June 5, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

I’m not entirely sure where I am, as late last night we weaved up through the mountains, past the clouds, and finally stopped at a hidden stone villa, where a warm fire awaited and the promise of some much-needed sleep. What I do I know is that I’m somewhere in the Monsteny mountains, only a short drive away from Barcelona. Judging by the crisp mountain and air and the chorus of birds outside my window, I can’t be sure, though. More to come soon, but first: A couple quick shots from yesterday, which started at 4:30am in Madrid, followed by a healthy stop in Barcelona, and finished with me prancing around a Montseny farm full of plants that smelled so delicious that I wanted to roll around in them.

Disclosure: I’m traveling through Montseny as a guest of Turístics Montseny. Rest assured that I’m keeping it real – all opinions are entirely my own.

May 29, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel

“Luce! Luce!” I shout, staring down at my feet while in Valencia’s Plaza del Ayuntamiento. My amiga Heather has already jetted across the street, looking back at me confused as I whip my camera out to snap shots of the ground.

“It’s Luce!” I say as I run to meet her, pointing out stickers scattered all along the marble sidewalks. Heather quickly catches on. After all, she’s no stranger to my over-the-top enthusiasm for Valencia street art.

Only about six months ago, I dragged her all over the city so that I could do research on its top artists for an article I wrote for Off Track Planet. In doing so, I became a semi-expert on spotting urban masterpieces in Spain’s third largest city, developing an eye for favorites like Hyuro, Julieta and of course Escif (whose art I even happened upon in the streets of San Francisco). Now, wandering around Valencia I feel like I’m on a secret scavenger hunt to find nuggets of genius street art expression hiding in the most unexpected places.

And on this most recent trip, I did just that, discovering a jackpot of work by the artist Luce. He breaks urban art molds by going rather untraditional; from stickers splashed across city sidewalks to wood installations pegged to exposed building beams.

He also takes an unconventional and, in my opinion, refreshing approach to tagging. Instead of lazily scrawled letters littering every imaginable town corner, he opts for a simple monochrome block font. Always strategically placed, his name just seems to fit in. The big bold script compliments its surroundings instead of tainting them.

After many return visits, Valencia has become a sort of playground for me, filled with more than just sunny terrazas, flower-boxed balconies, and paella-serving restaurants. The city breathes art, which evolves, changes and gets swapped out with new surprises as quickly as the seasons. I can’t wait to find out what I’ll discover on my next visit.

[travelist location=”Valencia, Spain” type=”img” url=”http://www.latortugaviajera.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/IMG_3002.jpg”]

May 16, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

A couple of weeks ago, I took a day-trip to Barcelona. Meeting up with a friend who hadn’t been there before, we decided to jet around the city, checking out some top spots, and stopping occasionally for a much-needed glass of wine (or two). Here, a quick picture rundown of my whirlwind visit to Catalunya’s capital.

We started the day in Plaza de Catalunya, where we chased pidgeons before taking a stroll down La Rambla.

We spied street art in between stops.

Then settled down at a bar stool for a quick lunch at La Boqueria Market’s Pinotxo.

We walked off the tapas with a paseo past some of Barcelona’s most prized buildings such as La Pedrera and Casa Batllo.

Followed by a pit stop at the Barri Gòtic’s Cathedral (free to enter after 5:15pm).

Then we aimlessly wandered through alleyways lined with colorful clothes that dangled and danced in the afternoon breeze.

And finally, we finished up the day with drinks at Cuines Santa Caterina restaurant before heading to Plaza de Catalunya to catch the Aerobus back to the airport.

Not bad for a day’s work.

May 8, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain, Video

Only about a week ago did I finally check my camera to see if I actually had any Camino video. Sure enough, I discovered a bunch of clips that brought the memories rushing back in (albeit bumpily and blurrily). Paired with pictures, and the sound of (very redundant) bagpipes next to the Santiago Cathedral, it captures some of the mood from the trip. While it may not be my most impressive video to date (by a longshot), the sights and sounds are special, so I thought it was worth sharing!

You can also see more photos (including those of my recent trip to Prague) by visiting the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page.

May 1, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

Sure most of you may not be hitting the Camino trail any time soon, but you never know when you might want to grab your backpack and start hiking. With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you my Camino packing list and all its 7 kilos of glory.

