Tea Time 04.28.15

Rooftop Vibes

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This weekend we had a blast returning the favor and hosting some of my high school friends that are currently stationed in Germany. Although it wasn’t a typical blue-sky, cloudless Madrid day, the weather somewhat permitted us to enjoy a terrace. I had recently heard of a trendy hostel with a rooftop bar near Plaza Mayor called The Hat. What a spot! It is a small dive, but it’s green and it’s affordable and it’s surrounded by Spanish rooftops. We kicked back and enjoyed some tinto de verano while soaking up the sun every time it decided to peer out from behind the clouds.  With the added company, we were in for a great afternoon.IMG_5183

Luscious Products

I have a new obsession and I’ve quite enjoyed feeding it recently. LUSH has officially won over all of my cosmetic desires and I somewhat splurged on some new products this weekend. I’ve been a fan of the facial exfoliator for a while now, but when I coincidentally ran out of shampoo and body wash in the same week, I couldn’t veer away from taking a looksie in LUSH. I bought the Cynthia Sylvia Stout shampoo–which is actually made with beer–and I love it! It makes my oily-at-the-roots-dry-on-the-tips hair very manageable. I also bought the Yummy Mummy Limited Edition body wash, which I’m obsessed with, too. Something about the smell brings me back to my childhood. And finally, I decided to really go big and give dry shampoo a go for the first time. I’m still not convinced about this yet, but I’ll let ya know after a couple of uses when I’ve made up my mind.

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Breakfast Digs

Because when I have a breakfast/brunch like this, it deserves its own place on Tea Time. Strawberries from the man selling them across the street, fresh cheese, ham, and olives from the market down the road, coffee and free churros from the cafe on the corner, and melt-in-your-mouth croissants from the bakery downstairs. Nope, I don’t think I need to say anything more. This fresh luxury is something I’m going to miss terribly next year.

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On My Radar

Some of my favorite beach memories involve wandering up and down the shores foraging for unique seashells with my mom. Turns out, there’s a place in Florida that’s ideal for just this–Sanibel Island. This island is literally completely covered with sand dollars, starfish, conch shells–all of the shells I always wanted to stumble upon as a child but never did. I could probably spend hours scavenging for shells here. Plus, I heard it’s quite common to see dolphins playing about off the shore, so obviously I’m sold.

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‘Grammers

Theron Humphrey grams at the appropriately titled This Wild Idea. He travels around the world with his Coonhound, Maddie, in tow. Every time I see a new photo of Maddie, I catch myself spending way too much time pondering how on Earth one dog could be so well-trained and patient. He poses her across different settings in unique positions with beautiful backgrounds, and Maddie simply does as she’s told, holding the pose for as long as it takes to get the shot–that’s what I like to think anyway. Just glancing at the photos, the love Theron has for his furry pal radiates through my iPhone screen and it makes my soul feel so very warm and happy.

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Tomorrow I’m heading to Spain’s Costa Brava for TBEX, one of the biggest travel blogging conferences in the world! I’m one big ball of terrified and excited emotions. Wish me luck! What are you up to this week?

Also, a big congratulations to Joseph from Allophile for winning my Hide in Plain Sight giveaway! Thanks to everyone who entered!

A cold day in Cuenca, Spain

Oh, how I love finding great day trips from Madrid that don’t involve the words Toledo or Segovia! When my dad had an extra day to spend in Madrid in November, I insisted that we do something out of the ordinary.

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Queue Cuenca, home of the hanging houses! We took a train east from Madrid’s Atocha station and arrived in Cuenca about an hour later.

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To be honest, it isn’t very easy to reach the center of the city walking… we thought about trying it, but we were frozen and the lure of the taxis successfully tempted us.

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Once we got to the center, we wandered around the hilly, windy streets admiring the pastel-colored buildings wondering where exactly those hanging house were hiding.

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And after a left turn, a hike up a hill, a coincidental run in with some other flight attendants from my dad’s crew, we finally found the “casas colgadas.”  And they’re just as captivating as everyone says.

