Cauliflower Burgers Anyone?

Happy October 1st to everyone. One of my favorite seasons is upon us. The end of September was very eventful for me. I began my internship with Mad4Madrid which is a site dedicated to all things Madrid. I am learning so much about the ins and outs of running a successful blog and site. Also, through them I have already done some amazing things.

I did my first menu tasting event for Hard Rock Café. Can I say what an amazing experience! I visited a Hard Rock Café location about 11 years ago when I was visiting Australia and from what I can remember I had a great time but I have never been back until this menu tasting. And boy let me tell you, I might have to start making Hard Rock Café a stop on any trip I do. Yes, it was that good. The food was absolutely amazing and can you believe my two favorite meals of the day were vegetarian. The cauliflower burger was my absolute favorite (hence the title).

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Yall, this is the Cauliflower Burger. It was the bomb.com

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This salad was also pretty darn good. The meat on it is tuna.

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The new cocktail they are adding. A gin based drink. 

In my time here I never thought about taking a paella class. I do love the dish but it never crossed my mind that it might be a simple dish to make. For those of you who don’t know, paella is a typical Spanish dish that originated in Valencia, Spain. The main ingredient is rice and you can either have meat, seafood or both added.

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This is what paella looks like. 

I was able to participate in Ruta de La Paella’s master class with a Valencian chef Ramon Pallmo. I was shocked how easy it was to make. It’s a one-pot dish literally.

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The chefs and I. 

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My partner for the day.

Housing update:

I finally found a room and was able to move in right away. I actually love the room and location. Its not city center like I first wanted but everything is literally a 30 minute metro ride or less. And I am also next to a huge park, Casa de Campo. Fun fact about Casa de Campo apparently its about 10x bigger than Central Park in New York.

How was your September? Have any questions or suggestions? Let me know them by leaving a message in the comment box.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

Oh Summer where art thou?

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Dean’s Blue Hole, Long Island Bahamas. It just happens to be the deepest in the world, plunging to a depth of 663 feet (202 meters)

Dean’s Blue Hole

 


I have been back in Madrid for about 3 weeks and when I say it has been rough, boy oh boy has it been rough.

First and for most, the weather has been doing the most since I got here. I got back the last week of August. Mind you I thought that it would still be hot when I got here and why wouldn’t it. It was 103 degrees the last couple of days before I left in June. You definitely read correctly, I did say 103. So naturally I thought I would get more of the same in August(one of the hottest months of the year). Welp, that was a bust, it hasn’t been higher than about 85 degrees since I got here. With a few days of low 70’s and pouring rain. Fall has officially arrived.

Do you see these ridiculous temperatures?


Second problem; Housing or betting yet Finding Housing. Looking for an apartment in Madrid is like looking for a leprechaun with a pot of gold and a unicorn at the same time, which I am still looking for. Surprise, surprise. Seriously, you make contact with a potential landlord or flatmate and while setting up a meeting to see the place it becomes unavailable. Literally, that’s how quick apartments go here. I thought I would already be settled in my new place and getting to know my surroundings, womp womp unfortunately that’s not the case.

On a brighter note, coming back to Madrid after being gone for 2.5 months made me realize how much fun I actually have when I am here. I am getting back into the grove of things, walking everywhere and taking the stairs (most times out of necessity not want). I am also excited about the things I have in the works. But don’t let me keep you, I just wanted to say Hi and give an update.

Hasta luego!

P.S: Shoot me a comment down below if you want to know my trails and errors of looking for a place or if you have any suggestions for me.

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 

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.

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.

La Semana de fin

We saved the dog.

Let me set the scene. My friends and I planned to go to an escape room here in Madrid. Pretty cool right or so I thought until I actually got to the place. I was the first to arrive and boy oh boy the street look sketchy and deserted. It was 11:45 and no businesses were open on the street. Finally, my friends came along and come to find out we got the time wrong. Our adventure wasn’t going to start until 12:30. 

Finally, it was time to be locked in the room. We had an hour to make it out the room. The mission was to retrieve documents and a dog from a mad scientist who wanted to create robotic dogs. My group made it out with 10 minutes to spare. It was a lot of fun but a lot of pressure at the same time. A group can not be larger than 5 people. There were 4 of us in the room and having to rely on different people to help you along the way can be tough. 

Afterwards we went to lunch at Montaditos. This place is famous for little sandwiches and cheap drinks. Pretty much any type of pub food can be ordered here from wings to fries to hot dogs to burgers to sandwiches to beer to wine to hard liquor. 

