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Pre-departure Reflections: What's Next?

Sunday, August 30, 2015
As I write this post, I really should be packing. But Kitty Purry is currently taking a siesta in my empty suitcase, and he looks too cute to be disturbed. I think I'll procrastinate a little longer.

A while back I was anxiously debating between staying in Madrid or coming back to resume life in the USA. Unsurprisingly, Spain won out. So on Monday, I'm off to Madrid for round three of teaching and tapas crawling. I couldn't be more excited.

Pre-departure Reflections: What's Next?

But this time around, it feels bittersweet. I wish it weren't true, but I know in my heart that this will be my last year in Madrid. I can't quite put my finger on what specifically deters me from staying there longer (or forever). Maybe it's because being an auxiliar de conversación isn't financially sustainable, and I feel as if it's a dead end career-wise. Maybe I'm just ready for the next chapter. Leaving Madrid next July will shatter my heart to pieces, but I can't shake the feeling that this is the next step I have to take.

Whatever that next step is, however, is still a mystery. My third year in Madrid will be my make it or break it year for teaching. If I still love it after Year 3, I'll pursue a masters in teaching and go down the education path. If I decide that teaching really isn't for me, I'll try my hand at full-time writing and/or the social media field. I'm slowly getting the hang of this whole freelance thing, but I still have my long-term doubts. Ideally I'd like to teach and do some travel writing and photography on the side, so here's hoping that's possible!

Pre-departure Reflections: What's Next?

No matter what I end up doing, I know where I'd eventually like to be. As much as I love the Pacific Northwest, this summer I realized that I've completely outgrown Seattle. It hurts my heart, but I just don't belong here anymore. So when it's time to return stateside, I need a big city on the west coast with good weather, decent public transportation, a booming foodie scene and gorgeous architecture. I want the closest thing to Europe that I can get in America. I'm fairly certain that San Francisco is it for me. (Finding a way to afford San Francisco, on the other hand, will be interesting...) 

Pre-departure Reflections: What's Next?

So now that I've publicly declared my long-term plan, we'll see how it actually pans out. But in the meantime, there are plenty of good things on the horizon for the 2015-2016 school year. Travel wise, I've got a few exciting plans in the works that will knock out some top places on my bucket list. On the personal front, I'm working on a few projects that give me big-time heart sparkles - so stay tuned!

And of course... Madrid! After a summer apart, I can't wait to reunite with my stunning city. I can almost taste the tortilla. Yet as I emotionally prepare for round 3, I'm confronted by considerable nostalgia. I'm anxious about how different this year will be, and how it will compare to years past. This year will entail a brand new school, new students and coworkers, and presumably more new friends. I already miss my old students and friends who have permanently relocated stateside, but I'm trying to psych myself up for a brand new year. Change is good, right?

Pre-departure Reflections: What's Next?

As messy as expat life may be, I hope you stay tuned to this year's travels and (mis)adventures. For real time updates, be sure to catch me on Instagram and Twitter!

5 Sights to Skip in Madrid

Friday, August 28, 2015

I have a problem with people who avoid every sight that's even remotely deemed "touristy".

I don't see any sense in going to Paris and avoiding the Eiffel Tower simply because it's the most popular tourist attraction. It may be packed with visitors, and the surrounding areas are remarkably overpriced, but it's also breathtaking. The same goes for other "mainstream" sights such as Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, and Prague's Old Town Square. I'm not going to deny myself of beauty just because a lot of other people in this world think something is beautiful too.

As an expat going on three years, I feel the same way about downtown Madrid. "Touristlandia" between Puerta del Sol and the Royal Palace may be teeming with foreigners, but would I ever tell a first-time visitor, "Hey, don't go to Plaza Mayor or the Royal Palace, they're swarming with tourists!" Most certainly not.

Sure, I prefer scouting out places off the beaten path, surrounding myself with locals, and floundering my way through ordering food at restaurants where there's no English menu. My favorite travel experiences are always the ones where I seek adventures beyond the guidebook. But I'm also a camera-wielding, sandal-wearing, map-carrying foreigner, and I don't think I'm better than the rest of you.

For a well-balanced itinerary, I believe a trip should encompass a variety of must-sees and hidden gems.

Madrid, Spain

So then, what do I avoid?

