Adventures in Spanish Cat Sitting: Part 1, Madrid

Sometimes you pick your vacation spots, and sometimes they find you. That just happened for us, in the form of an invite from good friends who happened to be cat sitting in Spain in a two-bedroom apartment. They live in SF, and no, this isn't an international version of the Rover app or a remake of "The Holiday" but with dogs and cats. A friend of theirs who lives in Spain invited them to come stay for free in her apartment for a couple weeks while she was traveling, and it was great for both parties: free vacation + free petsitting, win-win! We were lucky enough to get invited along to hang and pet kitties too.

So Joe and I packed our bags a few weeks ago to take a flight to Madrid, where we stayed for about 24 hours before we moved onto our next destination! We didn't get to do too too much. Namely: Churros and chocolate.

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My sweatshirt did not survive an encounter with this super thick dipping chocolate. We went to the historic Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid, as recommended by my friend Linda, and sat in the basement, which looked like a subterranean subway car.

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Sorry for the dirty plate shot, but I had to share my wallet for this trip. I kept all my valuables in a ziplock bag for some reason, that's not sad at all. I've been obsessed with reading about Birkins lately (an impossible dream), and we'd joke that I would get the Birkin (how good is Chiara's orange one?) but continue using a ziploc bag as a wallet.

There's a whole story behind that lounge pass too - basically I took all the money we would've spent on hotels and splurged on getting an Amex Platinum card. Everyone in my life tried to talk me out of this card in favor of the Chase Sapphire, but I got weirdly fixated on it (much like the Birkin, but slightly more attainable). I realize now that adulthood is just a series of conversations about credit card rewards.

Of course, I tried to rationalize it by putting it in the context of this trip. We'd get Global Entry! And lounge access! I believe Joe was more excited before we left about #loungelife than our vacation. At Dulles, I sashayed into the Turkish Airline Lounge and proudly held up my Priority Pass. It was as if I held up a dirty sock. 

"I'm sorry, ma'am, the lounge is full," the receptionist said as she waived in actual rich people. "It didn't work," I shrugged to Joe. "Let's go to Wendy's." 

Once we got to Madrid, we took the metro to Gran Via to our hotel, which was the cheapest central hotel I could find the Amex travel site. What the Amex site neglected to mention is that there was zero signage for the hotel, not even a buzzer. We were at the right address, but it looked like an apartment building in a semi-abandoned alley. We had already dragged our suitcases all over Gran Via at that point, which was (as is our luck) blocked off for a marathon. Joe and I actually cut across the marathon course not once, not twice, but three times looking for our hotel, each time running across with our rolly bags in tour. What a scene.

So this situation after finally finding the hotel was not ideal. I looked up the name of the hotel on Trip Advisor and it said you were supposed to let them know you were coming 48 hours in advance. Also not ideal!

Luckily, the apartment door eventually opened and I sprinted to grab it and everything worked out. Except that the hotel was too small to store our luggage before we checked in. "I know a place that can help you," the hotel employee said, and she wrote down an address and the words "Look and be free."

"Look and be free," Joe said. "That's deep. That might be my next tattoo." Once we arrived at the address, it made a lot more sense.  

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Lock & Be Free! It was this oh-so-branded luggage locker place. Is this not the SoulCycle of luggage lockers? They were absolutely printing money, with a steady stream of suitcase-laden millennials like us lined up outside. 

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Now that we were free sans luggage, here's how we explored Madrid in the little time we had: we went to Mercado de San Miguel, which was an adorable food market but so crowded. We also took a spin through Mercado San Anton, which seemed more geared towards locals. We found a hipster coffee shop, Toma Cafe, so so hip. I promised that my jet-lag and red-eye-induced nap would just be a few hours but that was a lie.

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Mainly, we visited Madrid's amazing art museums because I had to see "Guernica" at Museo Reina Sofia, just had to! And the Museo Nacional Del Prado is incredible, totally worth walking a mile around the marathon course to get inside. We just scratched the surface of Madrid, but it seemed like living there would be hard to beat.

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Tunes Tuesday: "Safe," Bay Ledges

Finally, warm weather in DC! I'm going to be picking blast-this-from-the-car-window summer tunes from here on out. 

