5 Quirky Boutique Hotels in Madrid

Looking for a Madrid hotel? Here are five of the best upscale and boutique places to stay in the Spanish capital…

Osuna Hotel

quirky luxury in SpainFound in the Palomas neighbourhood, close to Juan Carlos I Trade Fair Ground (IFEMA) and Barajas Airport, Osuna Hotel might seem best-suited to business travellers on first appearances – but it also has a lot to offer those in Madrid on leisure. The city centre is ten minutes away by taxi, and the hotel itself has a whole host of fancy facilities. One large, secluded pool lets you take your morning dip, while the poolside restaurant El Mirador serves up Mediterranean fusion cuisine. All rooms have internet access, air conditioning and smart modern décor.

 

 

 

THC Bergantin Hostel

Quirky boutique madridFound just a block from Madrid’s main square the Puerto del Sol, THC Bergantin Hostel is perfect for first-timers to the city as it puts you within walking distance of all the main sites. The beautiful Royal Palace, Real Theatre and Almudena Cathedral are all easily reachable on foot from your front door, as well as party areas like Huertas where you can get plates of tapa alongside every drink. The hotel itself has just 15 tastefully-decorated spacious rooms, so it’s great for a more intimate and romantic break away. Perks include Wi-Fi access, air conditioning and free city tours arranged by helpful staff.

 

 

Petit Palace Cliper Gran Via

Next to Madrid’s famous main shopping-and-sightseeing thoroughfare the Gran Via, Petit Palace Cliper Gran Via puts you in the centre of the action. Other must-see places nearby include the gorgeous Parque del Retiro and Madrid’s ‘golden triangle’ of museums, the Prado, Reina Sophia and Thyssen. The Reina Sophia holds Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica. At the hotel itself, you’re treated to the ultimate in style and comfort for relatively low rates – rooms have plasma TVs, airy balconies and hydro-massage showers in bathrooms. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the building, and a full breakfast is served daily. You can also rent bikes from reception.

 

 

High Tech Madrid Aeropuerto

boutique hotels madridIf you’ve got an early flight to catch, you’re travelling on business or you just like the fuss-free convenience of staying near the airport, High Tech Madrid Aeropuerto has everything you need and style in spades. There is a free shuttle bus to and from the airport, so you don’t have to worry about catching a train or shelling out for a taxi. The hotel owns a large outdoor pool for taking advantage of the city’s famous sunny days. Inside, your room is kitted out with the latest fancy technology, including a flat screen TV, hydro-massage shower and free Wi-Fi access. You can also sweat out your cares in the sauna, or treat yourself to local delicacies like Iberico ham at the restaurant. Popular business and conference areas Fuencarral, Chamartin and the Paseo de la Castellana are on your doorstep.

 

 

THC Latina Hostel

madrid hostels and hotelsFound in the stylish La Latina neighbourhood, about half an hour’s walk south of Madrid’s main square the Puerta del Sol, THC Latina Hostel offers stylish and affordable rooms that feel like a home away from home. With luxuries like LCD TVs, parquet floors, modern décor, pretty balconies and free Wi-Fi, you’re sure to be comfy here. Outside, the neighbourhood is calm and safe, and you’re only a short walk from the bustle of local bars and restaurants that Madrid’s tourists haven’t claimed for their own yet. You can rent bikes from the front desk ,and La Latina Metro station is four minutes’ walk from the hotel – from here you can whiz to the centre of town in ten minutes flat.

Fireworks, Bulls & Pirates – Another Explosive Event in San Sebastian

 

cc image courtesy of Kasi Metcalf on flickrAlthough famous for its white sandy beaches, delicious cuisine and super-cool culture, there’s another reason why the Basque city of San Sebastian is such a coveted holiday destination. Each August, the city becomes a feverish hub of activity for Semana Grande, or ‘Big Week’ – a spectacular festival featuring Papier-mâché bulls, hundreds of pirates, and many thousands of fireworks!

For the San Sebastian locals, Semana Grande is the highlight of their cultural calendar and seemingly every resident will don costumes and take to the streets to party on each day. This year’s Semana Grande, held between the 11th and 18th of August was no exception, and throughout the seven days of the festival dozens of activities took place across the city from cookery lessons to outdoor sporting tournaments, though certain unforgettable events really whipped up the crowds.

The first of these was the annual Pirate Attack, where some 3,000 amateur seamen took to the waters of San Sebastian in their handmade boats – dressed in the requisite pirate outfits, of course! The pirates made the journey from the San Sebastian harbour towards La Concha beach, clinging anxiously to their shaky crafts as crowds cheered them on their way.

Puppet Pursuit

cc iimage courtesy of mesq on flickrNext up was the procession of the ‘gigantes’ and ‘cabezudos’, the giant and big-headed puppets that are carried through the streets of San Sebastian each day and accompanied by music, dancing and a highly zealous crowd. As per tradition, the giants and big-headed characters singled out members of the crowd to chase, which delighted many of the local children and caught more than a few unsuspecting tourists off-guard!

As night fell, the crowds filled the streets again for the Encierro de Torros de Fuego, or the ‘Running of the Fire Bulls’ during which large Papier-mâché bulls with fireworks for horns were paraded through the streets every evening, as more fireworks exploded over the darkened bay. This was part of the annual contest between pyrotechnic companies to produce the most stunning, spectacular and superbly designed fireworks display, of which the winner was announced at the end of the festival – a title that’s so coveted, the companies will spend the entire year planning their entry!