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This UNESCO World Heritage site was constructed on the edge of the canyon’s cliff overlooking a little ravine below. Believe it or not, some of the houses hang with up to ten stories!

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As we continued to freeze, we continued to wander. We hiked as far as we could, wind whipping us around and our teeth chattering. But we were soon rewarded with yet another fabulous view of the whole city below us.

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Cuenca is an ideal day trip to take from Madrid. Its stunning landscape is far different than anything I’ve ever seen before. And unlike my experiences in Toledo and Segovia, really the only other tourists we saw were the flight attendants we were so surprised to run into! However, you should keep in mind that we visited on a frigid November day in the offseason…

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Oh, and did I mention it was also Thanksgiving? Although this color pallet was the closest thing I had to Thanksgiving food that Thursday, it was a day well spent with one of my favorite travel partners.

Tea Time 04.21.2014

What I’m Reading

In case you’ve missed it, my new obsession is Jens Lennsartsson’s book, Hide in Plain Sight. It’s a well-written, easy-to-read book with 100 tips for improving your travel photography without improving your camera gear. iPhone and DSLR photography addicts rejoice! This book is for you. Oh, and you can win a free copy here

Hiking 

Not many people know about Madrid’s big and beautiful backyard. I love to see the look on people’s faces when I tell them you can go skiing just an hour outside of the city center… or that you can hike endless trails with fabulous views of Madrid and its surroundings. On Saturday, I had a blast with some friends hiking trails in Becerril. We brought bocadillos and snacks and had a picnic with the cows and then hiked and hiked until a random downpour of hail attacked. Ten kilometers later… we were all a bit surprised by how far we had gone, feeling beyond ready for some hot tea. And wine.

Looking

Freaking Madrid. I am so going to miss wandering around these streets with my eyes glued to the skyline. I went for a walk on Monday around Gran Via and I stumbled upon this beauty—which is just one of 127 of my favorite buildings in the city. Seriously though, what’s a girl gotta do to have leafy digs like that?! 

‘Grammers

Would you believe me if I told you that one Instagram account that brings me tremendous amounts of joy is an account full of photos taken by a five year old? His father, @argonautphoto, is a National Geographic photographer who brings his son @hawkeyehuey along on many of his adventures. He gives his son the freedom to wear his own camera and snap shots of anything he finds interesting—and how wonderfully fascinating it is to see the world through the lens of a 5 year old. I’m just imagining this little doll traveling the world with a inquisitive eye, taking photos of all the people and places that fascinate him. BE STILL MY HEART. This kid is going to be big in the world of photography—mark my words. 

ON MY RADAR

Hello, Florida. Specifically Crystal River, Florida. This place has been calling my name for as long as I can remember. Here you can snorkel with wild, friendly manatees and doing so is easily one of my biggest priorities in life. Who’s with me?

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What are you up to this week? We have some friends visiting from Germany this weekend, so we will be running all over Madrid giving them our condensed tour and drinking lots of cheap beer and wine since we only have one full day with them! Cheers to another great week!  

Travel Photography GIVEAWAY!

After spending an afternoon wandering through Stockholm’s Fotografiska photography museum (highly recommended, by the way!), I began to exit through that strategically placed gift shop when something caught my eye–as something always does. “Hide in Plain Sight: 100 inspiring ways to improve your travel photography.” I picked up the little blue book and started flipping though its pages. I was expecting another book about camera gear I can’t afford or tricky technological tips dealing with focus and exposure and ISO. But that wasn’t what I found.

Instead I found a well-written book that divulges insight about asking strangers for photos (my weakness!), capturing objects in motion, finding interesting frames, seeking out coordinating colors… All of these simple ideas that apply to both iPhone and DSLR photography. Ideas that don’t require expensive lenses or cameras. Just simple, creative ways to change the way you view the world through your lenses. 

I quickly found myself handing my credit card over to the cashier because this book just had to be mine. And it was the last copy. 

