The traveling turtle

La Tortuga Viajera


Welcome to La Tortuga Viajera (the traveling turtle). It’s a travel and Spanish food blog based on my experiences as an American living in Madrid with my Madrileño husband. Who would have thought a 15-minute bar conversation would change my life forever? Join me on my journey through Spain and its top spots, best-kept secrets, culture and cuisine.

August 18, 2014 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Travel with kids, Travels in Europe

I know, I know — I’ve totally fallen off the radar these last months. But, seriously, the baby.


As I mentioned in my last post, motherhood is, well, INTENSE. I mean, let’s be honest, I’m lucky if I remember deodorant on a daily basis, so making it around to blogging falls somewhere much farther down the totem pole — somewhere after personal hygiene, but apparently before picking up the pile of clothes in my closet that I can’t seem to find the time to hang up. Priorities, people.


Despite the chaos of motherhood, though, it seems the universe insists that I travel. And, of course, I’ve been happy to oblige.

 

Gubbio

Embarking on travel again took a bit of bravery…and so did riding this little cage thing up the mountainside of Gubbio, with Nico

You see, a few months back, when Nico was only a couple of months old, and I was at the height of my “WTF” phase (does that ever end? Seriously, does it?), a friend of a friend approached me for some marketing advice on her new startup. One thing led to another, and I ended up joining as a partner and co-founder of her already-budding venture called Our Whole Village, a travel company centered around cultural immersion for families.


And I’m fairly certain I couldn’t have dreamt up a more perfect opportunity to fall in my lap: travel, family, marketing, cultural immersion, and even a dash of writing. (Perhaps it wasn’t the best timing, but who am I to argue with the universe?)

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Part of our Italian cultural immersion involved us sinking our fingers and teeth into all things pasta

It’s because of this new endeavor that Nico and I recently set off for a week in Umbria, Italy, during which we stayed at a rural villa, and lived the farm-to-table lifestyle in between day trips to towns such as Perugia, Gubbio and Spello.

 

Spello

A flower-filled alley in Spello

Though tiring (very tiring given that I was traveling alone with my little guy), the weeklong journey through the Umbrian hills — making pasta, hunting truffles, and wine tasting (yes, wine tasting) — opened my eyes to the fact that transformational travel so isn’t over for me. In fact, I think it’s just beginning. And that’s not only because I’m discovering that all sorts of travel are possible with a little person tow, but that so much of travel is even better when you’re experiencing it through the eyes of a youngster. Who knew?

 

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Nico knows how to travel comfortably

So, as I set off for another trip (to Portugal!), I hope I’ll fall back onto your radar as I share my upcoming travels.


But hygiene first, readers, so let’s see how things play out.

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February 14, 2014 - Posted by Erin in Expat

This just in: babies are a lot of work. Yeah, like a lot. Apparently having a kid is a full-time job with virtually no break, and one which pays with the occasional, albeit priceless smile. But whoa, it’s exhausting.


If you haven’t guessed already, my adventures these days have a lot less to do with traveling to far-off places, and instead revolve entirely around keeping my little dude happy.


Right, and he just woke up….the tears should start flowing in 5, 4, 3, 2….


OK, and we’re back (several hours, diaper changes and deep sighs later).


My sweet little Nico was born Thanksgiving Day here in Madrid, Spain, weighing in at 6 pounds, 15 ounces. (I realize this surely was the first and last time that I will ever actually lose weight on Turkey Day!) He seems to have the same restless spirit that I do in that he positively hates being cooped up at home, and will usually only calm when outside of the house. Not so great news if I wish to rest, but it means my preference for being out and about hasn’t had to change nearly as much as I thought it would. That said, trying to plan just about anything concretely remains an almost entirely futile effort.


But enough of my motherhood revelations: instead I would like to share with you a handful of photos of my darling guy in his rare sleeping state. The first few were taken at one week old, meanwhile the others were done when he was one month.


Anddd he’s hungry now. Ciao for now, folks!

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View More: http://izzyhudgins.pass.us/erinridley
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View More: http://izzyhudgins.pass.us/erinridley



One-month-old photos taken by Izzy Hudgins Photography.

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November 26, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

A year and half ago I spent eight nights sleeping in Camino hostels: these clearly weren’t my best hotel experiences in Spain. In fact, that was the first and probably last time that I will be roughin’ it backpacker-style (until my next Camino rendezvous, anyway).


Why? Well, although I consider myself a very low-maintenance traveler, I’m pretty much crazy high-maintenance when it comes to my lodging (cleanliness, vibe, location — I’m flipping neurotic about it). So, being the picky hotel-selector that I am, I’ve decided that I ought to put all of my madness to good use and share with you some of my favorite hotels across Spain.


