Sunday, May 17, 2015

There's snow place like Taos


New Mexico is not all deserts and cacti. While it does have plenty of that, it's also home to the southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains. And with that elevation, of course there comes snow.


Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

At the beginning of March, towards the end of the ski season, some friends and I met up for a few days on the slopes at Taos Ski Valley. The base of the valley has an elevation of 9,207 feet and the highest point is Kachina Peak with an elevation of 12,450 feet.

By a chance of luck, 40 inches of fresh powder coated the already snowy mountains shortly before we arrived, leaving us with near-perfect conditions, especially compared to what we're accustomed to on the East Coast.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
IMG_0218
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

One of the things that makes Taos so special is that it's not particularly close to any major city or airport. We flew into Albuquerque and drove three hours to get there. This sets it apart from resorts like Vail, Park City and Breckenridge that attract crowds of weekenders throughout the season. 

Taos Ski Valley has more of a family feel than a commercial one. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff and locals that were incredibly welcoming. It's not unusual for strangers to say hello and strike up a short convo in passing.

And unlike other resorts, there is no pretentiousness there. No notice of separation between experienced and unexperienced. No mocking the gapers. Maybe it's just their need for tourism or the general vibe of the friendly mountain town, but everyone we met was warm and helpful.

Overall, the views were stunning, the runs abundant, the staff welcoming - it's hard to imagine it any better than it was.

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

One night after a long day on the slopes, we hit up the hot tub in our condo's complex. A guy was already there when we arrived, so we started talking about Taos. He was working on the slopes for the season and told us some tips and tricks for the ski valley and shared his love of Kachina Peak.

He also scolded us for being in the hot tub when, as tourists, we should be soaking in the natural hot springs nearby. So the next evening, after another full day of snowboarding, we were on an adventure in search of Manby Hot Springs. 

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

Now, of course our directions to the springs weren't very clear. We took long, dusty roads into what seemed like the middle of nowhere where we were instructed to park on the edge of the gorge and take the "old wagon trail" that leads to the hot spring.

"Old Wagon Trail." What does that even mean? Of about four options, we took the one that seemed the most "wagon-ish" for about a half mile until we realized it couldn't be right. We tried a few more paths and almost left, satisfied enough with the sunsets views over the Rio Grande gorge.

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico
Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

With one last hope and the sun fading quickly, we found the narrow trail (that could no way ever fit a wagon). It led us to a steep, windy path down the gorge to the river. The hot springs sat right on the edge of the Rio Grande and were surprisingly warm. Probably right under 100°F.

The water felt great on our tired legs, but since it took us so long to find the springs, we could only enjoy it for a short time before the sun went down.

Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico
IMG_0234Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico
Manby Hot Springs in Taos, New Mexico

While this was strictly a ski trip, we spent each day on the slopes and didn't have much time to explore the pueblo, artisan colony and local brewery scene. While I regret it, we had to stick to our priorities for our limited time frame. And if anything, it just makes me want to go back even more. Until next time, Taos! You didn't disappoint!

Have you taken a memorable ski trip? Ever visited a hot spring?

Share your story in the comments below! 


NOTE: To get to Manby Hot Springs in Taos, take US 68 towards the gorge bridge. Turn right at Tune Road. Make sure you have a car that can handle dirt, mud and rough roads. Take lefts at each fork until you get to the parking area at the top of the gorge. Looking out at the river, the trail will be on your left. It's the trail closest to the edge of the gorge. It's narrow, unmarked and leads left down to the east side of the river. The breathtaking views of the gorge make the hike worthwhile. Especially at sunset. There are two pools on the edge of the river. Sometimes more depending on the season. The water temperature ranges from 94° to 100°F. The walk down and back up can easily take close to an hour, so plan well or bring flashlights.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Puns for the Traveler in Your Life

If your Valentine is a map-loving, globe-trotting traveler, he or she may be more into tickets than truffles and prefer road trips over roses. You will definitely need to use the right words to really win 'em over. Lucky for you, I've designed some very funny punny Valentines to share with yours on this special day.






 Words submitted by @estrellaexplore of EstrellaExplores.com












Feel free to download, print and share these with your valentines.

