In Tuscany, A Traveler’s Dream Day (Part 2)

From Florence to San Gimignano, then to Siena – yes, this was just the start of an incredible travel day through some of Italy’s most beloved cities.

As I was saying in Part 1, Lucas and I had set off before 6am with a plan to see all that we possibly could in one day, and that meant not stopping. Sure I could have checked into my room and relaxed, gone for an evening stroll and dinner, met a friendly italian girl, who knows….but that was not the plan! This day was about travel and more travel!

Siena is superb. It’s an interesting city and one that unfortunately gets forgotten in the haste or necessity to visit Florence and then move on from Tuscany. But really, for anyone visiting Tuscany for more than 2 or 3 days, Siena is a perfect home base. Why? It’s the place you’ll want to explore and then, from time to time, hop onto a bus or train to venture out into the nearby wine towns which add much of the unfettered beauty of Tuscany’s terrain.

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With heavy bags and rain hoods up, we walked with purpose through Siena’s streets. In the distance we saw our target – a tower which stood out clear to all – the Duomo di Siena, (the Cathedral of Siena).

Walking quickly while trying to still take it all in, we could not help but notice the juxtaposition between modern vs. medieval. Everywhere the divide between present day and all that comes with it – electricity, wifi, mobile devices, and (sigh) Snapchat, could be seen against the backdrop of what once was a great city and a greatly important city for Italy.

Don’t get me wrong. Siena is beautiful and like most all of Tuscany, fully preserved. There is however something slightly unsettling about standing next to a cathedral built in something like the year 1215  and admiring a window to a previous world – then seeing a flashing green pharmacy sign and glass doors slide open as a fresh-faced tourist trots out with a Gatorade and Snickers bar in hand.

2:17pm 

The Piazza del Campo is a remarkable public square. It’s the center of the town, a landmark, a hangout, postcard ready, the meeting spot, and more. Definitely worth seeing during the day and at night. It also happens to hold one of the wildest horse races you’ve never been to, called the Palio di Siena.

For us, standing in the square was lovely but the rain was threatening.

With the rain picking up a few parse groups of tourists flashed their photos but Lucas and I opted for a celebratory beer at one of the covered tables along the square. A cold beer in hand, we bounced from story to story, recounting what we had seen and done the days before. When he asked, “And what will you do next?”. I replied slowly, first looking over the unfolded map and then the bus schedules, “Montalcino? For the wine I suppose”.

From Florence to San Gimignano, then to Siena – I had hit three incredible cities, and yet this was just the start. Montalcino was waiting.

2:48pm

We said goodbye with a quick hug and a smile, I grabbed my bag and took off in direction for my hotel for the evening. I needed to check in to my hotel and then try and make it to my bus in half an hour. I had to move quick!

3:04pm 

Check in time. I had reserved a well ranked room just off the main drag, maybe 10 minutes from the plaza, and after walking up the stairs, I took the quick tour with Francesco, the proprietor of this small 10-15 person hotel which felt much like a bed and breakfast. My room was a brilliant step up from the tiny hostel beds and cramped quarters in Florence, oh yes tonight I would sleep like a baby!

Time was working against the plan so I tossed my bag on the bed, pouring out all contents – rummaged around for a smaller bag and then bolted out the door for the next adventure of the day with a wave and a slam of the door.

3:35pm 

After some serious speed walking and even a semi-jog, of course, then a pit stop to grab a coffee and a panini for the road, I boarded the bus and reclined back with the tunes bumping from my ipod. Half asleep, I leafed through a guidebook and pamphlet to better understand what I would find in Montalcino.

The guidebooks talk and talk of the famous wine, Brunello di Montalcino, and so as the bus tumbled through beautiful countryside, racing against the slowly dipping sun, I took a swig of water and got ready for wine tasting.

4:14pm  

The town was incredible. Tucked up into the hillside, like a spire with a difficult to ascend staircase, the top was all mine.

Montalcino was quite and empty, clearly I had arrived weeks well before the tourist rush. The shops were open but unclogged with my wide-waisted fellow countrymen and roaming Europeans, I had open rein. The town was mine. Yes, for the afternoon I would stroll and snack, and wine taste in sweet, sweet solace!

After a quick, fortifying cappuccino and almond & orange pastry, I followed the signs up to a bell tower or something of the sort and just admired what a truly beautiful and isolated town I had found. Next to do was of course, sample some of the local wine.

