The best food. Ever.

I have never been a foodie. I am too picky of an eater to really go all out and sample delicacies the world over. If you asked me a year ago where the best restaurant I have ever eaten was, I would tell you simply — in Las Vegas. Because, well, let’s be real, Las Vegas has some of the best food around. Even for picky eaters like myself.

But, after a whirlwind five days on BlogtripF1, I am now convinced the absolute best food is in Spain. Paella. Fresh grilled fish. Iberian Ham. I even wrote about it for Madator Network.

Stef (@adventuregirl) and I had extended our time in the Land of Valencia. She had a change of plans, and I had no plans, so we decided to hang out in the region for a few extra days after the F1 Race. For two more days, we sampled deliciousness, shopped and sunned ourselves on the blue Mediterranean. We went from Valencia back down to Alicante to experience more of the best of Spain.

On our last night, the night Spain played Portugal in the World Cup match, we had been told dinner was arranged at our hotel, the uber-gorgeous and swank five-star Hospes Amerigo’s restaurant, Monastrell.

We dressed for dinner and met in the lobby, where we were greeted by a petite and friendly brunette. We had no idea who she was. She quickly talked about going to watch the game and then joining us for dinner.

It wasn’t until a few minutes into our conversation when we were led inside the restaurant did we put two and two together.

Lining one of the walls were photos, and there, standing in front of a kitchen, was the woman we had been chatting with.

Chef Maria Jose San Ramon. THE Chef Maria Jose San Ramon. Known as the “Saffron Queen,” she had recently returned from a gig at the White House where she had taught the chef how to prepare the ultimate paellea.

And, now there we were, standing with her in her restaurant, engaged in friendly banter and making plans to dine with her following the game (GO SPAIN!).

Stef and I headed to one of the chef’s other establishments for some tapas and tinto de verano, La Taberna Del Gourmet, a gorgeous restaurant a quick walk from Monastrell.

After watching the game, we met Chef Maria Jose back at Monastrell where we cheers-ed Espana and then settled in to our meal.

And what a meal it was.

Oysters. Pulpo. Lobster paella. Sweet, decadent desserts. Wine. Every single moment was stacked with the most amazing flavors, the most interesting taste combinations.

Pure foodie heaven.

Each time a dish was served, our eyes would grow big, light up.

I tried to savor every single bite, but when food is that good, it is hard to prolong such amazingness. Within a few hours, our meal was over. Bellies blissfully full.

My backpacker diet was absolutely ruined, trashed, spoiled rotten. It hurt me the following day to return to bread and cheap street vendors.

It also hurt to say goodbye to Stef. Like saying goodbye to the rest of the BlogTripF1 group, it was hard to utter the “see you soon” I dreaded. Her and I had spent so much time together, talking, laughing, drinking, EATING. We were friends before the trip, but being together for nearly the week we spent was so fulfilling.

But, she had a plane to catch back to America, and I had a train to catch to Barcelona. Yup. Another reunion. This time with Tina from my Monfrague week in April.

Disclosure: Land of Valencia covered all lodging, meals and activities as a part of the #blogtripf1 program.

Blog Reviews Spain Travel

Why are we going in circles? And other errors in sea navigation

“OK,” I breathed. “Follow my lead. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Left. Left. Left. Left. Awww, shit.”

Isabelle (one of the writers on #blogtripf1 and my new and amazing friend) and I had stuck together when we arrived to the Mediterranean Sea and were greeted with an array of kayaks, boards and catamarans.

And now, after alerting everyone we had to share a double seat kayak, we were stuck in the sea, paddling in circles. Plunging our oars in tune, out of tune, not at all, just to get to the island a kilometer away.

Despite our best efforts, we were not getting anywhere. Unless you count going to the left, left, left, then right, right, right.

It was frustrating. It was funny. You would think we could have paddled out to the island with little difficulty. Everyone else had made it look so easy, but nope.

There we were, just spinning around and around.

Had my dad been there, he would have laughed at his daughter trying to kayak. He has taken me before, in the Chesapeake Bay, but I apparently learned nothing about operating the large fiberglass boats of annoyance.

After 30 minutes of trying and quitting and trying again, Isabelle and I were towed to the island.

Yes. Towed.

“We are not kayaking again,” we both agreed, strong-arming our way onto the catamarans for the next leg of our little boating adventure.

The catamaran ride was bliss compared to the kayaking. The wind in our faces, the gentle splashing of water coming up onto the boat. I loved it. It felt like a mini-vacation.

We spent a few minutes at another beach, and then once again, strong-armed our way onto the catamaran again.

This time, it was different.

Isabelle, Elisa (a sweet teen writer) and I jumped onto another catamaran and headed back to the dock.

We were about half way when the winds kicked up, sending water into our faces, soaking us. Around us, white caps crashed, sails bellowed.

Elisa’s hand gripped mine as we were attacked by water and wind.

“It is OK,” I said. “Nothing is going to happen.”

But, there we were, on this tiny little boat, a thin sheet of material separating us from the sea.

If we flip, we are close enough to swim to shore. We all have life jackets on. But, I really didn’t want to flip. Or fall off. Or anything other than walk off that boat.

We flirted dangerously with the rocks jutting from the dock while a group of staff ran into the water to steady our boat.

And, then we were out. Back on dry land.

“That is not normal,” one of the boaters said. “That wind came up from nowhere.”

Isabelle and I looked at each other and smiled.

Kayaking? Been there. Done that.

Blog Spain Travel

Benidorm – the most British part of Spain

Benidorm. A city with towering hotels stacked 60 floors high above the multi-colored umbrellas lining the beaches which are packed with people.

If you are familiar with Benidorm at all, then you know it is a British hotspot. Fish and chip restaurants next to fish and chips restaurants, lobster-red people roam the sidewalks, white sands are blanketed with umbrellas and sun-worshipers.

To me, Benidorm is more like an American resort than a Spanish town, but every year, people flock there for the brilliant blue sea, the warm winds and to enjoy partying in Benidorm.

I have never seen so many people walking around in need of some major SPF in my life. Red red red.

Our fabulous #blogtripf1 gang toured the city, marveling at the unique pop architecture, and then headed onto a ferry to take us to an island for spectacular views of the skyscraper hotels lining the beach.

After the boat, we had paella and then headed to the sea to breathe in the salty air. For a few minutes, the group of us sat around, feet buried in the sand, talking and laughing. Then, we were waved back to the restaurant for our next stop … parked a few feet down the road were large yellow Jeeps decked with roll bars.

Four-wheelin’ off-roadin’ adventure!

I have never been off-roading and as soon as I saw the massive vehicles with the roll bars lined on the street, my face lit up.

We loaded into our transportation and headed up, up, up the hills of the city, bopping and smiling the entire way while a mix tape played loud above our squeals of delight.

“OK, you can stand up now,” our driver instructed.

Seat belts came off. Purses got tucked in. Heads popped out and hovered above the roll bars.

This was awesome.

Our rides stopped at the top of a hill.

My mouth dropped at what was in front of me. Blue sea. Skyscrapers. Lush green mountains. Fresh air.

Ahhhhh. What a sight.

Once our trip wrapped (too soon), we loaded back into our bus and SHA to freshen up and then back to Benidorm for a late night dinner, followed by some very quiet swimming and a quick hot tub dip.

Morning would come too quickly …

Disclosure: Land of Valencia provided all transportation, lodging, meals and activities.

Blog Reviews Spain