 

 

Jobs for Vagabonds – Get Paid to Travel the World

Who says freelancing isn’t for you?

If you want to start looking for another way to travel and work for the man, there are options available for you. And many of them involve working for a man (or woman) that might just be very cool and good to you.

Jobs for Travelers
Maybe you want to travel the world burning things?

With so many people out of work, looking for work, or between jobs there are plenty of folks right now that have the greatest opportunity they will ever have to really live their lives and do something.

Maybe now is the right time to spend a few months or even years living and working overseas. In fact, living and working in another country is the best way to really learn about different cultures. You end up working with and living among people instead of just seeing them from a tour bus.

Flowers on World Travel
The beauty of Travel is Visible Everywhere

Most of these jobs won’t make you wealthy, they won’t pay enough to pay back your student loans, but they just might make your life feel fulfilling, make your soul sing, and give you a bigger and better world view.

It’s not easy to find work overseas, but you can do it and now might be the best time you will ever have to see what it’s really like to live in a foreign culture. World travel is calling…will you answer the phone?

Do you have any idea how many people half a billion are? That’s 500 million and that is the number of Chinese who are studying English right now. Most of them don’t have native speaking teachers but they want them. The same goes for Indonesia, Spain, Morocco, Germany, and just about every other non-English speaking country in the world.

What do you need? Usually you need at least a bachelors degree. For many companies that is enough and they will pay for your housing, visa, and even your flight to and from their countries. To get an idea of the jobs available have a look at ESLcafe.com. I’ve been doing this in Morocco for nearly a year and you can do it too. In fact, I just might do it again somewhere else in the near future. Teaching is a total joy.Find out more by clicking on the i to i icon below.

Those wanting to find service jobs can. If you want to go about things the legal way with a work permit and visa you should look into companies such as BUNAC (British Universities North America Club) and CIEE (just google them) which will assist for you for around $300 to work in Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Canada or Ireland. You can work in restaurants, pick fruit, or do just about anything your heart desires.

Of course if you want to do it the good old fashioned way, just get a one way ticket and take a kick ass resume with you. It’s not hard to find employers that will hire you illegally. Of course you probably can’t expect a great salary this way either.

Asian Waterfalls
You can travel to places like this and get paid for it.

And then there are the guiding jobs, cruise ship jobs, sales jobs, and airline jobs which don’t usually pay as well as sedentary jobs in your home country, but pay off with the chance to spend significant amounts of time in foreign climes.

So, if you want a job or you want to leave your country, don’t wait. Start looking now.

Travelling in Turkey – More Greek and Roman Ruins than Italy and Greece!

Again, not a lot of time to write, but we are having a wonderful time in Turkey. From cruising the Bosporus to marveling at the Iskander Kebap in Bursa, this trip has been filed with adventures stretching across the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, and soon the Aegean Sea, and of course a bit of the Mediterranean Sea too.

I’ll be writing about all of our adventures when I have some time to put things together and pick the best photos. In the meantime, here is a small piece I’ve put together on this amazing land we are trekking across by ferry, bus, taxi, and more.

turkey is surrounded by 4 seas
Turkey is surrounded by seas and littered with ancient civilizations.

As a guy who loves the ocean, I can hardly imagine a place that offers more variety than Turkey. While very different from places like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Hawaii; Turkey is filled with more Greek and Roman ruins than Greece and Italy and is surrounded by four seas and several straits.

The Black Sea which the Turkish people call Karadeniz borders the northern part of Turkey. It’s an inland sea that takes up more than 420,000 kilometers. Geologists say it was formed when Asia crashed into Europe and opened up the Bosporus Strait and flooded an inland plain. It is about 2200 feet deep in places and is warm in the summer and extremely cold during the winter. It is fed by many rivers and empties into the Bosporus. While no one seems to be certain why it is called the Black Sea some say it is because of the dangers that exist in it and others that it is because of the deep dark waters. It is the youngest sea on earth and is kept saline through inflows from the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosporus.

Sea of Marmara, Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterreanean Sea
There\’s no shortage of beaches in Turkey

The Sea of Marmara which Turkish people call Denizi is a small inland sea connected to the Black Sea by the Bosphorus Strait. The Marmara Sea’s name comes from the Greek work for marble (marmar) and is about 11,000 square kilometers. It is relatively small being only 280 by 80 kilometers at its widest points. It is filled with many islands. To the south the Dardanelles Strait connects the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean Sea.

Sea of Marmara, Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterreanean Sea
There is plenty to do in the seas of Turkey.

Turkish people call it Ege Denizi, but in English it is known as the Aegean Sea. Legend says that it was named for a famous drowning but whether that was Queen Aegea of the Amazon or Aegeus, the father of Thesius isn’t totally clear. It’s waters however, are very clear and while it is only 214,000 square kilometers and often included as a part of the Mediterainean, it has over 3000 islands within it including Crete, Rhodes, Lesbos. It sits between Turkey and Greece. It’s shores were home to Trojans, Mycenaean, Persians, Minoans, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottomans, and many others. You can’t take a step without stepping on ancient stories and history.

