24 Quotes to Inspire You to Pack Your Bags and Travel the World

This post is from my new website, The Seasoned Travelr. If you like this blog, you’ll also enjoy my more recent posts! Happy travels!

Traveling has been my one true passion in life. It keeps you on your toes, forces you to open your eyes and see the world from a different perspective, and accept things as they come. It also reminds you about what truly matters in life – the people you surround yourself with and the joy that comes from living in the moment.

It is so easy to get swept away in the routine of things and, before you know it, weeks, months or even years have passed by, and you have nothing to show for it. I’ve heard so many people in my life saying “Yeah, I’ll go travel, but first I need to __________.” But once you accomplish whatever that is, then there’s always another obstacle, another goal. That’s human nature.

But if you keep putting it off, one day you’ll wake up realizing that you missed your opportunity. Sure, perhaps you can go traveling once you’ve saved up a lot of money or are retired, but will those experiences be the same as if you had gone while you were still young and able-bodied? Traveling takes courage, especially if you want to do it long-term. But it is worth it.

I spent my first two years abroad making next to nothing, and yet I visited 10 new countries and met some amazing people along the way, including my husband. I will hold these memories forever in my heart, and I look forward to exploring the world even more – there’s still so much left to see! Each country I visit teaches me something new, both about the world and about myself, and these experiences and lessons are invaluable – I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

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So, what are you waiting for? Read through some of my favorite travel quotes to motivate you to take the plunge and live your life the way you’ve always wanted it to be!

  1. “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

  2. “Man is born to live, not to prepare to live.” – Boris Pasternaaway-3024773_1920

  3. “I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.’ – Rosalia de Castro

  4. “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Jennifer Lee

  5. “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” – John Steinbeck

  6. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzunature-3122169_1920

  7. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

  8. “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

  9. “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

  10. “Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.” – Paolo Coelho

  11. “Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” – Lawrence Block

  12. “Unexpected travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

  13. “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac

  14. “During the first period of a man’s life the greatest danger is not to take the risk.” – Soren Kierkegaard

  15. “I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson

  16. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener

  17. “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” – Douglas Adams

  18. “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

  19. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

  20. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

  21. “The difference between a tourist and a traveler is that a tourist doesn’t know where he’s been and a traveler doesn’t know where he’s going.”

  22. “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Thoreau

  23. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Sheddsea-67911_1920

  24. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Do you have any other quotes that inspire you? Share them below! I’d love to hear about all of your experiences!

Happy travels! I hope this inspired you to work towards the things that truly matter in life. Your happiness is the most important thing in this world – go find it.

This post is from my new website, The Seasoned Travelr. If you like this blog, you’ll also enjoy my more recent posts! Happy travels!

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How to NOT Spend Your Life Savings on Travel Accommodations

This post is from my new website, The Seasoned Travelr. If you like this blog, you’ll also enjoy my more recent posts! Happy travels!

Traveling can be expensive. Like, crazy expensive. Especially if you don’t do your research. People ask me all of the time how I’ve managed to travel around the world, and assume that I must be getting some type of financial help – but that’s not the case.

I’ve learned how to travel smart, and I’ve made it work for me. My first two years working in Spain I was only making 300 euros a month (pathetic, I know)… and yet I visited 10 countries during that time. 

One of the most expensive parts of traveling is the cost of where you’ll sleep – which, to me, is the least important part of the trip. Sure, if you’re on your honeymoon or on a romantic getaway, it can be nice to have a lovely room or apartment to stay in because you’ll be spending a lot of time there. But if you’re like me, when I travel to a new city or country, I try to stay out of my room as much as possible so that I can really get to know the area. I literally am only there to sleep. So why does it matter if the room is fantastic?

Of course, each person is different. Some people require higher levels of comfort and a minimum number of stars with a brand name hotel or resort. If that’s you, perhaps this article isn’t for you.

But, if you’re looking for some good ways to save money, and aren’t super picky with your accommodations (don’t get me wrong, you can still find super nice places to stay using my advice below), you can save a lot of money using the following sites:

1. Find amazing rooms or even entire apartments on Airbnb.

This is definitely my go-to site whenever I’m planning a trip. If you spend some time comparing your options, you can almost always find a cheap yet clean and sometimes even super stylish room or apartment in your city of choice (sometimes even better than a hotel!).

It isn’t always the cheapest option available, but you have to evaluate your needs on every trip and see if a little bit of extra money is worth it for you. It becomes even more affordable if you travel with friends or family, because you can share the cost (be careful that when you make a reservation, you say exactly how many people will be staying there, the cost can sometimes change a bit depending on the number of people).

When I was traveling alone or with a friend or two, I’d generally find a cheap hostel to stay in (see #2 below) because I didn’t need anything fancy and it was a great way to meet fellow travelers. When my now-husband then-boyfriend and I began traveling together, we’d pitch in a little bit of extra money and get a private room using Airbnb, and then realized it would only be slightly more money to have an entire apartment to ourselves. Now that is the only way we travel.

If you opt to only rent a room in someone’s house, you need to keep in mind that the owner/family will probably be there a lot of the time, and you need to be respectful of their space and property. I’ll admit that a couple of the times we stayed in a room, we felt a little bit awkward or as if we were walking on eggshells around the rest of the family. Don’t get me wrong, all of our experiences were lovely and we met a lot of great hosts, but you have to bear this in mind before you go. If you’re looking to party or stay up late, Airbnb is not for you.

Another bonus of Airbnb is that it is quite common to have access to a kitchen, and this can save you a lot of money as well. You can go to the grocery store and buy food items for breakfast, snacks, etc and have a fridge to keep things cool. But, of course, for me half of the fun is going out to different restaurants and cafes, so this isn’t a useful addition for some travelers.

Pros:

  • cheap
  • comfortable
  • can have an entire apartment to yourself
  • kitchen, so you can save money and cook for yourself
  • sometimes you have access to washing machines/dryers
  • you can get some good advice and ideas on things to do from a local person (your host)

Cons:

  • if you opt for a room, you don’t have as much privacy
  • can be a little more expensive than other options
  • you’re staying in someone’s house/apartment, and therefore need to treat it with more care and respect than if you were staying in a hostel/hotel
  • it isn’t as easy to meet other travelers

If you decide to try out Airbnb for the first time, sign up here. You will get a 25 euro travel credit to go on your first trip! You can sign in with Facebook, Google or another email. You need to provide a photo, an “about me” and some verification of your identity (such as your passport or ID). It may seem a little strange at first, but it makes sense – if you stay in a hostel or a hotel, they also need to see ID. It is super simple to sign up, and you can start searching for places to stay right away!

