Ten Reasons Why Oaxaca Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

If you are searching for summer weather, tasty mole, friendly people and affordable travel- Oaxaca may be your next travel destination. Oaxaca is located in the southwestern part of Mexico and is considered one of the thirty one states of Mexico. Besides being known for its breathtaking beaches and exquisite food it is also known for its beautiful culture and traditions. Oaxaca is the perfect travel destination for adventurer, foodie and family traveler.  There is never a dull moment if you visit this place. Here are a few of my favorite things about Oaxaca: 

1.       Tlayudas – This Oaxacan dish consist of a large thin, crunchy and partially fried or toasted tortilla. It is covered with refried beans, lettuce or cabage, Oaxacan cheese, salsa and your choice of meat or no meat. You will see this dish served almost everywhere in Oaxaca. I had mine with no meat and I have to say it was delicious !

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2.       Hiever el Agua-Is located in San Lorenzo Albarradas and it is about 70 km east of Oaxaca City. This beautiful formation of natural rocks is created by fresh water springs that contains water with calcium carbonate and other minerals. These small pools sit close on a cliff making it for a beautiful and scary photograph to take. Make sure to take your sunscreen and towel to enjoy some water time on these beautiful natural pools. Don’t stand too far to the edge! 

Hierve el Agua

3.  Hot Chocolate– Most coffee shops will also have an option of having a great cup of hot chocolate. What make the amazing cup of chocolate in Oaxaca? The amazing Cacao that is grown there. They will even sell you some prepackaged natural cocoa so you can take it and make it in the comfort of your own home.

4.       Las Playas–  Many of the beaches in Oaxaca have few tourists which makes them even more beautiful. The most well known beach in Oaxaca is Huatulco ,which is located five hours from Oaxaca City. Here you will find tours going out to the Cascadas Magicas , snorkeling tours, boat tours, mescal tasting tours, spa packages and so much more. To get a more rustic beach experience you can visit Puerto Escondido and  Zica beach which have less tourism than Huatulco but, are equally as beautiful.  

Playas Oaxaca

5.       Cascadas MagicasCascadas Magicas-The name perfectly describes these waterfalls. To get to this magical location you have to sit in a car for about an hour and a half and the road is very curvy. So, if you are sensitive to motion this may not be the right tour for you unless you are willing to ” rough-it.” Once you arrive you will have to hike a few minutes and you can find a couple small restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat before or after your tour. As you walk up to the main waterfall you will also get to see over 20 waterfalls all around you. Not only is this view breathtaking but, the sound will have a relaxing effect on you.  I have to say this is one of my favorite tours ever. Besides the fact that our small tour bus broke down in very hot weather,  I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a place as much as this. The water was cold yet, very fresh and relaxing.  I felt like I was reborn after a few hours of swimming here.Those of you that are water lovers this is definitely an experience that is worth the broken-down tour bus. Mescal

6.       Mezcal tasting– The Word Mescal comes from the Nahuatl word mexicalli, which means cooked maguey. Mescal comes from the maguey (agave plant) . Depending on its sugars and how long it is left to sit in wood or oak, a mescal can be young, enriched, reposado or aged. Oaxaca is big on the agave and remains one of the biggest spots in Mexico for Mezcal tasking. Next time you visit, don’t forget to set some time apart to taste some Mezcal in Mitla-the main location where they produce this drink. You can find creamed Mezcal which comes in flavors like coconut, tamarindo, strawberry and many more. Be careful because a little mezcal goes a long way and you may begin to feel tipsy before you know it. 

7.       Graffiti art- Taking a small drive around Oaxaca city can lead you to some very beautiful street art. This is just what I did on my last day in Oaxaca City. Hired a taxi driver and he drove me around for three hours and showed me some beautiful locations for Graffiti art. Thanks to HIP LATINAS post on Oaxaca, I was able to find a map on all the different Street Art In Oaxaca. Visit my @melijill on Instagram for more Oaxacan art.

Graffiti art

8.       Oaxacan Mole– When you visit Oaxaca you will realize that they  do not only specialize in mole but they all so have various kinds of mole to taste from. This famous dish contains various ingredients from; chile pasillas, peanuts, almonds and chocolate to name a few ingredients. I don’t eat meat so most of the time I would ask them for the mole in vegetables and of course asked if it was made with any kind of animal broth. Most people were very accommodating and always let me have the mole vegetarian style.  This delicious dish will make want to come back for more. I gained a few extra pounds just from all the delicious food that I had on this trip. The mole was worth every extra pound.

