In Bruges

Ah, Bruges. The charming medieval Belgian town made famous in the 2008 thriller is an all-too excellent day trip when traveling from Paris to Amsterdam, say, as I was in the summer of 2016. Beers, belltowers and the richest chocolate imaginable – I dare you to tell me a truer definition of heaven.

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While simply walking around this gorgeous town can easily fill a day, there are some spots not to be missed as you venture around.

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First up: the Belfry of Bruges. The top of the belfry is an epic, key setting in the movie, but for those who haven’t seen the film it’s still worth walking the 366 steps for the most spectacular views of the town.

After your climb, you’ll likely have worked up quite the appetite for lunch.

The restaurants lining the Main Square near the Belfry are all rather touristy and expensive, so I’d recommend taking a stroll down one of the charming side streets to find equally (if not more) delicious, budget-friendlier options. Brasserie Medard is famous for its 4 Euro large, tasty plates of pasta and charming Italian atmosphere. The Olive Tree offers affordable Mediterranean fare, and both restaurants are totally cozy and homey. And not to worry: there will be plenty of places to get your Belgian frite fix around the square if that’s all you’re craving. Any restaurant will offer local beers, which are a must-try. Bruges now has three breweries: Bourgogne des Flandres, De Halve Maan, and Fort Ladin, all of which offer tours.

For desert, pop into one of the numerous local chocolatiers for chocolate-shaped anything. My factories were the locks and tools that looked “rusted” with chocolate powder. This chocolate was insane. Rich, but somehow I ate multiple *large* pieces and didn’t feel sick. Alright, Belgium, I get it. You win.

Now, markets. Wednesdays bring the Main Square market, full of fresh fruit and flowers and absolute loveliness. On Sundays, Zand Square hosts another outdoor market with similar products, including fresh fish. Rent a bike and ride around the cobblestone streets, and make sure to bring home some delicate Belgian lace to remember this slice of heaven.

 

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Green, Red, or Both?

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, this question refers to types of chili sauce. Not that I’m telling you how to live your life, but the answer is both. The answer is always both.

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The City Different has an extra special place in my heart because it’s where my grandmother lives, and it’s where my sister and I used to spend summers at music camp. It remains one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my humble opinion, with its endless skies and summer rains, its turquoise and adobe. When visiting Santa Fe, here are some places not to miss.

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Food:

A traditional New Mexican meal is a must, with all of the chilies. Tia Sophia’s just off of the Plaza is a great place to start, since you’ll no doubt want to explore the Plaza and its surrounding museums. More on that in a sec. Tia Sophia’s has standard New Mexican fare, your classic enchiladas and chiles rellenos, and SOPAPILLAS. Sopapillas taste like happiness and sunshine, and they are a specifically New Mexican situation. Fried puffy bread that you drizzle and dip in honey. They are somehow both an appetizer and a dessert, and they are perfect.

La Casa Sena, also downtown, has excellent modern New Mexican options. I opted for stuffed peppers with quinoa, fried kale, and pimento cheese. So good. Basically what I’ve learned from Santa Fe restaurants is that if you stuff a chili pepper with basically anything and cover it with red and green sauce, we’ll have a good time.

 

 

 

After your Casa Sena meal, you MUST visit Todos Santos, a chocolate shop unlike any other. I ate dark chocolate chili-infused truffles, sticking with the theme. It was all I could do not to buy three large bars of the stuff. Next time.

For those of you vegan and gluten free folks, never fear! Rasa Juice bar has all manner of smoothies, yes, but also vegan and GF takes on New Mexican classics. This black bean and veggie soup with avocado and vegan sour cream was SO TASTY and filling.

If you have some extra dough to spend, The Compound off of Canyon Road is arguably the nicest restaurant in town. It’s certainly delicious, seasonal, and a beautifully curated fine dining experience. This trip, we were celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday (!!), and The Compound was the perfect place for a celebration. Look at this lobster risotto feat. chanterelles and tell me your heart rate didn’t just increase.

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The Compound also has an incredible pastry chef, Becky, who made my grandma a custom lemon blueberry cream cake for the occasion. I’d recommend one of her cakes even if you’re not dining in, though seriously, save some cash and find a way to have a meal at The Compound. Your taste buds will thank you.