2. Stay in a hostel.

If you’re from Europe, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking “well, duh.” It is super common for young people to stay in hostels throughout Europe because they’re super cheap and you can find them in abundance in almost every city. But if you’re a fellow American, this might be slightly out of your comfort zone – we don’t even really have hostels in America, and those that I’ve seen were awful and overpriced. Then add on top of that the 3 “Hostel” horror movies… it’s enough to make you swear off ever staying in a hostel.

I remember I was terrified of staying in a hostel for the first time (read about my experience on my old blog here). In fact, my first experience wasn’t fantastic, but hey… it was eye opening. But hey, at least I didn’t die (movie reference)! You just have to be prepared for it, especially if it is your first time. Check out my tips for first-timers at a hostel here (coming soon).

Hostels are especially great if you’re travelling with friends. For example, if you are traveling with 3 other friends, it is super common for hostels to have a room with 4 beds, so you can reserve all 4 and in that way you don’t have to worry about sharing a room with strangers. To be safe, always email the hostel to be clear that you want all 4 beds together, in the same room!

Staying in a hostel can also be a good option for solo travelers, because it helps you meet people. They often hold events or tours so that you can get to know other travelers, or even organize outings together so that you don’t feel so alone. I’ve met a lot of great people this way!

Pros:

  • almost always one of the cheapest accommodations available
  • sometimes there is breakfast included (or for a very small fee)
  • there’s generally many hostel options available in every city
  • they can provide you maps and other useful information
  • they often hold social events and tours

Cons:

  • not a lot of privacy
  • sometimes not the cleanest or most comfortable (always check reviews!)
  • you never know who you’ll be stuck in a room with, and sometimes people aren’t very considerate
  • noise from roommates or nearby rooms

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If you decide to stay in hostels, I recommend the sites HostelWorld and Hostels.com. I’ve used both of these sites many times, and find it very useful when comparing various hostels. They make it easy to compare prices and reviews, and to visualize where in the city they are located.

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3. Find locally owned hotels.

If you have a little bit of extra money to spare and want more comfort/privacy, you can stay in a local hotel. These hotels are generally cheaper than big, name-brand hotels and resorts but can still offer the same comfort. It is also very common for them to provide breakfast and tours.

My favorite website for booking hotels is Booking.com! They make it easy to compare prices, reviews, and amenities, and have discounts all the time. If you’re planning your trip last minute, they often provide even more discounts! If you’re planning your trip more in advance, they generally offer free cancellation 24 hours in advance and don’t charge you until you arrive, which can be nice in case your plans change. It is free to sign up.

Pros:

  • comfortable
  • private
  • cheaper than big brand hotels
  • often provide breakfast, maps, tours, airport shuttles, etc
  • easy to book (and cancel, if need be)
  • amenities (if you’re lucky a pool, restaurant, etc)

Cons:

  • more expensive than a hostel

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4. Try out couchsurfing.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can find free accommodations on CouchSurfing.com. Yes, I said free. This option definitely isn’t for everyone, though. The idea of the site is for local people who have extra space in their homes (whether that be a couch or extra bed) to invite travelers to come and stay with them for free. These are generally people who enjoy meeting people from other cultures and who enjoy exchanging stories and advice.

If you’re staying in a place for more than a couple days and would like to see and learn about the city from a local’s perspective, this is a great option. But if you’re only staying for a day or two and plan to be out exploring all day, perhaps you’re better off paying for a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb. Hosts on CouchSurfing don’t like to be treated like a hotel, and are generally only offering you a place to stay in exchange for some quality company.

Of course, you also have to feel confident and be smart about staying with strangers. I’ve personally never done this option, but not because I haven’t tried (hosts just weren’t available during the times I was travelling). If you’re a carefree, easygoing spirit, give it a try and let me know how it goes for you! I’ve had friends who have done this and said it was one of their favorite travel experiences, so definitely don’t knock it until you try it.

Pros:

  • free
  • great way to meet people
  • local’s perspective and advice

Cons:

  • security
  • sometimes can be difficult to find a willing host during specific dates
  • you have to expect to spend time with your host, not just crash on their couch and leave

Have you used any of these types of accommodations? Which is your favorite? Have you tried any other websites or options that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know! Leave your comments here or on my new website, The Seasoned Travelr. Good luck on your journey!

Happy travels!

12 Tips for Staying in a Hostel

This post is from my new website, The Seasoned Travelr. If you like this blog, you’ll also enjoy my more recent posts! Happy travels!

Are you traveling to Europe on a budget, but feeling a bit uneasy about staying in a hostel? Don’t worry! There’s a first time for everything, and if you go in prepared and knowing what to expect, you’ll come out having enjoyed or even loved staying in a hostel!

In Europe, it is super common for people (especially young people) to stay in hostels – it is simply one of the cheapest options. Sometimes you’ll even find entire families travelling together in this way! But if you’re from America or another country where hostels basically don’t even exist, it is natural to have fears and feel uncomfortable about staying in a room with a bunch of strangers.

However, there is nothing to be afraid of. Fellow travelers are generally kind and trustworthy – they’re in the same situation as you, after all. You might even find yourself making some new friends!

Before deciding whether or not to stay in a hostel, you have to ask yourself a couple of questions, and be honest with yourself:

1. Are you a super light sleeper?

Hostels can be noisier than other accommodations for a lot of reasons, and if you’re the type of person who needs complete silence in order to sleep well, you might have some difficulties. But, if you’re the average person, it is nothing some ear plugs (& general travel exhaustion) can’t solve! See Tip #8.

2. Do you require a high level of comfort?

Since hostels are cheap to stay in, you can’t expect a world-class mattress or bathroom. Sometimes the beds aren’t the comfiest, and perhaps the bathrooms aren’t as nice or as spacious as you’d like. For many travelers, this isn’t a problem, especially since they won’t be spending a lot of time in the hostel itself. But if you’re used to a certain level of comfort or style, perhaps you should opt for an Airbnb or hotel.

