The Prague Socialite: Madrid

As a proud New Yorker (and Bronxite obvs), I really love visiting other cities. I’m not the kind of person that necessarily wants to escape city life when I travel. Sometimes I’m not really that impressed because I’m constantly comparing it to NYC, but other times, I just fall in love with a city’s energy, and that was my experience during my recent trip to Madrid.

I originally wanted to go to Barcelona, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in the midst of all the stuff happening with the possible Brexit-like situation. Plus, I knew I wanted to go to Lisbon and it was simply easier (read: cheaper) to do so from Madrid. Basically, I went in with zero expectations.

Where I Stayed

I stayed in a 12 person mixed dorm at Safestay Madrid. By far, this has to be one of my best hostel experiences thus far. As a solo traveler, and one who can be particularly hesitant to socialize with others, sometimes you want to link up with someone else to check out somewhere cool, go to a bar, or just take lots of cute pictures of you as proof that you were actually there. This hostel just had a really great vibe that allowed people to meet and socialize. A huge plus for me, which I think made a huge difference, is that the events they run are hosted by the hostel employees. So you get to see them again and meet people who are actually staying at your hostel.

What I Did

Even though I was on vacation, I was still on a pretty tight budget, so I looked up free things to do in Madrid and came across this really great Time Out article that was pretty much my guide for the entire trip. My timing was actually pretty perfect because I got to visit the major museums for free.

Museo del Prado is free from 5-7 pm. You have to wait in line (I was on line for at least a half hour) because people line up very early, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s a huge museum with many classic paintings, you could definitely visit more than once to really see and appreciate everything.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (free from 7-9 pm and from 3-7 on Sundays), which had some pieces from Dali and Picasso, as well as some really cool experimental art by William Kentridge.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (free on Mondays from 12-4pm) had a mix of classic art and contemporary art. They also had a really great gift shop.

El Templo de Debod -An actual ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and gifted to Spain as a thank you for their help in saving the Abu Simbel temples (or so Wikipedia tells me). Do yourself a favor and go at sunset. It was beautiful!

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Palacio de Cristal – located in the famous Retiro Park, which is beautiful in and of itself, the palace is this beautiful, structure tucked away in a quiet location in the park. I opted not to go inside, but I think it’s even better to just appreciate it from the outside. That or I’m just a cheap bastard. Whatever.

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Retiro Park – A huge park with all kinds of different amenities and things to do, kind of like our Pelham Bay Park (except, to be honest even more beautiful, but I mean there’s a palace in it!)

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Where I Ate 

Alhambra – I found this place on Yelp after discussing with my new friends I met at the hostel how we all wanted to try paella during our time in Spain. In addition to the paella, the three of us decided to split a grilled meat platter for two. Oh, and a pitcher of sangria of course. Everything was soooo good, but there was so much of it, we had to take it to go.  Right when we thought we were ready to pack up and go, the waitress brought over three extra glasses of sangria for free! This is something I could definitely get used to.

El Tigre – One of my friends (Shout out to Cindy!) recommended this place and it’s where I had my final meal in Madrid before heading out to Lisbon. For the price of one drink, you’re served up a huge plate of tapas. The catch is that you don’t get to choose, but it didn’t matter. It was all delicious. Another cool thing is that the plates vary from person to person. I was served potatoes, bread and cheese, croquettes, and once I finished that, I was given a plate of stuffed mushrooms. Spain just really knows how to do hospitality. It totally changed my view on tapas.

La Campana – Just off of Plaza Mayor is a small, almost hole in the wall type of place.  The  tour guide of the walking tour I took recommended it for their squid sandwiches. It’s really just calamari on a baguette-type of bread, but it was a fresh, cheap, and filling lunch.

 

All in all, I think Madrid has been one of my favorite trips to date. Definitely my best solo trip thus far. Below are some other cool pictures I took while I was there. Enjoy!

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The Prague Socialite: Ciao! Milan & Florence

A couple weeks ago, I got to visit Milan and Florence for my friend Elisha’s birthday.  Obviously, I was excited to celebrate her birthday, but also of course to stuff my face with delicious Italian food and drink allllll the wine.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who say that Florence is one their favorite cities. It’s not hard to see why – the architecture is gorgeous, the food is amazing, and you can walk everywhere.

We only spent a few hours in Milan and we saw the Duomo and walked around a bit to see some of the shopping. It was okay.  It’s very much a shopping city, and everyone is so well dressed, but since I wasn’t there to shop for luxury brand name items, there wasn’t a whole lot for us to do.

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Where I Stayed:

We stayed at the Locanda Daniel hostel, which is just a short walk from the train station. It’s a small hostel, and you get that cozy feeling as though you’re staying at someone’s house. They also had probably the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on at a hostel. It’s a no frills kind of place, but it was perfect for the three nights we stayed there.

