Bar-hopping in East Amsterdam: Find your tavern soul-mate

We are back from our 10 day adventure in the Netherlands & Iceland (and a quick day in NYC)! I’ve got tons of great blogs on deck for you guys, going through all of our favorite parts of the trip. I thought I’d start by sharing one of our favorite ways to get to know a neighborhood: bar- hopping!

We stayed at Hotel Arena in Amsterdam-Oost, or the East Amsterdam neighborhood. This is a hip up-and-coming neighborhood with a lot of unique bars and restaurants surrounding Oosterpark, a beautiful park with paved paths, a large pond, park equipment for kids, and lots of gazebos and green space for friends and families to gather. The entrance to Hotel Arena is located in the park, as well, so we got to know the surrounding area pretty well during our stay.

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Hotel Arena- Amsterdam (Photo Annie Adams 2017)

It was funny, because this neighborhood reminded me a lot of East Nashville, one of our local neighborhoods that I love. Both are full of trendy people and places, but both also have something for everyone; hence, finding your tavern soul-mate! So, read on to find the best bar for you in East Amsterdam!

For the Leisurely Brunch-er:
The Park Cafe at Hotel Arena is bright, open and airy, with great views of the park through floor to ceiling glass windows and lots of cozy seating. Service tends to run a bit slowly here, which makes it a perfect spot to sit and enjoy a warmer-than-average early spring day in Amsterdam while sipping a cocktail or glass of wine. They also have a nice menu of standard cafe fare, including an excellent cheese plate and some really tasty sandwiches.

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For the Social butterfly beer lover:
The local favorite de Biertuin is a modern take on a beer hall, with long wooden tables both inside and on the outdoor patio, perfect for drinking a beer or two with friends new and old. The biggest draw of de Biertuin, though, is their expansive beer list. With over 75 beers on the menu, you’ll be sure to find a beer you love. This place is usually packed, so come ready to mingle with locals at one of the large tables.

(I apparently forgot to take some photos here… whoops!)

For Date Night:
Cafe Kuijper, just down the block from de Biertuin, is warm, inviting, and definitely  a great spot for a romantic date night. The decor was a mix of vintage glam and quirky- cool, with beaded chandeleirs, overstuffed leather booths (with fur pillows for added comfort on cold Amsterdam nights!) and wall hangings ranging from a stuffed buffalo head to a red airplane model.  They have a great selection of beer and wine, better -than-average pub food, and an adorable bar cat who will come keep you company, this is a great place to cozy up with your S.O. and enjoy a few beverages!

For the #tbt fan:
Bar Bukowski, a still-fairly-new bar in the area, is probably my personal favorite of the bunch. There was a really fun local crowd there the night we went, and the combination of art-deco meets modern-funky decor, a menu full of unique cocktails, and the sounds of 90s girl-power-pop bands (Hey Spice Girls and Michelle Branch!), I immediately felt at home here. You can choose to sit at the bar, at tables for groups, or in the upstairs loft overlooking the action depending on your social mood that evening.

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Stay tuned for way more from our trip to Amsterdam!

Ballin’ On A Budget: Shopping for your trip!

Today, I’m going to let you in on another one of my (not-so-secret) secrets for ballin’ on a budget: thredUP! I placed an order recently to grab a few more warm-weather essentials for our upcoming trip to Amsterdam and Iceland, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share a few of my tips for packing and traveling in style without breaking the bank.

Since moving to Nashville, my winter wardrobe has dwindled to just the essentials. No complaints here, but when I started thinking about what I’d need to head to two Northern countries at the tail end of winter, I knew I needed to grab a few more pieces.

There are a ton of ways to buy clothes online today: traditional retailers, curated shopping sites, personal stylists, and on and on and on. When I found thredUP, it seemed like a perfect fit for my style, budget, and values. I immediately was drawn to their insane selection of designer and name brand pieces, and those prices. Everything is 60-90% off retail price, which makes clicking “buy” super easy. I’ve found everything from comfy travel clothes to beautiful cocktail dresses, and just about every style in between. I also love that they are focused on helping their customers be conscious consumers- something that I strive to be, but isn’t always easy, especially when shopping for clothes. Buying secondhand keeps other people’s used items out of landfills, and encourages us to rethink how we can reuse what we already have. You can also send your clothes in using one of their Clean Out Kits, giving other people the chance to love the clothes you no longer need or want.

