Which State Matches Your Personality?

I recently stumbled upon an article about a team of researchers who literally mapped the America moon, with state-by-state ratings of personality and temperament.  I got Georgia, which is funny because I’ve always thought I’d live in Georgia next. I was born in Virginia, moved to North Carolina, then moved to South Carolina for college and now I’m back in North Carolina. Georgia just seems like the next natural progression. What state matches your personality?

Read more: America’s Mood Map: Find Which State Matches Your Personality | TIME.com http://science.time.com/2013/10/22/the-united-states-of-attitude-an-interactive-guide-to-americas-moods/#ixzz2lflEx6rb


A Trip of a Lifetime

Going to Spain was one of the greatest life experiences I will probably ever have. There were so many moments when I literally had to pinch myself to believe it was really happening.  I believe that traveling the world and seeing new places is one of the most important things a person can do to grow. I learned that I am able to immerse myself in a culture completely foreign and uncharted, and be OK! I learned that respect and consideration are universal. I learned that the human race is genuinely good and helpful. I learned that I have a tendency to want to control situations (OK, I already knew this…) and sometimes its good to relinquish that control and let your hair down. I learned that the only way to grow is to branch out and do and try things that make you uncomfortable. I learned that Matt is the perfect partner for me. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without him, and it wouldn’t have been so amazing without him. I love that we have these memories together to share and enjoy for the rest of our lives. Thank you Matt for being my best friend and for bringing me along on a trip of a lifetime!



Eye of El Tigre

Day 8: Madrid

 Room darkening blinds are a wonderful thing! Except for when you accidentally sleep until 1pm. Oops! Once we got moving we headed to the train station which was about an 8 minute walk from our hotel. The train was only 2 Euro’s to get into the city vs. a 25 Euro cab ride. Round-trip it took about 45 minutes and included switching trains. We were very proud of ourselves for being able to navigate the public transportation system of Madrid (although it was really easy!).

Once in the city, we noticed a brisk feeling in the air. It was around 80-85 degrees most of the week. This day the temperature had dropped to the 60’s. I was glad I brought my rain jacket when an unexpected rain shower popped up. From the stop we walked to El Tigre – another recommendation from a friend. El Tigre was very unique and one of our favorite places. We were instructed to order a “mini” which is really just a huge beer. With the “mini” also comes three very large plates of food – for free!  Whenever you order another drink…poof…more plates of food appear. There was only one man working this entire operation and he was basically my hero. I’ve never seen someone make food, pour drinks, and serve his customers at such a warp speed.  The floor of the restaurant is covered in napkins and food that people just throw on the floor. You have to get passed that part, but it was totally worth it. For 12 Euro and 4 cervezas, we were completely stuffed by the time we left. It was a very humble hole-in-the-wall that I think MRH would have preferred to eat at every single night. El Tigre has three locations, which all happen to be on the same street, some that are 1 or 2 doors down from each other. I guess it’s just that popular! The man at the bar told us we were allowed to take our beers with us, so we took our remaining beers and hit the streets. It felt so wrong walking down the road with a brew, but hey, when in Spain!

We walked down Gran Via – one of the most popular streets in Madrid which has many shops and restaurants. We popped in H&M where I  bought a sweater. I know…completely ridiculous to buy something in Spain when you can buy it in Charlotte, but it was cute…and cheap!

From Gran Via we walked to El Temple Debod. This temple was a gift from Egypt that was brought over piece by piece and assembled in Madrid. It sat in the middle of a large park and had a big founding in the back with a beautiful view overlooking the city. We toured the inside of the temple and it was so crazy to see the carvings on the inside of the temple walls. All of the history in Spain is completely amazing.

Dark clouds started to roll in so we headed back to el tren. Unfortunately along the walk, it started to walk. Lucky for me, I brought my rain jacket. Unlucky for Matt, he did not. We were close to the station and made it in perfect timing to catch a train back to our hotel. We arrived back around 9pm and FaceTimed our families. I was even able to watch some of the USC/UCF  (Go Gamecocks!) football thanks to Dad’s iPad.


We got showers and caught a cab back into the city around 11pm. This was our latest time out but we felt that we’d be ok to eat since it seemed like Madrid never sleeps. To our dismay, most places were closed or not serving dinner by the time we got into the city. We wandered down La Cava Baja (long street with bars and restaurants) for about thirty minutes when I finally told Matt to just pick a place because I was starving and starting to get ornery. We sat down at a place and then decided nothing looked good on the menu. We made a quick exit without telling anyone were leaving. We both felt guilty and like we had done something wrong, but I’m not really sure why. We picked another place and had a rude waiter who didn’t say a word to us. We named him Lard. When he finally was kind enough to take our order (after sitting at the table for 20 minutes) he informed us that they would be closing in 20 minutes. He never brought us our wine and we were just over him so we paid the bartender for our bottle of water and peaced out.




