Where to do happy hour from Naked Madrid

Naked Madrid

It’s no secret that I love a good cocktail. When we landed in Madrid, I made it a personal mission to find a spot that made a manhattan just the way I liked it. Not knowing any locals to point me in the right direction, Naked Madrid helped me get my bearings and discover some of Madrid’s best cocktail bars.

Now that I’m settled, I’ve been venturing out on my own. Recently I discovered another place to add to the happy hour list and was able to share my thoughts in a guest post!

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Manhattans in Madrid: Four spots for well-crafted cocktails

In a country that’s famous for two boozy things—vermouth on tap and the most bars per capita in Europe—I had high hopes for Madrid when it came to cocktails. If you’re a fan of gin and tonic, no problem, you’re living in a libation utopia. Unfortunately for me, I’ve received too many manhattans that look like this:

Madrid cocktail bars

Between the margarita glass, straws, and white vermouth, this is a cocktail with an identity crisis. And yes, there’s an olive floating in there. Lucky for you, I’ve sacrificed many a Friday night in the name of research.

Keep reading for the four gems I’ve found in Spain’s capital city.

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Recommended Read: The Curated Closet

The Curated Closet
Your life isn’t static, and neither is your personal style.    —Anuschka Rees, The Curated Closet

Living in the shadow of a weight limit on your shipped goods gives you a natural aversion to accumulating, which is how I’ve found myself incorporating principles of the whole minimalist philosophy into my life.

The Curated Closet will help you apply the “less is more” idea to your wardrobe, but it also speaks to struggles unique to us trailing spouses.

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The perks of downsizing: Why I loved our micro-kitchen

perks of downsizing

Those of us from the U.S. have a certain culture when it comes to size. Growing up with a hundred cereal options and 64 oz. sodas and dually pickup trucks will basically ingrain a bigger is better mantra into your psyche.

I have no problem laughing off my obnoxious love of big American dryers and multiple bathrooms. But—and especially after living abroad—I can also acknowledge the perks of downsizing.

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Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Shop Tour

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Karen Attman, journalist and creator of the Flavors of Bogota foodie website, has a new love: Colombian coffee. I shouldn’t say the fascination is new, per se, because she’s lived in Colombia for many years.

Nonetheless, it was Karen’s deep appreciation of Colombian beans and a curiosity as to what made them unique which resulted in the Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Shop Tour, an experience that should be added to the list of tourists and locals alike.

This past week my friend Tiffany and I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Karen and learning about Colombian coffee from the ground up. Over the course of the morning, we visited three different craft coffee houses in Bogotá’s chic restaurant district, trying a different variety of bean and method of brewing at each.

In between tastings—in addition to letting our caffeine buzz wear off slightly—we heard about the history of Colombian coffee, the specific conditions which make it the best in the world, and why craft houses like the ones we’re visiting are only just now becoming popular.

Keep reading for a few cool moments from the tour.

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Recommended Read: Knocked Up Abroad

Knocked up Abroad - Lisa Ferland

Mother’s Day is just a quick three months away and here just in time is Knocked Up Abroad—an anthology of 23 stories, each giving you a glimpse of all stages of gestation from the viewpoint of parents all over the world. The one thing tying them all together? Each story is from a family navigating pregnancy and birth outside their home culture.

Knocked up Abroad isn’t just for pregnant expats, it’s a book for anyone wading through life in a foreign country, with an intercultural marriage, or who loves travel. There is a thread of universal truth to be found in each of these personal stories.

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La Isla Baru: A few tips for a great trip

Isla Baru - Playa Blanca
Christmas morning off the coast of Cartagena, on Isla Baru

My mouth is saying no thanks, but my tone isn’t quite serious because this woman’s fingertips have somehow found a magic spot in my shoulder that is rendering me incapable of shooing her away.

Knowing better, I cave and ask how much.

Apparently, a half hour massage on Isla Baru will run you 150 000COP. At today’s exchange rate that’s about $45 USD,  the same price you’d pay at a fancy hotel spa—complete with ambiance and a legitimate massage oil—for an hour massage. Inwardly wagging a finger at myself, I try and negotiate a price more along the lines of those I’ve seen at the spa/salon combos lining the streets of Bogotá (around 30 000COP) before giving my no thanks more gusto and trying to untangle myself from her tranquilizing grip.

Baru is an island just off Cartagena’s coast and is touted as having some of the best beaches in the country. But—as you’ll find upon the teeniest bit of research—reports are polarizing.  I had heard it’s a must-visit in Colombia, beautiful with a stunning beach; I’d also heard that it was crowded, dirty, and filled with aggressive vendors. It would be one thing if it were just Cody and I making this decision, but we were in Cartagena for Christmas and were showing his parents a bit of Colombia outside of Bogotá.

In the end, it was street vendor Edgar Forever (yes, last name Forever) who convinced us that we should give Baru a chance. Edgar, as it turns out, was born and raised on Baru. According to him, Christmas morning is usually spent at home while the adults are recovering from the previous night’s festivities and would be a perfect time to enjoy the beaches, sans the masses.

Between the opinions of Cody (repeating suggestions from colleagues that we must visit) and myself (repeating every horror story I’d read on TripAdvisor), his poor parents were imparted with high hopes and low expectations. And so, the plan was set.

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How to party like a Colombian? Chiva!

chiva front

One needn’t go far to find a good time in Colombia, but there is one thing that has become synonymous with a party in this country: the chiva bus.

A couple of things every gringo should know about the chiva experience:

  1. Don’t wear nice shoes, because as you bump over and around the ubiquitous potholes that mark the roads of Bogotá, you’ll be sprinkled with more sloshing beer and spilled aguardiente than you’d like.
  2. You won’t think you’re drinking a lot, but you are. Even though the 100 tiny plastic cups of aguardiente passed around are only half full, they’ll quickly add up…
  3. I’m sorry if you’re tall. Chiva ceilings are about 5’7″, meaning that even if you’re lucky and don’t knock your noggin on one of the steel roof supports, you’ll still spend the night dancing with your neck at a comfortable forty-five-degree angle.

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Recommended Read: Living in Bogotá

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Living in Bogotá: A Practical Guide by Expats and Locals for Expats

When we moved to Bogotá, I relied heavily on Tripadvisor and a guidebook about Colombia for advice on the must-sees and must-eats of my new city. However, when you find yourself actually living in a new city—especially in a foreign country—you quickly realize travel guides are made for travelers and will only take you so far.  Living in Bogotá: A Practical Guide by Expats and Locals for Expats picks up where TripAdvisor and LonelyPlanet drop off: with all of the day-to-day info you need to settle in.

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