3. Are you super messy?

Since you’re sharing a room and bathroom with other people, it is important to keep your things tidy. Don’t leave your clothes and towels all over the place, don’t leave your suitcase in the middle of the floor, don’t leave trash out, clean up after yourself, and don’t leave your toiletries or personal items in the common areas. If you don’t think this is possible for you, a hotel might be a better option.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, perhaps you’d be better off spending a little bit more money on an Airbnb or hotel. Read more about your other options here.

Did you say no to the 3 questions? Well, great! That means you’re a good candidate for having a pleasurable experience in a hostel! Follow these tips to make your first experience a pleasant one:

1. Bring the bare minimum.

Travel light, and don’t bring valuables with you. Most people who stay in hostels are super respectful and trustworthy (they’re in the same situation as you, after all), but you never know who you will find. Also, there’s generally not a lot of space in the rooms, so don’t be a typical American traveler with a giant suitcase (I failed on this one my first time round – read about it on my old blog, here).

Always carry your passport and money with you, even to bed. I’d recommend buying one of those under-the-shirt pouches that you can wear around your neck and underneath your pajamas. It might seem a little extreme, but it is well worth it for the comfort of mind. I wasn’t as prepared my first time at a hostel, and I ended up sleeping while hugging my purse like a n00b.

2. Find a room with the least # of people/beds possible.

Some hostels have rooms with upwards of 16 beds, which can be quite overwhelming to walk into on your first time. If possible, choose a room with 2-4 beds. Even better – if you’re traveling with friends, find a room in which all of you can fit and you won’t have to deal with strangers in your room!

Also, pay attention to whether the room is male/female only, or if it is co-ed. This information should be shown clearly before you reserve. One option isn’t better than the other, but if it is your first time, you might feel more comfortable in a single-sex room.

3. Bring shower essentials.

Find out if the hostel provides towels, and whether it is free or for an extra charge. Sometimes it is only 1-2 euros to rent a towel, and it can be worth it so that you don’t have to find room in your luggage for a space-consuming towel. My first time at a hostel I had no idea about this, and I ended up having to air dry – talk about unpleasant!

Also bring with you some travel sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. You can generally find these at any beauty or drug store for cheap. Some hostels provide at least soap, but not of very good quality. Along the same lines, if you generally use a hair-dryer, it is a good idea to find out if the hostel provides these for you so that you don’t have to bring your own.

Last but not least, bring sandals to use in the shower!

4. Find out if they provide breakfast, and what hours it is served.

Sometimes they’ll charge you a little extra, but it can be worth it if they provide a good breakfast (check the reviews on the hostel, there are usually comments about it). It is also a good way to meet fellow travelers if you’re on you’re own or just looking to meet new people. However, if the reviews for breakfast are so-so or meh, and they charge you over 5 euros for it, sometimes it is better just to find a nearby cafe (not to mention more authentic!).

5. Ask reception if they have any events.

It is super common, especially in bigger cities, for hostels to organize trivia nights, pub crawls, city tours, or provide dinner on certain nights. These aren’t always worth checking out, but sometimes they can be fun and informative. Many times when I was travelling alone I would go on the pub crawls or city tours so that I could meet other people.

6. See if they provide lockers and, if so, if they provide the locks.

It can be worth it for your peace of mind to invest in a lock so that you can keep some of your things in the room while you’re off exploring the city.

7. Understand kitchen and common room etiquette.

If you cook or eat in either of these areas, make sure to clean up after yourself. This should be common sense, but some people can be super rude and leave their dirty dishes and trash all over the place. It isn’t a hotel, so  you have to clean up after yourself. Also, if you see food or drinks in the cupboards or fridge, do not take it unless it is clear that the hostel is providing it for all guests! And if you bring your own food/drinks, be sure to write your name on them before leaving them in the common areas.

8. Bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper.

Staying in a hostel is a little like a lottery in that you don’t know who you’ll be rooming with (unless you have a room to yourself with friends). People snore, toss and turn in their sleep, or come back to the room late after a night of partying. For some people, this is no problem – they can sleep through an earthquake. But for others like me, especially when in a new environment, it can be difficult to sleep with all of those foreign noises.

In order to get a good (or at least decent) night’s sleep, invest in some quality earplugs so you don’t wake up every 10 minutes. Just be sure that you have a reliable method to wake up in the morning in case you don’t hear your alarm!

9. Find out if they provide sheets, or if you need to bring your own.

Many hostels have the beds already made up with sheets, pillows and whatnot, but other hostels expect you to bring your own or rent them. Be sure to find out this information beforehand to be safe. Sometimes people prefer to bring their own sheets anyways so that they know for sure that everything is clean to their liking, but this can take up precious space in your luggage.

Also, upon check-in, find out if the hostel has any special requirements for check-out. Sometimes they expect you to remove the sheets from the bed yourself and put them in the laundry room, for instance.

10. If possible, reserve a bottom bunk.

When reserving your space in a hostel, sometimes they give you the option of choosing top or bottom bunk. Being on the top bunk can be kind of fun, helping you relive childhood memories, but it can also be a sad reminder of the fact that you’re just not as young as you used to be. Sometimes the bunks aren’t very well constructed and it can be quite difficult to maneuver your way up the ladder, and also quite loud. If you’re planning to stay out having some drinks late into the night, it can be quite a challenge to try to quietly and gracefully make your way up to your bunk. Proceed with caution.

Also, when on the bottom bunk, you have the space underneath the bed to keep some of your things (non-valuable) so that they are out of sight and out of people’s way. And perhaps most importantly, bottom bunks are generally closer to outlets so that you can charge your phone, camera, etc – especially important while traveling! In some hostels outlets can be a rare commodity, which leads me to Tip #11.

11. Bring an external charger for your electronic devices.

This is not only good advice for staying in a hostel, but for traveling in general. We all rely on our electronics these days, and especially when traveling (never miss another photo!). Having an external charger gives you the peace of mind that even if you don’t find a much-needed outlet, you have a Plan B. As I mentioned in Tip #10, outlets can be a hot commodity in hostels – everyone needs them, and some of the older buildings don’t offer more than 1-2 per room. There was more than one occasion where I couldn’t charge my phone overnight because all outlets were in use, and I had to stay more time than intended in the morning to make sure my electronics could fully charge for the adventures ahead.

