The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The truth about Guatemala. Before starting this adventure I did some research on what to expect in Guatemala as well as some things to do and what do I find, a bunch of posts about how amazing Guatemala is. How people went for a week and ended up spending a month. Hmmmmm, let me honestly break down what Guatemala truly is.

For starters $1 = 7.14 Quetzals (Q)

Food

I was shocked when I first got to Guatemala about how things where so expensive. My first meal in Guatemala was believe it or not chicken wings (4 of them cut in half) and you wouldn’t believe the price, 40Q, which is about $5.75. Mind you these wings didn’t come with fries, shucks it barely came with ketchup. An order of French fries was 20Q.

Now, of course the street food was super cheap but I didn’t like the taste. Guatemala has a heavy corn influence so all their tortillas and all of their street food was of corn base. Mind you, I love love love corn on the cob and lose corn but I can’t get down with corn tortillas. 5 tacquitos was 15Q or if you are good at battering (not beating up the old lady but talking the price down) you can get it down to 10Q. A big piece of tamale with chicken in it was 10Q. If you like corn tortillas then the street food is for you. Therefore, you can eat for cheap with the street foods but if you are like me, your base is 35Q and upwards. In San Pedro I didn’t really find any street food but I did find a local restaurant that charged 35Q for tortillas, ‘soup’, and rice.

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Local dish call Pepin

Now the bread is a different story. The bakeries in Guatemala are delicious and super cheap. My favorite from the bakery was ‘the stones’. Stones are a very dense bread/muffin/loaf made with banana and chocolate chips throughout. One stone was 2-2.50Q. A big slice of ‘pizza’ which is really a big piece of bread with sauce and veggies was 3Q. So you definitely can eat for cheap by getting meals from the bakery but that would be a whole lot of bread. Then again, all the walking and hiking you do in Guatemala you wouldn’t have to worry about putting any weight.

In terms of food, my budget was about 50Q a day. I would have one good meal and then food from the bakery. One downside I found was that most hostels in Guatemala had no kitchens so I wasn’t able to cut down cost by cooking my own meals.

Excursions

 Hiking is the main thing to do in Guatemala. If you are not into nature, walking, or getting bite up then Guatemala might not be for you. But if you are into that then there is an excursion and a difficulty level for everyone.

Antigua

There are two main volcanoes you can climb Pacaya(easy) and Acatenango(hard) for hiking.

Acatenango, I would never be doing that lol because just to get up the volcano is 6+ hours depending on your level. Plus when you get to the top you can climb for another 3 hours to get to the top of Fuego(an active volcano). Acatenango is a 2 day excursion. You spend the night on top of the Acatenango and you best believe it is freezing up there once the sun goes down. You must make sure pack a wool hat, warm clothes, wool socks, and a blanket. Also if you are a light sleeper between the howling monkeys and snoring hikers don’t expect to sleep that night. But according to fellow travelers I met along the way said that the hike was worth it and beautiful. Chile, its just not for me.

Pacaya, now this is the hike I did. Super easy, well as easy as its going to get cause you know your girl was huffing and puffing while climbing. To climb up the volcano takes 45+ mins depending on how slow you walk. On the plus side the whole time climbing you are followed by locals offering ‘taxis’ in case you want to stop climbing. Now I use the word taxi very loosely because it’s really just a horse, yup you read right a horse. Once on the top, if it is a clear day you can see the other volcanoes in the horizon. You also get to roast marshmallows in lava (if there is) or in a steam hole. I paid 80Q for transport and a guide.

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super foggy at about 10am

San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

Here, you have kayaking, zip lining, and hiking. For hiking, you can climb San Pedro Volcano(hard) or Indian Nose Mountain(easy). Of course, I didn’t climb San Pedro but based on my research it is a 4+ hour hike up. Indian Nose was super easy to climb and by far the prettiest. It is a 30+ mins hike up the mountain with views of farms, cornfields, forest, and the city. The views were beautiful and picturesque. You can go for a sunrise tour, which I would recommend. Simply gorgeous. Depending on how many is in your group depicts the price. If it is just 1 person it is 150Q for transport and guide. The more people you have the more the price drops. Luckily for me I met a group of fellow travelers and joined in with them. One of the guys stays with a host family every time he visits Guatemala so the son was our tour guide and driver. Therefore the trip was based on donation.