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Casa Morisca Hotel, Granada
After staying at various questionable (and over-priced) establishments during my visits to Granada, I finally happened upon this one thanks to a recommendation from a friend. Indeed, in a city full of tourists, it can be hard to find lodging with charm that remains untainted by the masses — but then there’s Casa Morisca. The house-turned-hotel dates back to the 15th century and recalls those times when the Moors occupied a healthy chunk of Iberia (creating magical places like the Alhambra!). And while restored, all the rooms are different, each still maintaining old-world details such as intricate wood-carved ceilings and interior access via a riad-style patio. While I haven’t been back to Granada in a couple of years, you can bet this is where I’ll be staying whenever I return.
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Casa de San Martín, Huesca
This off-the-grid (seriously) piece of paradise is what motivated me to write this post. Previously an abbey, the hotel is located at the end of a five-kilometer gravel road that takes twenty minutes to carefully navigate. It may be remote, but the drive is worth it, as the hotel is a perfect mixture of antiquity and pure lodging luxury. The grounds are impeccably landscaped and the service as good as it gets. Even better: since you probably won’t be too keen to make that off-road excursion back to civilization for dinner, you can stick around at the hotel, where the multi-course meals are lavishly rustic, just like the setting itself.
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A Casa de Aldán, Galicia
Once a fishery, this hotel is situated along the quiet waters of the Rias Baixas fishing village of Aldán. The rural lodging is an understated mishmash of weather-worn granite and modern cedar-wood detailing. Marry that with bedrooms of humble white linens, miniature porthole-like views of the small bay, and a sprinkling of local restaurants that serve morning-caught seafood, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Galician getaway. In fact, I loved it so much during my first visit that I returned once again simply for the pleasure of staying in such a sweet hotel and in one of Spain’s sweetest little spots.
Marques de Riscal Hotel, Frank Gehry
Marqués de Riscal, La Rioja
Yeah, and then there’s Marqués de Riscal, which practically drips indulgence; the only “rustic” things about this place are the winery’s old bodegas, and the views of Elciego village. Ranked up there among the world’s most luxurious hotels, expect this lodging experience to come with an appropriately hefty price, though. But doggonit, the place is pure magic, so much so that I convinced my mother to return there with me last February; a trip that I’m fairly certain was her favorite of all her annual journeys to Spain. But really, between the wine, the luxury, the Michelin star-rated food, and the surrounding La Rioja region, how can you go wrong? You just can’t.


So now it’s your turn: What have your best hotel experiences been? And even better, what have been the best ones in Spain or even Madrid? I’m always looking for good recommendations!

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September 23, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,


I have a confession. And no, this time it doesn’t have to do with cheese, pueblos or even cute Spanish grandpas. No, nothing even close. This time I must come clean as to why I’ve been so completely missing from my blog in the last months.

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Saldana via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Saldana via Flickr

If you haven’t guessed it already: Tortuga’s having a tortuguita. That’s right, I’m pregnant and expecting a little boy (I’m still thinking it could just be a giant tortilla española) toward the end of the year. Jacobo and I are positively elated!


As you can probably imagine, these last months have been a bit disorienting. Apart from the physical and mental intensity involved with the whole growing-another-person thing (I still can’t believe this is happening!), I spent five head-spinning weeks in the States, followed by a quick trip to Malta, and all while my freelance writing workload somehow managed to quadruple (never mind the size of my stomach – eek!).


I’ve been in such a pregnancy haze, actually, that I spilled olive oil all over (and incidentally in) my laptop last week, and it has since ceased to function. (I’ll have you know that the Mac service people here in Madrid didn’t even flinch or crack a smile at the olive-oil incident, as if it were totally normal. I’m going to pretend that olive-oil spillage on anything is entirely commonplace in Spain.) The good news: By some stroke of luck, I had gotten a backup laptop of sorts while home, and it was my old laptop that suffered the tragic – albeit quite tasty – accident. Consider this my PSA: Olive oil and laptop innards are not friends – take note.


Basically, it’s been a crazy, beautiful and largely blog-free time, and I’ve hated having to keep the big — and getting bigger! — secret from you all for so long. But, believe it or not, I still haven’t even shared the news with my Facebook friends (gasp!), so now you and the probably five other people who’ve hung around through my silence are still among the first to know. Surprise, Mom and Dad!!! I kid, I kid.


Times might be changing, but going forward I’ll do my best to keep you all up to date on my continued adventures – the ones that involve tasty travels, not diaper changes. I do hope you’ll still come along for the ride. And thank you for your continued support!


Sincerely,
Tortuga and her soon-to-arrive Tortuguita

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July 31, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Books, Expat, Travel

Allow me to interrupt our regularly scheduled (albeit sporadic) programming to bring you an especially pride-filled post about my “soul friend,” Candace.

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You remember her: We bonded on the chilly streets of Copenhagen, we ran in the rain through the hills on the Camino, and we walked the final precious steps to the foot of the Taj Mahal. She’s the kind of friend that I’ve not managed to spend that much physical time with, and yet feel like I’ve known for a lifetime.


But today I want to talk about her passion for sketching, which began long ago, slowly becoming a bigger part of her life, and somehow mine too. Indeed, as I recently immersed myself in a late spring-cleaning of my house, I realized that her sketches – and really adventures, even our adventures – stared back at me from my office bulletin board: an ethereal gaze at the Santiago Cathedral; a thank you note after we both played and worked in San Francisco; a welcome sign for my arrival to New Delhi. Like memories, her art captures these journeys like distant cozy dreams.
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Of course she hasn’t just been capturing our journeys (only a mere twinkle in her universe of travel stars), but also her other nonstop adventures, from the Valley of Roses in Morocco to the shores of Fewa Lake in Nepal. And she recently took her passion one step further, too, with a mission to sketch her way across Southeast Asia and Japan. In doing so, she recorded her experiences with a pen and paintbrush, bringing them to life in both words and drawings, and ultimately publishing them in her new book Beneath the Lantern’s Glow. I’ve read every word of it and day dreamed over each of the images, and hope you will too by grabbing your own copy here.
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As I write this, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the funny ways the world works: At this moment, she sits across from me as we both work and watch the gentle tide roll in at my favorite place on earth, Vashon Island. Yep, our paths have magically crossed again. From around the world and back, we now celebrate another adventure, the ones to come, and surely the images that her paintbrush will conjure up along the way.


More to come on all of that soon, though. Until then, I return you to my unpredictable schedule of posts about Spain and beyond.

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