Spain Eats: La Coruña

I absolutely LOVE seafood. It’s no wonder then that when I got to La Coruña, Spain’s Northwest town in Galicia, I got straight to work tasting the market fresh goodness the town had to offer. As a narrow peninsula, the sea is paramount here- you look left, you see the harbor, turn your head to the right and you’ll see the beach.

Here are some of the things I ate:

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Tapas in Spain

As previously mentioned, I spent a couple of weeks in Spain this summer as part of a longer trip. I was there in late July and the weather was great, apart from a few humid scorchers in the concrete jungle (but fun city!) that is Madrid.

My FAVOURITE thing about Spain is the tapas- snacks or food of smaller portion that you can get at bars and restaurants. If you want something a bit more substantial to eat but not a full meal, you ask for raciones. Now, back to tapas… here’s how it works: You order a beer, you get a bowl of olives. You order another beer, you get some tortilla de patata, you order yourself another beer, you might get some croquetes, or calamari, or jamon, or homemade chips served with jamon, or a small sandwich with jamon, or whatever else the place is serving up that day- you get the idea.

Sadly, for me who hates beer, I only discovered towards the end of my trip that I didn’t always have to buy a drink to get tapas, I could’ve just ordered the the tapa. If you don’t mind the beer but don’t want to fill up on it- order una caña, it’s about a glass of beer… the expression might not be the same everywhere in Spain but they’ll most likely understand what you’re talking about.

All in all, I tapa’d my heart out in Girona, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Granada, and La Coruña this summer. I’d do it again too, yum!

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Beautiful Spain- Great for 1st Time Travelers

Over the summer, I had a wonderful time in Spain. Originally, I had the mistakenly thought that Spain was going to be a lot like Italy. I stand corrected. Spain is definitely in a league of its own and whatever shred of similarity I thought it had just because of a similar romantic language, it can’t be grouped in the same category. These are definitely two different places.

One of the things I first noticed upon arriving in Spain is the sense of relief I felt. As a North American traveler, I feel as though I can identify more closely with Spain, for some reason, than many other countries I’ve travelled to like France, Italy, or even Greece. The people are more easygoing than in, say, Italy. Italy for the North American traveler can be an overwhelming experience especially because of the TONS of tourists deposited there each summer and the fact that nobody waits in line. It’s nothing to get frustrated about- that’s just the way they do it there. But when I have to either wait in line for 5 minutes or fight tooth and nail to be recognized in line at the local gelto place even though the person behind the counter clearly saw me first but served the person who cut in waving a euro in her face… I’d rather not have the headache… and I’d rather not have the icecream.

Spain was the total opposite- everything is orderly and even in tourist hotspots like Barcelona and Madrid, I still felt like I had breathing room. There’s more signage, less schemers looking to get their hands in your pockets than in other places, and WAY better prices. Not to say that this runs rampant in other places…

If you’re looking to get away for the first time… or maybe the first time in a longtime, Spain is an amazing place to start. Beautiful landscapes, friendly and helpful people, clean, good for your pocket, great food, and you’re not falling over thousands of other vacationers. An added bonus is that the Renfe train system goes just about everywhere you need to be and has affordable prices, well kept, and comfortable too.

In sum- Spain: great people, great food, room to breathe, lots to see, relatively affordable

Viva España!

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Video: European Scams

I came across a great video to illustrate my last post. It’s a report/investigation on theft in Europe and how thieves (many gypsies, easily recognizable) operate. It’s a must-see

I DON’T, however, support or agree with the mean comments people have left on the video about gypsies… Because of that, I’m hesitant to post the vid here but at the same time, it’s important to see. Just ignore the comments

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Scams and What to Avoid 2

A few DOs and DON’Ts

If you’re bringing a purse, make sure it zips shut. Not clasps. Zips! If there’s just a clasp, someone will try to stick their greedy little hands in there and steal your wallet or whatever else you have in there. ZIP IT. I prefer a crescent shaped one because it hugs to my side. Also take care to wear it with the zipper pointing front. Ideally, you’d have a purse that can strap across the chest.

NO FANNY PACKS! Ever. Not your Coach one, not the Gucci one you bought on Canal Street… Absolutely none. Never. Why would you want your valuables around your waist, at hand level?

When I was working at a hostel in Rome, I had gone to an outdoor concert with some young Irish guests.- Billy Joel and Brian Adams were playing a free show with the Colosseum as their backdrop. I warned the Irish lass to bring anything BUT her fannypack. She insisted on bringing it and storing her money and camera in its pockets. So, we made our way through the crowd… you can only imagine how packed it was. Not even 5 minutes into pushing our way through, “Guys…. where’s my camera????”

Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket. It’s as simple as that. You will not feel someone taking it. People survive by stealing off of you- they’re pros, they know what they’re doing. You won’t know what hit you. Once again, I met a traveler who thought they were smart so they traveled with pants that zipped at the back pocket. Doesn’t matter… with a push, shove, or quick hand, their wallet was gone in an instant.

Be careful with backpacks, daybags, or whatever you call it when you’re out for the day. While they’re great because they hold all your stuff, they’re also worn behind you where you can’t see who’s being all grabby with your things. Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes bring a bag when I’m seeing the sights but I usually wear it in front of me and I’m protective of it when I’m on the bus or metro. I don’t keep anything important in that front pocket.

A great alternative to carrying everything in a purse or wallet is to divide it up into a money belt worn under your clothes. Not only is your money and/or passport stored close to you but with a good money belt people can’t even tell you’re wearing one! You can find these at travel shops or any travel sections of your favourite department store. I wore this often during my first few trips to Europe but the more confidence I gained from my travels, I’ve since stopped wearing it.

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Practicing the Language

Stop Sign- Meknes, Morocco

Every time I visit a new country, I always learn a few basics to the best of my ability- ‘please’ ‘thank you’ and ‘I don’t understand. Do you speak English?’

Above all, don’t forget the importance of body language. You might not understand the thing but the face and body says it all. I learned as much when I was plucked off a bus at a border crossing into Serbia because the border guard wanted to see my papers (I had a separate slip I needed to show besides my passport). I dumbly just showed him my passport. He wasn’t pleased. ‘blah blah blah’ is all I heard, as he pointed to my passport. “I don’t understand…. do you speak English?” I asked, apologetically, in his language. “blah blah Ingleski! Ingleski!!! blah blah blah” obviously, mocking my ignorance, throwing his head side to side. What I’m pretty sure he said was “You don’t understand and you only speak English. Well, you’re in my country. What am I gonna do with you” I gathered all this from his body language. Oh well, at least I tried! Someone finally told me what he wanted and I was on my merry way.

In Granada, I met the cutest waiter who picked up on the fact that I spoke Spanish better than I let on, as I had ordered in English but read off the Spanish menu perfectly fine. “Why don’t you tell me again in  Spanish,” he flirted “I heard you order… I know you know how to speak it, don’t be shy.” And so, from that point on, I tried not to be. It’s easy to take the path of least resistance sometimes (ie. not having to think of all your words and just using English when you know the person in that country speaks it) but it’s nice to make the effort, it’s appreciated, and it actually makes local people want to talk to you and figure out what you’re all about. 

Now, if you’re gonna put yourself out there and have an ‘in’ with the people, it’s not wise to overdo it… and it’s always good to keep in mind other people’s reactions and the way things work. Read people… situations… and read them well. You might like the newfound attention you have as a foreigner who speaks Spanish but seriously, don’t make a fool of yourself. Case in point: I witnessed an enthusiastic 20something year old American girl walk into a male dominated cafe/bar in her David Villa jersey during the time of the World Cup. Once she was in, I only HEARD the rest. “VILLA MARAVILLA!” she exclaimed, as the men greeted her and her short shorts with an “Eeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy!!!” I can only assume she was pointing furiously to her new jersey and tried to connect with them on a ‘world cup’ level. More shouts and hollers from the men.

“Ole ole ole ole…. oleeeee…. oleeee” from her. “Sube! Sube la camisa!!!” they egged on… “Si, la camisa! Villa Maravilla!” she engaged with them.  “Subela!” the men were still adament. I could only stand outside the place and marvel on. A waitress from across the way scurried to where me and a few other tourists who had been walking around with this girl for the past afternoon were waiting for her. “Dios mio! Do you know what they’re saying? They’re telling her to lift her shirt!” she laughed. I’m not sure if Ms. 20something realized it or not but surely their attitude towards her must gave given her SOME clue, even if she may not have understood 100%. Would she have gone in there back home? Probably not.

Oh and one thing to remember- a popular scam in Europe, or even other places for that matter, is when someone obviously recognizing you as a tourist comes up to you and asks “Do you speak English?” The best thing to do is shake your  head and walk on. Why? Because this person, once they have you in their sights, will either make you read a card explaining that they’re poor and want money, or  flat out ask you. They might even pester you, nothing violent, just more of a nuissance- watch your pockets!. It’s best just to keep going with no acknowledgement.

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Cuba and its Influences in a Nutshell



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