The Best of Toledo, Spain

The Best of Toledo, Spain

Are you looking for ideas for day trips from Madrid? In this video I share why Toledo is well worth the trip and what to do.

 

Toledo is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, and there is nothing like it in all of Spain. The cathedral is incredible, and there are plenty of monuments and museums to keep you busy. The beauty of Toledo is just getting lost. If you’re looking for a gorgeous medieval city, look no further!

Getting there

Toledo is located one hour South of Madrid. You can get there by bus – and that’s what I did.  I paid 5 Euros 50 and it was a 50-minute ride.  You can also get there by train, but do note: the trains don’t run as often as the bus. You can also drive, just make sure that your hotel has parking because it is very difficult to get parking in the old walled part of the city. 

Where to Stay

I stayed in a beautiful hotel called Hotel Boutique Adolfo. It is a 4-star hotel that opened in September of 2018. Best of all, it’s located in Plaza De Zocodover, the main plaza in Casco Historico Toledo, or the old walled City portion of town. This is where you want to be! Check out their availability here. 

 

How Long to Stay

Most people come to Toledo just for the day from Madrid, which is possible, but I recommend spending at least one night. The city is beautiful and quiet to see at night and there’s at least 24 to 48 hours worth of things to do in the city. The city is known for its food as well she want to make sure to stay long enough to try all the Delicacies including partridge, carcamusas, river trout and a hearty bean dishes. 

My Itinerary

I arrived 4 noon with a friend and was able to see the sunset from El Mirador which is the famous view point outside the walled City looking back to the walled City. 

The next morning, I got up and started my self-guided tour on the east side of the old city at Puente de Alcantara. I started here because the sun was better in the morning, perfect for filming and for the sunrise! I decided to work my way from east to west across the walled City, and finish my day at Puente de San Martin on the west.

After visiting Puente de Alcantara, I went to the Alcazar which is the Roman fortified building on the highest point in Toledo. There is a war museum inside. If you’re into this type of history, it’s worth a look! Since I’m not big into war things I didn’t go in, but I’m so glad I went for the view.

Next, I went to the cathedral called the primate Cathedral of Santa Maria of Toledo. I entered through the “Door of Forgiveness.” The Gothic style Cathedral dates back to the 13th century, and in my opinion, is the most impressive Cathedral in Toledo. It’s huge and bustling with tourists, for good reason!

My next stop was the El Greco Museum. It costs 3 euros and it was well worth the trip. They’re not even sure this was El Greco’s home, but it was purchased to show how people lived during the time that El Greco was alive. He moved to Toledo in 1577. The museum was nice and showed a typical kitchen and living space during the time. It also showed many of El Greco’s works. Note: they were not all originals. I loved the inviting garden to just sit and take a load off.

Next, I headed west through the Jewish part of the city to the oldest standing synagogue that is now owned by theCatholic Church called Santa Maria La Blanca. This is one of the most ‘instagrammable’ locations in Toledo with its white columns, white washed walls, and no furniture. It is located right next to the monastery San Juan De Los Reyes. After taking all of my Instagram photos at the synagogue, I raced back cross-town for my 4:30 tour of the city with the company called de Paseo. 

My tour was with Juan Pedro, but he like to be called Juan P. 🙂  Since there were no other English-speaking guests, I had a private tour!  I really enjoyed this tour because he didn’t take me to the main tourist sites. Instead, he gave me some of the stories and history of the city, and pointed out some of the unique spots throughout the Casco Historico. Book your walking tour with de Paseo here!

After my tour finished at 6:30 pm,  I headed to the infamous Bisagra Gate or the Puerta de Bisagra. It was so impressive and I wish I could have stayed longer but I had to get going to catch the sunset at Puente de San Martin.  

Have you ever been to Toledo, Spain? Leave a comment about your experience and if I’m missing any of your favorite spots!

