Free the Loc(k)s: Why Is Walmart Locking up Black Hair Products?

African American hair care products in a locked glass case at Walmart

Picture it — wash day and I’m out of conditioner, low on shampoo, and in need of curling custard. So, I head to my local Walmart to stock up on wash-day essentials. Imagine walking in and finding that the products for your hair type are locked up. Behind glass. Not accessible to customers without a key and direct oversight of a store employee. That was my experience when I visited a Walmart located in California’s Bay Area. 

The products for Black hair, African American hair, natural hair, textured hair, whatever you want to call it, were under lock and key. Meanwhile, a few steps away all the other hair care products were on open shelves for people to touch, read the labels, smell (let’s be real, people do it), and go.

Hair Care Products at Walmart by Marissa Teachable Moments

Shopping While Black

In the past, shopping while Black might have entailed being followed around by a store employee…usually at a distance so it wasn’t too obvious. Or, maybe it meant walking into a store without being greeted by an employee. For some, it looked like getting to the register, pulling out a credit card, and being asked for identification while other shoppers didn’t have to do the same. 

Now, shopping while Black means the products that cater to your needs are locked up. It means finding an employee to unlock the case. Once unlocked, it means being watched like a hawk while you shop because you can only remove one product at a time. Or, it means feeling rushed into choosing a product. This describes my shopping experience in a society that people claim is post-racial.

The Products for “Your People”

Unable to shake the feeling that came with shopping while Black, I decided to say something. I asked a Walmart associate why all the Black hair care products were locked up. She chuckled and said, “It’s not just the products for your people.” 

Your people? Talk about adding insult to injury. The Walmart associate proceeded to say that they’re multicultural products.

In my incredulity, I posted this exchange along with pictures online. A friend who identifies as White shared that she uses these products, which made me realize that these products are also used by people who do not identify as Black. However, it is my understanding that Black people use these products in higher quantities than people from other racial backgrounds.

The Power of Black Dollars

In fact, according to a Nielsen Insights Report, Black consumers spent $54.4 million on “Ethnic hair & beauty aids” in 2017. The total spent in that category was $63.5 million. That means Black consumers were responsible for 86% of the spending in that category. 

To be thorough, I conducted online research. Walmart’s website has a category called textured hair care. Subcategories include: wavy, curly, straight and relaxed, kinky, coily. Looking at the models, it appears that according to Walmart, “textured” might be synonymous with Black.

Textured Hair

In addition to the models on Walmart’s website, the brands listed in the textured section corroborate the idea that these are indeed products for African American people. Companies in this section include Shea Moisture, Carol’s Daughter, Dark & Lovely, SoftSheen Carson, and Pantene Gold Series. Now people may see Pantene and think, “That’s not a Black product.” Well, according to Pantene’s website, the Gold Series Collection is designed for “women with relaxed, natural, or transitioning hair. This superior care and styling line was created by Black PhD’s and scientists who understand the unique needs of textured hair.” Pantene’s description coupled with the models on their website leads me to believe that textured, natural, and transitioning hair might be code for Black.

Pantene Gold SeriesPantene Gold Series

All that to say, I feel comfortable referring to these products as Black hair care products as they have been historically used by, and perhaps were even created for, Black people. Furthermore, the men and women pictured on the products’ packaging present as Black. 

The Implications

Back to my experience at Walmart. The associate had yet to adequately answer my question about why these particular products were locked up. She said they’re locked up because they get damaged and people smell them. I directed her attention to lotion on a nearby aisle that had been pumped out. Why wasn’t that also locked up?

Appearing to grow impatient with my questions, she asked what I wanted to buy. At this point, I wanted nothing because I was beyond upset. Instead of selecting an item to purchase, I embarked on a quest to find a manager. 

In the midst of retelling my story to an associate manager she exclaimed, “It’s not racist,” then proceeded to inform me that the store manager is African American too. My word, where do I start?

Saying the practice isn’t racist because the manager is African American is like saying someone with a Black friend can’t do or say racist things. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. 

Now, let’s take some time to unpack the word racist, which the associate manager introduced into this conversation. Locking up products that are largely used by a specific group of people is a practice that’s rooted in racial discrimination. By locking up these specific products, the implication is that people who purchase these products steal. My hunch is that African American people buy these specific products at a higher rate than people from other backgrounds. Therefore, locking up these products perpetuates stereotypes about a specific group of people. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…it’s probably racist.

This practice serves as an example of the microaggressions that Black people have to deal with on a daily basis. It may seem small to some, just a policy to Walmart, but for the people who have to deal with it, it adds up and can really take a toll on one’s health. 