9.   Arbol de Tule -When I visited Oaxaca I never knew it had the widest tree in the world. Walking around it you definitely get the idea that this tree is extremely big, a picture of it won’t even fit in one snap shot. It is called the Arbol de Tule, and it is a Montezuma cypress tree. The tree measures 39.1 Feet in diameter.

Tula Tree

10.   Hotel accommodations-Since traveling on  budget is one of my priorities I decided to stay at Hostal de las Americas in Oaxaca Centro which was about 25 dollars per night. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable this hostel was. My room was right in front of a night club -I did not hear anything since the walls and windows were so thick. In the morning they provided breakfast and the concierge was very knowledgeable and quickly singed us up for a tour the following morning.         

         The best part about traveling to Oaxaca is that the adventure never ends. There is something to discover all the time from food to mezcal to ancient artifacts etc. I traveled here for 7 days and spend less than $700 for hotel, flight, and spending money. Of course, I took the less favorable flight ( 2 am to 7 am from Tijuana) but, since I like to take various small trips through out the year I try not to travel very luxuriously. Most of my meals are not very extravagant, I stayed at a few hostels through out my stay and I try to take public transportation as much as I can.

         Oaxaca had been on my travel list for years, and I had not been able to go because people are always commenting on how dangerous it is here. The truth is, I did not experience any violence on this trip.  I think you are as safe here as you are in your own country. So, next time someone tries to talk you out of going somewhere or doing something don’t always take their word for it.

My Tips for Crossing La Frontera-Favorite Things To Do in Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe.

When I decided to ring in this New Year drinking a glass of wine in beautiful Napa Valley, I never knew that subconsciously I had started off the year seeking the perfect wine experience. Since then, in addition, I have taken two small trips to Valle de Guadalupe even though it seems to be the hardest place to get to. My previous wine experiences in Temecula, Malibu and Napa Valley were beautiful but, they didn’t compare to my experience in El Valle de Guadalupe.  These other experiences were either too expensive for me or not the kind of ambiance I was looking for. El Valle de Guadalupe was inhabited during WWII by migrants from Russia traveling to the United States.  Russian migrants never actually made it over, they stayed and found the perfect environment to grow vineyards, and produce wine.

    El Valle de Guadalupe lies hidden, 45 minutes from the beaches of  Rosarito and North of Ensenada. The beautifully located valley, occupied by 2,664 Baja Californians is the perfect place for the wine, romance and relaxation. Getting to this hidden gem can be quite challenging to say the least. But, worth every minute of hectic aggressive Tijuana driving and curvy and winding Rosarito roads. This breathtaking valley provides wine lovers with a radiant view of vineyards and wine tasting that is guaranteed to make the taste buds pop. The wine tasting experience, a la Mexicana, is a must for all wine lovers North of the Tijuana border and other parts of the world.

Getting there.

The adventure starts even before you get to Valle de Guadalupe. Crossing dirt roads and driving next to family owned vineyard and wineries is part of the adventure. Along the way people will be selling olives, honey, olive oil, and other naturally grown items. I picked up a few of these things before I started my wine tasting experience. The family owned wineries and vintage hotels create an intimate wine experience that will make wine tasters feel right at home.

Getting to Valle de Guadalupe is probably hardest part, besides crossing back from Tijuana to San Ysidro. Traveling from Los Angeles to Tijuana can take from 2-4 hours, depending on what time and day you are heading out. Heading out before noon if  it is a weekday,  and weekends around 8 am is probably the best option.

GPS your trip and make sure you are taking the least congested freeway.  In my case it was the 15 freeway, this freeway also leads you to Temecula, another beautiful wine tasting location. Another tip for your drive is to take your favorite music playlist or podcasts and fill yourself up with patience. If you’ve made it passed the border, congratulations, you will now have to find your way around!

Since street names are not very visible in Tijuana you will often get directions that go like this,  ” Make a right after the Pemex, (gas station) passing the Oxxo ,(Mexico’s 7-eleven) then give a right by nude bar and turn right into a driveway, the house is blue”. Since i
I arrived  to Tijuana after dark, I realized that finding any house with those directions was going to be impossible.

