San Francisco through my eyes

Since I came to the US two years ago (seriously, though!) I have visited several cities in the country. Traveling is one of my passions (as you didn’t know that already! LOL) and I made sure to travel as much as my budget and time allowed me to do so.

One of my favorite cities (besides Chicago, of course!) was San Francisco.

My parents, my sister and I went on a road trip during the summer in 2014 from Atlanta to San Francisco, and making a lot of stops on the way. It was an exhausting trip but I learned a lot of things, discovered tons of stuff and places and had a lot of fun. Check out this post to learn more about the trip

My parents, my sister and I went on a road trip during the summer in 2014 from Atlanta to San Francisco, and making a lot of stops on the way. It was an exhausting trip but I learned a lot of things, discovered tons of stuff and places and had a lot of fun.

We could only spend a couple of days in the city, as we had a pretty busy schedule. When you do a road trip with a limited amount of time and you want to stop and visit plenty of places, you definitely have to plan very good when and where you’re going to be so you can use the time you have as wise as possible. Even if our schedule was tight, though, we did allow ourselves a little flexibility sometimes. You want to enjoy the vacation too, am I right?

And, again, I planned the trip.

Not that I really care, because I LOVE planning trips!

I collected a list of must do’s and must see’s, which included seeing San Francisco from the other side of the Golden Gate, visit the Painted Ladies (where the “Full House” house is located) and go to Lombard Street. And we got to see and do so much more! It was an amazing trip and I hope I can come back to some of the places with a little more time in the future.

On the way to Muir Woods

Muir Woods 4Muir Woods 3Muir Woods 2Muir Woods 1

The first day we took a trip to the Muir Woods National Monument, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It’s pretty close to San Francisco (12 miles) and I think it’s totally worth it. Just take a jacket with you even in summer, because the trees don’t let the sunlight in that much and it is pretty humid.

We were inside the park and walking the trails for a good 5-6 hours. It might sound like a lot, but it was awesome. It’s a great place to go for some quietness and to run away from the stress of the city.

Lombard St

My father talked about Lombard St. and that he wanted to go see it. Of course, after seeing pictures on the internet, we all wanted to go haha. The pictures don’t even show how funny this street is. There was a ton of people in the sides of the street, at the top and at the end of it. I don’t know if I would live there, though, as I’m guessing is a little noisy from all the cars passing by for fun and the people watching on the sidewalks.

Floating Houses Sausalito.jpg

Sausalito is very close to San Francisco, right in the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. It is a cute little town where we had lunch on the way back from the Muir Woods National Monument and I loved it. We walked around an area where they had floating houses and I found them really cute J

The Painted Ladies

Of course, we couldn’t skip a visit to the Painted Ladies Victorian houses. It was really nice to hang out for a little while there.

City View SunsetMe and the Golden GateSan Francisco TramwaySan FranciscoStraight StreetGolden Gate Bridge 2

Have you ever been to San Francisco? How did you like it? Can’t wait to go back and explore more!

 

11 Things that Surprised me When I First Got to the US

If you’re new to the blog: Welcome!

If you are not, you might know that 2 years ago I packed my things and left everything behind to come to the US. It wasn’t easy, but I’m really proud of myself for doing it, because I learned so much and I met so many interesting and amazing people since then (my hubby!).

As I said, it wasn’t easy. First, leaving my family and friends and taking a plane alone to get to the other side of the ocean. Second, the US is SO different from Europe. If you’ve been to both places you know what I’m talking about. (Also, you can check my post about the 10 things that I miss about Spain. Some of them are pretty random!).

11 Things that Surprised me When I First Got to the US

In today’s post I bring you a list of things that surprised me the most when I first got here. Some good, some not so good. Keep reading to know what I’m talking about!

People are really nice. In general, of course. But at least here in the south people give you conversation when waiting for the train, in line in the grocery store or practically anywhere. I have seen a lot of “fake nice” people too, though. They give you a smile and the moment they think that you’re not looking, they put a face or something. That is definitely not nice.

Layout of the cities and skyscrapers. All those super tall buildings amaze me. I don’t specially like heights, but there’s something with those buildings. And when you look up and you get dizzy too. Also, it was (and still is) very surprising how the cities are laid out. People live outside the city in the suburbs and go everyday to the city to work. I can understand now why there’s so much traffic all the time!

Downtown and Midtown Atlanta from Georgia Tech

Nightlife, at least in my city, is practically nonexistent (compared to Europe). When I was still dating my husband, we wanted to go eat out on a Sunday night. It wasn’t after 10 pm, but everything was closed. And on Fridays and Saturdays most restaurants close around 11pm. Where I come from, people go have dinner around 10pm and go have drinks around midnight.

