Perks of Parks in Madrid

Hey guys!

I’m writing this post from my couch in Chicago. But I was just in Spain where I was finally reunited with my best friend for a short three weeks over the holidays. While I was there, I completely fell in love with Retiro Park. Retiro is like the Central Park of Madrid. So its HUGE, and has so much going on.

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In the center of the park is a gorgeous man-made pond with rowboats people can rent by the hour. I opted out of taking one for a spin because I was alone. So instead I decided to plant myself next to a statue for some one-on-one time with my book, Sharp Objects (written by the same author as Gone Girl, and so so good).

Shannon came with me on my second trip to the park, and we got to see the Glass Palace, which is basically a huge building made of glass that looks so cool when the sun is shinning. The Glass Palace is owned by one of the huge art museums here in Madrid called the Reina Sophia (free with a student ID if you’re under 25!). When we went, they were featuring an American Horror Story fashioned trailer complete with beyond creepy music, a life size wax women, and way too many dancing puppets. Check out Shannon’s Vine here to get a better idea.

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After the Palacio de Cristal we wondered around some of the park, and were BOTH pooped on by a Spanish bird. Luckily, a super friendly Spanish couple was eager to help us and spent a solid five minutes cleaning it off us, and asking if we were okay (maybe that’s what they were saying, it didn’t take long for me to realize my 5 years studying spanish were pretty much useless).

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If you find yourself in Madrid, a day spent in Retiro is a day well spent (without actually spending any euros)!

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Kansas is cool: here’s proof

Logan and I set out on a little road trip to Kansas City last week. He has family that lives there, so we were dying to see them and use it as an excuse to take a mini vacay before our internships start. A quick 7 hours later, and we were ready to party: Kansas City style. Here are 5 reasons Kansas is way cooler than you think it is.

1. Beer, tapas, beer, sammys, beer, sushi 

FOOD.jpgKansas has AMAZING food, and beer! While we were down there, we were totally spoiled and were taken to lots of Kansas City restaurants. All of the food I had was delicious, but I think my favorite meal was actually this simple sandwich (first pic) from The Foundry. We also enjoyed tapas, tacos, paninis, sushi, pizza, salmon, and lots of treats! Logan even tried a bison burger (bottom right picture). It’s safe to say that I feel like I’ve gained about 10 lbs, but it was totally worth it.

2. They have movie theaters with beds

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You read that right guys, they have movie theaters with chairs that recline into beds! What?! Yes, it’s true. We went to see x-men at a theater where the super comfy leather seats reclined all the way back so it was like a bed. It was definitely the best movie-watching experience I’ve experienced in my short 21 years on this Earth.

P.S. the new X-Men movie is fantastic.

3. They give you free beer

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We went on a brewery tour at Boulevard! As you know, I do love brewery tours (read about my Galena brewery tour, and Milwaukee brewery tour experiences), but the best thing about this tour was that it was completely FREE and included 3 beer samples *yumm.* The one bit of beer info I held on to was that lagers ferment longer than ales. I discovered a new love for unfiltered wheat beer, have you ever tried it? Also, shout out to Mason (Logan’s brother, and our excellent Kansas City host) for joining the 21+ club!

4. They have markets galore

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The best part about exploring someone else’s city with them is that they know all of the best places to go. The City Market, and Overland Park’s farmers market were no exception. The City Market was filled with all kinds of little shops and produce stands. I got 3 delicious mangos for $2! We also wandered into an Indian spice and fruit shop (middle picture), where I loaded up on some tasty dried fruit. At the Farmer’s Market, Logan and I tried some delicious honey spread, and some unique caramels (rice krispie, butterscotch, and Nutella flavored) *yummm.*

5. The people there are pretty cool too

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The best thing about Kansas City is that it’s home to a lot of people we love. Logan’s brother, his brother’s girlfriend, his aunt, uncle, and cousins live there (along with their furry friends!). It was so much fun to spend some quality time with these amazing people. I feel so lucky to have a connection with such a great family (thanks for dating me Logan); I couldn’t have asked for better company while falling in love with a wonderful city.

