Tag Archive | fun

The Spanish Edition

Happy 6 year and one month anniversary blog! I started this blog mainly because I was in a process-oriented gig and my creative spirit started to atrophy. But now I am so tired from all the thinking that I need to to I can only spend a few minutes a day writing. I bought myself the cute writing prompt book which has helped inspire some creativity from somewhere. I realized that my blog anniversary (October 19) is one day away from my wedding anniversary (October 20). So I really should attempt to write something, anything. This was made easier by the fact that my house is a total cluster and I am currently monitoring (as much as you can) contractors repairing things as a result of a leaky pipe. And the fact that my hubby and I had a great vacation to celebrate our first anniversary. Something to recap! Truthfully I have plenty to recap as there were some really fun events this year, but lazy.

So we went to Spain! This was an inside joke between my husband and I for years and we finally traveled there. We booked this trip through Costco of all places. It was an amazing deal save for the fact that you don’t get a seating assignment on your flights. For one leg we weren’t seated together and had to withstand this annoying Veruca Salt’s little meltdown to sit together for another leg. On a bonus item of note, I plan to always travel on Saturday nights as the plane to Spain was truly empty. Notsomuch on the way back.

Spain is lovely. After going to South Africa last year, we definitely needed to remember the fact that the Euro is stronger than the dollar. We spent money left and right and had to slow down. We arrived at Barcelona first and stayed in an area that was originally run down but became Olympic village in 1992. It is now mixed use with hotels, apartments and nightclubs on the beach. It’s truly a city beach so don’t expect clear blue water and alabaster sand. We (okay I was) were very tired yet our room wasn’t ready yet. We ate on the beach and walked around our neighborhood which was very close to the cruise shipyard. I am usually an extreme planner but truly conducted minimal research for this trip (brain dead). Therefore most of the week in Barcelona and Madrid was spent strolling around the city while on the hop on and hop off tourist bus. Hubby is not a fan of museums, botanical gardens and historic sites and those excursions were quickly nixed. I should have pushed for one though in hindsight.

Life Lessons

I learned a few things. Never take Uber. Taxi drivers take their jobs very seriously there.

Experts project soon that Spain will have the longest life expectancy in the world and the lifestyle is really nowhere near ours in America. They usually pop up around 9 and head out around 10 a.m. They have late lunches, possibly a siesta, eat dinner at 9 p.m. and often stay out to 2a.m., even on weekdays. We weren’t ready! I think our failures was the lack of siestas as we would be exhausted by midnight and that is when nightlife starts. Our taxi driver joked as we ventured out midday that most people were napping and people in Spain don’t stress themselves out much. He continued: people work from 10 – 6 and then don’t work really all that hard during those hours.

Almost everyone in Barcelona speaks multiple languages and we got lazy with our Spanish. Hubby said that he remembered a little bit of Spanish, which actually meant none and we really struggled in Madrid where English wasn’t as popular. I had an unproductive argument with a server as she kept giving me the wrong menu item for lunch with my google translate Spanish and then charged me for every incorrect item that even sat on the table. That day for lunch I ended up with a bowl of garlic shrimp. Nothing else. Just garlic shrimp. Television has nothing in English except for late night American movies, so chilling in your hotel room is not an option.

Food

Being honest, Jose Andres sets too high of an expectation. I thought that food would be in goo goo gobs abundance. Nope. Many of the bodegas (their word for quaint little restaurants) have small, similar menus so it can get repetitive. On the first night, we went to one restaurant in the center of Barcelona with gorgeous rooftop views and TGI Friday’s level food quality. As a result, Hubby swore off of paella forever. Like ever. Do you know how hard it is to eat in Spain if you don’t eat paella? I’ll admit after the debacle in Madrid with the lost in translation server, I ate Five Guys that night. I am ashamed.

We discover two cool things. First food tours. While pricey, they gave us an opportunity to discover food off the beaten path. You walk with a guide. Hear some history. Sample wine and native cuisine at a few stops (though two of them gave us the same dish). It’s all very relaxed and charming. Our other favorite thing became food halls. Spain loves a food hall and theirs are so elevated. Plus, you just sit and they bring the food from different stalls to you. Yay! Also, they provide entertainment. At La Platea in Madrid, we heard a jazz combo AND saw an aerialist. I highly recommend.

Oh and our hotel gave us this amazing anniversary gift of Cava and chocolate covered strawberries. Yum.