How expensive healthcare is. Like, seriously. You need to pay monthly a health insurance, but you have to pay AGAIN when you go to the doctor or to the hospital. That is a profitable business…

Credit score. I still don’t know very well how it works, although I have seen on the internet guides on how to build it. Something I definitely need to study!

Portions in restaurants are huge… but you can take whatever you don’t eat in a box, which is pretty cool. I also like the fact that you don’t have to waste all the food that you can’t eat; you just have to save it in the fridge for the next meal! 🙂

Me holding a HUGE Hershey's bar

No, but really LOL

Nobody walks. When I got to the US I stayed in a hotel in Downtown. And I thought that was considered what in Europe is the city center, where everyone is. Well… my first day in the US I learned that it is not. I got out of the hotel around midday (it was a Sunday), and I walked around. There were barely a few people walking in the street, and you could imagine how surprised I was. Then, I learned that people here usually drive to wherever they are going; basically, they go from door to door. Public transportation also sucks (at least in my city), so you can see why people just drive. I guess is like a spiral…

Something that amazes me is that you can pay virtually ANYTHING with your debit/credit card. Even if it’s $1. And that’s so great! Why carry cash when you can just use a card?

Public toilets are so clean (again, in general). When I went on a crazy roadtrip to Kansas City (more about that in a future post) I stopped in pretty much every state welcome center. I specially loved the one in Kentucky: it smelled great and it had flowers in the sink counter. I don’t think I’ve had that many bad experiences in restrooms.

The US is HUGE, and takes tons of time and money to travel. It’s a pity, because I want to see EVERYTHING! LOL I didn’t think that distances here would be so big, but I guess it’s actually hard to know when you just look at a map without really knowing.

map_compare_united_states_europe

Source: Rebrn.com

It’s easier to change careers. I know a person that was housekeeping manager in a hotel that has now a job position in banking. And with no previous experience. That in Spain would have been very unthinkable.

These are just some of the things that surprised me when I first got to the US. There are more things (and I keep seeing new things every day), even some very random (people going to Wal-Mart in their pajamas?), but I don’t want to make this blog post too long 😉

Tell me, what did surprise you when you came to the US? And if you’ve been in Europe, what did surprise you the most when you got there? I’d love to read your thoughts!

Madrid, the City that Never Sleeps

My last post (10 things I miss about Spain) made me miss my home even more (if possible) and magnified my wanderlust 10x.

When I went to live to Madrid back in 2009 I didn’t know that I was going to end up loving the city that much. For three years every time I was coming back from my parents’ house I always felt like home as soon as I could see the Cuatro Torres Business Area (which, believe me, you can see 50-60km from the city when coming from the north).

It was my second home.

And today I come to you to share some of that love.

Also, if you are planning on visiting, keep reading 🙂

Madrid, the City that Never Sleeps

Madrid is a huge city with tons of things to do, see, places to eat, parks, shopping… If you only have a couple of days to visit I would definitely plan ahead and follow a schedule so you don’t miss anything! I’m telling you, I lived there for three years and I still have a lot of things on my “to see/do” list.

But that’s part of the charm, isn’t it?

One of the best things about Madrid is that it’s well communicated by public transportation. You can pretty much get anywhere with the metro or buses.

This is not going to be the regular post “X typical things that you can do in your next trip to Madrid”. I wanted to do something different and share with you a few places that don’t usually appear in the guides; give you an insight of where a person from Madrid would actually go. If you really want to know a place, you have to go where locals go, right?

I’m going to give you a list of places to visit and where to eat so you can add them to your list and enjoy the city as a local would. Also, if you’re planning on visiting Madrid, check out Eventbrite to find out events going on in the city while you’re there. You can also create your own event using their event management software!

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Things to do/see:

  • Parque del Capricho. It is one of the prettiest parks in the city, but it’s not very known so not many people go there. Inside you can find a palace, a pond and the Dolphins and Frogs fountain. Paseo de la Alameda de Osuna, 25, 28042 Madrid, Spain

Parque_capricho

Source: http://www.rutasporespana.es

  • Metro Chamberí. They closed this station in 1966, as it was situated very close to other stations. Nowadays it is open to visitors and still looks as it looked when it was closed. Plaza de Chamberí, s/n, 28010 Madrid.

chamberi metro station

Source: http://www.commons.wikimedia.org

  • Rastro (open on Sundays and bank holidays). It is so worth it to get up a little early and go to the Rastro! Take a walk, look at all the stuff that it’s for sale and find some treasures. It is usually pretty packed. If you go during the warmer months you can relax afterwards with a drink in one of the terrazas in a bar nearby. Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, S/N, 28005 Madrid.

el rastro madrid

Source: http://www.madridtourist.info

  • Templo de Debod. It was a present from Egypt for the help to save the Nubia temples. They brought the stones by boat to Valencia, and then one by one by truck to Madrid. You can walk there from the Plaza de España. Calle Ferraz, 1, 28008 Madrid

Templo de Debod Atardecer

Source: http://www.madridsensations.com

  • Best views of the city: If you want to take a panoramic picture of Madrid, here are two places that are very popular:
    • Círculo de Bellas Artes. Entrance is 3€. Calle de Alcalá, 42 (Planta 7). http://www.azoteadelcirculo.com
    • Gourmet Experience (El Corte Inglés). Free. Plaza de Callao (Planta 9).

