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  • Adonis Villanueva
  • March 26, 2017 07:02:58 AM

A Little About Us

Always Wanderlust is an alternative travel photography blog focused on inspiring others through amazing photography and inspired stories around the world. Adonis Villanueva is the photographer and writer behind Always Wanderlust, follow him on his adventures in and off the beaten path. Find inspiration in amazing photos, travel and budget tips, and funny but real stories. Travel more now!

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    17 Best Things To Do in San Diego That Won’t Break Your Bank

    With gorgeous year-round sunny weather, beautiful scenery, and so much to see and do, San Diego, is aptly nicknamed “America’s Finest City.” The only challenge you’ll encounter when deciding what to do in San Diego is how to narrow down your choices. This SoCal city has more to offer than just sunshine. That’s where this guide comes in. Exploring the many unique neighborhoods can be daunting. From the world-famous San Diego Zoo to the fantastic beaches, ultra-trendy clubs to...

    With gorgeous year-round sunny weather, beautiful scenery, and so much to see and do, San Diego, is aptly nicknamed “America’s Finest City.” The only challenge you’ll encounter when deciding what to do in San Diego is how to narrow down your choices.

    This SoCal city has more to offer than just sunshine. That’s where this guide comes in. Exploring the many unique neighborhoods can be daunting. From the world-famous San Diego Zoo to the fantastic beaches, ultra-trendy clubs to the grand historical districts, there is bound to be something for everyone when visiting this Southern California town; and most of these can even be explored in just a day. I have compiled the 15 best things to do in San Diego that you can’t miss.

    Cost of Visiting San Diego

    People are always surprised when I tell them that a San Diego vacation does not have to break the bank. There are plenty of free things to do in San Diego and budget hotels in addition to the upscale pleasures of the city as well as the luxury hotels in San Diego.

    I wrote this guide to assist you in your planning and help you enjoy visiting this year-around sunny spot. Most places mentioned here, you can do for free and some not soo free. Obviously, eating out at restaurants and partying is going to cost a pretty penny so I’m very mindful about the picks of “best things to do in San Diego” so don’t fret, you can enjoy this town even if you don’t hail from posh Beverly Hills neighbourhood in L.A.

    Best Money Saving Value

    SoCal CityPASS – If you want to save tons of money then a Southern California CityPASS is something you have to get. You can easily save $150 off the face value of the listed inclusions. If you’re going to LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, or the San Diego Zoo, it’s a no brainer. This is especially true if you’re going with the family.

    GetYourGuide San Diego – Unusual tours for down low prices. Whether you’re going to explore Balboa Park on a Segway or a Patriot Jet Boat thrill ride, GetYourGuide has you covered.

    Cross Border Xpress San Diego – Get 30% off your first car rental in San Diego.

    Viajemos – A great car portal with massive fleets of vehicles. Find economy cars, SUV, or a convertible to explore San Diego top down!

    1 – Surf at the Beaches

    Visiting the beach is undoubtedly one of the things to do in San Diego and best yet, it’s FREE. You might have discovered that the water is too chilly for beachy fun, but unless you see it in the wintertime, the water is perfect for wading, surfing, and swimming for most of the year. The best San Diego beaches feature prominently on most travelers’ itineraries because of its availability year-round.

    Surf at San Diego's many beaches

    Surf at San Diego’s many beaches

    What you do at the beach depends on weather and personal taste, but these are the San Diego beaches I recommend you check out:

    Coronado Municipal Beach

    With calm water and a broad, flat stretch of sand, this is a fantastic beach for families with younger children.

    La Jolla Shores Beach

    The gentle waves make it an ideal place to learn how to surf, and there are lifeguards on duty until dusk.

    Mission Beach

    If you love water sports like water skiing, stand up paddle boarding and aqua cycles, this is the San Diego beach for you.

    Pacific Beach

    Pacific Beach is the most significant stretch of sandy beach in PB and is one of the most popular beaches in San Diego. It’s a great spot for swimmers and surfers of all ages.

    Del Mar Beach

    There are baths, showers, and lifeguards at this family-friendly San Diego shore.
    Moonlight Beach — you will find all you need at this shore, from picnic tables, fire rings, lifeguards, and restrooms to volleyball courts, a snack bar, and gear rentals.

    2 – Go to Little Italy

    Little Italy is the definitive place to go for delicious Italian food. A myriad of Italian restaurants and bakeries, wine bars, and boutique shops awaits. All along India street, you’ll find the finest restaurants like Assenti’s Pastas, breweries like Bolt Brewery, and wine bars like Davanti Enoteca. Yes, you’ll spend some money, but it’s money well spent!

    3 – Check out Coronado

    The dreamy town of Coronado is an island stronghold of hotels, resorts, beach-front restaurants. Make the short, two-mile travel over one of San Diego’s most recognizable structures, Coronado Bridge, or take the ferry to get there (which will cost money). The central business district, which occupies Orange Avenue, is full of shops, restaurants, and family-friendly hangouts.

    4 – Play in LEGOLAND

    LEGOLAND California is a must-visit attraction for families with children ages 2-12. Older siblings and parents can get in on the fun, too. There are over 60 rides, 4-D movies, building actions. Kids particularly love mini trading figures with staff around the park, learning how-to drive-in kid-sized LEGO automobiles, the Dragon Coaster and Miniland USA using its LEGO skyscraper.

    See castles made of LEGO blocks at LEGOLAND in San Diego

    See castles made of LEGO blocks at LEGOLAND in San Diego

    In the warmer months, LEGOLAND Water Park is a great place to cool off, and SEA LIFE® Aquarium is a good deal of fun year-round. In summer, mainly when the water parks are open every day, LEGO-loving families can and do spend multiple days here.

    Tip: Grab your tickets ahead of time in SoCal CityPASS. Also, before planning a trip to LEGOLAND, it is essential to check their calendar since the park is closed on select Tuesdays and Wednesdays between September and February. The parks are also open on weekends or seasonally during the school year.

    5 – Head Out to La Jolla Cove

    Take in the luxury of this SoCal seaside village of La Jolla Cove, a fast 20-minute drive from downtown San Diego. Wind through Prospect Street to navigate shops like the iconic Warwick’s, the country’s oldest family-run bookstore, or dine with a sea view at high-end restaurants if you can afford it. Free things to do is taking pictures! La Jolla is the most-photographed place in San Diego.

    6 – Check Out the San Diego Zoo

    The Zoo is world-renowned, and it spans 100 acres of land while housing over 3,700 endangered and rare animals. Entry fee is $56 per adult at $46 per child – You can buy your tickets ahead of time at SoCal CityPASS .Spend the day at the zoo learning about various animals or watch shows and animal presentations. In the summer, Nighttime Zoo event series allows visitors to stay later well into the night. There are loads of restaurants throughout the park where parents can recuperate with a much-needed afternoon beer.

    7 – Party in the Gaslamp District

    The Gaslamp Di San Diego’s center of nightlife and the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown is where you will want to be if you’re looking to eat at restaurants, party & dance, or just people watching. You’ll find every flavor on any restaurants to suit every taste, all within walking distance of one another, and a plethora of dance clubs and bars.

    Take a stroll along Fifth Avenue to take in the vibe of the Gaslamp Quarter and then enjoy a meal (or two) sitting in a sidewalk table as the denizens walk by. Then cap off the evening with a cool show at the House of Blues.

    8 – Hit up SeaWorld San Diego

    Families from around the world come to San Diego especially to see SeaWorld San Diego. Entrance Fee is going to cost $91, but there are special discounts available. In addition to its marine exhibits, SeaWorld San Diego also has a few thrilling rides such as the Manta roller coaster and Shipwreck Rapids. Plus, there is the famous Sesame Street Bay of Play for young kids, making it one of the greatest things to do in San Diego for families.