Sea of Marmara, Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterreanean Sea
It really is as gorgeous as you can imagine in Turkey

And finally, there is the mighty Mediterranean Sea. Bridging the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe and the many countries that exist on it’s shores. It fills the area between The straits of Gibraltar in the West which lead to the Atlantic Ocean and the Suez Canal in the East which connect it to the Red Sea. The Turkish name for the Med is Akdeniz which means White Sea. Mediterranean actually comes closer to meaning Middle Earth in Latin. That explains all the hobbits. Despite the Latin origins of the name, the Romans called it Mare Nostrum- Our Sea.
The Mediterranean is nearly 2.5 million square kilometers. Just about everyone you read about in ancient history class lived on its shores. Phoenicians, Egyptians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Lycians, Arabs, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottomans, and all those Europeans during the Renaissance. That’s because it has a massive 46,000 kilometer long coastline that is shared by Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Greece,Turkey, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunis, Algeria, and Morocco.

The King of Seville and The Barber of Seville

While I ‘m here, I’m constantly singing The Barber of Seville,

The opera is featured in the Our Gang comedy, “Our Gang Follies of 1938”, in that Alfalfa is tired of just being a crooner and decides instead to actually sing opera, auditioning for “The Barber of Seville”. In fact, after his intro in the follies, he comes out on stage with an accordion shout-singing “I’m the Barber of Se-VILLE!!”


It is pretty here at night though…and seems to be a pretty nice city, which aside from a lack of garbage pickup has a lot to offer…especially if you are into drinking…which, these days I am not.

ABC stores have made it to Spain! Not just Hawaii anymore!

While it may mean that I end up in hell, I freely admit that I just went to Burger King and ate a whopper with onion rings plus a caramel sundae and it was completely delicious and satisfying. The king for this king.
(Originally posted 04 April 2009)

Gypsies in Granada – Surreal Real Unreal

This was a post I wrote back in early 2009 – right on the cusp of my life taking a dramatically different turn. This was one of those points where life is giving you many roads you can follow – and the one you choose will determine your entire future. I considered staying in Granada….and there were many paths I could have followed from there. I wonder where the many roads from Granada might have led – but as I sit here in 2020, living in Hawaii with my  Moroccan wife and our beautiful daughter, I can only tell you where this one led.

Ernest Hemingway wrote “How lazily the sun goes down in Granada, it hides beneath the water, it conceals in the Alhambra!” and he is not the only artist to note the beauty and wonder that surrounds this place. Shakespeare said “Every inquisitive traveler keeps Granada in his heart, without having even visited it.” Chateaubriand said “Granada is like the crystal bride of our dreams, whoever beholds it has the illusion of visiting it again.” And perhaps that is the case for me, but I only know that this city, the energy that exists here, and the people that inhabit it are a wonder worthy of noting. Granada is one of those places that stays with you, whether you go there by plan or simply as one of those last minute holidays that fate pulls from nowhere and springs on you like a wondrous surprise.

Here are a few of the moments and people that have made the past few days so wondrous.

This is Lisa, an English girl with whom I ate delicious meal, drank coffee in a magic coffeehouse, and rambled through a dusty used bookstore with. I loved her adventurous and literary spirit. And these are the eyes of Nieves, Susana, and Constantina…three of my many companions today as we strolled through the gypsy parts of Granada exploring the caves that the gypsies live in, seeking flamenco, braving the rain, eating paella, and visiting the homes of friends.





Along the way we visited a crowded patisserie and got coffee in a dark sheesha bar.
We found the king of the Barrio Abayzin at the highest point he could find.



Alhambra is beautiful. Together, with these new friends, how can there be anything as enjoyable to the soul.

Perhaps I will run out of money, come back to Granada, move into a cave like the one below, clean it and then get evicted by the gypsies who own it when the work is done, this, I am told, is what happens. I could enjoy a cave like this, do you think it has internet access?

The weather here has changed a bit and rain and thunder come down. The hardest part of travel is to leave friends behind and as I move along, I too, find this difficult. Here in Granada, as in Barcelona, I have made friends that I don’t want to leave. It’s the same in Hawaii, Salt Lake City, and everywhere I have found new and wonderful people. When I find them, I don’t want to leave.

Tomorrow though I will head to La Linea and Gibraltar and then on to Morocco. Before I leave Spain though, I should note a few things. In The Pillars of Hercules, Paul Thereaux noted that the Mediterranean coast cities are filled with dog shit. It’s an offensive description, but no one here will deny it is true. Three out of five of us today stepped in dog shit at different points. Susana said that here they say that when you step in shit, it is good luck and people go to buy lottery tickets. We agreed however that we don’t need shit.

Also two innovations that I can’t believe don’t exist in the USA. First of all, when you wash the dishes here, there is no dish rack, the rack is actually the cupboard where you keep the dishes, right above the sink. Also, here there are variable flush toilets that allow to use less water for #1 and more water for #2.
Fucking brilliant.

Pooping in the Christmas Manger – A Catalan Tradition

This was the first Christmas blog I ever posted – waaaaaay back in 2005….things were different then, this was a different blog, but it’s still a fun bit of Christmas!

Pooping in the Christmas mangerPooping in the manger. Okay…this is a Christmas tradition I can get behind. I love this. Here is an explanation for this strange Spanish Christmas custom from Wikipedia.

The Story Behind Pooping in the Manger

A Caganer is a little statue unique to Catalonia, and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra.

