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Step Into Seville: Spain’s Southern Gem

Just a hop and a skip from Africa, Seville sits near the southern tip of Spain. The Moors lived in this region until the Spanish Catholics forced them out in 1492 after many years of fighting. The resulting blend of Moorish and Spanish architecture, with its distinctive patterns and bold colors, creates a city like no other.

We walk around in awe. Flamenco dancers clap, the sun burns our faces, we sit down for our seventh round of tapas.

We come across a grand old building with a fountain in the courtyard. It must be some kind of palace, I think to myself, perhaps inhabited by a reclusive Spanish aristocrat. Nope, totally wrong, it’s the University of Seville. I walk past approximately 17 students taking selfies. People are actually allowed to study here. I fleetingly wonder if I should apply for a course here… then realize I’d actually have to study!

 

That evening, we visit a shabby but charming cafe and restaurant, Taberna Alvaro Peregilwhere every review raves about the orange wine. We are suspicious, “What shade of orange?” we ask each other with concern. It sounds like it could be some dystopian Fanta-rosé blend from hell. Two glasses of dark orange liquid are placed on the table. We take a sip and stare at each other in shock. It’s the most delicious wine of all time (maybe). It tastes like a summer Christmas. We down two more rounds and suddenly panic that perhaps this very rare wine is blowing our budget. We ask for the bill and to our huge surprise each glass of this magical elixir is just 1€50 (£1.30)! We order a bottle (7€).

 

You’d have to be pretty visually-impaired not to notice the giant church in the centre of Seville. It’s technically the biggest church in the world – all the larger ones are cathedrals. It’s vast and intricate.

We were surprised to find that Christopher Columbus, or “Cristóbal Colón” in Spanish, is buried here. The man who famously thought he’d “discovered” India, but had in fact “discovered” America.

 

For lunch, we head across the Triana bridge and wander through the brightly-coloured streets. It’s quieter this side of the river. Gypsies used to live here as they weren’t allowed inside the city walls.

Now known for its flamenco and ceramics, the streets have a bohemian spirit. Symbolising this, we stumble across a tapas bar in one of the backstreets called Las Golondrinas. It’s full of locals and totally hidden from the main path. It’s buzzy and busy. The tapas is good, quick to arrive and cheap.

 

If you head back along the bridge towards the centre, on your right is an ice-cream shop called E Bio Pure Heladería. The best ice-cream in Spain, I’d say. Best of all, if milk doesn’t agree with you, they do dairy-free ice-cream made with rice milk instead. I highly recommend the cinnamon & ginger scoop.

 

If you only have time for one tourist-y thing in Seville, head straight to the Alcazar. A Moorish palace that was around in some form from as early as 712AD, and still part-lived in by the current Spanish monarchy, it has a perfect beauty that I’ve never seen before in any European city.

The internet is full of photos of the Alcazar, so instead I’ll show you a photo of my favorite part: the bath beneath the palace – a section that’s very easy to miss. Through a short corridor, this dimly-lit bath is eerie and peaceful. Make sure you also check out the immaculately-designed gardens, particularly if you like peacocks.

 

On our final night, we walk back to the apartment and need to buy a bottle of water. We stop along a street with various bars, shops and lots of outdoor seating. We walk up to what from the outside looks like a corner shop. We stop in our tracks. This is not a corner shop. This is Bodeguita Jerez. Look inside and this is what you’ll find:

 

Towers of cheese. Delicious sherry. Chaotic but somehow perfectly in order. A mad but friendly owner who refused to be in my photo. Just one of the endless gems you’ll discover in this fabulous region of Spain.

Advice Europe Outdoors

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

There is something about slowing down from 100 to 5km per hour that makes you experience the world differently. The Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way) is a pilgrimage route across Spain, leading to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela. Legend has it the remains of the Apostol St. James are kept in the city’s grandiose Cathedral and although this pilgrimage started as a religious route over a thousand years ago, nowadays there is a plethora of reasons amongst peregrinos for walking the Camino.

I embarked on this adventure twice: the first time in 2012 when I walked solo almost 900km (560 miles) and the second time in 2016 when I walked 350km along a different route with my partner.

If you’re considering walking this route for whichever length of time, below are some tips that will help you prepare. This was a life changing experience and I can’t recommend it enough! Whether on your own or with family/friends/partner this pilgrimage is an unforgettable experience.

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

Choose Your Route Wisely

There are many roads that lead to Santiago and not all are created equal. My first Camino took 5 weeks (Camino Frances) starting in the French city of St. Jean Pied de Port, crossing over the Pyrenees, across Spain and reaching the west coast at Finisterra (if you wish to continue past Santiago, highly recommended). The second Camino lasted 2 weeks (Camino Primitivo) which starts in Oviedo and consists on hiking mountains for the first week until it merges with the Camino Frances.