Besides their great selection, prices, and eco-conscious practices, they also have curated collections, making browsing by look and style even easier. Blogger and designer Emily Henderson does a curated collection each month, and they feature both celebrities and real people on their blog with inspired fashions.

SO, back to the pieces I grabbed for our upcoming trip to Holland and Iceland. It’s going to be in 20s-30s while we’re there in early March. My go-to cold weather look usually includes jeans, boots, and some layers on top. I grabbed these three SUPER comfy and warm sweaters for under $30. These will be great layering pieces, with the option for a short or long-sleeved shirt underneath and a coat over top. Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 3.48.52 PM

I tend to grab great neutral pieces and layer in color with accessories. The top sweater is a warm wool sweater in tan. I’ve got a beautiful purple scarf my husband brought home from Scotland a few years ago that will pair perfectly with this, along with some long dangle gold and amethyst drop earrings, skinny jeans, and my go to block-heeled grey boots.

That grey sweater is a bit oversized, which I was honestly hoping would be the case. We’ll be spending a day hiking the Golden Ring in Iceland, and I want to be able to layer up with a thinner long-sleeved shirt underneath, and my white GAP puffer coat over the top. Black lined gloves, a white and red pom-pom knit hat and a grey scarf will make this the perfect sweater for a day in the elements.

I’m always drawn to beautiful jewel tones, and this blue sweater went in my cart the second I saw it. I can just see us sitting in a cozy cafe in Amsterdam sipping coffee and relaxing by a fire while wearing this with some fleece leggings and tall riding boots.

Check out thredUP for yourself by clicking HERE– you’ll even get $10 off your first order by using this link!


One of my other favorite ways to find great clothing items for way below retail is our neighborhood’s online garage sale page on Facebook. I think most towns have something similar at this point. I suggest searching for “Your Town” + Garage sale, trading post, or other similar phrases to find one in your area. I grabbed my white GAP Puffer coat for only $10 from a neighbor cleaning out her closet. It’s in excellent used condition, is super warm and water resistant, and will serve me well on our adventures this month.

I just added some close ups of my thredUP finds in my instagram story- check it out at instagram.com/anniekennedycountry!

We head out to Amsterdam and Iceland THIS SATURDAY (!!!!!), so be sure to subscribe and check back for tons of photos and updates!

Going off the Beaten Path in Nashville’s Donelson Neighborhood  

In addition to this blog, I’ve been doing a bit of travel writing for other publications, and just had a story I wrote about my own neighborhood published on Travel Post Monthly, a great collection of online travel pieces. I’m always excited to share about my favorite Nashville Neighborhood, so I wanted to share something a bit different. Enjoy! 

Going off the Beaten Path in Nashville’s Donelson Neighborhood

Amsterdam, Iceland & NYC: Finding Flights and Planning your Adventure, Part 1

I’m so excited to share that our next adventure is coming in just a few short weeks, and it’s checking quite a few things off the old goal-list for 2017. My husband and I are heading out the 2nd week of March for adventures in Amsterdam, Iceland, & NYC.

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We planned to use our favorite flight booking sight Momondo to book flights when we found an irresistible deal on Cyber Monday. However, a little extra digging and I was able to make our trip even more exciting.

Here’s what went down: Cory has been to Amsterdam a few times, and wanted to take me to show me around. We’d been seeing a lot of really inexpensive flights there, so we’d been watching the deals for fights to Amsterdam for about a month. Cyber Monday rolled around and sure enough, there were some amazinggggggg deals on airfare. The great thing about Momondo is they show you which airlines the fares come from. When I noticed the flight we were about to book was on Iceland Air, I remembered an article I had read several months before about their new stopover program. Basically, to increase tourism to Iceland, Iceland Air started offering free stopovers on your itinerary to and from Europe. Iceland has been on my travel bucket list for a while, so I hopped over to their website and found our EXACT. SAME. FLIGHTS. for the same price, but with a 2 and a half day stopover in Reykjavik when I booked with them directly. That was more than enough to convince me to click “BUY” right then and there.