12. Be prepared for hot and cold.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have temperature issues. In the summer, I die of heat. In the winter, I continue to die of heat because everyone is blasting their heaters and I’m wearing winter attire because it’s 0 degrees outside. I remember one time in particular when I was in Berlin, my husband and I went into a restaurant to escape the cold and have a snack. The heat felt good at first, but within 10 minutes turned into torture. I was wearing big boots, thick socks, thick pants, and a sweatshirt because it was freezing outside. I took off everything I could without being inappropriate and I was still ridiculously uncomfortable.

The same thing happened when we were staying at a hostel in Prague. One of our roommates kept turning up the heat, and we had both come with warm pajamas and were sweating bullets. Bring layers, even if you’re traveling in winter, so that you can be comfortable no matter the temperature!

Do you have any other advice or experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Leave your comments here or on my new website, The Seasoned Travelr. Good luck on your journey!

Yes, I’m Still Alive – and I have a New, Updated Website!

So, life gets crazy sometimes, and during these moments, hobbies go by the wayside… which is what happened to this blog. I first created this to document my journey from California to Barcelona, from the visa process to the amazing experiences I’ve had, and it served mostly as an online journal and diary, along with a way to let family and friends back home know what I was up to. It slowly grew to become something more, and I realized just how much I loved writing about my experiences and planning out various trips.

A lot has happened since my last post here –

  • After 2 years of living in Barcelona, I moved back to California for a year
  • I’ve gotten married to an amazing Catalan man,
  • and now I’m back in beautiful Barcelona!

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I decided I missed writing and sharing my experiences, so I went back to read through all of my posts, and now I’m determined to get back into it! I’ve created my own website, The Seasoned Travelr. If you’ve enjoyed the articles on this blog, go on and check it out! I’ll be writing about similar things (travel experiences, city guides, food, traditions, etc) and adding a lot of new content in the months to come!

Here are the details of my new site:

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Hello! My name is Jessica, and welcome to my site, The Seasoned Travelr.

I am a travel and food enthusiast, and I’m always looking for new (and cheap) ways to explore the world and really delve into the culture of each country. So far I have had the privilege of visiting 26 countries (that’s 1 per year of my life!), and I look forward to adding many more in the not-so-distant future!

On this site, I will:

  • Write all about my travel experiences,
  • Post my travel guides,
  • Give tips for traveling like a pro,
  • Discuss local food and traditions from each country / city,
  • Post recipes to bring a little bit more of the world into your kitchen.

I hope you enjoy, and please, if you have any questions, comments, or personal experiences that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

 

10 Unexpected Things You’ll Learn as an Expat in Barcelona, Catalonia

I’m going on my second year living in beautiful Barcelona, obviously because I love it enough to stay. However, as any expatriate knows, there are certain cultural differences that you just have to get used to. Some are only slightly different than your own customs, and others catch you completely by surprise. There were some differences that I expected: obviously there would be different food (and I was super excited for it, the Mediterranean is world-renowned for it’s delicious and healthy food), the bars and clubs would be open later than in America (because the Spanish infamously party until sunrise), etc. But there were some things that most people just don’t associate with Catalan or Spanish people.

1. They are obsessed with pasta and pizza. 

Who isn’t though, right? But this is no joke. Sure, I had my fair share of pizza and pasta back in the states, but people LOVE it here. When I first arrived last year and moved in with my host family, they served a big plate of pasta for lunch. When I moved back to Catalonia last month and moved in with a different host family, what did they serve for the first meal? Pasta, of course.

Pasta Carbonara (Photo Cred: fotom.xyz)

Macaronis

And they really only have 2 varieties: “Macaronis” (normal rigatoni type noodles or the swirly kind) and Spaghetti Carbonara (white sauce with bacon). It isn’t common for families to use any other type of sauce, let alone order it in a restaurant. When they take their kids out for lunch and dinner, what do they order? Macaronis or Carbonara. Seriously. I don´t know about you, but when I thought of Spanish/Catalan culture, I did not expect that.

Cannellonis (Photo Cred: http://www.johnsonville.com)

They also have another variety of pasta that they call “Cannellonis.” It is basically lasagna noodles rolled enchilada style, stuffed with meat and cheese, and covered with a white sauce (bechamel) and more cheese.

Sounds super healthy, right? Like what you envisioned of a Mediterranean diet?

2. They eat sandwiches almost every day, but refuse to add more than one ingredient.

I know, I know… when you think of Spanish/Catalan culture, you automatically think of sandwiches. Oh, no? You never associated it with sandwiches? You’re not alone. I work in a school, and also live with a host family. I see what the kids and even parents eat every day. And honest to God, it is sandwiches all the time. For breakfast? Sure, why not. For their ‘second breakfast’? (see #3 below) Of course! For their afternoon snack? Well duh, what else could you possibly eat?

Bocata de Jamon aka Ham Sandwich (Photo Cred: http://www.20minutos.es)

But what gets me the most is what they put inside of their sandwiches. Back home in America, we eat sandwiches decently often as well. But for lunch. Or sometimes if we’re lazy, dinner. Or if you really want to get crazy, for breakfast. But we put meat, cheese, condiments, vegetables, etc… the only limit is your imagination. There is an art to sandwich making.

Bocata amb Formatge aka Cheese Sandwich

Here? Meat. Or cheese. Both? Oh, heavens no! What kind of a heathen are you?! And they don’t even add a lot of meat or cheese, either. They buy their bread fresh in the mornings, sometimes smother a little bit of oil and tomato on the insides of the bread in the typical “pa amb tomaquet” style, and then add a single layer of meat or cheese. And ya está. For a person like me who isn’t a big fan of bread, it is a tiny nightmare. The bread is often quite tough, so you really have to gnaw on the bread in an animal-like fashion to eat this thing. And your reward? A mouthful of bread with just the tiniest of hints of meat or cheese. Yum.

Pa Amb Tomaquet aka Bread with Tomato (Photo Cred: cadenaser.com)

On one of my first days with my current host family, I was making my sandwich for my second breakfast later (like a good Catalan girl) and they were showing me where the meat and cheese was. I decided to have sobresada (a red meat & spice spread, also a strange thing for expats), and then I went back to the fridge and asked where the cheese was. The host father looked at me in confusion.

Sobresada (Photo Cred: pequgourmet.com)

Him: “But, you have sobresada. Do you want another sandwich?”

Me: “Oh, no. I was just going to add cheese to this one.”

His face was priceless.

