Archive for September 2015

A Short Day in Seville

September 29, 2015 - 12:29 am No Comments

As the sun came up, we entered the industrial outskirts of Seville. Again, I’m surprised how these places I’ve never heard of are legit cities.

We made our way to the historical center of Seville, and things started looking a lot like, well, the historical centers of Valencia, Granada, and just about every other Spanish city. This old town is particularly beautiful, with an enormous royal palace and cathedral right in the middle of it. As I took pictures, I almost got run over by a horse.

Giralda & Calle Mateos Gago (more…)

Granada: Alhambra & Flamenco

September 28, 2015 - 4:01 am No Comments

Overnight buses suck. I perfectly cantilevered my ass off the edge of the seat to achieve the lowest possible horizontal angle, but I still hardly slept. No amount of cantilevering made me comfortable for long enough to fall asleep. On top of that, the driver announced over the loudspeaker stops at random bus stations every hour or so. Not cool. The only good thing about the trip was the occasional glimpse of a giant, orange full moon hovering over the roadway ahead.

As sun came up, hills have way to mountains, and then we were in Granada. I’d never heard of Granada, but it’s a decent-sized city. Our hostel was in the historic part of town wedged between two mountains. Everyone was dragging pretty hard, but no time for resting. Off we went to do our orientation walk around historic Granada with Fredy.

Granada’s old town is charming, with a definite north African, Arabic influence to the architecture, people, and countless souvenir shops.

Granada Souvenir Shop (more…)

Almost Two Days in Valencia

September 26, 2015 - 3:32 pm No Comments

The bus rolled into Valencia, a full-fledged city. I had imagined something smaller because I’d never heard of it.

After dropping our bags, we headed straight to the beach for some much-needed relaxation before dinner. This beach is massive, as wide as a football field and as long as the eye can see. And with sand so fine, it feels like velvet when you walk on it.

Sand of Malvarrosa Beach (more…)


September 24, 2015 - 6:45 pm No Comments

After a quick stop at the pretty train station in Montpellier, France, we were back on the train to Spain.

Montpellier Train Station (more…)

Pisa to Nice to Monaco

September 22, 2015 - 8:50 am No Comments

At Rome’s Termini station, we got on our Trenitalia (rhymes with “genitalia”) train and chilled out for 4 hours. We all got to know each other a bit, and Nader pulled out his Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey to loosen things up a bit. My iPhone playlist was judged to be weird but good. Except by Maddy, who made some snarky comment about it but later quietly sung along with one of the songs. Outside, we were treated to the Italian countryside with the occasional glimpse of the Mediterranean.

Pisa is a charming little town with the the leaning tower, of course, as the main attraction. After quick pizza lunch, we walked over to the famous tower.

Sausage and Pesto Pizza (more…)

Rome Wasn’t Seen in a Day

September 19, 2015 - 9:31 pm 2 Comments

Got off the train and took to the streets in search of my B&B. It was cloudy and humid, and I was dripping with sweat before even getting to the place. It was a challenge finding it, with no signage on the outside and no address numbers for reference. But when I finally got inside, I was greeted by the flamboyant and friendly Laura. She seemed like a great host, but I didn’t stick around. Jet-lagged but buzzing on the adrenaline of being someplace new, I set off to explore Rome.

Rome is about how I imagined it, hubbub of commercial strips, duotone police sirens, giant billboards, graffiti, gummed up sidewalks, and scooters. One thing there’s a lot of is fountains. I don’t know if it’s something that goes back to the aqueduct days of the ancient Romans, but there seems to be a fountain of fresh, drinkable water every few hundred meters. Romans are never thirsty.

Italians have certain sense of style, with seemingly random combinations of clothes and colors that they wear with confidence. Everyone’s thin (so much for low-carb diets) and good-looking, but a bit part of that is their attitude. Everyone is flamboyant and confident and happy. There are also nuns everywhere.

Some pigeons and I visited the Spanish Steps. Kind of cool, I guess, but not much to it.

Spanish Steps (more…)

Off to Rome!

September 17, 2015 - 8:24 pm No Comments

So I’ve been scrimping and saving up my vacation time for a couple of years to go on another big adventure. After a decade of amazing New Year’s trips, I’m starting to run out of good places to go that time of year, so I decided to start looking at suitable trips to take in the fall.

I consulted my bucket list and cross-referenced it with tours offered by my two favorite small group travel companies, G Adventures and Intrepid, and came up with some great options. I briefly considered taking advantage of the economic struggles in Greece or taking a tour around Iceland, but in the end, I decided I could hit Italy, Barcelona, and Lisbon, all ranked quite highly on my bucket list, with the G Adventures Rome to Madrid on a Shoestring small group tour.

But who to go with? My usual travel partner, Doug, didn’t have the vacation time. My other friends are busy having babies and working. I looked into some of the “find a travel buddy” websites like and, but they all seemed a bit sketchy to me. Do people really commit to spending several days with strangers? Is it just a global hook-up network? I don’t know if I could ever take a chance like that.

So I decided to go solo. About six weeks ago, I sat at my desk at work and felt that familiar little buzz of adrenalin as I clicked the PURCHASE button on the G Adventures website.

My trip starts in Rome and skips along the Mediterranean coast to Pisa, Genoa, Monaco, Nice, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Algarve, Lisbon, and finally Madrid. That’s 5 countries in 16 days. I haven’t been to any of these places before. Some of them, I’ve never heard of. I haven’t been this excited about a trip in a long time.

c2190985cebcb41d261d616cb702e96e (more…)