This flight was out of New York, so we waited another few weeks until we found some great low fares from Nashville to NYC, and booked those tickets as well. The whole thing came out to well under $1000 round trip combined for both of us.

 

We’ll be in Amsterdam Sunday through Friday, and I’m so excited that I’ve got two shows booked while we are there! I am a country singer/songwriter, and my biggest music goal for 2017 was to play outside of the US. I am thrilled to be checking that off so early in the year! I’ll be performing at a songwriter’s cafe Sunday evening, and again on a Radio show for Songwriters later in the week. I’ll be posting as much video content as I can of these shows, in addition to the Live Stream the venue puts up for their performers. If you’re interested in any of that, be sure to follow along at my music instagram (@Anniekennedycountry) or Facebook (Facebook.com/anniekennedycountry) pages!

We’ll leave Amsterdam late morning Friday and take a quick flight back to Reykjavik where we’ll have 2 whole days to explore. Our tentative plans are to spend one day driving the Golden Circle and exploring some of Iceland’s natural beauty, then spending one day in Reykjavik and getting a feel for life in the capital city.

We head back to NYC Sunday evening, and we’ll spend our 24 hours eating amazing food, exploring the city, and I’ll be doing a live-t0-vinyl recording session with a Manhattan based management company. Same thing here, we’ll be doing a ton of live videos and other content, so we’d love for you to join us on social media for that!

Rest assured there will be A LOT of post-trip posts full of photos, stories, and memories, but until then, stay tuned for more of our planning process when traveling abroad. Look out early next week for a post on packing for a trip like this, and how I used the online second-hand retailer ThredUp to grab some essentials!

Cheers!

-Annie

 

Doing Nashville like a Local- Part 1: Honky Tonking

My love affair with Nashville started long before I ever stepped foot in this lovely city. Growing up a country music fan, Nashville was the mecca of the genre, it’s home to the Grand Ole Opry, countless recording studios, and all of my favorite singers. After a couple trips in high school to visit colleges, one CMA-Fest, and a summer spent interning for the Country Music Hall of Fame, I made the decision to make the big move South to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer/ songwriter.

I’ve lived here since 2009, and BOY, have things changed in the last 8 years. We’ve gone from “the Athens of the South” with slow, Southern summers and lots of country music to a booming metropolis with some of the best food, wine, and entertainment (country and otherwise!). There are a handful of new restaurants opening weekly now, and we keeps showing up on lists of great place to live, eat and play. It’s exciting, but easy to to get caught up in the curmudgeon-y habit of wishing new people would stop showing up and ruining our small town meets big city vibe.

So, I’ve decided to write Nashville, my beloved city, a love letter. The great news for you is I’m going to write it in several parts, and give you tips to how to do Nashville like a local along the way. So here we go!

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Part 1: Honky Tonk-ing like a local 

The other Nashville locals might tell you that there’s no way to “Honky Tonk” like a local. Broadway, the main drag downtown with hundreds of bars and music venues, is probably the number one tourist destination in Nashville. Hey, if you’re going to come to Nashville, you’ve got to at least spend an hour or two honky tonk-ing! Here are my 4 favorite honky tonks!

1. Robert’s Western World

Walking into Robert’s Western World feels like walking back in time a couple of decades. The long, narrow building has a handful of round tables and long wooden table, surrounded by old Hatch Show Print posters and vintage photos. If the shelves of cowboy boots against the wall don’t let you know that you’re in for great, classic country music, the music reverberating through the air will do the job. This bar features lots of Western Swing and Retro-Country bands whose objective is to get you on your feet. The dance floor is always full with patrons of all ages, and there is never a shortage of people two-stepping and swing dancing the night away. If it gets a little too hot on the dance floor, you can always go up to the balcony for some fresh air and conversation with tourists and locals alike.