In Catalonia, as in most of Italy, South France and Spain, the traditional Christmas decoration is a large model of the city of Bethlehem, similar to American Nativity scenes that encompasses the entire city rather than just the typical manger scene. The Catalans have added an extra character that is not found in the manger scenes of any other culture. In addition to Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Shepherds and company, Catalans have the character known as the Caganer. This extra little character is often tucked away in some corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene, where he is not easily noticed. There is a good reason for his obscure position in the display, for “caganer” translates from Catalan to English as “defecator”, and that is exactly what this little statue is doing — defecating.

The reasons for placing a man who is in the act of excreting solid waste from his posterior in a scene which is widely considered holy are as follows:

  1. Just tradition.
  2. Scatological humor.
  3. Finding the Caganer is a fun game, especially for children.
  4. The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. However, this is probably an a posteriori explanation, and nobody would say they put the Caganer on the Nativity scene for this reason.
  5. The Caganer represents the equality of all people e.g. regardless of status, race, gender everyone defecates.

Pooping in the Christmas mangerThe exact origin of the Caganer is lost, but the tradition has existed since the 18th century. Originally, the Caganer was portrayed as a Catalan peasant wearing a traditional hat called a barretina — a red stocking hat with a black band.

The Catalans have modified this tradition somewhat since the 1940s. In addition to the traditional caganer design, you can easily find other characters assuming the caganer position, such as nuns, devils, Santa Claus, celebrities, athletes, historical figures, politicians, Spanish royalty, and other famous people past and present, including Pope John Paul II, Salvador Dalí, prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Princess Letizia and even Osama bin Laden.

The practice is tolerated by the local Catholic church. Caganers are easiest to find before Pooping in the Christmas mangerChristmas in holiday markets, like the one in front of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, which has tables and tables of caganers. Caganers have even been featured in art exhibits.

The caganer is not the only defecating character in the Catalan Christmas tradition—another is the Tió de Nadal, which also makes extensive use of the image of human waste production. Other mentions of feces and defecation are common in Catalan folklore. One popular Catalan phrase before eating says “menja bé, caga fort!” (Eat well, shit strong!).

Dramatic Vagobond Travel Video

Here’s a fun video I put together that hits some of the video I shot on my travels during 2009-2012 in Serbia, South Korea, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, Egypt, and a whole bunch of other places – I wasn’t real sure what to do with these so I proudly present to you – Vagobond Travel Dramatic. Please be sure to subscribe to my You Tube Channel. I’ve had several people ask me who the singer is that is just chilling out next to the Thames and grooving – I have no idea, but I enjoyed his impromptu show. He could be someone very famous for all I know…

Arriving in Spain back in 2009 – Vagobond Travel Video

I arrived in Spain back in early January of 2009. It was a mind blowing experience. I’d been couch surfing for several years but I arrived in Barcelona at the height of the platform being great. Barcelona was hosting a European Couchsurfing Meetup so there were hundreds of CSers and hosts were going all out to showcase their city.

I need to talk about what Couchsurfing was at that time for you to understand – there was no AirBnB and social media was still a toddler. Couchsurfing was a way for like minded global citizens to meet each other, share their cities and countries, and become friends. It was absolutely astounding. No one was charging for rooms and we hadn’t reached the point where baby boomers trying to save money on their travels were trying to use Couchsurfing as a way to get a cheap room. There was no such thing as a ‘global digital nomad’ and working remote was still a thing that was the exception rather than the rule. Only the oldest of millennials were on the road – this was mostly a young cohort of Gen X before marriage or startups slowed us down. Travel blogging was a thing – but it was a NEW thing and food blogging, mommy blogging, and those kind of niches weren’t around yet because we invented them later. There was no Instagram, Youtube was a real  struggle on the road, and everyone carried an actual camera – digital, but not a phone – a camera.

So there I was – arriving in Spain, making new friends, and finding out that there was an entire world of people like me. It was exhilarating. I wish it could have lasted forever. Just a few years later – it was an experience that couldn’t happen again. Condenast and other Boomer travel magazines had found that Boomers could save a few bucks using CS. Date rapists and scammers had infiltrated the CS community and put everyone on edge. AirBnb came along and showed everyone that rather than giving their rooms away they could rent them out, and then the ‘boomer mini-me’ generation came of age and made everything that had been cheap more expensive as their digital nomad lifestyles, van lifestyles, and desire for foods that had been cheap (avocados, ramen, saracha, granola, brown bread etc) made those foods and experiences expensive. And of course, smart phones, Instagram and the other tech we take for granted today made a lot of what we did impractical or unnecessary. Back in those days hosts were guides, friends, ambassadors, and sometimes lovers – as were the other CSers we met. 2006 to 2011 were the glory days of Couchsurfing – if you missed it – well, maybe you can get a sense from this video.

World Travel for Almost Nothing #3 – Budget Airlines vs. Regular Airlines

(This is a repost from 2011 but not much has changed in terms of cheap travel)

AirplaneI travel by international airlines more than most people. In particular I travel more than most people who don’t have an obvious source of income i.e. a job.

In 2011, I traveled in Turkey, Morocco, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Italy, Greece, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Spain, and Switzerland – and I might be leaving a few places out…

In any event, I can say that I travel because I’m always looking for deals and because I’m lucky, for example I won the round-trip ticket from Malaysia to South Korea and I sometimes find bargains that others miss. I’m not some guy who inherited money, I don’t have a trust fund, I’m not a wall street banker and point blank – I don’t have a ton of money, I support my wife and daughter in a comfortable lifestyle (sometimes bringing them with me) and while I work a lot, I don’t have a boss.

