Category Archives: Personal

A Hudson Valley Getaway in Beacon, NY

This summer I took a quick getaway to the Hudson Valley with my mom for a girls weekend. There’s a tranquility about escaping New York City for the quiet, leafy beauty of upstate New York, especially in the summer, and I’ve shared my tips for camping in the Hudson Valley before. This was the first time that I visited the Hudson Valley without roughing it—instead of hiking and canoeing, we enjoyed an artistic weekend that included shopping in local boutiques, visiting a sculpture art center and taking in some al fresco theater.

We stayed in Beacon, New York, at the newly opened Inn and Spa at Beacon. After we checked in, we were exploring the solarium and roof deck on the top floor when we met the owner and designer of the hotel. He immediately asked us which room we were staying in, and when he found out we were on the top floor, he offered to upgrade us to a different room since they were planning to have construction done on the upper roof deck the next morning, and he didn’t want us to be disturbed by the workmen. He was so thoughtful, and we ended up in a room that was even more spacious than the one we had booked, with two separate bedrooms for my mom and me. I also had a relaxing massage at the spa the next morning. Overall, we loved our stay and would highly recommend this inn to those traveling in the area.

We spent some time shopping on Beacon’s Main Street, which is lined with galleries, vintage clothing shops and quirky gift stores. I bought a few dresses at Echo, some playful stocking stuffers for my nieces at Dream in Plastic, and a handmade glass bloom vase at Riverwinds Gallery.

That evening, we headed to the Boscobel House and Gardens for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Boscobel House is located right on the Hudson River with a view of West Point across the valley. It is the site of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival each year. The festival runs throughout the summer, starting in early June and playing through Labor Day weekend. The lineup includes some Shakespeare plays, but also plays about Shakespeare, like the one we saw, or plays that feel appropriate for the theme and setting. This year everyone was buzzing about the performance of Pride and Prejudice. We saw The Book of Will, a new original play about the two men responsible for securing William Shakespeare’s legacy by publishing his works. The show was inventive and engrossing, and the stellar cast effortlessly blended language of Shakespeare’s time with modern idioms, often to comedic effect.

Most of the guests arrive about an hour before the show and picnic on the lawn, and we saw plenty of people popping champagne bottles and kids playing in the grass before the show. There is also a cafe on site, so we were able to partake of our own picnic dinner and drinks as well. The performances are under a tent on the lawn, and the cast really utilizes the setting of the vast estate to their advantage. The show began with the entire cast appearing out of thin air from beyond the ridge near the river and parading up to the tent to applause and fanfare from the guests. The Shakespeare Festival usually has 3-4 rotating shows, and the same cast appears in each performance, which I think is really impressive and also adds to the authenticity, since in Shakespeare’s day that’s the way a theater company would operate as well. If you have the chance to see a performance, absolutely go!

The next day, we took a trip to Storm King Art Center. I’ve visited this sprawling art park before, but wanted the chance to share its 500 acres featuring hundreds of sculptures  with my mom.  The work is mostly modern, and is very much site specific, meant to be viewed in contrast or in harmony with the surrounding fields, mountains and sky. When I visited with my husband, we hiked around on the trails to see the different sculptures, but with my mom we took the tram tour, which was a great way to see the highlights of the park (and avoid getting a terrible sunburn too!).

I hope this post helps inspire you to plan your own Hudson Valley getaway.

The Inn and Spa at Beacon in Beacon, NY. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. The Inn and Spa at Beacon in Beacon, NY. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. Shopping and dining in Beacon, NY. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. View of the Hudson River from Boscobel House and Gardens. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. Sculptures of Hudson Valley artists at the Boscobel House and Gardens. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. Sights at the Boscobel House and Gardens. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival at the Boscobel House and Gardens. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. Storm King Art Center. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. Storm King Art Center. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend. Storm King Art Center. Click to see our full guide to a Hudson Valley getaway weekend.

Our Honeymoon in Spain: Gava

We’re finally on the last installment of my recap of our honeymoon in Spain, and this will be a quick one. We spent our final day in Spain in the seaside area of the small town of Gavà, right outside Barcelona. We were only there for 24 hours, so you might wonder why I’m taking the time to devote a whole post to Gavà. Well, I felt it deserved it since Gava really surprised us! We seriously only booked this stay because we had an early international flight and were looking for a good hotel near the Barcelona airport. I found the AC Hotel Gava Mar, a partner of Marriott hotels, and saw that it was located right on the Mediterranean with what looked like a nice swimming pool. I thought, “Done. Even if it’s a crummy little town, we can hang out by the pool.” But Gava was not a crummy little town—it was gorgeous! Little did I know it’s a popular suburb of Barcelona where many of their soccer stars own beach homes!