    Go see amazing Orca whales at SeaWorld

    Go see amazing Orca whales at SeaWorld

    Highlights of SeaWorld San Diego comprise Turtle Reef, Penguin Encounter, sea lion feedings (guests can purchase a tray of fish and throw it to them), Otter Outlook, and various touch pools. The once-famous live orca shows are replaced by beautiful documentary movies of orcas in the wild on a three-story screen, and there are still live sea lion and dolphin shows.

    9 – Straddle the Cliffs at Sunset Cliffs

    With postcard-worthy sea cliffs and views, San Diego’s aptly named Sunset Cliffs neighborhood offers visitors with sweeping panoramic ocean views. It is the city’s most popular spot at sunset. Part of its neighborhood overlaps with Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, which is a 68-acre reserve that is known for its sea caves, rock arch formations, and very steep cliffs. Blaze a path along the shore for a scenic walk or brave a stroll along the cliffs, while envying the sprawling mansions nearby.

    10 – Explore the Old Town

    Historical San Diego is not always evident, but a sure bet to take in the city’s past would be to pay a visit to Old Town State Historic Park. It may be overly touristy and contrived, but if you look hard enough, you will find authentic snippets of San Diego’s past.

    Must do: There are several excellent restaurants in Old Town, but the Old Town Mexican Cafe with its homemade tortillas is among the most popular choices.

    11 – Go Kayaking in Mission Bay

    Visitors to San Diego who are interested in watersports might want to remain near or at least plan on visiting Mission Bay. The manmade bay offers calm water and waveless beaches for kids. Things to do at Mission Bay include stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, and kayaking. Boat rentals for fishing, water skiing, and leisure are available, but if you are hungry for thrills, you could also measure it up a notch by trying a water-powered jet pack.

    Trails for walking, running, and biking circle the bay passing by several playgrounds and grassy areas that are excellent for picnics and play. There are RV parking and even a municipal campground. If you are coming to San Diego specifically to surf, sail, kayak, or paddleboard, you should be aware that a number of the Mission Bay hotels have water sports centers onsite (mostly Action Sports Rentals). Otherwise, you can try the Mission Bay Aquatic Center.

    12 – Go to an Annual San Diego Event

    Annual events big and small also bring massive traffic to San Diego. You have probably heard of most of these, and it is worth seeing what is happening in San Diego during your visit so that you can plan accordingly. Be aware that if you are attending a unique annual event in the city, it will help to prepare well in advance since the town can get crowded and tickets to local attractions can sell out.

    These are just some of the San Diego events that draw people here from all over:

    San Diego Comic-Con (July)

    The San Diego County Fair (June – July)

    Del Mar Racing Season (July — September)

    KABOO (September)

    13 – Watch the San Diego Symphony

    Taking place takes place each summer is the Bayside Summer Nights, which is a quintessential San Diego event series showcasing the amazing San Diego Symphony. It takes place along the active Embarcadero (#17 below) on the east side of San Diego Bay.

    The symphony features guest headliners, which previously have included legendary singers the likes of Tony Bennett and Diana Ross. The concert series kicks off during Independence Day weekend and continues through Labor Day.

    14 – Watch a Sunset at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

    A rocky natural reserve with scenic ocean views and landscapes that is great for a quick hike or multi-day of exploration. Torrey Pines is no secret and crowds flock here for a good reason. The reserve is open from dusk ’til dawn 365 days a year, and all cars must pay an admission fee, which ranges from $10-20 depending on the day.

    Sunset at Torrey Pines

    Sunset at Torrey Pines

    It’s one of the cheapest things to do in San Diego that gives the most bang for the buck. If you’re into photography, this spot offers lots of opportunities for both the professional and budding photographer.

    15 – Watch a Race at Del Mar Racetrack

    The track is open starting Wednesday through Sunday and holds about eight to 12 races daily. The Del Mar Racetrack is a real draw for the high rollers and casual gamblers alike, so for the budget conscious travelers, this may not be the ideal place to be. However, lightning-fast horse races that can get your heart pumping might be worth all the losses accrued. There is a 30-minute interval between races to place your bets or refill your drinks.

    16 – Explore the Embarcadero

    San Diego’s walkable harbor-front is teeming with shops, exciting sights, and eateries, that looks across the bay to Coronado Island. A lot of the Embarcadero’s curiosities is floating on the water; the USS Midway and some legacy ships of to the Maritime Museum.

    In November, the Embarcadero stages the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, while the San Diego Symphony Orchestra (# 14 above) plays the Bayside Summer Nights from late-June to the beginning of September.

    17 – Balboa Park

    Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park with multiple parks, parks, play areas, and 17 museums. It is a true city treasure, and you will find many things to do in Balboa Park for nearly everyone.

    Look out for the street entertainers and bike rentals. Plan to eat as you’re here since there are some wonderful restaurants in Balboa Park. Alfresco dining at the Japanese Friendship Garden for Japanese food favorites or Panama 66 with its craft cocktails are our favorite choices.

    Check it out on a Segway Tour!

    There you go, whether you have a week or a day in San Diego, you have your itinerary full of cool and fun things to do.

    HAVE YOU BEEN TO SAN DIEGO?

    The post 17 Best Things To Do in San Diego That Won’t Break Your Bank appeared first on Always Wanderlust.


    Argentina Travel Guide | By Car, Train, or Foot (How to Do it Right)

    Argentina, which is officially known as the Argentine Republic, is a country on the South American continent. The whole land area of Argentina is approximately 2.7 million square kilometers, making it the 8th largest country in the world. Whether you choose to explore the country by car, bus, foot, or other ways you can imagine, Argentina is a massive task to cover. One of the highlights of traveling around South America for me was renting a car in Buenos Aires and road-tripping throughout...

    Argentina, which is officially known as the Argentine Republic, is a country on the South American continent. The whole land area of Argentina is approximately 2.7 million square kilometers, making it the 8th largest country in the world. Whether you choose to explore the country by car, bus, foot, or other ways you can imagine, Argentina is a massive task to cover.

    One of the highlights of traveling around South America for me was renting a car in Buenos Aires and road-tripping throughout Argentina. If there’s anywhere in the world you are going not to regret spending money on car rentals; it is here. You could technically get rental cars in the bordering Latin countries like Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay; but it’s more of a hassle, and you won’t find it as easy as Argentina. If driving isn’t your thing, then there are other ways to explore this beautiful country that we’ll also cover in this guide.

    What You Need To Know Before You Go


    Visa Requirements

    If you are a tourist with US, Canada, or Australian citizenship, you do not need a visa to travel to Argentina but have to pay the $160 reciprocity fee.  That’s because Argentines are required to pay this fee to enter the countries mentioned above. Some countries have exemptions to travel to Argentina like Russia. My wife (who’s a Russian citizen) did not have to pay that fee while I had to. There is a 90 day limit of stay after which you have exit the country.

    Internet

    I found connectivity in Argentina lacking, and that pretty much goes for all the countries in South America. It’s simple enough to have WiFi hotspots in hotels and hostels, but they’re often slow. Much slower than their European counterparts. On the plus side, you can find that almost every restaurant or coffee shop offers free WiFi access to clients.

    Crime

    The Crime rate in Argentina is quite significant for petty theft. However, it’s relatively safe for backpackers and even solo female travelers. Taxi scams are common in major cities. Trust your instinct and be smart. Always make copies of your travel documents in case you lose them. Buy good travel insurance for a piece of mind! It’s important to take proper precaution when traveling to Argentina.

