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.


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.


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?



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.


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.


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.



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,




My trip to La Rioja was super quick; I don’t think I was there a full 48 hours.  So, I’ll give a quick recap.  The only hostel with availability had 22 beds, so I chose to stay at FG Logroño Hotel instead.  It was pricey (to me), so I don’t feel guilty about spending that first afternoon in the comfy, queen-size bed.  Highlights (aka pretty much all I did)… a wine tour and I ate the best mushrooms ever! If you find yourself in Rioja, visit Bar Angel and have some mushrooms for me.


Item Cost
Madrid → La Rioja 25 € = 30 USD
Accommodations 65 € = 78 USD
Getting Around 10 € = 12 USD
Food and Drinks 43 € = 52 USD
Activities 38 € = 46 USD
Total 181  € =  218 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD.  Considering the fact that I was only there for 2 days, I definitely spent way too much money.  Talk about a financial womp.

Ciao for now,








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


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.



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.


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.  


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.



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.


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,



3 Days, 2 Nights in Granada



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


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.


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


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.


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.


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,



Travel Burnout: Why I Take a Vacation During My Vacation


We Love F****** Tourists does it again with this cozy area.

One thing people rarely tell you about traveling, it wears you out.  If the health app on my phone is correct, I’ve been walking 10+ miles a day.  Then, I’m up past my normal bedtime, socializing with people that I’ve met.  I can’t shake my early-bird habits, so I’m up by 7:00 each and every morning.  I’ve been going, going, going.

This piece seems random, but I was inspired to write this after reading a comment that a fellow blogger left on a previous post…thanks for that 🙂  She said that although I was in Seville for four days, I didn’t tell my readers too much.  I’m new to the blogging world, so for a second, I was in my feelings.  I thought to myself, she’s right…I could’ve done more, I could’ve done a better job.  I didn’t give away much in that post because I didn’t do much. Then I thought, wait, I’m not going to feel bad about that.  I’m not one of those people who does it for the ‘gram, or in this case, for the blog.

To get from Lisbon to Seville, I took an overnight bus.  I didn’t sleep much on the bus due to adulting; I had to deal with some things at home while navigating being six hours ahead of the east coast.  So when I arrived in Seville, that first day was a wrap.

Even if I had slept on the bus ride, taking various modes of transportation just days apart can be taxing on your body.  Sometimes, you just need a break from anything that requires physical or mental activity.  In real life, I’m a person who likes to treat myself to those moments.  When given the choice, I will Netflix and chill instead of leaving the house at least 6 times out of 10.   So to be constantly traveling, constantly exploring, constantly engaging…it can be draining.

All that to say, traveling can result in being tired but people don’t tell you that.  On the contrary, people often say, “You slept on your vacation?” “You didn’t see (insert x, y, and z)?” Yes, I slept.  No, I didn’t make it to that attraction.  And guess what, I’m not gonna feel guilty about it.  I had a great experience, and I did it on my time.

So in case you never hear this again let me say…it’s okay to take that nap.  It’s okay not to see everything.  It’s okay to find a spot where you can chill and read, or binge watch a show.  You don’t have to be Dora the Explorer 24/7.  


The Secret Garden at Ostello Bello Lake Como was the perfect spot for some downtime.

What type of traveler are you? Always on the go, or do you indulge in some down time? Let me know in the comments.  Also, to help you sleep better, I’m giving away a sleep mask.  See the details below to enter.

Happy Travels,


Feeling Lucky?

Enter for your chance to win a sleep mask.

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Separate and Unequal (Black-ish Spoiler Alert)

I’m new to the “Black-ish” bandwagon.  So far, I appreciate how the show utilizes humor to discuss real issues.  Like the episode that tackles Columbus Day, which in my opinion, could be used in a cultural competency course.  Most recently, the episode titled, “Public Fool,” which addresses private versus public schools and the dilemma that many families face.

Before I proceed, let me say, “spoiler alert.”  In this episode, Junior gets expelled from his private school.  After failed attempts at gaining access to another private school, Pops says, “You should send Junior to the local public school.  What’s the point of spending all this money to live in this damn neighborhood if you’re gonna turn your nose up at the school that’s right down the street?”  The fictional Johnsons are a wealthy family, led by a mother who is an anesthesiologist, and a father who is an advertising executive.  They can afford to live in an area with quality public schools.

Sadly, this predicament is not a fictional one.  It reminds me of a conversation I had with a parent who said it cost a pretty penny to send her child to a local school.  I agreed, then did a double take because I remembered her child attended a public school.  The parent then replied, “I was talking about the mortgage to live near a quality public school.”