The hotel was lovely, with a beautiful view of the Mediterranean, and the pool was aces. We spent some time both on the beach and at the pool, then ate lunch right off the beach at Coco Beach Bar—the food was OK, but they made a great mojito. We later walked literally right across the road from our hotel to an excellent restaurant called Torreon, which was maybe one of the best meals we had in Spain. So if you’re looking for a place to spend the night before or after your international flight, this is perfection.

Want to read about the rest of our honeymoon in Spain? You can find all the posts here:

Three days in Barcelona
Two days in Córdoba
Two days in Ronda
Two days in Granada
One day in Gavà

View from the AC Gava Mar in Spain. We were looking for a good hotel near the Barcelona airport and this more than delivered! Click to view this and our full 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Pool at the AC Gava Mar in Spain. We were looking for a good hotel near the Barcelona airport and this more than delivered! Click to view this and our full 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Coco Beach Bar in Gava, Spain. We were looking for a good hotel near the Barcelona airport and our stop in Gava more than delivered! Click to view this and our full 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Torreon restaurant in Gava, Spain. We were looking for a good hotel near the Barcelona airport and our stop in Gava more than delivered! Click to view this and our full 10-day honeymoon in Spain.

Our Honeymoon in Spain: Granada

After our two days in Ronda, we jumped in our rental car and headed for Granada. We decided to drop off our rental car at the airport right away and just take a taxi into the city. We were planning to stay in Granada central for the next two days, so we figured it would be a waste of money to let our car just sit in a parking garage until we were ready to fly out. I was really surprised by how huge Granada was. It’s sprawling—not as big as Barcelona, but waaaaay bigger than Cordoba or Ronda. Our hotel was right in the historic district, placing us close to the Alhambra and other major attractions. We had also heard that Granada was a great city to eat in.

Our time in Granada was part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. You can read about the rest of our trip in the posts below.

Three days in Barcelona
Two days in Córdoba
Two days in Ronda
Two days in Granada
One day in Gavà

And here’s our Granada travel guide!

We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide.

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Casa 1800 Granada in a room with an Alhambra view. We loved our room and the hotel itself, especially the complimentary 4pm afternoon tea they offered every day with sandwiches and snacks. The hotel is beautiful, with an open-air courtyard and stylish furnishings. The location is both a plus and a minus. It is a very short walk to the Alhambra, but this means it is smack dab in the middle of one of the most touristy sections of Granada. The shops and restaurants right around our hotel were not to our liking at all. We definitely had to venture into different neighborhoods for meals, especially since the hotel does not have a restaurant or bar, only breakfast and the daily tea service.

A view of the Alhambra from our hotel, Casa 1800. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Our room and the interior courtyard at our hotel in Granada, Casa 1800. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. A view of the Alhambra from our hotel room at Casa 1800. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide.

Museo Casa de los Tiros de Granada

Other than the Alhambra, this was my favorite stop in Granada. It’s a small museum with art, frescoes and carvings from the 17th-19th century. I like small museums because they aren’t overwhelming. You can enjoy a few pieces and not feel worn down by wandering through hallways for hours. The fresco work in particular was really striking. Plus, the entrance fee was quite small, so I think this museum is well worth your time.

Museo Casa de los Tiros, a nice stop in Granada. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Museo Casa de los Tiros, a nice stop in Granada. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide.

The Alhambra

Number one on any itinerary in Granada must be the Alhambra. The Alhambra is not just one location, but rather a sprawling complex with many different gardens and palaces to visit. You can easily spend the whole day there. I recommend you buy your ticket online ahead of time to avoid waiting in line. Also, the most spectacular palace in the Alhambra, the Nasrid Palace, requires a timed entry ticket, so booking online will ensure you get the timed entry that you want.

After coming through the main entrance of the Alhambra, we headed for the Generalife, which consists of a leisure palace and the most beautiful gardens.

The Generalife at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. The Generalife at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. The Generalife at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. The Generalife at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. The Generalife at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide.

Next we visited the Alcazaba, a fortress that is the oldest part of the Alhambra. There are excellent views of the city of Granada from its walls.

The Alcabaza at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. A view of Granada from the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide.

Lastly, we stood in line for our entrance time to the Nasrid Palace. The palace is most definitely worth the wait. The carvings, mosaics and intricate decorations covering the walls, floors and ceilings are spectacular. I literally could not stop taking pictures.

Inside the Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Inside the Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Inside the Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. The baths the Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Outside the Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Outside the Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Outside the Nasrid Palace at the Alhambra. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide.

