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The "Pyramids Temples and Vodka" Travel Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries for "Travelers at Heart"  

Two Days in Madrid

February 10, 2018

After going through another trying period in my life, I needed a break from reality. And I needed one... QUICK! 


Other than Russia, which my tour guide, at the time, considered half-Europe and half-Asia, I hadn't been to Europe. I didn't have the time or the finances for the European excursion that I wanted to plan for my 30th birthday. So, instead of planning some elaborate "escape from my everyday life" adventure, I decided to pick one country that I could survive in for a couple of days. With my semi-fluency in Spanish, I knew Spain would be the perfect place. 


Spain has three main touristy cities: Seville, Barcelona and Madrid. But out of these three cities, there was one, in particular, that was calling me. I chose Madrid. 


My Spanish lessons paid off as soon as I got off the plane! I had booked an Airbnb and my room attendant didn't speak a lick of English. It had to be the most rapidly-speaking Spanish that I had heard in a while. She was just a taste of what I'd experience later on in my trip. 


Madrid was like any other metropolis. It was full of it's malls, cafes and museums. The people were friendly and as long as you could somewhat communicate in their language, they were willing to help. 


I spent my first day in Toledo. I had read that there was Moorish architecture over there and I was ready to explore. It was about an hour and a half away from Madrid and once I was able to navigate through Madrid's metro system, it wasn't terribly hard to find a bus heading to Toledo. Again, with the aide of my limited "español." 


In Toledo, I visited La Plaza de Zocodover. There, I had my first experience at a tapas bar, which was not as eventful as I thought it would be, and witnessed one of the most breathtaking views while walking up a hill leading to El Museo de Santa Cruz. 


After two hours of wandering around, I finally found what I was looking for: La Mezquita de Cristo. It was a living piece of architecture in Toledo, showing that a piece of Moorish culture still survives in a country whose rulers are the predecessors of conquistadors. 


Madrid had some surprising highlights. El Museo del Prado was, in my opinion, one of the most amazing museums in terms of art in all of Madrid. Right across the street lies an interesting little attraction, El Museo de Jamón. Here you can get a mug of beer and some meaty hors d'oeuvres for only 1 Euro. 


Therefore, although I only spent two days in what appeared to be an average European city, I was still able to make the most of the experience. Visiting an archaeological museum, cheering with locals as they gathered for their country's "National Pride" parade and wandering through the streets of an outdoor bookstore. The amount of books in this perpetual store was unbelievable! If I had only two days to spare in the middle of Europe, I wouldn't have spent it any other way! 




10 Things Worth Bringing When Traveling Abroad!

March 15, 2018

As most travelers know, visiting a foreign country is completely different from being at home. The living conditions are different. The customs of each country are different. Temperatures can change drastically, depending on elevation, how close you are to the equator and what time of the day you are traveling. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! 


Therefore, this is a list of some of the things that are WORTH having when you take that flight abroad:


1. Baby Wipes- Let me repeat... BABY WIPES!!! I learned this travel tip from several other travel blogs that I read and I thought it was completely unnecessary until I went to India and Egypt. There are literally temples and attractions with bathrooms that have NO running water and NO toilet paper. BRING THOSE WIPES!  You can use them to wipe your "bum" and you can use them to clean your hands. Please take heed of this warning. YOU WILL NEED THOSE WIPES!!!


2. A Slim Fanny Pack- Pickpocketing can happen ANYWHERE! It doesn't matter whether you are in Italy, Egypt, India, Peru... or in Timbuktu. Being in a public place leaves you open to thieves. Having a fanny that you can put your valuables in and slip under your shirt will give you some extra security. Getting the slimmest fanny pack possible will also make it less noticeable to others. The one my mother gave me is so slim, my tour guides didn't even know I had it on. Just be mindful when shopping at bazaars. Always look around when digging into your secret stash! 


3. DEET Bug Repellent- Airports will not let you bring an aerosol can and, in my opinion, I have found those to be the most effective against the most vicious "muzzies." But one of my comrades in India gave me a really wonderful repellent that you can bring anywhere. 

This is it: Bushman Plus Water Resistant Insect Repellent https://goo.gl/images/BxDe7U

It literally saved my life in Holy Varanasi! It is the best repellent that I have ever tried. 


4. Imodium- I can't tell you how much I wish I had this on my trip to India. It's easy to say, "That will never happen to me," but trust me... IT CAN! Imodium is not always fool proof but it's better than having nothing. If you can find some anti-diarrhea medicine stronger than Imodium... IT'S EVEN BETTER! But don't get on the plane without some type of medicine. You will regret it. 


5. Benadryl- When bug repellent fails or when you get a really bad rash from some plant or mosquito you passed by in the Amazon Rainforest, Benadryl saves the day! It even helps with some of the exotic foods that don't go well with your system. One of my friends snuck some pills into my luggage on my first trip abroad. Since then, I don't travel without it. 


6. Locks for your luggage- Depending on what tourist company you travel with or how many destinations are on your itinerary, it's best to get some tiny locks for your bag. You don't know who will be carrying your luggage or where it will end up at the airport. The more secure your luggage is... the better! 


7. A small bag of nuts- While traveling from temple to temple or sightseeing in Rome or Paris, there may not be time or a convenience store nearby for you to pick up a quick snack. If nuts are not your thing, consider a small bag of gummy bears. Any small or non-perishable snack that you can just slip into your pocket, or little fanny pack, will work. You may not anticipate getting hungry but when time is tight, that little bag of nuts goes a long way. 


8. A long scarf- From sandstorms and dusty streets to sacred places like mosques and churches, having a nice pashmina scarf will protect you from the elements, show respect for others' religions and... it can also make a fashion statement, depending on which color and pattern you get. 


9. Credit card- I know that places tack on a fee for using your credit card abroad but, in addition to bringing enough cash, I'd definitely recommend bringing a credit card over an ATM card. I'd rather pay the extra fee than risk losing my ATM card and having to find service to call my bank in the middle of a vacation. Any thief can spend a whole day guessing ATM codes. At least credit card purchases can be tracked and the money in your bank is secure. 


And lastly... 


10. A pair of jeans- I know this may seem like a kind of obvious one but, for those who think it's not needed, even warm/ hot climates have their rainy and cool days. I have regretted not bringing at least one pair of jeans on one of my trips and have frozen my butt off for it! Even if it's 90 degrees outside, the jeans will protect you throughout the day from bug bites and sunburn while also giving you an extra layer of warmth during cool nights.


So, AGAIN, these are just the top 10 things that I would recommend for any traveler, whether it's your first journey abroad or your hundredth. Bringing sunscreen and chapstick, making sure you have your passport, visa requirements and other travel documents is also something to remember. Certain tour organizers will say, "Make sure you bring a torch/ flashlight." I don't think that it's necessarily needed. I've been to a couple of the darkest tombs in Egypt and haven't needed it but, to each his/her own. But, from what I learned, the more prepared you are, the better your trip will be. HAPPY TRAVELS, COMRADES!  


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