3. They eat more than you can imagine, yet somehow stay skinny.

As an American, you know that the world looks at you as if you eat hamburgers and fries every day. As an American moving to Barcelona, I was expecting to lose 20 pounds the first couple of months and eat fresh meats and vegetables every day. Boy, was I mistaken…

A typical day in the life of a Catalan:

  • 7am – 9am: Breakfast, most commonly cereal, bread, meat, cookies, etc (never eggs).

Their idea of cookies, suitable for breakfast, second breakfast, afternoon snack, or dessert. (Photo Cred: http://www.lauravivet.com)

  • 10am – 11am: ‘Second Breakfast,’ as if one isn’t enough. Most commonly a plain sandwich of some sort (see #2) or fruit. But usually a sandwich.

Arroz a la Cubana, a popular dish for lunch. (Photo Cred: http://www.fiesta1037.fm)

  • 1pm – 3pm: Lunch, often consisting of 2-3 courses. And with giant portions that put Americans to shame. Common first courses: soup, pasta, boiled potatoes and peas, lentils with chorizo, garbanzo beans, rice, etc. Common second courses: salad, meat, french fries, rice, another type of pasta… And on top of all of this, a dessert. It is extremely common to have something for dessert after both lunch and dinner. Common desserts: yogurt (never for breakfast), fruit, cookies, ice cream.

Carne Rebozada aka Fried and Breaded Meat, another very popular item for lunch and dinner. Often accompanied by French Fries in a restaurant, like any other meat unless you specifically ask for salad. They’re not much for side dishes in Catalunya(Photo Cred: realworldmeetsgirl.wordpress.com)

  • 5pm – 7pm: Snack, usually more cookies, a mini sandwich, or in some cases, yogurt or fruit. Bakeries are also an extremely popular stop after school, to grab some croissants, ensaimadas, or anything with chocolate. So much sugar!

An ensaimada, basically a puff pastry with powdered sugar.

  • 9pm – 11pm: Dinner, also 2-3 courses. Very similar to lunch, but often just slightly lighter since they eat right before going to bed. They always have a dessert, and I noticed this happens even if the kids are “too full” to finish their dinner.

Photo Cred: http://www.800.cl

OH, and I forgot to mention that they eat bread with everything. So in addition to the sandwiches they always have, they eat sliced french bread with both lunch and dinner as if it’s candy. They can even eat it plain for a snack. Silly Americans, thinking that bread makes you fat…

4. They can NOT handle spicy food. Like, at all.

The Catalan and Spanish people don’t like to add a lot of spice to their food, and that includes pretty much everything except salt, pepper, and oregano. They pride themselves on buying their food fresh, sometimes every single day. Texture is also very important to them. In some ways, I like this a lot. But in others, some of the food is just incredibly bland. For instance, it is quite common, especially during the fall and winter months, to make a puree of fresh vegetables. I really enjoy this in fact, and it is super healthy. They make it from pumpkin, zucchini, carrots, etc. The pumpkin one especially is incredibly rich in flavor, I love it. However, last year one of my host families made a puree of spinach. Now, normally I adore spinach. But it was my first encounter with it in this form, and without salt. It made me gag.

From my Mexican fiesta, including fajitas, enchiladas, guacamole, salsa and rice.

Anyways, I happened to mention to my first two host families that mexican food is my absolute favorite food, and that I make a meannnnn guacamole. So they decided to put me to the test, and gathered a bunch of their friends together to try out my mexican cooking (see how it went here). I tried to make everything super mild, because I had noticed they never eat anything spicy. But even with this, the moment they put a bite of my enchiladas into their mouths they exclaimed in horror “Pica! Pica! Pica!” No joke.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. But very few. One of my friend’s husbands is obsessed with spicy food, and even grows a garden of various peppers. But good luck even trying to find a jalepeno in the grocery store.

5. Water is often more expensive than beer and wine.

In America, water is free at almost every restaurant you go to. I am pretty sure it is illegal not to serve someone water from the tap if you ask for it. However, here in Catalonia and Spain (along with most places in Europe, I think) they charge you extra for water. And often they expect you to buy their expensive, fancy glass bottles of water. Whereas, on the other hand, you can get a glass of wine or a beer for between 1-3 euros. But hey, that’s okay with me… wine it is! No wonder the Spanish have a reputation for drinking. I can’t find a beer at a restaurant in America for under $4!

6. They prefer darker colors for clothes, unless it is Desigual.

If you haven’t heard of it, Desigual is a brand of clothing that is very popular in Barcelona and translates to “unequal.” Their clothes often use black or grey as the base, and then emphasize with bright pops of color, sometimes with one sleeve a different color than the other. Super quirky.

I’ve noticed, and I’m not the only one, that most people in Barcelona tend to dress in darker colors, such as black, grey, and brown. Occasionally, of course, you’ll see someone wearing other colors, but I dare you to jump on the metro one day and tell me what you see. The exception to this, of course, is Desigual. Here and there I will see (mostly) women in a brightly colored dress that proudly has Desigual written across it, or someone sporting a quirky bag or jacket with the typical Desigual designs. But even they are a minority compared to the rest in black.

Another friend and I noticed a vast contrast between Barcelona and Valencia, which is a 3 hour drive to the south. If you get on the metro there, everyone will be dressed in bright, spring colors (and not usually from Desigual). The minority are the ones wearing darker clothes. What causes this change? Who knows!

7. They are obsessed with their digestion.

When you sit down to eat, you will always hear someone saying “Bon profit,” which translates roughly to “enjoy your meal” or “I hope you digest it well.” This, in and of itself, isn’t strange, but the emphasis Catalans put on their digestion is amazing. Normally when I eat, I won’t necessarily rush, but I will eat and then go on about my day. It is very common for a Catalan to sit there for awhile afterwards, chatting with their friends. Sure, they are very social people, and this gives them an excuse to talk and relax. But they have an ulterior motive.

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents told you not to swim after eating because you could drown? Well, while there is some truth to the benefit of waiting, it is definitely an exaggerated wive’s tale. But Catalans take this seriously. They don’t like to walk around after eating, or do much of anything really if they can help it.

Last spring break, I went with a couple friends (one of which is Catalan) on a trip, where we toured through Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg). Because we only had a little over a week, we pretty much did a different city each day, which required a lot of walking (and definitely not relaxing). My Catalan friend wasn’t happy. She would walk as slow as possible without losing us in the crowd, and when we were together in a group, she’d mutter how “unhealthy” we were being by walking so fast after eating and basically implying that we’d die young. Harsh.

