What to do in Zaragoza, Spain

As much as I love Madrid, it sure is nice to get out of the city for the weekend every once in awhile. On Saturday, my boyfriend and I traded in the hustle and bustle of Spain’s capital for the infamously windy Zaragoza.

Situated in the autonomous community of Aragon, Zaragoza is the fifth biggest city in Spain with around 700,000 residents. We decided to visit Zaragoza in order to show my boyfriend’s visiting parents a different side of Spain. The inviting, vibrant city did not disappoint.

Relaxing in the Plaze del Pilar.
Relaxing in the Plaze del Pilar.

Although often overlooked in favor of Spain’s better-known cities, Zaragoza offers travelers rich culture, plentiful shopping, tasty tapas and memorable sightseeing. Its location makes it a perfect weekend getaway. It took us three hours by bus from Madrid’s Avenida de America and cost just shy of 33 euros per person round-trip. Thank you, ALSA!

Find Madrid in the center of the country then trace a diagonal line toward France. You'll run right into Zaragoza!
From Madrid, trace a diagonal line toward France. You’ll run right into Zaragoza!

*Quick side note* I’m a big fan of ALSA for trips within Spain that are four hours or less. The buses are clean, comfortable and punctual. In fact, we arrived early both to and from Zaragoza! The reasonable fares make for an affordable transportation option.

Speaking of affordability, the four of us shared an Airbnb flat near the city center. The host, Claudia, went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. The kitchen was stocked with an array of beverages, including wine. YAY! As if the wine wasn’t more than enough, she also provided a fresh jar of peanut butter for breakfast. My little American self couldn’t have been happier. On top of all that, Caludia’s son drove us to the bus station on Sunday. Best Airbnb host ever or best Airbnb host ever?

Once we were settled in, the sightseeing began! If you’re planning on visiting Zaragoza, these sights are not to be missed!

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar:  Depending on where you are in your European travels, you may be tired of touring cathedrals. If that’s so, I totally understand, but hear me out. The views for this basilica’s tower are fantastic. For 3 euros, you can ride an elevator to the top of the tower for sweeping views of the city.

The view from the tower was breathtaking.
The view from the tower was breathtaking.

Palacio de la Aljafería: Can’t make it to Andalusia but craving some Moorish architecture? Zaragoza has got just what you need! Built during the second half of the 11th century, the castle features a picturesque courtyard and ceilings inlaid with gold.

Looks intimidating, right? I wouldn't dream of storming these walls.
Looks intimidating, right? I wouldn’t dream of storming these walls.
I felt right at home amidst the Moorish architecture.
I felt right at home amidst the Moorish architecture.

El Tubo: No trip to Zaragoza would be complete without an afternoon spent wandering the winding, narrow streets of the area known as “El Tubo.” What is it? Tapas, tapas and more tapas. There’s no shortage of cozy bars in which to enjoy a glass of wine, a snack and good company. We explored the area during the afternoon, but I hear the twisted streets have an excellent after-dark atmosphere.

My weekend trip to Zaragoza was a fun, relaxing way to kick off my 2016 travels. I recommend this destination for travelers wishing to discover Spain’s happy median between the country’s buzzing metropolises and sleepy pueblos. Just remember to pack a scarf! The cierzo is strong, dry and usually cold. But don’t let a little wind keep you from exploring this Iberian gem!

Have you visited Zaragoza? Would you like to visit?

Greetings from Madrid

Happy 2016 from Madrid, Spain!

It’s been way too long. Like way way WAY too long. I’ve told myself time and again I would get back into blogging, but something always seems to come up. By “something,” I mean Netflix. Let’s be real though. You couldn’t honestly expect me to be blogging while the rest of the world was watching Making a Murderer?! Peer pressure! I was essentially forced to binge!

I digress.

Seriously, no more excuses. It’s pretty sad I haven’t posted since March of last year. It’s especially sad because I have loads of exciting things going on that I want to share!

So, I’m back.

In 2016, you will witness the return of the Backpacking Brunette. My tentative plan is to post every Wednesday. I need to fill you in on life in Spain, and I want to get back to sharing my adventures.

Yay! I’m so excited to get started. I’ve got this major surge of energy (even though I’m battling a head cold), and I feel like I could tell you everything about everything right this second. However, it’s better to pace myself. Blogging is a marathon. Not a sprint. All in good time and whatnot.

As always, thank you for reading. I’ll leave you with a travel quote I find particularly inspiring. Enjoy.

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Everything I’ve been up to

This post has been a looooong time coming.

Yesterday, I was looking back through the blog, and I realized I haven’t posted regularly since November. That’s like a two-month hiatus! Shame on me.

Hopefully, you’ve missed me (don’t tell me if you haven’t). My apologies if you’ve been unable to sleep at night because you were worried I fell off the face of the earth. Have no fear, I’m alive and well. Today, I’m going to catch you up to speed on what the hell I’ve been up to. 

Last you heard, I was making the most out of my final weeks in Spain. Despite my desire to extend my stay, I realized I wasn’t in a financial position to do so. On November 17, I said goodbye to Madrid–a city I now regard as my second home–and returned to the United States.

Exploring Toledo my last weekend in Spain.
Exploring Toledo my last weekend in Spain.

My first month home was a crazy blur of reconnecting with family and friends while adjusting to life back in the States. I definitely missed Spain (and still do), but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t great to be with my loved ones. I hadn’t seen my dad or boyfriend in three months!

After the holidays, I made the move from Michigan to Indianapolis. It’s my first time living in a city, and I’m excited to be sharing this experience with my boyfriend. We’ve been exercising our traveler spirits as we explore all this city has to offer. I’ve been especially taken by Indy’s restaurant scene which if I had to describe in one word that one word would be YUM.

Celebrating New Year's Eve  in Indianapolis with my boyfriend,
Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Indianapolis with my boyfriend,

Indy is great. The Midwest is great. The United States is great. But, I miss Europe. I miss Spain. It’s no secret that I want to go back and soon. I mean come on, I fall asleep every night thinking about jamón. I have to go back!

jamon and tomato
NOM NOM NOM.

I do have plans to return to Spain in the–dare I say near–future, but I’d rather wait until those plans are a little more concrete before I put them up here for all the internet to behold. I promise to provide more details as soon as possible. Hang on, dear readers. 

In the meantime, I might not be abroad, but I will continue posting on the Backpacking Brunette. I have lots I still want to tell you about Spain and being an au pair. And hey, why’ll I’m at it I’ll fill you in on some fun things to do in Indianapolis. Additionally, I’m toying with the idea of writing a series on how to plan a European backpacking trip. If you have any post ideas for topics you’d like to read about, please feel free and let me know!

Whew. Thanks for reading all that. It feels good to all be on the same page now. I’m excited to move forward and create more informative (and fun) content for you in 2015!

P.S. If you haven’t signed up for italki’s New Year’s Language Challenge yet, get on that! The challenge officially begins January 15. The best New Year’s resolution any serious traveler could make is to learn a new language.