While there are many lifestyle and travel choices involved in how and why I am able to travel as much as I do, one of the biggest factors in my being able to travel is living in the age of budget airlines.  I’m like everyone else, I carp about the bad service, the uncomfortable seats, the charges for every little thing and the feeling of being cattle – but at the same time – I’m always aware of the magic pointed out by some comedian that I’m able to ‘sit in a chair and fly through the air’ and I can do it without actually spending very much money at all.In fact, I usually spend less to fly to another country than my countrymen spend on a Greyhound bus ticket between two neighboring towns.

AirplaneThink I’m lying? A Greyhound bus ticket from Bellingham, Washington to Seattle, Washington will cost you $22.50 – I flew from Volos, Greece to Milan, Italy for $18 U.S. I flew from Milan, Italy to Tangier, Morocco for another $18! That’s three countries and two continents for 30% more than it costs to go 90 miles by bus in the USA.

Okay, I admit, the fares aren’t always that good but sometimes they are even better. I flew from Brussels, Belgium to Fez, Morocco for $1! And it’s not just Europe and North Africa – recently AirAsia had $10 fares from Kuala Lumpur to Australia or South Korea!

So, to answer my own question. Yes, budget airlines are definitely worth it. This year I’ve flown with several budget airlines: Air Arabia, WizzAir, Pegasus, Onur Air, Air Asia, Air Asia X, and of course RyanAir.

How do they stack up to other airlines? The truth is that most U.S. Airlines I’ve flown with (except for Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines, and AlaskaAirlines – don’t give much better service or more comfortable seats. And the prices? Forget about getting anything for under $200 US unless you are flying from cities in the same state or to Vegas from California…it just doesn’t happen very often.

AirplaneAs for international airlines – well if you fly with Turkish Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airlines or just about any other Asian carrier – you will be treated with respect, get great service, and have great amenities. You end up paying four to ten times the price of a budget airline, but in this case – especially for real long flights, the extra expense might be worth it. Unless, you are on a super duper budget in which case you might want to go budget all the way.
You can fly from the UK to Morocco with Ryan Air for less than $100, then fly from Morocco to Turkey for about $200 using Air Arabia (or alternatively you could fly from Morocco to Spain, France, Italy or Belgium with Easy Jet and then take a Pegasus flight to Turkey for less than $100 each). From Turkey you can fly with Air Arabia to the middle east or Egypt for next to nothing and then you can fly to India for another next to nothing. Then from India you can go with Air Asia to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan or more. I’m not sure if South America has budget airlines but from what I can tell, North America doesn’t though in Hawaii you can island hop with Go Airlines for less than $100 each leg.

But I have to admit – flying Malaysia Airlines earlier this year was incredible. No extra charges, great food, beautiful flight attendants, great service, free drinks and free in flight entertainment.

If I had the money, I’d never fly with budget airlines again – but as it stands now – I’ll probably be on another Ryan Air flight before the year is done. At least I hope so!

Is budget travel worth it? World travel for almost nothing # 1

A few days ago, I asked readers if budget travel is worth it. The overwhelming answer is – yes, of course it is. And, actually, I totally agree. I admit that sometimes you need to bite the bullet and spend a little bit extra to avoid discomfort and inconvenience – but for the most part, if the choice is between no travel and budget travel – take budget travel.

Maybe you’ve noticed that I manage to see quite a few places and you’ve thought to yourself “It must be nice to have enough money to travel like that – I wish I had the money to do that!”

The fact of the matter is, so do I. The other fact of the matter is that I don’t. In the past several decades it has been the exception rather than the rule for me to have a job where my time belongs to someone else. I don’t usually have any savings. I’m in debt up to my ears (but am constantly deferring my student loans) and yet even in that condition,  I’ve managed to travel to 50 or so countries, have a fabulous wedding in the Sahara, and get quite a few little side trips and excursions in too. How do I do it?

Noodle Shop in Chinatown

Honestly, I’m not sure, but the following is some of what I’ve figured out about how to travel for next to nothing. Hopefully, it will inspire one or two of you out there to get off your butts and hit the road like you’ve always dreamed of. If it does and your life changes forever, feel free to buy me a beer someday.

A trip to a theme park costs most than I spend on most of my solo international adventures. World travel doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, there are many times that it is free.

Of course the travel agencies, cruise lines, and airlines don’t want you to know that. Big hotels and resorts live off of people who don’t know where they would stay without Hilton or Marriott to house them. Those guys and the talking heads in the media earn their salaries selling trips to all-inclusive resorts and big time guided tours of places you can walk through for free.

They are banking on the fact that your imagination stops at your credit card and that most people are just too damn scared to take a chance when they leave the confining comfort of their own home. I’m about to spoil that misconception. Unless those guys start sponsoring me, I’m going to keep giving away tips and tricks that open up the entire world to you.

Nothing holds you back more than fear. Fear of the unknown. FDR said it right, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Face it, you’re going to die and you’re going to lose everything. We all do. You have very little control about when that is going to happen. The thing that makes most people miss out on the joy of travel is that they think they can control it and so they stay at home watching Netflix until they die of a coronary. They know the geography of the world, but they’ve never seen it. If you don’t open the door, you won’t see anything but the television.

