Spain

January 18, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Madrid, Spain

I think I ate an entire tortilla española last weekend. Yeah. I hadn’t eaten any of the egg-and-potato omelet since my return to Spain after the holidays, and so I really made up for it. Like a lot.

Now I realize you too may be longing for Spain a bit – after all, my blog posts these days have been filled with more about places like India and Morocco than anything to do with Spain. And I think we can both agree that this is pretty tragic. So allow me to beg your forgiveness with a little talk of tortilla and, more importantly, a list of my favorite places in Madrid where you can get your hungry hands on some.

First, let’s address what makes a good tortilla. The most telltale sign of a good or bad Spanish omelet is its juiciness. Almost nothing in the world is worse than a dry tortilla, and anyone serving one as such should immediately be exported from Spain!!!!!!! (Can you tell that I’m passionate about this?)

A distant second to juiciness is the subtle flavor of caramelized onion (mind you, some tortillas are served without onion, which I think is just silly and unreasonable). Other components come into play of course, but for me, these are the main points that — *in my opinion* — tortillas tend to hit or miss.

Enough of that — let’s get down to business. Here I present you with my list of best places in Madrid to get yourself the perfect Spanish tortilla.

1. Wherever my mother-in-law is (LOVE her). I know everyone thinks their Spanish mother or mother-in-law makes the best tortilla, but you’re all wrong ;). Glad that’s settled. Moving on.

2. Juana la Loca in the La Latina neighborhood serves up proper pincho-style tortilla, with its gooey masterpiece delicately balanced on a slice of baguette bread. In terms of flavor, this one ticks all the boxes. The only downside is that the portion is rather small and, while I realize I can simply set my bread aside (like it is often served), I would prefer this tortilla beauty as a stand-alone.

3. Txirmiri has four brag-worthy locations, making it a great go-to in times of tortilla desperation, which can, honestly, strike at any moment. But truly, they may very well have the most reliably delicious Spanish omelet in town. The portion is generous, always juicy, and salted and onion-ed to tortilla perfection.

3. La Ardosa in Malasaña wins for over-all tortilla experience, though. While theirs can occasionally miss the salt-mark (too much or too little), the quintessentially Spanish bar filled with tiled and dusty-bottle-covered walls makes up for anything that its egg creation lacks.

4. My runner-up is Sylkar in the Chamberí neighborhood, which I lived practically next door to for almost a year without even knowing it (thanks, Colleen, for making that discovery!). The juiciness of their omelet is on point, but often lacks that subtle kick of onion that could elevate it to best-tortilla status.

Alright tortilla fans, I set you free to get your tortilla fix, whether making it at home, or hunting it down here in Madrid.

14 comments
November 28, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Asia, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain, Trips to the US

Sometimes you meet a soul friend — a person that, with very few words or encounters, you just feel like you’ve known for a lifetime. My friend Candace is one of those people.

It might seem like a cheesy term, I suppose — soul friend — but there’s really no better way to describe our friendship. We first met two years ago at a travel-blogging conference in Copenhagen. Both feeling somewhat out of our element, we formed an instant bond over the spontaneity of chasing down a horse-drawn carriage that was delivering the season’s Christmas beer. Sporting illuminated blue Santa caps, we toyed with the idea of a future get-together (Spain, perhaps?) but, like most chance meetings, she could have very well just ended up being one of many Facebook friends that I “met that one time when I was traveling.”

That wouldn’t be the case for us, though. A year and a half and several sporadic emails later, and Candace messaged me to say she was finally thinking about coming to Spain. Not just to visit, though, but to do the Camino de Santiago.

Hmmm, I thought, the Camino.

The idea danced in my head, both tempting and terrifying me. I didn’t have any gear, I’m not a backpacker (far from it), and I barely knew Candace. But the time was right and the Camino called.

So I went, and I had one of the most moving experiences of my life. We stayed in grungy albergues (hostels along the Camino), ran through frigid poring rain, and lamented over gnarly foot injuries. We cried, we laughed, we complained, and we covered not only ground, but probably every discussable subject possible. We saw magic on that trip in the people we met, in the pain (both physical and emotional), and in the triumph of powering through it all to arrive at our destination.

And then Candace was off again, to the States and then to India (her new home, if you can believe it). “Yes, yes, I will see you in India,” I said with the same certainty as our first conversation in Denmark, aware that only time would tell when or how our paths would cross next.