At this point we were starving and tired and frustrated, so we went back to old trusty, El Mercado de San Miguel. Most places were closed/closing but we found some leftover paella and some vino.  After all of our previous strike=outs we figured this was a sign and we should head back to the hotel. We went to bed at 2am and were back up at 6am to catch a flight back to reality home!




Hemingway, Helgeson & Hewitt…old pals

Day 7: Madrid

Matt was finally done with work and our his vacation was about to start. We treated ourselves by sleeping in past noon. We packed up and checked out of the NH Nacional where we had been staying. We were able to leave our bags there for the day while we explored Madrid. It was nice to have a buddy with me after checking out Madrid by myself the previous days.

Our first stop was El Parque Retiro. I loved it so much the day before that I knew MRH would too. I showed him all the cool things I had found and we also discovered an amazing crystal palace that I had not seen the day before. It was an amazing structure made solely of class. The structure was designed in a way that would allow it to be re-erected on another site. However, the building has remained on the original site, next to a lake. It is no longer used as a greenhouse, and is currently used for art exhibits. I sure do  pity the park window-washer!! We also stopped by the lake and contemplated a paddle boat ride. The “lake” is really more of a pond and we decided it wouldn’t be too thrilling to paddle from one side to other.

We left the park and walked to El Prado Museo. It’s on the list of things people say you have to see while in Madrid. While waiting to enter the museum we noticed a camera-crew and news reporter. Everyone was asking to take their picture with the reporter so we assume she was famous?  The museum is huge and you could spend multiple days in it and probably still not see it all. We opted out of the audio guide tour and walked around trying to make sense of it all. We were there for around two hours and don’t feel like we even scratched the surface. We aren’t “art” people, but it was very interesting to see art from that 1400’s that has been preserved all these years. It really is incredible.

At this point, it was almost 4pm and we were starving. We had walked a lot and hadn’t eaten anything. There was another Mercado on our list to try; Mercado San Anton. After making the haul across town, we found the market. It was awesome! It was a four story structure. The bottom floor was an actual grocery store, like Harris Teeter. The second floor was more of a traditional Mercado where you could purchase fish, meat, veggies, etc. to go. The third floor was tapas and wine to enjoy there, and the top floor was a rooftop bar and restaurant. We were able to get a seat at the restaurant and ordered “un poco de todo” of jamon. It was a giant plate of meat. My dream come true, and my mother’s nightmare. Sadly, we ate every last piece. Afterwards we sat on an adjacent roof to enjoy a drink. It was Friday at 5pm and very busy. We had an embarrassing mix-up with something on the drink menu. We thought it was one drink with many different liquors in it. It was really just different liquor options to choose from for one drink. The bartender laughed at us over the confusion. MRH ordered a gin and tonic, because there isn’t really a way you can mess that one up.

We quickly picked up our bags at our old hotel, caught a cab, and headed to our new hotel.  Since the work part of the trip was over, the hotel accommodations were now on us to pay for.  We were able to use some hotel points we acquired after I complained to management about a disappointing stay in Chicago earlier this summer.  With the points, the hotel only cost us 125 Euros for both nights. I guess it pays to complain every now and then! Our new hotel was about 20 minutes outside of center city and in a less congested area of Madrid. We had a nice mountain view and it was quiet. It was definitely a nice change of pace. We were even more excited to find our new room was a giant suite! 3 rooms, kitchen, enormous three-room bathroom, living rum and huge king bed. It was so different from what we had experienced in the traditional European hotels we had stayed at earlier in the week.

We guised up and headed out for our big night out on the town. We had heard a lot about a restaurant called  El Botin and I was able to make reservations a few weeks earlier. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first and oldest restaurant in the world! It is rumored that it was a common hangout of Hemingway’s! The restaurant itself is very discreet and hard to find. We requested to be seated in “la cueva” or the cave. The restaurant is in an old four story building, but we heard la cueva was where we would get the best experience. We headed down a very narrow staircase and were shown to our table. La cuvea is very small, dark cavern with rock walls. There aren’t many tables so it’s a very intimate experience. We ordered an amazing appetizer or melon and thinly-shaved jamon. For our main dishes, MRH ordered suckling pig and I ordered the filet mignon. We enjoyed a delicious bottle of Riojo Crizana vino. We also splurged by both ordering dessert. As we were finishing up our meal a 6-person band came down the stairs and started playing instruments and singing classic Spanish tunes.  A lively old grandmother at the table behind us got up and started to dance. We truly felt like we got the real deal El Botin experience.  It was such a treat to have dinner there and are thankful we were able to get in!