The next day, the dreaded four hour flight back to Madrid flew by (literally) because I couldn’t put the book down. I read it cover to cover in one sitting.

I really love its sleek design, beautiful photos and short, but helpful tips that include real life examples and experiences by the well-traveled author, Jens Lennartsson. In addition to advice, after every 25 tips, there is a photography challenge with suggestions on how to accomplish it. 

Since reading the book, I’ve felt so eager to grab my camera and go for a walk around my neighborhood because I have so many new techniques to apply and ideas to exercise. I have found myself looking through my lenses with a totally new perspective—one that is helping me to grow into a more well-rounded, creative photographer.

SO, if this book is something you may be interested in, I have a great opportunity for you! I’ve partnered with author Jens Lennartsson and his publishing company, New Heroes and Pioneers, to give away a free copy of Hide in Plain Sight to a follower! 

You can read the first 10 tips HERE if you need further convincing as to why you really need this book

Entry is simple, just follow the steps below and be sure to share this post.

TO ENTER:

  • Leave a comment including your email and where in the world you’d love the opportunity to practice these photography tips.

FOR ADDITIONAL ENTRIES:

The contest closes Sunday, April 26th, and the winner will be notified Monday, April 27th. Good luck!

Tea Time 04.14.2015

PAPER SOUVENIRS

Sometimes when money is tight, it’s fun to look for free things to collect as souvenirs. One Danish detail that really made me smile was the plethora of free postcards around Copenhagen. Most restaurants had a rack full of free, funky cards for customers, which I enthusiastically perused every time I stumbled upon one. I love the idea of holding onto these free prints and eventually matting and framing some of my favorites. 

TAPA TASTING

As I was skimming through my Conde Nast magazine, I was pleasantly surprised to find an article about tapas in Madrid. As I read the article, I was even more surprised to find that it featured a lesser-known, but up-and-coming street in Madrid called Calle Ponzano, which just so happens to be a three minute walk away from my apartment! This street is full of trendy, crowded restaurants that offer a variety of traditional and non-traditional tapas—most of which I have never tried. So, Saturday night, we pinpointed a few of the restaurants we wanted to target and did our own tapas crawl. We started off at an extremely typical Spanish bar called Bodegas la Ardosa (Calle de Sta Engracia, 70) with some beer and vermouth and what some call “the best patatas bravas in Madrid.” I don’t know if they’re the best in Madrid, but they’re definitely some of the best I’ve ever had. We then meandered over to El Doble (Calle de Ponzano, 58) and had some olives and beer, followed by Lambuzo (Calle de Ponzano, 8), where we ate some garlic shrimp croquettes and shrimp and basil spring rolls, which we washed down with some delicious Albariño wine. WHAT. A. NIGHT. Before we move back to the the US, we plan to make it a point to seek out more of these fun restaurants that we have been neglecting for so long! You can find the article here.

AIRBNBS I <3

Just when I think I can’t love Airbnb any more, I meet a host like Annick from Turckheim, France. We found ourselves staying five nights with Annick over spring break and this sweet woman went above and beyond the normal duties of an Airbnb host. The first day, she picked us up from the train station and graciously drove us to the supermarket. Later on in our stay, she offered to drive us to Eguisheim, a nearby village unreachable by train. It’s considered France’s most beautiful city, so she was insistent that we didn’t miss it–and I’m we didn’t. She then took us to a winery for a tasting–meanwhile she sat back reading a magazine, reiterating kindly that we take our time. Later on, she drove us to an Easter market where we browsed the stalls together, laughing at the rowdy roosters that suppressed the background noise. Besides driving us all around the region, she shared her kitchen with us, baked us bread, offered us cheese, and did everything she could to ensure we were comfortable and happy in her home and village. What a wonderful soul this woman has—she is living proof of the kindness that strangers can show you if you just give them the chance.