2. Legend’s Corner 

Featuring a mix of current and classic country, rock, and pop covers, some of the best musicians in Nashville grace this stage nightly. This corner lot bar is a bit more spacious than some of the other bars on Broadway and is a great place to start or end your bar-hopping evening on Broadway due to it’s location at the end of the strip. Stop in for a drink or two and get your night started!

3. Paradise Park Trailer Resort 

This pace is definitely a tourist favorite, but for good reason. The trailer-park themed bar is impossible to miss with it’s giant neon sign out front. Walk inside and you’ll find an old rusted out car at the front of the bar, a high-energy band onstage playing all night long, and the cheapest pitchers of PBR you’ll find downtown. If you enjoy people watching, there is never a shortage of entertaining patrons to keep your eyes open for. As an added bonus, there’s a burger joint attached to the bar with some of the best burger, hot dogs and fries you’ll ever have… especially after a few pitchers of beer and night of dancing!

4. The Nashville Palace 

For your final stop, I’m taking you off the main strip and East of downtown to The Nashville Palace. This classic Nashville haunt is known as the place Randy Travis got his start, washing dishes and playing music on the weekends. That tradition continues today with great bluegrass, Western Swing, and Classic Country bands playing with some of the best dancers in Nashville gracing the dance floor each weekend. If you’re staying near the airport or Opryland, this is a short cab or Uber ride, and only about 10 minutes from downtown.

 

Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Doing Nashville Like a Local!

 

Doing it on the cheap: Seven Tips for Booking Airfare to Europe.

If you read the series on our honeymoon adventures in Europe (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 here!), you may have noticed a prevailing theme was doing it on the cheap. We had an amazing honeymoon trip, full of great food, wine, and lots of cultural sites, but after paying for our own wedding (maybe one day I’ll post about it… maybe) we needed to make sure we were being as frugal as possible with our trip plans.

  1. Be flexible with your travel plans
    One of the biggest things I’ve learned about finding cheap airfare is that you have to be flexible with at least one aspect of your travel plans. In our case, we knew we wanted to travel immediately after the wedding, so our dates weren’t very flexible, but we didn’t have our hearts set on a particular place, so that was the variable we played with. Since different cities and countries around Europe have different Peak Seasons and special events and festivals, if you’re flexible with when or where you want to fly, you can find savings of hundreds of dollars per flight. There are a lot of ways to track this, which leads us to …
  2. Use a great travel site, like Momondo.com 
    At this point, there are a million and one different travel sites, all claiming to be better than the next. My personal favorite for booking travel to Europe is Momondo – a “free and independent” service that compares prices from thousands of airlines and sites across the web. They let you filter flights by cheapest, shortest travel time, and “best”- the ones that strike the best balance between price and travel time. They’ve also got an amazing Trip Finder section where you can search Anything, Anywhere, or Anytime. This goes hand in hand with tip one, being flexible with your plans. If you want to travel to Sweden, for example, it’ll show you the price range by week for the whole year, so you can find the cheapest flight. Alternately, you can search by a time frame and find the cheapest flights for that week your office will be closed for fumigation. One of the best things about Momondo is that they direct you back to the airline or travel site where they found the fare. This is great because if airlines have free or cheap add-ons (like choosing your seat, adding a meal, or booking a multi-day Stopover in Iceland (GUYS, we are doing this in March! Get ready for lots of posts on that topic!), you can do so in an easy and hassle-free way.
  3. Use a tracker app
    If you are able to be completely flexible or have a solid amount of time to plan your trip, using a tracker app can save you a lot of money, too. My current favorite is Hopper, which lets you track specific trips and alerts you when prices drop. Again, if you’re just planning a trip for “sometime this year” and have a couple options you’d like to check out, this is a wonderful, easy to use option. Which, conveniently, leads to number 4:
  4. Be ready to pull the trigger on booking your trip
    I’ve learned this the hard way more than once, but if you find an amazing deal you have to be ready to book it. Fare sales can end, lower price tickets can sell out, or website cookies can mess up your bargain hunting. If you’re planning for a trip, have the money set aside, and an amazing deal pops up, jump. on. it. You’ll regret it if you  miss the opportunity. Trust me on this one.
  5. Pack Light
    With baggage fees skyrocketing on domestic and international flights, and different baggage size requirements with international carriers, it pays now more than ever to only bring carry on luggage, or Hand-luggage as they charmingly call it in Europe.
  6. Long layovers can be great- don’t be afraid of them!
    This goes back to being flexible with your travel plans. Often times, you can find cheaper airfare if you’re willing to hunker down in a random city along the way for a spell. We did this and ended up with about 9 hours in Stockholm and 20 hours in London during our honeymoon! IcelandAir even offers deliberate stopovers, where you can plan a multiple-day stopover in Iceland on your travels between Europe and America at no extra charge! We are taking advantage of this on our upcoming trip to Amsterdam, and will have about two-and-a-half days in Reykjavik on our return trip!
  7. Use points/travel rewards/ air miles whenever you can!
    This one requires some planning and is really more of a long-term plan to help you offset travel costs. There are so many great travel credit cards out there, with an ever-rotating menu of deals and incentives to get you to sign up. I’ll do a feature on this soon, but find one that works well with your normal spending habits to maximize the points you’ll be able to accumulate before a trip. We personally use the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card for now. We chose it because of the points bonus for signing up, the points bonus for being existing BOA customers, and the ability to earn points on every purchase we put on the card. We actually opened this card at the beginning of our engagement and put just about every wedding expense we could on there (and paid it off quickly after) to rack up some major points.