With a great back story you can get away with almost anything. After mentioning, I was looking for a nice medium priced bottle of wine – to bring as a thank you present to my friend’s home the following day – I was previewed and offered tasty swigs of countless varieties and styles of regional wine. An American couple walked into the wine shop to find the owner pouring me, what must have been 8 or 9 different glasses of wine. The two of us hunched over like conspiring jewel thieves: inspecting each glass for any flaws, then sniffing and swirling wines. The couple looked around the and seemed to afraid to ask or sample so I broke in, made a comment or some sort of noise to get the introductory conversations going, and within moments, they joined in, drinking the wines and working up a nice buzz.

The rosso, a beloved staple, is a slightly spicy and young red wine which everyone in the town serves up for any occasion. It is sweet and sour and just seems to be the type of wine you would love to chug down while on a hilly hike or at any point with a nice hunk of bread and salami. Always after, I’d be given a sample of the Brunello, the older brother with an attitude. It’s made from the same grapes as the rosso, but it according to the rules, it must be aged 5 years and it takes on a powerful, grappa-like, kick. All that sitting and aging for 5 years brings the big Brunello all the way up to 15% or 16% alcohol.

After several different wine shops, without question, I was teetering near drunk and running low on energy. The sun was sinking fast towards the horizon, so I picked a bottle, paid the nice man, and briskly made my way to the bus stop.

I saw the American couple strolling by, we all hugged for unknown reasons to say goodbye (ah the Brunello!) and I curled up in my bus seat and listened to Volare and my italian bus mix.

An hour and a half later, the evening was approaching and Siena took on a whole new feel.

7:36pm

At my historic little bed and breakfast, I felt like a part of the Nobility, opening my wooden shutters to gaze out at the city and admire the evening. To prepare for the evening encore, a nice dinner with vin. I enjoyed a sudsy warm shower and then strolled the cold cobblestone streets with my hair slicked back and a good book tucked under my arm.

8:22pm

After a revitalizing, near arctic cold, evening stroll and a bit of window gazing,  I found myself back right near my hotel. Down a back alley, was an idyllic looking Trattoria restaurant with a welcoming yellow light out front. Entering, I had assumed the dinner hours were the same as in Spain, where I had been living for more than a year. Quite wrong. In fact it seemed, I was a bit later than most. A few tables were finishing dessert, one or two still eating a main, and the hostess sat me back in the corner to enjoy a nice quite meal.

I ordered the best pasta I’ve ever had, a simple pasta in puttanesca sauce – a salty mix of olive and caper taste, and washed it down with a couple of glasses of ripe Rosso. A tiramisu and an accompanying espresso to finish only seemed right.

10:13pm

Full and tipsy, I made my way around town like a Friar, belching and in search of a comfy place to lay my worn out body.

Back at my comfortable room, I flipped through italian TV (mostly black and white movies and strange news channels) and enjoyed 3 bottles of Moretti beer before passing out.

Looking back now, it was a wondrous day but what stands out is that I managed to see so many great cities and experience so much in one day.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that day through Tuscany may be the best travel day I have had…yet.

#keeptraveling

A Few Photos 

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In Tuscany, A Traveler’s Dream Day (Part 1)

FOR TRAVELERS AND VACATIONERS there’s a wide range of different ways available to describe a truly, great travel day.

Some dream of doing nothing and others dream of doing everything.

Yes, some dream of a day of utter nothingness, a day in which there is absolutely no stress, no movement, no effort, no…nothing. Imagine if you can, a no-fuss tropical resort, set on a perfect sandy beach with palm trees gently swaying in the breeze. This is the setting for a truly great vacation day. If we continue with the image, you can imagine yourself sprawled face down on a lounge chair, on this very beach, while three gorgeous women of varying ethnic backgrounds, gently (but not too gently) rub, tickle, and massage away at your tired flesh. Intermittently, a fourth beauty approaches to place a freshly made tropical drink by your side and see if you will be needing anything else. Then a simple smile on your part and the most effortless wave of the hand signals: “No, not right now. Everything is just fine…”

OK, that’s one type of vacation for sure – one where you do nothing and it feels oh-so-good. On most days, ask me what type of vacation I would you like and my answer will be…THAT!

Now, of course, there are other days and other ways.