Panoramic views Circulo de Bellas Artes + El Corte Inglés

Source: http://www.madridsensations.com & http://www.laplayademadrid.es

 

Where to eat:

  • Botín Restaurant. The oldest restaurant in the world is in the city center of Madrid. It opened its doors in 1725 and has been opened ever since. If you decide to eat here, though, I would recommend making a reservation. Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid. (www.botin.es)

restaurante botín madrid

Source: http://www.traveloutthere.com

  • La Latina. This neighborhood in the city center is a great place to go have some drinks (day or night) while relaxing in a terraza chatting with friends. The area gets packed around midday during the weekends for the tapeo (going out to eat tapas).

la-latina-madrid

Source: http://www.tandemmadrid.com

  • Chocolatería San Ginés. This is just simply a MUST. It is one of the best places to have a chocolate con churros in town. Expect a line to go in if you go in the weekends from 5pm on. Pasadizo San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid (www.chocolateriasangines.com)

chocolatería san gines exterior

Source: http://www.chocolateriasangines.com

  • La Infinito. A perfect place to get a coffee while reading a book and enjoying yourself. They also serve sandwiches and cakes. You can check out their website to see if they’re hosting any activities during the days that you are visiting the city. Calle Tres Peces, 22, 28012 Madrid. lainfinito.es

la infinito entrance

Source: http://www.lainfinito.es

  • 100 montaditos. A montadito is a small sandwich, and they have 100+ with different tipes of bread and stuffing. It is a franchise with more than 350 restaurants around the world (they even have a few in the US). They have offers on Wednesdays and Sundays. Calle Montera, 34, 28013 Madrid. (http://spain.100montaditos.com)

entrada 100 montaditos calle montera

Source: http://www.alamy.com

  • Mercado San Miguel. The Mercado opened in the beginning of the 20th century and inside you can find ham, cheese, chorizo and so much more. It is not cheap, but at least you should go take a look and check it out. Plaza de San Miguel, s/n, 28005 Madrid. (www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/en)

mercado san miguel interior

Source: http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es

Finally, if you know some Spanish and you’d like to learn more about Madrid, it history and some more places to discover, I want to recommend you to check out www.secretosdemadrid.es. It is definitely worth a visit 🙂

Also, check out this list of 101 things to do in Madrid Before you die. You will need more than just a couple of days to do all of it, but it might give you a couple of ideas of extra things to do while in the city! Spanish VersionEnglish Version

 

10 Things I Miss About Spain

Hello everyone!

If you’ve ever lived outside your home country you most likely feel related to this feeling.

List of 10 Things that I miss the most about Spain

The first time that I lived outside Spain was for about 5 months. I went to study to Toulouse, France, during my sophomore year in college. Of course, the situation was different because I had a boyfriend at that time that stayed in Spain.

Anyways, when you get to the new country where you plan on living for some time it’s pretty inevitable that you’re going to compare things all the time. Like, really. ALL THE TIME.

There are obvious comparisons like prices and brands, but there are also things that you didn’t even appreciate at home. For example, during my stay in France I discovered that they often need either change (coins) or credit/debit card to pay for things, and bills are not accepted in many machines. Highway tolls, metro stations… I learned this the hard way. And I couldn’t avoid missing the “normal” machines where you could just pay with bills.

Of course, we learned the lesson and we always had a good stack of coins ready to use.

The easy part back then was knowing that I was really close to my home and I could go back any weekend. That, and knowing that I was staying only for a few months.

Now the story is pretty different. Not only it’s not that easy for me to go back to Spain (2 years already since I came!), but the US is VERY different from Europe in general.