Can you think of any valentine travel puns that I missed? Leave your ideas in the comments! 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

17 Creative Travel #Hashtags to Use & Follow on Instagram


I love Instagram and I'm not afraid to admit it. I'm not the least bit ashamed of my slight addiction because I'm willing to bet that most of you are similarly obsessed. Well, why would you have clicked on this post if you don't love Instagram? And just in case you're not a fan of the fast, easy, double-tapping social media platform, you may not want to stick around. We probably wouldn't get along anyway.

For travelers and anyone who would like to travel (that's basically everyone, right?), Instagram allows us to share our current adventures or virtually cure the travel bug by scrolling through other people's adventures.

Recently, I've grown pretty tired of the typical #hashtags that I, along with most other travel bloggers, am using. Many blogs instruct us to add #travel, tag the country you're in, then the city, and maybe add in an #instatravel or #wanderlust, then post for the world and pray for the likes. While this may be effective, it can get pretty boring. Especially when I'm looking through the #travel feed and the photos are a blend with such a broad theme.

So in order to spark a little creative inspiration with your travel photos, I've put together a list of my favorite creative travel hashtags:


1. #FromWhereIStand


This is the perfect selfie for people who aren't too photogenic, but do wear great kicks and stand in cool places. These pictures are also a reminder for all of us travelers as to where our feet have taken us. Why not take a picture like this in every country/city/continent and start your own collection!

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @emilyblincoe - emilyblincoe.com ;  2. @matteovetran0 ;


2. #JustBackFrom


If they're better than cheap magnets and plastic keychains, share your souvenir collection after returning home from a great trip. Condé Naste Traveler's account @CNTraveler features the best of these photos.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @CNTraveler ;  2. @FranziSimone ;  3. @lomo31;


3. #WeEatWorld


This hashtag stems from @GirlEatWorld a.k.a. Melissa, a Singapore-based photographer whose collection of "hold up food in front of interesting scenery" pictures went viral. Her main mission is to stuff her face around the world. Melissa tags her own pics with #GirlEatWorld and encourages others to tag similar posts with the #WeEatWorld hashtag. WARNING: Do not scroll through this feed if hungry or dieting.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @girleatworld ;  2. @KelseyOhleger - Route Words ;
3. @theromanfoodie - The Roman Foodie ;  4. @girleatworld)


4. #FollowMeTo


In 2011, Russian photographer Murad Osmann's girlfriend got annoyed of his contact picture taking and started dragging him through the streets of Barcelona. But this didn't stop Murad and actually inspired him even more. Since then, Osmann has posted a collection of these photos taken around the world onto his popular Instagram account and the images have gone viral. Many others have also been inspired by the pose and now the #FollowMeTo feed is filled with similar photos.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @muradosman ;  2. @gabriellaeeyore ; 
3. @hashnae ; 4. @muradosman)


5. #Whatsinmybag


Step 1: Take everything out of your bag. Step 2: Arrange it all in an eye-catching, creative layout. Step 3: Add in something else that is not normally in your bag, but will make others find you interesting. Step 4: Stand above the neatly organized materials and snap a picture. Step 5: Post on instagram with the hashtag #whatsinmybag. 

Okay, so that's generally how it goes, but this hashtag is also great to learn about new gadgets, products and snacks that you may also want to toss into your bag before your next trip.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @passport_liz -  Passport Packed ;  2. @veetravels - Vee Travels ;
3. @j2martinez - JMRTNZ.com ;  4. @kluwi)



6. #IPulledOverForThis


While road tripping, certain things are going to catch your eye and make you want to pull over. Whether it's a gorilla holding a VW bugthe world's largest ball of twine, or just a pit stop to stretch your legs, you can always find something worth photographing.
(Clockwise from top left: 1. @hmosterhout;  2. @wvmomofsix;  3. @cayenneiam;  4. @reeb77 )



7. #AirportCarpet


If you can take a second to stop in between the TSA screening, grabbing your Starbucks latte and sprinting to catch your connecting flight, you may want to look down. There is usually something underneath your quick moving feet that most airport travelers ignore: the carpet. If you scroll through the feed of this hashtag, you'll see swirls of bright colors and unusual patterns that would only otherwise be used on the rug of a Las Vegas casino or upholstery of the seat on a charter bus.
(Clockwise from top left: 1. @jennifernellen - Let's Go;  2. @bryanschiele - Bryan Schiele;
3. @petermeiyu;  4. @lindstromrugs)




