Tag Archives: Travel

Eating in Spain and Sevilla for a Holy Run

First of all, I have to take a minute to talk about the food in Spain.  It was quite a challenge being vegan. Not that it can’t be done, but unless you want to spend  your entire time trying to find vegan food, it might be okay to just go with it and be vegetarian.  Being vegetarian is still quite limiting in Spain and sometimes you may need to just go with it and eat whatever comes to you, if you are hungry, especially if you were confused about the translation and didn’t realize what you were actually ordering. I’d love to be a perfect vegan, but as this pictorial that I saw on Elephant Journal explains, it is likely that nobody is ever fully a vegan… but we can still try… if we want. But only if we want and when we want. It’s a personal decision day to day.  Perfection is overrated. And I just found it wasn’t really worth it for me 100% of the time to obsess and be disappointed with my options. And… YOLO is a saying for a reason, right?! 😉 Right.

Second of all, the food consumption timing is much different than what I am used to. I generally like to get up, work out, then have a big breakfast, a  medium sized lunch, and a small or lighter dinner.  In Spain, they have next to nothing for breakfast: a little pastry or small piece of toast, juice, and a coffee the size of an espresso (if you don’t want cafe con leche – coffee with milk).  This is not usually enough for me (especially because bread has very little nutritional value), but I’m trying this whole go with the culture thing and so I adapted.  Maybe I just get up later and bypass the whole breakfast thing altogether. We’ve got options.

The places serving breakfasts didn’t really have menus for breakfast since it’s assumed you will just order the traditional breakfast of toast and coffee.   The few times I asked for a menu, they would just stare at me blankly and say “es el desayuno” which means it’s breakfast. Duh. Then lunch is really grand (hello, Paella!), there are tons of people out eating deserts or ice cream mid-day, and dinner is usually substantial as well (Tapas y paella!).  So they make up for this breakfast thing with a lot of meat, cheese, and sweets the rest of the day.

Breakfast at the train station: a typical breakfast
Breakfast at the train station: a typical breakfast

But enough about the food differences, it was Semana Santa! And once again running is needed to kick off that holy week of eating and celebrating.  So I did another sight-seeing run which happens on accident most of the time. I just go to one notable thing, and then I’ll see another cool looking building in the distance and head towards that, and so on.  I love it when they turn out like my run in Sevilla, where I just kept running until I hit the Plaza de España, which is in the Parque de María Luisa. I then ran through the park and did the “other side” of the cathedral on the way back.

I ran this route for a total of about 4 miles.  My Nike watch didn’t pick up GPS for the map, but I drew a similar route using gmap-pedometer.com, which is a great tool for mapping running routes!

Sevilla, Spain Running Route
Sevilla, Spain Running Route

I started at my hostel, and ran towards the Cathedral, which I knew was straight down from my hostel.

Catedral de Sevilla


Into the Parque de Santa Luisa
Into the Parque de María Luisa (can you see the running club?!)
Plaza de Espana
Plaza de España


The park had these mosaic benches, perfect for stopping and doing a few step-up exercises, push ups and tricep dips.


This is the Hotel Alfonso XIII.  Their rooms go from 385 to 3,017 USD for Holy Week. Book now while the prices are low!
It’s hard to see here but the main streets were lined with chairs for the processions for Semana Santa.


This wasn’t that long of a run, but could have easily been lengthened by crossing the river. I stopped at the end of my run in this clearing outside my hostel for my IT band strength routine since it had benches as well.  During the day, the restaurants take this space over with outside seating but having done my run in the morning, the area was all mine.

A sneak preview of more Semana Santa posts to come, I also took this video of one of the processions on this same street! I hope you enjoy.








Madrid, Ready or Not

Oh, Madrid.  I liked you, until you took away my innocence.  Haha, just kidding. That was gone a long time ago.  But I did realize pretty quickly once my phone was stolen that there are a lot of people out to thieve you out of your things, even in places that seem safe.  And you worked hard for those things. So, Spain is definitely a place to be extremely protective of your belongings if you like your belongings and want to keep them.

I actually knew this before I went and had been warned, but decided to have a picnic out in the park and upon doing so I left my phone right next to myself on the blanket which turned out to be not okay in Spain.  Probably not okay in other places as well, but they have this scheme where they come around asking people to sign a petition for charity. They they act like they are trying to make you understand what they want you to sign for (because of the language barrier), and get really up in your business.  Don’t let anyone in your business even for a second.  That’s how long it took for my phone to disappear even though I was really persistent for him to get away and that I didn’t want to sign.  I was certainly glad that nothing else was stolen because I’m pretty sure he could have taken my whole bag although it would have definitely not been as inconspicuous.