Tapas

Granada is known for being one of the last cities to honor the age-old “free tapa with your drink” tradition. While I’ve been told you can find this practice in some restaurants throughout Spain, we only really experienced it in Granada. And the best place for this experience was Taberna La Tana. We showed up a few minutes before their doors opened because we had heard the place was tiny and filled up fast. This was good advice: The bartender and cooks rolled up to the restaurant at 8:40pm (ten minutes after they were supposed to open), took a few minutes to get settled and invited us in. The two of us and one other couple were the first to arrive and grabbed seats at the bar. Literally 15 minutes later the place was packed, and stayed that way all night. We also liked Bar Poe, which is run by an English ex-pat and had a very unique tapas menu.

Taberna La Tana, one of our favorite places for tapas in Granada. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide. Taberna La Tana, one of our favorite places for tapas in Granada. We spent two days in Granada as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our full Granada travel guide.

There’s one last thing I have to tell you…

Unfortunately, Granada turned out to be my least favorite destination on this trip. While the Alhambra was fantastic and absolutely worth the visit and we had some of our favorite tapas in Spain here, we also experienced some of the most aggressive buskers and beggars I have ever encountered. Let me be clear—I live in New York City. I am a freaking expert at saying “no” to people approaching me on the street. On a day-to-day basis, four to six people will try to stop me on the sidewalk to ask for money for a sandwich or to tell me about how they lost their job and need to pay rent and buy diapers for their baby. On any given subway ride I’m likely to be approached by a mariachi band, kids selling candy for their basketball team or people shouting “showtime” and flipping around the subway cars. I am also often asked if I “have a minute for gay rights/to save the environment/to combat hunger” or if I “have heard of [insert name of start-up company here].” So I know how to say “no.” I have never, ever experienced the aggressiveness that I saw in Granada.

The most common ploy was for women to approach me on the street trying to give me a sprig of rosemary “for love.” These women would not accept “no.” They woul  d try to shove the rosemary in my purse, grab my arm to stop me, get in my face and follow me for blocks insisting I take it. I assume if I did, they would have then asked for money with the same aggressiveness, or they were trying to pickpocket me. For some reason they would only come after me, not Andrew, so a few times he literally inserted himself between me and the women to try to get them to back off. This experience really soured me on Granada and shocked me as well since we hadn’t experienced anything like this anywhere else in Spain. I had a hard time giving Granada a chance after being accosted so frequently. This really only happened around the major tourist areas, like the Cathedral and outside the Alhambra, but it still left a nasty taste in my mouth.

Our Honeymoon in Spain: Ronda

The small town of Ronda in Andalusia was my favorite destination in Spain. It’s the kind of town that makes the tour bus schedule as a photo op and lunch spot, but I found Ronda to be well worth a two-day stay. Reason 1: You will need at least a full day to explore everything this gorgeous city on a hill has to offer. Ronda has a completely unique geography; the city is built atop a hill and a deep gorge bisects it into an older historic center and a newer (emphasis on the “er”—it’s still like hundreds of years old) section bustling with restaurants and shops. The sections are connected by two spectacular bridges, which are a draw in and of themselves. The New Bridge, or Puente Nuevo, looks torn straight from the pages of a fantasy novel, with towering stone supports and a waterfall cascading through it. If that doesn’t convince you to add Ronda to your itinerary, I don’t know what will.

We visited Ronda as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. I’ve written separate posts for each destination on our trip, and linked them all below. Here is our 10-day Spain itinerary:

Three days in Barcelona
Two days in Córdoba
Two days in Ronda
Two days in Granada
One day in Gavà

So here is our Ronda travel guide!

We spent two days in Ronda as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat!

Day 1

First up: El Torcal de Antequera

This portion of our trip was a nice change from our urban explorations, as we spent the majority of our time hiking the Spanish countryside. We drove our rental car from Cordoba to Ronda, but along the way we made a stop at El Torcal de Antequera, a beautiful nature reserve known for its stunning and unique rock formations. It was actually listed as one of the New York TImes’s 52 Places To Go in 2017. The winding drive will take you up a mountainside to a parking area and visitors center. From there, you can choose one of two loop routes. The green trail is shorter at just about a mile and should take about 45 minutes to hike. We chose the longer yellow route, which is approximately 2 miles and takes about two hours to hike. The trail is winding and rocky, so you’ll definitely want to wear good hiking shoes. The vistas throughout are spectacular, meandering along rocky ridges and through valleys surrounded by stone formations that reminded me of drip sand castles.