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There are a lot of other ways to save money on your travels, and I’ll get into a lot of those in future posts, but I hope this provided you with at least one new idea for finding inexpensive airfare. Traveling abroad is not nearly as expensive as a lot of people perceive it to be, and with a little know how, a little time, and a bit of planning, you can find amazing deals!

On a side note, if you like what you’ve seen here, please be sure to follow this blog! You can also find me on Pinterest at Pinterest.com/SingWriteTravel. I hope you’ll join me!

-Annie

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Honeymoon Part 5: How we spent 20 hours in London

After an amazing week, we were finally at the end of our amazing honeymoon in Spain (for all the details, check out Honeymooning, Part 1: StockholmHoneymooning, Part 2: MadridHoneymooning, Part 3: The palace, a Cathedral, and lots of Hot Chocolate; and Honeymooning, Part 4: Seville, and all the travel mishaps.).  I’m going to preface this post by saying there were some verrrrrry important lessons learned in those 20 hours… keep reading :-p

We had scheduled our return flight with a long layover in London so we could sightsee run through the city snapping photos like crazy people on a mission to see as much as possible in 20 hours. Our flight out of Spain was uneventful, and we landed at Gatwick airport outside of London. It was Sunday evening when we landed, and it. was. busy. There was a transportation strike going on, so there were trains getting cancelled left and right, but luckily we were able to get on the Gatwick express train to Victoria station. It was so packed that we ended up crammed in between some bicycles and the bathroom… lovely. Once at Victoria, we looked at the train schedule and got on a train heading out towards our hotel… or so we thought. Now, here’s where some learning comes into play. I had printed all of our travel documents so we would have them handy, but somehow ended up getting the address for other location of our hotel… so we trekked out to Blackheath village, walked into this super swanky hotel lobby, and were promptly told we were at the wrong location. I’m not ashamed to admit that at this point my husband and I were both exhausted, stressed out, and pretty sick of traveling. so I did the only sensible thing and burst into tears. The lovely English gentleman behind the counter was nice enough to call us a cab, and we took a very expensive cab ride all the way back to the theatre district, which is really not that far from Victoria station, where our actual hotel was. So here’s the lesson: Double, triple and quadruple check the address and location of all your accommodations before you head out, otherwise, you, too, can take an very long and expensive 3 hour detour using multiple forms of transportation across a strange city at midnight, too.