    Power Adapters

    The standard sockets used in Argentina are 220 and 240 volts. Use a plugin adapter when you’re traveling from a country with a different electrical outlet.

    Food

    Argentina is famous for its meat and barbecue, or Asada. Chimichurri is a green salsa that’s slightly tangy and is often served with steaks and meats. Empanadas are also famous; they are pastries filled with a sweet or savory filling then baked or deep-fried. The climate favors growing a variety of grapes, so wine is also good in Argentina.

    Perito Moreno Glacier

    Perito Moreno Glacier

    Perito Moreno Glacier

    Part of the Los Glaciares National Park, located in the province of Santa Cruz, the Glacier is one of the most famous destinations in Patagonia. The glacial field is the third largest freshwater reserve in the world.

    You can easily get there by car or by bus, and it’s one you shouldn’t miss. I highly recommend you hike it and take a tour guide with you. Check out the Tour section of this guide my recommendations.

    Capital Buenos Aires

    The city of Buenos Aires has temperate weather and somewhat cool and dry in the winter. I was there during summer, and it was humid and hot like the Philippines, a tropical place. I also spent a winter there, and it was cool, which I preferred.

    Airport

    The Ezeiza International Airport, or Ministro Pistarini, is the primary international airport in Argentina. It lies 14 miles south-southwest of Buenos Aires. I found a good deal using some apps on my phone, and you can also see it on specific days.

    Patagonia

    In the summertime, you can expect warm days and a couple of rainy or cold days. The geographic diversity in Argentina can be attributed to the climate of the area, which may lead to extreme temperatures, rain, and sunlight. The best time to see Patagonia is from October to March. But, you can expect the weather in Patagonia to be erratic.

    Iguazu National Park

    foz de iguazu garganta del diabloA trip to Argentina is never complete without taking the time to drop by Iguazu National Park and Iguazu Falls. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Iguazu National Park covers a total land area of 550 square km (212 square miles). Founded in 1934, the park showcases the natural beauty of Argentina, particularly the subtropical jungle it covers.

    In this park, you’ll find various species of fauna and flora. Iguazu waterfall divides the upper and lower parts of the river. The river also flows through Brazil although a large proportion of the river and falls belong to Argentina.

    Cost of Travel


    Argentina is not particularly cheap. You can expect to spend $50 a day on average if you’re backpacking and twice that if you’re doing it with some luxury. I rented a flat in Palermo for a month at almost $1200 and some change that included all fees.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Travel off-season. Summer in Argentina, especially Buenos Aires is humid and hot. Winters are mild and much more pleasant.
    • Camp where you can. If you’re out in Patagonia the refugios are expensive and hostels even more. Pitch a tent if you have one with you.
    • Buy wine in grocery stores. Wine is great in Argentina! I bought gallons of box wine there, and the quality was terrific!
    • Couchsurfing is common and welcomed so do it when you can.
    • Domestic flights are expensive, so travel by car or bus whenever possible.
    • Take an overnight bus and save on a night’s worth of accommodation.
    • Carry cash into the country; it’s much cheaper than taking it out on the exchange or ATMs.

    Recommended Places To Stay in Argentina


    Buenos Aires

    San Carlos de Bariloche

    Mendoza

    Puerto Iguazú

    Ushuaia

    Cafayate

    How to Rent A Car in Argentina


    How to rent a car in ArgentinaIt’s a good idea to book a vehicle in advance, particularly for those who have a car preference or if you’re traveling in high season. Be sure you hire from a reputable car hire firm; there are many horror stories online from small vehicle hire places.

    You should always, inspect your rental car thoroughly before driving off to ensure that the rental company accurately notes all scratches and problems. It’s a fantastic idea to take photos of any bumps and scrapes also, to cover yourself.

    There are long distances between destinations and even fewer gas stations in between. Check with the car rental company where you can fill up, and then ensure that you do, even if you still have half a tank. On the northern route, Tilcara has the only gas station around for miles, so don’t drive on past it.

    There are lots of police checkpoints along the roads, especially when crossing between Salta and Jujuy provinces. Keep all of your paperwork close at hand in case.

    Check your itinerary with the car hire company before leaving, especially during the rainy season. Also, during the Dakar Rally period, some roads and streets might be closed so plan accordingly.

    It usually isn’t difficult to show up in the tiny towns without accommodation already booked, but if you are traveling in January and February, during Carnival period, it is essential to book ahead as the cities host highly popular festivals and resorts and hostels fill up very fast.

    STEP 1

    Plan your routes, making sure you understand how much you have to travel. This is vital because most rental agencies in Argentina do not offer unlimited miles or kilometer. In fact, the majority of rentals offer you a maximum of 200 kilometers every day. As a result, you could incur extra charges for going over the daily limit.

    If you’re planning to do a lot of driving while in Argentina, make sure you lease a car that does not charge by the distance.

    STEP 2

    Compare prices online and then book together with the agency that provides you the best bargain. Based on where you intend to visit, there are numerous rental agencies in the country. One car rental company I recommend is Discover Car Hire, which will aggregate all your rental searches from all car rental companies. Another place to look is Economy Bookings, which will help you find cheap car rentals around the world.

    STEP 3

    Compare prices from a person when you arrive in your place to find out if you’re able to get a much better deal. If you discover a better price, do not be afraid to use that as leverage to get your rental service to coordinate with the price. It is not uncommon for tourists to ask for lower prices on car rentals. This is because leasing a vehicle in Argentina isn’t cheap, as it may average up to $60 a day.

    STEP 4

    Carry the right paperwork and documents with you at all times. Including a valid driver’s license, car registration and proof of insurance. Given the many checkpoints from Argentina, it is not unusual for the local police to stop motorists and inquire for various documents.

    Exploring Argentina By Car Itineraries


    Mendoza Itinerary

    Mendoza is most famous for its acclaimed wineries surrounded by Andean peaks, but there’s plenty to do in the area that does not involve grapes. The city is a university town with lots of lively bars and restaurants attracting a younger audience.

    During your visit to Mendoza, we suggest driving out to the famous wineries of Norton, Ruca Malen, and Trapiche for lunch and wine.

    Then, drive to Aconcagua (22,840ft/6960m) the tallest mountain outside of Asia, and the maximum peak in the southern hemisphere.

    For a mere US $1.30 1.30, can access the park up until the trailhead, which makes it possible for you about two hours of hiking.

    In the end, when you’ve eaten, sipped, and improved your way around Mendoza, it’s time to relax. Drive to the Termas Cacheuta, about 90 minutes from town.

    Lake District Itinerary

    Patagonia’s Lake District is just that a district full of gorgeous lakes. It’s a remarkably scenic area, perfect for exploring by car.

    There are many paths you can take, but here is our suggested itinerary: From Bariloche head to Circuito Chico then spend half a day in Limay River, then a day in Villa La Angostura, a day in San Martin de Los Andes, a day in Lake Lolog, and finally back to Bariloche.

    Highlights of the road trip include:

    • Bariloche and the beautiful lakes.
    • Hikes around Lake Nahuel Huapi and Correntoso Lake in Villa La Angostura.
    • Lanin National Park.
    • San Martin de Los Andes.

    Salta Itinerary

    The vast assortment of places across this large area means there is a wide selection of routes, based on how much time you have. You can even choose to stick to the safer tarred highways, or throw caution to the wind and hit the gravel roads.