People warned me about the trains and about walking in tourist areas but I guess I had a blind spot for the park, especially because there were people sitting all around me. None of them seemed any the wiser when it happened either.

Anyway, enough about el robo, I just had to post about it in case others decide to go to Spain and also think the park looks so safe and cozy.   Also, definitely if you have an iPhone, go back to your hotel and remotely erase it before making the police report. They didn’t do anything but give me a copy of the report for my records, so it was a waste of time to go find the police station before wiping my phone remotely. I don’t think they managed to get any information from it anyway (so far so good-fingers crossed), but in the case they did that extra two hours could have made a difference. The people at Orange were very helpful when I had to cancel my old Spanish number and had to buy a new SIM and got my new phone. I used google translate with them in the store (upon their suggestion) since it was a more complicated situation than I was able to resolve by having a complete conversation in Spanish. It definitely motivated me to learn more Spanish as well and practice more since it was frustrating knowing a little, but not really enough to explain things and receive information quickly in a pinch. And at least now I have a European phone for future European travel. 🙂

They did steal with my phone the pictures I had taken that morning of a 9-mile run that I did.  I’d highly recommend the route nonetheless and want to share with with you!    Better to explore when you have few belongings on you and are speeding along. 🙂  I’ll provide some links so you can see some of the sights instead. I only made it 9 miles before I had IT band pain, which is why it is not a full loop, but would have been about 12 miles total.

Running route in Madrid
Running route in Madrid

I went down the main street next to where I was staying, Calle de Alcalà.  I went into Parque de Retiro (the park where I got my phone stolen).  There were a lot of runners here, bikers, and rollerbladers. It was so big and beautiful I went back later to wander around and enjoy.

Puerta de Alcalá

Then I went past the Plaza de la Independencia and saw the Puerta de Alcalá (above). I went from there through the Plaza de España. There are so many statues and beautiful buildings along this route and goes both through the city and through many parks.

I made my way across the river to run around Lago de la Casa de Campo (the lake around Casa de Campo), which is a really large park with a lot of hills. There were also tons of bicyclers, runners, and kayakers on the lake. It was small like Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis and reminded me of home. I guess it was a bit of foreshadowing for that day, but I also tried to go through the Sabatini Gardens around the Royal Palace of Madrid on my way home and had to apologize to the armed guards there for being where I shouldn’t since there was only one opening as the entrance and exit. Whoops.  Then I started to feel pain in my knee (probably from all the extra hills) and called it a day and took the train home!

This is really the majority of the sights and parks I saw in Madrid because the rest of the time I just enjoyed and relaxed. However, I did go to Plaza Mayor, which is a must-see if in Madrid.




I also wandered to a few other notable places:

View from Puerta del Sol
View from Puerta del Sol
shops near Puerta del Sol
shops near Puerta del Sol
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (where they conduct bull fights)
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (where they conduct bull fights)

I was there on Palm Sunday as well and there were vendors out selling palm leaves and olive branches everywhere. I’ve actually been cautioned that some of these are a scam as well, and I could feel that some of them were unnecessarily pushy to get you to take the olive branches, but it was hard to say which were legitimate and which weren’t or if there may be a rule of thumb. There were a lot of locals walking around with said palms so I know they do sell them honestly to customers as well.

Palms for Palm Sunday
Palms and olive branches being sold

Overall, as long as you keep your belongings enclosed (zipped), close to you, and you don’t engage with people that come up to you and try to get close to you on the street, Madrid was another beautiful European city with a lot of culture and amazing parks, statues, and plazas.

Five Considerations From Six Weeks of Travel

A lot of people are inspired by books like The Alchemist, Eat Pray Love, and other such accounts of pilgrimage-type journeys to find what you are meant to do. Myself included. They are inspiring. They let our minds wonder what it would be like to just take off and how we might handle all the consequences of that decision.  These types of stories leave us wanting more from our lives than what we have managed to manifest, which is a good thing. It gets the wheels spinning and increases our courage to explore.

There are a few things I’ve been considering after a little over a month of travel, and they may be things to consider if you’re feeling in a rut with your current routine.

