Europe, Spain, Uncategorized, Weird Festivals

La Tomatina Festival: Bunol, Spain

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Another Successful Tomatina Festival in Bunol, Spain has come to a firework clashing close. What is the Tomatina Festival, you ask? If you’ve never heard of it, here is what you need to know: Tomatina is one of the biggest food fights in the world. Yep, remember that last food fight you had in your high school cafeteria? Well, it really does not compare to the craziness experienced in the streets of Bunol, Spain for this August Festival.

Still combing random tomato peels and seeds from my hair, I feel a sense of accomplishment as I realize that I have, in fact, survived the tomato smashing party in the streets. I started my morning off in Valencia, staying at the Tryp Airport Hotel in Valencia. With a convenient shuttle and nearby proximity to the metro system, it was obviously a prime choice. Armed with Sangria, we began our journey by metro and train to Bunol.

After some rather awkward moments riding with morning commuters sweeping off to work at around 8 a.m., we pulled into the train station. Upon stepping foot off of the metro, the toxic musk of confusion, partiers, and angry cab drivers set in.

“Don’t wait in this line for the “beep” train!” Yells a taxi driver, desperate for business. He got it too. If you plan on staying outside the city and taking the train into Bunol, be ready for a gargantuan line to purchase tickets.

The line was long, but we knew how taxi drivers tended to err on the side of an underestimate of the cost it will actually take to get to point B. So, we staked our claim in line and waited out the mad rush. In an effort to “prepare ahead” we did not bring cash (everything you have on you WILL be soggy afterward) which proved to be a slight problem when one of the machines did not take “tarjeta de credito.” Luckily, we did end up with tickets and happily zipped through the gate to await the train. As far as what to bring, be minimal. Do not bring cameras (unless it is waterproof) and other items without a very mighty Ziploc bag of some sort.

As for boarding the train, be ready to throw down like Ludacris and drop some major bows. People WILL run you over and stop to say sorry some other day. So, just resolve to be ready to protect your own life and everything will be fine. Seats will be few and far between, so plan on standing for around 45 minutes. And ladies, guys are lazy too, so don’t expect to be given a seat for your beauty. You have to earn that seat, and everyone agrees that if you find one, you get it for life.

Once we arrive in Bunol, the smell of smoked sausages, alcoholic sweat, and random urine notes fills the air. We pass some people using the bush as a bathroom since there is not one anywhere in the train station. However, had they held it an extra five minutes, they could have kept their dignity and used a porter potty (well, at least SOME dignity). Try a bocadilla-it’s a type of Spanish sandwich that is sure to please even the pickiest eater.

The walk into the heart of the festival runs you about 15 minutes. Get in there as quick as possible to try to catch a peek of the slippery pole-it is very entertaining to watch a bunch of inebriated guys climbing on top of each other to try to retrieve a ham.

Now, the difficult part of the journey- the crowds. You can plan on exceeding what it feels like to be a true sardine. People will be jabbing arms and elbows into your rib cage. You will feel like you are going to suffocate/die at some point in the day. If you are claustrophobic or have a fear of being run over by huge dump trucks, turn around and meet your party afterward.

I really did consider that I would not make it out of this alive about three times. The first was when some wider than tall man barreled his way through causing a domino effect amongst the packed crowd. The second was when I was in the streets after the second firework went off and got squeezed between a quite hairy man and a dump truck. The third was when I got elbowed in the center of my upper head by someone throwing a tomato. Aside from all that, I was good.

My advice is to take the wall side of the street to avoid being crammed in the middle of the streets. After a firework goes off, dump trucks attack the streets full of low quality tomatoes. Some people stand on top of the trucks and pelt people in the face with tomatoes from above. The rule is to “squish” the tomato before throwing it. However, from personal experience, I can tell you some do not meet that qualification. Before you know it, you are drenched, have a rotten tomato taste in your mouth, and your once beautiful outfit is destroyed. Don’t wear flip flops. You will lose them. After trucks pass, everyone scrambles into the streets to pick up loads of tomatoes and throw them accordingly.

Goggles are recommended, especially since tomato juice will get in your eyes and can cause infection. I did not have them, and I can tell you I am sorry I did not. I also recommend ladies to wear a shower cap, otherwise you will be pulling dried tomato pieces out of your hair into the next couple of days.

There is something so fun and juvenile about throwing tomatoes. Maybe it’s the age-old “rotten tomato at the bad comedian” thing. Maybe it’s because you never got the chance to join in on a major food fight because you did not want it on your school record. Whatever it is, it is fun. Just be sure to bring goggles and ear plugs and leave your bad attitude at home!

If you feel brave enough to face the semi-rotten tomatoes in one of the biggest food fights in the world, you can attend by visiting Valencia then taking the train to Bunol. The festival is every last Wednesday in August. To find out more, you can visit the Tomatina Website. 