Tip #1 for Cheap World Travel:

Pyramid Paris LouvreLet go of all that routine that arises from you trying to control your own dead end. The best thing about living is new experience and you can have as many as you want for free. Once you step away from your societal imposed responsibilities, you find that the world opens up and gives you more joy than you’ll ever find trying to buy your future security at the expense of the present.

When you start breaking free of your routine, you will discover the wonder of new faces and places, taste incredible new foods, and discover secrets about yourself and the world that you never expected to find.

Each new wonder unfolds before you like a road that was hidden from view and like any road, a new experience will often lead you to another and another and another. When you walk the road of travel, you get to experience life differently from when you take a package vacation or go through the daily motions in your ‘home’. In fact, the world is your home, if only you choose to accept it.

Sunsets are free. Mountaintops don’t cost a thing. Walking through a public market takes not a dime. Striking up a conversation with someone working beside a road you are walking down can lead to adventures you can’t imagine. Just being in a new place will provide you with more insights about yourself and the world than all the new clothes, fancy meals, or well rehearsed tourist trips can ever give you.

Your mentality is the primary reason why world travel costs a ton. Change it and you will find that few things are as cheap.

Next: What you really need!

Exploring Costa Teguise in Rock Star Style

party in Caosta TeguiseHere is another destination from my bucket list in the Canary Islands. I’m not sure how long this place would be fun, but I’d certainly like to check it out. It might be some time before I’m able to venture forth from Honolulu, but there’s no problem with being stuck in Hawaii. Happy Summer!

Costa Teguise is an intentional tourist coastal town in the Municipality of Teguise on the island of Lanzarote  in the Canary Islands of Spain. It is a completely planned tourist city which offers four natural beaches Playa de los Charcos, Playa de las Cucharas, Playa del Jablillo and Playa Bastián.

Costa Teguise is found on the far east side of Lanzarote  Island. Those who delight in water sports or just enjoy beaches and sunshine return to frequently the Costa Teguise for scuba diving, surfing,  windsurfing, sailing, fishing, diving and much much more. In addition, it is said to be a great place for golf, horseback riding and just lounging around. Costa Teguise gets an average of 300 days of sunshine each year. No wonder it was picked for a planned tourist destination.

Crystal clear glowing blue  waters  rich with life provide the right environment with  500 distinct kind of species of fish within itss exclusive aquatic surroundings.  Costa Teguise holidays are pure super styling. In terms of accommodation, Costa Teguise has many five star resorts to choose from. A few of the beach front resorts offer entertainment, tours, and beach activities in house so that you don’t need to go anywhere else.

Resorts in Costa TeguiaseOf course, it’s nice to get out and check out the nearby villages on  Teguise too. On Saturday mornings, the village has a massive open air  market with stalls and everything from souvenirs to hand made loaves of bread. Folk singers and dancers in native costume are also to be found.

The big attraction to Costa Teguise though is the nightlife. Hundreds of bars, clubs, restaurants, live music and pubs are filled with holiday goers and for pretty reasonable amounts of money, you can live like a superstar. Costa Teguise holidays are the stuff dreams are made of – if your dream is to live it up in style.

While it is known that the Phoenecians were there, followed by the Romans and the Arabs then settled the island, the French explored it, and the Spanish conquered it – most of the archeological evidence has disappeared under lava in the eruptions of 1730-1736 so, if you are looking for a cultural holiday – this isn’t the spot.  This is a party scuba dive, wind surf place. In terms of handicrafts and the local economy- the island thrived for a while by producing cochineal, an expensive, crimson dye taken from the carapace of a scale insect that lives on cactus. Cochineal is used for dying fabric, decorating china, in cosmetics, and as a food colouring. You can take a cochineal dying workshop if you must do something cultural while you are there.

Hotel Bar in Costa TeguiseWhat to do and where to go? Near Costa Teguise, four amazing beaches wait for you. Playa las Cucharas is the biggest and most beautiful; however, it is also very crowded, especially in the summer season. Tourists come from all over Europe to enjoy the sun here. The other three beaches Playa Bastian, Playa Jablillo and Playa Los Charcos are better if you don’t enjoy crowds or want to get away from the hustle you find at Playa las Cucharas, but these beaches are famous for their hot white sand and turquoise water.

Tired of the beach? Have fun in a water park or shoot a round of golf. The only water park in Lanzarote is near Costa Teguise. The kids will love it. There are many fun attractions for older people too. If you don’t want to waste your energy in the water park, you can play some golf. Costa Teguise Golf course is just a few miles away from the water park; the view from the greens are gorgeous. A visit the Castle of Santa Barbara will take your breath away. The streets and houses will delight you as well: their style and structure is unique in Spain.

The island has been a World Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO) since 1993 and there is some interesting flora and fauna to be found.  Here is the bottom line – beer is cheaper than coke and wine is cheaper than orange juice – accommodations are resort style and the best thing to do here is to spend your days enjoying the sun and water and your nights partying like a rock star.

5 Amazing Destinations for Spanish Holidays

I know that the rain is Spain falls mainly on the plains but for me, Madrid is hot and dusty and not really the top of my destination list in Spain at all. Most people go straight for Ibiza or the Canary Islands but the following five are  my favorite Spanish beach destinations.