El Torcal de Antequera. We stopped at El Torcal on our way to Ronda as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! El Torcal de Antequera. We stopped at El Torcal on our way to Ronda as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! El Torcal de Antequera. We stopped at El Torcal on our way to Ronda as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! El Torcal de Antequera. We stopped at El Torcal on our way to Ronda as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! El Torcal de Antequera. We stopped at El Torcal on our way to Ronda as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat!

Our Ronda Hotel

After our hike at El Torcal, we finished our drive to Ronda and checked into Hotel Montelirio. This was the first hotel I booked for our trip because it is one of the only hotels located right along the plateau’s edge with a view of the Puente Nuevo and the surrounding mountains. We booked a room with a view and it absolutely took my breath away. I would give the hotel 5 out of 5 stars. It’s centrally located off a charming side street and the building itself is beautiful and well maintained, with sweeping marble staircases, a stained glass front door and rich woodwork throughout. Each room is named after a city and decorated in kind—we stayed in the Marrakesh room, which featured wooden screens and a yellow and blue canopy dotted with stars. My only critique is that the wood screen door to the bathroom left a little privacy to be desired…I may be married now, but I still like some alone time in the bathroom, please. But in all seriousness, we loved this hotel. The staff was so friendly and accommodating and the location is unbeatable.

This was the view from our window:

The view of Ronda from our room in the Hotel Montelirio. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! The view of Ronda from our room in the Hotel Montelirio. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! The view of Ronda from our room in the Hotel Montelirio. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat!

Hi, I live here now.

Day 2

Exploring Ronda’s Old City and Hiking Into the Puente Nuevo Gorge

Ronda is the kind of city with a surprise around every turn. We decided to walk through the old section of the city to get to the base of the gorge (called el Tajo) for the best view of the Puente Nuevo or New Bridge. Along the way, we saw the old city walls, beautiful stone churches, charming houses and cobbled squares.

Once we left the city walls behind, we hiked a short way down a rural lane past a horse farm, and then up to a viewpoint called the Arco del Cristo, with spectacular views of the city of Ronda and the Puente Nuevo bridge. There are some more advanced hikes that you can do to get closer to the bridge and the waterfall streaming through the gorge. We did a portion of one that took us past some interesting ruins and a fast-flowing stream. Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared for the difficulty level of the hike. We hit a section that required you to lower yourself down onto a narrow wooden board and walk across it, and Andrew and I were worried about the stability of the board, and our ability to get back up without any equipment. It was frustrating because we could literally see a mountain pool just beyond the board that you could swim in…but it would have been too dangerous to attempt on our own, especially since we didn’t see any other hikers on the path. But you can do a short portion of the hike with just good walking shoes. No matter where you decide to walk, you will be guaranteed gorgeous views.

Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Puente Nuevo or New Bridge, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Puente Nuevo or New Bridge, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Hiking near the Puente Nuevo or New Bridge, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Hiking near the Puente Nuevo or New Bridge, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat!

The New City + The Bullring

After a little rest, we headed to the opposite side of the Puente Nuevo bridge to explore a bit of the new city. This side of the city has more shops and restaurants, but also quaint squares filled with people enjoying an afternoon drink. We found a lovely park with a promenade right along the cliffside, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

We also decided to stop for a visit at Ronda’s Plaza de Toros, or Bullring. There was not actually a bull fight going on there…in fact, I wouldn’t have wanted to visit if there was. But they have a bullfighting museum and we decided it was worth taking a peek since we were right there. I thought the entrance fee was much too high for what it was though and wouldn’t recommend this as a must-see in Ronda unless you’re really interested in bull fighting.

Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! A wall covered in Iberico ham in Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Plaza de Toros or bull ring, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Plaza de Toros or bull ring, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Plaza de Toros or bull ring, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat!

Dinner with a View

For our last dinner in Ronda, we made a reservation at the restaurant at our hotel, which is called the Albacara Restaurant, because it is seriously the best view in the city. Their terrace looks out over the cliff and all the surrounding country, and faces west so you can watch the sun set over the mountains. They only have about 8 tables on the terrace though, so a reservation is a must. The food was also superb. We shared an appetizer of crab in puff pastry, and then I had a salmon roulade for dinner while Andrew had a giant leg of lamb. If you are looking for a super romantic dinner, this is it. A must-do in Ronda!

Dinner at Albacara, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat! Dinner at Albacara, Ronda, Spain. We visited Ronda for two days as part of our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click to see our Ronda travel guide, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat!

