Thursday, July 31, 2014

{travel} paradise is a beach in greece

I have always been fascinated by landscapes and climates that are completely the opposite of Florida. Who needs to travel to a place with a beach when you've spent your entire life tanning on the white sand beaches on the west coast of Florida? I always find myself much more in awe of Mountains! and Valleys! and Snow! But then I went to Greece. Let's just say that the inner beach snob in me was cured. Warning: This is a photo heavy post. Prepare to feel the desire to book a ticket to Crete directly after viewing.

Aaaand the award for the most beautiful beach I've ever been to in my entire 24 years of life definitely goes to Elafonisi Beach on Crete. Even though we were there during a crazy wind storm (sand pelting into your skin at 30 mph is not very fun), it was still the perfect day. If you ever find yourself in Chania, make sure you make time for a day trip to this beach.

How to get there: Go to the main bus station in Chania and ask for a ticket to Elafonisi. There is one bus a day that goes to Elafonisi and one bus that takes you back to Chania. ENJOY!

xx, Jen

Thursday, July 24, 2014

{life} hashtag: i'm definitely not in madrid anymore

As I take the first sip of my iced coffee to go, I smile. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

An unobstructed sunset glowing behind the tall, swaying palm trees. The quiet, empty streets of suburbia, broken up only by the laugh of a child or the low hum of a lawn mower. The pool in my backyard. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The conversations with friendly strangers. "How are you doing today?" "What are your weekend plans?" "This drink is free because it took way too long to come out." "Oh, excuse me. Sorry!" "You have a wonderful day, honey/sweetie/darling/my love!" I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The five minute drive to the grocery store? A 20 minute walk. The twenty minute drive to a restaurant? A 60 minute walk. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The abundance of cultures and cuisines. A twenty mile radius on Yelp showing great Vietnamese! Korean! Colombian! Peruvian! Mexican! Lebanese! Italian! Cuban! and finally American! restaurants. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The hours spent sitting in a car. But on the other hand, that glorious, glorious one stop shopping. (Hello Target. Hello Publix.) I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

Slowing your car to allow a deer to cross the road. Waving hello to an alligator in the pond. Stopping and patiently waiting as an owl decides whether it wants to stay chilling in the middle of the road or fly away to the nearest tree. Seeing unidentifiable animal prints in the backyard. Was it a fox? Or a raccoon? I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

The extremely predictable afternoon thunderstorms and the extremely high humidity. Blegh. I'm definitely not in Madrid anymore.

It's the slight withdrawals from plaza life and 2 euro glasses of wine. From tapas and jamon, rooftop drinks just because, and the Spanish language. But making up for it with happy hours with friends and $5 craft beers (helllo my pretties). With delicious sub sandwiches and smoothies, rooftop drinks just because (somethings never change), and being asked on your first day back, "Hablas espanol?"

Here's to you, America. You're pretty darn cool.

xx, Jen

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

{travel} colorful chania + exciting news!

Soooo I'm skipping over like.... 5 other trips to write about one of the most beautiful places in the entire world (but seriously), GREECE! So, why don't you dollop a few scoops of Greek yogurt into a bowl and drizzle generously with honey? It's gonna be a long one!

I went to Greece with my best blogger friend, Courtney. We started reading each other's blogs in January, met up for a few glasses of wine later that month, and booked a trip to Greece together in February. We had no idea if we'd still be buddies 5 months later when we bought those tickets, but luckily we never even had to worry about that at all. Bloggers make for the best travel partners. We love to wander aimlessly through cities and take photos of ALL THE THINGS OMGZ. What else could you want on vacation? ;)

We ended up in Crete because we found really cheap RyanAir tickets from Athens to Chania, and like every other English teacher abroad, we chose to go to the island that was cheapest to get to. I am so glad that we found those inexpensive tickets, because we both absolutely loved wandering around the old town of Chania.