It seems like acts of racial discrimination are happening time and time again. Between washing our hair, waiting for a friend at Starbucks, and barbecuing, African American bodies and the products we buy are being policed. When will it end? We just want to wash our hair, drink our coffee, and barbecue in peace.

Walmart’s Response

Not satisfied with Walmart’s response the night of the incident, I contacted corporate. A representative said products could be locked up due to theft in the area or a state law. When I inquired about the state law, she admitted that she wasn’t familiar with any law. Calling corporate proved to be futile.

Eventually, I heard from a different assistant manager at the original location who shared that once the store receives more glass cases, the whole department will eventually be locked up. I pointed out the fact that there were empty shelves in the glass cases that they currently have, but she did not have a response.

The assistant manager proceeded to say that the products being locked up is “an inconvenience” and that she uses some of those products since, “I’m Portugese, Hawaiian, English, Island, Dutch. I’m a random. So we’re not saying it’s a certain race or anything.” The fact that she was trying to justify the behavior by identifying was infuriating. In my attempt to engage in perspective-taking, I can hear what she’s saying about using these products. However, when people on the boxes look like you, it becomes more than an inconvenience. As a Black person, seeing a reflection of yourself on the products that are locked up is infuriating, humiliating, disheartening, and insert any other adjective that can convey the hurt and pain you feel. 

According to the assistant manager, products are locked up based on reports of what is high theft and it’s not necessarily about shrinkage for the store. When I asked for the numbers to corroborate that, she said the manager would have those statistics. She then shared that the manager is also African American and he gets approached by people who say, “You of all people should know better.” How many times are Walmart employees going to use this man as an excuse to engage in racist practices? The fact that the store manager shares my racial background does not make it okay and it definitely does not erase the pain.

Rule or Exception

The curious sociologist in me wanted to know if this Walmart was the rule or an exception to it. So, I visited several other locations. Black, or textured, hair products were locked up in three other Bay Area locations. On the other side of the aisle, other products were on open shelves. The same was the case when I visited a Washington, D.C. location; now we’re crossing state lines.

When I strolled to the hair care aisle in one Northern California store, I was a bit surprised by what I found. The hair care aisle had no Black hair care products. At first glance, this store seemed to be lacking representation. Then, I ventured to the cosmetics section. Like some other locations I’ve visited, the cosmetics section has its own cash register, which is monitored by a Walmart employee. It was in this section that I found a shelf labeled “Multicultural Hair Care.” The products were on an open shelf, but located in a section that is being policed in a different way. Perhaps this is Walmart’s take on separate but equal.

Multicultural hair care section at Walmart

So, I ask you, is the Walmart that I originally visited the rule or an exception to the rule? At this point, I’ve visited eight stores and counting. I even ventured outside of the state. Of the eight, two had all hair care products on open shelves in the hair care aisle. The remaining six had questionable practices. It looks to me like this may be the rule — a rule that is rooted in racial discrimination and implicit bias.

Call to Action

Walmart, we have a pattern. Black hair care products are being locked up and it’s not an isolated incident or due to a state law that no one can tell me more about. I have yet to receive an adequate response about Walmart’s practice of locking up products that are used by people with a certain hair type. To recap, we’ve heard that it’s because these particular products get damaged, sniffed, and stolen. At least settle on one answer.

Readers, I need your help. Please snap a few shots of the hair care aisle at your local Walmart. Please tag MarissaTeachableMoments, Walmart, and WalmartHelp in your photos on social media. Additionally please contact Walmart Corporate if you see certain products in glass cases at your local Walmart. Finally, please consider shopping elsewhere.

To Walmart, I have one thing left to say: Let my people products go!

~ Marissa

HMO vs. PPO: Crunching The Insurance Numbers

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It’s around that time of year for open enrollment, which has me pondering the age-old debate…HMO or PPO? Each and every year I ask myself the same question. This year, I decided to really sit down and think about it. I had to crunch some numbers. So for those of you in the same boat, bear with me as I attempt to make sense of this dilemma.

To help add to this conversation, I also sought advice from a financial coach, Acquania Escarne, creator of The Purpose of Money. Together we walk through different options. 