 

Know Before You Go to Spain

Know Before You Go to Spain

Are you traveling to Spain for the first time? This blog is all about the 20 things to know before you go to Spain!

Welcome to my Spain travel guide!

As an American tourist in Spain, I’ve learned many things over the years. There are some major differences between USA and Spain and I’ve divided my tips for visiting into three categories. We will talk about all things FOOD including a popular Spanish breakfast, dinner time in Spain, and other tips to know when dining out. I discuss Spanish cultural tips like siesta and tipping in Spain, along with my best of Spain tips for traveling. I hope you enjoy this Spain travel guide 2019. Before you go to Spain.. watch this!

Spanish Food Tips

 

#1 Let’s start with Breakfast

Spain is all about the food but the most curious thing is when you’re served breakfast in the morning, expect to get toasted bread with tomato sauce. What? Tomato sauce?? Yes. With fresh tomatoes garlic and onion they say it’s pan tostado con tomate which is a very very normal breakfast to be eating while you’re in Spain.

#2 But first (or second) COFFEE!

If you’re a coffee drinker you have to learn the lingo for coffee. First of all, an espresso is called a cafe solo. A Cortado is similar to a Macchiato which is an espresso with a little bit of milk on top. A cafe Largo is the closest thing to coffee that we have in America. It’s similar to an Americano in Italy except it’s thick. You’ll probably need to ask for a little bit of hot water if you’re used to American coffee. And the last is Cafe con Leche which is like a Cafe au Lait: you have your coffee and a bunch of milk on top.

#3 Let’s move on to Lunch!

Lunch or comida is the most important meal of the day. It’s when the Spaniards take off from work they go visit their family, the kids leave school and go home. It’s about a three-hour ordeal and it’s the main meal of the day. Here in the US, we prefer to have dinner as a main meal but in Spain it’s lunchtime between 1:00 and 4:00 pm.

#4 Money Saving tip for Lunch

The best value during comida for lunch is the menu. It’s quite normal to order a menu which is three courses typically 10 to 15 euros and you get a starter of a salad or a soup, a secondi which is a meat course or a fish course, and a dessert. It’s typically served with a glass of wine, beer or water and the coffee that you order after your lunch is going to be extra.

#5 Where’s your bill?

In Spain, it is considered rude for the waiter to bring the bill before you’re ready. That’s right! After every meal, you specifically have to ask for the bill (and expect to wait four or five minutes before it arrives). In Spain, food is never rushed.

#6 To tip or not to tip?

Tipping is not expected or necessary in Spain. Most of the waiters make a real wage and receive health insurance so it’s not common to tip. If you feel like tipping and you feel like you’ve had great service, about 10 percent is enough!

#7 Spanish dinner

Dinner time starts 9:30 10 o’clock at night. Yes, half the world goes to bed by 9:30, but the Spaniards are just getting started!  Personally, I love the food in Spain. I love the shareable plates and the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive. Most of all, I love the fact that everyone is getting together for every single meal. No matter where you go, it’s all about sitting with friends, having a drink and socializing.

Spanish Culture Tips

 

#8 Slow Down

First and foremost, you have to slow down. The locals are living life to enjoy their lives! it’s not about rushing around, getting things done. Everything is at a slower pace, so make sure to kick back relax and enjoy the ride!

#9 Siestas

Siestas in Spain are serious business. After comida, when the whole family gets together during lunchtime, all the shops are closed (so don’t expect to be shopping then!) Go home, take a nap, go to the park where everybody’s hanging out and laying low. They are resting before the shops and offices open back up for the evening sessions.

#10 Religious Holidays

It’s important to remember that Spain is primarily Catholic. You might want to check the Catholic religious holiday schedule before you head to the country. You don’t want to end up here during Semana Santa when everything is closed and all the Spaniards are on holiday so your hotel prices are higher. Also, there’s many things will be closed, so you don’t have anything to do!