What I Did: 

We saw the Duomo, (whose detail is absolutely mind-blowing), the lush Giardino di Boboli, and of course stopped by the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the statue of David. Despite seeing pictures of the statue of David throughout my life, it was actually really impressive to see in real life. Unlike, the  Mona Lisa, which was really underwhelming when I saw it in person (like 1,000 feet away -_-).

One of my favorite things we did was actually just watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo while drinking a bottle of wine we’d brought with us.

What I Ate:

I ate so much pizza and pasta, I definitely can’t name all of the places I went to, but I’d say the best pizza I had was at a cute little restaurant called Simbiosi. It was not too far from our hostel and had a really cozy ambience. Another plus is that their ingredients were organic, which was a nice bonus (considering that when I’m eating pizza, I am really not concerned about my health!)

We also stopped by the central market for breakfast. Actually, it was only breakfast in name, being the first meal of the day in the morning. I went straight for a cannoli and some lemon gelato. It was amazing.

To be totally honest, Italy hasn’t ever been high on my list of places to go, but of course I’m so glad I went.

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The Prague Socialite: A Weekend in Bratislava

One of the best things about Prague is its central location, making it super easy to travel to other countries. In the time it would take us in the Bronx to take a bus to D.C., you could be in an entirely different country. It’s really cool. 🙂

It hasn’t been the easiest month for me, that’s a post for another day, but I felt the need to get away, so I booked a trip to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Because I know I was asleep in history class, I’ll give you a very brief history lesson here. The Czech Republic and Slovakia used to be one country (Czechoslovakia, which you are definitely not to call either of these countries, it’s considered a major faux pas) until they decided to separate in 1993. It’s apparently the only former socialist state to separate without violence, according to Wikipedia anyway.

Anyway, Bratislava is only about a 4 hour bus ride from Prague, so I booked some tickets and a cheap hostel and packed my book bag with a change of clothes. As much as I like to think that I’m spontaneous and go with the flow, I’m starting to just accept the fact that I like to plan things out a research information so I know what to expect. But, with all the stress I was dealing with, I literally only planned the hostel I was staying at and a brunch spot. It was actually really refreshing to just wander the city and say “Oh, that’s a cute street, I’m gonna walk over here.”

Where I Stayed:

Because I planned the trip so last minute and just needed a place to sleep for one night, a hostel was my best bet. In the States, I think hostels get such a bad rap (probably because of that movie I never saw), but I’ve been in some really great ones all over the world and they’re especially great when you’re on a budget. I stayed at Patio Hostel because of its affordability and proximity to the city center. I stayed in a mixed 6-person dorm, which consisted of bunk beds and drawer-style lockers. I always bring my own combination lock when staying at a hostel. It was okay. Literally a place to lay my head at night.The woman working at the front desk gave me some suggestions of where to go and where to eat and gave me a coupon I could use for 10% off a nearby restaurant.   They did provide a free welcome drink, which I definitely appreciated.

[I use HostelWorld to search and book hostels. I’ve used it for about five years or so and I have no complaints.]

What I Ate:

Since I still had about an hour to check in, I took my 10% off coupon and headed to Slovak Pub.  To be honest, I wasn’t super excited to check this place out because Czech food has a reputation for being very heavy – lots of meat, potatoes, and bread. So I  figured Slovak food would be similar. Thankfully, I was wrong, I got a cheesy garlic soup in a bread bowl, which would have been enough, but I was starving so I also ordered a dish with chicken and potatoes. I even got two glasses of wine for 1 Euro each. I was stuffed afterward.

Another really cool place I went to, and the only place I actually looked up beforehand was a cute, trendy restaurant called Urban House I went to on Sunday for brunch. The decor was really warm and inviting and the food was delicious. I ordered a slice of avocado toast and some eggs benedict with smoked salmon.

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What I Did:

Like I said, I pretty much just showed up. So on Saturday, armed with a map from the hostel, I looked at some things that sounded interesting. I walked to the presidential palace, Bratislava Castle and gardens, the city walls, and Old Town. Sunday, it was raining so I headed to the Natural History Museum, the Nedbalka Gallery (which resembles the Guggenheim in Manhattan!) and explored the Europe Galleria mall.

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As it turns out, my visit coincided with Bila Noc, an art festival that uses lights in all kinds of different ways, so I bought a ticket, and wandered around Old Town following the crowd. My favorite exhibit was a series of lights shone through e metal square with a variety of slats so a new design shone through with the changing of the lights in time with music.

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Overall, it was a really great weekend trip and definitely worth a visit. I never would have though I’d find myself in Bratislava but I’m so glad I did.

