Tag Archives: travel

El Primer Pueblo Pitufo del Mundo

1 May

Scattered throughout the hills, its hard not to miss Juzcar

About a year ago, if you mentioned the pueblo of Juzcar, you probably wouldn’t get much of a response. It was just one of many white towns scattered in the hills and mountains of Andalusia. Although beautiful in it’s own right, there was nothing distinct that set the town apart from any of the surrounding villages.

But then something happened. And some very little people made some pretty big changes.

All thanks to one movie: the smurfs.

In honor of the opening of the new movie in Summer of 2011, Juzcar got a bit of a make-over with a thick coat of blue paint.

The official plaque of the first smurf town

No building could escape. From dilapidated houses to the church and from the library to the cemetery, everything became, well, “smurfed.”

And after the paint came the surfs – painted on balconies, poking out from behind walls, and even leaving their footsteps in paint to lead you to the best tea shop in town. (Let’s be honest it’s probably the only tea shop in town. This place is tiny!)

There was no denying the “smurfiness” that Juzcar had achieved and on June 16, 2011 it officially became the “Primer Pueblo Pitufo del Mundo”: the First Smurf Town in the World.

Word of the Day: Pitufo (n.): Smurf, as in: “How many pitufoscan you spot in the following photos?”

The old church with a new makeover



24 Nov

Lisboa… where do I even begin? I don’t know if a single post is enough to encompass the city, but maybe a top 10 will suffice.

1. um (oohm): Portuguese

I am in love with this language! While in some sense it’s so similar to Spanish, it is also very different. Furthermore, I love that a country so close Spain in location could have such a different culture. A seven hour car ride brought us to a place with a different language, different foods, different eating times (Portugal is more on an American food schedule), and different attitudes. Plus, Lisbon, with its population of over half a million, was a nice change of pace from smaller Jaén.

2. dois (doyis): Miradouros

Nothing in Lisbon is more beautiful than the city itself. The city is set around 7 hills, so it is full of lookouts. We headed to many of the miradouros, but my favorite were:

Miradouro de Graça, located on the east side of town and offering a side-view of the castelo (castle), along with a view of the rio Tejo (the river), the bridge, and much more.

Elavador de Santa Justa, which is actually an old elevator that was built in 1903. Although it costs a few euros to ride up, it offers a beautiful view of the castelo, catedral, rio Tejo and more.

3. três (tuhrays): Fado

The bluesy, melancholic chants of this traditional portuguese music are enchanting. There are many places you can go to watch a show and even a museum that traces the history of the music. We opted for a bar close to the hostel where we ordered a few appetizers, listened to the music, and watched on as the crowd joined in with the performance.

4. quatro (qwat-tuh-row): Barrio Alto

One of the best neighborhoods to end a night out, barrio alto has a wide variety of restaurants and an eclectic mix of bars. We spent the night hoping from bar to bar, drinking in the streets with the thousands of others wandering the neighborhood, and enjoying the varying venues.

5. cinco (sink-koh): Alfama

This neighborhood is a snapshot into the city’s Moorish past. We spent hours wandering the labyrinth of narrow streets and enjoying the beautiful views of the rio Tejo. We also headed to the Feira da Ladra (the Thieves Market) which is open every Saturday morning. The market had a wide variety of items from new clothes to antique records and from souvenirs to one-of-a-kind paintings. This was definitely worth the stop.

6. seis (say-is): The Drive

One of the best parts of the weekend was the road trip itself. My fellow auxiliar Valerie and I rented a car and trekked halfway across Spain and across nearly all of Portugal. It was so nice to run on our own time schedule, not one dictated by bus or train schedules. We also got to see a lot of beautiful countryside along the way, including this cool little Spanish pueblo of Belmez:

7. sete (set-ay): Belém

The neighborhood of Belem, which is located along the south-west edge of Lisbon, is a historical landmark, and should probably be a little higher up on my list. This is the place where the Age of Discovery began. The port, with the Torre de Belém is where great navigators, such as Vasco da Gama and Henry the Navigator, embarked on their world expeditions.

8. oito (oh-ee-toe): Shakira Concert

Ok, ok so the Shakira concert isn’t exactly a staple in Lisbon, but it was a pretty exciting event to end our weekend trip. The venue was located on the eastern edge of the city, close to the aquarium and big shopping center. And the concert itself was pretty good, or should I say loca, loca, loca. (PS. Shakira speaks portuguese. When did that happen?)

9. nove (no-vay): Public Transportation

One of my favorite parts about Lisbon was that it was so easy to navigate! Between the subways, streetcars, busses and walking, we were able to leave our car parked in the same spot all weekend. The streetcars are also really beautiful, and we saw many pictures and photos featuring the whimsical yellow cars.

10. dez (dehz): The People

Ok, this should probably be a little further up on the list as well, but the people in Lisbon shouldn’t go without mention. We met many helpful and friendly people throughout our journey. Although some people speak English, there are many who patiently delt with our Spanish to Portuguese rough translations. And even more were happy to tell us what to see and where to go during our stay. We even had one nice guy lead us through the city by car when we were terribly lost and couldn’t find our hostel.

My Lesson of the Day: This won’t be my last trip to Lisbon.

To Pack or Not to Pack

24 Jul

As I slowly prepare for my trip, one question has been looming over my head: how the heck am I going to get all my stuff into a suitcase?

After looking up luggage fees and purchasing a few new pieces of luggage (the nice kind with 4 wheels!) I have finally decided that minimalism or minimalismo might just have to be my new motto.

Just about every major airline allows 1 carry-on bag (at 40 lbs or less) and one personal item (purse, backpack, etc.) For trips to or through Europe/India, usually a checked bag (at 50 lbs or less) is included in the price. Additional bags or bags weighing more that 50 lbs but less than 70 lbs are subject to an additional fee of around $50.

So now that I know my limitations, this leaves only the actual packing left to do. As a good rule of thumb, I’ve learned to set everything aside that I want to pack and then cut it in half. It’s also important to consider climate, versatility, and room for souvenirs.

My Lesson of the Day: Just because I can afford to pack 140+ lbs. of luggage doesn’t mean I can carry it.