Be My Hotel, was my next stop. This $60 dollar a night hotel room is where you can get the most bang for your buck. I highly recommend this hotel.  The unique paintings on the walls, continental breakfast, nice clean rooms are a few of the details I really liked about this place . After staying for the night at this cute hotel, I head out on my quest to find El Valle the following morning. The hallways of this hotel even had a Frida quote, ” Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”

be-my-hotel

Favorite Places to Visit in Tijuana

 Anyone traveling to Valle should stay a night in Tijuana, it definitely is worth the visit and breaks up the driving portion into segments. Crossing the U.S./ Mexico border can become a hectic drive and staying in Tijuana for one night can give you some breathing room in between.

Favorite places to visit in Tijuana.

Plaza del Zapato in Tijuana is a perfect location for a fun night out.  La Plaza del Zapato is filled with locals enjoying freshly brewed beer, live music from banda to rock music, dj music all in one. If you are into the bar hopping scene, this is the place to go. Taking a taxi to this location can range from as little as two dollars to five depending on where you are staying.

Border Psychos Tasting Room.  I was impressed by the high quality beer that we had at Borderborder-psychos-2
psycho’s tasting room.
Tijuana also has a up an rising Beer Brewing Scene, they have many beer brewing festivals throughout the year. So, if you are a beer drinker , this may be the right location for you. The food was perfect and had a good vegetarian selection. I was also impressed by the big selection of vegetarian restaurants in Tijuana.  The two times that I have gone the staff is always welcoming and friendly and I actually can’t wait to go again. This delicious brewery has other locations around Mexico. Visit their website so you can plan your next visit here!

The Mercado Hidalgo is another one of my  top things to do in Tijuana, it is filled with mom mercado-hidalgoand pop restaurants, candy stores, booths that sell produce, dry fruit, nuts and other locally grown fruits and vegetables. My idea of just stopping here to have breakfast later turned into stopping and buying candy, buying cocos, buying piñatas, and what should have been a 1 hour visit later turned in to being there over 2 hours. Here you will find handcrafted cookware as well as herbal pharmacies and lots of piñatas. Here is a fun video on things to do en El Mercado Hidalgo.

Plaza Rio is my favorite Tijuana shopping center. I feel the quality is better, the styles are cuter, they have my size ( Size 5) and the prices are better. I end up with three cute pairs of shoes for about 75 dollars. Since I have a hard time finding my size in California I always save my shoe shopping for Plaza rio Tijuana. They also have restaurants, a Comericial Mexicana and a movie theater.  For a list of stores in Plaza Rio Tijuana visit their webpage.plaza-rio

Favorite Wineries and Places to Eat in Valle de Guadalupe

  1. Chateu Camou impressed me on all levels. As soon as I arrived I was greeted and asked what kind of tasting I was interested in. The wine was amazing! Tasting samples started at $150 pesos, which is the equivalent of $7.50 dollars, for four tastings. The wine samples range from $150 pesos to $400 pesos and bottles start at about 6 dollars. The girl giving the tasting took her time, answered all my questions and was very knowledgeable about the wine. After the tasting, I received a small tour of the wine cellars, which were beautiful, and then she me outside to see the picnic area.  The picnic area is nice and relaxing and overlooks some of the vineyards, this is a good location to unwind and enjoy the scenery. They did not have a vegetarian menu, but I told the cook that I  wanted a vegetarian option and he hooked it up. They served me a Portobello mushroom with cheese and a salad. Here you can find more information on Chateau Camou.  Since, many of the wineries in this valley are family owned, they sometimes close early on Sundays,open late on weekends and have a few days during the week that they are closed. Make sure you check schedules before your arrival.
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    Inside Chateau Camou.

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    Outside eating Area.

  2. Torres Alegres- was probably one of my other favorite places to visit. The staff was great! They did a great job of showing me around and making me feel right at home. Deluxe tasting was$250 which is the equivalent of about $14.75 cents. The wine was great and the ambiance was more of a small farm feel. Outside, there are a few benches over looking the vineyards and a small person grilling food. You can ask the person giving you the tasting to let you taste in the picnic area. If you are looking for a  wine and dine experience this would probably not be the place to go to.

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    Picture via bajavino.com

  3. Los Cetto-By far one of my favorite places to visit-This winery was beautiful, it has some of the best wine I have had in this valley, the tasting is about the equivalent of 5 dollars for 4 tastings. You can actually buy some bread, cheese and wine and have a small picknick outside overlooking the vineyards. The tasting experience is  intimate and the staff is very knowledgeable about the wine. This is probably one of the busier wineries and has a lot more traffic than Torres Alegres. They also have small tours to show you along the vineyards ( I got in trouble for trying to give myself a tour and was told that I was trespassing). To plan your next visit to this beautiful winery visit their website.
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    The picnic area overlooking the vineyards.