After dinner we headed to El Cava Baja – a street full of bars and restaurants. Our first stop was Cava Baja Number 5. We ordered a mojito and headed to the basement. To our surprise, the floor was covered in sand. They were playing American music and it was a really cool, young, atmosphere. From there we bar hopped to a couple of other places on the strip. We met a nice man from Sweden. I remember being so glad to hear the English language and it was great to meet an interesting person. At this point it was pretty late we caught a cab back to our hotel. We ended up staying awake until 4:30am laughing and enjoying the fact that we were actually on a vacation in Spain.

A Stroll en el Parque

Day 6: Madrid

MRH had another early work day which meant CMH had another late sleep-in day. I was actually disappointed to find that I had slept until 1pm, AGAIN! I quickly got up and got ready for the day. Because I had the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, housekeeping did not come by. I called the front desk to request our room be cleaned and they were all sorts of confused. The first lady thought I needed dry cleaning, so she transferred me to another someone else. That person was even more confused so I said “gracias” and hung up. To my surprise, I came back later that day to a cleaned room!

I looked at my “To Explore” list (I tried to only go see things that I thought MRH would be OK with missing) and saw El Parque Retiro. Lucky for me, it was very close to our hotel and I was pleasantly surprised to find el parque on my first try and within only a 5 minute walk. I purchased un botella de aqua at the entrance and set out to explore.

I had no idea how expansive the park was going into it. I found the first bench I could find and sat down to read some of my Spain travel book. There were a lot of birds and squirrels that kept getting close to me (I have an irrational fear of birds) so I decided I would get up and explore. Little did I know that I would be exploring for the next three hours. El Parque Retiro is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It’s over 350 acres of lush green gardens, fitness clubs, bike trails, lake, boat rentals, rose gardens and museums. The park is a wildly sprawling, lush peaceful paradise completely surrounded by the chaos and noise of Madrid.  You could get lost in the parque forever.  I can’t imagine having a place like this in the middle of Charlotte. It made Freedom Park look like amateur hour! It was surprising to me to see how many people were there during the workday; people reading books on blankets under the canopy of trees, free concerts, friends jogging, and explorers like me. I spent the last hour at the park posted up on a bench catching up on my journaling of our prior adventures.

I headed back to the hotel just in time to meet MRH as he was getting off of work. We showered and headed out to grab dinner. Our approach to finding a restaurant was “if it looks busy, it’s probably good” and landed on a place called 10 Tapas. It was in the middle of a busy square/plaza with many other restaurants. We were bombarded the entire duration of dinner by people trying to sell us anything and everything. It was quite annoying to be hounded all throughout our meal. After dinner, Matt’s coworker Ryan, headed back to the hotel as he was heading back to the states the next morning.

Our first stop was a bull  fighting bar called Torre del Oro Bar Andalú. The interior of the Torre del Oro bar is a temple to bullfighting, festooned with gory decor. Look under the stuffed head of Barbero the bull. At eye level you’ll see a puntilla, the knife used to put a bull out of his misery at the arena. This was the knife used to kill Barbero. Pretty intense, and not a good place to visit if you’re an animal activist!

Next we hit up El Mercado San Miguel again. It was quickly becoming our favorite after-dinner spot. We found a bodega with nice servers and cheap wine. I got a few too many classes of rose cava and MRH had red wine. What ensued was a photo shoot of selfies in the middle of the market. We walked home around 2am which was when all the club-goers were hitting the streets. Nothing like seeing a few drunk girls puking in the streets to remind your old stomping grounds….Columbia, SC.

Not all who wander are lost

Day 5: Madrid

We woke up early (I thought vacations were for sleeping in?) and grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel .The breakfast at our hotel was not something you find at the Holiday Inn…they provided the normal cereal and eggs, but also lots of pastries and desserts, large selection of jamon and cheese and of course complimentary cava. I think a lot more Americans would have better days if they started with their days with a mimosa.

After breakfast we took a cab to he Campos Tarragona train station, about 30 days from Cambrils. I was so impressed by the train station. It was very large and clean and run just like an airport. We took the AVE (high speed train) and paid an extra 20 Euro to have seats in the nicer coach area. Again, so impressed by how nice and clean the train was. The ride from Taragonna to Madrid was 3 hours but it felt more like 30 minutes. Matt and I were both out like a light as soon as the train pulled out of the station.

We arrived at the Atocha station in Madrid; it was huge! Our hotel (NH Nacional) was within walking distance from the train station. MRH quickly changed into his work clothes and headed to a meeting at the Siemens office. Which meant I was completely on.my.own. in a country and city I had never been before, that spoke a language I did not know. Since my phone wouldn’t work that meant no google maps app. So  I took it back to 1995 and asked the front desk for a map. I knew I wanted to check out La Mercada de San Miguel; a market that one of my friends recommended. It appeared to be relatively close on the map…I asked the man at the hotel in broken Spanish if the market was within walking distance. I have no idea what his response was. Judging by the look on his face, it didn’t seem out of the question to walk. So I set out.