Here’s a quick glossary of the terms we will use:

  • Calendar year deductible: The amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurer pays anything
  • Coinsurance: The percentage that you pay after you’ve met your deductible
  • Copay: The fixed amount you pay for visits 
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A network of providers and facilities that administer care to its members
  • In-network: Providers that are part of your health plan
  • Out of network: Providers who do not have a contract with your insurer
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A network consisting of preferred providers
  • Premium: The amount you pay into your insurance plan, usually on a monthly basis 
  • Preventive Care: Proactive visit that is intended to prevent future illness
  • Specialist office visit: Focuses on a specific area of concern

Things to Consider:

  • How often do you visit the doctor in a given year?
  • Do you see specialists often? In my experience, HMO requires you to visit your primary doctor who will then refer you to a specialist. With a PPO, you can see a specialist without that initial visit to your primary physician. 
  • If your health needs require specialists, are they in your network?
  • Do you have the funds to pay the calendar year deductible in the event that you have to visit a doctor for something other than preventive care?
  • Might a health spending account be useful?
  • Have your circumstances (marital, children, health) changed since the last enrollment period?

Marissa: What advice do you normally give clients when they are reviewing their health insurance options?

Acquania from The Purpose of Money: Marissa I must say you really outline a lot of the questions I pose for my clients. When it comes to monthly expenses, after housing, health insurance can be some families’ highest expense. And just to think, your employer often contributes too. 

If your goal is to save money, the simple one-stop-shop that HMOs provide is often convenient and cost-effective for most people. Plus, if you visit the doctor often, having all your doctors in one place can be very helpful if you have a medical condition that requires your doctors to talk and coordinate care.

However, as you noted, you have to get permission from your primary physician to see a specialist. This is how an HMO provider minimizes costs and streamlines treatment. An HMO tries to keep medical treatment in their facilities as much as possible. So trips to doctors outside of the network are often not covered unless it’s an emergency visit. So you have to budget for possibly paying 100% of out of network bills if you are under an HMO and get non-emergency treatment elsewhere.

If you live in a city where a HMO facility is not located this could be one reason you select a PPO plan. Otherwise, you might have to drive a significant distance to stay within your HMO network. PPOs are not just helpful when you want more control over your doctor selection. They are sometimes more widely accepted by different doctors or medical facilities across your state.

Marissa: It sounds like a PPO may have more flexibility and advantages, but it costs more. What are other factors to consider with a PPO plan?

Acquania from The Purpose of Money: It’s also important to note, even with a PPO plan you should try to always visit a doctor that is in the plan’s network. Otherwise, you might pay more for that doctor’s medical care and only be reimbursed up to the amount your plan would have paid a doctor in network. So the flexibility to see specialists or have more control over your doctors does not come with a blank authorization to see any doctor. 

One advantage, however, is that some PPO plans cover your medical expenses outside of your state and sometimes outside of the United States as well. It’s important to check the fine print of your plan first. But my plan will accept overseas medical claims if I see a doctor outside of the United States. Most people never think about medical care when on vacation or traveling, but it matters and you should know what’s covered. Otherwise, invest in travelers’ medical insurance to cover you in the event of an overseas medical emergency. Just note, this type of insurance normally only covers medical emergencies during travel and not routine doctor visits.

If you’ve been following my teachable moments, you know I like to use tables to crunch numbers. Here’s a plan comparison that might be offered by an employer:

HMO PPO In-network PPO Out of network
Premium/month $70 $90 $90
Calendar Year Deductible $0 $500 (individual) $500 (individual)
Office Visit $15 copay $20 copay 30% after deductible
Specialist Visit $15 copay $20 copay 30% after deductible
X-Ray & Lab $0 10% after deductible 30% after deductible
Preventive Care $0 $0 30% after deductible
Inpatient Room & Board $100/admission 10% after deductible $300 copay per admit then 30% after deductible
Outpatient Surgery $50 per procedure 10% after deductible 30% after deductible
Emergency Room $100 per visit (waived if admitted) $150 copay + 10% after deductible (waived if admitted) $150 copay + 10% after deductible (waived if admitted)
Ambulance $100 per trip 10% after deductible 10% emergency

30% non-emergency

Now that we’ve compared the plans, let’s walk through an example where we can actually use some concrete numbers. For the purpose of the PPO, we will assume you’ve already met the $500 deductible for the year. The teacher in me used friendly numbers to make the math easy. But I quickly learned from my research that the numbers are far from friendly; health care is quite expensive in the United States. 