I brought this up in class recently to a group of 14 year olds. When I mentioned how I found it comical, they lashed back insisting how important it is to plan your meals each day, when you can eat one thing but not another, and to rest after eating. This came up after we were discussing the school schedule for a project, where I said that 2 hours for lunch was just ridiculously long. They said I was wrong, that any less time and we’d all have indigestion. I told them that in my high school, we had about 40 minutes to eat. They were in shock. Let me just say that I’ve never met 14 year olds who were so concerned about their digestion.

8. They try to wear their winter clothes as much as possible.

The people of Catalonia seem to constantly be cold. I showed up my first year in late September, and it was still incredibly hot outside. I was sweating walking around in a summer dress. Yet, I started to notice that pretty much everyone else was wearing jackets. What the…?

As soon as mid-September hits, people start breaking out their winter wardrobe. And they wear it for as long as humanly possible. Even in June of this year, when I was sweating bullets in my classes, I saw people walking around with heavy jackets and scarves. As a Californian, I was especially uncomfortable because I didn’t even have winter clothes when I came, so I would wear my summer clothes as much as possible. Since they hate the cold so much, they turn the heaters on high at the school during the winter, to the point where I could wear a short sleeved shirt and a skirt and still be sweating. Everyone thought I was crazy, cozy in their sweatshirts.

In fact, my second host family would get frustrated with me for not wearing scarves or heavy shoes during the winter, saying that I’d inevitably get sick. Has no one here heard the news that the cold itself will not make you sick?!

Another thing – slippers are huge here. Everyone has them, and they wear them all the time. I’m not a big fan of socks myself, so if it’s warm, I am happy to walk around barefoot. In fact, unless it is super cold and I can’t bear it, I walk around barefoot as much as possible. But even in the intense heat of summer, you will see people in Catalonia walking around their homes in socks and/or slippers.

One day, I was teasing my boyfriend for always wearing his slippers, even though it was in the 80’s outside. So he took off his slippers. Soon later, he got sick. He exclaimed “See?! I knew it! Because I didn’t wear my slippers that day, now I’m sick!!!” Silly boy.

9. They go out as much as possible.

The Spanish and Catalan people are infamous for being partiers. So, this shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. But I was amazed at just how much and how often people are out of their homes here, and not just to party. Their schedules are insane! I understand now why they feel the need to party until 7am.

Photo Cred ip-hostel.com

For families with children, school goes from 9am – 5pm (sometimes it can go even earlier or later for older students). That in and of itself is crazy to me, because when I was in elementary, middle and high school, the latest we would ever get out of school is 3pm. After school, the majority of kids have after school activities, such as sports, language lessons, or dance. In all of the 4 families I have lived with, the children and parents don’t generally get home until between 7pm and 8pm. Where is there time for resting? For doing homework? For cooking? It is insane, no wonder they eat dinner so late at night!

Even young adults like to keep busy. Like in the States, most jobs go from 9am – 5pm, or sometimes the night shift, depending on the position. But it is incredibly common for even adults to have activities after, such as dance, volunteer work, band practice, etc. And if they’re not doing that, then they’re going out to a bakery or a cafe for some sweet treats, cafe con leche, or a cerveza. And if it’s the weekend, then they’re out trying to forget about the crazy week they’ve had.

10. They go grocery shopping every day.

Okay, so I can’t make a generalization about every family. But I think I can safely say that at least half of Catalans go to the grocery store or bakery every single day. Whether it be to buy fresh bread in the mornings, or go to the fish store for the freshest catch they can find, they spend an incredible amount of time running back and forth from the store.

And while many of the meals that they prepare on a daily basis are by no means complicated, the Catalans I have spoken to don’t seem to understand the idea of planning meals ahead or buying more things so you only have to go when you run out. I explained that in America, it is very common for us to go to the grocery store maybe only once a week and buy the staples, such as meat, fish, potatoes, rice, etc. If we happen to make a recipe and don’t have something, of course we’ll go to the store again. But it definitely isn’t common, at least where I’m from, to go to the store every single day.

Fresh catch of the day, head, eyes, tail and all. (Photo Cred: travelandtravails.com)

One of the first things that I noticed when I moved here is that they have a different store for everything, not like in the States where we have giant department stores where you can buy pretty much anything you can think of (I’m looking at you, Walmart SuperCenter). There’s a store for vegetables. And another store for fruit. And another store for meat. And yet another for fish. Of course, they do have small grocery stores with a mix of everything, and the occasional warehouse which is the equivalent of a normal grocery store in the States… but they pride themselves on buying things fresh, which is something that I really admire. But dang, it would take so much time!

In closing…

I absolutely love living here, and I’m so happy that I’ve returned for another year in this amazing place. When you travel, one of the most interesting things to see are the various habits of people from other cultures. None of this is intended in a negative way, and I have really enjoyed learning about the Catalan culture!

Are you an expat living in Barcelona? Any other strange things you’ve noticed? Please feel free to comment, I’d love to hear about it!

Hunting for Mushrooms in Catalunya

Last Saturday, I moved in with my new host family – always a slightly dreaded yet exciting experience. I had been in contact with them prior to meeting via email, and they had asked me if the following day I’d be interested in going with them to the mountains for mushroom (aka bolets in Catalan) hunting. I had heard about this tradition last year, but never had the privilege to go. So of course I jumped on the opportunity!

My first concern, of course, was the fact that there exists many toxic and/or hallucinogenic mushroom varieties. When I asked my host family about this, they assured me that we’d be going with some “experts” (aka friends they know living in the mountains) who know the difference between the edible and inedible varieties. As a side note, they also mentioned that there are reports every year of people dying from eating the wrong types of mushrooms.

So proceed with caution.

When we got to Montseny, the mountain region, I was super ready to find some mushrooms. I stepped out of the car and I couldn’t believe how many I saw! White, yellow, brown, red… they were everywhere!

My host family and their friends quickly calmed my enthusiasm. The majority of the mushrooms I was seeing were inedible. I followed the “experts” around for 10 to 20 minutes, trying to decipher which types of mushrooms were the good ones. Like all good things, the ‘good’ mushrooms always seemed to be hidden quite well!

It took me at least 30 minutes to find my first edible mushroom all on my own. It seems so simple, but it felt like such a huge accomplishment! You either try to pull it up carefully by the stem, or if necessary, you can use a small blade to cut it at the base. It is common to carry a basket with you to collect them all.