I do love a real travel day and that’s what I’m going to ramble on about. Real days made of travel are complex: filled with all sorts of ups and downs and packed with action, stress, and accomplishment. Yes, I’m talking about early wake ups, running for trains and buses, map folding and unfolding, photo snapping, conversations with strangers, (one of my favorites), getting lost, getting in and out of trouble, finding a tucked away cafe or secret tavern, and much, much more. That’s a real traveler’s dream day.

I had one such day while hopping towns in Tuscany and it went something like this.

5:53 AM – Waking up early is dreadful and should never happen, unless you’re traveling. That’s what I told myself at least, springing out of bed and packing with my eyes still closed – savoring darkness for a few more moments. Bag packed. Hostel bed made (sort of). I jumped into the shower and stepped out 5 minutes later a new man. Then it was a coffee and quick planning with my travel companion for the day, Lucas. Sitting huddled over our free little hostel breakfast, at an hour when no one else was awake, we made hurried plans in whispered voices.

I had met Lucas two days before in Florence at our hostel. Really it was more of a bed and breakfast. The point being, for the past two days we had strolled through the birthplace of the Renaissance, admired art, haplessly flirted with any and all girls crossing our path, and indulged in the region’s superb food and wine. Hailing from Argentina, he spoke Spanish with the italian-lilt I find relatively easy to understand (having studied in Buenos Aires for a debaucherous semester).

6:30 AM – Too early to function properly, our blank faces stared at the train schedule flashing and updating on the giant screens around the Santa Maria Novella train station. Finally, we found our train. Good ole train #1.

We boarded, sat down, and sighed ooooof…what a relief. Then, then we heard murmurs of concern, scrambled italian conversations, and then Lucas picked up the jist of it – this train was not going where we needed to be going. WRONG TRAIN!

We spun out of the train and sprinted back to the main platform, scanning back and forth, another train marked #1A was getting ready to depart. Frantic, sweaty, hungover and puffy faced, we made a mad dash for it and entered the cabin with such force that all fellow passengers looked at us as if we had just barged into a movie theatre, flicked on all of the bright lights, and frenched their sister. Awkward. But nothing a traveler is not accustomed to.

After the train pulled away, we relaxed and enjoyed the ride to a town named, Poggibonsi. We got off, had a coffee and waited 20 minutes for the next local bus to carry us up into the hilltops to see the spires and sweeping views offered by the famous little town of, San Gimignano.

8:42 AM – Amazing town. One of Italy’s finest little day trips. San Gimignano is an exquisite little town straight out of a fairy tale – so whimsical and so cute, one can easily imagine Pinterest users happily adding photo after photo to their little happy page.

Set in the beautiful, rolling hills of Tuscany, this town clearly has served as a fortress in another life. The narrow cobblestone streets weave through the walled city with tall, towering spires and vantage points – one can imagine these lookouts and towers were just perfect for spotting an oncoming attack, crapping oneself, and then silently diving off like an Olympic champion.

During the summer months, when all of Tuscany is under siege by tourists, this town can be jam-packed and sweltering in the sun. However, on this day the town was ours and so we made our way around effortlessly, strolling the entire, cobblestone town, in less than an hour.

At one point we stopped at a tiny deli and opted for a pre-noon picnic lunch of salami and cheese sandwiches, olives, and a cold birra (because it’s good for you), then exited the town through it’s enormous front door and found ourselves at the bus stop moments before the one we needed to take lumbered our way.

Bored and with little to do for the 20 minutes or so, we, for unknown reasons, began to hum the song, Volare. Perhaps it was a joke from the evening before? But bottle after bottle of the regions earthy, chianti clasico made remembering too difficult. Regardless, the song would stick with us for the rest of the day and we whenever the moment seemed right, we’d launch into humming and singing, Volare! Woah oh oh, Volare! Woah oh oh, VOLARE!

With one great day-trip under our belt, we boarded the bus, kicked back and plugged in our music (Volare was cued up on repeat).

Sights of San Gimignano 

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12:07 PM – Next up, the famous city of Siena. Measuring the route on a crumpled map of Tuscany, it was clear to see, from Florence, we had traveled the majority of the way and the trip to San Gimignano had taken us almost to Siena, and now we roughly a 30 minute bus ride to Siena.