Once we got to our room in London, we promptly fell asleep and slept off the all-too eventful night before. Our game plan was to get up and go explore until we had to head to the airport that afternoon. So, we packed up, checked a map, and started walking. We walked through the theatre district, grabbed some fish and chips from what was probably a tourist trap (but we were hungry, and it was delicious) and headed towards Piccadilly circus. After we explored the area there, we hopped on another big red tour bus. This time, we opted for The Original London Tour and took the Yellow Route so we could see as many of the main attractions as possible. This line hits all of the major spots, including The Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, The London Eye, and both the Tower and London Bridges. This tour company uses headphone jacks in the seat so you can listen to the audio tour in one of 11 languages (!!), and it was honestly extremely informative. They definitely are taking advantage of the worldwide Harry Potter phenomenon, because at least half a dozen sites included some sort of Harry Potter reference. Not gonna lie, I was pretty excited about all of them. While we didn’t have time to hop off and visit any of the attractions, we were both happy that we at least got to see and snap photos of them like the obnoxious tourists we were. (Excuse the iPhone photos taken from a moving vehicle- I tried to include the best ones!)

The only site we really missed was the front side of Buckingham palace, because the tour had a stop at Victoria train station right before we got there- so convenient!

From there it’s just another episode of trains, planes, automobiles Uber, hotel, early car service, plane, Uber… and finally home.

In case you’re a list-loving kind of person- as I am- I threw together a TOP 5 list of why we love guided bus tours when you’re crunched for time. Check it!

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Five Reasons to Take a Bus Tour on a Long Layover

  1. It’s the most bang for your buck- you get to see more attractions in a shorter amount of time
  2. Bus Route Frequency- most routes have buses that run about every 10 minutes, so if you do want to get off and see one of the attractions in more depth, you have the option to do so without losing time waiting for the next bus to come back
  3. Targeted Tour Routes- You can choose your tour route based either on location, or the types of attractions you want to see. In London, you can take a route geared toward the museums or the palace, so if you’re rather spend a few hours hopping between museums, you can do so with ease.
  4. Discounts- Most of these tour tickets come with discounts for major retailers or food and beverage chains that are found in or near the transportation hubs, so if you are on a layover and will have to eat back at the airport, you will likely have a coupon!
  5. Convenience to major transportation hubs- just like we were able to get off directly at Victoria station, many cities include train stations as attractions- so it’s like a free ride back!

 

I hope y’all enjoyed the recap of our honeymoon! Up next, I’ll be sharing some tips on finding the cheapest flights, and starting a new series about the towns I play in on tour (Hey, I’m a musician! Check out my music HERE!)

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The Return of the Jed… of the blog.

The last 12 months have been some of the craziest/happiest/change-iest I’ve ever experienced. To re-cap: I got engaged, launched a vocal coaching venture, wrote songs, played shows; I was featured by Marlboro in their Rockin’ Boots Campaign as a trailblazer along with 3 other kick-butt women; I got married, travelled to Stockholm, Madrid, Seville, and London; and finally, recently began working with the Goode Time Carolers of Nashville. 

 Man, that was a long list. 

 Years like this have a way of helping you to see your dreams more clearly and really kick you into high gear towards making them happen. So, over the next 12 months, I’m making a promise to myself (and any of you reading this- Oh hi!) to focus on my passions: songwriting, performing, traveling, and writing about all of it here. Stay tuned, I’ll be doing a retrospective over the next week highlighting our travels to Europe earlier this year along with a few other favorite memories from this last year. Starting next week, I’ll be sharing new projects and travels on a weekly basis. 

 I hope you’ll join me on my adventures! 

 

-AK

Honeymooning, Part 4: Seville, and all the travel mishaps.