1. Full sleeping bag – I heard horror stories about bed bugs in the albergues (hostels), so it was recommended to bring a sleeping bag that extended to the head. Also, most of the albergues are reasonably warm (if not hot), so don’t bother bringing anything too heavy-duty.
2. Expandable shopping bag to carry valuable items, such as your camera and wallet, should you want to leave the albergue during the evenings. Think of it as a collapsible purse (or murse, for you gentlemen).
3. Swiss Army knife for important Spanish tasks like chopping chorizo and uncorking a bottle of wine.
4. Ear plugs because you will inevitably be sleeping in the vicinity of one extremely loud snorer every single night of your journey.
5. Essential documents like your passport and Camino credential (which you can get at most larger albergues when you start the trek).

The pilgrim credential, which you get stamped along the way. Eventually, you present it in Santiago to demonstrate where your Camino began.

6. Plastic zip-lock bag to store your documents (including those mentioned above, but eventually also your certificate) so that they are protected, especially if it rains. You might even want one that can go around your neck, like Ana below, as you will want easy access to your Camino credential at all stops along the way (albergues, bars, churches, etc).
7. Three pairs of socks so that you always have at least one clean, DRY, pair. Even better, if you can find yourself some quick-dry socks that don’t take at least two days to dry like mine did (in which case, just hang them on your backpack and hope for the best).
8. Two sets of clothes – one for day and one for night. My advice is to ideally have interchangeable day and night outfits on the off chance that your day outfit is too wet or dirty to wear (as was the case for me in the picture below). For hiking, I brought a dry-fit t-shirt, hoody and pair of pants. Then, for the evenings I had a cotton tee and extra-light Zara pants, which were totally wearable on the trail as well.
9. An extra layer depending on the time of year. I brought an additional cotton hoody (with pockets!) and am so glad I did. It was small enough to pack away, but provided extra warmth both during the day and at night.

10. A scarf because it’s fashionable and functional. Enough said.
11. Trail shoes, but there is some debate about which kind. Given the uncertainty, I decided I was too cheap to invest in a possibly unnecessary pair of shoes, and instead opted to use my sneakers. The sneaker benefit: they’re light, dry quickly, and I didn’t need to break them in. The downside: they didn’t provide much support in the toe area, thus the blisters and other issues. I also heard that proper hiking boots aren’t appropriate as they are too stiff. It sounds like the ideal shoe is something in between, which provides support, but doesn’t go overboard.
12. Flip flops for showering, and because at the end of the day you’ll want to wear anything but your day shoes.
13. Quick-dry towel for the very necessary end-of-day shower.
14. Crummy-weather gear such as gloves, a rain poncho and pants, a backpack rain cover (very important!) and even a hat. I sported a dry-fit baseball cap, which was great at keeping the rain out of my face, and also drying quickly.

Me rocking my rain gear while West Coast representing. And yes, I randomly came across that garage tag in the middle of nowhere. California love, yo.


15. Thread, iodine and a sterile sewing needle – and this is where things get gnarly. If you get blisters, word on the Camino is that you should thread a needle, then puncture the blister, leaving the thread running through the blister and cut at both ends. Finish it by dousing it in a little iodine. Supposedly this keeps the blister from getting any larger. After attempts on a few of my seven blisters, I’m still uncertain whether it worked, but desperate times called for desperate measures, so why not?
16. Travel-sized clothing detergent – I might have been a touch neurotic about washing my clothes, but somehow knowing that I had clean gear waiting for me in the morning made waking up and hitting the trail a whole lot easier.
17. Other first aid items such as band aids, ibuprofen and even an ace bandage (that is, if you start with an already messed-up ankle like I did).
18. Other obvious items: toothbrush, shampoo, pijamas, camera, sunscreen, a few pairs of underwear, phone and chargers (assuming you want to stay connected like I did).

The certificate I received in Santiago de Compostela, verifying that I completed the Camino.

Finally, I’m including the trailer to the movie The Way. It’s not an especially stellar film, but it does an exceptionally good job at capturing the sentiment behind the experience. Anyone remotely interested (or not so remotely) will surely become more motivated to do so after seeing the flick.

*Check back next week as I will be posting a video from the trail, and hopefully some pictures on Facebook to go along with it.