#11 Diversity in Spain

The next cultural tip is to note that even though the country is primarily Catholic there is a huge influence of other cultures into this beautiful country. If you go to the south, there’s a Moorish influence as well as an Arab influence from Morocco. If you’re in the north, there’s a huge French influence across the Pyrenees, and if you’re in Barcelona, it’s a completely different culture and they have even considered seceding from the country of Spain.

#12 Look into my Eyes

This next cultural tip applies to the female readers, but also good to note for everyone. It’s quite common for men to be walking down the street and giving you a piercing look. It’s very normal for people to try and make eye contact. At first, it can seem a bit strange when we’re used to looking down, not paying attention to anybody. But here in Spain it’s quite normal… and quite exciting!

#13 Spanish Time

The last cultural tip I have for you is called Spanish time. If you’re out meeting a Spaniard for tapas or for a drink and they say they’re going to show up at 7 p.m, expect them to show up some time around 7:30. Remember as I started this conversation, just kick back relax and enjoy the ride!

Travel Tips for Spain

 

#14 Ablo Español?

My first travel tip actually applies to every single country that you go to: it’s best if you learn a few words of the native language. It doesn’t hurt anything; we know you’re going to butcher it, they know you’re going to butcher it, but the fact that you gave the effort makes all the difference in the world!

I suggest learning:

  • yes, no
  • please, thank you
  • where are the bathrooms?
  • a couple of things about your hotel
  • and directions

 

#15 It’s a big country

The next travel tip I have for you is to know that Spain is big! It’s almost as big as Texas, where I’m from, and it takes more than ten hours to drive from north to south and east to west. It’s really really important to note that it takes quite a while to get from point A to point B in Spain.

#16 On the Road Again

But not to worry! The roads are fantastic in Spain so it’s okay if it takes you ten hours… the roads are great! It’s very easy to hire a car and travel anywhere you want to go in the country. Just note: there are lots of camera speed traps everywhere throughout the country and the speed limit is usually about 120 kilometres an hour when you’re on the highway. I think every single time I’ve driven in this country I’ve ended up with a ticket in the mail so… follow speed limit signs!

#17 Fly if you can

If you don’t feel like driving: book flights! Typically in Spain, flights are cheaper than booking a train and just as cheap as booking the bus. It’s a lot faster to book a cheap air flight to get from point A to point B.

#18 Beware of the Summers

The summer heat in Spain is not for the faint of heart. Expect it to be over a hundred sometimes 110 in Madrid andeven worse in Sevilla and Granada to the south. You might want to come to Spain in an off season, perhaps in April in May. OR come in September or October.

#19 Get outta town

To me, this is the most important: don’t just hit the big cities. There are so many incredible things to see in this country. Don’t just go to Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla. There’s so much more to this country and I love every single part of it.

#20 Shop till you drop

When you’re in Madrid, definitely come to Calle de la Montera for some epic shoe-hopping!

That wraps up my top 20 tips for when you come to Spain. Make sure to check out my next blog all about one of the best day trips in Spain, a trip to Toledo!

Top 10 Portland, Maine Things To Do & See!

Top 10 Portland, Maine Things To Do & See!

If you’re headed to Portland in the next few months, I have put together a best of Portland, Maine list based on my experience there recently.

 

#1 The Best City Tour in Portland, Maine

The Real Portland Tour is the only sightseeing tour in Portland, Maine that includes a full city tour and a trip to three of the lighthouses. We got to see the full city tour of Portland, from the bustling downtown area and eclectic shops to the art district and the world-class restaurants and bars. We headed out to Casco Bay to see its islands and forts on the way to the Portland Headlight.

Our tour guide, Derrick, was amazing! He knows so much about the city for two reasons:

  1. He’s a local, born and raised
  2. He’s a librarian! He was so knowledgeable and interesting and had the greatest stories about the town where he grew up.

Definitely put the Real Portland Tour on your list!