I steer clear of overt tourist traps (I'm looking at you, double decker bus tours and wax museums) and mundane activities that seem relentlessly overhyped. My foodie friends have also taught me to abhor overpriced, low quality restaurants that masquerade as authentic. I'm generally short on time and money when I travel, so I'm predictably turned off by the sights and experiences that appear to waste both.

Madrid is a magical city, and it should be experienced accordingly. Why settle for disappointing attractions when you could be experiencing Madrid's most spectacular enchantments? You deserve the best. If you're visiting on a time crunch, you'll especially want to prioritize accordingly. Here are what I believe to be five sights worth skipping in Madrid, along with their more authentic alternatives.

1. Plaza Mayor's restaurants

From the bottom of my heart, I want Spanish food to wow you. If there is one piece of wisdom I can impart from this entire blog, let it be this: do not, under any circumstance, dine at a restaurant in Plaza Mayor. These overpriced restaurants will not only leave you with a bad taste in your mouth (quite literally), but they are also gross misrepresentations of Spanish cuisine. Do not let these establishments give you a poor impression of Spain's phenomenal gastronomy. Unless you love frozen paella and tortilla that tastes like chalk, avoid these eateries at all costs.

5 Sights to Skip in Madrid
Just say no to frozen paella.

Instead, try this:

Just a three minute walk away from Plaza Mayor lies Calle de la Cava Baja, Madrid's main foodie drag lined with vibrant taverns and tapas bars. It's hard to pick favorites, but my best bets for tapas in La Latina include Taberna la ConchaTaberna los Huevos de LucioJuana la Loca and Txirimiri. For more delectable eateries around the city, check out my list of favorite restaurants in Madrid.

2. The Teleférico

I consider this the Manneken Pis of Madrid's tourist attractions. While the first few minutes of the cable car ride boast pretty views of the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral, the rest of the ride is rather disappointing. The Teleférico drops you off in the middle of Casa de Campo, where there's nothing but a stark building filled with with arcade games, expensive souvenirs and over-processed food court snacks. The ride isn't a total bust, but it also isn't worth the hype.

5 Sights to Skip in Madrid: Teleferico

Instead, try this:

Seek out more sublime views at one of Madrid's many rooftop bars, such as La Azotea at Círculo de Bellas ArtesGymage, The Hat or Hotel Roommate Óscar. Not only do these rooftop terraces boast better views than the Teleférico, but you can also enjoy their striking panoramas while sipping refreshing cocktails. It's a win-win!

3. El Rastro

El Rastro, one of Europe's largest and most famous flea markets, takes place every Sunday morning in the neighborhood of La Latina. Vendors line Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores selling everything from leather bags to chipping Spanish antiques. If you sift through enough junk, you can probably find some buried treasures. But what I found was mostly overpriced pieces of plastic.

Fellow introverts be warned, the colossal and inundating crowds at this "bustling flea market" nearly gave me an anxiety attack. Inching my way down Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores was practically made impossible by the swarming hordes of window-shoppers. Considering I couldn't even come close to finding any eye-catching souvenirs, I didn't deem this episode worth the trouble.

5 Sights to Skip in Madrid: El Rastro

Instead, try this:

You can find more gems and fewer crowds on Calle Velarde in hipster Malasaña, home to some of the city's best thrift shopping. Every Saturday during spring and autumn, Plaza de Dos de Mayo hosts a vibrant street market in the heart of Malasaña. The side streets of Malasaña and Chueca are also abounding with small shops and boutiques that sell locally made artisan goods.

4. A bullfight

Considering how much it has come under fire in recent years, bullfighting could be on its way out in Spain. Since Catalonia banned bullfighting in 2010, more political groups are supporting a nationwide ban on the controversial tradition.

Without getting too political, I will admit that I saw a bullfight back in 2010 on my first trip to Madrid. While I don't regret the experience, I'm certainly not willing to repeat it. I generally have a strong stomach, but I found most parts of the corrida de toros uncomfortably gory. There's nothing happy about a bullfight, and I don't believe it's a true reflection of Madrid's character. Simply put, your short time in the capital is better spent elsewhere.

5 Sights to Skip in Madrid: Bull Fighting
Given the gore, I spent most of my time watching the matadors on the sideline...

Instead, try this:

Rather than watching death, seek out Madrid's authentic life. Spend your time doing more pleasant activities that actually reflect the heart and soul of Madrid. Explore the many diverse neighborhoods that make Madrid's personality so dynamic. Wander through the literary quarter of Huertas, enjoy a café con leche in one of the many cozy cafes in Malasaña, or bar hop and shoe shop in trendy Chueca. Drink a tinto de verano in a sunny plaza and admire how madrileños truly know how to live.