    Go straight to Purmamarca on day 1 and spend the night there to soak in the breathtaking vistas of this unbelievable Cerro de Siete Colores. Get up early the next day and journey to the spellbinding Salinas Grandes, before backtracking northwards to Humahuaca, where you will spend your second night. Then head out to explore the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a valley famous for its brightly colored hills and long history predating the Inca Empire.

    Highlights of this area include:

    • Museums, architecture, parks, plazas, and restaurants in Salta City.
    • Quebrada de las Conchas National Park on the drive from Salta to Cafayate.
    • The amazing wineries are surrounding Cafayate.
    • Quebrada de las Flechas.
    • The colorful mountains in Purmamarca.
    • The blindingly white Salinas Grandes.

    Head to Tilcara where you can check out the Pucará de Tilcara pre-Incan ruins and the Painter’s Palette hills by the town of Maimara. Finally, head out to Cafayate on your way back. Stop along the way to see the weird and fantastic rock formations in the Quebrada de Cafayate.

    Road To Cafayate

    Road To Cafayate

    Highlights like La Garganta del Diablo and El Anfiteatro are clearly signposted along the road. The town of Cafayate itself is a charming place set in the center of Salta’s high-altitude wineries; a place to indulge in some exquisite wine-tasting and enjoy some terrific hikes.

    Patagonia Itinerary

    One could argue that the Chilean side of Patagonia is the one to visit but don’t discount what the Argentian side has to offer. But don’t fret, renting a car will give you the freedom to explore both! You will have the freedom to stop and go as you please whilst enjoying the views. You should stop first at Bariloche then after exploring the small cozy town pack up for an easy 6-mile trek to Refugio Frey, where tasty empanadas and home-brewed beer awaits along with views of the Toncek Lagoon.

    Note: if you want to drive your rental car over the border from Argentina into Chile, you’ll need written permission from the leasing company and the best insurance to do so. Speak to the car rental agent before trying to cross, or you’ll be turned away in case you don’t have the correct documents.

    Many places in Argentina are desert, and you will often find yourself out in the middle of nowhere, which is great if you’re properly prepared. This means having a full tank of gas, first-aid kit, a spare tire, tools, a map, data plan on your telephone, a Spanish translation app or phrasebook, plus non-perishable food and plenty of drinking water.

    Alternatives To Driving and Car Rental


    While renting a vehicle in Argentina is a fantastic way to explore the country, it is not for everybody. There some are barriers that might make you uncomfortable. The street signs are written in Spanish may confuse you. Many streets in several areas are quite rough, especially in the rainy season. Some passes are long and winding, and there is a somewhat lax approach to road rules that local drivers follow which could be a bit daunting.

    Train

    The railroad network in Argentina spans a total of 47,000 kilometers and ranks 8th in the world. However, due to the expansion of roads in the country, there was a sharp decline of its construction.

    Buses

    Argentina has an extensive bus network. There are several comfort options for long-distance travel such as “cama” seats that recline to a bed position. Food is often served on board as well as wifi and booze. Fares vary, for example, from Buenos Aires to Mendoza it’s under $40 while a trip from Bariloche to El Calafate will net you over $100.

    Guided Tours vs. Doing it Yourself


    I used to be a proponent of doing it all yourself, but, the more I travel, the more I realize the value of doing tours. True, you do have the freedom to explore at your own pace without tours. You would in some occasions save money without having to pay for a tour but you get as much bang for your buck in the long run.

    Moreover, what you gain in the liberty to travel at your own pace, you lose from the penetration a tour guide can provide you on local culture and history. If you are really interested in learning more about Argentina, a guided tour might be your best option.

    There are a lot of day tours operating out of Buenos Aires and other cities. Guided tours and trips are a great alternative if you don’t have a lot of time in the location or if you wish to sit back and take in the scenery whilst learning from an expert local guide.

    Recommended Tours

    From El Calafate:

    From Buenos Aires:

    From Salta:

    Other Tours:

     

    The post Argentina Travel Guide | By Car, Train, or Foot (How to Do it Right) appeared first on Always Wanderlust.


    Port Townsend | Discovering Washington’s Beautiful Victorian Seaport

    Port Townsend is a seaport town punctuated with beautiful Victorian Era mansions that sit in the Northeastern tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula’s amazing coastline. I often pass by the town on my way to Olympic National Park with only a gleaming thought to explore it but never got around to (until now). On what was to be an overcast rainy day,  my wife and I (accompanied by our pup Lucky), decided it was a good day to check it out. We’re currently headquartered in...

    Port Townsend is a seaport town punctuated with beautiful Victorian Era mansions that sit in the Northeastern tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula’s amazing coastline. I often pass by the town on my way to Olympic National Park with only a gleaming thought to explore it but never got around to (until now). On what was to be an overcast rainy day,  my wife and I (accompanied by our pup Lucky), decided it was a good day to check it out.

    Port Townsend's historic district is a bustling arts community

    Port Townsend’s historic district is a bustling arts community

    We’re currently headquartered in Bellevue, Washington and the drive to the remote town is about 2 hours.  You can reach it either way by taking the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry or driving south through Tacoma and then taking Highway 16 and 3 north.

    No matter which route you choose to take, the route is similar in the time spent getting there. However, you may prefer the little scenic ferry ride through the Puget Sound; which I recommend if you haven’t done so already.

    Victorian Seaport and Arts Community

    Right before the entrance on the outskirts of town, we were greeted by a sign that says Port Townsend is a Victorian Seaport and Arts Community. Following the route on East Sims Way road, eventually turned to Water Street as it meandered through the historic downtown.

    Directly on the left stands a cliff with old Victorian Era architecture built on top. We can see the historic Bell Tower as we passed through blocks of colorful mom and pops cafes; eventually making left on Jefferson Street towards our eventual parking spot near the Bell Tower.

    historic bell tower port townsend

    The historic Bell Tower of Port Townsend

    The Bell Tower offers some decent vistas of the town. We were there in winter and the leaves that would have obstructed the views were not present.

    We then took the Haller Fountain Stairs nearby towards the city below. Here will be your first impressions of the impressive artistic feel to the town.

    At first glimpse, one can definitely see why this small Seaport town of 10,000 people can claim to be an Arts Community. There are over 300 Victorian-style homes with window shops offering a variety of different colorful crafts with vintage cafes and restaurants on every corner.

    From what we can see, Port Townsend is a dog-friendly town. There were visitors strolling with their dogs on the main street, port side, and some underground in the under town shops.

    A Short History of Port Townsend

    The downtown area is not huge by any measure. Back in the mid-1800s, the town was called the City of Dreams because planners speculated that Port Townsend would become the biggest harbor of the United States’ west coast. Many of the ornate Victorian buildings were built with the hopes that town would become a large international booming shipping port and a big city.

    The planners developed the town as big as they can until the railroad came around and all rush came to Seattle instead but not without leaving behind awesome Victorian and Romanesque Revival buildings and architecture.

    Jefferson County Courthouse in Port Townsend

    The Jefferson County Courthouse in Port Townsend was built in 1892 in Romanesque Revival style.

    The population started to decline in the late 1800s as the Northern Pacific Railroad failed to build connecting rails from nearby Tacoma. Today, Port Townsend stands as the entry point to the Puget Sound, earning it the current moniker as the “Key City.”

    My wife, who’s from Saint Petersburg (Russia), mentioned there’s a “European feel” to the town. I’ve spent the larger part of my travel experience through Europe and can attest to this observation. The red-bricked Victorian buildings, colorful cafes, and boutique shops contribute to this feel.