 

#2 The Best Lighthouses in Portland, Maine

Also while you’re visiting Portland, you have to check out the beautiful lighthouses along Casco Bay. You can take a tour like I did, you can drive yourself, and sometimes, in the summer, you can even bike! The rugged Maine coastline is known for its beautiful lighthouses and just outside of the city of Portland along Casco Bay is the infamous Portland Head Light. Did you know it’s the most photographed lighthouse in the entire US?

Another great lighthouse to visit is the Spring Point Ledge. On the weekends, you can actually walk out there you have to jump on the different rocks to make it all the way out. It’s very picturesque and definitely worth checking them all out.

#3 The Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine

Portland is a foodie town for foodies! Did you know that in 2018, Bon Appetit listed it as the restaurant city of the year? Some of the most well-known restaurants include

There was so much delicious seafood, lobster, oysters, and fresh fish while I was there that I actually had two lunches and two dinners on two different days!

#4 Best View in Portland, Maine

Fourth on my list is a little well kept secret: Come to the top of the parking lot at the Customs House for the best view of downtown! The parking garage is just across the street from the beautiful Customs House. If you go to the top level it’s open air and you can see the spectacular views of all the city routes throughout downtown Portland.

#5 Best Food Tour in Portland, Maine

5th on the list is to go on a food tour! I went with Maine Foodie Tours on the Bon Appetit. Most of the food in

Portland is all about the seafood but this is a very unique tour that gives you croissants clams a little bit of Tex-Mex and some other exciting things. You even get to go to a kombucharia.

 

 

#6 Best Oysters in Portland, Maine

Next on our list are the infamous East Coast oysters. I recommend two different places to get these incredible little morsels.

  1. The Shop which is about a 10 minute Uber ride from downtown Portland and all of their oysters are $1.50, all day long.
  2. The other place to try the oysters is at Scales which is right there on the harbor. While in town, I heard that they had the best oysters in the whole city. My opinion? They may be the best oysters I’ve ever had in my entire life! The oysters are only $1 during happy hour.

#7 Best Boat Tour in Portland, Maine

The next thing that you have to do when you’re in Portland is to go on the Lucky Catch Cruises. It’s so fun to goout in Casco Bay and learn how the lobster man catches your dinner. The Lucky Catch Cruise has been around for more than a decade and honestly, it’s one of the best things that I did during my visit to Portland. It’s also a great value! If you’d like to know more about Lucky Catch Cruises, check out last week’s video and blog here.

#8 Best Dessert in Portland, Maine

Then there’s more food! If you’re in the mood for something sweet, head over to the Holy Donut. They are famous for putting shredded potatoes into their Donuts. If you’re gluten-free like me, they have several options for us, too!

 

#9 Best Bar in Portland, Maine

Now let’s talk bars in Portland. Actually, let’s talk about speakeasies! Portland, Maine was one of the first cities in the entire country to have prohibition so they are known even to this day for the speakeasies. My top choice is Lincoln’s.

#10 Best Taco in Portland, Maine

Our last thing to do is another food item, but this time it has a Texas twist. Head over to the High Roller Lobster Company which started as a food trailer. Now it is it’s brick-and-mortar and I was told they serve the most delicious lobster taco. Instead of a taco shell, they use grilled cheese to hold the lobster meat and toppings. And if you love tacos like I do, check out my video and blog on the Top 5 Tacos in my hometown of Austin, Texas.

I hope you enjoyed my list of the best things to do, see, and of course TASTE in Portland. Share in the comments if you’ve been to any of these places!

THE BEST LOBSTER TOUR IN PORTLAND, MAINE

THE BEST LOBSTER TOUR IN PORTLAND, MAINE

The Lucky Catch Cruises Lobster Tour to Portland Headlight

Want to go on the best lobster cruise in Portland? My favorite is the Lucky Catch Cruise. What makes this company so different is the education you receive about the lobster industry and all that goes into a lobster fishing trip.