HMO PPO In-Network PPO Out of network

(30% after deductible)

Premium (annual total) $840 $1,080 $1,080
Calendar Year Deductible $0 $500 (individual) $500 (individual)
$100 Office Visit $15 copay $20 copay $30 after deductible
$500 Specialist Visit $15 copay $20 copay $150 after deductible
$500 X-Ray & Lab $0 $50 after deductible $150 after deductible
$300 Preventive Care $0 $0 $90 after deductible
$15,000 Inpatient Room & Board (for 3 nights) $100/admission $1,500 after deductible $500 copay per admit then $4,500 after deductible
$10,000 Outpatient Surgery $50/procedure $1,000 after deductible $3,000 after deductible
$1,000 Emergency Room $100/visit (waived if admitted) $150 copay + $100 after deductible (copay waived if admitted) $150 copay + $100 after deductible (copay waived if admitted)
$1,000 Ambulance $100 per trip $100 after deductible $100 emergency

$300 non-emergency

The Verdict

Personally, I chose to enroll in my company’s HMO option. After relocating back to The Bay Area from Washington, D.C., I decided to go with a family doctor with whom I was familiar. She accepts this insurance, so it made the most sense for me. 

I will share that a few months after the open enrollment period, I had a health scare that required me to visit an emergency room. And in the midst of driving to the emergency room, I was frantically trying to recall the details of my plan while asking myself 20 questions. Was the facility I was visiting in network? How much will I have to pay? Should I have enrolled in a PPO? All questions that should not have been at the forefront of my mind at the time. 

Okay, we’ve reviewed some terms, we’ve compared plans, and we’ve crunched some numbers. Maybe you’re leaning in the direction of HMO because you have preferred physicians who accept that insurance.  Perhaps you want the flexibility that comes with a PPO. Now to revisit our original question, HMO or PPO? Ultimately, that’s for you to decide. 

What do you consider when choosing health coverage? Let me know in the comments.

~ Marissa

HMO vs. PPO

3 DAYS, 2 NIGHTS IN AMSTERDAM

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GETTING THERE

To get from Barcelona to Amsterdam, I hopped on a Vueling flight.  Unlike Ryanair, I didn’t have to pay ridiculous baggage fees, so I was already a happy camper.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

My friends and I stayed at Hotel Europa 92, which was centrally located to the things we chose to do during our time in Amsterdam.  While the location was cool, that’s where the buck stopped.  Personally, I would not choose to stay here again.  Lack of heat (Amsterdam was cold and rainy…I had to breakdown and buy a coat, bah humbug), not-so-friendly staff, rotten cheese for breakfast…no bueno.  This was not my cup of tea.

GETTING AROUND AMSTERDAM

It was fairly easy to get around Amsterdam, especially with a tram stop right across the street from our hotel.  When we weren’t hopping on the tram, we opted for Uber or a taxi instead.  We did this when we got caught in the rain, which happened several times during our trip.  A heads up, there’s a night tax for taxis.  I can’t recall the exact price, but I remember it was disrespectful!  I didn’t rent a bike, but I plan to do that the next time I visit Amsterdam (speaking it into existence).

WHERE TO EAT

Dutch pancakes and dutch apple pie…both definitely make my top ten list of foods I enjoyed in Europe.  Head to Wikel 43 for dutch apple pie.  It was packed, so be prepared to wait.  Trust me though, it is worth the wait!

Now onto these pancakes.  Looking at De Vier Pilaren’s menu, I was both excited and skeptical.  I eventually settled on a pancake burger and had no clue what to expect.  Y’all, it changed my life!  We were all stuffed from the savory pancakes, so we didn’t have room to try the sweet poffertjes.  Looking at them, I can only imagine that they taste like mini-funnel cakes.  I’m still bummed I didn’t get to try the poffertjes.  If you dine at De Vier Pilaren, consider going dutch on the bill and the bites.  Perfect way to cut down on the costs and try multiple things on the menu.  

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Finally, if you want a bunch of options, head to Food Hallen.  Similar to Time Out in Lisbon, it’s a lively market with an array of food, a dj, and the perfect social atmosphere.

THINGS TO DO

If it floats your boat, visit a coffee shop.  Notice I didn’t include this in the section on food (hint hint).  It’s my understanding that a café is a casual restaurant/bar, a koffiehuis (coffee house) serves coffee, and a coffee shop specializes in recreational activities.  #WhenInAmsterdam

Okay, now for the activities.  Minus a few exceptions, I’m not a huge fan of museums or historic sites.  Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Anne Frank House.  Grab your headphones, comfortable attire, and get lost in the history for a few hours.  I could’ve stayed longer; the best 9 € I ever spent.  I’d recommend purchasing tickets at least a day in advance to be on the safe side.  

After you’ve had your history fix, enjoy the more chill things that Amsterdam has to offer.  Walk around the Red Light District, check out the canals in the Jordaan District, take a picture in front of the I Amsterdam sign.  Whatever you decide to do, you won’t be disappointed.  I can’t wait to get back to Amsterdam.  Even in the dreary weather, I had a great time!