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    Vineyards in front of the Picnic Area. My favorite part of this winery.

4. Encuentro Guadalupe– This is the place to go if you are looking for a beautiful view of the valley and want something good to eat. This is the first place I ever visited and it was beautiful. It is very eco friendly , so you will see places to recycle everywhere. They have small bungalows that you can rent and stay in if you are planning to stay a few nights in this beautiful valley. To plan your stay you visit booking.com or book here.encuentro-guadalupe

Tips for crossing the U.S./ Mexico Border.

The hard part about traveling to this beautiful place is going back home. Unfortunately, there is going to come a time when you have to go back home . First and foremost;

  1. Take your passport-the old days are over when you would just  tell the border agent that you are a U.S. citizen. They now have to scan your passport.
  2. Leave at the appropriate time- Crossing before 12 am would be the best option. If you have the option to cross over to the U.S. on a day that is not Saturday or Sunday, even better. But, if you have to cross on the weekend , make sure it is at the right time. You can also check certain websites to see how long the wait is at different borders. Here is the website I like to check.
  3. Crossing through Mesa de Otay- This border crossing area is closer to the Tijuana airport and I think can cut down your crossing time by about two hours.
  4. A passport card so you can travel on the Ready Lane– Passport cards are just like a passport but, they can only be used to re-enter the United States at land border crossings and se-ports of entry form in Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean and Bermuda. For more information on the passport card visit the webpage. Applications are done in person and renewals can be done by mail. If you frequently cross the border this is a good idea.
  5. Crossing through Tecate- Tecate is about one hour from Tijuana but, crossing times can range from 30 minutes to one hour and a half. If you are willing to make the extra drive, crossing through this border can be another option.

Traveling to Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe can be a fun and adventurous experience however, make sure that you are willing to expect some detours along the way. Taking these tips with you as you plan your trip can also be beneficial in deciding when to cross, where to stay and where to eat if you are vegetarian. The media can often times discourages from visiting places that we are curious to explore, and we can especially get discouraged from crossing the U.S/ Mexico border but, my two recent trips have been nothing but fun! Tijuana is also a fast growing city that is becoming more and more appealing and I also can’t wait for my next visit. Hope you plan your next tr soon too!

Traveling to Guanajuato – What This Trip Taught Me About My Parents

My parent’s nostalgia for Mexico during the trajectory of their lives instilled a love in me for the country that they longed to be in. Every time my mom would tell me a story of the time she lived in Mexicali or when she would mention how hard it was for her to adapt to living here, I felt her nostalgia. I also felt it when my father would take me on weekends to el mercadito in Los Angeles and the way his eyes would light up every time we went to Mexico during our summer vacations.  It was as if his eleven months of working hard during the year were meant for the moment in time when he would be able to escape for one month to Mexico with my mother, brothers and myself. For those of you who have never been to el mercadito, it is a market that has everything you can imagine from Mexican  clothes, dulces, herbal medicines, toys, y peliculas Mexicanas. Our yearly road trips to my father’s home town, and monthly getaways to Tijuana during my teenage years, made me aware that my parents were very much longing for the country they once lived in.

On these trips, my mom would tell my dad in Spanish,”vete por el otro lado para que los muchachos conozcan”, meaning take the other road because I want the kids to get to know the other side of Mexico. I believe my parents wanted my siblings and I to get to know as much of Mexico as they could expose us to.  At one point my parents said we are taking a side trip to see the Mariposas Monarcas in Michoacán. My mother had mentioned she always wanted to get to know Janitzio, the town were Juan Gabriel was from in Michoacán . My family and I headed out on this ten hour bus ride at night from Guadalajara all the way to Michoacán. On another Mexico trip my parents took us on la rumorosa, the road leading to my mother’s home town of Mexicali. This long and winding road showed tons of cars that had fallen over to the bottom of the cliff because the road was so narrow and dangerous. Through these experiences, my parents taught my brothers and I that adventure was an essential part of living and if you work hard then you should also play hard.

There wasn’t much to do on these trips but sleep, wake-up, poke my head out the window. Then, I would fall back asleep until it was time to either arrive at our destination, get off to eat, stay at a hotel for the night, or fight with my siblings for a little bit. These short trips were common in my family and continued until I became a young adult.