8. #OnTheRoofs


Two young guys started climbing onto roofs and and a new hashtag was born. Vitaliy Raskalov from Ukrain and Vadim Makhorov from Russia are photography partners, travelers and working together on this social project dedicated to urban exploration. Scroll through their shots and if you're not afraid of heights, start contributing to the collection.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @makhorov - On the Roofs; 2. @makhorov - On the Roofs;
3. @crazytravelist - Crazy Travelista; 4. @curiositytrav - Curiosity Travels)



9. #FlyingTraveler


Junanto Herdiawan is an economist in Indonesia Central Bank who spends his time off levitating around the world. Okay, well he's actually just fooling us all with some play on perspectives. But how neat are these pictures? Definitely a step up from the basic #jumpstagram. Junanto's signature pose has become popular with other travelers as well, which inspired the #FlyingTraveler tag.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @junantoheridiawan - Life is a Journey; 2. @heriadi_alhifni;
3. @junantoheridiawan - Life is a Journey; 4. @junantoheridiawan - Life is a Journey)



10. #DailyCortado


No Instagram account is complete without a coffee picture. Or many coffee pictures. Possibly daily coffee pictures. I won't judge, nor will I complain. Just as long as the latte art is on point. Lipstick stains and well-placed props are also appreciated. Scrolling through this feed is like virtual espresso without the bad breath or mid-morning crash.
(Clockwise from top left: 1. @livingminnaly - Living Minnaly; 2. @kevmasse;
3. @laurenonlocation - Lauren on Location; 4. @leatherandlattes - Leather and Lattes)



11. #FriendsAndWalls


Grab a friend and find a wall. If you have no friends, grab a selfie stick and find a wall. It can be the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, or just a plain ol' wall… whatever you decide! These types of pictures are so simple, yet so striking.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @tmkampa ;  2. @fi_bird - Poppet's Window
3. @taylorcgibson - Capture Joy;  4. @cestchristine - C'est Christine)



12. #WYMTM


#WYMTM, short for “What You Missed This Morning”, is for beautiful sunrises and foggy mountains to be rubbed in the face of your oversleeping friend with a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The hashtag was established by CyclingTips founder Wade Wallace back in 2008 in order to make people jealous when they skip a morning bike ride. It has recently grown to be used more widely by early risers - cyclist or not. The hashtag has also inspired a photo competition on CyclingTips each December.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @yeahteam ; 2. @revoluti0n9 ;
3. @fdpallero ;  4. @thats_my_line - Gloria Liu)



13. #KicksOnAPlane


This hashtag is exactly what it says it is. A picture of your kicks on a plane. The only guidelines are that the photo must contain at least one shoe (A.K.A. kick) and that shoe is on a plane.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @justineiaboni - Jet Set Justine ;  2. @djneilarmstrong ;
3. @soleinvadors ;  4. @jellyfishkid2.0)



14. #cnTravelerEats


Ohh.. food porn. We all know it well. But if you can capture it in a mouth-watering, travel-inspiring way, you may get featured by this other Conde Nast Traveler tag at @cnTraveler.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @cnTraveler ;  2. @martinecooks - Martine Cooks ; 
3. @tanveerbadal  - Tanveer Badal ;  4. @CourtneyLikkel - Adelante)



15. #AirplaneFood


#Airplanefood is far from #foodporn or #nomnom or #delicious, but it's an interesting meal to document and a great hashtag feed to explore typical meals across different cultures. You may even book your next flight based on an airline's peanuts or bottomless wine.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @catsandfood ;  2. @rebelgrain - Rebel Grain;
3.  @sgfoodhero ;  4. @travip)



16. #PuddleGram


Rainy days while traveling can be frustrating. While you may feel like hiding under the covers in your hotel room watching repeats of Cupcake Wars dubbed in Spanish, you have a new reason to venture out and see the sights through a different perspective: the #puddlegram.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @everson4 ;  2. @romdilon ;  3. @matt.anderson;  4. @esposito13)



17. #EmptyChairsProject


Who doesn't like taking pictures of empty chairs? In airports.. outside coffee shops… in the park. Raphaël Liais (@raphaelliais) noticed empty chairs in Casablanca, Morocco and began a personal project of uploading these photos onto Instagram with the tag. Since then, this hashtag has developed a following and more people are becoming inspired to 'gram these chairs instead of plopping down on them.