Big thank yous go out to Mason & Alex for letting us stay with them, Kristy & David for spoiling us rotten, Kassie & Joe for giving up their weekend to hang out with us youths, and my 3 furry new boyfriends for letting me love on you all weekend. 

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5 Highlights from New Orleans

Its hard to believe that just a week ago we were enduring a 15 hour car ride back from New Orleans. I am obsessed with southern states; warm weather, tasty food, and southern hospitality. What’s not to love?! If you get a chance to make it down to New Orleans here are a few of our personal favorites.

1. Food! *duh*

The food in New Orleans was all delicious, and mostly fried. I think we all took an unspoken vow to eat seafood every single day, because how could we not!? Logan is the yelp master so he was able to find a ton of great places for us to eat.

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A “Medium” Shrimp Po Boy, a po-boy is just a fancy nawlins term for giant sandwich, from a local restaurant

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Seafood tacos from The Rum House and the best oysters in the world from Acme Oyster House

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Beignets from Cafe Du Monde! (An absolute must)

2. Drinks!

Let me tell you my favorite thing about New Orleans: NO OPEN CONTAINER LAW! That means you can buy a bottle of beer at a grocery store, and then proceed to drink it in the street! Sounds pretty crazy right? This was especially convenient when we went out on Bourbon St. In the bars, a bottle of Miller Lite can run you $6 (Thats even more than Chicago!), but if you buy from the street venders you can get a 20 0z. cup for just 5 bucks *bargain*. The side street vendors also offer shots; if you’re looking for the worst tasting shot in the world get a Cherry Bomb. Those suckers are only $1 but consist of Maraschino Cherries soaked in Everclear.

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3. Live Music!

What’s better than live music in New Orleans?! Practically nothing. Almost all the bars on Bourbon St. had bands playing, and the best part was you could take your drinks from the street and listen to the bands while enjoying your $4 22 oz. Miller Lite. No cover! Check out Shannon’s Vine account for videos

4. Parks/ Scenery!

We went to one gorgeous park when we were in New Orleans. The park was gorgeous, and had so many trees covered in Spanish moss, which is my favorite *so pretty*. The park also had an outside sculpture exhibit fo’ free! The whole park was really pretty; my favorite piece had four corgi’s arranged in a cube. So cute!

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5. Tours

New Orleans offers more tours than I can even list. Unfortunately, they are all a little pricey. We wanted to do a Voodoo tour and a swamp tour, but ultimately had to choose one (you can read more about our vacay on a budget here). So we chose the swamp, mostly because all of us are avid nature lovers. It was a little cold on our tour, but that didn’t stop us from seeing so many animals. At one point our guide pulled the boat over and fed marshmallows to wild piglets! If you have never seen little piglets with their mouths full of marshmallows, you’re totally missing out.

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***BONUS*** Here are some extra pictures from our trip!

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What are some highlights from your spring break?

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Spring Break That Won’t Break the Bank

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This Spring Break Kayla and I and our two beaus decided to explore a new city: New Orleans! As four college students, our budget was pretty tight, so planning was a must. We wanted to see the city, eat the food, and have lots of fun, but on a small budget. Our 4 day stay cost us about $300 (this includes housing, gas, food, and activities)! So now I’m here to share with you my bountiful travel advice for you poor saps who are also on a budget.

1. Housing

One of the  most expensive parts of vacation is the housing. Hotels can be an enormous toll on your bank account, and all for what?! You’ll hardly be there for anything other than sleeping. Enter the internet. When we were planning we didn’t even bother looking at hotel prices; we went straight to a website, Airbnb, that allows you to search for cheap housing in tons of cities. Airbnb consists of a network of people who rent their places out to travelers like yourself. They are WAY better than a hotel because you can get an entire apartment for like $80 a night! Our hosts were the absolute best and left us freshly baked cookies *yumm*, local beer *extra yumm*, and other New Orleans treats *supa yumm* (is my love of eating obvious here?)!

 

 

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2. How to get from here to there

Public transportation is your BFF. Trust me on this one. Once you get to your destination, check out the different bus, train, or streetcar systems the city has to offer. Also, don’t forget about those two wonderful legs you have attached to your body, yes I mean walking, do lots of it. When we were in NOLA we were lucky enough to be super close to the bus stop and streetcar. Even though we had our car since we road tripped down there, we pretty much never used it and saved a ton of money.