Indeed, our next chance encounter wouldn’t be in India, but instead in San Francisco. My flight was already booked home last summer when Candace told me she would be in the North Bay for a writing conference. “Will you be there? Would you like to come?” she asked on the off chance I’d be around and interested. My answer was a resounding “yes” (or more like: “You’re what?!!!? When??!! Yes!!!!!).

Even better, with the event taking place in a tiny town, she not only needed transport, but a place to stay. So for several days, we held slumber parties at my friend’s house in San Francisco, and commuted each morning through the ethereal fog engulfing the Golden Gate. Once again we saw magic: magic in the conference, magic in spending time together in a third country (our country!), and magic in the serendipity of it all.

But alas, this trip too would end with no guarantee of when our worlds would intersect once more. Again, I vowed that I’d come visit her in India, knowing that logistically many stars would have to align (those stars being my budget, timing, and more of my budget).

Of course those stars lined up just like Orion’s belt. Not only would Candace be free in November, as would I — perhaps the very best time of year to visit India — but I was able to buy a plane ticket with miles! In fact, my whole trip to India would cost me a sum total of roughly $400 (flight, visa, food, souvenirs and (free) lodging). The travel and friendship gods must have really been smiling down on us, especially since silly me didn’t realize I needed a visa until just nine business days before the trip, when it was supposed to take ten days to process; it only took seven.

And off to India I went, where our next adventure would begin.

When Candace and I parted at the airport last Friday, we embraced, knowing that even though we have no idea when we’ll see each other next, that it will happen, and there will be magic.

Thank you, Hammie Hamster, for another amazing journey!

8 comments
October 31, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

This week, I bring you a guest post from Agness; a Polish vagabond who, after graduating in 2011, left her comfort zone, setting off for the journey of a lifetime to China. She has been constantly traveling the world since then, living like a local for less than $25 a day. She has become passionate about photography and adventure blogging, sharing her enthusiasm for life as well as her travel experiences.


The Rock of Gibraltar: You’ve probably heard the name before, but how much do you know about it? Did you know that it’s home to some 300 monkeys? Or that it’s the perfect place to try both traditional Spanish and British cuisine? Or that it offers up adventure on the cheap? Allow me to introduce you.


Where is Gibraltar?
Gibraltar (meaning “The Rock”) is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom (yes, the citizens of Gibraltar are British people so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier), which sits at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, it is also bordered by Spain to the north, so you can easily border hop by car or foot to carry on your travel adventures. Most of the visitors land in Spain to get to Gibraltar, but you can also fly there.

Why did I go and how long did I spend there?
My two friends (Cez and Barbara) and I rented a car in Malaga and drove all the way to see Gibraltar. We slept in the car and parked outside of the “Rock,” so that we could do it cheaply and comfortably — let’s face it, at only a short walk away, Spain has more space for parking lots and hostels, and is therefore a lot more budget friendly. We spent one whole day in Gibraltar, which — despite its small size — may not have been enough. There’s definitely more for me to see when I visit next time.

Why should you visit Gibraltar?
Gibraltar is one of a kind: It’s small and intense, expensive on hostels and cheap on duty-free, tiny on the map and huge on sightseeing. It’s got it all.


Things to See and Do on a Budget

1. Exploring St. Michael’s Cave
St. Michael’s Cave is a stunning natural grotto attracting a million visitors each year. The cave formations are colourfully lit, and travellers can read displays documenting the caves’ history. The entrance ticket is £10 ($16) and you can spend a whole day there if you wish to.

2. Watching monkeys in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve
The Upper Rock Nature Reserve is a great place to see wildlife as well as numerous plant species that are rare or unknown elsewhere in the world. Moreover, the scenery seen from the top is simply breathtaking. Be careful as there are plenty of cheeky monkeys around trying to steal a wallet or a piece of jewellery from you!

3. Shopping
While, you may think that such a small destination might have not-so-small prices, this is not actually the case in Gibraltar. Because of its political stance, it serves as a duty-free heaven for shoppers from around the world. Although the British Pound is the official currency, dollars, euros and other currencies will be happily accepted by shop-owners.

Where should you stay?
I am a budget traveller, hence I would not recommend staying in Gibraltar. Within just a 30-minute walk, you can be in Spain, where accommodation prices are much more attractive.

What and where should you eat?
Gibraltar is full of food and booze (British influence maybe?). Cafes, pubs and bars are scattered all over the place and will look very tempting on a hot Mediterranean day. You should not leave Gibraltar without a full English breakfast!


