Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resident bums

Since Jose and I came back from spending the summer in Michigan we have had three indigent folks living under one of the portals in our apartment complex. At first I thought, wow that's sad. Look at those poor dwelling-challenged people. The economy is terrible. Boo hoo. I thought they would eventually move on. That has not been the case. They have set up shop and are there to stay. I have gone from feeling any real sympathy for them, to basically loathing them. It's just another reason why I can't wait to move to our new place. The list is growing as time goes by.

These aren't your run of the mill panhandling, can you spare some change, not overly offensive group bums. Oh no. These are the get drunk (or drugged) and scream bloody murder at night kind of bums. These are most inventive profanity using whether or not there are kids and old people living in the buildings around you kind of bums.  These are the I'm afraid to walk my dog after dark kind of bums. These are the I am not sure how my in-laws are ever going to rent this place after we move out kind of bums.

We have contacted the police a total of 5 times about these people and they have been out once. For some reason our local police precinct isn't open on Sundays (criminals take note, their response time is abismal to non-existent on this day). Either Sundays are really good money making days for the bums (and thus enable them to get more hammered than usual) or they just get very worked up since the following day is Monday (not that they work), but the worst nights always seem to be on Sundays. Precisely when there is no police force working. Well played bums. Well played.

We finally got the cops out last weekend after a really awful screaming match. I think a lot of neighbors probably called. Good, I thought. Maybe this will be what we need for them to get the hell out of here. Not so much. They were there in the morning, camped out like usual.

My one consolation as I listen to them gearing up for another battle royale tonight is that we will be out of here soon. Our new place is thankfully bum free. A few more weeks...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 One word resolution: CREATE

I am not good at making (nor keeping) resolutions. I have been reading recently about the idea of choosing one word for a year's worth of goals instead of making a bunch of resolutions you probably won't keep. People who have blogged about it say it is easier to do this because your word can grow and adapt throughout the year. It can be applied to different situations. The word should encompass your goals and what you would like to accomplish but isn't like saying, "I will lose 20 pounds." Some examples I had seen were: grow and simplify but it can be any word you want that you associate with things you would like to do, change or better to improve in your life.

I hadn't made any real concrete resolutions this year but I have decided to adopt this one word resolution. Though it is coming a month late, my word for 2013 is CREATE.

I would like to create a home here in Spain that I am excited to live in and that people will enjoy visiting. I want to have an apartment that is comfortable and reflects Jose's and my personalities. Seeing how long everything is taking thus far, I believe we may be finished with the entire moving, settling and decorating process by the end of 2013. Ha.

I am going to create more friendships here in Spain. This is one of my biggest gripes about living here. I have few friends to call my own, especially female friends. Jose and my social circle mostly revolves around his friends and their wives. I would like to grow and establish the relationships I have with women I work with and hopefully create some more.

I love writing and would like to create some more projects this year. I enjoy writing for my blog but one of my real dreams would be to write something longer. This is something I am going to work on this year. I already have a few ideas rolling around in my mind but it is hard to get started (and scary).

These are my three initial ideas for my one word (resolution). The good thing is that as time goes on I can adapt and add, or change what my goals are. I am going to keep myself accountable by updating in my blog every once in a while how things are going.

 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

IKEA furniture: a marriage test

Jose and I have bought several pieces of furniture for the new apartment from IKEA. Some of it has been easy to put together, like the shelves for the bathroom. Some has been a bit more difficult with something like 234 steps. These last few days we have been trying to get things put together so that when the kitchen is done we can get moved in quickly. This weekend we have been working on a dresser for our bedroom. Just putting together the frame took us one afternoon. The drawers should take us another day by my calculations. Why are we taking so long? First, because I have rushed through steps with other furniture and ended up jacking it up completely. Second, because we end up arguing about what the diagrams are showing, where things need to go, etc. It has been a test of our marriage. I think IKEA should offer counseling on their help line as well as instructions.

Come to Seville. Ven a Sevilla.



To drum up tourist interest in visiting Sevilla, this beautiful montage video was created. Sometimes I forget with the hustle and bustle of everyday life that I live in this amazing place. I am very lucky to call this city my second home. It really is a great place to visit and Jose and I are looking forward to our upcoming visits from friends and family. We are making sure that our guestroom is cozy and welcoming. Plus I am honing my towel animal folding skills. Come to Seville. Ven a Sevilla. It is more than worth the trip!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

VIsit to Aracena

 
 
This weekend Jose, Cooper and I went and visited Aracena, a city in the Huelva province which is in the mountains and which we had passes by several times on our way to visit other places. I kept saying when we would drive by that I would like to visit there since it was beautiful. It is a typical pueblo with white buildings and a castle that sits on top of a high hill overlooking the city. It has twisting streets and stones instead of pavements. Since it is farther north it was a bit cold and we drove through a lot of fog to get there but the day was beautiful.
 