    Climate and Weather

    Just about everyone knows that Seattle is one of the wettest city in the nation and although, Port Townsend is just literal across the pond, it receives only half as much rainfall. This is due to its unique geography; it lies in the rainshadow of the Olympic. This means warm dry summers and cool damp winters. If you’re a bit muddled with the weather in Seattle, do the drive or hop on a ferry across to the other side of the pond!

    Things to do in Port Townsend

    The town is surrounded by water so there are many places to launch your boat or yacht (if you have one). For the rest of us who are grounded, there are many state parks around or nearby the city, which includes the famed Fort Worden – where the 80s film “An Officer and a Gentleman” was filmed. There’s the old Fort Towsend State Park and if you venture further away, the majestic Olympic National Park.

    Port Townsend: Hastings Building

    The Hastings Building is one of the Victorian Era buildings you will see in the historic downtown.

    Below is a short and but exhaustive list of things to see and do in Port Townsend:

    Port Townsend Festivals

    Owing to its moniker as an Arts Community, Port Townsend sees its fair share of festivals. There are several music festivals in the summer featuring jazz, blues, and classical music. There’s an international film festival in September and the Wooden Boats festival, which attracts visitors with over 300 wooden ships.

    The Starrett Mansion

    Port Towsend Starrett Mansion

    Port Towsend Starrett Mansion

    This beautiful Victorian house was built in 1889 which The National Historic Register recognizes as one of  3 pivotal historic landmark houses in Port Townsend. You can actually book a room in the house via Airbnb (Sign up and get up to $55 in credit!) – It has a queen bed with a private bathroom and a small private porch.

    Fort Townsend State Park

    This park is located 2 miles south of Port Townsend. It provides access to the shoreline of Port Townsend Bay. The views are a bit industrial on the beach. However, if you take the nature trail, you will be under cover of redwood canopy.

    Chetzmoka Park

    It’s a nice little park that offers sightings of native bird wildlife and well-maintained garden and landscape. A local favorite and a great place to have a picnic.

    Jefferson Museum of Art & History

    Historical museums with exhibits and offers walking tours in the summer. If you’re looking for information and Port Townsend’s history, the docent here is more than happy to give you a story or two.

    Fort Worden State Park

    Point Wilson Lighthouse is located in Fort Worden

    Point Wilson Lighthouse is located in Fort Worden

    This is the biggest State Park in town and was once an army base. It was used as a coastal defense system and you can still see machine guns and turrets from a bygone era.

    There’s a nice lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula called Point Wilson that’s also worth visiting. It was once an Army fort so you can still see military buildings and barracks all around.

    Northwest Maritime Center

    A nice place if you’re interested in learning about boats. There are craftsmen working on restoring old wooden boats and the ambiance has a maritime feel to it.

    Historic Fire Bell Tower

    This bell tower sits above a cliff overlooking downtown. It’s very hard to miss. Built in the 1890s for volunteer firefighters to combat a fire.

    Point Wilson Lighthouse

    It’s an old historic lighthouse which guards the entrance to Admiralty Inlet – the waterway connecting Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

    Port Townsend’s Historic District

    Port Townsend Historic District Shops

    Port Townsend Historic District Shops

    The historic district is no doubt the main draw in town. There are quaint shops, cafes, restaurants, and fine exemplary display of Victorian Era architecture. You can get lost wandering the main street in your thoughts; well, you can’t really physically get lost since it’s a very small town.

    You can spend an entire day just window shopping, checking out the museum or learning about in sailing in the Maritime Center.

    SEE ALL ACCOMMODATIONS

    Dining Options


    Doc’s Marina Grill

    Excellent location right at the marina, Doc’s offers something for everyone. You can have burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips, salads, pasta, steaks, seafood, and even a few vegetarian selections.

    Better Living Through Coffee

    Better Living Through Coffee Port Townsend

    Better Living Through Coffee Port Townsend

    A cozy cafe with an awesome waterfront view. Their food is made onsite using organic local produce, local grass-fed beef, cage-free chickens & organic eggs, and wild caught Salmon.

    Finistère

    A fine restaurant offering fresh oysters and wine pairings. Most ingredients are locally sourced like dandelion greens and goat cheese.

    HAVE YOU BEEN TO PORT TOWNSEND?

    SEE MORE WASHINGTON DESTINATIONS

    The post Port Townsend | Discovering Washington’s Beautiful Victorian Seaport appeared first on Always Wanderlust.


    How to Catch Mistake Fares & Save $190 (on Average) on Tickets

    Do you want to know the secret to getting cheap flights and traveling around the world cheaply? Do you sometimes wonder how travel bloggers and Instagram influencers seem to always be jetting around the world without a source of income? A lot of them do it by finding mistake fares. Believe it or not, most of us travel bloggers do pay for our own airfare and most of us aren’t jet-setting around the world for free. Most of us use tools and apps very smartly to our advantage to land us the...

    Do you want to know the secret to getting cheap flights and traveling around the world cheaply? Do you sometimes wonder how travel bloggers and Instagram influencers seem to always be jetting around the world without a source of income? A lot of them do it by finding mistake fares.

    Believe it or not, most of us travel bloggers do pay for our own airfare and most of us aren’t jet-setting around the world for free. Most of us use tools and apps very smartly to our advantage to land us the best airfare deals.

    Trust me, I’m using the same techniques and tools they’re using and I’ve flown my way around the world to over 53 countries.

    What the secret sauce?

    Mighty Travels Premium (MTP)

    Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s another affiliate or paid sponsored post for some common travel website that Skyscanner or Google ITA Matrix already does for free.

    But MTP is anything but and can land you deals like $100 ticket from SFO to Singapore!

    So what makes Mighty Travels Premium a cut from the rest?

    Mighty Travels Premium is a website that collects and analyzes airfare data from anywhere to everywhere and helps you figure out the best airfare deals anywhere worldwide.

    How to Catch Mistake Fares & Save $190 on Average on Airline Tickets

    Destinations like this is just a click away.

    The service is driven by data and it crunches the information really good to provide you with the best deals possible. There is no “Buy Now” buttons urging you to purchase as soon as possible like other airfare deal websites.

    Mighty Travels Premium takes no commission from any airline or booking agencies, it makes it only on the subscription service so there’s no incentive to pressure you to buy some fares that’s not always the best bang for the buck.

    Never miss a good deal – Start your Free 30 Day Free Trial.

    How does the service work?

    When you sign up for MTP you will get access to the informative Dashboard. You can set your home airport at the get go but you can set a wider cluster of departure airports if you wanted to. For example, say you live in Los Angels but also interested in finding deals from San Francisco or San Diego.

    Might Travels Premium: How to Catch Mistake Fares & Save $190 on Average on Airline Tickets

    If you want, you can even target a wider zone of departure since the MTP has split the world in 11 different zones.

    There is an extensive notification options that allows you to select what cabin classes you want like Economy, Premium Economy, Business, and First Class.

    The dashboard’s search interface is intuitive and allows you to search through all awesome deals and the fares it found. The information crammed into the dashboard is pretty extensive. In just a few seconds it was able to find all ‘deals’ from the ‘US to Europe’ and also showed me prices (San Francisco was the cheapest) but all secondary airports showed up in the results too.

    The dashboard also contain information about bags fees, carry-ons, mileage points that have been flown and earned, and even how much miles are available for redemption (if you choose not to buy a airline ticket).

    Another nifty feature is the email or text alert. Every few days or so, I get an alert, only once, that highlights a deal that the service has found. I found this feature very useful and I’ve found excellent deals that I was able to book right away.

    Mistake Fares

    What are mistake fares? And what to do with them?