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BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for three days in Amsterdam.  

Item Cost
Barcelona → Amsterdam 74 € = 89 USD
Accommodations 133 € = 160 USD
Getting Around 30 € = 36 USD
Food and Drinks 61 € = 73 USD
Activities 22 € = 26 USD
Total 320  € =  384 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

Until next time, Amsterdam! Ciao for now,

Marissa

 

6 DAYS, 5 NIGHTS IN BARCELONA

GETTING THERE

After less than 48 hours in La Rioja, my friends and I headed to Barcelona.  We arrived in about four hours on the Renfe train, which is apparently the mode of transportation to use when exploring Spain.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

We stayed at an Airbnb in Catalonia.  The Airbnb was nice, but definitely pricey compared to my pre-Spain accommodations.  It was located in a safe neighborhood, spacious, modern technology, so I guess a splurge is nice every now and then…I say that now, but wait until I get to the budget section.

GETTING AROUND BARCELONA

Up to this point, I’ve relied heavily on my own two feet to get around — good for my wallet and my waistline.  When traveling with others, majority rules.  So in Barcelona, I found myself in quite a few taxis.  At times, we found it difficult to find open cabs in Catalonia.  So if this is your transportation of choice, be prepared to wait.  One day I insisted we walk and we stumbled upon Park Güell.  Great views, architecture by Gaudí, a quick workout…what’s not to like?

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WHERE TO EAT

Do yourself a favor and make your way to La Boqueria.  You won’t be disappointed!  Located in Las Ramblas, you can eat until your heart’s content then explore the area.  You can snack on fresh fruits, nuts, enjoy a smoothie, or sit down for a larger meal.  I was super hungry when I visited La Boqueria, so I did the latter.  I ate at El Quim de La Boqueria.  I waited for a seat at the bar for at least 30 minutes, but it was well worth the wait.  I had the salmon, second only to the salmon I had in Porto (I swear I still think about that salmon from time to time).  As I ate my food, I eyed all of the other options, which looked equally delicious.  If I return, I’ll definitely eat there again.

THINGS TO DO

Barcelona has so much to offer, so deciding what to do depends on your interests.  Explore Catalonia, Las Ramblas, Gothic Quarter…like I said, options.  

My friend and I decided to get tickets to La Sagrada Familia.  We were able to get same-day tickets online, but options were limited, so if you’re interested in going inside try to secure tickets at least a day in advance to be on the safe side.  In my opinion, going inside wasn’t worth the 15 € entry fee.  Don’t get me wrong, when you step inside, it’s breathtaking.  But after that first breath, that’s about it.

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I didn’t make it to a fútbol match (blasphemy).  I just couldn’t bring myself to spend 200 € on a ticket for a sport that I don’t particularly enjoy…or was it $200?  Either way, I didn’t partake.  My friends went and they had a great time.  So if this is your goal (see what I did there), sounds like it’s worth the price tag.

 

BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for six days in Barcelona.  I lost track of some expenses (especially transportation) so I just rounded up here and there.  Better to overestimate than under.  Don’t be too alarmed by the cost of food and drinks; a lot of our meals paired well with wine…bottles of wine.  Remember earlier when I said I was fine with an occasional splurge?  After looking at this breakdown, I’m not.

Item Cost
La Rioja → Barcelona 25 € = 30 USD
Accommodations 330 € = 396 USD
Getting Around 30 € = 36 USD
Food and Drinks 200 € = 240 USD
Activities 15 € = 18 USD
Total 600  € =  720 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

Ciao for now,

Marissa

 

4 DAYS, 3 NIGHTS IN MADRID

GETTING THERE

It took about 5 hours to get from Granada to Madrid by bus.  If you’re traveling this route, consider Alsa bus.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

Three words — OK Hostel Madrid.  Definitely one of my favorite hostels to date, top three for sure.  Located in Barrio La Latina, OK Hostel Madrid is the perfect choice for travelers looking for convenience, comfort, and fun.  Grab a drink at the bar, chill in the lounge, save some coins by preparing a meal in the kitchen…whatever floats your boat, I can’t recommend OK Hostel Madrid enough.

 

GETTING AROUND MADRID

One day, I had an option of taking a taxi for about 15 €, or partaking in a 30-minute walk for free.  Well, I wanted to get some steps in for the day, so I decided to walk.  Who am I kidding? I walked because I’m frugal.  I got lost, so that 30-minute walk turned into an hour.  All that to say, you can hop in a taxi or walk. If you walk, I hope your sense of direction is better than mine.