Our Honeymoon in Spain: Cordoba

Andrew and I took a two-part honeymoon: We traveled to Scotland right after our wedding in October of 2016 (you can read about our trip to Scotland here) and then saved up our vacation days to travel to Spain for 10 days in May of 2017, starting with three days in Barcelona, which you can read about here. Next up: two days in Cordoba!

Since we did so much, I’m going to write separate posts about each destination and I’ll link them all below. Here is our 10-day Spain itinerary:

Three days in Barcelona
Two days in Córdoba
Two days in Ronda
Two days in Granada
One day in Gavà

And now, on to our Córdoba travel guide! We took a short flight from Barcelona to Seville on Vueling, a very affordable regional Spanish air carrier, then rented a car at the Seville airport. Many people were surprised that we didn’t choose to stay in Seville, and I’d love to see the city someday, but I really wanted to spend more time in Córdoba, so we decided to skip Seville on this trip.

  • Tip: If you need an automatic car (like we do), make sure you book one in advance! The majority of cars in Europe are manual, so you’ll need to reserve the automatic to make sure you get one! I also recommend choosing a small compact car. While the highways in Spain were excellent with nice wide and well paved roads, the roads in cities can be pretty narrow and having a smaller car will help you navigate any tight squeezes with a bit more confidence.

Here’s our Cordoba travel guide.

Travel guide for two days in Cordoba. This was the second stop on our 10-day honeymoon to Spain. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Day 1

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Eurostars Palace in Cordoba. I’d give this hotel 4 stars out of 5. The hotel is located right outside of the old city and at the edge of a large city park. It is very conveniently located to all the major sights and the popular Victoria Market is just a few steps away. The hotel is very modern in design—it’s covered in this interesting steel structure with holes in it, which kind of obstructs the views, but also kind of looks cool. There is a nice little pool on the roof, and we also liked the rooftop bar. I’d say the one downside is that the hotel is a very popular event venue—we saw both a conference and a wedding while we were there. But I’d definitely recommend this hotel if you’re looking for a good central location with modern amenities.

The Eurostars Palace hotel in Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain!

Exploring Cordoba

Cordoba has so much charm and character and we really enjoyed just exploring the streets. It’s a small enough city to feel manageable and not overwhelming, but large enough to keep you busy for a long weekend. The streets are lined with colorful buildings and the window boxes are often bursting with flowers. Each square is paved with mosaics made of polished stone pebbles, and there’s a lovely promenade on the river. Really a charming place to visit and my second favorite city on our trip (favorite goes to Ronda, which I’ll write about next).

Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Tea shop, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain!

La Mezquita

One of the reasons I wanted to travel to Andalusia was to see the Moorish architecture that is so unique to that region. La Mezquita is a perfect example of that. The site was originally a mosque, but was transformed into a cathedral after the Christians conquered the region in the 13th century. The combination of the two types of architecture is really stunning. You enter a hall filled with red-and-white striped arches, and can find tombs decorated with Catholic icons and statues lining the walls. At the center of the Mezquita, the architecture dramatically shifts to the Renaissance with a soaring domed ceiling decorated in white and gold relief. In other areas of the mosque-turned-cathedral, you can find gold-leaf Islamic designs and tile work. It’s truly a stunning combination of two very different design styles.

La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! La Mezquita, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain!

Spanish-Asian Fusion and Oxtail Churros

By the time we got to Cordoba, Andrew and I were a little burned out on traditional Spanish tapas. I mean, I love Iberico ham and croquetas as much as the next person, but I can’t eat that every night. So we tried two modern Spanish restaurants during our stay in Cordoba and loved them both. The first, La Furgo, was a fusion restaurant that included Asian and French influences. We loved the dumplings, which were filled with traditional Japanese flavors but topped with Spanish ham and saffron threads. Our second night, we dined at Garum 2.1, a modern Spanish tapas restaurant. We had a ton of great dishes here, but our favorite was an oxtail churro with a bitter chocolate dipping sauce—yum! Both of these restaurants are near the river in a really nice area that’s less touristy than the streets right around La Mesquita and La Alcazar.

La Furgo restaurant, Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain!

Day 2

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

The Alcazar is a medieval fortress that was one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. It’s well known for its stunning formal gardens, including sculpted topiaries and fountains. We visited the Alcazar on a Sunday, when they unfortunately close the doors at 3pm…and we got there at like 2pm, so we didn’t have much time to explore more than just the gardens. Whoops!

Alcazar de Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Alcazar de Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Alcazar de Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Alcazar de Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! Fish at Alcazar de Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain!