 

 

Art and Attractions:

Santa Fe has a vibrant, varied art scene. Let’s start with the Plaza. The center of downtown SF, it’s full of boutiques, jewelry stores, souvenirs, and flanked by museums. If you want to some authentic Native American turquoise, the Plaza is the place to go. The jewelry makers that set up blankets of goods have to be certified 100% Native, for one thing, and prices are reasonable and bargain-able.

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The New Mexico Museum of Art is located directly off of the Plaza, and houses rotating exhibits of local art. It’s also in one of the most beautiful adobe buildings in sight.

 

 

The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is also downtown and also well worth a visit to soak in these floral beauties. Next, a quick drive out of town and to Museum Hill will surround you by some of Santa Fe’s best muesos: the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. If you didn’t get your turquoise on the Plaza, the Weelwright’s gift shop has stunning pieces, also by local artists. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is also along Museum Hill. Finish your day with a walk through the local desert foliage, aka my favorite plants on earth.

 

 

 

Now. MEOW WOLF. Fun fact: George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones books and my personal bibles, lives in Santa Fe and is a huge contributor to the arts scene. He owns the Cocteau movie theater and helped fund the new-ish Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return interactive art experience extravaganza. The installation is in the old bowling alley and features an entire house with some wild secrets. By exploring the family’s home, basically by snooping their mail and journals, the Meow Wolf guests are given the opportunity to uncover a mystery that leads into all kinds of other dimensions. It’s trippy and insane and so, so fun. You can spend hours putting together all of the pieces or just playing with the crazy rules of the multiple dimensions from portals in the house. Trust me, just walk into the fridge. You’ll find way more than moldy cheese and ketchup bottles.

 

 

 

 

Last but not least, take a stroll down Canyon Road and pop into the many galleries lining the street. Sculpture, painting, photography, you name it, it exists on Canyon Road, and you’ll want to cover your home in your findings.

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Photo courtesy of Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe

Santa Fe is also surrounded by gorgeous hikes. Rent a car, get close to the ski basin, and explore the mountains. Be sure to drink a lot of water – the 7,000 ft altitude sneaks up on you, but getting close to nature here is the most worth it. And expect rain. In the summer, it rains for about ten minutes almost every day, a phenomenon that has always felt magical to me. I prefer to soak it in sans umbrella, but that’s just me.

 

Lisbon Day 5 & Madrid Day 1 ☀️

Free Tapas and Rooftop Terraces

Our last day in Lisbon and first evening in Madrid was mostly a travel day, though the flight between the cities is only a quick hour hop. Shoutout to TAP Portugal airlines for having wildly affordable fares and flights every hour! We grabbed ourselves a 5pm flight, giving us time for a leisurely lunch and walk along the waterfront (with a final nata pit stop on the way back). A 10 Euro taxi took us and our carryons to the airport, and we were off. By magical perfect city, bye Vicente and the slightly-too-hot Air BnB room. Hola Madrid! 💃🏻🕺🏻

Our Madrid pad was a DREAM. It was beautifully centrally located and came with a lovely outdoor terrace for Spanish evening musings. Our hosts, Michael and Miguel (I’m not kidding) gave us more recommendations than we knew what to do with. With those and our Google Maps starred up, we were READY. Our first stop was a favorite tapas place of M & M’s a block away from the apartment called El Mollete. It was tiny, authentic, and tested my Spanish vocab just enough. I’m almost disappointed when too many people in foreign countries speak English and I can’t work on the language. Anyone else feel this way? Just me?

 


Regardless, we learned that food in Madrid was a bit pricier than Lisbon, but wine and beer were still cheeeeeaaapppp. So that was A+++. M & M’s place was in the heart of Chueca, neighboring Malasaña. These were for sure the two most fun neighborhoods to go out in at night (we later learned that Chueca is the gay neighborhood – at first we just thought Madrid was even more accepting than NYC! Which it still might be, reagardless, fun on fun on fun around here).