Perhaps it was all the tower climbing, perhaps it was the breakfast beer, but I passed out on the bus and awoke with sticky contacts in my eyes and a bit of drool forming in the corner of my mouth. With a forceful courtesy wipe and smack to the face I was starting to wake up, then the view from the bus window of Siena got my full attention. There’s nothing quite like the rush you get as you arrive to a new destination – a place you’ve heard is great and full of things of interest – but it’s all unknown and brand new. When the bus lurched to a final stop, I smacked Lucas with the map and we grabbed our bags and stepped out into a slight drizzle with a new city to explore.

Let’s go!

Siena

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Siena is a beauty. You will like Siena and it may be better than Florence. Bold words, but after exploring Siena, you’ll at least understand the rivalry with Florence and see why people make this claim.

Yes, for hundreds of years Florence and Siena have been rivals – fighting to be the true center of Tuscany. Even if you do not agree, everyone enjoys walking the center of Siena and snapping a photo in the shell-shaped town center known as the Piazza del Campo, home of the unique horse race, Il Palio.

1:30pm ??? 

Want to hear what we did next? Post a comment below or let us know on Twitter @TakeYaThere

TO BE CONTINUED….

Back from Vacation (An Update for All)

Yes, I’m back from a long, long break and I’m back from vacation. Typically during a vacation I’ll try to mix all the fun and kicking back with a bit of sightseeing, exploring, and investigating – all in an effort so that I can then say, “go here”, “try this, or “oh god no, do not order that!” But this was no ordinary vacation and alas, I did none of the legwork one would expect from a self-proclaimed travel writer.

Now, this is not to say I did not eat well (I did) or explore (I was up and down the gulf coast of Florida), but you see, my mind was elsewhere….so let me explain myself and then get back to all the travel guides, tips, and stories you would expect to find at Take Ya There.

So what have I been up to?

Well my teaching contract in Madrid, Spain has now come to an end and it’s time for the next adventure. As a wise man once said, “There’s always a right time to leave a party”. That piece of advice is apt and true and yet it somehow doesn’t grasp the gravity situation. I’ve left a country I love.

But the good news is I’ve moved to another place I also love, the Bay Area in California. Perhaps it’s the perfect, refreshing summer weather, the laid-back and cosmopolitan feel, or maybe the fact there’s more restaurants and bars serving the best from across the globe, but whatever it is, I do love the area and I’ll have no problem diving back in and exploring, live from the USA.

After the school year ended, I traveled to London and did the touristy things (hey it was my first time), and then sat by the pool for a month in tropical Florida.

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Book + Beer + Pool = Vacation  

For someone who travels and writes, it’s no stretch to say I know I’ll be back to Spain soon. So until the next time, Spain, and take care Madrid!

Now it’s time to get back to the writing and “blogging” the readers at Take Ya There seem to enjoy.

Back from Italy, First Thoughts (and Pictures)

Oh yes I’m back in Madrid and it’s good to be back, but still…I kind of miss Italy.

You see, the past 9 days I’ve been meandering through Tuscany and Central Italy and it was just awesome. Here in Spain, the holy week known as Semana Santa is one full week of no school, no work, and no problems. Almost everyone has plans or somewhere to visit: those religiously inclined will often depart for Sevilla, Spain or Rome, Italy for the holy processions and events, while those who desperately need sunshine will often jet off to the Canary Islands for warm rays. Those who seek adventure, who seek a new experience, simply roll the dice and pick a new destination. Last year I teamed up with a good friend as we explored Istanbul, Turkey and this year was only slightly different. After scanning all travel deals I opted for a flight from Madrid to Bologna, Italy, where I then took a succession of trains and buses – plotting my course through Tuscany to Siena, finally boarding a bus in route to a small town east of Perugia called Caccamo. Yes you’re not alone. No one has heard of Caccamo. Not even the bus driver.

From there a good friend picked me up and took me to his sprawling home in the outskirts of San Severino Marche, a beautiful and historic little italian town you’ve never been to (but you’ll hear about in forthcoming articles).

So while I unpack and unload, rethink and review, here’s a quick list I compiled based on scribbled notes, iphone reminders, crumpled maps, and snapshots.

Things I saw (just a few of them):

The David by Michelangelo (I know I know you’re not supposed to take pictures)

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Grieve in Chianti, Italy

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Tuscany, Italy (on bike)
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Florence, Italy

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Siena, Italy (Argentinean friend and yours truly)

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San Gimignano

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San Severino Marche

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Food I Ate:

Best Pizza. Ever. Pizza Calabrese.