I was amazed at the beauty of Mexico on each of my short trips to Michoacán, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta. They all made me curious to visit other parts of Mexico. Even our short weekend trips to Tijuana made me realize that a completely beautiful and different world existed so close to the U.S / Mexico border. When we would cross over, all of a sudden we had access to the most amazing tacos and candies, and everything was way cheaper. This made me deeply curious to discover what the rest of Mexico looked like. It was not until my early thirties that I decided I was going to visit a different part of Mexico every year. It became ironic to me how I learned to play Son Jarocho, a typical folkloric music from Veracruz, however I had never to this day experienced visiting that state. The past four years I have traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Islas Mujeres and have also traveled with my parents to Mexico City, and this past month to Guanajuato. All of these places have been beautiful in their own way and I can’t say I like one more than the other.

Traveling with my parents is different now. Time has become more essential and I have leaned not to take my time with them for granted. I am grateful that my parents sparked a curiosity in me to seek adventure at a young time in my life and I continue to try and apply this to my every day life.  After traveling to Guanajuato with my parents, here are a few observations I made now that I am older and have learned about traveling with them:

  1. They will not leave at sunrise. The hardest part about traveling with my parents during my youth was the meticulous preparation that started weeks before we would leave. The night before our departure, my parents, siblings and myself would be running around packing, prepping, and making sure nothing was left behind. Sometimes we would leave immediately the day after school let out for the summer vacation, creating even more stress and havoc in our household. My parents would say, “ya acuestense que nos vamos a ir tempranito.” Meaning, go to sleep because we are waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. Traveling with my parents now is much different; we wake up, drink coffee, pack in the morning and leave once we feel like it. Our new motto: the less we stress, the better. Time is not an issue anymore. If we get there we get there. If not, oh well. I can appreciate the fact that my parents are no longer as rushed as they use to be. My parents get up and head out on trips at around ten in the morning rather than before the sun rises.
  2. We will no longer drive for fifteen hours straight.  Our road trips to Mexico became harder and harder every year. My dad would drive for up to fifteen hours straight without stopping. After fifteen hours of beings stuck in a van with three hormonal adolescent teenagers, I am sure my parents would be secretly wishing they weren’t stuck in the car with us. A total of five hours is what they drive now and they stop to rest often for restroom breaks and snacks. They now also take turns driving instead of having my dad be the only driver.
  3. They will tell you if they are not happy instead of the other way around. My siblings and I would complain about the most insignificant things on these trips-yes, I know, I think we were spoiled. We often complained about the hotel not being what we wanted, the drive being too long, or waking up too early to head out on the road. Now, my parents complain to me if they don’t like the hotel we are staying at or if they are too tired. The hardest part about traveling to Guanajuato this past May was the fact that I booked a room with no air conditioner and loud traffic noise. My poor parents woke up sweating in the middle of the night and reaching for the bottle of water every fifteen minutes. I even saw my dad at one point pour water on his hand and pat it on his neck in the middle of the night. The following day they didn’t hesitate to tell me how badly they had slept the night before. My parents worked so hard to give my siblings and I an adventurous youth that I felt guilty they had to experience a horrible hotel stay after a full day of activities.
  4. They will no longer lead you, you will lead them. The main goal when driving from Guadalajara to Guanajuato was to have the process go as smooth as possible, with little to no backtracking. Before, my only job during our family trips  was to get in the van, have fun and then complain to my parents if my brothers pissed me off. I never realized the amount of work that went into finding directions, managing the moods of three teenagers and having a good time all in the same trip. Most of these tasks are now left up to myself and  it makes me realize what a big responsibility it was for my parents back in those days. Especially in an era where there was no Iphones for directions or Yelp to find good hotels and restaurants. I now realize how spoiled we are with all our new technology. Even with all these applications, I still managed to get us lost for a few minutes and book a hotel room that kept us up all night. So, let’s not be fooled, even the perfectly planned vacation can go wrong.
  5. They will get annoyed if you push them too hard. Since it was my first time visiting Guanjuato, I was on an adrenaline high. As soon as we drove into Guanajuato we were surrounded by vibrant colors and beautiful music. I hardly felt like resting. How could I if I felt all my senses were activated to the max? I wanted to see as much as I could, taste all the candy they had, and visit all the sites around me. Both my parents were just as excited to be there, but they finally told me that they needed to get some resting time in between. Whereas when we were growing up they were the ones pushing us most of the time. It has taken me a while to admit to myself that my parents are getting older. I often times find myself trying to push them harder and harder, avoiding the fact that they are inevitably getting older.
  6. They will become your personal tour guides. This was the part that I loved the most about traveling with my parents. My parent’s knowledge of Mexican history was like having my own personal tour guides with me. They told me about the tunnels in Guanajuato they told me about buildings and why they meant so much to Mexico. And it made the experience just that much more special to me.
  7. Their happiness is more important to me now. Now that I am older I realize all the sacrifices my parents have made for me. My parents have struggled with experiencing their loved ones pass away, and my father has had to battle with cancer  and various small operations. Thankfully, he is fine now, but they have had a few stressful years recently. Seeing that things are much better and they are able to enjoy things more now is more important to me. Making sure that they are comfortable and having a good time is one of my top priorities. As a child, I never really took the time to stop and wonder if they were having a good time . I am glad that I have had a shift in perpective now that I’m older.