So, if you’ve read my other blogs about our Honeymoon adventures (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!) you’ll see that we had an. amazing. time. That didn’t change for the last half of our trip, but we did finally run into ALL of the travel mishaps. We took a train from Madrid to Seville. We left our hotel about two hours before our train was scheduled to leave, thinking that should be plenty of time, since we were only a couple subway stops away from the main station. So, we walked a few blocks to the sub stop closest to our hotel, went to find the Red line train, and realized that the platform was under constructions. So, we hopped a different line to the next train stop that connected to the red line- still only 2 stops down. We get to that train station, and find THAT platform is closed as well. At that point, we find (the tiniest, most inconspicuous) sign ever placed indicating that all the stops were under construction. So, we head back up to the street, flag down a cab, and ride to the airport. Believe it or not, all of this took us an hour and a half, so we were running to find our train. We couldn’t find our train listed on the departures board, though. So, to the ticketing office we went, waited in line, then somehow figured out that our train was just listed differently since we had printed off our boarding passes. At this point, we had 5 minutes until our train departed, so we RAN through the HUGE train station, tore through security (just kidding, we went through like we were supposed to, albeit frantically) and got in our seats just before the doors closed. Definitely not the way we planned to start our day!

Luckily, the train ride was super relaxing, and it was really cool getting to see different parts of Spain’s countryside. I tried getting some photos but my phone camera was not cutting it at high speeds. Just imagine anything you’ve heard about towns in Spain: small mountain towns, old stone churches, cows and goats grazing on the mountain side, and modern towns full of people- we saw it all.

In Seville, we took a much more relaxed approach to our visit. Whereas in Madrid, we had sites we had to see, and followed a pretty specific route each day, in Seville we found ourselves just wandering the streets and stopping in little shops, tapas bars, and ice cream shops (seriously, these people love ice cream. This is my dream city) as we pleased.

We saw the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Hercules Plaza, and a lot of convents and other churches. We wandered into a residential district and marveled at the houses that were hundreds of years old. We found our way into a hidden shopping district with local shops, and a tapas bar with the most refreshing mojito I’ve ever had.

We had decided to stay at a bigger, more upscale hotel that was a little further outside of town. The Barcelo Sevilla was beautiful and huge- there were multiple buildings full of well-appointed rooms with huge, comfortable beds and fancy showers that gave me serious bathroom-envy. More info here –> Barcelo Sevilla.

Being a little further outside of town meant we walked a TON on this leg of our trip.  However, we got to see amazing sunsets from both sides of the river while we were walking. The photo on the right is our hotel!

Our second day in Seville, we decided to try our luck on the City Sightseeing Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour. Most major cities in the US and Europe at this point have some sort of sightseeing bus, and this company has buses in most of them. We got a deal on tickets through our hotel, so we grabbed the bus at the closest stop (and saved ourselves another long walk or expensive cab ride!) and took the tour of Seville’s most famous landmarks. We stopped at at the Plaza De España and toured the old town centre, which looks like a palace. We hopped off at the Plaza del Duque and visited Sevilla’s newest monument, the Metropol Parasol. This is a giant wooden structure (some say the largest wooden structure in Europe) that has open air viewing decks and walkways, which yield amazing views of the city. It’s also known as “The Mushroom” because of the design of the 6 Parasols. We learned about the history of Flamenco dancing, and the influence of the former Eastern rulers of the city, that is still visible in the building, the music, and the town structure.

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That evening, we had tapas, Seville style. It’s very similar to the style of food in Madrid, but, like everything else, with a little more Eastern influence. After dinner, we took in a Flamenco show at the Case de la Memoria, which is the Flamenco cultural center. The theatre was small and seated probably about 2 dozen guests. Photography is not allowed during the shows so there is no interruption from the electric performance. This show consisted of a guitar player, a male singer, and a male and female dancer. There was something so intense, sad, and beautiful about the dance and the story they played out. I’ve never been more captivated by a performance in my life. They did allow photography during one song at the end of the performance, so I snuck in a few photos.

If you make it to Seville on your trip through Spain, seeing a live Flamenco show should be number one on your list of things to do. My husband and I both loved it, and both got very different messages from the performance and the story they were weaving together- I suppose this is the beauty of art, and one of the reasons it can transcend any language or culture.

