Several weeks ago I was back in the United States for my best friend’s bachelorette party. We decided that a fun weekend away in Asheville, North Carolina would be perfect for everyone. It was the perfect halfway spot for everyone attending, it has good beer, mountains and of course the Biltmore Estate. I’m the maid of honor which means that I plan the party. So I decided upon Biltmore for our tame daytime activity. You know, the one where we wear nice dresses and pretend like we’re ladies. The one where we snap some nice photos together before chaos ensues that evening. The Biltmore Estate could not have been more perfect.
The Biltmore Estate is huge because … well it used to be an estate for the Vanderbilt family. It can be overwhelming and expensive to do all the things. So I decided to make a Biltmore Estate must-do list. Do these 6 things and you will capture the true Biltmore experience. And who doesn’t want that?
When you think of New York City, the largest city in the United States of America, you think of loud streets, honking horns and lots of people. Thoughts of peace and tranquility do not necessarily come to mind. However if you just hop on a train from Penn Station in the heart of Manhattan, you can find that perfect escape in about 90 minutes. That escape is the Omega Institute.
The Omega Institute is located just north of New York City in Rhineback, New York. From April – November every year, the retreat center hosts workshops each week on all sorts of wellness practices. You can find things from yoga to tai chi. People come and give presentations on all sorts of topics related to being a better you. In fact they offer over 350 different retreats, conferences and workshops each year. Upcoming workshop themes include couples’ relationships, growing your own food and astrology.
Who here would get excited by free tea? Like there’s just always free tea for you to help yourself. Not excited? What about mint green tea ice-cream for only 1 Euro? Okay that might get the rest of you. Well either way, I enjoyed both of those at the Gorreana Tea Plantation on São Miguel Island in the Azores, Portugal last month.
“And after this, were headed to the ghetto,” said our tour guide from the driver seat of our 8-passenger van that was taking us all over Lisbon, Portugal.
We all kind of laughed.
“That sounded like more of a nervous or scared laugh,” he responded.
Well the truth was when I heard Lisbon street art tour, I envisioned looking at cool murals in those cute Lisbon streets that the little trollies drive on. And while the tour started out in more of the downtown or classic streets of Libson, where we spent the majority of our time was a neighborhood none of us would have sought out on our own. And I loved that.
We all know that person. Heck you might be that person and I’m totally not here to bash you at all. You have a count in your head of the countries you’ve traveled to and the number is something between 25-40. And that is truly awesome. However this past year after visiting Portugal for the second time and the UK for the forth, I realized that I stopped counting countries. And I am completely happy with that.
Here is why I have stopped counting countries and started counting experiences.
Now I can say that I have been to Lisbon, Portugal twice. Looking back over my travels throughout Europe this past year, Lisbon is one of my favorite cities. It has this sort of gritty charm to it that I just love. Combine that with nice weather, friendly locals, amazing food and cheap prices, and it will be hard to find a city I like more.
On my second trip I again stayed with Destination Hostels. I had one night in between coming back from the Azores and going home to the United States for a bit. The first time I traveled to Lisbon, I stayed at Lisbon Destination Hostel which is located inside of a train station right in the center of the city. I wrote about my experience here. This time, however, I opted to stay at their Sunset Destination Hostel Lisbon location. It’s right by the water and has a rooftop pool. What more could you need for a June trip to Lisbon?
The Real Alcázar Sevilla. This is the place I’ve been wanting to visit for months. I had seen photos on social media from other people in my teaching program and thought “Sevilla has a fortress, castle-thing?” My only experience in Sevilla had been on my first trip to Spain back in June 2015 with CoffeeShop Spanish. We arrived in the afternoon, wandered the city and went to a Flamenco show that evening. It was simply too short of a trip for such a wonderful and historical city.
What is Sevilla?
Sevilla is a city in Spain. One of my biggest pet-peeves with travel blogs is when they don’t tell you what country the city or place is in. I know that that seems laughable, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been reading a post thinking “okay I think this is in the Philippines, but they didn’t say” or “I think this is in the UK … but it could be Ireland too. I DON’T KNOW!!” Travel bloggers just a little piece of advice: always put the country with wherever your post is about. While it may seem obvious to you, not all of your readers likely are familiar with the region you’re writing about. But likely we will want to know exactly where it is so we can make a note and future plans to travel there.
Last week I was on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Who here has heard of the Azores? It’s okay if you haven’t. Up until a few months ago when my friend Karla invited me along on her adventure, I had hardly heard of them either. However I’m always down for an adventure. And thus we planned an affordable getaway to the Azores.
In the middle of the ocean
During my stay on the island of São Miguel, I sent a Spanish friend of mine a screenshot of where I was on the map. It basically looked like this:
In January, I took a trip to Toulouse, France for a few days with a good friend. I was very surprised with how much I liked the city. My only other experience in France was when I went to Paris at the age of 18 with my high school. While this trip was an amazing experience, I was excited to see France outside of Paris. The major, capital cities only give you the tip of the iceberg as far as how people live their lives. So I was excited that my second time in France was a completely different region.
Basically, I went to Toulouse because I went to Andorra. Do any of you ever do that? You add another destination to the trip simply because you’re close by and why not? Over Christmas break, I went to Andorra. I’ve been fascinated with Andorra for a long time. If you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably wonder what Andorra is. Well, it’s a tiny country in between Spain and France in the mountains. You can read my post about Andorra here. You can get to Andorra by bus either from Barcelona or Toulouse. So I thought “why not come in through Barcelona and out to Toulouse?” So that is exactly what we did.
Today was my last day working at the school that I teach at. It’s such a weird feeling to not be going back there. Today was the last day I ran out of the door at 7:40 a.m. to catch the bus to meet the teachers that I carpool with to then ride an hour (and fall asleep) in the car. It was my last day to take that beautiful, windy drive through the mountains to the little town of Arbuniel and see 40-50 smiling faces greeting me with “hello teacher!” This year went by way too fast.
If you do not know, I work in the Southern Andalucia region of Spain as an English Language Assistant. The Spanish government hosts a program where native English speakers assist in bilingual public schools all over the country. If you have ever dreamed of living in Spain, teaching English overseas or both, it’s a great opportunity to do so!
It was just around this time last year that I received an e-mail assigning me to the primary school in Arbuniel. And I was freaking out …