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more views

You can go zip lining as well in Santa Clara. In the park there are only two lines, one regular the other you have the option of riding superman style. It is 20Q to enter the park and 80Q zip line. In the park there are other activities you can do like free falling. Parque Ecologico Chuiraxamolo is the name of the park. For the money you spend it is worth visiting the park. What you would pay for one excursion in Costa Rica you can do about 3-4 at the park in Guatemala.

Flores

I am not sure if visiting Tikal is an excursion but there isn’t much else to do there. Well actually, I was approached by a local to take a 40min boat ride to the other side of the lake where there is clear water to do some snorkeling. There is also kayaking and other water activities to do at the lake. But anyways back to Tikal, the price to enter the park is 150Q and 250Q for sunset or sunrise. I was able to get transport to Tikal cause of course it was an hour and a half away from Flores for 50Q. There is no need to pay for a guide because it is quite easy to get around the park but if you are bad at directions or reading a map pay for the guide.

Transport

There are two ways to travel around Guatemala, by chicken buses or by shuttles (whether it you spring for private/nice shuttles or regular ones).

Chicken Buses

 For me I didn’t feel secure enough in my Spanish to ride the chicken buses. It is the cheapest way to travel but also the most dangerous. The chicken buses get stopped and robbed often enough. As a solo female traveler I chose to not chance it. Now if I wasn’t traveling alone I would have chanced riding the chicken bus.

Shuttles

When booking shuttles don’t be afraid to shop around and haggle the price down. The cost to go to Volcano Pacaya for me was 80Q but some people in my shuttle only paid 60Q. My shuttle from Antigua to Lanquin to Flores and back to Guatamala City was 650Q. Of course by chicken bus can be much cheaper. For example some fellow travelers I met only paid 25Q each to go from Antigua to Pacaya by chicken bus but then again they were two males (big/fit ones at that).

So it is possible to travel cheaply around Guatemala but safety must come first.

Conclusion

Guatemala is a beautiful country full of adventure and things to do but it is not as cheap as other travelers make it out to be. In my opinion, Nicaragua is by far the cheapest of the countries in Central America (maybe certain parts of Mexico as well). It is definitely a must see country and if you are into nature and hiking then you definitely should check out Guatemala.

Semuc Champey, my favorite experience of the trip

Caves+Swing Rope+Views….

Semuc Champey… Need I say more?

By far my best experience in Guatemala. From the views to the group I was with to my amazing tour guide, I couldn’t ask for a better day and experience. My whole experience in the small town of Lanquin was great.

Let’s start from the beginning, I stayed in a legit treehouse y’all where I had to sleep under a mosquito net. It was a stay of many firsts. Vista Verde is an amazing hostel with great people and vibes.


Back to Semuc, we are on first name basis y’all lol. The morning started with a 30-40 minute drive standing on the back of a pickup truck. Mind you it was about 20 of us crammed onto a small bed. Did I mention how “amazing” the roads are in Guatemala? The one good thing about these drives is that you are surrounded by nature and crazy views.

Once in the park, exploring the caves was the first thing on the agenda. Y’all I didn’t bring my phone in because Carlos (the guide) said that it would be an hour and a half in the dark with only a candle and that we would be walking, swimming, and climbing. Mind you majority of the time in the cave I was swimming because the cave isn’t meant for short people. The whole experience was amazing though, I climbed up a rope against the waterfall, jumped off the highest peak in the cave, and went through a tunnel where I bumped my left big toe.  So now both my big toes are swollen and are still killing me.

Once we got done with the cave, we walked to one end of the lake/park and saw a beautiful waterfall. Carlos wanted us to jump from the top of the waterfall but the currents were so strong he couldn’t make it to the other side of the lake. Now you know your girl only know how to stay above water. I was not getting in that water lol.  Since that was a bust we headed back towards the entrance and stopped for all the folks who wanted to do the rope swing. Now that was a lot of fun and the current wasn’t to bad there even though Carlos jumped in thinking he needed to save me lol.


Next up was the ridiculouus hike (cause of course nothing in Guatemala is simple). Carlos appointed himself to my boyfriend and tried to convince me the whole hike up how I needed to move to Lanquin and live with him and how he had his own house. The climb was definitely worth it for the views. I even got to taste the fruit cacao comes from, it was pretty darn good.