(Clockwise from top left: 1. @raphaellias ;  2. @la_solea ;  3. @inesnimu ;  4. @roundthewayk)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Madrids Little Secrets: Cookies from the Cloistered Nuns


A short walk from Plaza Mayor, there is a small, elbow-shaped street conveniently named Elbow Street (Calle Codo). There's no unusual draw to this street. You won't find many people walking down it, especially not tourists, unless they know about the nuns. Yes, nuns. And these nuns can bake.

El Convento de Corpus Christi is a convent of cloistered nuns on Elbow Street Calle Codo in Madrid. The Hieronimus nuns have no contact with the outside world and make their money by selling traditional Spanish sweets. The variety of cookies are sold by using a wooden turntable where you choose your box and replace it with the money owed.

Take a look at the video to better understand this unique experience..



Thursday, October 2, 2014

'Un Encuentro Gastronómico' with Top Chef Spain

Last April, I received an email in my inbox with "encuentro gastronómico" written in the subject line. A gastronomic encounter? A foodie adventure? I'm in.

Top Chef España was beginning their competition and needed American taste testers for the second episode of the Spanish TV series. I still have no idea why I was contacted or how they found my email, but I'd like to think that blogging has some perks... like television fame.
The details were kept pretty secret until the final days before filming. I eventually received an email to wear plaid, jeans, or anything with an American flag and meet outside of a hotel at a certain time the following day. 

So I reluctantly played along with the cowboy theme, threw on a plaid shirt and walked to the meeting spot to find 100 other Americans waiting to get on a couple buses. This was by far the most English speakers (and Americans) I had been around in a while. All dressed in red, white and blue, some waving American flags and others in cowboy boots. It was almost like our own personal 4th of July in Madrid. 

We signed some waivers promising not to take pictures (but we were sneaky!) or post anything about the event on social media until the episode aired. But now that it has debuted...


They bussed us to an undisclosed location an hour outside of Madrid and fed us bocadillos and cervesas. Free sandwiches and beer? They knew how to keep Americans happy.

After a few hours of boredom, cow-gazing, and flag-waving for the camera, we were invited inside a barn to sit on hay bales at a long red and white checkered picnic table. We were at a cattle ranch and the two teams of Spanish chefs were frantically finishing to cook up some great American barbecue.

I filed into the table with some friends and luckily sat across from one the show's judges Yayo Deporta. His hair was gelled perfectly, he had a nice Mediterranean tan and a flawless complexion due to a thick slathering of TV makeup. Apart from his good looks, he is also one of the youngest chefs ever to receive a Michelin star.

With friends Jessica of Curiosity Travels and Amy of Restless Fork Blog. Photo Courtesy of Jessica.

We were told to clap along as a country music band played and then watch some of the chefs goof off and dance. They grabbed some girls to Do-si-do and a Spanish chef used an American flag as the cape as another chef acted as the bull. It was, as my friend Jessica hilariously described on her blog as "the most amazing inappropriate use of our nation’s flag I’d ever seen."

Eventually, we were served our food. Each team was instructed to prepare a traditional American Barbecue dish with a side. 

The grey team served two types of meat, one American-style and the other Spanish, with chips, a potato and coleslaw.

The orange team had sliced and skewered beef with a baked potato and corn topped with guacamole. Corn and guacamole? That was unique.

Now, I am not a meat eater, but I had been living under the mentality of "when in Rome Madrid" and sampling some non-vegetarian dishes. (You cannot live in Spain and not try Jamón ibérico). The food was good. It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bad either. I preferred the orange plate because of some extra spice and crunchy toppings, but the guacamole-corn is not something I rushed to recreate.

We put the color card of our favorite dish in an envelope and then placed it in a glass box to determine the winning team. 

Again with Jessica and Amy. Photo courtesy of Jessica.
We were shuffled out of the barn and back on the bus before we could find out which team won, but luckily you can watch all of that drama from the full episode here (in Spanish, of course).

Overall, it was a fun day and I would definitely do it all again. But the best part? My souvenir… I made it onto Spanish TV! 


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