Sights & Activities: One tip I hope to pass along to you if you ever find yourself in Chania? Book a room with a view of the Venetian Harbor, even if it is the absolute most touristy area of Chania. It's all worth it because then you get to wake up and look at this every morning. And that is pretty awesome.

Venetian Harbor: This harbor was built by the Venetians in the 1300s for trade purposes and to protect the port city from pirates. It is completely worthwhile to spend a good chunk of time walking along the water until you reach the lighthouse at the end of the harbor. Beware though, you will definitely be dodging restaurant promoters left and right. Because Greeks speak English SO FREAKING WELL, we decided to go with the Spanish right. Lo siento, no entendemos. Worked like a charm. Below: the view from our room at Loukia Hotel.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

{life} a goodbye letter to madrid

Do you know what is really hard?

Trying to find adequate words to describe how much my time living in Madrid has meant, and will continue to mean to me. I spent my entire last day wandering around my old barrio, Malasana, smiling one moment, and tearing up the next. 

Smiling at the memories those streets hold. 

The afternoons spent drinking tinto de veranos and the late nights that followed, always with a slice of pizza and liter and a half of water in hand. The days spent window shopping; not for clothes, but for the next restaurant or bar to add to our list of places to try. The quiet, peaceful mornings and the loud, chaotic nights. The summer afternoons spent meeting for ice cream and iced coffee. The winter nights spent dodging into the first warm place we came across for a plate of queso and a glass of red wine. I must have walked these streets a thousand times over the last year and half, but there was always something new to see; something to marvel at or write down to check out later. 

Tearing up over the thought of separation from my Spain family.

As I passed my favorite coffee shop, a ton of memories started flying through my head. The first time Breanne and I walked through the doors we were immediately in love. We set out to make it "our place" in the huge foreign city we now called home. Little did I know at the time what that little cafe was going to end up meaning to me. It was where a coworker turned into a friend. Where goodbye parties were held and new friends were made. Where hangovers were created, and then cured. Where trips were planned and politics were discussed. Where we talked about overcoming homesickness and our falling in love with our new home away from home. When I sat down later to really think about all of these memories, one thing kept coming back to me. It wasn't that this little coffee shop was any better than others in my neighborhood. It was the people I experienced the coffee shop with that made it what it is to me. Beautiful, wonderful people who made my life in Madrid more than just an empty shell of my life at home. Friends who filled my heart and brought me joy. Friends who turned into family. 

My Madrid.

It's a realization that Spain is so much more than we could ever imagine it to be in the USA. It isn't just sunshine, siestas, bullfighting, flamenco, and sangria. It's the old man bars and napkins on the floor. It's begrudgingly adjusting your schedule to match the siesta schedule, but secretly loving the lull in the middle of the day. It's becoming a jamon, croquetta, tortilla de patatas, and huevos rotos nut job. It's secretly pretending to love Real Madrid soccer. It's the maddening yet comforting sound of the trashmen banging down your street at three in the morning. It's the four floor walkups never getting easier - but hey, at least no gym membership was necessary this year! It's struggling with Spanish, but missing it fiercely the second it is gone. It's coming to Spain with no language ability to go to a bank, fruit shop, or restaurant without freaking out, and leaving with those topics mastered. It's referring to American currency as euros, and realizing how awesome one euro coins are. It's days spent picnicking in the park and drinking on the streets. It's visiting the same museums over and over again, just to see your favorite paintings in person again. It's getting out of the city and hiking on Saturdays, and then going for tapas all day on Sundays. It's a deep love for the Spanish people, but a disdain for the Spanish government. It's getting to know the people at the stalls at your favorite market. It's terrazas and plazas. It's exchanging Swedish, Spanish, and American recipes with the cutest roommates on earth. It's olives and Manchego, churros and chocolate, and toast and tomato. It's mojitos and gin and tonics, Rioja o Ribera, and cana o doble. It's cafe con leches, cortados, and espressos. It's a late breakfast and a slow lunch. It's socializing over a tiny beer with no time limit in sight. It's meeting people from all over the world and learning about their cultures through food, debates, and more. It's taking enough pictures a year and a half after moving here that could convince anyone around you that you are a complete tourist. It's finding your passion for your future career. It's the people you meet and the memories you share. It's going as far out of your comfort zone as you could ever imagine, and coming back home a more complete and mature person. It's falling head over heels in love with a city like you could never imagine possible.