First we parked and walked with Cooper through the city center and up to the castle which was converted into a church. When we finally reached the top we ended up running into one of Jose's best friends and his wife. They had decided to do some local tourism as well. It is a small world. The photo above shows the arch you have to walk under to reach the castle and ruins themselves.
 
When we got to the top, Cooper and I decided to take a rest in the sunshine since it was quite a steep hike to arrive at our destination.
 


Later we walked back down into the city itself and ate our picnic lunch (have to save money where we can) in the plaza which every good Spanish city has.



After lunch we decided we had seen a lot of the city and drove to the next small pueblo, Higuera de la Sierra (which roughly translates to the Fig tree of the Mountain Range). We wandered around for a bit before having a beer at a local bar. It is hard to see in the next picture but the church in this small town had a storks' nest on it bell tower. Here in the south of Spain there are a ton of storks and they build their nests on anything high they can find. Often times this means churches and the towers that connect power lines throughout the countryside. In the U.S. we believe that storks bring babies. Here in Spain they believe the same thing but the babies themselves come from Paris. Funny.

 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, it's a twister! It's a twister!

Here in the south of Spain (and actually throughout the majority of the peninsula) we are being hit by some type of weather pattern called cyclogenesis (which I had never heard of until now). According to wikipedia cyclogenesis is the development or strengthening of cyclonic circulation in the atmosphere (a low pressure area). Translation: bad ass storm. What this means in real life is that we have a ridiculous amount of wind and rain. It started last night and has been blowing all day. There are a lot of downed trees and I keep waiting to lose power. Looking out the window reminds me of Jurassic Park  when the fat guy from Seinfeld tries to get away with the stolen embryos and is eaten by the spitting dinosaur.

Jose went to the new apartment this morning since we had someone coming to clean and buff the marble floors. He braved the terrible weather to get there early. When he arrived he found the floors covered in water. Apparently the rain was blowing in sheets against the windows and got in between the seals. It then filled the window casing until it overflowed down the walls and onto the floors. Not a fun thing. Jose mopped up the best he could and we went back later this afternoon to check the damage. So far it doesn't look that bad. I sort of freaked out when Jose called to say what had happened but it seems to have dried well. Only time will tell. Now we need to call the company who installed the windows to find out what the heck happened. Thank goodness they are under warranty!

Friday, January 18, 2013

The kitchen odyssey: A continuing saga.

Last time I posted I mentioned that we were headed to finalize our kitchen plans. Well, it turns out that things didn´t go quite as planned. We originally felt very comfortable with the company we were going to work with but last week and this week things changed. Here is what happened:

Jose and I decided to go with this company, we will call it GoodKitchens. We thought the estimate and design were both reasonable and had decided to have GoodKitchens order the cabinets and appliances (which would take about a month to manufacture). All we needed to do was pick out the colors and finalize exactly what we wanted. I had always had in mind that I wanted either gray or blue cabinets. After scouring the internet for ideas I found that inspiration pic that I posted in my last entry. I think it is beautiful and would go wonderfully with our new tile floors.

We headed to GoodKitchens to pick the perfect shade of gray and when we arrived there was an older couple already working with the contractor. We didn´t mind waiting for a while. A while turned out to be over an hour. When these old folks FINALLY decided on what they wanted after touching everything, leafing through every catolog and wandering aimlessly around the showroom for what seemed like an eternity, Jose and I finally sat down to get to business. As we were waiting we had found a color in the swatches that we really liked. Perfect, we thought. When I showed the contractor the color he said, "Uhhhh, I don´t think they make that anymore, let me check." Great. Turns out that he had given us the wrong color swatches. As we were pouring through a new stack the contractor kept asking us if we smelled something burning. I couldn´t help thinking that having 10 space heaters plugged into one outlet was not a good idea but kept my mouth closed. He must know what he is doing right? He is a professional. As we were talking I did begin to smell something burning. Then I began to see smoke. Then came the fire. His electrical box was flaming. This was NOT a good sign. We ended up not getting anything else accomplished that evening and soon went home.