We found 5 varieties of edible mushrooms:

Camagrocs, or “yellow legs.” We found a bunch of these in one specific area of the forest, and they were delicious in a Spanish Omelette!

“Trumpetas de Muerte,” or “Trumpets of Death.” They don’t look or sound edible, do they? But they are! I didn’t personally get to try any of these because this was all we found, but my host family’s friends said they were delicious.

Ou de Reig, or “Reig’s Egg.” Everyone got super excited to find this one, apparently it is rare. It is unique because it first starts out looking like an egg (see the white part at the bottom?) and then the inner mushroom bursts out and continues growing.

Pinetells. We found quite a lot of these and the following mushroom as well, but I still can’t tell the difference between them! Photo Cred: usuaris.tinet.cat

Rovelló. Photo Cred: http://www.ambientech.org

And I found a few others that were inedible, but cool nonetheless:

Some years are better than others, apparently. My host family told me that the year prior all of their baskets had been overflowing with mushrooms – they were absolutely everywhere! Although we did find a decent amount, they said it was nothing compared to the year before.

We hiked around the mountainside for a good 3 hours or so, the enthusiasm only dwindling when our hunger started rising. We headed back to their friend’s house and dropped off the mushrooms for an extra few sets of “expert” eyes to look over the mushrooms, just to doublecheck that we didn’t accidentally pick up a poisonous variety.

Once we were given the OK for our mushrooms, we drove back to the city and decided to enjoy the camagrocs in a Spanish omelette. It takes a surprising amount of work to cut and clean them all! And, of course, once you put them in a pan, they shrink considerably. So don’t expect a huge feast of mushrooms! But of course it is so rewarding to eat the things you scavenged yourself.

The following day, we cut up the rovellóns and pinetells, which I obviously couldn’t tell the difference between. We also added in 2 ous de Reig, which the family friends had kindly added to our basket without our knowing. The host dad sauteed them all in oil, and even though we started with what seemed like a big amount, we each only got a small spoonful of our bounty. But it was tasty 🙂 I highly recommend the experience! Even for people who don’t really like mushrooms.

One of the great things about living with a host family is being exposed to new traditions, such as this. And it’s just the beginning of an amazing year! To learn more about mushrooms in Catalunya, visit the official site here.

Your Guide to Santander, Cantabria, Spain

For a list of things to see or places to eat, scroll to the bottom. Otherwise, enjoy the pictures and ramblings – I promise there are some great tips if you plan to travel here! 🙂

Admittedly, I didn’t spend nearly as much time in Santander as I should have. My original plan was to visit San Sebastian and Bilbao for the 4 day weekend, but my host family insisted that Santander was worth seeing. They told me it was only a short drive past Bilbao, but it ended up being about 1.5 hours past Bilbao. Plan accordingly!

When I researched Santander, not much came up online. That worried me a little, because this would actually be my first trip ever alone (besides moving to Spain in the first place, that is). There weren’t many hostels available in the area either, so if you’re planning to take that route as well, be sure to take that into account.

When I told people I would be going to Santander, most people asked “But… why? What’s there?” It’s true, it isn’t the biggest tourist destination, especially for Americans and Brits. But what I’ve discovered is that it is a pretty popular destination for Spaniards.

Getting There

Santander is about a 1.5 hour bus ride away from Bilbao. There are some lovely views along the way! There is also a train, I suppose it would take about the same time or perhaps a little less. However, be sure to plan ahead and buy your tickets in advance, especially on weekends. When I tried to leave on Sunday to return to Bilbao, I couldn’t leave in the morning like I had planned because both the train and bus were sold out! Luckily I wasn’t in a rush, but that could definitely ruin your trip.

Where to Stay

I stayed at a “hostel” in the Puerto Chico region of Santander, only because during that time it was the only (cheap) thing available. The hostel actually turned out to be a spare room in someone’s apartment, but my stay was nice nonetheless. Since it was my first time travelling alone, I was hoping to meet people at the hostel, so it was a bit disappointing. But I had a nice and pleasant stay with them, the family was very nice (but spoke no English, so be prepared with a little Spanish). If you’re interested, you can book it here on the hostelworld website.

There are also many hotels in the area if you’re not on a budget, and many of them are located more centrally near the peninsula. Airbnb is always good to check, too!

Puerto Chico (Port Area)

If you’re coming to Santander by bus or train, you’ll be dropped off in this area. However, this is not the central part of Santander. At least, not where most of the touristy things to see are located. There is the port, which is quite nice to walk along, and there are many delicious pinchos restaurants to choose from. And, since it isn’t a huge tourist city, you can find some amazing deals on food!

I had a lovely walk along the coast enjoying the view of the villages on the other side of the bay, the views are pretty spectacular (even though the weather wasn’t fantastic). There are also a few parks along this route, with some nice sculptures to admire. Nearby, there is also a sailing school, so you’ll probably see some amateur sailors taking advantage of the day.

The Arch of Banco Santander

In this area, there is also the original Santander Bank (if you don’t know why this should be important, don’t worry – it’s just a very popular bank in Spain). It is nice to check out, especially if you’re into architecture. It was built in the early 1920’s by architect Javier González de Riancho.

The Courtyard of Banco Santander

As you wander along the streets nearby, you’ll find lots of cool street art- if you’re into that kind of thing. I walked around this city alone at night, and while I don’t recommend doing the same, it is a safe and beautiful city to explore if you have the time.

If you wander back towards the coast, you’ll find some lovely parks and statues. Grab a gelato, take the hand of a loved one, observe the sailors… take advantage of the beautiful walk.

I noticed that there were many lovely buildings throughout the city of Santander. Just keep your eyes open, you never know what you’ll find 🙂

If you keep walking north along the coast, heading towards the peninsula, you will pass by the sailing school and also the strangest government building I’ve ever set my eyes upon:

It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the main downtown area of Puerto Chico to this region, and then perhaps 10-15 more minutes to reach the beach and peninsula region. There are buses that you could take, but as of May 2015, google maps did not have them listed in my phone. But I assure you, the walk is worth it!

Peninsula de la Magdelena

After walking along the coast, you’ll find yourself at a nice beach. There is a path that goes along the cliff, or you can slip off your shoes and enjoy walking across the sand. At the end of this beach, there will be another path that’ll lead you towards the main entrance of the park on the Peninsula.