 

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3. Do Free Shit

Guess what doesn’t cost money?! LOTS OF THINGS! You don’t have to pay to go to a park, walk around a city, there are even some art exhibits fo’ free. The only activity we dropped a dime for was the swamp tour we went on*. We were able to save a lot of money by just walking and exploring the French quarter and a couple of other streets

*Lets be real, we also spent some moneyz on going out

 

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4. Sharing is caring

Guys, I know how hard it can be to share things. Trust me, as a twin I’ve had to share many many things with my beloved sister; including, but not limited to: faces (hello we’re identical), birthdays (duh), and everything I’ve ever owned. But sharing as a young adult has taught me a valuable lesson, it can save you a butt load of money. Restaurant portions are massive, so Kayla and I split nearly every meal while on our trip and it saved me big time. So if you’re on a trip and aren’t that hungry, or want the same dish as someone else, make your momma proud and consider sharing the meal with your bestie.

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Did you go anywhere fun for spring break?!

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Fun times in the Sunshine: Kayla and Andy go to Arizona

Andy and I were lucky enough to spend this past weekend in hot hot Arizona. It was the perfect escape from the polar vortex of Chicago. This is our second vacation together, and luckily we both have the same idea of what a vacation should be: lots of doing, but still enough time to hang by the pool!

There is this  app called ‘Best Road Trip Ever’ where you can enter in your location and find cool local attractions, historic places, and restaurants! We found these abandoned domes of Casa Grande from there, pretty cool but also look like they could be featured in a scene on Breaking Bad.

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The weather was gorgeous the whole time we were in Arizona, 70’s and sunny. We went around and saw downtown Scottsdale, which was full of cute shops and lots of free samples (my fav)! If you’re ever in the area, make sure you check out retro ice cream shoppe called The Sugar Bowl. Of course we had to stop in and share a scoop of caramel praline ice cream and a black coffee. The sugar from the ice cream makes the coffee taste fantastic.

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After we strolled through downtown, we went to a place called ‘Hole in the Rock’. It was a short climb to the top (which I did in sandals, poor shoe choice on my end). When we reached the top there was a fantastic view of Phoenix perfectly framed by the rock!

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Next stop: Tempe. Tempe is the home of Arizona State University. It was a pretty cute college town, the streets were lined with bars and small shops. Andy and I stopped in and had a beer at World of Beers (how could we not). They had so many beers on tap, and even more in bottles, needless to say, it was fantastic.

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photo(this is half of the bottled beer selection)

The next day we spent climbing 3,670 ft to the summit of Picacho Peak. It took about 2 hours, and a lot of heavy breathing to reach the top, but it was worth it. The view was perfect without a cloud in the sky. Andy and I always like to do something active on vacation (last time we did a kayak tour of the black waters in Charleston, SC). Going to state parks is the perfect inexpensive way to spend the day in another city. Image

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Last stop: CASINO! I just turned 21, so this was my first time trying my luck. And I came out winning $75! Not too shabby for only playing penny slots, maybe it was beginners luck. This pic was before my big win.

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Now it’s time to go back to the windy city. Goodbye sunshine, tank tops, and bare feet. At least I have my sunburn to keep me warm.

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FLASHBACK: South Carolina

I never got a chance to share my amazing road trip this summer with my boyfriend, Andy. We stopped in Lexington, Kentucky, Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, Nashville,Tennessee and Charleston, SC. It was an amazing week and definitely some of my favorite memories were made on this trip.

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First selfie of the trip! Getting started from Peru, IL

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First stop U of I in Champaign,IL

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A little over half way to South Carolina. Stopped and checked out Lexington, which was gorgeous. If you get the chance, make a trip down there.

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Salmon burger in Charleston, SC was amazing! Best fish I have ever had.

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Last day of brunch we went to Hominy Grill a MUST when visiting South Carolina!
Andy and I had a blast on our week getaway and were already planning our next trip we hope to take over spring break!

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