2015 has ended, and it’s time to sum up a bit how it was for me, traveling speaking. I decided five categories to talk about, both for TOP and FLOP: city, attraction, accommodation, food and drink. Unfortunately, not for all of them I took a picture, but I’ll put a relevant link when possible.
I have to say I didn’t travel very much, I only visited two countries and I spent 4 months in one of them (Spain) for working reasons so, except for some other places I visited in Italy during the year, my list won’t be very “exciting”:
So, let’s start!
Well, that’s easy. I spent this year four months there (plus two last year) so I had time to know about the city quite enough to put it at the top of this category, and for sure near the top overall of the cities I visited in my life. Madrid is a very lively city, full of places to see and things to discover, big but not chaotic, touristic but not too commercial, keeping its Spanish style despite the many cultures blended together.
It’s nice to walk through unknown barrios, discover little charming spots where to sit and look at people walking in their relaxed mood or go clubbing in the night. Madrid can offer pretty everything you can need from a big city: culture, history, entertainment, a mix of old and modern architecture, an open-mindedness difficult to find elsewhere and services that work.
The only one fault for me, and that’s a BIG one even if I know there’s nothing to do about it, it’s the distance from the coast: being almost exactly in the middle of Spain, it takes hours to reach the sea, no matter the direction you take.
I was expecting a lot from this city and that could be the reason I ended disappointed after my stay. It was during last August, I wanted desperately to go to the sea at least one day during my period in Madrid so let’s go to Valencia! But that was the problem, the seaside: dirty, houses in ruins, like abandoned, no facilities except one coffee bar and some stalls renting beach chairs and umbrellas.
Plus, the public transportation was sloooooow, with too many minutes from ride to ride, both bus and metro. It’s a pity because the rest of the city was excellent, especially the city center and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, but I can’t understand how and why they left their seaside in such a poor tourist-appealing way.
Top: Paragliding in mt. Cornizzolo
Yeah, the one above it’s me! Paragliding was one of my dreams and on my birthday I had the chance to finally do it.
The location was the Mount Cornizzolo, on the prealps in the province of Lecco (Lombardy), a famous spot for paragliding and hang gliding due to its launch camp available almost all year.
It was not the first time I tried something similar, but the first with no engine at all. We reached the launch camp with a small van, we waited a bit to have a clear spot where to take off and, after a little preparation and some info the instructor gave me, we were ready to go.
The day was sublime, perfect weather and airstreams as well. We managed to stay 40 minutes in the air, looking at the panorama and at the various lakes in the area, like the famous lake of Como. Obviously there were a lot of other paragliders, hang gliders and some sailplanes as well, it was nice and fascinating seeing all these people flying around with their colorful wings.
Something to repeat for sure, and if you pass through Italy maybe you can contact these guys: Aero Club Monte Cornizzolo.
Flop: Faro de Moncloa
It’s an interesting sightseeing place where you can have a look at Madrid in almost its entirety, but well, that’s it. Thanks to the glass walls you can have a 270 ° view of the city, plus some advisory panels explain what you are seeing.
The fee is 3 euros but it’s quite far from the usual tourist routes and when I went there on a Sunday afternoon I didn’t feel very safe, only me in the park leading to the faro and gypsies and hobos all around.
Top: Life Hotel
That was a pleasant surprise. I went to Porto Recanati, a small city on the Adriatic coast of Italy, for Christmas and I stayed at Life Hotel mainly because on that period almost everything was already booked. Anyway, the experience was incredibly good!
The hotel is not really cheap, also compared to others I booked in the past, but it’s very modern and extremely close to the beach, as you can see from the picture above.
The room was absolutely lovely, with a balcony with sea view, a big bathroom and touchscreens all around to switch on and off the various spotlights. The bed was comfortable, despite its hardness, and after a good sleep, there was an excellent continental breakfast waiting for me!
I was really satisfied with that hotel, and the staff was kind and helpful, too bad they couldn’t change the weather!
Flop: Hostal Valencia
I have to say in 2015 I never found a bad place where I spent a night, so it was not easy to select my flop. Unfortunately, I have to choose one, and my choice falls on Hostal Valencia.
Given that, in my opinion, it was really a bargain for the price I paid and the room I had, being a hostal means there’s no hall, no common spaces and no extras like breakfast. What you get is some vending machine at the desk at ground floor, a domestic coffee machine on the floor and nothing more. All the rooms are at first floor, and there’s no elevator, except the one at the stairs for disabled or elderly people, so it could be annoying if you have a lot of bags.
Anyway, the room was very nice, clean and working in all its aspect (TV, wi-fi, AC), but since I have to consider the place overall, this is my flop accommodation for 2015.
Similar to paella, fideuá is a typical seafood dish from the Valencian region, made mainly of hollow pasta noodles, fish, and shellfish. The recipe too is similar to the one of the paella and the flat frying pan used to cook it is almost the same. The taste, instead, in my opinion is much better! Rich taste, plus the texture of the noodles fits better than the one of the rice.
It was quite difficult to find a place where to eat fideuà, it seemed almost like they don’t eat it in Valencia, but after some failed attempt, I managed to find a place in a lovely and quiet square: Taberna Las Meninas, in Plaza Rodrigo Botet.
When I went to Toledo with some colleagues, after the exhausting visit to the Army Museum, democracy brought us to eat at a place in some hidden corner not too far from the museum itself. And there I tried the carcamusa.
This recipe is typical of the Toledo region, and it’s a hot stew with pork, seasonable vegetables, tomatoes, and bay leaves. It’s best served hot, but I guess that it would have been a bad experience no matter the serving. Overcooked meat, too many peas in the sauce, undefined taste.
It’s a pity because I don’t think the recipe it’s bad, I guess the problem was the place we ate in: at the end of our meal, every one of us (we were 8) had to complain about the food. The only things we agreed on was bread and water… So don’t necessarily avoid trying carcamusa, just don’t go to eat at Santa Fe in Toledo.
Horchata is a traditional beverage in the area of Valencia, usually prepared from seeds like tigernuts (called chufa in Spanish). Its recipe is centuries old and now there is a regulating council to ensure the quality of the product and the regulate the place of origin like it’s usually done with wines.
It’s a sweet and cold beverage, quite annoying to prepare (I tried, starting from seeds, and I won’t do it again!) but tasteful and refreshing! It looks like milk, and the texture is similar, but being prepared only with tiger nuts, water, and sugar it’s sometimes used in place of milk for lactose intolerant people.
The perfect combo with horchata is the fartons, as you can see in my picture above: a sort of spongy sweets glazed with sugar, some of them also filled with chocolate, perfect for dipping inside a glassful of horchata.
For the best horchata in Valencia head yourself to Horchateria de Santa Catalina, in Santa Catalina square, and tell me what you think about it!
Flop: Agua de Valencia
Another famous drink in Valencia is the Agua de Valencia, a cocktail made from Cava (a Spanish sparkling wine), orange juice, vodka, and gin.
I guess I had it too watered-down, or maybe it was a fake version of it, but in the end, it tasted only of orange juice and wine. Next time, if another will be, I’ll look for a proper place where to drink it but in the meanwhile, it’s my flop.
That was my Top and Flop list for 2015. What about yours? Write a comment about your past experiences!
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