WHERE TO EAT

Let me start by saying that I did not get churros con chocolate.  So, I will just have to look at pictures from my first trip to Madrid and live vicariously through those.  

churros

I didn’t get churros, but I did visit Mercado de San Miguel.  Steps away from Plaza Mayor, this market has tons of options, from tapas to more substantial dishes.  So, walk around Plaza Mayor, work up an appetite, then head to the market.

 

THINGS TO DO

Madrid was my first international trip years ago.  I was a true tourist at that time, so I decided to chill during this visit.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some of the major attractions to check out — Puerta del Sol, Museo del Prado, Reina Sofía, and Plaza Mayor, just to name a few.

This time around, I chilled and did things off the beaten path.  I spent quite a bit of time at the Parque del Buen Retiro, also known as El Retiro.  Warm weather, amazing scenery, a big blanket, good reads…just what I needed for nice, relaxing afternoons.

 

One night, I took a break from chilling in the park and ventured to a club.  I went to Sala Juglar in Lavapies to check out Afrojam, which can best be described as an underground jam session.  Shoutout to Melan Madrid (more on that in a future post) for the suggestion.  If you happen to be in Madrid on a Wednesday night and want to hear good music, dance, and be surrounded by good vibes, be sure to check out Afrojam…definitely worth the 6 € entry fee.

BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for four days in Madrid.  

Item Cost
Granada → Madrid 21 € = 25 USD
Accommodations 64 € = 77 USD
Getting Around Walked, aimlessly
Food and Drinks 63 € = 76 USD
Activities 6 € = 7 USD
Total 154  € =  185 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

Ciao for now,

Marissa

 

3 Days, 2 Nights in Granada

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GETTING THERE

It was a quick bus ride from Seville to Granada.  I went with Alsa again since it was clean, comfortable, and affordable.  

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

I booked a private room in an Airbnb.   If you’re new to Airbnb, use this link to get $40 in travel credit when you sign up.  If you’re not new…trust me, I’m still looking for a discount code.

GETTING AROUND GRANADA

Safe to say my Fitbit was a great investment, which is my roundabout way of saying I walked everywhere in Granada.

WHERE TO EAT

Anywhere that offers tapas!! Granada is tapas central! It was a quick trip, so I wasn’t able to try as many restaurants as I would have liked.  Of the restaurants I visited, La Sitarilla was my favorite.  Order a few sangrias and/or (and) tinto veranos and the tapas will flow.  Plus, the staff is super friendly.

THINGS TO DO

Can you guess what I did in Granada? A free walking tour, you guessed it!  Walk in Granada offers three free tours.  I did the Sacromonte tour because by the time I arrived that first afternoon, it was the only one still being offered that day.  The views were great, but that hike was disrespectful!  If you partake in this tour, make sure you wear sneakers with good grip.

Another highlight from my quick trip to Granada was meeting up with some people I met at the hostel in Seville.  We did a tapas crawl then caught a flamenco show…in a cave.  La Cueva de La Rocío was a cool setting for the show.  Fun fact, apparently Michelle Obama attended this show when she visited Granada.  I didn’t confirm that until I started writing this post; sitting in a chair with her name on it didn’t tip me off.  I digress, near the end of the performance, I was one of the people pulled up to dance with the performers.  Definitely an entertaining night to say the least.  

I was working with the afternoon that I arrived from Seville, one full day in Granada, then I left the following morning.  Unfortunately, I did not make it to The Alhambra…blasphemy, I know! Sounds like a great excuse to visit Spain again.

BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for my time in Granada.  

Item Cost
Seville → Granada 25 € =  30 USD
Accommodations 40 € = 48 USD
Getting Around Walking is Free 🙂 #FinancialWin
Food and Drinks 40 € = 48 USD
Activities 25 € = 30 USD
Total 130 € =  156 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

Next stop, Madrid.  Ciao for now,

Marissa

 

4 days, 3 nights in Seville

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GETTING THERE

I took an overnight bus from Lisbon to Sevilla.  The Alsa bus was super clean and comfortable.  Plus, I saved on a night of accommodations and maximized my time since it was about a 7-hour ride.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

I stayed at Hostel One Catedral.  Personally, I would not choose to stay here again.  Between Ostello Bello Lake Como and We Love F****** Tourists in Lisbon, my standards were pretty high.  Unfortunately, Hostel One Catedral did not live up to those standards.  The showers were extra small, which for European standards says a lot. I think what really sealed the deal for me was that the staff didn’t seem extremely friendly.  Coming from other hostels where the staff went out of their way to make you feel welcomed and learned your name, this particular hostel felt cold.  Luckily, I met some cool people at the hostel, which was the saving grace.

