Trips to the US

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!

September 26, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

So I’m back in the US again, making stops in California, Washington and Nevada. Right now I’m in (or make that on) my favorite place on earth: Vashon Island. For the most part, I just hang out with Grandma, and sit on the dock while the tide slowly shifts below me. All is right in the world and there’s no place else I’d rather be.

Where in the world is your “no place I’d rather be”?

[travelist location=”Vashon, WA 98070″ type=”img” url=”×764.jpg”]

August 15, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

I almost fell off the face of the planet this last month. Or perhaps more precisely: I got sucked into a family-and-friends vortex somewhere between San Francisco and LA.

It was a good vortex, though. I raced around San Francisco, spending time with my city and friends. I went to a four-day-long conference that filled my brain and warmed my heart. And I did the flowers for (and was in) Heather’s wedding in LA. The trip was madness – it always is – but sweet madness.

So, now that I’ve returned to Madrid, I’m resurfacing to share a handful of photos I took with my iPhone while flitting around all over the California countryside.

My peeps (i.e. tortugas) on the Embarcadero

Market Street and the Ferry Building

Seagulls and the Bay Bridge

Half Moon Bay

Brunch at Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building (Bay Bridge in the distance)

Koy street art in front of Blue Bottle Coffee in Hayes Valley

The bouquet I made for Heather on her wedding day

Alamo Square

The Golden Gate

And now I’m back, vortex-free and missing every unrestful minute of it. The sensation shouldn’t last for long, though – I head to Morocco soon and back to the States again in a month, with stops in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. I hope you’ll come along for the virtual (and much less tiring) ride!

*If you aren’t following me on Instagram, you can find me at tortugaviajera.

February 14, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Travel, Trips to the US

I’ve become uber-fascinated by street art lately. Nerd-level fascinated. So when I plugged in my old point-and-shoot camera the other day and discovered a jackpot of San Francisco street art photos that I had forgotten I’d taken, it felt like a colorful care package from home (minus the candy and other awesome things my mom usually sends).

I claim “nerd-level” status because I actually wrote an article on the subject for Off Track Planet about the Valencia scene (if you haven’t read my writing on OTP, well, brace yourselves for a slightly more uncensored Erin). In doing so, I headed out to Spain’s third largest city to hunt down work by top grafiteros. Accompanied by my partner in crime (AKA Sox, my best girlfriend, who lives in Valencia), we traversed sketchy neighborhoods, and angered prostitutes with my paparazzi-like graffiti photography tactics.

Escif, Valencia, street art

So, when I visited California over the holidays, I couldn’t avoid feeding my obsession. With a new set of eyes, I scoped out the urban artwork that SF had to offer. While most of the pictures below were taken in Clarion Alley in the Mission – San Francisco’s edgy, diverse and borderline hipster neighborhood – my favorite snuck up on me while cruising around Alamo Square.

Driving down Oak Street with my best buddy at the wheel (I apparently like to drag friends along on these excursions of mine), I saw the ladder-and-trunk mural. Doing a double-take, I demanded we stop, certain that it was painted by my favorite Spanish street artist. And sure enough, while inspecting the image, there it was – his signature, ESCIF, in bold capital letters. His murals grace walls in his hometown of Valencia, but also around the world, including this particular street in the City by the Bay.

If you don’t already get geeky over urban art, I hope these colorful images might inspire you to scope out street masterpieces in your hood. Full of messages, heart, and passion, they’re worth more than just a passing glance.

Jet Martinez

Escif, San Francisco

January 24, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Trips to the US

With a picture like that to the left, it’s fair to say that New Mexican food tastes better than it looks. And don’t be fooled, that mess of a plate will set your mouth on fire too. After last week’s overview on my get-to-know-you session with the “Land of Enchantment”, now it’s time to talk food.

Red and green chile sauce
Expect most all New Mexican dishes to come with a serving of red or green chile sauce for dipping or dousing. We’re not talking about that canned stuff that you like to put cheddar cheese on, but instead salsas made of the hot chiles themselves. However, this is no harmless condiment; the sauce tastes borderline-torture hot, unless you’re a local and extra-used to having your mouth feel like it’s on fire (even you California Mexican-food buffs will likely find yourselves scrambling for a glass of something to wash away the pain). And these aren’t just any chiles, but rather indigenous varieties that locals proudly consider uniquely superior. New Mexicans like to down their picante poison by putting it on or mixed with just about anything. No dish is safe, and neither is your mouth. (The above hideous-looking dish is mixed with various chile sauces.)

New Mexican cuisine isn’t all spice and heat – it also has a softer and sweeter side. To combat the battle-zone of hotness that is your mouth, nosh on the ubiquitous sopapillas. Forget Mexican tortillas, this fried and puffy flatbread typically comes with a bottle of honey to elevate you to new levels of food euphoria. You’ll be happy to forgo the basket of bread when served this side reminiscent of funnel cake or beignets. In related news, since my trip to NM, I’ve become convinced that honey is a logical condiment for just about anything. That, and peanut butter (duh).

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart, or perhaps my stomach, for empanadas, which are Northwestern Spain’s pie-like pastry stuffed with savory concoctions made of meat, tuna or cod. Then New Mexico comes along with their sweet version, complete with “heat up and serve me”-worthy fillings made of peach, blueberry, or, holy-get-in-my-mouth-awesomeness like sweet potato. Sprinkled with sugar, the eat-on-the-go pastries will almost make you forget the fire still radiating from your mouth.

And finally, no trip to 100-year-old New Mexico would be complete without a pig-out fest on the state cookie (yeah, they have an official cookie!). Inhaling a biscochito, you might be reminded of a light shortbread cookie, with a hint of fennel, and dusting of sugar. To my now uber-Spanish palette, it seemed more like a thin version of Spain’s mantecados. Whatever they resemble, the final verdict is in: I want more and I want it often.

As I shared in last week’s post, there’s a lot more to New Mexico than the food. But just the temptation of these few treats seems reason enough to start training your mouth for a chile marathon, and your stomach for a biscochito fiesta.

*Please visit the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page to see more pictures from my trip to New Mexico.