I tried to shrug off this experience as a fluke. So what if GoodKitchens made a small mistake and didn´t have the correct colors. Besides, there was just a little fire. No harm, no foul. We persisted in wanting to work with GoodKitchens and went back a few days later to finalize our plans. This time we waited another hour but were able to find the perfect shade from the new swatches. Yes! When we finally sat down I was sure we were going to be ordering our kitchen soon. This is the color! Whoops. Nope, apparently they don´t manufacture that one anymore either. So we were on to plan C or D or E, not really sure. By this time my patience was running thin. Next we went to choose our countertop and believe it or not there was some issues with that too. I was more than ready to leave but stuck it out to finish another plan to get a final estimate which would be e-mailed to us the next day.

When that estimate finally arrived we noticed that it was 1000 euro more than we had originally been quoted. This was the final straw that broke the camel´s back. I was done. No more GoodKitchens. I began to do some more research and although we had gotten 5 estimates total, we had not looked into IKEA for our kitchen. A co-worker has an IKEA kitchen and she loves it. I talked to her about it and then dragged Jose there yesterday evening. After a consultation and a design session it turns out we can get more kitchen with the money we budgeted. And they have the exact, exact, exact shade of gray that I wanted. So it looks like we are going to be ordering our kitchen soon from IKEA. Hopefully this is the end of our odyssey.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Decisions, decisions. Kitchen design.

When Jose and I bought our apartment we knew that we would have to design our own kitchen. If you have never done this before, let me tell you that it is A LOT of work (and our galley kitchen is pretty small). There are a million different options and as many combinations. You can have granite, silestone, butcher block, formica countertops. What kind of faucet do you want? What about appliances? The choices are seemingly endless.

I cannot imagine how people are able to visualize and design larger spaces. I could not have been an architect by any stretch of the imagination. As my family and friends know, I have some major issues with spacial reasoning and the like. For example, I do not read maps with ease and trying to get from point A to point B in my head before heading out for a drive is a struggle even if I have lived somewhere for a long time. I am not sure but I think these shortfalls also have to do with why I really needed to see 3D images of kitchen designs to get a good idea of what the contractors were talking about. When one just drew out the design on graph paper I couldn´t follow many of their ideas. The computer aided designs were MUCH better. Plus I was not very familiar with kitchen renovation vocabulary so for the first two or three estimates we got I struggled. After that it got a bit easier since I knew what we could do with our limited space.

We have finally decided on one company to work with and will pick out our gray cabinets, appliances, countertops, drawer pulls etc this afternoon. It should take about a month for them to be manufactured and then just one morning to install. Now we are just going to be waiting. With our brown faux-wood tile floor we decided to use this kitchen as an inspiration (although in the beginning I really wanted blue cabinets).


31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 31


31. Enjoy yourself: If you spend too much time worried about spending money on your trip you might end up forgetting to have a good time and to enjoy your vacation. If you have done enough planning pre-trip you should be all set as long as you stick with your budget and ideas. Sometimes you might spend a bit more than planned and that is okay (as long as you don't really over do it). Try to do better next time. There is no sense wasting your travels feeling overly guilty or bad about having spent money or being too crazy about strictly following your budget. Have a wonderful time and get the most for your money!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Step 2: painting, DONE!

So I have sort of been on a blogging hiatus (minus my 31 days of frugal travel tips which have been going strong) for the last week or so since we have been busy with both holidays and trying to finish painting before starting back to work this week. Plus Cooper was neutered and has been needing a lot of babying. He sits on my lap with his cone of shame and I can´t reach the keyboard to type. Anyway, the latest apartment update is that we have FINALLY finished painting the walls. YES! It only took us a week. Again, things just take longer than we had planned but we are going with the flow.

The walls before were a sort of boring, blah, comes with the house beige with a yellowish tint. I knew from the beginning I wanted to change them before we moved any furniture in. I decided for the livingroom and our bedroom to do the same color scheme: grays and blues. Then the rest of the apartment including the entry, hallway and other two bedrooms were painted a tan, light brown. The ceilings are all white and the doors as of now are a dark brown. Those might change someday but for now having had painted 3 coats on our entire apartment I am finished for a while.

Here is the livingroom before:




Now the majority of the walls have a light blueish gray while there are 2 smaller walls with a darker accent. The lighter color hasn't shown up in the photos very well but you get the idea.




The master bedroom is the same idea.

Here are the bedrooms´ before and after.