We did have one more day in Seville after that, but found ourselves just wandering and exploring again without any real destination in mind. The one stop we did have on our must- do list for our final day was the Tapas bar that had the number 1 rated Tapas Dish in Seville the prior year. Eslava featured different takes on the classic Spanish dishes we had become accustomed to, including their award winning Slow-cooked egg served on boletus cake with caramelized wine reduction. They also had a fantastic wine list, and, like most other places in Seville and Madrid, they featured Jamòn Iberico, the specialty acorn-fed ham.

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There is so much more I could ramble on about, but in short, Seville is full of beauty, history, and culture. It is a must-do city if you find yourself in Spain. I could have spent at least another week wandering around the city and getting lost on the narrow brick walkways with no real destination in mind, and I don’t think I would have run out of new and interesting places to discover.

Honeymooning, Part 3: The palace, a Cathedral, and lots of Hot Chocolate

Madrid, and most of Spain for that matter, is a late-night culture, which we discovered during our Tapas Crawl (See the last post!). Luckily, this also means they tend to sleep in and attractions don’t even open until after 10 or 11 AM most days. This is great because it means we honeymooners were able to sleep in after our late nights and not feel any guilt about possibly missing out on the countless wonders that Madrid holds! 

 So, after *ahem* recovering *ahem* from our tapas crawl the prior evening, we hopped on the Metro and rode a few stops to the Palacio Real de Madrid. We used our Madrid Passes to get into both the Palace and the Cathedral, and it was a great deal. I’m working on a post about ways to save while traveling in Europe, so look for that sometime soon! The entire area around the Palace is gorgeous, and really makes you feel like you’ve gone back a couple hundred years to a more extravagant time. The Palace is still the official residence of the Spanish Royals, but is open whenever they aren’t in residence. The public tour shows only 15 of the 3,418 (!!!) rooms, and every room is more extravagant than the last. I can only imagine what the private rooms look like. Once you get out of the entry way no photos are allowed, but the plaza outside had a lot of opportunities for amazing shots. 

After the tour, we walked across the Plaza to the Almudena Cathedral. While Spain is known for many churches dating back hundreds of years, construction on this one didn’t begin until 1879 and wasn’t completed until 1993. The cathedral itself is beautiful, but the views from the top are breathtaking. We opted to climb the stairs to the roof (because apparently we wanted to get a leg workout in that day), and the pay-off was worth every single stair. I’ll just leave some photos here instead of talking anymore about it:

#nofilter #cuzwedidntneedone 

 We descended the stairs (much easier on the way down!) and went through the Cathedral Museum, which holds Church artifacts from throughout Spain’s Catholic history. I had to make a stop in the gift shop on our way out to pick up my go-to souvenir: a Rosary. I’m hoping to have one from churches all over the world. I’ve always thought the Rosary was an amazing prayer tradition in the Catholic Faith, and seeing how people from all walks of life worship in the same way has always been really inspiring to me. 

 For good measure, here are a few more photos from the Cathedral:

We grabbed a quick lunch in the neighborhood, then headed back to the hotel for our new favorite tradition, the Siesta! We decided to do a mini-crawl on the sweeter side of things, and headed towards two of the top-rated spots for Hot Chocolate and Churros. Our first stop was Chocolatería Valor, where we tried the Hot Chocolate sampler, which gave us 4 types of hot chocolate to try, ranging from the darkest cocoa down to a a white chocolate. The traditional Spanish dessert is more of a pudding consistency, and less of the hot chocolate drink Americans are familiar with. All four were delicious, but my favorite was the second from the darkest chocolate. It was rich and creamy with the perfect amount of sweetness.

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After that, we walked to the oldest Hot Chocolate shop in Madrid, Chocolatería San Gines, which was founded in 1894. We tried the traditional hot chocolate and churro here, and it was a milkier chocolate flavor than any we tried in the first flight. It was also a sturdier chocolate which was a bit better for dipping the churros in.

Typing this blog is making me want to get on a plane right now just to get some more of this goodness. So. Delicious. 

 We ended the evening with some dinner and a little bit of wine, a great way to end the first leg of our Spain adventure. 

 The next day, we hopped on a train to Seville, and OH boy did we run into a couple of hiccups. Stay tuned for more on that! 

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