You may start and stop wherever you want, you don’t have to pay for it and can choose any route to fit your needs.

For one week routes: Camino Ingles (5 days), Camino Portugues (1 week from the Spanish-Portugal border), and the last 100 Kms of the Camino Frances. If you can speak a bit of Spanish this is the most comprehensive online guide out there.

Pro Tip: you need to walk at least 100 kms to receive the ‘Compostela’, a certificate that proves you’ve done the pilgrimage. This certificate is a reproduction of the original certificate pilgrims used to get a thousand years ago, and it’s written in Latin.

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

Choose The Right Time Of The Year

The experience can be very different depending on the time of year you walk. If you go in winter, there are parts of the mountains you can’t hike because it’s too dangerous. If you go in Autumn it rains a lot, Spring can be quite crowded but the weather is very pleasant. I went in the height of summer, August, both times because it was convenient for my work schedule, and while it was a good time to go (hardly any rain) it was also very tough in certain areas. If you’re hiking the mountains it’s nice and cool in the summer, with temperatures in the mid 20s Celsius. But if you’re hiking in the ‘Meseta’ (a desert-like area in the middle of Spain) the temperature can reach 45 degrees and it can be very dangerous to walk past noon, therefore you need to start your daily walk at 4am. Bear this in mind!

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

Plan Your Overnight Stops

On average, one walks between 6 and 8 hours a day, which is the equivalent of about 30kms depending on terrain (the trail is very well signposted). Along the route you have albergues… which are pilgrim hostels, most of which are not more than €10 a night, some less and some even free. These albergues can house anything from 200 people in one hall or 10, you never know what you’ll get! These are solely for the use of pilgrims. You must present your ‘pilgrim passport’ which is stamped at every albergueas proof that you’re walking.

In the summer these hostels can get crowded quickly so make sure you plan where you’ll stay and try to get there early. But don’t let it become a race, just be prepared to sleep outdoors sometimes!

Pro Tip: There are also private pilgrim hostels, which are somewhat fancier and more expensive, but ‘snoring’ free!

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

Pack Wisely, And Light!

This is crucial. Your backpack should be 10% of your body weight, your knees will thank you for it. Make sure your backpack is comfortable and take only the very basic essentials!

What to pack: 2 of everything – underwear, t-shirt, shorts, socks, etc. (this will vary depending on season). Microfiber towel (cotton is too heavy when wet), basic toiletries, no makeup, first aid kit, sun cream, hat, flip-flops and a sleeping bag.

Pro Tip: take Vaseline to lather your feet at the start of the day, this will prevent blisters! Also take bedbug spray, I learned the hard (and itchy) way.

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

Prepare Physically & Psychologically (…and learn a bit of Spanish!)

You don’t need to be an athlete, but it’s better to have some level of fitness as you will be walking/hiking for 8 hours a day. That being said, regardless of how fit you are, it’s guaranteed that every muscle in your body will ache at some point. If you walk solo you will have a lot of time to be with yourself, which is a wonderful thing but it can also be very emotionally and psychologically taxing, just enjoy the ride! 5 weeks on my own was tough at times but also incredibly rewarding and a life changing experience.

You will meet a lot of wonderful people along the way, and will never be truly ‘alone’ unless you want to. The Camino is very safe but take basic precautions from pickpockets at hostels, other than that it’s safe for women. If in doubt, stick with a group!

Pro tip: learn basic Spanish, some people will speak English but you will go through some remote villages where basic phrases will be very useful!

If you’re thinking of doing this walk, think no more! It will be worth it, no question. It will be rewarding, painful, eye-opening, tiring, heart-opening and all of it worth it. You will see some incredible landscape, meet amazing people, eat great food and prove to yourself that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. What’s not to like? Buen Camino!

5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo 5 Tips For Hiking The Camino de Santiago Solo

Europe Instagrammer's Guides Photography

Barcelona’s Top 10 Instagrammable Spots

The whimsical architecture of Barcelona emphasizes the beauty that lies throughout the Catalonian city. The city is immersed with beautiful architecture that all carry unique yet cohesive designs. Here are my top 10 Instagrammable spots in Barcelona.

Plaça Reial
Right next to the famous La Rambla is Plaça Reial which is essentially a square outlined with cafes and restaurants. In the middle, sits a fountain and scattered throughout the square are large palm trees. Plaça Reial brings forth a sense of tranquility from something so simple yet so captivatingly beautiful.

Park Güell
Antoni Gaudí’s whimsical style is seen throughout Park Güell. The unique appearance of this park certainly makes this one of the best places to take pictures. The colorful accents, the eccentric architecture, and the view captured from the highest points in Park Güell marks this place as a must see. In fact, the Cheetah Girls themselves had a little musical number in Park Güell in Cheetah Girls 2. So, go be cheetah-licious.