The rest of the apartment was finished in a light brown. Here is one of the smaller bedrooms before:



And after:



I am really happy with the colors we picked. Of course we could always change them someday but painting can be such work (even if you have your in-laws helping). We spent the last week of our winter break getting it done. Now we just have to start with the furniture and wait for our kitchen cabinets to be manufactured. We pick out the colors, drawer pulls and final design tomorrow! Yay!

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 30


30. Be aware: One of the easiest ways to lose money while traveling is having it stolen. I would always recommend that you be aware of your surroundings. Know if where you are traveling to has a problem with pickpockets (especially in subways or around places where tourists tend to gather, museums, plazas, lines, airports). Keep your valuables safe. Don´t travel with a lot of cash or wear conspicious jewelry. Try to blend in and not become a target. Though for many these things are common sense, I see tourists every day where I live get taken advantage of. If someone approaches you, be assertive and/or walk away. 

A lot of times there are professionals in tourist areas who make their money by taking yours. This might be people who literally steal from you, or it might be that they have a scheme to take advantage. Here in Seville there is a group of women who hang around our cathedral and offer to read tourist´s palms (in exchange for money of course). They approach people and are pushy enough that a lot of times they get their way (and their cash). These types of things are unfortunately common. You don´t want to lose your hard-earned money and nothing can ruin a vacation more quickly than becoming aware that you have no wallet, so be aware. It is a surprisingly easy way to be frugal.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 29


29. Bring just a carry-on: If you are flying try to only bring a carry-on. It will save you money if there is a charge for checking a bag (which is incredibly common on domestic flights). For the most part I have not had to pay for my first checked bag on international flights but I could see this changing any day (a second bag has cost me everything from 50 to 75 dollars and I only did this when I was moving overseas). You need to be aware of what the baggage policy is for the airline you are using. Make sure you check if there are weight/size limits for bags as well. Sometimes going over even by a few pounds can cost A LOT! My husband and I have invested in a hand scale to weigh our bags before we head to the airport. This 10 dollar purchase has saved us a ridiculous amount of money since we know that our bags are within the limits. I can´t tell you how many times I have seen people scrambling to re-pack or to throw away items just to avoid paying a baggage fee while checking in for flights. If you just pack a carry-on you should be okay. However, also be aware that there are limits for liquids that you can bring past security checkpoints. (I have also seen people parting with expensive make-up, perfume etc since it cannot go through). 

One extra bonus that worked for the husband and I when we went on a cruise with only a carry-on a piece: you don´t have room for extra purchases while traveling. With room so tight we weren´t able or willing to buy things to bring home. We could only really add to our magnet collection which was pretty frugal!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Celebrating the coming of the 3 Wisemen

I have mentioned it before but for those of you who don´t know, Spain celebrates its big gift-giving day on January 6th when the 3 Wisemen (or Kings, or Reyes Magos) come to visit households on the same day as the Epiphany (when the Bible says they finally reached the baby Jesus). Here children write letters to the Wisemen asking for gifts, much like we do for Santa. I still think Santa is way better and nothing is going to change my mind. That being said, Jose and I went to his hometown´s parade on the 5th and watched as the Kings passed by on floats while throwing candy and small gifts to the people. It is exciting, just like seeing Santa at the end of a parade of lights back home. We ended up with some stuffed animals (for Cooper) and some plastic balls (again for Cooper). Jose claims that before the parade yielded much better gifts but that with the financial crisis things have been cut back. Now mostly they throw candy. In any case, it is a fun and very cultural experience. I even weaseled my way into getting a picture with Melchor, or was he Gaspar?? I didn´t know that the 3 Wisemen had names but apparently they do.



The morning of the 6th we opened presents with Jose´s family. His sister was in town from Paris and we had a good time exchanging things like clothes and books. It is also tradition to eat a special cake that has both a little figure of a king and a bean baked into it.



Whoever gets the piece with the king is the winner, this year it was Jose.Whoever gets the piece with the bean has to buy the cake next year. That ended up being me.



Overall it was a nice way to end the long holiday season here in Spain. Hopefully next year a tall (for a Spaniard) 14 year-old boy doesn´t stand right in front of me as the parade passes by so I can´t grab for more things being thrown. This year we really had to fight for the few things we got. Next year I will be more prepared. And I am throwing elbows.