Festival de los Patios

I specifically planned our visit to Cordoba to coincide with the Festival of the Patios. This festival is held in early May each year and residents around the city open their courtyards to the public and decorate them with gorgeous displays of flowers and plants. I’m a little bit of a voyeur when it comes to other people’s homes—I’m all about an open house—so being able to wander into people’s gardens around the city is like a perfect festival for me. You can grab a map to see which homes are participating, and there is also a pretty great website that alerts you to which patios are experiencing heavy traffic. Really helpful!

We decided to head to an area of the city away from the main tourist center to explore the Festival of the Patios, which was a great idea because we got to see more of the character of the city and the gardens we visited were a little less crowded.

The Festival of the Patios in Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! The Festival of the Patios in Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! The Festival of the Patios in Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain! The Festival of the Patios in Cordoba, Spain. Click for our travel guide to two days in Cordoba, and our full 10-day trip to Spain!

Next up: Two days in Ronda!

Our Honeymoon in Spain: Barcelona

Andrew and I took a two-part honeymoon: We traveled to Scotland right after our wedding in October of 2016 (you can read about our trip to Scotland here) and then saved up our vacation days to travel to Spain for 10 days in May of 2017, starting with three days in Barcelona.

I have been wanting to visit Spain for over a decade. It all started with a missed flight. In college, I studied abroad in London and my girlfriends and I would often take long-weekend trips around Europe. We had planned to visit a friend who was studying in Salamanca, Spain, and booked a flight on the low-cost air carrier Ryanair, departing from London’s Stansted airport, which I lovingly referred to as the seventh circle of hell. Well, let’s just say we did not budget enough time to fight through London’s rush-hour traffic to Stansted and we missed our flight. Since Ryanair only had one flight to our destination a day (this was almost a decade ago, so I have no idea what their flight schedules are like now), we had to scrap the trip since by the time we got to Spain we would have had less than 24 hours before we had to turn around and come right back. We consoled ourselves at the only Spanish restaurant we could find in London with paella and sangria.

Fast forward to 2017 and my dream of traveling to Spain finally became a reality. I spent a lot of time trying to decide which cities and regions we should visit in Spain. It is a huge country, and we really could not see everything we wanted to in 10 days. Conclusion: We will have to go back! Barcelona was at the top of my wish list because I’ve long been obsessed with Gaudí’s art and architecture, and I knew I wanted to visit the Andalusia region in the south of Spain for its unique Moorish influence. Here is our 10-day Spain itinerary:

Three days in Barcelona
Two days in Córdoba
Two days in Ronda
Two days in Granada
One day in Gavà

Since we did so much, I’m going to write separate posts about each destination and I’ll link them all above. First up, our three days in Barcelona!

Travel guide for three days in Barcelona. This was the first stop on our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Day 1

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Hotel Catalonia Portal de l’Angel and I would give the hotel 3.5 out of 5 stars. Pros: A very central location within easy walking distance of both the Gothic Quarter and the Eixample neighborhoods, as well as a subway line. We also had a room with a large private balcony overlooking the back courtyard, which was the best feature of the hotel. We enjoyed sitting out on our patio in the evenings and sharing a glass of wine together before heading out for dinner. Cons: Though the location is very centralized, it is on a very busy shopping street with stores like Zara and H&M next door—not exactly a neighborhood with character. Also, I felt the service at the hotel was a little sub par for the price. As an example, when I asked for a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine, I was told that the hotel only had one, so I’d have to bring my bottle down to the bar to get the wine opened. I’m sorry, but it’s impossible that they only have one bottle opener… Overall, the hotel was a serviceable and comfortable base of operations for our stay in Barcelona.

The view from our balcony at the Hotel Catalonia Portal de l'Angel in Barcelona. We stayed here for three days in Barcelona during our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! The view from our balcony at the Hotel Catalonia Portal de l'Angel in Barcelona. We stayed here for three days in Barcelona during our 10-day honeymoon in Spain. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Dinner in the Gothic Quarter (+ My Gin Tonic Love Affair)

After a little rest to recover from our jet lag, we headed to the Gothic Quarter for dinner. It is true that most restaurants do not open until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. Andrew and I really didn’t have a problem adapting to this though. We just kind of moved all our meals back, and we also didn’t mind being the first people in a restaurant when it opened at 8pm. We had a very traditional tapas meal our first night at La Alcoba Azul, and it was one of my favorite restaurants that we stopped at in Barcelona. Highly recommended! We split jamón Ibérico (a must-have in Spain), manchego cheese and a few other tapas. I was also introduced to my new obsession: Spanish gin tonics.