Arc de Triomf
The color and detail that is seen in this arch cohesively ties in to the aesthetic that is seen throughout Barcelona. This arch is at the very end, or the very beginning, of a long passage. Palm trees are lined up on each side of this walkway which leads the eye to this enormous arch.

El Barrio Gótico
The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona takes on a dark aesthetic. Barcelona has a very whimsical feel, but in this area it is all the same dark color and the architecture is immersed with jagged edges. Carrer del Bisbe, pictured, is the most popular street to visit. Above the tight street is a dramatic walkway bridging both buildings. Everything about El Barrio Gótico is like taking a walk through the past.

Plaça d’Espanya
Plaça d’Espanya has a big circle with a fountain and monument right in the middle. Past this circle on both the left and right is a large garden. Within the gardens there are fountains that lead up to the top of the hill where the Font Màgica, the Magic Fountain, sits. During the summertime there is a mesmerizing light and water show. This picture is taken atop of Arenas de Barcelona which used to be a bull fighting arena. When Barcelona banned bull fighting, the arena was turned into a shopping center. The Arenas de Barcelona has a rooftop that allows you to see this magnificent view.

Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló is one of Gaudí’s well known masterpieces which does not come as a surprise once you are in front of it. Everything about this house seems like it was pulled out of a storybook: from the roof, to the chimney, to the railings, to the colorful design coating the front of the house. Casa Battló seems like something out of a dream, a place that will leave you utterly amazed.

La Pedrera
Not too far from Casa Batlló is La Pedrera. Your attention is drawn to it immediately due to its strange shape. It sits on a corner and the building in itself is a bunch of curved lines. Gaudí manages to bring art to life with the railings that are placed on the balconies.

La Rambla del Mar
When La Rambla comes to the end, you are greeted with a view of the marina. However, La Rambla continues onto the water and leads you to Maremagnum, a shopping center with the beautiful view of blue skies and bluer water. This is the perfect place to capture the calming atmosphere of countless boats, palm trees, and seagulls.

Palau de la Música Catalana
This concert venue is immersed in colors and the outside of the building is as beautiful as the inside. Roses are present throughout the exterior and interior: on the pillars, on the stained glass inside, and are even used to hide the air conditioning vents. In the concert hall, is the main focal point, the stained glass skylight. The view of the stained glass is illuminating from every aspect but when sitting directly under it, the centerpiece takes on a life of its own.

La Sagrada Família
Barcelona is the home of the breathtaking Sagrada Família. This cathedral is a must see. The outside of the church in itself is breathtaking. Once you get closer to the cathedral, you are able to see all the details implanted into the church. The amount of work that has gone into this creation leaves you wondering: “How?” You do not have to go inside but it is money well spent to walk through those doors. From the towering ceiling, to the stained glass windows, to the cross in the middle, everything is radiating art, history, and passion.

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Europe Food Hotels Insider Tips

The Best Of Spain: Insider Guide

Spain is a dream world with some of the best that Europe has to offer. From its stunning architecture, unforgettable cuisine and welcoming culture to the many diverse regions of the country, both mountainous to beachside, a Spanish experience is something you will always remember. Living in Spain and having traveled all over the country, you really get to enjoy some of the best authentic experiences that there are. In celebration of the launch of Las Morenas de España travel experiences, I’m sharing the best of an authentic Spain for you to enjoy.

Beach: Nerja
Living in the south of Spain is a luxury as it’s surrounded by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and one of my favorite beaches in Spain has to be Nerja. The culture and landscape of the city is entrancing and will have you longing for more. It not only has a quaint atmosphere, more relaxed than most tourist towns but you will also experience the oceans and amazing views while being surrounded by a delightful mountainous background.

Restaurant: Girasol Restaurante
Spain is known to be the “land of jamon” but there is more to the cuisine than just that. One of my favorite restaurants just so happens to be vegetarian. El Girasol Vegetariano is the definition of a hidden treasure. A quaint restaurant in the back streets of Murcia, you wouldn’t know that it was there unless you happened to stumble upon the vibrant space. From it’s colorful interior to the amazing ladies who hold down fort, you’re entranced from the moment you walk in. Fresh market veggies bought daily, they always offer a variety of cuisine ensuring that there is something on the menu that you’ll fall in love with. Not only is the food inviting but the atmosphere is intriguing as well. When I visited (the first of many times), there was an exhibition by international artist and illustrator, ZeroAnodino, covering the walls, sustaining artistic needs as well as gastronomic. The restaurant not only supports local artists but also occasionally hosts different events, catering to the entire community.