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 28


28. Check your receipts and your change: When you are traveling make sure to check your receipts. This goes for eating out, hotel bills, small purchases and the like. When you go to a restaurant look to see how much you were charged at the end of the meal. A lot of places might tack on extra things you didn´t consume in the hopes that you won´t notice or argue. There might be mistakes on what you were charged at your hotel. You could have fraudulent charges on your credit card. Make sure you are on top of these things even as you enjoy your vacation. Also, if you are paying with cash you should check your change. Be vigilant especially if it is foreign money that you are not familiar with. When in Turkey we had a store clerk try to short change us thinking we wouldn´t notice. We did and saved ourselves some money by pointing out the mistake.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 27


27. Read the small print and watch out for hidden fees: Always read any small print there is since a lot of times there are hidden fees or other ways that companies can make money off you (that is their business after all). For example, you buy a ticket to visit a museum before your trip. Make sure you know when you can use it. There might be restrictions for the dates and times you can go. This idea also applies to baggage fees when you are booking flights. Know what the company´s policies are so you aren´t surprised when you go to check in for your flight. If you are using websites to book hotels, flights, etc. read to see if there will be any fees related with your purchase. It has happened to us more than once that what we thought was a great deal ended up being not so great when fees and taxes were added on at check-out. Know what your hotel includes (continental breakfast, complimentary toiletry items, an iron, etc.). ALWAYS look into the details.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 26


26. Check the weather forecast: As I learned from years being a Girl Scout, you need to be prepared. Check to see what kind of weather you can expect at your destination and pack accordingly. For some reason my husband and I seem to ALWAYS forget to pack an umbrella, even when we know it might rain. We have had to buy overpriced and poorly made umbrellas all over the world. In fact, we have a collection of them. If we had just checked the weather forecast and planned ahead we would be a little bit richer. This idea also goes for other types of clothing that you might need for different kinds of weather (think a hat, gloves and a scarf if it will be cold). By knowing what weather awaits you, you might also re-think your vacation plan. For example, if you know it is going to be nice one day but not so the next, plan to do indoor activities while it is cold or rainy. Planning ahead is a great way to be frugal!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 25


25. Try to buy ahead if discounts are offered: Sometimes it pays to buy entrance tickets or passes ahead of time. You can find out via the internet if there are discounts offered if you buy these before your trip. Take a minute to do some research into the places you would like to visit. You can also save valuable time by having your tickets in hand. You can often times bypass long lines and thus streamline your vacation. We did this for example when we visited the London Eye. The line was enormous and we would have wasted a whole afternoon of our trip had we not bought our tickets beforehand. Instead all we had to do was present ourselves at the set time and boom, off we went to see the city from up high. If you purchase previously, you can also plan your days better. You will know when you will be visiting what and can plan accordingly. Having a plan can save you money since you can take advantage of the time you have. Even having a vague idea is better than having none at all.

Monday, January 7, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 24


24. Walk: First if you walk you won´t be spending money on other modes of transportation (taxi, bus, car, subway, bicycle etc). This is a no-brainer, especially in big cities. Second, by walking you end up seeing things you might not see otherwise. I love to wander around places (always with a good map of course) because you never know what you might encounter. If you are always traveling by subway or bus, you miss things. I promise. Third, walking is good for your health. It is great exercise. Fourth, sometimes just walking through a city is satisfying enough that you don´t feel the need to pay entry fees to visit other places. For me Rome is a perfect example of this. If you just spend the day walking around and seeing the sites from outside you will have a great day. A lot of things are somewhat disappointing on the inside but maybe that is just me. My one recommendation is to bring comfortable shoes! Walking around in high heels all day is no fun. No fun at all. Blisters can ruin a vacation. Trust me.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 23


23. Ask for recommendations from friends and family members: Use the knowledge of other people. We always try to connect with those that have visited places before us while planning our trips. Most people love to talk about their trips and can probably give you some tips or recommendations. I especially like to ask where people have gone to eat. If you know someone who is from the place you would like to vacation even better. They have the inside track. They can recommend cheap eats and where to stay on a budget. Some of our most successful (and least expensive) trips to restaurants while traveling have been recommendations from friends and family. In turn, if you make a discovery while traveling, share and share alike.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Finished floors and paint galore

Since my last update about the apartment our contractor finally finished the floors. We had planned on it only taking a few days. Instead it took about a week give or take with holidays thrown in. Add to that the fact that I was sick for a while and we are a bit behind where we thought we might be with the apartment. I can't say I am surprised.

Remember what the kitchen floor looked like:



Well here it is now with the new tiles:


Then we had the bathroom:


And here is the after:



After the floors were finished we got started painting and have been working diligently the last two days. We started with all the ceilings and then moved on to the master bedroom and the livingroom. Next we will do the rest and we hope to finish before heading back to work. I will post before and after pictures as soon as we are finished.

