December 14, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Expat, Spain

This holiday season, as I pack my suitcase (make that: stare at my bag and hope it packs itself) for the States, I thought I’d give you all a little gift. OK, maybe you won’t find this gift as terribly exciting as I do, but humor me here.

I’m serving you up just three of my favorite blogs. Why three? Well, because I follow maybe hundreds of blogs, and adore an impossibly large chunk of them. So rather than go on and on about why I love getting coffee with TheViatrix or talking endlessly about croquetas with The Travelling Editor (both awesome blogs, by the way), I’ve widdled them down to a digestible three quirky and perhaps under-appreciated ones. When their blog posts arrive in my inbox…errr, Google Reader…I get all pumped to open them up like long-awaited Christmas packages.

So without further ado, let’s start unwrapping them. Oh, the anticipation!!!

American in Spain
On a regular basis, Erik makes me laugh, scratch my chin and say “awww”. He gets insightful about politics, ultra-nerdy with tech experiments (which are, admittedly, pretty darn entertaining), and sentimental over his darling half-Spanish and half-American daughter, Nora. Both smart and witty, his posts are worth the read.

Pass the Ham
I recently discovered Pass the Ham, and honestly don’t know much about its author, “Hamantha” (with no “about” page, I can only “read” between the lines). Where’s she from? The US, I think. Why’s she here? Well, probably for her Spanish husband. What I do know is that she’s hilarious, she loves Spain, and her blog title has the word “ham” in it – so clearly the most important bases have been covered.

Ode to Moms
I’m making a stretch here for this selection: not only am I SO not a mother, but Ode to Moms clearly falls way outside the realm of travel and Spain. But I call the shots here, so this blog makes the cut :). Some inconceivable hybrid of fashionista, clothing designer, and super-mom, she shares tips that will make us all a little bit more put-together during everyday life – mom or not.

So there you have it. A small, readable list of blogs that you can actually consume (calorie-free!) along with all that holiday candy. Make like Santa and give them a visit. But not through the chimney, because that would be weird. Oh yeah, and impossible.

May 3, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Travel

Just over a year ago, I launched La Tortuga Viajera. Shortly thereafter, I had the honor of joining an esteemed group of bloggers featured on Lonely Planet. It’s been quite a experience – since then, I’ve traveled to Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Sweden, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand…not to mention all over Spain…and back to the US three times with trips to Washington, Nevada and California. Oh yeah, and I got married in the Spanish countryside.

This week happens to mark another exciting development in my journey as a travel blogger – the launch of the free photo ebook “Around the World with 40 Lonely Planet Bloggers.” Yep, I said FREE. In this book, 40 of us Lonely Planet travel bloggers have banded together to share images from our global adventures.

Photo by Sherry Ott at Ottsworld

“So who are these travel bloggers?” You may ask. Matthew Cashmore, former Innovation Ecosystem Manager at Lonely Planet, explains: “The concept was simple – get the best 10% of travel bloggers out there to share their thoughts and ideas…shining a light on the very best travel writing and photography on the planet.”

Our travels range from solo to couples to family travel, road trips, budget travel, expat living, voluntourism and even perpetually traveling digital nomads. Via our ebook, we hope to take you along for the wild ride – I do hope you will enjoy it! To view or download the book, just click here or on any of the previous links. And please don’t be shy about sharing it with others!

Thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

*A special thanks to Todd over at Todd’s Wanderings for rallying all of us together to make this project happen!

April 26, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Food and wine, Madrid, Spain

Exhibit A

Spanish fans, stinky cheeses, fanny packs (see exhibit A), fresh fruit, wine by the glass and of course antiques. Madrid’s markets have something for everyone – and a market for everyone. Not all markets here are created equally, however, so here’s a run down of the different kinds that you will find in the Spanish capital. Grab your wallets (but watch them closely, people – this is Spain!) – let’s go shopping!