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Europe, Nordic

Best of Copenhagen

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One step into the streets of Copenhagen, and you feel as if you’ve entered a magical world of whimsy and wonder. It is not hard to see why the guy who brought us some of our favorite fairy tales like The Little Mermaid and Frozen grew up right in the heart of it all. Yes, Hans Christian Anderson had about as good of a situation as it gets with location inspiration in writing. From the fortress to the cobblestone roads to the colorful canal houses, it is not hard to see why this creative writer and story teller developed his craft here. In fact, I challenge you to visit Copenhagen and hold back a smile. You simply cannot. The smile will simply take over your weary traveler face. Yes, if you were wondering if you should visit this Scandinavian city, the answer is yes. Do not hesitate, just go! Weather you visit in winter or summer (or anywhere in between), I assure you, you will absolutely fall in love with this city.

Where to Stay

You can really find a good variety of nice hotels that fit into any budget. I recommend the Ascot Apartments. They are very clean and nice and boast a great location- near the train station as well as main attractions and sights like Tivoli. The street that accesses the hotel is also a bit quieter so you don’t have to worry about carrying luggage through busy pedestrian areas. Every apartment comes equipped with a small kitchen so you can cook as well (if you so desire).

Things to Do and See

Copenhagen has a brilliant selection of things to see and do whether you are a museum fan or a wandering meanderer. Here are a few of the must do’s:

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Nyhavn

Just picture your classic colorful Scandinavian buildings with reflections in the water below. Boom. There you have it. If you only do ONE thing in Copenhagen, this must be it. You can walk there from the train station in about 30 minutes, or you can hop a bus or bike. You will also see some really nifty boats, even one with its very own beacon! Be sure to check out No. 20, where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote The Princess and the Pea. (Again, it’s no wonder he wrote such amazing stories living in this beautiful place!)

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Church of our Savior

This one can actually be enjoyed from afar. However, if you are aiming to go, there is a very unique quality to this church: it has spiral steps to the top that you can actually climb! So, if you want a bird’s eye view of it all, you can definitely experience it here. There is a fee to get in, and you may want to watch your time as the church does close to visitors in the late afternoon. You will be able to see the spiral top from Nyhavn, so you can choose to admire from afar if you are pressed on time.

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Rosenborg Castle

This place is fit for royalty. That is just how you will feel gazing at the rose gardens and intricate stone patterns around the castle grounds. If you wish to exploit its riches, you can pay a cool $12 to go inside. You may even get a glimpse of the crown jewels! If you’re like me, you can appreciate all its glory from the outside as you sniff the roses (or lack thereof in the winter). My advice: pull up a seat on a bench and just daydream about what life could be like living in a castle. Then, take a picture (or two) and march on to the next site.

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Take a stroll

They always say the best things in life are free, and walking around the magical cobblestone streets of Copenhagen are no exception. If you are not much for walking, you can rent a bike, just like locals do. In fact, you will see more bikes than you expect! One word of caution: if you choose to explore as a pedestrian, you will need to be aware of all the bikes whirring by! If you aren’t careful, you could get a toe run over! On your stroll, you can stop by any of the eclectic little coffee shops or restaurants.

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Rundetaarn

Christian IV had this astronomical observatory built. If you get starry eyed about the wonder of space, don’t skip this one. Even if you could care less about the universe, it is a cool tower to stop by. Going in will cost you a small fee, but you can also enjoy it from the outside. Hans Christian Anderson used the tower as inspiration for a simile about the dog’s eyes in The Tinder Box. Oh, and this place has a really cool spiral to walk up inside.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

So, it’s no secret that I am no museum groupie. However, I realize that many people are. And if you are, you should swing by this one. It has an impressive collection (or so I hear). Around $10 USD gets you the rights to stare at the relics. If not, the building is pretty from the outside. You can gasp, “So pretty!” as you walk by at the very least! For my beer drinkers, yes, that is the same “Carlsberg.” It was actually the son of the beer founder! Cheers.

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Church of our Lady

Church of our Lady is just gorgeous inside. It has more of a modern feel, but the domed ceilings are impressive as are the statues inside. The old wooden pews are also very whimsical and majestic.

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The Little Mermaid

Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? We wouldn’t have that song if it were not for Hans Christian Anderson writing The Little Mermaid. You can see her here, perched on a rock, longing for her prince. And hey, if you want to belt out some songs from the beloved Disney version, go for it! No one will judge.

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Kastellet

Journey up on high as you pass windmills and old cannons. You will see red buildings reminiscent of barns. It is a great place to walk, and convenient after you see The Little Mermaid.