We also had our kitchen measured for the cabinets and purchased our sofa. Both will take about 30 days so we won't be able to move even if everything else goes perfectly until mid-February. We are hoping to be all done and living there by the end of February. Until then we have a lot of work ahead of us.

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 22


22. Join frequent flyer programs: Even if you aren´t racking up a ton of miles, often times you will receive notifications about sales and good deals throughout the year. If I am not interested in flying I will automatically delete these e-mails so they don´t clog up my inbox. Sometimes there are ways to earn miles without actually flying (like certain purchases, car rentals, hotel stays etc). This is a good way to stay informed and if you do travel a lot you can get upgrades and even free flights. It is as easy as registering on the companies website. My husband and I have a frequent flyer number for each major carrier, that way we are getting miles no matter how we fly.

Friday, January 4, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 21


21. Look at budget airlines: Here in Europe there are several companies that offer pretty decent prices throughout the year. They include Ryanair, Vueling, EasyJet and WizzAir. In the States you can also look for deals through companies like Southwest. Though they might not offer all the amenities of big airlines, these budget companies will get you where you need to go for less money. Make sure that you read the fine print when it comes to rules about luggage fees and the like since sometimes companies have loopholes or hidden fees to make back some profit. For example, Ryanair is incredibly strict on what they allow passengers to carry on. If your bag doesn't fit within the limits you have to pay a fee.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 20


20. Become your own travel guide: My husband is wonderful to travel with since he takes it upon himself to really become informed about wherever we are headed. He does a lot of research online and will print out things to take along. Every once in a while we might invest in a travel book (but this is NOT often). With a bit of research you can skip paying for things like audio guides or tours. As long as you can put in some time beforehand you can even create your own itinerary and guide yourself. Find out what the most important sights are and why they are famous. What is their history? Who or why were they created? If you are headed to a museum, visit its webpage before you leave to find out what are the gems of its collection. Print out a few blurbs to bring along and read as you see them to remind yourself. If you become your own travel guide you don't need to pay someone else for this service. You can take your own personalized guided tour which can be even better.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One year Sadie and eating grapes on New Year's Eve

On December 30th Jose and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. I hadn't been feeling too hot the last week or so but was glad to see that I woke up the day of almost as good as new. Jose had made some secret plans and wouldn't even give me a hint about what we would be doing that day. All I knew was that I needed to be ready by 600pm. It turns out that we both ended up taking a looooong nap in the afternoon and began the evening late after getting all fancied up. Jose had bought us tickets for a cruise on the Guadalquivir river but we will have to pospone since we didn't arrive in time for the launch. Instead we walked around the city center before heading to eat in an Italian restaurant. The food was very good and we came back home stuffed. It was a nice way to celebrate our anniversary (no gifts of course since we are busy spending tons of money on our apartment. That is an amazing gift to each other right now).

For New Year's Eve we decided to keep it low key as well. We met up with another couple to have dinner and ring in the New Year. Jose and I were in charge of shopping for the food. Here is a picture of the spread. We ate typical tapas like Spanish tortilla, shrimp, empanada, jamon, cheese and of course Cruzcampo cerveza:


After eating and watching the New Year's Eve television program we rang in 2013 with the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes the hour at midnight. This was also what I gave as a gift to the guests at my wedding. Happy New Year to all!

 

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 19


19. People watch: This is a seriously inexpensive way to save money while traveling. It is also one of my personal hobbies. I could sit and watch people for hours at a time and being somewhere foreign is even better. It can be very entertaining. Find a place with a lot of people passing by and just sit and relax for a while. Jose and I make up stories about people. We talk about clothing (which can differ immensely depending on where you are). We try to decide who are other tourists and who are locals. We enjoy some down time and rest our feet. People watch at a popular monument or a park. It can provide some time's worth of entertainment and is free. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

31 Days of Frugal Travel Tips: Day 18


18. Prioritize: Think about the things that are most important to you while traveling. Rank them if you need to. Which sights or museums are must-sees? Put them at the top of your list. Research their prices while making this list but remember that if you absolutedly cannot miss a certain museum then it'll be worth the money to visit it. I like to keep in mind that I may not be back to certain places and that it could be a once in a lifetime chance. The things that are lower on your list can be skipped if you run out of money while you are traveling. Try to mix in low-cost ideas with things that are more expensive (more low-cost things of course!). Again, the key here is to plan, plan, plan.