Of course, my tastes are undeniably low key indie pop so your milage might vary. This song by L.A. band Bay Ledges just makes me super happy, from that simple opening guitar strum to the stutter-step beat. 

Plus there's the oh so Apartment Therapy-set design in the video and this chorus: "I don't to speak too soon, but I think I love you." Right back at you, buddy!

How Jersey Shore Relates to My Wellness Plan

This is going to be a controversial opinion (if you couldn't have guessed based on that title alone). When I heard that there was a Jersey Shore reboot, I thought the same thing I did about the Rosanne reboot. Namely: who asked for this? 

Secondly: Can Jersey Shore can exist in the era of "Me Too"? I'm pretty sure I watched all the seasons as an MTV addict in college and even as a proto-feminist, I vaguely remember cringing back then at a lot of the hookups in terms of the guys' views toward women.

Bad timing for this reboot perhaps, but the #MeToo saving grace/overall Achilles' heel for the producers has to be that most of these people are in relationships and not trolling for randos.

Except Ron Ron (spoilers ahead). Joe had the show on in the background and I was idly watching it and found myself laughing way more than is respectable. These people do have a demented charm to them! And perhaps the thing that holds it all together is that they do seem to have affection for one another.

So here's my big Jersey Shore epiphany: In Episode 5 (I believe), Ronnie realizes that he's made a horrible mistake by getting too friendly with a girl in a club — while he has a pregnant girlfriend at home. Just when you think he's having a rare moment of self-reflection, he says something like "Well, I already screwed this up so I might as well enjoy my time here in Miami." When The Situation thinks you're making poor decisions, you know it's bad.

But anyway, that's the attitude I have ALL THE TIME with my eating habits. I will have a healthy breakfast, than stand in front of the fridge at 11 a.m., having eaten many handfuls of shredded cheese right out of the bag. "Well, that's it for today," I think to myself. "Might as well get a Chipotle burrito for lunch and then frozen pizza for dinner. Better luck tomorrow." 

Or I will know I have to go to a dinner on a Thursday and then I'll plan to start my "healthy eating regime" the next week because this week is clearly ruined and go absolutely HAM with big plans for the following Monday. But then every week just goes on like that. 

This is totally Ron Ron-on-a-bender-in-Miami thinking!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Even his cast mates are like "No, that's a terrible idea, don't blow up your life." I'm going to extrapolate this to trying to make better choices with my health every moment of the day, regardless of previous slip ups. Anyway, this has been your Jersey Shore wellness intention of the day. Tell me if you do the same thing or it's just me! 

Tunes Tuesday: "Yellow Eyes," Rayland Baxter

Here's another song I've been listening to ad nauseam.... It's the most gentle revenge breakup song ever. At least that's how I'm reading it. Everything sounds mellow enough, until you realize that the lyrics center heavily on the phrase "I'll leave you lonely" with "Find the girl with yellow eyes/And go and break her heart" as the crescendo. The guitar riff is pretty sweet, though. 

Tunes Tuesday: "Sea of Clouds," Deer Tick

Hello! I need to tell you about something that has greatly improved my quality of life. It's a radio station! WTMD.ORG!!!! 

For the past year, I've been watching MSNBC maybe six hours a day as background while I work. I have my favorite anchors and I started to think of Stephanie Ruhle as my co-worker (she's not.) I'm just marinating in a constant stew of Trump insanity and outrage.

When I wasn't working or reading/watching about the dissolution of our republic, I would keep refreshing reddit's Personal Finance thread. I dunno, I just got really into it. Hours of Trump talk x alarmist savings advice is not a recipe for wellness. 

Enter WTMD, a Towson-based radio station. Listen to this free stream and you're going to know exactly what's going on in indie music (particularly in Baltimore). There's an app too! I'm the biggest cheerleader for them. I know you're going to say but what about Spotify or Pandora but no, I need the human touch. It's the best substitute for my dearly departed WOXY from college. 

Here's my recent fav from WTMD, a newer Deer Tick tune. It's melancholy enough for these times, but that melody is just so pretty with the cascading choir of voices. You know the way a song you love makes you feel when the opening bars start? You can feel it in your bones almost. I've been missing that, the way music can transcend everything. I want to share the songs I keep hitting repeat on, so check back on Tuesdays!