If you have plans to travel to the Alsace region of France, be sure to check out Annick’s place. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3975417

‘GRAMMERS

If anyone has been a photography inspiration to me, it’s Dallas-based wedding photographer, @hilary.grace.cinque. This girl knows how to work a camera and her love for photography and attention to detail is out of this world. On her feed, you’ll find shots of fabulous weddings, trendy Dallas hotspots, #SeamusCrushSundays, homemade cocktails and sweets, her worldly travels, bouquets of lavish flowers, and so much more. Hilary is beyond talented and it’s an honor to call her a friend. I love every opportunity I get to shoot with her and learn from her and I couldn’t be more excited to see her (and her hubby!) here in Madrid next month!

ON MY RADAR

Nope, still not finished with California. How cool would it be to do a night kayak over glowing neon blue seas? Count me in. In Point de Reyes, California, about an hour north-west from San Francisco, the sea glows with blue bioluminescence, a phenomenon that occurs when all the conditions are right. Many companies offer night kayak tours that bring you up close and personal to this incredible act of nature and it’s just a matter of time before you’ll catch me paddling away in awe of this wonder.

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Nothing much happening around here this week, but I hope your week is full of reasons to smile. Cheers!

My Must-Have Travel Apps

The One With Wanderlust's

First of all, how did anyone ever travel without technology? I seriously cannot imagine how difficult, yet ironically simple, it must have been. I’m always fighting my phone for storage space, therefore I work with only very necessary apps, but these are the travel-related apps that will never quiver with a little grey “x” in the left corner when I’m scouring for something to delete in exchange for more space.

WHATSAPP

In Europe, everyone uses Whatsapp for communicating. Rather than paying for monthly text messages and phone calls, people send voice messages and texts via this app. It’s very easy to use and it allows me to text and talk with my family for free from abroad! Download this to avoid paying for international texting fees.

Cost: Free

CITY MAPS 2 GO

Gone are the days of fighting paper maps as they refuse to fold back into the right place. This app will take you exactly where you want to go. What I love about City Maps 2 Go is that I don’t need wifi or data to use it–which is perfect for when I’m in a foreign country without service. After I download the map of the city I want, I research and add pins for my hotel, the airport, bus stops, restaurants, attractions, and any other places of interest to me. Once I arrive to the city, I take my phone off airplane mode, turn off my data–which doesn’t cause roaming charges but does allow the GPS to show my location on the map–and walla! I can easily navigate my way around a new place. When hunger strikes, all I have to do is pull out my map to see if I have any restaurants pinned in the area around me. It’s especially helpful if you do your research beforehand, as with each pin you can add notes, an exact address, and a photo. Although I have to warn you! This app is a battery drainer.

Cost: $4.99 (worth every penny!)

DUOLINGO

If you’re headed to a country where the native language isn’t your own, this is a great app to download to learn some basic phrases and words before you leave. The app, which was named Apple’s App of the Year in 2013, offers about a dozen languages to chose from. It starts off with the basics and progressively gets more difficult as you pass each level. It utilizes several techniques for every type of learner and it really works.

Cost: Free

SNAPSEED

Obviously, one of my favorite parts of travel is the endless opportunities for photos. One of my favorite editing apps for my iPhone travel photos is Snapseed. Although I’m a little hesitant about the new update it received yesterday, it’s an app I’ve obsessively used for quite some time now. It gives a variety of edit options and really helps to make my photos crisp, colorful and Instagram ready.

Cost: Free

INK CARDS

I’ve had some rotten luck sending postcards back home. There’s nothing more disappointing than being in a foreign country and going through the effort of buying a card, writing a thoughtful note, finding stamps, and locating a public mailbox to send it off, only to have my words and efforts lost in the mail forever. This has happened more than once, so I decided to give up on that route. Although it’s not quite the same as receiving a handwritten note with cool, foreign stamps, Ink Cards allows you to use your own travel photos to create postcards with a personalized message that are then printed and shipped directly to your recipient. It’s ridiculously easy and only costs $2.99 per card.

Cost: Free

What apps do you use for travel purposes? Share your favorites in the comments!