Wanderlust Wednesday: de la Vida

Wanderlust Wednesday: Camp El Tesoro de la Vida
Count down:  3 days!
I bet you didn’t see this one coming…
Want to know the full story behind camp?  Click here for my perspective…
I’m not really sure why, but life’s been good to me so far. And as I try to give back to this crazy world through de la Vida, camp always ends up giving me far more in return.  I am so excited to spend another week with some of my favorite people… even if that means hanging out in a booby-trapped freezer or swimming in a warm pool full of kiddies taking tinkles. 

Toledo, Spain, in the Rain

Toward the end of our Spanish adventure, Nicole and I decided to give our fatigued tour guide/translator/body guard a day off, so we ventured out on our own to the rustic town of Toledo.
Just an hour away from Madrid, we arrived by bus and walked out of the terminal into a whole new world. Almost immediately, we regretted leaving our trusty Pabs back in Madrid.
We wandered for a bit, but grew frustrated because we had no idea as to where to go and my Spanish, tired and true, just wasn’t helping the situation. Needing to break and map out a plan, we sat down at a restaurant and discussed our situation over some lunch.  Finally, I built up the courage to use my Spanish, and when I tried to ask the waiter where to pay, I instead said, “Should we fight here?” Spanish IV, ladies and gentlemen.
So, lost, confused and overly agressive, things were going well for us in Toledo.
We decided to bite the bullet and pay ten euros for a city bus tour–I know, I know… this totally goes against everything I believe in–because we realized we just weren’t accomplishing much on our own. Turns out, this was debatably the best decision we made in Spain.
As you can tell, we really had to fight for a good seat. We practically sprinted to the top deck to get a spot on the front row, (if I was going to do something so cliche and touristy, I was sure as hell going to have the best seat in the house…) only to find two French girls who didn’t really see the competition involved in picking seats. The other tourists, who claimed seats on the heated first level, were probably ridiculing the “agressive Americans” who didn’t check the forecast… because as soon as the bus rolled out, a storm rolled in.

It was freezing and we were being pelted by rain, so the French girls said “au revior” and joined the others on the first level. I knew they wouldn’t last in such conditions, but I didn’t expect my wingwoman to say goodbye so soon. A bit persnickety with my photography, I wasn’t about to try to take pictures through a bus window stained with raindrops and fingerprints, so I stayed up top and rode out the storm all by my lonesome.
Luckily, I wasn’t alone for long… Nicole quickly found her way back to the top deck after an 80-year-old man began blatantly taking pictures of her with his hot pink camera. Once again, things were going well in Toledo.

Fortunately, the city is still astonishing, rain or shine. It has a mixture of Arab, Jewish, Christian, and Roman elements that make it truly unparalleled. The Tagus river paints a border around three sides of the city, leaving the alluring ex-capital of Spain rather isolated atop a hill.

The city radiated a medieval vibe with its myriad of stone bridges and gothic arches.
  
And the skinny streets were full of personality, as jewel-tone lanterns were suspended from curtains that draped in every direction above the curious shops and restaurants.
Were we beyond ready to head back to Madrid at the end of the day? Absolutely
Was it a little reminiscent of our French adventure? Definitely
But Toledo is most certainly worth mentioning. And as miserable as we may have been, Toledo doesn’t control the weather… or its sinister old men.

If in Spain… see it, do it, experience it. 
Because that’s the beauty of travel… no two experiences are the same.

Wanderlust Wednesday: Connolly Cruise

Quite frankly, it blows my mind that the big Connolly cruise was a whopping two and a half years ago! I stumbled across this gem of a video tonight and am just appalled because it is not already on my blog.  I feel like I need to have it backed up in a hundred different places incase my computer ever crashes.
It’s my cousin Patches giving an improv speech to my grandparents for their 50th wedding anniversary.
I don’t need to say anything more.  Just watch… and try not to grin.  And don’t judge the slightly intoxicated people egging him on… (dad…) It’s just the way the Connollys roll sometimes.

Wanderlust Wednesday: Tucson, AZ

Since I arrived in Tucson, Arizona
today, it only seemed natural to make the city (and my birthplace) my next Wanderlust Wednesday.  
So, I’m spending my 4th of July watching a monsoon roll in with two of my favorite firecrackers, grandma and grandpa (and mom, too!).
Wayfaring word of the wise:  When visiting Arizona in the heat of the summer, soak up the sunscreen, water and sunshine (unless it is monsoon-ing, of course.)  

Santiago, Chile: Day 1

After 20 years, my dad is finally living out my his dream of being an international pilot, and I must admit, it is working out quite nicely for me, too.  
So, when he got assigned a trip with a two-day layover in Santiago, I insisted that he would need an experienced Spanish translator to accompany him in this foreign city… but we couldn’t find any of those, so I went instead.  I’ve only been on my dad’s plane one other time–to Chicago when I was maybe 10–so I was all over this opportunity. 
This trip was not only my first time to Chile, but also my first time being spoiled rotten in business class for 10 hours.  I mean, really?  They “give” you a four-course meal, alcohol, an iPad to play with, a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, an eye mask, hot towels, newspapers, a brush, moisturizer, a puppy… No wonder American Airlines is bankrupt. The flight attendent even offered to read my book aloud to me… but I just wasn’t comfortable accepting that offer.  I don’t feel as though I have reached that level of celeb-status yet.  Oh, and your seat reclines fully, which was just so very convenient for an overnight flight. If you want the truth, I was kind of bummed when we landed.
We arrived at our fancy hotel, which we shared with the Korean president (scandalous!), and…
took a nap.
Yes, there we were in the capital of Chile with the president of Korea and we decide go to sleep. My dad did, however, fly through the night, so it was only fair that he got an hour or two of shuteye before we started exploring the city.
 
Finally, Sleeping Beauty sensed someone impatiently watching him snooze, so he peeled his eyes open and we were off to hike San Cristobal Hill, located a mere ten minutes from our hotel.
The weather was perfect for hiking–high 60s, sunny. And the further we hiked, the better the view.
The building in the picture above is the Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in South America. Also a great landmark for when you get lost.
After about two hours of hiking, we reached the summit where the “Blessed Virgin Mary” and her shrine greeted us.
After exploring the peak, we were a little weak in the knees, so we took a shortcut and jumped on a funicular ride down to the other side of the hill.
In the picture below, you can see the hill that we hiked.  You can also see a very small, white Mary hanging out by the radio tower.
On the other side of the hill, things were a little funkier.
We found alpacas hanging out on street corners…
Lots of bright colors and interesting sculptures…
And fun markets to wander through.
We even found some crosswalk/red light entertainment.  Clearly living the Chilean dream!
Click here for information about Santa Lucía Hill, a fort we explored on Day 2!