GETTING AROUND SEVILLE

Similar to other spots in Europe, Seville is a walkable city.  So throw on some comfortable shoes and get to stepping.

WHERE TO EAT

One word — Eslava.  Trust me when I say, you will not be disappointed by this award-winning restaurant.  I went with someone I met at the hostel and we wanted to try everything on the menu; I think we came pretty close.   As I look at the pictures, I want to go back.

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THINGS TO DO

By now you know I’m all about a free walking tour.  So in Seville, I did just that.  The Plaza de España was the highlight of the tour.  While in Seville, I also caught a flamenco show at La Carboneria.  Unlike most of the other flamenco shows in the area, this one was free.  So sit back, sip on some sangria, and prepare to be entertained.  Other than that, I spent large chunks of my day on a rooftop with a good book.  I’ve been going, going, going for about a month now, so partaking in some downtime provides a nice break from constant exploration.

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BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for four days in Seville.  

Item Cost
Lisbon → Seville 52 € =  62 USD
Accommodations 87 € = 104 USD
Getting Around Walking is Free 🙂
Food and Drinks 98 € = 118 USD
Activities 5 € = 6 USD
Total 242 € =  290 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

Next stop, Granada.  Ciao for now,

Marissa

5 Days, 4 Nights in Lisbon

GETTING THERE

Getting from Porto to Lisbon was a lot less dramatic than my previous journey.   I listened to a few chapters of an audio book on the train ride.  Sidenote, long trips are the perfect time to sign up for free trials of music streaming services, audio books, etc.  I like to stagger the trials so that when one runs out, I can move on to the next.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

I stayed at We Love F****** Tourists.  To date, this was my favorite hostel! It felt like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.  The facilities are nice and the staff really goes out of the way to make guests feel welcomed.  Special shout out to Dale and Tiago, who were great hosts!  The hostel offers a day trip to Sintra, pub-crawls, dinner, and free breakfast.  The only downside was the amount of stairs you have to climb to get to the hostel.  Good for your heart rate, not so good after a pub-crawl.  If you’re in Portugal, I’d highly recommend checking out We Love F****** Tourists!

GETTING AROUND LISBON

Similar to Porto, you can Uber everywhere in Lisbon.  It’s also a very walkable city, which is a great way to take in the city!

WHERE TO EAT

When in Lisbon, you have to visit Time Out Market.  Traditional Portugese dishes, burgers, pasta, sweets, wine — it’s one-stop shopping.  The restaurants and bars were hand-picked by editors at Time Out.

Be sure to check out Pastéis de Belém for a Pastel de Nata.  I only had one and immediately regretted not ordering another.  The line was pretty long, so try your luck finding a table. 20170829_154820.jpg

THINGS TO DO

Lisbon was by far my favorite city in Europe! Good weather, great people, an awesome vibe — I just love Lisbon!  See the sites: Torre de Belém, Castelo de São Jorge, the view from the top of Senhora do Monte, and many more.  For a fun night out, make your way to Bairro Alto.  My favorite spot in the area was Park, a rooftop bar situated on top of a parking garage.  Need a day of relaxation after a late night? Head to Cascais for a beach day.  Or, you can visit LX Factory where you will find anything from surfboards to a quaint bookstore.  Whatever you decide to do in Lisbon, you won’t be disappointed!

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BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for five days in Lisbon.  

Item Cost
Porto → Lisbon 30 € = 36 USD
Accommodations 128 € = 154 USD
Getting Around 15 € = 18 USD
Food and Drinks 137 € = 164 USD
Activities Free
Total 310 € =  372 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

Next stop, España.  Ciao for now,

Marissa

5 Days, 4 Nights in Porto

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GETTING THERE

At this point in my European tour, the days blend together and creep up out of nowhere. Consequently, I completely forgot to secure transportation to the airport in Rome.  My Ryanair flight (more on that later) was scheduled to leave pretty early, and getting there by public transportation would be a headache because I’d have to wake up super early.  After weighing my options, I decided to book a private car with my host, for 40 €!!! If you have been following my blog, then you know I was not happy about that price. Nonetheless, I booked it and forced myself to be content with the decision.