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The Prague Socialite: Living in a Story Book

After two weeks, I still can’t get over how beautiful of a city Prague is. The Bronx and New York City in general is beautiful, but in such different ways. You could literally spend an entire day just gazing upwards at the buildings. Just regular buildings like the one I’m staying in have detailed statues on the outside and the buildings are just so many colors. It’s just been a fantastic two weeks meeting new people, going to all the restaurants and all the pubs. Anyhow, here’s a few photos from this past week .We went on a boat tour so I got some really great shots from the Vltava river.

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The Prague Socialite : The First Week

So, it has officially been one week since I moved to Prague. It still hasn’t really set in that I’m going to be spending the next 10 or so months here, but it still has been amazing. I love architecture and I think have spent a good chunk of my time just marveling at the colors and details of the buildings. The cobblestone streets are obviously just charming by nature (that is until I go somewhere that warrants wearing heels. Then I may just need to Uber it because that’s just a skill on its own.)  I’m in class for most of the day, but I still managed to take a few pictures to share with you.

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The Prague Socialite?

I have been waiting to announce this for a while now, so I’m excited to finally reveal this to you all. This month, I will be moving to Prague, Czech Republic to teach English for the next year. As much as I love the Bronx and New York City, I have always wanted to live in another country.  Wake up somewhere totally different, just be completely out of my element, really.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been sharing some of my travel experiences, in preparation for this moment. I’ll be sharing this new chapter of my life with you here. Obviously, I will not be able to share any Bronx reviews with you, but I will continue to post any event info that comes along my way so I can live vicariously through you.

It’ll be an adjustment for sure (just think of all the Summerstage performances I’ll be missing!) but I’m excited to be able to document my experiences here. Growing up I didn’t know many people who traveled internationally like this and I’m very fortunate to have traveled as far and wide as I have, let alone the opportunity to spend an entire year away. Looking forward to hearing some of your travel stories too!

Stay tuned…

 

Honeymoon in Peru

Things have been very quiet around here because I have been traveling seemingly nonstop for the practically the entire month of July. (There’s more travel ahead along with a big announcement, but that’s a post for another day.) My husband and I went on a very belated honeymoon trip to Peru. Unlike ordinary people, who go and relax on a tropical island, we are crazy and headed to South America (where it is currently  winter!) on an active 11 day adventure.

We booked a tour via Gate 1 because I didn’t want to have to plan anything. I just wanted to show up. This was our first time using Gate 1, but our amazing tour guide, Edgard, was super knowledgable and made the trip go really smoothly. It was at first a little awkward to be spending our honeymoon with like 20 other people from around the world and aside from some microagressions (“I’m just going to touch your hair without permission because that’s not an invasion of your space or anything.” and “Hey, you’re a person of color, you know about gangs, right?” type shit.), we had a really great time getting to know our fellow travelers.

What We Saw

Machu Pichu, duh! We also saw the Pisac Ruins and the Uros Floating Islands. My favorite activities were actually when we got away from all of the touristy stuff like when we got to have dinner with a local family and spoke with local artisans. And because I’m a nerd, I loved going to Kennedy Park, a.k.a. the cat park to creep and take pictures of all of the cats chilling in the flowers and trees.

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Where We Stayed

Because it was a tour, we stayed at a number of hotels. Two that stuck out to me were the Jose Antonio Hotels. We stayed in one in Cusco and one in Lima. Very different experiences. The Jose Antonio in Cusco was fantastic. I even got a massage there during a spare moment of down time. It was so relaxing after all of that running around! The one in Lima, however, was a different story. The front desk staff was hit and miss – some were nice and helpful and others were cold and unfriendly. Ugh. We actually stayed there in the beginning of our trip and at the end. During our second visit, they put my bag in someone else’s room and told me to go find it. Luckily, it was in one our fellow travelers’ rooms and not some stranger’s! Good thing I decided to use my travel lock. The bed in our first room was actually so hard, I lifted up the sheets to make sure we weren’t sleeping on a boxspring. We ended up putting the comforter down and sleeping on top of  it for some relief.

Transportation

One of the coolest features of this tour (that I didn’t register when I booked it, because, again, I just wanted to show up) was that we traveled using four different types of transportation – we flew, took a boat, drove (for 9 hours!) took the Peru Rail – a.k.a. the Hogwarts express.

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Tips

A couple of years ago, we went to Argentina and while we realized that it would be winter, we thought it’d be like a Florida winter, where you could get by with a good hoodie. We were very wrong. I kept that lesson in mind when packing for Peru and packed my Uniqlo Ultra Light down jacket. It folds up really small and comes with a little much you can stick it in when you don’t need it. With one layer, I was all set to go. This is not and ad or endorsement, these jackets are just really great for travel.

Another tip is to try ALL the food. I think this is to be said when you travel anywhere, but Peruvian food is just soooo good. Eat all the ceviche, all the pollo a la brasa, and at least try the guinea pig. I’m not joking.