The Rastro
Madrid’s most famous market, and supposedly the largest in Europe, takes place every Sunday in the rowdy La Latina barrio. Starting around 9am, people and up to 3500 stalls fill the narrow, winding streets of Madrid’s oldest neighborhood. Think big flea market, not farmers market.

El Rastro is the place to find clothes, antiques, trinkets – you know, all that junk you might want to take home to your family as a souvenir. My personal favorite: the scarves. For 2-3 euros you can find light-weight scarves (called fulares) that are great to use year round. And since it’s located in La Latina – a hot spot for Sunday tapas hopping – it’s a great place to grab a caña (small glass of beer) afterward.

Madrid farmers(ish) markets
Not in the market for useless stuff (hehe, no pun intended!) – eh hem – finely crafted artisanal goods? No problem – there’s another market for you. In many of Spain’s larger cities, one massive indoor market serves as the city’s go-to place for fresh foods. In Madrid, however, several smaller (and some not so small) markets lie scattered throughout the center. These mercados are essentially a hybrid between grocery stores and farmers markets (a “permanent farmers market,” as my friend Heather calls them).

Separate stalls fill the closed space, each specializing in a variety of different goods from produce, to meat and fish, and even the occasional tapas bar for the hungry shopper. While tourists might not find much to buy (perhaps some cheese? or maybe olive oil?), passing through will certainly entertain. The gaping mouths and piercing eyes of fish stare back at you from atop blankets of ice. And brightly-colored produce is arranged artfully, putting that Whole Foods display that you’re used to to shame. One pass through a Madrid market will tell you volumes about Spanish cuisine. And also potentially make or break your appetite.

El Mercado de San Miguel
Hidden behind Plaza Mayor, El Mercado de San Miguel sits inside a small glass-encased building, appearing to be a mini version of some of Spain’s larger and more famous indoor markets (like those found in Valencia or Barcelona). As mentioned above, many big cities have a primary central market, typically housed in an antiquated, picturesque building that spans several blocks. Since Madrid is full of markets spread throughout the city, no single one serves as its primary (much less pretty) market. It does, however, have El Mercado de San Miguel.

The structure was originally built in 1916, and was renovated and reopened in 2009. Today’s mercado gives the tourist a taste of the other less fancy, but more functional markets described above. You will still get to see a stall or two overflowing with vibrantly-colored produce, and other stalls with fish you never knew even existed. But let’s be honest, that’s not why you came to Spain – a few stalls later you can have a glass of wine, enjoy a plate of cheese, and even take your pick from a vast selection of croqueta flavors. There’s a little something for everyone (and by everyone, I mean a lot of tourists).

I may miss my Whole Foods (painfully), and the outdoor farmers markets (what does a girl have to do to get a cantaloupe?), but in the end, I think I’ve got more than enough market action to keep me happy. Now if only I could say the same about things like sushi and guacamole.

*This post is a part of the Lonely Planet BlogSherpa carnival, hosted by Indian Bazaars, featuring marketplaces around the world. You can also read the blog carnival that I hosted on unique customs.

May 9, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Travel

The last few months have been a bit crazy as I’ve gone from chronicling my travels for a handful of family and friends, to becoming a very public travel blogger – taking my blog from an itty bitty “Made by Mac” site, to the much fancier world of La Tortuga Viajera. In doing this, I have had the incredible honor of joining some of the world’s best travel bloggers in being featured on Lonely Planet. So now I feel as though I’m embarking on a joint world travel experience with the best of the best when it comes to sharing my adventures and taking you all along for the ride.

To that end, us Lonely Planet Bloggers have recently banded together on a slew of projects from our separate and ever changing corners of the earth. Our most recent effort has been to compile a live feed of our blogs in one place so that you the reader can sit back, relax and travel the world from wherever you may be.

So, with that, let the journey begin! World Travel with the Lonely Planet Bloggers.

Buen viaje amigos – happy travels!