5. Kapital

Madrid's infamous seven-story nightclub is basically a European frat party without the free beer. Actually, the steep entrance fee usually includes one drink, so in reality one beer could technically cost you 22€. Frequented by inebriated tourists and study abroad students, Kapital has somehow achieved the status of a Madrid nightlife icon.

Have I been? Once. Did I have fun? For the most part. Would I go again? You couldn't pay me.

Let's be real, I probably would have loved this nightclub extraordinaire when I was 18. But now, there's only so much David Guetta, cheap vodka and large crowds that I'm willing to subject myself to, and I generally try to keep it to a minimum. So unless your idea of a good time is getting groped by a blacked out Italian and getting your phone stolen, Kapital is probably worth skipping.

5 Sights to Skip in Madrid: Kapital
I've officially lost count of how many times I've heard, "I got my iPhone stolen at Kapital last night!"

Instead, try this:

Head to Barrio Salamanca for a posh night out, or venture to the alternative bars and clubs in Malasaña. Gabana and TClub (Pachá) are my two favorite discotecas, while most of my favorite bars line Calle Pez and Corredera Baja de San Pablo in Malasaña. If you want to groove to Spanish music alongside locals, head to B12 in Nuevos Ministerios.

Madrid's diversity is part of what makes it so magical, so naturally, different attractions will appeal to different people. These are just my personal opinions; other visitors, expats and locals may very well disagree, and that's okay! 

Please note that I am not interested in turning this into a political discussion about bullfighting.

Have you ever been to Madrid?
What were your favorite sights, and what sights do you wish you had skipped?

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián

Monday, August 17, 2015
The class, sophistication and unparalleled beauty of San Sebastián make it one of the most mesmerizing places to visit on the Iberian Peninsula. Most visitors are wise to come on an empty stomach, for this sparkling pearl on the Atlantic is also considered Spain's king of cuisine

While San Sebastián is home to the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the world, its famous pintxos are the beating heart of Basque gastronomy. A pintxo, named after the Spanish word for spike, is a tapa held together with a toothpick or skewer. Most of these savory appetizers are typically served atop a small piece of bread. 

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián

The Basques have mastered the art of devouring pintxos through El Txikiteo, otherwise known as pintxos crawling. Hopping from bar to bar in search of the best small dishes to share with friends has become one of San Sebastián's most revered traditions. Every afternoon and evening, you can find hordes of hungry Basques bouncing between pintxos bars in San Sebastián's Parte Vieja, or Old Town.

As delectable as these bread-based finger foods may be, this tradition assuredly sounds like a Celiac's worst nightmare. Upon traveling to San Sebastián, the supposed gastronomic capital of Europe, all I heard was talk of the enticing pintxos bars abounding in the town's old quarter. Instead of getting excited about this acclaimed foodie heaven, I felt an impending sense of dread. How would I survive eating gluten-free in San Sebastián?

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Fermin Calbeton Kalea, one of the main streets for pintxos hopping

Thankfully, avoiding gluten doesn't mean missing out on the city's best pintxos bars. Eating gluten-free in San Sebastián is no easy feat, but it's certainly not impossible.

The biggest challenge to overcome is the crowds, seeing as swaths of locals and tourists bombard the best pintxo bars during meal times. Getting a waiter's attention to place an order is fairly difficult in the first place, and holding their attention long enough to ask about potential allergens is even more challenging. Due to the sheer volume of people, waiters are typically in a rush and may not be the most friendly. But this is the culinary capital of Spain, so you do what you gotta do.

Never assume that something is gluten-free, even if it sounds like it naturally might be. Always tell your waiters "Soy Celiaca" if you have Celiac disease, and be sure to ask if certain dishes can be made gluten-free (sin gluten) or made especially without the bread (sin pan). However, because many pintxos are pre-made and laid out on the bar buffet-style, you won't be able to order every pintxo you want without the bread.

It's imperative to always state your allergy before you order. If you're nervous about the language barrier, print out a gluten-free restaurant card in Basque or in Spanish to show to your waiters.