Café: Mur Café
Being a digital nomad and originally from New York, means I’m constantly in search for new cafes and work spaces. Finding a fantastic place basically feels like Christmas. One of my favorite cafes in Madrid is Mur Café located in Plaza Cristino Martos close to Plaza de España. With their delicious breakfasts, welcoming space and great ambiance, it’s the perfect place to sit down for a productive work session or brunch with friends.


Hidden Wonder: Salto del Usero
In a small town called Bullas, located in the region of Murcia, is one of the most beautiful hidden wonders that I’ve encountered so far. The small waterfall, Salto del Usero is fantastic for taking a dip on a warm day or going for an escape from city life. With gorgeous rock formations surrounding the clear water, you’ll want to stay forever.


Hotel: Chic and Basic Born
Chic and Basic Born is by far one of the best hotel experiences I’ve had in Spain. Located in one of the most interesting and diverse neighborhoods in Barcelona, you’ll find the best of all worlds. The hotel embodies the definition of minimal and innovative while accommodating everything you’ll ever need in your stay. From art lovers to inspired explorers, the design of the hotel will be appreciated from the second you step through the door. Chic and Basic Born allows for an affordable, unforgettable experience no matter your travel style.


Quick Trip: Morocco
Living in Spain gives you an opportunity to take quick trips to so many other countries in Europe at a low cost. Morocco is an unforgettable trip that is easy and affordable. Filled with endless culture and breathtaking architecture, there is so much to take in. While there, I was able to visit Chefchaouen, mostly known for it’s blue streets and buildings and spending a night in the Sahara Desert under the full moon.

 

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Europe Journal Photography

Traveler & Artist Candace Rose Rardon Sketches the World Through Her Travels

Hi everyone! Candace Rose Rardon here. I’m a travel writer and sketch artist just back from two months in beautiful France and Spain, and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite moments of sketching inspiration from the trip with you. To get started, here’s a little icon from Paris you might have seen before…for me, no matter how well-known a subject, it’s always fun to see it for the first time with my sketchbook.


Paris, Shakespeare & Co.
If you enjoy looking for inspiration in quirky bookshops, you will love Shakespeare & Co., set just steps away from the Seine River and the towering spires of Notre Dame. Opened in 1919, the bookstore was a favorite haunt of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and many other writers, and it still plays an important role in Paris’ literary scene today. From the colored lights strung outside to the hidden nooks and dusty shelves on the second floor, I could have easily lost myself here for hours.


Paris, The Louvre
As an artist, it only felt right to spend my last full day in Paris at the city’s most iconic art museum, the Musée du Louvre – and yet I was so intrigued by the juxtaposition between the palace’s centuries-old facades and the pyramids’ modern design that I never even made it inside. As you sit along the fountains in the museum’s courtyard, it’s amazing to listen to the chatter of accents around you and wonder at how a single city can seem to draw the entire world to it.


Spain, Girona’s colored houses
After my time in Paris came to an end, I set off for the Costa Brava region of Spain, where I gratefully had the opportunity to be an artist-in-residence for six weeks. My first stop was Girona, a beautiful, ancient city about an hour’s drive inland from Barcelona. I knew embarrassingly little about Girona before arriving, but was soon blown away by the two millennia of history it holds—from Greek ruins and Romanesque churches to a medieval Jewish quarter. I especially loved these colorful houses set along the Onyar River flowing through the city.


Spain, Calella de Palafrugell
During my next two weeks of the residency, I had the chance to stay in a charming former fishing village called Calella de Palafrugell. From the moment you walk down to the shore and get your first glimpse of the village, the vista of whitewashed houses, clay tiled roofs, and turquoise water immediately makes you feel more at peace. Days here are best spent exploring the Costa Brava’s network of coastal footpaths before enjoying a gelato by the sea in the afternoon.


Spain, boat in Calella
One of my favorite things about Calella were the dozen or so faded fishing boats that still rest on the shores of Port Bo beach. Although life in the town no longer revolves around fishing, they’re a beautiful (and colorful!) reminder of the livelihood that once defined not only Calella, but the entire Costa Brava region. An added bonus to sketching the boats was getting to bring the beautiful scripts on their sides to life—the name of this boat translates as “gentle sea.”


Spain, church in Lloret de Mar
My time in the Costa Brava wrapped up in Lloret de Mar, a popular coastal resort town that still has many pockets of local history and culture to explore. One such pocket was the Iglesia de Sant Romà and its Capella del Santíssim pictured here. Built in 1916, the chapel’s colored mosaics and tiled roofs are a fascinating example of Modernist architecture and were a dream to recreate in my sketchbook. Thank you for following along through France and Spain with me! I love connecting with the world through art, so I hope you’ll say hello and join me on my journeys here.


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