    Occasionally MTP will send you deals that come with a remark ‘might get cancelled‘ or as a ‘Curated Alert‘. Sometimes you will find also find these deals in the Dashboard. However, mistake fares will only be around for a few days in the dashboard and won’t be bookable any longer until they disappear.

    Why does it happen?

    Airline companies typically have a price already in mind that they want to sell tickets for. It’s usually driven by a CPM model which is the same way MTP use to price deals. The problem is, some airline companies use outdated technology and fares can sometimes pop up at 70-99% below the targeted price level the airline company had in mind.

    More often, these mistake fares are available just for a few minutes and only through some selected OTAs/ Booking engines in some specific country. MTP will send you an exact booking link that allows you to book mistake fares at the time of the curated alert.

    Might Travel Premium: How to Catch Mistake Fares & Save $190 on Average on Airline Tickets

    Flight first class through mistake fares.

    Although, airlines are not obligated to honor the fare, they typically decide within two weeks if they plan to honor it. As a general rule of thumb, the higher a price and shorter the duration of when the mistake fare can be booked; the more likely the airline company will honor it.

    There are no hard and fast to land mistake fares and you just have to be patient. It can take a few weeks or more. Allow at least two weeks to make plans such as hotel bookings. Some airlines may reimburse you for these expenses but often takes a lot of effort on your side.

    Should you book mistake fares?

    Yes. If you are flexible and have time to nurture a booking. Mistake fares can land you a first class cabin with economy prices. MTP can help you find and land these mistake fares.

    Other Things You Need to Know about Mighty Travels Premium

    MTP supports 196 currencies worldwide but just the English language so far.

    The service charges $7.99 a month or $4.81 per month if you get a year’s subscription. The service easily pays for itself if you purchase just one ticket the entire year. The last deal it was able to find for me was easily $450 less than what I would have paid for not using the service.

    If you catch one mistake fare and booked it, the service would have paid for itself 10 times over. This is why I highly recommend Mighty Travels Premium

    Never miss a good deal again – Start your Free 30 Day Free Trial.

    Things I liked:

    – you get an email everyday for the first few days explaining how the service works

    – once set the notification are hands free and works like a charm

    – never short on deals – some of the routes are dirt cheap and I have to restrain myself from buying

    – the nifty option to set a destination filter (Paris here I come!).

    – option to filter out low quality airlines with a Skytrax ranking

    – the deals have pricing information on average prices

    Things I didn’t like:

    – information can be overwhelming – seems like it was made for business than consumer

    – some of the deals did not price out as I expected (MTP only provides help in booking deals but sometimes it takes a while to find the correct or working booking link).

    Never miss a good deal again – Start your Free 30 Day Free Trial.

    HAVE YOU BOOKED A MISTAKE FARE?

    The post How to Catch Mistake Fares & Save $190 (on Average) on Tickets appeared first on Always Wanderlust.


    How to Budget & Plan An RV Road Trip (w/ RV Trip Planner)

    What’s better than traveling the United States from the comfort of an RV? Absolutely nothing. When you’re traveling in an RV, you control where you want to go and when you want to do it (literally – you’re in control of the RV)! Sound like fun? I thought you might think so – which is why I put together this guide on how to budget and plan for an RV road trip before you head out. We’re going to go over different fees to expect, how to properly plan your RV road trip, and some...

    What’s better than traveling the United States from the comfort of an RV?

    Absolutely nothing.

    When you’re traveling in an RV, you control where you want to go and when you want to do it (literally – you’re in control of the RV)!

    Sound like fun? I thought you might think so – which is why I put together this guide on how to budget and plan for an RV road trip before you head out.

    We’re going to go over different fees to expect, how to properly plan your RV road trip, and some tips to make the most out of your adventure.

    Let’s dive in!

    Budgeting the Road Trip: RVing Costs

    Let’s say you’ve never gone RVing before.

    You’re unsure what to expect from the trip – but the money aspect is really concerning you.

    How much should you save? How much should you bring? Are there any surprise fees that you’ll face?

    We’re glad you’re asking yourselves these questions (we certainly did when we first started RVing).

    If you purchased an RV for yourself, you know how much you owe per month for payments (unless you were able to pay it off).

    If you’re looking to rent an RV, you can save yourself a lot of money! We have a guide on how to do it if you need more info.

    Renting an RV can cost between $50-$200 per night depending on what size and type of RV you rent.

    Now, let’s go over a few things that you’ll need to budget for (and some things you may not be thinking of).

    Right off the bat, there are:

    • Campground fees
    • Gas costs
    • Food

    These are the basic fees that you’ve probably thought of already.

    What you may not have thought about, though, is whether you want to stay in a campground or boondock!

    Boondocking (or staying “off-grid”) can save you money when it comes to campground fees, but you’ll need to have a few solar panels, a backup generator, a few extra RV batteries, and more (so… are you really saving money?).

    Boondocking is perfect for those who are experienced campers that want to be secluded in nature.

    I don’t recommend boondocking if you’ve never gone RVing before.

    It can be dangerous and there is a multitude of things that can go wrong – that said, it can be a blast and you can see some amazing sights. Just be careful and do your research before you choose this route!

    Other than those three costs, there are some other important fees that most people don’t take into consideration (unless they’ve lived or traveled in an RV before). Those fees are:

    • Indoor/outdoor activities
    • Souvenirs
    • Tolls
    • State parks

    I can almost guarantee you that you’ll end up spending a bit more while you’re traveling than you may think – and it’s not because you’re spending frivolously!

    Certain gas stations cost more, tolls can cost more (or less) depending on the route, size, or weight of your rig, and you’re going to want to go to a few state parks while traveling!

    While I believe you should have a budget while you’re traveling, you shouldn’t feel bad for the occasional “splurge”.

    Important: I highly recommend putting together an emergency fund for those wacky “how the heck did that just happen” moments.

    Flat tires, engines that don’t start, someone gets sick (or hurt), food poisoning, your pet gets anxious and vomits, the list goes on and on.

    Having money for emergency use only is incredibly important regardless of whether you’re traveling or not, but when you’re in an unfamiliar area it’s even better to have. (If you’re renting an RV, most rental companies have free roadside assistance for this kind of thing.)

    RV Trip Planner & Itinerary

    rv trip planner

    With the budget out of the way, let’s talk about how to properly plan your RV road trip.

    There are two ways you can do this and both are great options.

    Let’s break it down:

    1. RV Trip Wizard App

    The RV Trip Wizard is one of my favorite ways to plan an RV trip – for so many reasons!

    You’re able to choose from more than 17,000 campgrounds, see the cost of your trip, set driving times (and distances), and so much more.

    Check out this video to see how the app works in action:

    After watching that, it’s a no brainer as to why you’d want the RV trip planner app, right?

    The one downfall is that the price of the app is $40. Which, in all honesty, isn’t an unreasonable price to ask for something this helpful.

    However, I know what it’s like to be overly cautious with money while traveling at first, and there are free ways to plan your trip.

    But, if you can afford it – I definitely recommend this app.

    2. Roverpass

    Roverpass allows you to look through more than 20,000 RV-friendly campground listings, lets you save your favorite ones, helps you organize your trip, and more!

    They offer two ways to pay:

    • 30-day membership for $30
    • 12-month membership for $50

    It’s a great way to plan your trip, but in my opinion, the RV Wizard app offers more and is a bit more functional.

    Do a bit of research to see which RV trip planner app will work best for you, though! After all, you’re the one who will be using the app :)

    Make a Solid Itinerary

    I’m not saying you have to make an itinerary and follow it to a T… but, I am saying it’s better to have a plan laid out than to go somewhere without having any clue as to what you want to do.