Not a shabby place to live, eh?

The Peninsula is definitely worth a visit, and many tourist sites recommend at least three hours to fully explore it. There is a huge park, a small zoo, and even a palace! The views from this peninsula are breathtaking, even on a cloudy day. And the best part? It is completely free! I guess there are tours inside of the palace, which you can pay extra for. There’s also a little shuttle that you can pay for to take you around the peninsula, but I highly recommend just walking it.

If you follow the path to the left first, you’ll find yourself at their small zoo. They don’t have much, but it is still pretty cool! There are penguins (a funny sight to see with the beach in the background) and seals. If you continue following the path, you’ll come across a mermaid with 3 ships – a very typical photo moment in Santander!

Continue further and up the hill, stopping to admire the views off of the cliffs. After a few minutes, you will see the palace. It isn’t anything super impressive, but it is pretty. You can walk all along it, and then continue on the path back down the hill, on the other side of the peninsula. There are a couple of different paths that lead more inland or closer to the cliffs.

Just imagine having a picnic here. Either on the grassy knoll, or surrounded by beautiful trees with a distant view of the mountains or horizon. Think: jamon serrano, a tasty yet inexpensive wine, some olives, a handsome Spanish man by your side…

Playa de los Peligros

Peña Vieja and the Beaches

When you loop back around the peninsula toward the entrance, if you continue through the gate and to the right, you will find yourself at another lovely beach called Primera Playa (or First Beach). The first thing you’re sure to notice is Peña Vieja (or Old Rock), with lovely views of the other main area of Santander behind it. I’m sure this beach would be lovely during the summer! I went during the Spring, and what with the weather being wetter in the North, the weather varies quite a bit from day to day.

From there, walk further along the coast and you’ll find Parque de Piquío, a small break in between the two main beaches of Santander. They have some lovely gardens and benches and of course a magnificent view of the beach in both directions.

The City near the Main Beaches

After you’ve had enough of the beach (if you can ever have enough of the beach), you can head inland to explore the city area on this side of the peninsula. I noticed lots of unique buildings and enjoyed just strolling through the city. In fact, since my phone wasn’t allowing me to find a bus route home, I just walked straight through the city to the other side and back to Puerto Chico (see above). This was quite a long walk, however, and if you could find an alternative route, that’d probably be for the better.

Another popular tourist location on this side of Santander is the Gran Casino Sardinero. When I was there, there was a big formal event going on, so I couldn’t go inside. But other travel websites say it’s definitely worth a look, even if you don’t gamble!

Food and Drinks

So, you’re in Spain. Of course you’re going to expect the best of the best when it comes to food and drinks. You’re in luck, because Santander has some amazing restaurants, both for a midday “menu del dia” and for some lighter pinchos in the evening with delicious wine. Some of the places I went to I had researched beforehand, and others I just happened to be hungry and went to the first place I could find. All of them were delicious, I think it’s hard to go wrong.

My first night, after walking all through the city, I was exhausted. But I can never be too exhausted for a drink. I stopped in a themed bar named “Little Bobby Speakeasy.” It was still a little early in the evening, so when I entered, there weren’t too many other patrons. However, the place itself is quite lovely and well decorated in the 1920’s style. All of their drinks are inspired by old movies and TV shows. I highly recommend stopping by!

I realized I was a bit hungry, so I decided to go to a place that I had found recommended online: Dias Desur. I only planned on having one or two pinchos and some wine, but that turned into 4 pinchos and 2 glasses of wine. It was amazing, even after having such ridiculously decadent pinchos as I had in San Sebastian. This is a must stop for anyone visiting Santander! It can get quite busy, but it is worth the wait. Something even as simple looking as the teeny weeny mini burger they recommended just had the perfect flavor combination to make my eyes roll back in delight.

On my second day, I walked into a random restaurant along Calle Castelar near Puerto Chico. I ordered the menu del dia (if you’re unaware, it’s amazing – each restaurant puts together a couple of possibilities for a 2-3 course meal, generally with wine and dessert included, for a low, fixed price. I’m not talking about small dishes, either. I’m talking massive plates that’ll make you walk away wishing you had your big Thanksgiving pants) and was blown away by the food. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name now, but I am pretty confident that you wouldn’t be disappointed with any options here.

Don’t be afraid to be a stereotypical tourist… order the paella!

I forget what the name of this was, but it was an unusual name for pork… and it melted in my mouth.

Before catching my bus, I decided to stop at one last place in the Port area for some pinchos. This place was called Casa Lita, and it had a great variety of pinchos, although admittedly not as amazing as Dias Desur (it is hard to beat perfect)… but still quite good.

List of What to See

  • Peninsula of Magdalena – Beautiful views of the bay and nearby beaches, with free entrance to the park and zoo.You can go by foot (recommended) or pay extra for a little trolley to take you around. There is also a palace at the tip of the Peninsula, you can pay extra to go in.
  • Playa Primera de El Sardinero
  • Piquío Park – A lovely park separating two beaches, with great views on both sides.
  • Parque de Cabo Mayor – Panoramic views
  • Puerto Chico – Lots of restaurants and bars, a nice area to walk around near the port.
  • Edificio del Banco Santander – A nice archway and courtyard in honor of Santander banks in Puerto Chico.
  • Menéndez Pelayo Library: Calle de Rubio, 6 – Beautiful library inside and out, with lots of stained glass and old wooden shelves stuffed to the brim with books.
  • Gran Casino Sardinero: Plaza de Italia, s/n, 1 – Worth seeing, even if you don’t gamble.
  • Barrio Pesquero – A run down area, but worth it for the seafood restaurants.

Where to Eat (AKA The Most Important Part)

  • Café Pub La Rana: Calle de Daoíz y Velarde, 30 – lively joint that is popular with its young clientele who want to line their stomachs before a night out; famous for its patatas bravas, but also serves hamburgers and sandwiches.
  • **Little Bobby Speakeasy**: Calle Sol, 20 – A fun, well decorated 1920’s style bar with great cocktails.
  • La Conveniente: Calle de Gómez Oreña, 9
  • Asubio Gastrobar: Calle Daoiz y Velarde, 23
  • ***Días Desur***: Calle Hernán Cortés, 47 – Absolutely amazing pinchos and delicious wine
  • Casa Lita: Paseo de la Pereda, 37