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
The streets of the old town are typically packed during meal times

Sound daunting? It really isn't that bad. Once you get the hang of ordering pintxos sin gluten, you'll soon be devouring these mouthwatering dishes to your heart's content. Here's where to eat gluten-free pintxos in San Sebastián:

Taberna Gandarías
31 de Agosto Kalea, 23

What I Ordered:

Carrillera de buey  -  beef cheek
Croquetas de jamón  -  ham croquettes
Brocheta de pato  -  duck breast brochette
Tosta de queso de cabra con bacon  -  goat cheese and bacon toast
Solomillo  -  grilled beef sirloin toast
Jamón ibérico  -  Iberian ham

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Savory, melt in your mouth beef cheeks

The Verdict:

Gandarías was the only restaurant I went to that offered an actual GF menu, which made it the easiest and safest place to eat gluten-free in San Sebastián. They even served some of their pintxos atop gluten-free bread! Every dish we ordered was positively delicious, but the beef cheeks and goat cheese and bacon toast were the best dishes of our day. Due to the relative ease of ordering and the plethora of gluten-free options, this was my favorite pintxos bar in town.

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Gandarías' heavenly duck breast brochette

Calle Pescadería, 10

What I Ordered:

Bacalao a la hoguera  -  smoked cod with aioli, caramelized onions and liquid salad

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
"Bacalao a la hoguera" roughly translates to "cod on a bonfire"

The Verdict:

I've always had an aversion to fish, but when this smoking pintxo was offered to me, I simply couldn't pass it up. Served on its own metal grill, this "bonfire" cod was undoubtedly the best thing I ate all weekend. Although Zeruko's modern creations are a bit flashy, I would most certainly go back to San Sebastián just to eat this exquisite dish again.

Borda Berri
Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 12

What I Ordered:

Magret de pato asado lentamente  -  roasted duck breast cooked slowly
Entrecot con piquillo y mostaza  -  fillet steak with whole grain mustard vinaigrette
Queso de cabra tostado con ciruela  -  grilled goat cheese with plums

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Is it even possible to say no to goat cheese?

The Verdict:

By the time we hopped over to Borda Berri after the lunch-time rush, they had already run out of many of their famed dishes. What gluten-free options they did have left, however, were remarkably delicious. The busy waiters were curt, but nonetheless helpful. For the best of Borda Berri, make sure to get there early!

Atari Gastroteka
Calle Mayor, 18

What I Ordered:

Huevo a baja temperatura con habas y jamón  -  egg cooked at a low temperature
Solomillo con puré de zanahoria y salsa de vino  -  steak fillet with carrot puree in a red wine sauce
Patatas bravas  -  fried potatoes in a "spicy" tomato sauce
Crème brûlée

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
The egg cooked at a low temperature was one of the most savory bites I feasted upon all weekend

The Verdict:

The waiters at Atari were by far the most knowledgable about gluten-free dining. They were also, unsurprisingly, the most friendly. Unfortunately, this is one of San Sebastian's more pricy pintxos bars, but the security of knowing that my meal was entirely safe to eat made it worth every euro. Atari also offered us a fluffy loaf of gluten-free bread that tasted remarkably similar to a real baguette.

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián

La Cuchara de San Telmo
31 de Agosto Kalea, 28

What I Ordered:

Lomo de ternera  -  veal loin
Foie gras
Vieira  -  scallop

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Mouthwatering foie gras paired with a fruity glass of Rioja

The Verdict:

I was really bummed that La Cuchara de San Telmo's famed veal cheeks weren't gluten-free, but the alternatives did not disappoint. The scallop wasn't superb, but the veal loin and foie gras were phenomenal. This bar is where I realized that it would probably be impossible to be a gluten-free vegan in San Sebastián. (This bar was also a blatant reminder that I really, really hate crowds.)

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
La Cuchara de San Telmo is worth dining at if you can actually find a spot to eat

Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 7

What I Ordered:

Pastel de pato con hongos  -  duck and mushroom pie
Brocheta de canguro  -  kangaroo skewer
Queso de cabra sobre jamón serrano  -  goat cheese over a slice of Serrano ham
Calamares a la plancha  -  grilled squid

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Duck & mushroom pie, kangaroo skewer, grilled squid, and goat cheese with ham (clockwise)

The Verdict:

This pintxos bar was probably the least gluten-free friendly, seeing as the staff had a lot of trouble deciphering which pintxos contained gluten. (Or what gluten was, for that matter.) It all worked out in the end though, and I got to try a plethora of scrumptious dishes. (Who knew kangaroo could be so delicious?!) If you want to ask the waiters about gluten-free options, I recommend going before the restaurant gets very crowded.