    I’m a plan-freak. I love making lists and checking things off. But, I also like being spontaneous and (let’s be honest) lazy while traveling.

    I don’t want to do something every hour of every day… but I do want to know what I’m doing each day.

    A simple itinerary for me would look a bit like this:

    • Pick up RV (if I’m renting one)
    • Drive to RV campground
    • Sign in & set up my site (pull out the slide outs, bring out the RV outdoor mat, etc)
    • Do some light grocery shopping
    • Relax for the rest of the day

    That’s just an example for the first day, though. I think you get the gist of an itinerary to create one for yourself!

    State parks, hikes, kayaking, going to the ocean, going to a museum, or just relaxing in your RV are perfect examples of things you can put on your itinerary while on vacation. You don’t have to do everything in one day (though you might want to).

    Pro Tip: Be sure to factor in the driving, setting up, and breaking down aspects of RV camping (as I did in my itinerary example). That’ll set you back a few hours if you don’t plan for it! And driving/setting up your rig can be pretty tiring, so you may not want to do much on your arrival day.

    Final Tips on RVing

    rv trip planner: How to Budget & Plan An RV Road Trip

    We’ve reached the end of the article!

    By now, you should know how to budget and plan your perfect RV road trip. Forget some of what was mentioned in the beginning? No worries, here’s a quick summary:

    • You’re going to have unexpected costs on your RV road trip (and you’re going to need an emergency fund)
    • RV trip planner apps will be your best friend
    • Itineraries are key when planning a road trip and will save you a headache in the long run

    I also have a few quick tips that weren’t mentioned in the article:

    • Don’t be ashamed if you have to take a break from driving for a while
    • Pack snacks for yourself while driving (even if you don’t have far to go)
    • Download audiobooks and podcast episodes to listen to while traveling
    • Bring the RV essentials with you on your trip
    • Take lots of pictures while you’re on vacation

    The most important tip I have for you is this:

    Have the time of your life! It’s not every day you get to travel the states in an RV!

    Are you looking forward to planning your perfect RV road trip? Let me know in the comments below!

    If you’ve already gone on a road trip, tell me how your trip was! Which or what RV trip planner app do you use? What would you recommend to RV newbies going for their first time?

     


    rv trip planner: wandering rv authorAuthor Bio: Kayla Widmer is a former full-time RVer and blogs about RV travels with her husband Bill at The Wandering RV. She also shares mouth-watering recipes at her food blog, The Fantasy Kitchen.

     

    The post How to Budget & Plan An RV Road Trip (w/ RV Trip Planner) appeared first on Always Wanderlust.


    Unraveling the Roots of the Catalan Culture

    Where did the Catalans come from? Tracing the roots of any culture is a tough task, especially trying to represent a cultural group as accurately as possible without writing a novel on the topic. The history of Catalonia dates back to the middle ages, but don’t worry; I won’t bore you with a history lesson. All you need to know is that since the XIII Century (some claim it’s the XI Century when the first ruler emerged) Catalonia has had its own rights and parliament, which may explain why...

    Where did the Catalans come from?

    Tracing the roots of any culture is a tough task, especially trying to represent a cultural group as accurately as possible without writing a novel on the topic. The history of Catalonia dates back to the middle ages, but don’t worry; I won’t bore you with a history lesson. All you need to know is that since the XIII Century (some claim it’s the XI Century when the first ruler emerged) Catalonia has had its own rights and parliament, which may explain why to this day the Catalan’s have such a strong cultural identity and desire to preserve it.

    Connection to Catalonia

    Now, why in the world would a Canadian (that’s me!) have any interest in the topic of Catalan culture, other than for the fact she’s living in Barcelona and is simply curious about its origins like the rest of us? I have a few motives for why I am choosing to unravel the roots of the Catalan culture (or rather, scratch the surface). The first is the most obvious, and the same reason many have. That is to gain a more in-depth knowledge to understand and appreciate the unique culture of the Catalans to the fullest.

    The second reason for my Catalan cultural exploration is more personal. From the first moment I experienced the vibrancy of this region, I felt an instant connection to it. Catalonia left a strong impression on me. There was always something unique about the way people gathered and celebrated local events. No matter how many times I watch a Correfoc (Public Pyrotechnic Display) or observe the Castellers (Human Towers), I am continually amazed at how the Catalans congregate in masses towards a common goal.

    correfoc catalunya catalan culture

    To an outsider, their traditions may seem like nothing more than some crazy Catalans gathering together. However, by tracing the roots of the Catalan culture, you begin to understand just how deep their cultural ties run and how these somewhat strange traditions are grounded with historical significance. Along with traditional ties that help understand their cultural identity, the language, arts, and cuisine of Catalonia also play a significant role.

    Correfoc Fire Running Evening From Barcelona

    Catalan Culture in Catalonia

    I’ve never lived in a place with such a deeply rooted cultural history. Daily, individuals are standing up in support of the preservation of their culture even though the forces fighting against its survival are strong. I’ve often asked myself, from where this strong sense of identity exactly originated.

    ‘Was there one extremely crucial point in the development of the Catalan culture or were there a series of events which have made up the Catalan culture as we know it today’?

    There are countless aspects of the topic that fascinate me, and it’s why I am choosing to shed light on this. The conflicting views of identity amongst the Catalan people (mostly regarding language and tradition) are in many people’s opinion, the main root of the ongoing dispute for independence. Economics, Taxes, Pride, and Dignity all play a role. However, I’ve chosen to touch on the broader aspects. These are the ones at the core of their being, and which connect the Catalan people to a common cause; that is their cultural identity.

    Catalan People

    The universal identity of the Catalan people can be characterized by innovation, creativity, hard-working nature, and quirky humor. Their unofficial national symbol says it all. Some places have eagles, Canada has the beaver and maple leaf. In Catalonia, well, they have a Burro (donkey). The burro stands to represent two main aspects of the Catalan identity. First, the symbol describes their dedicated nature and hard work ethic, and second, their cheeky poke at the Spanish, who use the bull as one of their symbols. It’s worth noting, the Catalan’s are quite light-hearted and don’t take themselves too seriously.

    Silly symbols and shenanigans aside, Catalonia has been through a lot, well which part of the world hasn’t really. There is not one single event that shaped the cultural identity of Catalonia, instead, there are a series of events that came to define the culture we know today. Language and traditions have held strong. Even the typical food eaten in Catalonia tells a story about their rich past.

    Historical tidbit: The Moors hadn’t fully made it to the North of Spain, and because of this, many of the advanced irrigation methods and technologies also never arrived in Catalonia. Many people say this is possibly why the Catalan’s are so resourceful and have a strong work ethic.

    Catalan Language & Cultural Roots

    It’s debatable whether Catalonia has ever been its own nation, but one fact is that the language has always existed alongside its people. We can trace the roots of the language to the colonization of Tarragona by the Romans. There are two converging theories on the language. One is that it began from a combination of a vulgar form of Latin spoken at the time, plus some Arabic. The second is that Catalan evolved from Provença and a mix of French that was spoken at the time. These two languages created Occitan which later supposedly developed into Catalan. Over 9 million people speak six main dialects (Valencian, Rousellanese, Northern Catalan, Central Catalan, Balearic, and Alguerse) of Catalan today.

    To a foreigner, Catalan sounds like a mix of French, Spanish, and Italian. I often joke with Catalan friends that if you chop off the last letter of a Spanish word, you have Catalan. Well, let me tell you, I’ve learned that this isn’t the case. Catalan is its own language, not a dialect of Spanish at all.