Madrid is VERY busy. I relate it to New York City. It is very loud, with tons lots of traffic, sirens, horns honking, and people everywhere. It was definitely more hustling and bustling that Barcelona, but then again, it is the capital of Spain. First thought…Spaniards don’t really like having clearly marked streets. Second thought…I have clearly relied on Google Maps for too long, because reading an actual map was hard! You know those paper maps, yeah…they don’t come with a little lady who tells you when to turn.  The entire walk to the market I felt very nervous.  I was super cautious of my surroundings. I had heard so much about the pickpockets that I was suspicious about everyone. I tried to stay near groups of people who looked “safe”. I also had a death grip on my purse, aint nobody was getting in there! After walking for about 45 minutes, I realized I was probably lost. Something told me to turn around, and I’m glad I did. I was heading the wrong way. What’s that quote about “I hope you get a lost in a foreign country”? Check that one off the list! I tried asking someone for directions in Spanish, but I had no idea what they responded with. By the grace of God, I stumbled upon La Plaza Mayor. It’s a big open square with statues and restaurants. There were street performers and people selling random items, someone dressed in a cat costume who meowed at me and an adult in a baby carriage.  I definitely didn’t feel safe there by myself, and knew it was time to go. I wasn’t too impressed with that area, but it was something touristy I’m glad I checked off my list. I happened to exit La Plaza Mayor at the exact exit I needed to (there are four different exit points) get to Mercado de San Miguel. Again, the travel Gods were on my side!

The market is all indoor and all glass. Inside vendors have set up their items to sell. It is very upscale. They had wine/beer, tapas, pallaea, chocloates, fruites, fish, oysters, desserts, etc. The tapas was only 1E, so it’s a great place to try a bunch of different things. I got a baguette with salmon and pesto for E1.50, a glass of sangria for E2,00 and paella con mariscas for E4,0. There are places to stand and eat and also a few tables to sit. I luck out again and find a table to sit and enjoy my meal. It is definitely a more modern, upscale version of the market in Barcelona.  I decided I had explored enough and headed back to the hotel. I was proud of myself for venturing out and making it back in once piece.

I got back to the hotel and was able to catch  my parents on FaceTime. Isn’t technology grand? It’s somewhat mind-blowing that you can talk and see someone on a different continent. My phone hadn’t  been on once because of roaming charges and it was a very freeing feeling. I was really thankful I had my iPad because the hotels had free WiFi and so I was able to keep in touch with MRH via email. I got in the shower just in time for MRH to get back from work. We both freshened up and headed out on the town around 8:30. We first went to La Plaza Mayor again. I felt good being the “tour guide” since I had been there earlier in the day. Then we sat out to find a restaurant that  had been recommended to us, La Casa de Granada, It is not marked anywhere, you just get in an elevator to the 6th floor and head up. When we finally foun d it, there was a sign that said they were closed for renovations. Bummer! But we did have another recommendation from the same person. This place was right near the Royal Palace. I think we were all a little hesitant when we first found it. It was described as a “hole in the wall” and that it was! It was  narrow building with only two tables and a few bar stools. There is only one man who works there and he did his best to translate the  menu to us. It was all tapas that he prepares ahead of time and then heats in a toaster oven. apparently his mom is the brain behind the operations and she makes all of the food. We ordered a variety of salmon with blue cheese and brie, jamon and brie and sobrestato and brie. All delicioso! Matt ordered a Riojo (red wine) and I had a few glasses of la vino blano de casa (house white). We would have never found this place on our own, but am so glad we stopped. I’m sure the owner wondered how these 3 Americans found this place. From La Tabernita we walked back to El Mecado de San Miguel (the market I went to earlier in the day) so I could show MRH. He got another glass of Riojo and I got a rose cava. All so good and cheap! We walked to Puerta de Sol which is the center city. It is a wise open area that is very busy. We saw the famous bear pawing a tree statue which is Madrid’s symbol. Bears used to live in the royal hunting grounds. And the madrono trees produce a berry that makes traditional madrono liquor. No wonder the bears want up in that tree! We all commented multiple times on how crazy busy it was at midnight on a Wednesday. And not just young people, all ages families, etc. On the walk back to our hotel we saw Museo del Jamon (ham museum) which is a museum right up my alley. Only later to see two more, so apparently it was a chain. Anyways, I can respect a country who loves wine and ham as much as I do!

We got back to the hotel around 12:30am and crashed. I don’t really think it mattered what our accommodations were like because were so exhausted by the end of every day that we were out before our heads touched the pillow!