You guys, gin and tonics in Spain are like nothing you have ever experienced. First of all, they are served in humongous glasses that look like a cross between a margarita glass and a red wine glass. Insane! Second, they are garnished with all kinds of fun extras, like pink peppercorns, thyme sprigs, star anise, orange peel, apple slices…it’s heaven! I had sooooo many gin tonics on this trip (lose the “and” when ordering in Spain).

  • Tip: Spain is a very cash-centric country! We stopped at a lot of cash-only restaurants and shops, so make sure you always have some on hand or you’ll miss out on great locations.

Tapas at La Alcoba Azul in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Day 2

La Sagrada Familia

Our first stop on day two was La Sagrada Família, the basilica designed by Antoni Gaudí that is still under construction to this day—they have been working on it over 150 years!

  • Tip: Buy your tickets online ahead of time! Entrance to La Sagrada Família is timed. If you buy your tickets online, you can show up at your appointed entry time and get right in. If you wait to buy at the basilica, you will have to stand in a ticket line and then wait around for your entrance time, which could be an hour or more of waiting time before you even get to enter. Also, make sure to book a separate ticket to visit one of the two towers! This entrance is not included with the general ticket. You need a second ticket (also with a timed entry) to go up into the towers. We got the Top Views ticket package to see everything, and visited the tower on the Passion facade.

Each side of the basilica has its own character. The Nativity facade is intricately carved with elaborate animals, flowers and figures representing the holy family. It is perhaps the most traditional of the facades, with soft, flowing lines. Once you step inside, you enter a forest of white columns that soar up to a starburst ceiling above. The stained glass windows paint the eastern side of the interior in warm sunrise hues of red and orange, while the western side is bathed in twilight colors of blue and violet. The Passion facade was perhaps my favorite because of the modern, almost surreal style of the figures. They had the feeling of chess pieces come to life—incredibly striking and eerie.

The Passion facade of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Light streaming through the stained glass at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! The interior of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! The Passion facade of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! The Passion facade of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Detail on the Passion facade of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! The view from the Passion tower of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Gaudi Houses: La Pedrera and Casa Batllo

After our visit to La Sagrada Família, we walked into the stylish Eixample neighborhood to visit La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, both located on the busy Passeig de Gràcia. The road is a nice stroll, akin to walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City, past designer shop windows and beautiful apartment facades. We visited the interior of Le Pedrera, but were feeling a bit tired after all our walking in the hot sun, so we opted to skip the interior of Casa Batlló. My favorite part of Le Pedrera was the rooftop, which is dotted with tiled sculptures that look like giant rooks, and an undulating layout that reminds you of shifting sands.

La Pedrera in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! The rooftop of La Pedrera in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! The rooftop of La Pedrera in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Visiting La Pedrera in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! La Pedrera in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

The exterior of Casa Batllo was absolutely gorgeous. It is studded with a rainbow-colored mosaic that shimmers in the sun like dragon scales.

Casa Batllo in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Detail of the exterior of Casa Batllo in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Pintxos on Calle Blai

For the evening, we headed to the Poble Sec neighborhood to do a tapas bar crawl on Calle Blai. All of the restaurants on this road specialize in a type of tapa called pintxos or pinchos, which is a bite-sized tapa typically served on a slice of bread and speared with a toothpick. You help yourself from a bar lined with jewel-like pintxos, then the waitress counts up your toothpicks at the end of your meal to know how much to charge you. Our favorite was La Tasqueta de Blai, but we also liked Blai 9. It’s fun to stroll down the street, grab a caña (small beer) or vino blanco and a few pintxos at each bar.

Pintxos at La Tasqueta de Blai in the Poble Sec neighborhood of Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Pintxos on Calle Blai in the Poble Sec neighborhood of Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Day 3

Park Guell

For our last day in Barcelona, we took the subway up to Park Güell, another Gaudí must-see spot. This sprawling park was originally designed as a planned community, and highlights include some of Gaudi’s best mosaic work and whimsical slanted avenues.

  • Tip: Just like for Sagrada Familia, you should purchase your tickets in advance online for Park Güell. There are two sections of the park: the free-access area, which you can explore anytime at your leisure, and the Monumental Zone, which requires a timed entry ticket. All of Gaudí’s best architectural works are in the Monumental Zone, so you definitely want to make the effort to visit this section. I recommend arriving 30 minutes to an hour before your timed entry time to explore the free-access zone before entering the Monumental Zone.

Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations! Park Guell in Barcelona. We started our 10-day honeymoon in Spain with three days in Barcelona. Click for our full itinerary and recommendations!

Still to come: Two days in Cordoba, two days in Ronda, two days in Granada and one day in Gava.