    Autonomy

    I mentioned that Catalonia has come up against a lot over the years; the freedom of the language is no exception. During the war of Spanish succession (1701-1714), Catalonia lost its autonomy, and its constitution dissolved. This event resulted in a significant decline in the Catalan culture.

    Historical Tidbit: During the Industrial Revolution, more money had been generated, a new class emerged, and the culture had a massive overhaul. Cultural institutions popped up, and events in the Catalan language took place everywhere. One such example is the Jocs Florals (The Floral games), where Catalan poets performed their works. The Floral games are still celebrated today although, payment to see the games are no longer made in flowers.

    The Catalan language appeared to be strong and thriving once again, that was until the Franco dictatorship came into power in 1939.

    How was language affected?

    Well, as you’d expect, it was banned. You wouldn’t dare be caught speaking Catalan. Let’s just say; you’d get more than a slap on the wrist, your life could very well be at risk. Laws were so extreme that during the reign of Franco, newborns couldn’t even be given Catalan names. Luckily, following the end of Franco’s time in power, Catalonia returned to observe a higher level of freedom than before. Things began to flourish once again, the arts included.

    Friendly Factoid: Around the XII Century, the first evidence of Catalan language was discovered in the “Homilies d’Organyà,” one of Catalonia’s historical texts.

    Funny Phrases: There’s an old saying that goes something like “all fish in the Mediterranean speaks Catalan.” Some versions refer to Aragonese instead of Catalan. The common saying refers to when Aragon was a respectable empire and massive traders among the Mediterranean civilizations.  As one of my colleagues says, “Trading and making money is kind of a thing in our culture.” Even nowadays, Catalonia is the region in Spain with the most exports and imports.

    Arts

    Now, I won’t go too much into this, but I couldn’t mention Catalan culture without giving recognition to a great master of Catalan Modernism art, Antoni Gaudí. If you’re reading this, you most likely know who I’m speaking about right now. Short in height, bushy beard, unassuming and modest. Alright, well that’s maybe not the best way to describe him, but it paints an initial picture for you at least. Gaudí. was a true master of his craft, and not only that, he stood firmly for the preservation of the Catalan culture. He was also a solid protector of Catalan modernism.

    casa battlo gaudi

    If you have the chance to visit Barcelona, you must book a tour of Gaudí’s main masterpiece. Due to the popularity of the architectural wonder, it’s best to book skip-the-line Sagrada Familia tickets well in advance. Gaudí’s works aside, you can also visit the George Orwell square (commonly referred to as trippy square). After the Civil War, the famous writer came out with a work called  “Homage to Catalonia.” If you’re a fan of his writing, this is a must read!

    Sagrada Familia Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

    Catalan Traditions

    There are more wacky traditions in Catalonia than I can keep track of, and I love them all! If you’ve never been to the region, get your butt here. Also, remember, that no matter what time of the year you come, there’s always something exciting happening. Without some knowledge of the most deeply rooted traditions, it’s difficult to understand the roots of the Catalan Culture fully. Let me share with you a snippet on the origins of the most significant of all the Catalan traditions.

    Correfoc

    correfoc celebrationFire, pitchforks, and dancing devils; this pretty much sums up what Correfoc is. The direct translation is “fire-run,”. Correfoc is one of the wackiest traditions I’ve ever experienced. The pyrotechnic spectacular is said to have originated out of the Ball de Diables (Devil Dances). The medieval theatrical performances were a re-creation of a duel between Evil and Good. Street theatre performances like this typically appeared during festival days that fell in the religious calendar. After the death of General Franco, much of the traditional folklore and heritage underwent another revival and consolidation.

    Castellers

    It’s the perfect display of trust, strength, oneness and the most unusual form of cultural manifestation across Europe. Well, at least that’s how I see it. If you’re not familiar with Castellers, it’s basically a massive human tower. Although impressive, comprising of up to 10 levels, on average 100-200 people, and up to 10 meters tall, what’s even more unique is what it represents.

    The first documentation of the tradition of Castellers dates back to around 1801. Popular at nationalist celebrations, Castellers evolved from Ball de Valencians, a folk dance that typically ended once a human figure was raised. As years past, the final figure grew in importance. The taller you could make your figure, the more you would outdo the other groups. The final figures eventually became their own performance, and hence why we have Castellers today. Other theories on its origins are in circulation, but this one appears to hold the most weight.

    What’s so fascinating about Castellers? If you’re asking this question, I’m guessing you haven’t yet witnessed the spectacular yourself. Let me say, the first time you watch them, you may even feel yourself sweating with a bit of anxiety. Even as a spectator, it’s a bit nerve-wracking, especially when the final tier is built. The tower is completed by a small child who climbs all the tiers until they arrive at the top. The tradition, which has received UNESCO Status in 2010, is a must see!

    La Sardana

    The most famous typical dance of Catalonia, La Sardana, links in with Catalan nationalism. I won’t get into that here, but know, dances like La Sardana, or music like the Catalan rumba, have strong roots in the Catalan culture.

    Are you traveling to Spain in the Fall/Winter Season?

    Check out the following festival days for an insight into the roots of the local culture.

    • September 11th: Every year, Catalonia celebrates, La Diada (National Day of Catalonia). On this day in 1714, the Catalan troops were defeated by the forces of King Philip V. Ever since, on September 11th, Catalan’s join together in support of their rights and freedom.
    • September 24th:  The week-long festival of La Merce, which celebrates the Patron Saint Lady of Merci) floods Barcelona with cultural vibrancy. You can watch, the Ball of the giants (Les Gegantes), Fire parades (Correfoc), and Castellers, all over the city.

    Catalan Food

    There’s no shortage of delicious Catalan specialties. Some examples include Escudella (typical soup), Botifarra (traditional sausage), and Calçots (bbq spring onions). Catalonia has no shortage of tasty treats. One of my favorites is called “pa amb tomàquet.” The literal translation is bread with tomato. The popular item is a staple here in Catalonia. You can eat it for breakfast, as a tapa or for merienda (mid-evening snack) with or without a slice of jamón, and/or cheese.

    catalan traditional food

    The Catalans themselves often joke that “pa amb tomàquet” came about as a way to save money by using the leftover bread from the day before. Considering Catalans are usually tight with their money (not my words, that’s coming straight from the lips of many locals), this would make sense. As merchants, the Catalan people were always managing money, skimping and saving wherever they could. Their clever ways of money management have carried through into today.

    Barcelona: 4-Hour Foodies Market Tour

    Preserving the Catalan Culture

    Throughout history, there were many influential individuals and self-organized groups fighting against the preservation of the Catalan culture. Although there are still many opposing factors none are stronger than the opposition against the independence movement.

    Politics aside, I’m not here to close off with a political debate. Frankly, not having lived here my whole life, my vision of the big picture is not as broad as someone who was born here. My aim in unraveling the roots of the Catalan Culture was to expand your knowledge of the importance and significance of it so that you could gain a deeper appreciation for the culture of this incredible region. Catalonia has been my adopted home for the past few years, and I adore it the same way I love my place of birth.

    Maybe you haven’t ever visited Catalonia, are traveling through, an expat living here or you’re originally from Catalonia. Whatever your situation is, I’m sure we all can agree on one thing. There are many layers to the Catalan culture. It is the diversity and vibrancy of the culture of Catalonia that initially captivated me, and it is what continues to hold my attention. I do not doubt the strong sense of culture here, and after experiencing it, I now understand more about the universal driving forces behind why there is such a strong desire to preserve it.

    HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING NEW WITH CATALAN CULTURE?


    Written By: Tanya Lesiuk

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    The post Unraveling the Roots of the Catalan Culture appeared first on Always Wanderlust.


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