What’s the best way to get around?
A pair of trainers or sandals will do just fine. It’s a small place and everything is within walking distance. Nevertheless, I would recommend getting a cable car when you go to the top of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. And, since the way back is easy and picturesque, you may as well just walk again.

Now that you’ve become acquainted with the famous rocky mass that is Gibraltar, I suggest you get to know it in person. With a mixture of adventure, cultures and scenery, it’s a European stop that shouldn’t be missed.

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The eTramping blog

October 19, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel

Oh hey! Do you remember me? La Tortuga Viajera? I’ve been, um, a little MIA lately. So I thought it might be the perfect time to make a bunch of excuses about why I haven’t been blogging as regularly to give a little background on, well, me, and also what’s keeping me so crazy busy these days.

As you may know from reading my story, I — like many expats — started blogging as a means to keep my family and friends up to speed on my life abroad. One thing led to another, though, and eventually I decided to not only start this site, but to actually shift my career path….not to blogging, however (believe it or not, I’ve never cashed in a single penny on this site, because that’s simply not my objective).

My career in fact began at big ol’ tech corporations in Silicon Valley (Google or VeriSign ring any bells?). Marketing was my bag, I lived in San Francisco, life was A.O.K. Then I moved to Spain and worked at startups for awhile before realizing that I wanted to make a change – a big change.

Part of that change included increased consumption of cheese, jamón and wine – duh. But along with that — and perhaps in a drunken cheese-filled state — I decided to follow my childhood dream of writing. (My other childhood dream: to be a bunny doctor. No joke.)

So, with one foot still in the marketing world, I wrote. Since then, I’ve had articles published in The Huffington Post, WildJunket and in a slew of other publications. Beyond the travel world, I also regularly cover subjects ranging from ethical clothing to DIY fashion, at The Genteel.

Then of course there’s the travel. In the last couple of months, I’ve made two trips to the US, one to Morocco, and have a trip to India and another one to the US on the horizon. So when I’m not writing, I’ve mostly been in a car, on a plane, or spending time with family.

So that’s my excuse: I’m following my passion. And boy is it a lot of work. I hope you’ll all still come along for the ride, even it means that sometimes I’m blogging once every two weeks instead of once per week.

Now, prepare yourself as I dazzle you with a few photos from a recent lunch trip to the pueblo of Pastrana ;).




5 comments
July 19, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

You didn’t think I was done talking about food in Montseny, did you? Not a chance. Actually, though, in this post we’re going to skip all the chit-chat and instead cut straight to the photos.

Below, feast your eyes on the museum-of-modern-art-worthy plates that I ate (and ate and ate) at Les Magnolies in the Girona region of Montseny. It was imaginative and decadent and, more than anything, a sight to see. So, without further ado, I present you with another calorie-free journey through food.


Anchovies that aren’t exactly anchovies, but instead a crunchy cracker-like outside filled with a fishy interior.

This “cappuccino” is a soup-style mixture of squash and anis, while the muffin is made of anchovies and oats. Honestly, I didn’t even know that until now (when translating the Catalan menu) — as weird as it sounds, it was positively divine.

Oh yes, that’s what it looks like. A baby scallopburger served with a side of fish and seaweed broth. Exactly what you guessed, right?

White asparagus with a farm-fresh egg, and jamón (and other things that I can only assume are laced with addictively delicious substances). This was probably my favorite dish — it was such a perfect mixture of flavors, temperatures and textures.

Vall d’Arbucies peas (code for “awesome,” I think) with stewed mushrooms. Ahhh, Catalonia and its beloved mushrooms! The fungi alone are enough to make me swoon.

Fish with onion, tocino (Spanish for “pig fat that goes straight to your booty”) and laurel. It tasted just as pretty as it looked.

Their award winning “best restaurant dessert 2011,” called gin-tonic. It was intoxicatingly good.

Apricot, verbena gelato, and other things I ate but have no idea what they are.
Honestly, this shouldn’t even be legal.

PS: These represent only half of the dishes served that night. I might still be full.

*Disclosure: I traveled through Montseny as a guest of Turístics Montseny. Rest assured that I’m keeping it real – all opinions are entirely my own. Don’t believe me? To read reviews about each place we stayed, ate at, and went, please click here.

[travelist location=”Carrer de Passeig de Mossen Antoni Serres 7, Arbucies, Spain” type=”img” url=”http://www.latortugaviajera.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_3781.jpg”]