Overall, I believe it is important to take time to be with family if they live far from you. Even if they live close to you, family, especially immediate family, should be nurtured and appreciated because one day we may feel it is too late to spend time with them for whatever reason. I wish to take a trip with my parents again soon- hopefully this time we can get a good nights rest . So go, and plan your next trip with your parents before it is too late, especially to the motherland.

Street Art, Sangria, and Topless Tanning in Barcelona

By Melissa Moreno

On October 18th of 2014 I stopped in Barcelona Spain for a few days before visiting Paris for the second time. I didn’t know what to expect on this trip, I had only visited Rome and Paris before and I knew that larger more crowded cities were a little more difficult for me to navigate. Don’t get me wrong, Rome is beautiful, but it is one of the biggest tourist locations in Europe and I get overwhelmed with large crowds. After this experience I then decided I would not visit Europe unless it was off season even though it may be a little cooler than usual. The upside of traveling in the off season is that prices are usually cheaper for airfare, hotels and tours. These perks can also be to the advantage of the budget traveler.

My experience with Barcelona was that it is very much a city I can only do in small doses.  I have received different reviews from people who have been to Barcelona, most who  enjoyed the city had locals show them around town and gave them the inside scoop on popular and trendier places to visit.  Don’t let my discomfort off crowds discourage you from visiting this beautiful and hip city!  Barcelona is a city that has much to offer its tourist, from breathtaking views to a fun night life.  It is definitely a city for the topless sangria drinking foodie. Here are a few things I did enjoyed about Barcelona:

  1. The Topless Barcelona Beaches.

    Barcelona’s beaches brings in 3.5 million tourist every years, making it one of the biggest attractions of the city. You will not regret spending some time on Barcelona’s beaches if the opportunity arises. Along the beach you will see restaurants  called “chiringuitos” that throw beachside parties lasting late into the night . Bike riders, runners and volleyball players flock to the beach on weekends to exercise and work on their tan lines with a captivating ocean view. Here you will find a list of the top ten beaches in Barcelona.

    The free spirited bohemian nature of Barcelona is what makes its beaches so appealing and unique. Taking your top off at the beach is considered normal and most beaches are in fact topless. There is something very freeing about taking your top off in the middle of a beautiful place and not caring what anyone thinks. So, if you have never taken that top off in a topless beach, I recommend you do it at least once during your lifetime, it feels liberating and I would definitely do it again!

  2. Having  Coffee On The Balcony of My Hotel.

    IMG_3353Being in a far away place with a cup of coffee in my hand is probably one of the nicest feelings of being alive. Because coffee and traveling are two of a few of my favorite things in the world, this combination together can cause an explosion inside of me. When I combine these two things and add a balcony into the equation it is a feeling of perfect bliss. Sometimes a quiet coffee moment is needed after a long day of site seeing or before heading out on an excursion.

  3. Our Hotel in Barcelona.

    The Hotel Lloret Ramblas is an economically priced and was centrally located to restaurants, the beach, bus stops and was right on top of a gelato shop. Our hotel stay included a continental breakfast that consisted of lots of meat, cheese, fruit and yummy coffee. The hotel had a group of  friendly staff which were also helpful when it came to giving us tips of things to do around town. We were also able to book inexpensive tours right in the reception area with the help of staff . Our room was spacious, had lots of windows, two balconies, a great view of the city and four individual beds for $100 per night. I would definitely recommend this cute hotel for the budget or adventure traveler!

  4. Enjoying the Street Art in Barcelona.

    Barcelona has been well known for its street art since prior 2003. As I walked around the streets of Barcelona I realized that this form of artistic expression was quite unique in this city. I was quickly drawn to a few pieces I saw while exploring town and later decided to research  what the art scene had been like in the past .