Barcelona

Barcelona – I’ve heard some people claim that Barcelona has become too saturated, it is past it’s prime and that it is no longer the place to visit. I heartily beg to disagree. Barcelona is seeped in art and everything from the paving stones to the upper stories of grafitti speak to the creative. From the Sagrada Familia to the bars and clubs along the shore. This is a city that you don’t want to miss! I love Barcelona and you will too.  Spain’s second city, full of modernist buildings and a vibrant cultural life, nightclubs, and beaches

 

Grenada

Granada is the ultimate destination for cheap Spanish holidays with free tapas and cheap drinks but there is more to this city than just a great vacation destination. This stunning city in the south, surrounded by snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, home of La Alhambra and a sizable population of gypsies. In fact, Granada holds the Alhambra, one of the most beautiful palaces of Europe, built by the Moors when they occupied Spain and once lived in and rhapsodized about by Washington Irving.  Add to that the usual beautiful cathedrals, the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains, and the gypsies of San Bernadino and suddenly, you are in love with Granada.

 

Alicante

Alicante is a town I think of and then I think of Popeye the sailor. Maybe it’s the Popeye cafe or the Popeye Hotel or maybe the fishing boat called Popeye – but that’s the truth. In fact, this is a magnificent coastal town only recently discovered by tourism. Amazing hilltop fortifications and castle, magnificent beach. Yes, Alicante well deserves to be on this list.

 

Valancia

Valencia. Paella was invented here..  My first visit to Valencia was far too short. I didn’t get into the undercurrents of dance, romance, and technological verve that serves this city. Home of the first  oranges in Europe and home to some incredible monuments and cathedrals, classic Spanish architecture and the far out City of Arts and Science.

 

Tarifa

Tarifa is a city best experienced in the warm months. If you head there in January or February (like I did the first time), you are likely to find it all closed up and looking windy and grim – but head there in the warm months and the city earns it’s nickname of the Hawaii of Europe.  Sure, nothing compares to Oahu or Maui, but Tarifa is a fun place with plenty of pubs, nightlife, great wind surfing and easy day trips to Morocco if you have a mind to take one.  Spain is a country that is best experienced slow and low – so don’t try to see it all in two weeks!

Tenerife – Canary Islands – History and Culture

Tenerife is another one of my island bucket list destinations. 

Tenerife

Since Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, is so far away from each of the continents in distance, its culture and history are very different and isolated from Spain, and other countries. Though these are Spanish islands found in the Atantic Ocean, they are closer geographically to the African nation of Morocco.

The history of Tenerife, and the other islands in the chain, were uniquely written according to the trips of Christopher Columbus. During Columbus’ exploratory time, the Canary Islands natives were called Guanches, and some documents confirm some facts about them and the Spaniards who came to the islands. It is assumed that the Guanches were of North African origin from modern day Morocco, and they lived among the volcanic mountains, eating the island’s bounty of fruits and vegetables.

According to their culture, they were known for their sculptural and folkloric traditions. On the islands you can find some great sculptures made by: Sevillano Martin de Anduhar, Rodrigues de la Olviva, Fernando Esteve and Lujan Perez. All existed after the XVII centuries.

Tenerife

One of the most well-known historical events that took place was a battle with English Commander Horacio Nelson in 1797. Santa Cruz, which is the capital of Tenerife, was attacked; Horacio lost his battle and his arms. The natives numbered about 15,000 at the time they got attacked. Moreover, the attack divided the island into 9 partitions, and each one of them was under the authority of a “Mencey”. Alexander Von Humboldt  gave life back to the islands and made them great tourist destinations for people from all over the world.

Tenerife

The main reason Folkloric events became popular on the islands was because of the Spanish and Portuguese arts, and their heritage. Music and dancing is a mix between Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American melodies and they are danced typically with a guitar of 4 or 5 strings only. These events always occur with the Sabadeno Festival during September in La Laguna. In the Playa de los Cristianos, the International Folklore Festival takes place in August. On November 18th, a volcanic eruption in the Chinyero volcano took place in 1909, and these islands are famous for their volcanoes and volcanic sand beaches.

The islands were at first famous for their sugar cane, which was one of the most popular plants grown and exported. Then wine came through the Malvasia grapes which became the source of the island’s economy during the 16th century, and the wine trade gradually disappeared over the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Some cities sprung up among the islands, thanks to the natives and changes in their lifestyle. Cities like Santa Cruz have over 200,000 residents, and La Orotava is located in a fertile valley, while La Laguna was founded in 1497 on the shares of a lake that has dried up in the last century, leaving only culture and history.

Valencia – City of Oranges and Beauty

In 2008, I left Hawaii in the midst of the great recession. My entire life changed as a result. One of my early stops after I had crossed America by train was the city of Valencia in Spain.

Valencia is a city known the world over for the Oranges that bear its name. And yet, most Valencia Oranges come from Southern California – or so I thought until a bit of research indicated that most now come from Florida. And did they originate in Valencia, Spain? Nope. They originally came from India. Who knew?

Its name comes from the city of Valencia, Spain, known through history for its sweet orange trees, originally from India. The patented orange hybrid was later sold by William Wolfskill to the Irvine Ranch owners, who would plant nearly half of their lands to its cultivation. The success of this crop in Southern California led to the naming of Orange County, California. The Irvine Company’s Valencia operation later split from the company and became Sunkist. Cultivation of the Valencia in Orange County had all but ceased by the mid-1990s due to rising property costs from urban sprawl, which drove most of what remained of the Southern California juice orange industry into Florida and Brazil.