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Best Pasta. Ever. Pasta alla Puttanesca. 

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Meatballs cooked with a broth and peas. Good? Hmmm not so much.

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Wine I Drank:

Chianti Classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Brunello di Montalcino (a whole lot of really expensive “tastes”)

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Things I Heard:

“Oh my god, like thanks for dressing up for this flight. You’re wearing what I go to sleep in. Eeeeeeeew”.  – American girl in airport line, making fun of another girl (likely American) wearing sweatpants and hooded sweatshirt

“Food is…is…bery bery important!” It matters. Take your time. Enjoy your food.” – Drunk Argentinian

“You YOU must go to carnival in Brazil. Man it will change your life and teach you how to live. You’ll wake up the first day and feel like you are dead. Bery dead. But you can not rest. You can not go for, like a fuckin’ coffee or something like this. NO you must get up and get back out there. Take a shot of some good Cachaça. Drink a beer quick and go find the party. You do this each day and it…it…is amazing.” – Same Drunk Argentinian (before he stood up, kissed everyone in sight and wished them the best, then regressed to his bedroom for what appeared to be a bit of much needed rest).

“It’ll fit. It’ll fit!!!” – Angry traveler forced to mash all belongings so that his bag “fits” into the wire frame used to check the carry on bag size before boarding the plane.

People I Met:

An Argentinean (not the drunk one), he served as travel partner for 3 days and hopefully we will keep in touch.

Nicest couple ever. They own a great little hostel in Florence. Will be sure to include them in future article.

An American girl from Minnesota who “forgot her wallet” at a fancy dinner 3 friends and I had invited her too. She noticed as the bill arrived. Then paid me back the next day in coins. Grazie mille!

An old italian man who owned a winery up on top of a giant hill. I rode my bike up to the front door in hopes of tasting wine. He told me they were closed for winter and opened in two weeks. Then he pointed at different hills and views, spoke for 15 minutes, and finally waved goodbye blowing kisses as if I was an old friend (or as if I understood Italian).

A quite unpleasant hotel manager in Bologna (presumably French). When I asked for dining recommendations he told me there was a pizza place across the street and gave a back handed wave as if he was being bothered by a rather persistent fly. ¡Que te den!

Things I Learned:

Flying Ryanair is truly awful. You’ll feel like you’re cattle or traveling in steerage, you’ll hate it, oh you’ll hate it! You’ll stand in line for an hour just because everyone else is doing it, you’ll stuff things in your pockets, down in your pants, and worse (all in the hopes your measly 1 carry on bag fits). At the end of it all you’ll hate the flight but you will, undoubtedly arrive on time, sprint of the plane, and then attempt to forever forget that terrible event as you enjoy your destination. And the next time you fly? You’ll buy with Ryanair 1.) Because it’s cheap 2.) They landed on time.

People in Italy speak remarkably good english (or just much better than those in Spain). And the tourism/customer service industry is, well, seemingly slightly more concerned with your experience.

When you tell people in Italy you’re from Seattle, they assume you know Amanda Knox. And wether or not she’s guilty.

Wine tasting while having rented a bike can be great fun. Reaching a warm and giggly, border-line drunk, while riding a bike down steep cobblestone-streets can become hazardous to your health.

All that you hear about italian food being amazing, delicious, and out-of-this-world is true. It’s fresh, incredibly simple, and different than anything you’ve ordered in the States. For example, I asked if meatballs and pasta are ever served together on the same plate and was told, defiantly, “NO”! So now you know. But if you live in Spain, the food is similar in many ways.

Italy is incredibly beautiful and the people are warm, charming, and kind.

Traveling is fun and one of the best ways you can possibly spend you’re time (but I already knew this).

#keeptraveling

Planning the Trip – Central Italy

It’s been ages since I’ve left a proper blog post (probably because I don’t much like writing like this) but here’s the update. Semana Santa or the holy week is fast approaching and here in Spain, everyone takes of for somewhere nice. Usually somewhere outside of Spain because the local lore holds that the weather in Spain is always, always awful during this week.

Last year I went to Turkey and loved it. This year? It’s Italy and I’m looking forward to it. The only problem is planning this thing. Some say planning a trip is all the fun, others hate it.