Nightlife

We did the traditional thing and saw a flamenco show. There are so many so we just went to the one recommended by the hotel. We tried clubbing, which is very popular in Barcelona, but we are old and tapped out by midnight just as everyone was arriving. I did get to ride in one of those pedicabs along the beach, nice. Madrid likes live music so we headed to two dive bars on different nights. Black American music is so extremely popular in Spain that you would think you’d see more Black people. In Barcelona a taxi driver spent our entire ride crooning to Al Green and Sam Cooke yet couldn’t speak a lick of English. In Madrid, we saw an R&B cover band who relied heavily on New Orleans-style jazz and Motown. I did spot a Colombian-American from Houston there who told me I was a bad bitch for obvious reasons. The other night we saw weird avant garde band that really reminded me of the band from Yes Man (if you have seen that movie).

Summary

To answer the question everyone poses- which city to you prefer? It depends. Barcelona is much prettier, hipper and easier to navigate with better shopping, Spanish food and wine. Madrid is more metropolitan, has better social activities (especially for more seasoned people), trendier bars, good international food, and happier, chatty people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Advertisements

The Aries are Awesome Edition

las-vegasSo every other year, I like to treat myself to a birthday trip. This year I wanted to return to Vegas, which I did several years back to combine my three favorite things: Vegas, my birthday and March Madness. I make a big deal of my birthday for one simple reason, my mom never threw me birthday parties. I had two birthday parties (8 and 16) growing up and both were primarily spearheaded by my aunt. We have this theory—my mom is a downright recluse with a summer birthday sired by two extreme extroverts. They used the only child of theirs with a summer birthday in Michigan as an excuse to have huge parties. So my mom sees birthdays as an annoying constant celebration. Meanwhile, her winter birthday-having siblings possess simmering resentments of these feted occasions. So she thinks birthdays are overblown.

I quickly realized that having an outstanding birthday will be the result of my own efforts. This proved to be challenging over the years as I am an introvert with extroverted tendencies who tends to attract homebodies as friends. That means I have never had a successful adult party, you know the kind full of raucous people making poor decisions. I decided around age 28 to focus my birthday efforts on travel and not relieving House Party 15: The Adult Edition.

This was my first stay in Mandalay Bay. Can I say my favorite thing about this hotel/casino? It smells amazing. Always. I just love it. The hardest part of Mandalay is it is the tip of the Strip. Which means walking, so much walking. In hindsight I made one major mistake with this trip. I wore new, unproved shoes. Naturalizer is my go-to shoe for almost fashionable comfy shoes but they failed me. I feel like our entire experience was limited because my feet hurt and for example, I didn’t want to walk to Bellagio to show my honey the water show. We confined many activities to the south strip.

I usually gamble once and party often during my Vegas trips. I checked the websites and didn’t see many events I had to attend and deferred to my honey’s love of gambling. I am still mad though that the Ice Cube / Lil Jon show at Wynn was advertised nowhere and I only saw that it occurred the day after. That mashup is something I wanted to see!

I only gamble cheaply as I like my money and set strict limits for myself. I introduced my honey to the only table game I play—roulette—after losing $80 in Blackjack in 20 minutes after being dealt several consecutive hands of 15. The worst number in Blackjack. Roulette is a game that you can play forever with $40, especially on $5 tables. It was good to us the first two days. Honey won $300 and I won $80. Betting on college basketball turned out not to be anywhere near successful because none of the teams played correctly.

Eating in Vegas is always an adventure. I loved Aria’s brunch and their unlimited drink add-on was scrumptious. Planet Hollywood’s brunch was in the basement and I really wanted to see some sunlight. Otherwise, pretty good. We ate at this terrible restaurant in Caesars because I was too hungry to think straight. I paid $20 for cheese eggs, toast (no jelly available) and hash browns. I don’t eat pork so they had no meat for me to choose. In comparison, the brunch buffet at Aria is $22 and $21 at PH. Turns out they are closing the restaurant and laying off the staff for a new concept in two weeks which is why the service was so awful. I am a firm believer for breakfast/brunch, go to a buffet. It’s cheap <$25 and you can create whatever meal you want. We ate at this beautiful fancy seafood restaurant in Encore, which was just okay for my birthday. The place we wanted to go was full with a long wait. This is exactly how we ended up at Caesars. The last day we went to Fremont Street which is so much awesome and fun fact—had the world’s oldest Tupac imposter. Seriously dude was in his late 40’s and Tupac died at 25. We ate so cheaply there that it renewed my anger at Caesar’s all over again.

As for the shows…We saw Cirque du Soleil One based on the music of Michael Jackson. It was phenomenal. I did expect more acrobatics as it focused more on dancing, but it was glorious. Plus I got to sing along. Amazingly, it primarily focused on songs from HIStory, Bad and Thriller. I mean what would be a more perfect Cirque du Soleil song than Off the Wall. I feel like that was a missed opportunity for some daredevil theatrics. We also saw the Jabbawockeez. I had never heard of them, nor do I watch America’s Best Dance Crew but I truly enjoyed the show, especially the audience participation parts.

Yay birthdays!