 

Lucky Catch Cruises Information

The cruise lasts for about an hour and a half and takes you through the daily routines of a lobsterman and has been around for

more than a decade. We had the opportunity to haul in traps, measure the lobsters, and band their claws. Once our cruise was over, we could take our catch over to the Portland Lobster Company where they would cook up our delicious dinner. It is a great value and one of the best things I did during my stay in Portland Maine.

 

Booking your Lucky Catch Cruise

There are a couple ways to book your cruise. You can book a tour at luckycatch.com or you can go down to the long wharf and book at their kiosk. Make sure to book early because you don’t want to miss the opportunity and they book up fast. In summer, there are 5 cruises a day starting at 10:30 in the morning the last one leaving at 5:30 in the afternoon. Make sure when you go on the tour you ask for Captain Brian and Kate. Kate was actually a marine biology teacher, and so the information they provide is exceptional.  On this tour you don’t have to worry about being seasick, you are only in the bay. There are three possible itineraries each and every day. The first two trips to Portland Headlight, two trips seal watching, and one trip to the Whitehead Passage. Our cruise was to the Portland Headlight and it was beautiful to see this iconic lighthouse from the water. It was the first lighthouse that was commissioned by George Washington and the second lighthouse in the US to be completed, right after Boston. The cruises leave from the Long Wharf right in the center of Downtown Portland. It’s very easy to locate because it’s right next to Dimillo’s on the water.

 

All about the Lucky Catch Vessel

The vessel we were on was a 37 foot Maine built fiberglass lobster boat designed to be smooth and stable in the ocean waters. Built in 1983 for the sole purpose of commercial lobstering, this Lucky Catch didn’t carry it’s first paying customer until 1997. Not only do you have a great time on this tour, you get a huge education about the lobster industry in Maine. You get to know the conservation practices of the fisherman and you realize how sustainable they make their own industry.  I recently learned that they catch more lobsters now than they did 60 years ago. So make sure to come in the summer to the lucky catch tour. They run commercial lobstering fishing from October to May so the Lucky Catch is only open during the off-season from May until October.

 

My review of the Lucky Catch Cruise

Not quite as scary as the deadliest catch but it’s been a lot of fun, a lot of adventure and we got a ton of information from Captain Brian and Kate. Thank you Lucky – Catch it’s been a

blast!

Book a tour with Lucky Catch Cruises

WOMEN IN TRAVEL SUMMIT 2019

WOMEN IN TRAVEL SUMMIT 2019

✈ Learn How to Become a Digital Nomad in 2019!  | So I just got back from the Women in Travel Summit, a travel conference put on by Wanderful. If you want to be inspired and connect with other women travel influencers – keep watching!

 

I just returned from WITS 2019 in Portland, Maine and I’m so excited to share about my experience and the amazing women I met. The Women in Travel Summit is the premiere blogging conference for women travel creators and women travel writers. I interviewed 15 women from the conference about what they love about WITS! Some I had met at WITS 2018 in Quebec, and some are new friends, all coming together for the love of travel. If you want to learn how you can work online and travel the world or see other female travel vlogs and vloggers, keep watching! Sign up for WITS 2020 here!

Check out the amazing women and their blogs/businesses below!

Jazmin – Travel to Blank

Paige – Unquote Travel

Cat – For Two Please

Richa –  My Tickle Feet

Fadra – All Things Fadra

Melissa – Roux Roamer

Jenn-  Wanderful team

Richa –  Enricha’s Journey

Summer – Nat Park Stories

Caitlin –  Waypoint Goods

Wendy – Empty Nesters Hit the Road

Marie – Nomad Tours Quebec

Glory Ali –  Muslim Travel Rocks

Bisa –  Myles to Travel

Stacey –  Visit Beloit

 

Join the Tribe!

Join to receive exclusive travel tips, ideas, inspiration, as well as my 20 Travel Must-Haves download.

You have Successfully Subscribed!