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Frederiks Kirke

This church is in the middle of a royal square (where royalty stays in winter). You can see some guards here as well. Overall, a great panoramic photo opportunity lies here. It is a great place to see.

 

What to Chew:

Ahh, food glorious food! It is what many of us thrive on when we travel. “I want to try the local fare!” you scream. However, let me tell you a secret. You do not have to spend $50+ per person to enjoy local flavors. Yes, my husband and I did not spend over $50 TOTAL, per day. No, I’m not kidding. Here’s how we pulled it off:

Breakfast:

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Risteriet

This coffee bar is cute as a button. It is small, but offers a few seats to sip on your joe. The best part (besides the awesome coffee and snacks) is the cute little smiling teapots that wink at you while you drink. The total cost for one large coffee and pan chocolate was around $7. We split the large coffee and the giant pastry and we were good to go!

Lunch:

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Copenhagen Street Food

This place is almost as trendy as it is delicious. Getting there you may feel like you’ve entered some restricted dock area, but once you are inside your senses will love you for it. You can walk around and sample some of the dozens of food “trucks” that entice you will unique and imaginative food combinations. My top recommendation? Duck it. We had pulled duck with fries. It was the equivalent of $13 USD and it was more than enough to split (it was gargantuan!). Or, if your appetite is heavy, you can always add another dish as well.

Dinner:

Bronx Burger

Okay, okay. So it’s not really “local” food, seeing that it has hamburgers. But, man, is it delicious! One burger will set you back about $17 USD and you can add fries and even some nice local beers. (Try the Carlsberg IPA. You can thank me later). This place is hip and the burger is delish. We split it and we were way full.

SAS Airport Lounge

Before you scoff at this suggestion, check this out. They have good food. We sampled some local favorites like smoked salmon and sausages. It was amazing. What would have cost us around $30 USD per person was…included. Thanks airplane ticket. It was only a few bucks more to book the “SAS plus saver” on our flight out from Copenhagen to Amsterdam. So, with that ticket, we enjoyed more room on the flight, premium food and drinks, and lounge access. Worth. It.

Drinks:

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Heidi’s Beer Bar

A half-liter of beer is only 29 DKK here before 10 p.m. here. The coolest thing? It doesn’t feel like a dive bar. And, if you feel heroic, you can try your luck on some of the games in the bar, like hammering a large nail into a piece of wood. Oh, and it’s German themed-right down to the lederhousen of the bartender.

Other options for cheap food:

MAD Cooperativet

It’s like a fancy, pretty, grocery store. You can even sip water off the tap while you shop. You can get snacks, drinks, and even prepared meals here.

7-eleven

Surprised? Well, don’t be. These places are all over the world, even Thailand. And hey, if you need a quick nosh without the pocket emptying, this place has your name on it.

Copenhagen at Christmas:

Copenhagen offers some of the most beautiful and amazing Christmas markets and décor. Here, you can sample some tasty treats, ciders, mulled wine, and unique gifts. It is truly a must-do experience. If you only see one market, be sure to stop by the one near Nynhavn.

Whatever you choose to do in Copenhagen, you are sure to have a grand ole time. Just let the magic of the place take over your imagination and melt your stress away. Find some cool little shop or restaurant and just sit back and enjoy!

Uncategorized

Live at Hamburg Christmas Markets

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to attend a Christmas market in Germany? Well, you’re in luck! We are in Germany now! We will fill you in on the in’s and out’s of Christmas markets from what to drink to what to buy. It’s not too late to follow our Facebook page so that you can check out our videos and be a part of the action! We will be headed to Copenhagen, Denmark next then end in Amsterdam. You don’t even need a passport to join us, just a like of our Facebook page! See you there!

Asia, Europe, Middle East

Welcome to Abroad with a Brain!

Hi Fellow Travel Lover!

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A Broad and a Brain hiking the Great Wall of China. Why are no tourists behind us in the most popular attraction in China? Well, we will share that with you right here on Abroadwithabrain.com!

Welcome to ABroad with a Brain! The name comes from a blonde broad named Elana and her adventures abroad (get it?) with her money-saving and brainy psychologist husband, Austin. Throughout the past few years, they embarked on a quite accidental journey that enabled them to see over 60 different countries from Europe to Asia. It all started when Austin took a job overseas in France. He and Elana quickly discovered that travel was suddenly easy and affordable. (It helps to have the “brain” part, as the “broad” loves to spend money!) Then it hit them, they realized that they could share this with the rest of the world also! Yes, you too can afford to travel, all over the world! How, you may ask? Well, just follow us along as we lead the way to getting more stamps in your passport. If you don’t have a passport yet, get one! Trust us, you will want one once you realize how attainable and easy travel can be. So, come on! Grab your favorite luggage and let’s go!