapas to chose from 1 fish dish, 3 pork dishes, 3 chicken dishes, and 2 vegetarian dishes. I had 3 tapas and a drink for 6.5 euros. Throughout the weekend I stumbled on great restaurants and bars that served great tapas and was extremely cheap .

Overall, I had a great time and experience on my solo trip. I was in Granada for 4 full days and saw everything posible but you can spend a shorter time there and still be able to see everything. Honestly, 2 full days is sufficient if you are on a time table. Since I had a long holiday weekend, I decided to just visit Granada and not combine it with another city so I was able to liesurely see the city.