    Barcelona government laws became more restrictive on street art in 2005 and began to crack down on graffiti art. They began to paint over graffiti art as well as  fine anyone who allowed art on their building and the street artist.  Street artist began to use a different method of creating art; they first created the art on paper and then pasted it on the walls, making it easier to apply on the walls as well as remove it. The documentary, Las Calles Hablan does a good job of documenting the artists perspective of street art and their struggles with a restrictive government. This beautiful picture perfectly depicts an old town with a modern twist, I was completely blown away when I saw this beautiful wall ! Eccentric Barcelona life will definitely bring many surprises and impress you simultaneously.

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  5. Sangria, Sangria and More SangriaBecause sangria is the signature drink of Spain you will see it in almost every restaurant and bar of Barcelona. I had the best tasting Sangria on this trip to Barcelona, and ordered it as much as I could. It was refreshing and pairs well with almost any meal. If you are unable to travel to Spain this year making your own sangria at home is easy, fast and makes the perfect party drink. Here is a link of the top five sangria recipes that you can make in your own home!
  6. Eating yummy paella, tapas and other food.

    When I travel I try and not restrict myself from trying new foods. The tapas, paella, and gelato were a few of my favorite things to taste. I am not a big meat eater but found paella to pair very well with some sangria. Eating is probably one of my top 5 things to do when I travel ( who am I kidding, it is my top five thing to do at all times). This is why I try and work out while I’m on vacation. My travel buddy and I had the opportunity of staying in a  hotel that had an crepe shop underneath (this was a blessing and a curse at the same time). Walking up to our hotel every day was so tempting, I don’t know how I only picked up a crepe once out of the 4 nights we stayed there. Let me tell you this crepe disappeared before you can even say the word crepe. I admit it , my weakness is food especially when I travel. The special aspect about exploring a new city or country is indulging in almost every aspect about that culture.

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  7. La Sagrada Familia.

    The construction of this temple began in 1866 by Gaudi and still continues to be under construction to this day. I was blown away by the architectural history of this beautiful church. At first glance I thought this this church was just a church that is continuously under construction but, when start looking deeper into the symbolism of this church I realized the true beauty of this architecture lied in the history. Each detail of the church is carefully placed and thought out and has a cohesive symbolism.

    La Sagrada Familia has eighteen towers, the tallest tower is dedicated to Jesus and thesurrounding  four towers represent the evangelists. The tower above the apse is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The 3 facades have 4 towers each, these 12 towers represent the apostles. The façade of the tower represents the passion of Jesus, the pain, sacrifice and death. The position of the façade plays a vital role in that it faces west and receives the last ray of sunlight in the evening. For tour reservations book here!

    Picture courtesy of Francisco Soto

    Picture taken by Francisco Soto

  8. The Catalonian population.

    On one of our vacation days in Barcelona, as we headed out on a tour we saw crowds of people coming out of their homes headed to the plaza right next to our hotel. People came out in yellow shirts and flags as a form of solidarity with the other people in the community. It was exciting to say the least. My travel buddy and I separated from each other that day and we were not able get further than a block away, that is how crowded the streets got. We actually had a tour planned that day and were not able to get anywhere due to the large crowds. Everyone was  protesting and rallying that day, including children and families. It was nice to see a sense of solidarity and unity in this community. We were not upset about missing our tour because we felt it was a nice experience to be a part of. The rally was due to the Catalonian region wanting to be separate from the rest of Spain.

    Rally

    Rally in Barcelona streets, we got lost in the crowd.

 

Over all Barcelona is a bigger city that is fun to visit if you are into food , topless tanning, late night partying and exploring old and modern forms of artistic expression. I was thoroughly impressed with the progressive artistic expression in this city  and wish I would have visited having a better knowledge of it. Barcelona is a city worth exploring for a couple of days on your next Euro trip.The hop on hop off tours does a good job of taking you through all these sites in one or two days for a reasonable price. Tickets can be found here for only 14 euros and don’t forget to drink some sangria and take care of those tan lines!

For additional comments or suggestions please comment below!

Follow on instagram @melijill or blog http://www.latinaviajera.net

 

Why Amsterdam Is One of My Favorite Travel Destinations

 By Melissa Moreno

Traveling to Amsterdam this past October was probably the highlight of 2015 for me. Amsterdam remains one of my top 3 places to visit in Europe along with Paris and London. It’s a unique small city with a lot of personality that makes it so appealing and entertaining to travelers. Travelers are able to see so many things in just one day! Everything is within walking or biking distance and easy to get around. An educational tour that starts off at the Van Gogh Museum can very well end up in the red light district to unwind.