The purple stuff is what you use to make chocolate

The tasty fruit but your not suppose to swallow it


The last stop was the actual lakes. The water is a pretty turquoise blue and clear.


What a epic day and hopefully my pictures made you want to visit someday.

Hippie Town Anyone?

My next stop on my journey was Lake Atitlan, San Pedro to be specific. Honestly after 2 days in Antigua I was more than ready to head to water. It seems that the trend is to stop for a ‘bathroom break’ even if the drove from one city to the next is 2hrs.  After being on a bus for 2.5 instead of the 1.5 hours promised I made it to Lake Atitlan. I consuls have taken a bus ride to San Pedro but that would have added another hour onto my bus ride. Instead of a longer bus ride I decided to go to Panajachel and take a ferry over to San Pedro. As soon as I saw the lake I knew I would enjoy my time more here than in Antigua. Just seeing and hearing the water was so calming. 

My view for the whole time I was there


One of the best things about traveling is the people you meet. I met amazing people here in San Pedro starting from the long bus ride to the island. I met two older ladies from Malaysia who were actually staying at the same hostal as me. We had good convo and I was fully entertained by all the folks on the bus with me. Once I got to my hostal and dropped my bags off I went exploring.

First stop was to finally get some authentic Guatemalan food. Hmmmm, that was a mistake. I ordered one of their typical dishes called Pepián. It was a lot of food, a spoonful of rice with carrot shreds, corn tortillas, and a big bowl of broth/soup which included chicken, potatoes, and carrots. No bueno para yo. After leaving that place I decided to go and chill at a place with a view of the lake and do some work.  While walking to the new spot I met this couple from the states who are living in Canada but was visiting San Pedro because they were thinking of moving there. We exchanged numbers and said we would meet up later to chill.

Pepián

Lucky me, I came to the island when they were finishing up their celebrations of the Saint San Pedro. So of course there were quite a bit of festivities going on so I wanted to explore some. The people are super nice here on the lake and when it looked like I was lost a guy who spoke perfect English stopped and asked if I needed help. I told him I needed help finding Jarku (the restaurant I started at earlier that day). He told me how to get there then he proceeded to invite me to hop on his bike and that he would take me.  After much persuasion I got on the bike and he took me to the restaurant when I got off, I was reminded that I wanted to check out the festival and started wondering around again.  The same guy helped me again and took me to the c center to hear the live music and check out the locals…

Next day, woke up got some coffee and took in the amazing views. It was another work day for me as I needed to plan my upcoming trip with my mummy and aunt. Later that day while skyping my mum and aunt I easedropped on two couples talking about what they were doing the next day and one of the, was like they were catching the sunrise on Indian Nose. You know your girl went over their and invited myself on their hike because I really wanted to do it but the tour guide told me no since it would just be me (the life of a solo traveler isn’t always glamorous). So luckily they were able to add me and they turned out to be a cool couple. We ended up going out that night and meeting up with the rest of the group. I will be writing a separate post soon about my trek up Indian Nose and ziplining in the jungle. 

But the two pics below are a sneak pic of my day. 


Let’s talk food

So after my disappointing experience with Pepián, I decided to just order regular food. The highlight of my stay there was brunch at El Barrio on my last day. The food was delicious and there was a lot of it. For 40Q you got a four course brunch, all you can drink coffee, and a glass of orange juice. The order was a bowl of fruit, granola, and yogurt, next was a bowl of soup (didn’t have that but my neighbors told me it was good), then the choice of a omelette, frittata, or breakfast sandwich with a side of hash browns or seasoned fries and sausage or bacon(I got both), lastly was two fluffed pancakes with a fruit compote on top. Yes that much food and yes I ate it all but it was over the course of about 3-4 hours. I got there at 10 when it opened and ordered my frittata writhing the first 5mins of being there and got it at 10:50. Ordered my pancakes at 11:20 and got it at 11:55. I don’t remember when I ordered my fruit but I didn’t leave until about 1:30. Needless to say don’t go there if you are in a hurry. Don’t be put off by the long wait because the owner (at least I think so, definitely part owner) comes and check on you and talks to you and the atmosphere of the place is warm and welcoming. It’s definitely worth the trip.  I also tried their chili fries, regular fries, and wings, all of which was really good. 