After tapas that first night, we wandered Malasaña (a soon-to-become nightly ritual) and ended up at a gin & tonic bar – the national drink of Spain, it turns out! They offered a gin of the week special, and since we were slightly travel tired we just stayed for one before calling it. Next stop, sleeeeeeep.

We began our first full day in Madrid by checking out the Royal Palace and Temple of Debod which were both SO close to the apartment. The Temple was a gift from the Egyptian government, and definitely didn’t look like anything else we’d seen in the area. I also just love the idea of one country giving a whole other country a gift. Like France, for example, I see you with Lady Liberty. Solid move, guys.

For lunch part 1, we hit up the Mercado San Miguel, which is a open-stall market in a big warehouse a la Time Out Lisbon. We found some little empanadas, and left pretty promptly because it was swamped. Here’s a photo from Spain Attractions since I was too overwhelmed to remember to photograph.1838E4A2-B969-481C-8982-F1886050A17F-4235-000006B8A7F1E6B3.jpeg

Picture this, but with 1000x the amount of people.

Next, we wandered to Chocolateria San Gines for some churros con chocolate. These churros are actually savory compared to the Mexican churros we’re used to in the States, hence the rich DIPPING CHOCOLATE that you can then DRINK afterwords. HI HEAVEN, FANCY MEETING YOU HERE.

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My Double9 Duck is seeing Madrid’s finest.

We continued towards a *legit* tapas bar off of one of Madrid’s many pequeño side streets. What makes it so legit, you ask? Well traditionally, tapas are served for ~free~ with the purchase of a vino or cerveza. Apparently the more you drink, the bigger the plates get, which is all kinds of exciting. At El Tigre we each opted for one pint of beer and were given a LARGE plate of bread, Spanish ham, and cheese. If you’re lunching on a budged, these tapas bars are the way to go! Here’s a list of some of the best bars with said deals:

  • El Tigre (our fav and a local hangout)
  • Taberna La Tia Cebolla
  • La Paloma Blanca (beer isn’t cheap, but portions are massive)
  • Petisqueria
  • Indalo Tapas
  • El Rincon Abulense
  • El Respiro (very close to El Tigre, if El Tigre is full pop on here, or make it stop one and two of your afternoon tapas crawl!)
  • La Pequeña Grana – we didn’t actually make it here, but it’s in Granada so if you’re jonsing for some tapas in the area, check it out!

After our Tapas we strolled to the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum to sample some art from the 13th-late 20th centuries. We spent a solid two hours touring the floors, so make sure you give yourself some buffer room if you visit (which I recommend you do!) We saved the big museums, the Prado and the Reina Sofia, for the next day, and were very glad we didn’t try to cram three giant halls’ worth of art into one day. The brain can only take in so much culture no matter how Spanish and impressive it is, ja feel?

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Just look at those peachy majestic walls and tell me you don’t want to spend multiple hours here.
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And here we are INSIDE one of the Thyssen’s masterpieces, because why not?

Finally, we took a siesta because, duh, and afterwords began our evening at the Dear Hotel’s gorgeous rooftop terrace bar. (Funny story, when we were waiting to be able to go up to the roof a server asked if we were being helped, and instead of saying we were waiting for the terraza, I said “terreza” which is not a thing but he took it as we were waiting for our amiga Tereza and I was embarrased trying to explain that.)

When we were finally let onto the terraza, we each had orangey-wheaty crisp, delicious beers and watched the sun set over the many old and cobblestoned (again with the cobblestones!) streets. If you’re in Madrid during nice weather, definitely hit up the Dear Hotel for at least one sunset. Plus, you’ll be excellently positioned to explore the Chueca and Malasaña nightlife once you’re done.

We did just that, popping into one of the only restaurants that could take us sans-reservation on a Saturday night. The more you know: if you’re planning on eating in one of the more popular Madridian neighborhoods on the weekend, make a rez! Restraurants in Chueca were booked for the whole night, but we took note of places we walked past for our later meals.

Finally, we had a nightcap at 1862 Drybar, a Malasaña haunt we’d seen wandering the previous night. I ordered a dragon-themed cocktail to stay on brand that came with a heat warning, and though it sadly didn’t make me breathe fire, it was a taste bud wake up call for SURE. A short jaunt back to casa M&M ended our first full day.

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