Let me tell you the things that I miss the most about Spain:

10 things I miss about Spain. history, chorizo, morcilla, cafeterias, restaurants, sobremesa

  1. The bread. It doesn’t really taste like bread and it’s in the soft side. I like crunchy amazing-smelling bread. And walking on the way home to have lunch and passing by a bakery where they just made fresh bread is one of the best smells of the world. I can’t believe that I miss it so much!
  2. Chorizo. And morcilla. Simply amazing. I found a couple of things that were close but not really.
  3. Carrying a small packet of tissue paper in the bag. They are so incredibly useful that I cannot believe that people don’t carry those here. I found some to buy in Publix, but I thought they were so expensive that I just forgot about it. But what do you do when you’re sick and you need them?
  4. Having lunch and staying on the table for an extra hour (at least) just for conversation. Sometimes we can overlap lunch with dinner. I have found that outside Spain people eat pretty quickly and leave to do the next thing. Just relax and enjoy the food and the company!
  5. Walking around. I would meet with one of my friends around 4-5pm and go walk around Madrid for 3 hours, go to Starbucks and walk a little more. People meet to walk around, instead of just meeting in the restaurant and go straight home. I feel like cities in the US (in general. That’s one of the reasons why I loved Chicago & San Francisco) are made for cars and not for people.
  6. I obviously miss my friends and family. A lot. And I can’t wait to go back and talk with them without the need of Skype, Hangouts or Whatsapp. I also miss my parent’s cat.
  7. Little cafés and restaurants. I feel like if you want to eat at a restaurant you go to a chain/franchise, and if you want to get a coffee you go to either Caribou or Starbucks. As much as I love their coffee, I miss those bars/cafeterías that are usually family owned. There are also pretty cool ones with books and events.
  8. How easy it is to travel. Distances in the US are huge, so you need a good amount of time to go pretty much anywhere. And you need also money. I find it easier to decide on a trip in Spain, as everything is closer and you have tons of places to go that are in a short-medium distance.
  9. Chocolate. My friends, once you have access to Swiss/Belgian chocolate you won’t even want to try Hershey’s!
  10. Architecture & historic places. As much as I’ve always loved the US and wanted to come here, I really miss walking around and visiting “new” old towns/buildings/places. I’ve never been deeply interested in architecture and I don’t know that much about it, but just enjoying the feeling of being surrounded by old buildings. You don’t need to know how to read music to be able to enjoy a concert, right?

 

So this is my list of 10 things that I miss about Spain. Despite all the differences I’m still really happy that I came here, and I have learned not to focus on the differences but to enjoy this new country (for me) as the place that it is (at least most of the time lol). I am planning on doing another one with things that I love about the US (now that I’ve been living here for a couple of years), so stay tuned!

Do you live outside your home country? What things do you miss the most? Let me know in the comments, via Twitter or mail! 🙂

5 Things I Love About Chicago

It’s been a while since I shared any of my travels on here so I thought today would be a good day. I haven’t traveled in a while and I can feel the urge of planning a trip or going somewhere for the weekend. But that is going to have to wait a little longer.

So, even if it’s not the same, I try to get rid of that wanderlust for a moment by thinking of past trips. Or cities that I’ve been to and that I loved. Like Chicago.

20 Things I Love About Chicago.jpg

The first time that I went to the Windy City was in August 2014. Since my plan was to stay in the US for just a year, I knew for sure that I had to visit Chicago. And it had to be during the warmer months, as I don’t deal very well with cold weather.

Me holding a HUGE Hershey's bar

I went with a couple of friends for a long weekend and we were going to places nonstop. We stayed in a hotel near the airport, which isn’t the most comfortable thing when you visit a city, but the hotel was great (good price too) and Chicago is a well connected city by metro and buses.

I also went on May 2015 (a crazy super short trip) and I enjoyed every minute in the city.

The things that I love the most about Chicago are:

  • It’s a very easy city to walk around. When I go to a new city I love to walk to places if I can. It is more interesting and you can discover buildings, shops and special spots that you would have missed otherwise. I also have a better idea of where everything is situated if I walk around and see the “surface” than going by metro. Chicago offers that, with nice sidewalks. And you actually see people walking in the streets! (I’ll do another post about things that surprised me when I first got to the US). If it wasn’t that cold in winter I would consider moving there.

N Wabash Ave. Pizzeria Uno

  • Disney Store. I don’t know how much time I spent in there, but I’m pretty sure that it seemed a lot to my husband. It is huge! And I’m like a kid lol

Disney Store in Chicago

  • The 360º view from the Hancock Building. You can stay up there as long as you want, and we went around sunset. A-MA-ZING. And I always like to try and see where everything is. “Look, our hotel!”, “There’s the Hershey’s store!”. Again, like a kid haha *picture is not good quality because my camera was pretty crappy at the time… I promise to update the pictures whenever I go back*

View from Hancock Building

  • The lake shore is a great place to walk, run, bike or just sit. It’s not as good as the beach shore, but it could perfectly be the second best option. The cycling path is 10-15 miles long.

Lake Michigan Shore

  • While walking around in downtown Chicago I loved to look up and be surrounded of skyscrapers. They make me feel pretty small, but I like how they don’t seem to have an end.

Skyscrappers in Chicago

Have you been to the Windy City? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like?