It's knowing that Madrid will always occupy a huge place in my heart; no matter the distance, no matter the time.

Because Madrid in reality is nothing special. It doesn't have a great river. Nor does it have many skyscrapers. Nor canals or lakes. Nor glorious ruins. Nor the sea. Madrid lacks lots of things. But it has people in the streets. The unexpected street corners. The variety. The contrast. Constant busyness. And it has customs. It is worth getting up early, just once, to live the Madrid life.

Hasta pronto, Madrid. Te amo.

xx, Jen

Monday, July 14, 2014

{life} loving lately

Oh, hi! Remember me? I can't believe it's already been a month since I last blogged. My life has been a little crazy lately. I finished up with work for the year (hola verano - adios mis estudiantes), moved out of my apartment, said goodbye to a whole lot of friends, and went on an 11 day trip to Greece. Now I'm back in Madrid for a super measly two days before it is time for me to head back to Barajas airport to hop on yet another plane, but this time I will be going back to the USA, for good. Eeeek.

While I am slightly freaking out about leaving this gorgeous city I have called home for the last year and a half, that is not going to be the focus of today's post. Here's to focusing on the positive and all of the things I'm looking forward to at home.

Hanging with my sweet boyfriend.

We'll finally be living in the same country again! Even better? In the same time zone. Goodbye six hour time difference and 31839182 mile distance. Even though we'll be in different cities attending our respective graduate schools, what's a three hour drive when you've survived almost an entire year of living on different continents? Best thing? I'm flying home on his birthday, so I get to be with him on the day he turns 25. Old man status! ;)

Good ol' American BBQ.

This is ALWAYS the first meal I request when I come home. While Spain has certainly picked up on the American burger concept, nothing compares to my dad's pulled pork or my mom's baked beans. Some of the best food I've ever tasted has come out of my parent's kitchen. I mean... check out the spread below.

FSU football.

I might look like your typical girly girl, but I am paaasssionnattee about my college's football team. I bleed garnet and gold and am therefore ridiculously excited to attend football games again. My graduate school choice was 90% about the program and 10% about the football. sorrymomanddad. I'd just like to throw everything else American cultured into this section too. Tailgates! Happy hour! Fashion! Service! Language! Etc. This American girl is ready to get back down with her roots.


You don't really realize how unique of a culture your particular state has until you move abroad and start chatting with people who grew up in other places. So wait... you didn't learn the stingray shuffle or the best route on how to run away from alligators? (Always zigzag, never straight). You didn't grow up going boating on the weekends or on a diet of freshly caught fish? You didn't have friends who caught lizards to wear as earrings? (Yes, totally a thing in Florida. lolzz). You didn't have hurricane parties or have your afternoon storm ritual in the summertime? You didn't grow up eating Cuban food or hearing Spanish all the time? It has been so interesting learning about other states' cultures and realizing how awesome the place I come from is.

Friends and family.

I'm so thankful for my time living abroad, and all of the incredible people I've met along the way, but I'm getting so excited to be home with my family and hometown & college friends. Nothing feels worse than missing weddings, babies' births, engagements, birthdays, and holidays. I can't wait to catch up with everyone and celebrate a few things I've missed!

Blogging catch up.

Even though I will be starting graduate school soon after moving home, I have high hopes for my blogging productivity. I want to start setting aside solid hours each week to write. After all, I still have to write about my trips to Ireland, Asturias, and Greece, as well as my last few months in Madrid! Eeep. #comingsoon

Next time I blog I will officially be living in the USA again. Here's to new memories and a new beginning. I hope you'll still follow along as I start to adjust to life on American soil again.

xx, Jen