Honestly I can go on and on about my experience here in San Pedro. It was a great time where I met amazing people and had epic experiences.  Up next is Lanquin for Semuc Champey. I’m super excited about exploring there 

Back to Central America I went 

I made it to Antigua, Guatemala. Super excited to explore the country and take in the culture. 

So I originally planned to spend 4 days and 3 nights in Antigua but ended up only spending 2 days and nights and leaving at 7am on the third day. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty to do here but it just all depends on what you want to do. 

Now let’s talk about the good…

I arrived to Guatemala City early Tuesday morning after traveling all night. Getting out of the airport was super easy and the stand for the shuttles where in plain site. From Guatemala City to Antigua was about an hour (mind you that’s at 10am). I stayed at Hotel Colonial Antigua and it was quiet and clean (very much family oriented).  Once I put my stuff down, I went exploring and walking the city. Antigua is a very small town and you can walk it in about 30 mins. There is a lot to offer from hiking excursions to cooking and Spanish classes to chocolate and coffee tours. It really all depends on what your looking for. 

Pacaya Volcano  
I chose this volcano because it was the easiest one to climb and your able to roast marshmallows at the top. To hike up and down the volcano is a total of 6km ( which is 3.7 miles for all my folks who are like me and have no idea what the conversion is). Sad fact, it took me about  2 hours to go up (3km) the volcano. I know extremely sad, mind you that’s the easy hike. For experienced hikers, Acatenango takes 7+ hours to climb up (to put in perspective Pacaya for experienced hikers should only take about an hour if that to get to the top). Y’all if I had gone on the Acatenango hike I probably wouldn’t have survived. 

Overall though I enjoyed the experience even though there wasn’t any lava to roast my marshmallows. 

​Antigua has a very colonial feel to it through its architecture. Because the city is so small, you can see practically see everything in a day (but the type of traveler you are depicts the length of time it will take you to explore). For me, two days was sufficient since I am not a hiker nor did I go there to learn Spanish. 


Now unto the not so good things…

My first meal in Guatemala was chicken wings. I was so disappointed because I was expecting amazing food for cheap (of course all based on my time in Nicaragua).  I basically had wings one day and fries the next day but I did finally try some street food. Unfortunately that was a bust for me because of what I ordered and then when I tried again I just didn’t like it. So before going into this I knew I didn’t like tamales (or for that matter corn tortillas) but I gave it try and nope I still don’t like.  The second time around I was like “order something you like,” so I ordered an empanada and that was still a no for me. For me so far the local food is not to my liking at all BUT the pasteries and bread are phenomenal. 

When traveling you must be flexible. But in being flexible you must not be foolish and you must be prepared to lose sometimes. As a traveler you can be a meticulous planner, someone with no plans, or like me-a person with a general idea of what you want. Because I changed up my plans/schedule I lost a little money but was able to recuperate it in other ways. 

Other than these few negatives I am thoroughly enjoying myself and meeting new people along the way. 

P.S: Just a little IG video from my hike. Disregard the heavy breathing lol. 

Well goodbye weekend and hello New York

This past weekend was my last weekend in Madrid for about two months and one of the funnest weekends I have had here so far. I am heading back to New York to see my family and I am extremely excited to see my babies.

Anyways, back to this weekend. This weekend was ridiculously crazy and not in a partying way but just in all that I did. Lets begin with the bad and end with the good. June is the last month for one of my friends living in Madrid before she moves to Malta. She wanted to have a little get together and go out to celebrate her time here in Madrid and of course I was like that’s a great idea. After spending the afternoon and early evening with my Spanish classmates talking and hanging out I headed home to get ready to hang with her.

Honestly, I should have known better than to trust her club picking skills lol but the club she chose for us on Friday night by far was the worst. The club she chose was called MediasPuri and it started off ok. When you enter you are greeted by this ‘vampire’, well not really greeted but a ‘vampire’ is hanging off the railing and stuck to the wall. I saw it and thought ok just a little weird but you know when in Madrid. So I fully enter the club and come to the realization that it is a gay bar. Now I have nothing against gay bars I just personally cannot listen to the music (particularly the beat) for very long. Besides it being a gay bar, what struck me as weird were ‘the performers’. There were people dressed up as…. *blows out a deep breath* honestly I really don’t even know. They were wearing all red samauri looking robes or bottoms with pasties on their nipples (the women) and the men were just wearing pants. I saw about three shows. The first two were ok, interesting but not really my cup of tea. I was already telling my friend that I wanted to leave and that I wasn’t really feeling the place. But before I could leave the third show happened and as soon as it started I got a very weird vibe. To me that show felt demonic and even my friend said to me that she felt it was satanic so what I thought was a vampire when I came in was really a person portraying hell. I mean the performance was so weird that it had a mask of satan’s head with horns and a bigger sculpture on the floor. What really was the last straw was the fact that at the end of the performance the lead lady was handing out communion bread to everyone. Honestly, the night wasn’t bad because MediasPuri is a gay club, it was bad because of the lack of respect MediasPuri had for religion.