Goiz Argi
Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 4

What I Ordered:

Brocheta de gambas  -  prawns skewer

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Prawns, where have you been all my life?

The Verdict:

Having hated seafood for most of my life, I had never actually tried a prawn before. Needless to say, this hole in the wall pintxos bar was the perfect place to try my first. I loved every bite! The chunky salsa atop the grilled prawns paired with tart Txakoli, a Basque sparkling white wine, sent my tastebuds to heaven.

Eating Gluten-Free in San Sebastián
Cheers, San Sebastián!

Please note:

For most of these dishes, I had to specifically ask for them "sin pan", or without bread. Remember to specify this, otherwise your naturally GF pintxo will come on top of a big pile of gluten!

Although I am usually sensitive to cross-contamination, I didn't get sick from any of these restaurants. That said, I did not look into how these bars prevent (or fail to prevent) cross-contamination, so eat at your own risk.

Do you have any food allergies? 
How do you survive them while traveling?

A guide to eating gluten-free pintxos in San Sebastián, Spain

My 5 Biggest Travel Fails

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
From bed bug bites to getting scammed, travel mishaps happen to the best of us. Here are my 5 biggest travel fails!

Despite what we like to portray, travel isn't always glamorous. Blunders and mishaps are bound to happen to the best of us. Some misfortunes can make for great stories in the end, but in the moment they are often overwhelming, frustrating and embarrassing.

While things may not go awry every trip, I've certainly had my fair share of epic fails. Although most are slightly mortifying, I've decided to share my five most memorable disasters abroad.

Stranded in Africa

My trip to Marrakech was a tumultuous one. Needless to say, when it came time to leave Morocco, we were anxious to get out of there as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans for us... and by "universe", I actually mean an Icelandic volcano that erupted and halted all flights back to Europe.

After arriving to the airport and being greeted with the unfortunate news, we were initially shell-shocked. Filled with panic, fear and frustration, reality hit us: we were stranded in Africa.

We gathered a group of other stragglers and coordinated a road trip to Tangier, where we planned on hopping a ferry back to Spain. After hiring a driver, we began our nine hour road trip across the Moroccan countryside. After endless hours of barren fields and deserted villages, we finally reached Tangier and bought our ferry tickets with a few minutes to spare. As we were sprinting towards the port to catch our ferry, which we had been told was the last boat of the night, I began to have an asthma attack. Needless to say, we missed the boat.

My 5 Biggest Travel Fails | Adelante

Thankfully we had been misinformed, and there was still one last ferry that night. We caught the last boat and endured the rocky ride through the Strait of Gibraltar, arriving in the sketchy port town of Algeciras around 2:00 am. 

The rest of our night was spent laying on the pavement outside the Algeciras bus station, braving the cold and desperately trying to catch some z's before the first bus back to Cádiz. With prostitutes lingering just a block away and the panicked lullabies of car alarms going off every hour, we were relieved when the local cops befriended us and checked in on us regularly. 

My 5 Biggest Travel Fails | Adelante

We miraculously survived our night on the streets and made it back to Cádiz safely. That said, I don't think I'll be going back to Marrakech anytime soon.

Takeaway: If an Icelandic volcano threatens to erupt, maybe it's best to stay home.

Sedated in France

During my time studying abroad in ParisI came down with strep throat one weekend. Although my hipster roommate didn't like me very much, she was kind enough to take me to the hospital on a Sunday afternoon. Finding a doctor's office that was actually open on a Sunday was a difficult feat, and the closest place - which happened to be an Emergency Room - was a considerable trek away. I was having trouble breathing because my throat was so swollen, so by the time we reached the hospital I was nearing a full-blown panic.

My 5 Biggest Travel Fails | Adelante

Upon entering the crowded waiting room, the nurse told us it'd be at least an hour or two before I could see the only doctor on duty. After waiting about 15 minutes, I suddenly found myself grasping for breath, trying to spout out the words "I can't breath" in broken French. Full-on internal pandemonium had set in, and I found myself in the middle of my first panic attack. Not knowing what was going on, my roommate ran to the nurse for help, and the nurse subsequently started banging on the door to the doctor's office.