Even 63 years after Brown v. Board, all public schools are not created equally.  As Dre put it, “Black folks got hit with the okey doke,” which Urban Dictionary defines as a scam, an untruth, fraud.   In some areas, public schools look more like private schools.  In other areas…well, let’s just say public schools look nothing like private schools or public schools in more affluent neighborhoods.  The okey doke, indeed.

As an educator who spent my teaching career in Title I schools, this is a topic that is near to me.  Most recently, I taught at a 40-40 school in the nation’s capital, which means that according to district accountability measures, we were one of the forty lowest-performing schools in the DC Public School system.  My favorite section of my classroom was a little corner with a poster that reads, “No matter who you are…or where you’re from…your future is up to you.” I coupled the sign with a Stanford banner, to remind my students that one’s zip code does not determine his or her future.  I’d like to believe this sentiment is true, but it can be hard when there are so many obstacles.  Nonetheless, I continue to believe that it is important to encourage young people to believe and dream beyond their circumstances …beyond their present comprehension.

During a recent visit to my former students as I prepare to move to California, one student that I taught two years ago asked to come with me so she can go to Stanford.  Of course I know how much positive impact our school has on our students and their families, but at times it just didn’t feel like enough.

As I watch this episode of “Black-ish” and type this, I feel guilty that I’m taking a break from the classroom because I feel like my students need me.  Unfortunately, the state of education that results from being separate and unequal is the reason why I felt the need to take a break.  Lack of resources, lack of support, growing demands, lack of time, the emphasis on mastery without celebrating growth.  The list goes on…and on, and on.  These circumstances impact our work as teachers, which then affect our students.

In the end, Junior is a fan of the public school.  For the first time in his educational career, he’s not one of the only Black students, he has Black teachers, and a vending machine with soda (insert side eye).  While this episode was intended to make light of a situation, it sheds light on the state of education.  I believe public schools have potential that has yet to be realized.  Maybe it can be attributed to institutional racism, or maybe it’s merely a matter of not knowing where to start.  Either way, something needs to be done.   

All this to say that we are still separate, still not equal.  But at this point, would equality be enough? That’s gonna be a hard no for me.  We need equity.  

~ Marissa

4 days, 3 nights in Seville



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.


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.


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


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.



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.



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,


5 Days, 4 Nights in Lisbon


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.


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!


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!


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


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!



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,


5 Days, 4 Nights in Porto



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.


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.


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.


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!




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.



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,


4 Days, 3 Nights in Rome

Rome 2

It took about 4 hours to get from Venice to Rome by train.  Actually, add another hour to that because I first took a bus from Chioggia to Venice.  If you’re in Venice and want to enjoy some beach time away from the crowds, check out Chioggia.  I digress. I took Trenitalia or Italo to Rome.  The trains are similar, so when traveling through Italy, I compared prices and went with the cheaper fare.


The hostel I wanted to stay in was pretty expensive, so I opted for a private room in an Airbnb instead.  To date, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in an Airbnb.  A private room with a balcony, your own table in the kitchen for breakfast, equipped with a special message on a chalkboard.  Feel free to send me a message if you’re looking for accommodations in Rome and would like more information about the listing.

Rome 3

I got a 48-hour card for the metro and buses for 12.5 €. In hindsight, I would’ve been fine purchasing a few cards that are good for 100 minutes for 1.5 €. Once I got to a main destination or attraction, I just walked to the next place.  I only needed the metro a few times – to get to the Airbnb, the Spanish Steps for a tour, and The Colosseum.  Since I purchased the pass, I did hop on the bus a few times to feel like I got my money’s worth.


Honestly, I didn’t find any restaurants in Rome to write home about.  Perhaps it was my lack of research or the fact that this marked my third week in Italy and there are only so many times I can get excited about pasta and pizza.  Either way, I was sadly underwhelmed. I did find a restaurant that puts interesting spins on the traditional aperol spritz. Check out Bistro Coronari for a tasty spritz.

Rome 4

To get a lay of the land, I started with a free walking tour.  The tour included the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Square, and Piazza Navona.  After the tour, I made my way to the Trevi Fountain.  I went in the afternoon and it was super crowded.  I was hoping to get back at night to see it with the lights, but I didn’t make it.  Of course, a trip to Rome isn’t complete without visiting The Colosseum. A description won’t do it justice. I will say that once you step off the train, The Colosseum hits you; it’s truly breathtaking!

Rome 1

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


Item Cost
Chioggia → Venice → Rome 66 € = 79 USD
Accommodations 139 € = 167 USD
Getting Around 12.5 € = 15 USD
Food and Drinks 74 € = 89 USD
Activities 5 € = 6 USD
Total 297 € = 356 USD

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


My three weeks in Italy are up. On to the next country.


Ciao for now,