*honestly, I took a few videos but I must have deleted them*

Saturday was a new day and I was ready to put Friday night behind me. Saturday I literally did nothing until about 7pm. It is so hot in Madrid right now, over the weekend the temperature during the day was in the 90s and only dropped about 10 degrees once evening hit. On facebook I saw an article about things you can do in Madrid and one particular monument caught my attention. I decided I wanted to see the monument and catch the sunset. If you ever want to see some Egyptian architecture while visiting Madrid check out Templo de Debod. Since I was staying in the La Latina area for a bit, I was able to walk to the monument and what a beautiful walk it is. I passed the Royal Palace, my favorite bridge, and so much more. The area where the monument is is known for their sunsets. Afterwards, my friends and I checked out some bars and stumbled upon a bar that had just opened up. It was a great evening full of laughs and fun.

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Templo de Debod. It was beautiful to see the lights change as the sunset occurred.

Sunday I went on my first hike ever. So my girl Arianna convinced me that the hike would be easy and that we would be swimming most of the time. What a lie that was, the hike was not easy. Yes, the ground was even but we ended up walking in the heat of the day for almost 4 hours before making it to the first swimming spot. Overall, I hiked a total of 17km for my first hike ever. Insane, right? As much as I yelled at Arianna I must say in the end I did enjoy myself I just wouldn’t hike again during the summer months. I swam in a lake y’all for the first time as well. Normally, I only swim in the ocean or in a pool but because it was scorching hot I didn’t have a chance to be bougie about the water I swim in. The only way to cool off and to stay hydrated was to swim in the freezing water. I must say the day was full of adventures and unexpected things.

That weekend was one of the highlights of my stay in Madrid (of course not including the traveling I do outside of Madrid) since I got here. I must say that living in the city instead of the outskirts has allowed me to travel around the city and explore new places without having a time constraint.

The simple things in life

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The arch in Puerta de Toledo

I cannot believe that at the end of June will make 5 months in Madrid. Honestly, time stops for no one and nothing. It truly amazes me when I think of all I have accomplished and done so far. I am steadily learning and practicing Spanish, adapting to the Spanish culture more and more, exploring the world, and learning more and more about myself.

My weekend was pretty uneventful; did a little work and moved out. Moving sucks no matter what country you live in but I think Spain takes the cake. Or better yet moving your things with the use of public transportation sucks. I was planning to move closer to the city after the summer and move out of my place at the end of the June, but since I am going back to the states to visit earlier than I thought, I decided to move out now.

On another note, for the first time I am actually looking forward to going home to see my family. Now, don’t get me wrong I do miss my family but I talk to them at least once a week for hours. But my nieces and nephew, now that’s a different story, I am so excited and ready to actually hold and hug them.

In the 5 months I have been living here I never really explored La Latina area. The short time I have been in this area thus far has been great. From the different bars/restaurants, the statues, and the cultural things offered you are never lacking in things to do. One of the famous things to do in La Latina is go to the flea market that happens every Sunday.

So far, my time here has been enjoyable. When I look back on all the convincing and explaining I had to do to get here it has definitely been worth it. As individuals we must learn to follow our dreams and listen to our gut more and more. It has been engrained in us to go along with what society has portrayed as an acceptable lifestyle even when we are miserable playing that role that it can be difficult to step out an go against the grain. Granted, I am not saying that stepping out of the norm to pursue your dream will be smooth sailing but as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We should never be afraid to follow our passions. Granted we must be responsible in what we do, for example if you have a family to feed and take care of now might not be the best time to step out and pursue a far fetched idea. Simple put, when you have family depending on you and responsibilities, you must be wise in what opportunities you take and decline.

Life is a journey not a race so enjoy the different turns and paths you take because ultimately you are responsible for your happiness.

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.