Well, at this point the fun part is ancient history and I’ve reached the tipping point. Like a scene with Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, I’ve got maps, newspapers, books, pamphlets, guides, etc., all lying scattered on my desk, the floor, taped to the walls, and open suitcases, bags, duffels, clothes, knives, flashlights, a whistle (I worked at a summer camp), scissors, towels, sunglasses, enough Apple chargers and plugs to convince anyone I’m an electronics smuggler, locks, keys, shoes that don’t match, a sleeping bag, and other random artifacts. And this alarming heap of stuff isn’t all.

I’ve got about 25 windows open on my computer and I’m clicking back and forth like a frantic lab rat races in his wheel. Reading reviews, stories, and staring at google maps trying to piece it all together. The problems are varied and relatively benign: 1) I want to visit everywhere in Italy but only have 3 days 2) I don’t like planning 3) I really really don’t like planning.

Normally I would leave it to the travel gods, assuming things will work out (because they always do). I’d arrive at my landing point – Bologna – and then from there just wing it. Ask around, grab a map, and get on a bus to…anywhere. But the problem is my real plan is to meet up with a good friend closer to Ancona or Tolentino (somewhere on the eastern coast of Italy) so I’ve got to make it to Siena, eventually hopping a bus to Caccamo.

In the meantime I’ve got 3 days to explore Tuscany. Florence, the home of the Renaissance, a definite must. But after that, the maps and travel guides show 5,6,7…15 towns that looks intriguing, medieval, rustic, and wine-filled. So how am I to pick?

The biggest difficulty I’m finding is that purchasing tickets for a bus or train in Italy inspire absolutely zero confidence. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It feels at times that I might as well just send a quick email to all hackers and e-thieves: please take all my personal info and banking numbers, please enjoy! Cheerio!

The websites are confusing, minimalist, strikingly Italian – flashing lights, Green, White, and Red flags, moving images, pages which don’t load properly, don’t fit the screen, music that randomly appears and then disappears. While not quite as discomforting as say a Turkish website, these webpages just don’t seem legit.

But alas, what else am I to do?

Refusing to purchase even the most important of train tickets is tempting but there’s one image that is keeping me from this refreshing, go-with-the-flow mentality. I’m standing at an empty bus stop office as the scary ticket man with poor dental care shakes his head and then inexplicably smiles at me and waves a finger to and fro. He’s signaling that there are no buses leaving and I’m in essence, f***ed. The dusty dirt bus stop is now cold and desolate and the last remaining streetlight is flickering on and off. Several moths frantically attack the failing lamp, and then, just like my hopes of catching a bus, the light flickers and dies. The moths scatter, and I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.

No, I think I’ll go ahead and try to buy this bus ticket online. And hope that my bank account is not completely siphoned come tomorrow to the utter excitement of several Italian bandits, feasting on delicacies and tipping generously, all using my hard earned teaching salary.

We’ll see.

#keeptraveling

USA or Bust! A Holiday Recap

Well after a much needed and thoroughly enjoyed 3 week vacation, I’m back to work, back to writing, and back to Madrid.

Christmas time in Florida is always a little strange: it never quite feels, well Christmasy, but this year I was not going to complain with the chance to enjoy a bit of warm weather, a few rounds of golf, and some family time. Of course I also successfully smuggled in a large packet of sliced jamón ibérico (suck it TSA) and felt obliged to whip up some spanish specialties: the menu included a sample of jamón ibérico, aspargus wrapped in jamón ibérico, an egg scramble with potatoes and green peppers (in spanish: huevos rotos) and a caprese salad.

One of the first things I was sure to do when I got back to the USA was to load up on anything and everything spicy! One thing you might not realize about the Spanish is that they hate spice. They hate it! I mean they really really hate it. Hate it like Paula Dean hates veggies. Yes, even the slightest whiff of spice, or the gentlest hint of a burning sensation, will often send a Spaniard into a bizarre (and quite amusing) downward spiral of swearing, air-fanning, and forceful crying as they blare, “Oooooh que pica!”, in the girliest of ways.

Suffice it to say, I ate a lot of Thai food. My favorite hands down.

I also struck gold when it came to Christmas presents – raking in a new iphone, a jacket, and plenty of socks.

During my trip home to the United States I was also able to jaunt off to San Francisco for 5 days and slurp oysters, say hi to old friends, and more than anything else, kick back and relax.

Below you’ll find some photos from my trip in the United States…stay tuned for more travels as I’m back in Madrid and ready to take on Europe. Next stops may include: Portugal, Italy, and Croatia.

– Keep Traveling

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