Almost two months on the road. I’ve been from Honolulu to Portland to Sacramento to Salt Lake City to Ogden and back to Salt Lake City to Chicago by way of Denver to Boston to Providence to Lena’s town to New York City to Barcelona to Valencia and now going to head to Alacante.

Valencia  is the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia and the third largest city in Spain after Madrid andBarcelona, with around 809,000 inhabitants in the administrative centre. It is the 23rd most populous municipality in the European Union. Valencia is also Spain’s third largest metropolitan area, with a population ranging from 1.7 to 2.3 million. The Port of Valencia is the 5th busiest container port in Europe and the largest on theMediterranean Sea, with a trade volume of 4.21 million TEU’s.

Blending with the locals in Valencia

Now, the country. Spain is remarkable. The bars don’t really start happening until midnight. From noon to about five pm most everything is closed. As I travel from East to West I start to see California everywhere I look only instead of adobe missions, I see huge stone castles and massive block apartment buildings built around narrow lanes. The water of the Mediterranean is the same incredible blue of the water in the Philippines.

The craggy mountains and yellow stone with brightly painted houses on rocky ground excites me. The cultures all seem to be individualistic, as if this were some nation cobbled together from many tribes Catalan, Valencian, Basque, and Spanish and yet, they are all a part of this incredible country that discovered the new world, or at least made the horrific contact and then proceeded to dominate, decimate, and reshape the cultures there.

From the gypsies I saw playing accordion and fiddle on the train to the musician/beggars who stand guard with palms out in front of the churches to the celebration of South American dance I wandered upon my first night in Valencia, there is a vibrancy to this culture that is perhaps best summed up by the concept of memento mori, the idea of something to remind one that death is perhaps not as far away as we may think it to be.

I can see this idea in the works of Picasso, Gaudi, and Miro but even in the way that my Spanish friends seem to live their lives. There is a feeling that seems to say that one must spend the last dollar, catch the siesta now, or love the woman of your dreams in this moment because the moment might be taken from one at any time. I think this is perhaps what most resonates with me here in Spain, this idea of carpe diem or living the present moment to the fullest.


Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC. The city is situated on the banks of the Turia, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea. Its historic centre is one of the largest in Spain, with approximately 169 acres; this heritage of ancient monuments, views and cultural attractions makes Valencia one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Major monuments include Valencia Cathedral, the Torres de Serranos, the Torres de Quart, the Llotja de la Seda (declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996), and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences), an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela.


As to my language studies, they are somewhat hopeless it seems. As I learn Spanish it is corrupted by my little French, then there is the Spanish as spoken by Italianos and Catalans. A guy in Valencia told me that the Spanish lisp (Buenath Notcthes) is the result of a king they once had who had a lisp and everyone in the country decided to speak like him. In any event, my Spanish vocabulary is growing, but confused and when I tried to speak Arabic to the Moroccans at the less than spectacular Pension Milano, I found that it is locked up for the moment in an inacessable part of my brain. As I start to access it, my vulgar spanish becomes corrupted by Arabic as well….
Cest la vie. Que sais. Al hamdallah.

 The Museu de Belles Arts de València houses a large collection of paintings from the 14th to the 18th centuries, including works by Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya, as well as an important series of engravings by Piranesi. The Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (Valencian Institute of Modern Art) houses both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art and photography.


At this point, I have considered to discard my coffee cup and French press several times. I like the invention, but it seems unnecessary since coffee is one thing that is readily available and cheap. I’ve not used it nor my metal water bottle yet in Europe, but I have the feeling that as soon as they are gone, I will find myself wanting them maybe one more week and then I can get rid of the cup and press. They are easily replaceable and they haven’t been used on this trip yet at all, the water bottle it is more useful and I will keep it. (future note: both have been incredibly useful and are still with me 3 years later)

The city of Science and Technology was amazing to see, but was it worth the cost?
Valencia is integrated into an industrial area on the Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast). Valencia’s main festival is the Falles. The traditional Spanish dish, paella, originated in Valencia.

The buses are more expensive between cities than I expected, I think this may be to the rise in gas prices last summer. 20-30 Euros for each leg so far. The ferry to Morocco should be about the same. Accommodation runs 10-20 euros each night in the hostels and pensions.

As for couch surfing, it isn’t really so much a way to save money as to meet new people and make new friends. If I hadn’t of couch surfed in Barcelona, I would have spent far less, but the experience would also have been far less. To be a good couch surfer, I think one should provide something to ones host, a bottle of wine, beers, a meal…something. Perhaps I am too generous, but this seems a small price to pay for the generosity I have recieved from my hosts.

Two months into this and almost 1/3 of my funds are gone. Yikes. We will see..the time will pass and the road will have its way with me as it always does. The lessons learned will be more than to simply be able to get by in other regions of the world, it will be more like how to get by in this life.

Once I hit Turkey, I will examine the prediction a client of mine once made to me when I was a stock broker. He said something like “Your destiny is to manage a guest house on the banks of the Bosphorus” , perhaps he was right, but if not then I will move on to India and then most likely to Korea to teach English… there is a lot of road between here and there though….

(Originally posted 28JAN2009)

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