The doctor came out into the waiting room, calmly examined my throat, and popped me a little blue pill. The rest of the visit was a haze. After regaining my ability to breath, I remember spouting eternal thanks to my roommate for "saving my life", waltzing into the doctor's office once it was my turn to see him, and feeling absolutely euphoric about how well I communicated my symptoms to him in French.

I was never asked to show my insurance card, but the ER visit (and what I assume to be a strong benzodiazepine) only cost me 50€. France's healthcare system knows what's up!  I frolicked to the pharmacy afterwards to pick up my delightfully cheap antibiotics, loving every minute of getting lost on the way.

Takeaway: The magic of Paris can also pertain to hospital visits. Just try not to get sick on a Sunday.

Scammed in Buenos Aires

Before traveling to Buenos Aires I had read all about the popular bill swapping scam, where taxi drivers supposedly take your change and give you back counterfeit bills. We had done our best to avoid this all week long, taking Radio Taxis that work for specific companies as opposed to independent drivers.

One afternoon, we ventured to the Museum of Latin American Art. After admiring the colorful exhibits, we were starving and eager to head to lunch. Our thoughts clouded by hunger, we hopped into the first cab we could find, despite the fact that it wasn't a Radio Taxi.

My 5 Biggest Travel Fails | Adelante

Alarm bells went off in my head when the taxi driver stopped at a seedy street corner, telling us that we'd arrived at our destination. This didn't look like what our guidebook had recommended, but I tried to keep an open mind.

"Do you have any larger bills? I need to get rid of some change", the cabbie said as my stepdad handed him some small bills. We caught on quick and insisted that we didn't, but the driver kept pressing us. We exited the cab in a huff after he reluctantly gave us our change, quickly realizing that we were definitely not in the right neighborhood. We rushed to a nearby café to figure out where we were and how to get to the correct destination.

I ordered a glass of wine to calm my nerves, and when it came time to pay, we handed our waitress the bills that our driver had just given us. Not before long, she came up to us and apologized in a hushed tone, "I'm sorry ma'am, but these bills are fake." 

We were mortified. As seasoned travelers, we should have known better. Thankfully we didn't lose that much money, but it still wounded my pride. I was livid at the driver, at Argentina, and at myself for letting it happen.

Takeaway: Only take official Radio Taxis in Buenos Aires, and never give cab drivers large bills. 

Mystery bites in Istanbul

Turkish food was quick to win over my heart and become one of my favorite international cuisines. That said, it was surprisingly difficult to find authentic meals near our hostel in Sultanahmet. So when some Turkish friends recommended Palatium, located above the ruins of the Great Palace of Constantinople, we enjoyed it so much that we went there twice. With mouthwatering food, friendly service and picture-perfect Turkish ambiance, what was not to love?

On our second venture to Palatium, my best friend and I ate our meal on the floor, sitting in a pair of picturesque woven bean bag chairs. They weren't the most comfortable, but I sucked it up for the sake of authenticity. When we returned to the hostel and met back up with her husband, we noticed that we were covered in bites.

My 5 Biggest Travel Fails | Adelante

It couldn't have been from the hostel, because we were all staying in the same room and my best friend's husband didn't have a single bite. We deduced that we had only been bitten where our skin had made contact with the bean bag chairs.

Although we originally thought the rash might be from fleas, it was more characteristic of bed bug bites. Covered in countless tiny welts, I flew home the next day nauseated, itching and emotionally scarred. This wasn't my first bout with bed bugs, but I seriously pray that it's my last.

Takeaway: As picturesque as bean bags in exotic restaurants may be, never sit in them.

Glutened in Amsterdam

Many of you already know that I have Celiac disease, which means that I can't indulge on normal glutenous goods such as beer and bread. (Tear.) So on my first day in Amsterdam when my friend told me that she'd found a place that sold gluten-free bagels, I was practically jumping for joy. I had just gotten in from my early morning flight, and I was starving.

I ordered my "gluten-free" bagel and could not get over how delicious it was. "Is this for real?!", I enthusiastically proclaimed. "It tastes too good to be true!"

It was.

My 5 Biggest Travel Fails | Adelante

The waitress accidentally served me a regular bagel, and I was reminded of this terrible blunder every hour on the hour for the next three days. Thanks to the frequent bouts of illness and the subsequent dehydration, I was out of commission for an entire week.

Takeaway: If it tastes too good to be true, it probably is.

As humbling as these experiences are, they certainly happen to the best of us. So now I'm curious,

What are your biggest travel fails and mishaps?
Please share or link to a post in the comments below!