I arrived at the airport in about 30 minutes and stood in the line to check-in.  This marked my first flight in Europe, so I didn’t know what to expect.  When I arrived at the counter, the Ryanair representative looked at my luggage and told me I didn’t need to be in this line since I only had carry-on bags.  She told me to head straight to security.  So, imagine my surprise when I got to the gate and I was told my luggage was too large and I’d have to pay 50 € to check my bag!! I was not a happy camper!! I don’t even want to look at the getting there section in my budget because it will reflect the cost of the private car, the flight, AND the baggage fee. Getting to Porto was definitely what my friend and I refer to as a #FinancialWomp.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

I stayed at an Airbnb in Vila Nova de Gaia, which is a quick trip to Porto.  My host was great and changed his schedule in order to pick me up from the airport. His generosity eased the pain of the aforementioned #FinancialWomp. My host was great and he provided great suggestions for ways to experience Porto like a local.

GETTING AROUND PORTO

In Porto, I walked a lot then took an uber if it was super late or when I was feeling lazy. Uber prices were super reasonable in Porto. For example, some of my rides were 10-minutes but only cost around 2 €.  So, I didn’t mind splurging on the occasional Uber.

WHERE TO EAT

Antigua Casa Ze da Guida.  I had some of the freshest salmon at this restaurant, which makes sense since it’s right by the water. I had an amazing salad, salmon, and sangria for 12 €. I visited this restaurant three times during my stay, so clearly I’m a fan.

Porto is known for Francesinha, a sandwich with layers of meat, topped with an egg, cheese, and special sauce.  I was told by several locals that Café Santiago makes the best Francesinha. When I went, it was pretty crowded; head to the bar if you don’t feel like waiting for a table.

If you partake in a Francesinha and need a break from the meat, check out Essencia for vegetarian options.  I had a three-course meal for 10 € and it was amazing!

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THINGS TO DO

Instead of official activities, I wandered around quite a bit in Porto.  The view from The Dom Luis Bridge is amazing.  São Bento Train Station also makes the list of beautiful things to see in Porto. After that, head over to Café Majestic, a beautiful café that’s been around for nearly a century.

Livaria Lello was highly recommended but I didn’t make it inside due to the long line.  It’s a bookstore that J.K. Rowling frequented when she lived in Porto.  I’m told it provided inspiration for her books. I’ve yet to read a Harry Potter book (blasphemy) so I wouldn’t get the connection anyway.  The trip wasn’t a waste because it was a quick walk to Clérigos Tower.

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BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for five days in Porto.  

Item Cost
Rome → Porto 222 € = 266 USD
Accommodations 90 € = 108 USD
Getting Around 20 € = 24 USD
Food and Drinks 92 € = 110 USD
Activities Free
Total 424 € =  509 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

I’m off to Lisbon.  Ciao for now,

Marissa

3 Days, 2 Nights in Venice

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GETTING THERE
It took a little over 2 hours to get from Florence to Venice by train.  Nothing too eventful on the quick trip, which I’ve learned is a good thing.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD
I stayed at an Airbnb in Mestre.  Staying in Mestre was cheaper than staying in Venice proper.  From Mestre, it took about 15 minutes to arrive at  Piazzale Roma, which is a main square for buses, trains, and water taxis.

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GETTING AROUND VENICE
I purchased the 48-hour tourist card, which covered unlimited travel on buses and water taxis.  Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify for the “Young Person’s Travel Card” for tourists up to the age of 29.  I attempted to use my student id, but it had to be coupled with a passport to verify my date of birth. So, no discount for me, womp. Still, 30€ for a two-day card was more cost-effective than buying tickets for individual journeys.

WHERE TO EAT
My trip to Venice was so quick, and I didn’t do much research on restaurants before arriving. I did stumble upon a place called Timon where you can eat on a boat, I guess that’s cool. Personally, I chose a table by the water because I have enough trouble balancing stuff on land.

THINGS TO DO
For me, a trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without a gondola ride.  A 30-ish minute trip has a set price of 80€ per vessel and increases to 100€ after 7:00 pm. Up to six people can ride in a gondola.  I met up with 2 friends that I met at the first hostel, so we were able to split the cost.  We considered asking others to join (actually, I jokingly did ask) but a lot of people were enjoying a romantic ride, so that would’ve been awkward.

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If you visit Venice, check out Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a department store near Rialto Bridge. Tons of shopping and there’s a free viewpoint from the top of the building.

BUDGET
Here’s a breakdown of my budget for three days in Venice.  

 

Item Cost
Train from Florence to Venice 40 € =  48 USD
Accommodations 98 € = 118 USD
Getting Around 30 € = 36 USD
Food and Drinks 34 € = 41 USD
Activities 27 € =  32 USD
Total 229 € = 275 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD.

 

Ciao for now,

 

Marissa