My Favorite Books of 2016

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I had a book review blog. And then I started this blog and it was just too much. Though I was still reading just as much as ever, I couldn’t keep up with Ultimate Bridesmaid and work a full-time job and have a life and blog about books. So my book blog fell by the wayside, but I certainly didn’t stop reading and I definitely didn’t stop having opinions about what I read. So once a year I like to share my favorite books from last year with you. Let me know what you’re reading and loving too!

My Favorite Books of 2016: Find reviews of The Heart Goes Last, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Incarnations, Purity, The Girls, and Slade House.

If you have a macabre fascination with cults (like me), try The Girls by Emma Cline.

I’ve always been interested in books about cults, and this is probably the best one I’ve ever read. Set in California in the 1960s, the story follows Evie, a young teenage girl who is drawn in to a group of hippies—mostly women—living on a decrepit ranch off the grid with a charismatic leader who dreams of becoming a celebrity folk singer. The book captures the feeling intensity of wanting to belong to something at that age, of searching for intimacy and excitement. It shows a certain type of young woman—sexual but aloof, powerful in her confidence and ease, her messy hair and wrinkled clothing—and Evie is drawn to the leader of these girls, wanting to be like her, feel loved by her, be part of her world. But people are going to end up dead.

If you identify with tales of disaffected youth or like a dark coming of age tale, try Purity by Jonathan Franzen.

Apparently this was the year of me reading books about young girls being lured into organizations by charismatic older men. I loved Franzen’s The Corrections and didn’t much care for Freedom. Purity felt like a return to the style of The Corrections, but Franzen’s voice has matured. I still feel like he has a woman problem, but nonetheless, I liked Purity. Young Pip takes an internship The Sunlight Project, an organization ferreting out the world’s secrets and using them for good, based in a remote valley in Bolivia. Isolated from the world she’s known, Pip draws the attention of the Julian Assange-type head of the Project, Andreas. Soon she’s not sure what’s she’s doing in Bolivia. Andreas has promised to help her find the identity of her father, whom her mother has hidden from her for her whole life. Is she just waiting for those answers? Does she believe in the Sunlight Project? Is she just glad to be out of her dead-end call center job in Oakland? Or is she trying to exert her sexual power over Andreas…or vice versa?

If you like Chinese historical fiction or stories of reincarnation, try The Incarnations by Susan Barker.

A few years back I read Life After Life and was kind of obsessed with it. Since then, books about past lives have been a draw, so I picked up The Incarnations. Set in modern-day Beijing, the story follows taxi driver Wang and his stalker, who claims to be his literal soulmate, with whom he has shared his past six lives. This mysterious figures leaves letters for Wang detailing the lives they have lived together—as slaves on the run from Genghis Khan, as a fisherman and English captain during the Opium Wars, as two concubines in the court of the Ming dynasty. The souls are yin and yang—they complete each other and destroy each other, again and again. An addictive read.

If you want a peek into New York high society’s golden age, try The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin.

Reviews of this book have been love/hate, but I really enjoyed it. The story follows Truman Capote’s friendship with a group of New York socialites in the 1950s. As a period piece of New York, it’s lovely, showing the transition from the graceful socialites of the 50s to the celebrity culture that rose in the 60s, leaving many of Manhattan’s elite behind. It’s also an interesting look at Truman Capote, painting him as a social climber who recognized that these Manhattan swans (his name for the women who befriended him) were using him as a gem in their collection of artists and writers. It shows how he at first uses this to his advantage, forges at least one true friendship, but ultimately lets his addiction to fame drive him to ruin.

If you love gothic horror stories, try Slade House by David Mitchell.

If you asked me to pick my two favorite authors (I get two, because I say so), I’d easily pick David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood, so it’s no surprise their newest books made this list. But I think this might be David Mitchell’s most accessible book to the uninitiated. This creepy gothic horror novella centers around Slade House, a hidden residence in London that lures victims in once every nine years. But for those who are familiar with Mitchell’s work, you’ll also catch links back to many of his previous books in the expanding, lightly interconnected world Mitchell has been building over the past decade.

If you can’t wait for The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, try The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.

While not as revolutionary as some of Atwood’s earlier work, The Heart Goes Last has her characteristic extraordinary world-building balanced by thoughtful character studies and chilling moments that make you think “oh my god, this could really happen!” The story is set in a poverty-filled world in which the central couple, Charmaine and Stan, are living out of their car trying to keep safe from roaming gangs of street thugs. They decide to enroll in an experimental government program in which they will be provided with everything they’ve ever dreamed of—a home in a safe, gated community with paid, stable employment. The only catch? They’ll have to spend every other month in the community’s prison system.

See last year’s list here.