     The first step in planning a vacation is deciding where to go ( this may actually be the hardest part) . Amsterdam has something for every type of traveler from the art aficionado to the traveler that is into the wild night life. If lounging around and relaxing is the type of vacation you want Amsterdam is not a place to relax. In fact, you will be so inspired to walk around and explore that getting a break in this beautiful locations is very hard to even think about.

  Think of Amsterdam as a classier, European version of Las Vegas. As soon as you walk off the train, you see stores selling joints, edibles and sex toys. There are lights everywhere as well as old-looking homes right next to other glitzier parts of the city. People walk around  town in a very laid back and relaxed mood, I mean anything goes in Amsterdam , why wouldn’t you feel relaxed. Amsterdam is an old city with a modern twist. The buildings look completely old; however, right smack in the middle of the city you’ll find lights and a small carnival atmosphere. As you get closer to the red light district you’ll see porn shows and strippers modeling their bodies on full body size windows. These women wink at you and try and lure you in for a fun time. I was intrigued at this lifestyle from the moment I set for here, anything that is of shock value to me immediately draws my attention. The interesting part is that you don’t get a feeling of indiscretion in Amsterdam. Everything is done in a very fashionable and legal way.

Here are a few reasons why Amsterdam remains one of my favorite places to visit:

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam maintains the world’s largest collection of works by this very famous artist. The museum is three stories and it does a good job of illustrating his life through his art. The price to get into the museum is about 10 euros which is only about 13 dollars and can be purchased in the following website, http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en. It is located in Amsterdam’s museum district and getting there is rather easy. I walked about 30 beautiful minutes to get there from where I was staying downtown. The Van Gogh Museum is a must see if you are a lover of art!

The Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam is a must see!  Most of us had the chance of reading Anne Frank’s diary when we were growing up if not , I recommend picking up this book. This diary documents Anne Franks life while hiding during WWII with her family . The museum depicts an educational and devastating story about what life was like in hiding during the Holocaust. I have to admit, certain moments were completely sad and hard to read and or watch but definitely something that was worth the experience. The museum is very strict and has a lot of security and we were actually asked to leave the line because we had our luggage with us (now that I think of it , that does look kind of suspicious). The good thing about getting there is that it is centrally located to many other things. We literally walked off the train and went straight in to buy our tickets. We tried to purchase tickets online but it is better to purchase them in person. To purchase tickets online you have to do it a couple of months in advance. The line to get in is rather long, but you get to meet other travelers while waiting in line and may be able to get a travel tip or two from them. 

Traveling by car is unnecessary in Amsterdam. Roads are made especially for bikes. You will actually see more bikes than cars in this small town. I don’t think I had to take the bus or taxi at all while I was there—I was able to walk to most of my destinations. Not only do you get to lessen the pollution and save money on bus fare but, you are also able to maintain your fitness while on vacation.IMG_9057

The canals in Amsterdam were in my perspective one of the best tours I have been on. Most boat rides last from 1-2 hours and tickets can be purchased in combination with another museum tour for a discounted price. I recommend purchasing tickets when you are in Amsterdam. The unique boat houses lying on top of the water are also an extra unique aspect of these beautiful canals! Taking a tour on a boat through the canals is a great way of getting good pictures of Amsterdam as well as having a romantic time with your partner. IMG_9032.JPG

Getting to Amsterdam on the Train-Traveling to Amsterdam from Paris was easiest by the Thalys  train line. Tickets can be purchased on eurorailways.com. If you are traveling on a budget it is never good to wait for the last minute to buy train tickets. The further in advance you purchase the tickets the better. We only had to be at the train station 30 minutes before departure my ticket was only about $125 and it took less than 3 hours to get there.

  I was only able to stay in Amsterdam for a day and a half. This was a very short trip of 5 countries in 10 days and I feel so lucky I was able to experience this much in Amsterdam on such a short amount of time.When traveling to Europe make sure the city or country fit your personality. The small town, laid back and easy to get along aspect of Amsterdam completely fit my laid back attitude.

     The other countries I visited on this trip were Sweden, France, Denmark and Portugal. More reviews to follow! I hope to visit Amsterdam again and stay for a longer time. The perfect amount of time to go to Amsterdam I would say is 3 days. I hope to visit again and be able to lounge around at one of the bars while drinking a beer by the canals.

 

 

Feature photo credit: follow Juan Pablo de Miguel’s website 1x.com or Instagram @1x