The last thing on the agenda for Saturday was to go to Alcalá de Henares for a wine festival. Alcalá is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites and is only 35km north east of Madrid. 

The group minus one

I sure do love a good pistachio and chocolate flavored ice cream.

It’s such a quaint little town with the oldest university in Spain. The town square is absolutely breathtaking and I can just imagine what it would look like with the flowers are in full bloom. I actually enjoyed the wine festival and was able to find a few wines that I actually liked. 

Now for the exciting part the clue for this week. This country has the second largest mosque in the world. What country am I? 

Snow!!! Seriously……


So, it was actually snowing in Madrid last thursday. Like seriously snowing and actually sticking. Granted it is nothing compared to snow falling in New York but snow none the less. I honestly thought that I left all the cold behind in the States.


Besides the complete shock of actually snow, I actually found a reggae club.  I can´t believe that I actually found one and it was pretty good. Didn´t fund any island men but one step at a time lol. The club is called The Jungle and only reggae, hip hop, and dancehall is playedon Saturday nights.Before going I didn´t have much hope that the place would actually be good but boy was I pleasantly surprised. The dj played a good mix of up to date music and as always I was still lost during the hip-hop session lol. But I am super excited to find this place because there is only so much bachata and salsa I can hear.

Surprisingly, I actually found two places that play reggae music but over the weekend I only checked out one place. In the next two weeks I will check out the other spot.

So in other news I am completely set for my trp during Holy Week. I am beyond excited and each week I will give a hint as to where it is I will be goin. This weeks hint is; One of the things this country is known for is their spices. What country am I?

How to go about funding a trip….

How do I do it? 

So I was asked how I am able to travel so much with limited funds/as a student. The short answer; through a wish and prayer but seriously I have been blessed with a supportive family and a determination to travel no matter what obstacle is placed in front of me.

I have been able to travel numerous places under the pretense of education. The very first trip I raised money for was when I was 16 years old and was invited to go to Australia through People to People Student Ambassador. If I can remember correctly the total cost of the trip was $5200 and I was able to raise more than that. (I don’t remember the exact amount)

 The formula to success you may ask is DETERMINATION+STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE=SUCCESS. What do I mean by stepping out of your comfort zone, for me that meant asking any and everybody and not accepting the word No. I was given a template letter to follow with spaces to add my personal information with the People to People logo (to show it was legit) and I sent it to everyone. I got the email addresses and physical addresses of banks and businesses both corporate and family owned and sent them out. No matter how many No’s I received I kept pushing.

I am also fortunate enough to have a large church base and I sent the letter to every church (probably about 50) and personally asked individuals as my family and I visited churches. I also asked churches in general, local Baptist, Pentecostal and Catholic churches in my area or who had a website. (pretty much any church I could get information on)

Traveling is extremely possible no matter what your circumstances are. I remember in college my roommates and I were trying to plan a spring break trip but at every turn they kept telling me that they didn’t have the money. (mind you, sneakers were mailed to our apartment like weekly and they actually got a refund). What does this mean; depending on your PRIORITY will determining if you travel or not.

Ways to get funds,

1. sponsorships (from people, local businesses, churches, etc.)

2. fundraisers (selling candy, baking goods, coupons, etc.).   

          a. this all depends on how creative you are and how much you think out of the box

3. saving money (picking up odd jobs around the house/neighborhood, allowance)

              a. I never really got an allowance but whenever I got any money from my parents I would pocket at least 80% of it. Trust me, the one dollars and five dollars really adds up. Even collecting all the change around your house/area.

4. Grants/scholarships (college students- free money is lurking around at your school you just have to find it. Most schools have partial/full scholarships to study abroad)

Now I am not saying that everyone or every place that you reach out to will give you money. It’s all about persistence. For every no you receive you ask or send out 3 more requests.  

Lets put traveling into a little perspective:

• A round trip ticket from New York to California is $312

• A round trip ticket from New York to The Bahamas is $320 not including all the deals/sales various airlines have (and forget about a flight from Florida even cheaper)

• A round trip ticket from New York to Houston, Texas is $260

• A round trip ticket from Houston, Texas to Mexico (and practically all of Central America ie. Costa Rica, Belize) about $250

What this all means is that most places you travel to in America you can also find the same or comparable ticket to a place outside of America. (and of course I am not even mentioning how cheap it is to travel within Europe)

Traveling is indeed possible. I hope I have shed some light on the different ways to accomplish said travel.