1. Vacations are important.  When is the last time you took a vacation? Do you plan them regularly?  I never really took vacations before about a year ago. In the year prior to this trip, while I was planning this time off, I did head off to Canada, and San Francisco and Vail in the US since the travel bug got me. However, prior to that for seven years of post-college work, if it wasn’t for a friends weddings, baby events, or family gatherings, I just didn’t go anywhere else on a real vacation.  I thought it wasn’t worth the cost, that I wouldn’t have much fun alone, or that I didn’t want to take the time off of work.  Now I realize how much I needed real vacations. To explore, wonder, learn, and most of all, restore.  Vacations are important, and travel partners are nice to have but definitely not essential.  Not every vacation needs to entail time off of work, either.  We’ve been taking a ton of day trips in Europe and I’ll definitely be adding the solo weekend getaway to my trip planning for the coming year.

2. Nurturing your interests is essential. I have a lot of various interests that excite me and that I need to care for. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.  It seems that most of us just get into a routine of doing a few things over and over,  stay in that routine for a while and at times we stop trying to explore additional things that really interest us. It became really apparent that I had been doing this for the longest time.  I need a variety of experiences in my life to stay satisfied.  I knew this to some extent prior to my trip due to the fact that I can barely sit still through a two and a half hour movie, but I didn’t really know the implications of this, what this looked like in day to day life, or what it really meant. Now I think I do much more clearly.  No longer do I feel the need to specialize or be a complete expert in one area, devote my whole entire life to it and to change the world by externally focusing on that one thing alone.  This finding has even helped me accept that I even want changing weather in my life, even if it is the drastic tundra of Minnesota. What good are vacations if you live in perfect weather, anyway? 🙂

3. Slowing down is possible. The whole time issue. Here it is. We all think we don’t have time, but we do. We have tons of time (isn’t there even a song called “Nothing But Time”? maybe?), and we all have the same amount of time, relatively speaking.  If we all had nothing but free time we would probably get into some pretty destructive things and develop some pretty depressed attitudes. The jobs we have that fill most of our time can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. We can lower our expectations for what can be done each day in order to keep running at a manageable pace.   It’s okay to say no to some things.   It’s okay to mix it up and try a different routine every few months or from week to week in order to accommodate our need for more time. Of course the small child in me stubbornly wants what I want. And I want to do it all. Every day. However, the more I individually allow myself the opportunity to leave certain things until the next day or week, the more we all will allow each other do the same. This isn’t about laziness. It’s about forgiveness, nurturing and not running around like chickens with our heads cut off all the time.

4. Learn to accept what is: today.  Really let go and just accept it all.  Now I am not saying I’m resigning my goals or becoming complacent. Just the opposite. I find that with acceptance I free myself up to focus on what I really want to accomplish without worry.  This, for me, is the hardest one to grasp and continually practice.  Similar to the time issue, things are always happening and changing. It is what it is.  There was a really good quote I saw recently attributed to Michael J. Fox: “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”  I think this is very true, especially while traveling.  Accept things (and people!) as they are and we are free from judgement of ourselves and judgment towards others. We are all doing our best and life is way more fun with acceptance.

5. The change I want to see is within me (aka be the change you want to see).  I definitely think the fastest way to change the world is if we all make smaller changes to our attitudes and participate actively in the things that interest us in our communities. There will always be people trying to mess the world up. Until there’s not. 🙂  For a lot of the changes I envision in the world around me, I have not always been the greatest at making changes myself.  But how can I expect change around me without changing my habits as well? As an example, I really despise driving everywhere and relying so much on my car, above and beyond the cost and pollution aspects. This was one of my main complaints about living in Minneapolis since the transportation isn’t the most efficient for how the city has evolved. Now, I don’t need to seek out another city to move to just because I have a desire to take public transportation.  Instead, I can move to an area within Minneapolis where it would be more convenient to use public transport, start using it as much as possible, and try to get involved at the community level to try to improve the system.  There are many examples of this in my life where I can continue to make daily, weekly, or monthly changes.  I believe if everyone makes small changes individually, it has an astounding impact.

I started out on this adventure knowing that I didn’t have a ton of money and thinking I’d just see where life would lead me.  What ended up occurring to me was pretty surprising.  It wasn’t some revelation that I should be doing one thing or another thing, it’s that I should be doing many different things, with excitement, acceptance, and love, over a longer period of time and without unrealistic expectations.  I want to share these thoughts as considerations to others that may fantasize about a journey, but that don’t have the ability at the current time to actually leave for a few months.  Sometimes small tweaks in perspective and small actionable changes are all that are needed.