By: David Leigh
David has lived in Catalonia for more than a decade, first in Barcelona and now in the forests of la Selva. When not enjoying the food he runs a website specialising in providing FC Barcelona tickets to visitors to Barcelona.
If you think of food in Spain you’ll probably immediately think of the ubiquitous paella, the delicious rice dish that originates from Valencia that in its best known form contains a variety of seafood; your mind may also turn to tapas, those tasty morsels traditionally served on a small plate to accompany a drink and originally used – or so the legend goes – to cover your drink and keep the flies out; “tapa” simply means “cover” in Spanish.
Paella in particular can be quite variable, partially due to the fact that many bars that serve lunchtime fixed price menus serve ready made versions of the dish that bear no resemblance at all to the flavour of one that has been well made. And while many tourist restaurants serve passable versions of the dish, the secret to finding the best paellas is simply to learn where the locals go to eat it.
Standard tapas include “patatas bravas”, which are sautéed potatoes served covered in a spicy sauce, olives, calamari and anchovies, and visitors are also sometimes surprised to find cold cubes of Spanish omelette on the menu. Many tapas bars are Galician and a popular dish you’ll see on the menu is octopus.
Quite different are Basque style tapas, which are served all over the country, they are often served on bread; stuffed peppers, grilled fish and other delights are set on the counter in bars and served with a cocktail stick. Simply grab a plate, choose one of the dishes and keep the stick; your bill at the end of the night will depend on the number and sizes of the sticks left on your plate.
Living in Catalona, as I have done for the last ten years, some of my favourite dishes are local specialities. Three things spring to mind that may appear simple pleasures, but I always look forward to eating.
The first is the botifara, a pork sausage spiced with pepper that is one of the staples of Catalan cooking. While a simple sausage may not seem particularly exciting, they are exceptionally high quality and a big improvement on the standard banger found in UK supermarkets.
By: Triptrotting Team
We know all of you Triptrotters are believers in local travel. So when our friends at Urban Adventures started an exciting challenge, we couldn’t wait to share it with our community. Brace yourself, it’s a big announcement, an incredible opportunity, and we want a Triptrotter to win!
Urban Adventures is giving away their London business for the rest of 2012, and not only will the lucky winner have the experience of a lifetime, they’ll keep the profits along the way. Yes, you heard us right. London is one of Urban Adventures’ most successful destinations, and they’re looking for someone to take the helm of operations for a year.
To enter, simply upload a video or a photo that showcases your signature London tour on Urban Adventures’ Facebook page under #LondonGold. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen amazing photos and videos that you guys shared on Triptrotting’s Facebook page! If you see London like Urban Adventures and Triptrotting see London, you’ll have no problem creating a unique, local perspective of one of the world’s greatest cities.
Facebook voting will determine two finalists, and an Urban Adventures judging panel will determine three finalists. The five finalists will then be interviewed by the General Manager of Urban Adventures, with one winner striking #LondonGold just in time for one of the busiest tourism summers London has ever seen!
If you win, not only will you get to lead your signature tour for the rest of 2012 (yeah, that’s right, people will be paying to see your London), you’ll also get to manage the rest of the London Urban Adventures operations, which includes a portfolio of seven other unique, popular tours and a group of awesome local guides.
The winner will be in charge of London Urban Adventures from 1 May to 31 December 2012, and at the end of it all, any profits made are yours to keep. Income is virtually uncapped, when you consider the massive influx of tourists into London this summer. If you can tap into some good local sales and marketing strategies, you’ll be set. Urban Adventures supports all their destinations with global sales and marketing, so you’ll be covered from all ends.
See why we want a Triptrotter to win? Have a look at the video and head to http://www.urbanadventures.com/london for more the details and the almighty terms & conditions (basically, you have to be over 18, fluent in written and spoken English, be legally entitled to work in the UK, and you’ve gotta know London like a local).
Enter on Facebook at facebook.com/UrbanAdventures, and click on the #LondonGold tab on the left.
Don’t forget to share your entry via Facebook and Twitter – you’re going to want your friends to cast their vote for you!
Contest closes 29 February 2012 – what are you waiting for?!
Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
After flying across three continents, two oceans, and exploring much of Eastern Europe in just a month, it seemed fitting that my Ultimate Triptrotting Adventure end where it started just a few short months before: in LA. City of angels, of beaches, of aspiring actors and actresses from around the globe. Far more relevant to my time there, however, was LA as base for the Triptrotting office! This is where it had all began, the idea for the contest, the launch, the votes, the decision to send me abroad as am ambassador-of-sorts for the company. Here is where the founders live, work, and lay the foundations for travelers around the world to connect and to gain the ‘local’ experience. How truly symbolic that my ‘local’ experience in LA happened to be with the very people who inspired it all!
And boy did they hook me up! From staying in a typical LA apartment, complete with pool and access to shopping and celebrities at the nearby Grove, to invites to excusive guest-listed clubs and afterparties, to wine-tasting of some fabulous California wine, to night time drives up the hills to see LA spread out below, and beyond. I’m talking Michael Jackson tributes, the grand opening of an ice-cream parlour, Mexican restaurant hopping, Korean BBqs, lounging on Santa Monica Beach, partying with some of LA’s finest at the exclusive birthday party of a well-known event planner, and a day spent at Walt Disney studios (normally off limits to members of the public). Not to mention tours of the Triptrotting office, where so much magic happens! Photo shoots with the team, time spent giving interviews in the studio, the chance to see an album being recorded by an up-and-coming Seattle hip-hop duo Striking Back. Oh, and in case you’re not convinced that my time in LA was suitably awesome, Triptrotting also invited me to the very first TRIPup event in LA. There, I had the chance to meet up with other locals and travelers at the beautiful W Hotel in Hollywood. All-in-all, not a bad introduction to the city of LA!
You don’t wanna hear it from me though, check out video evidence on Triptrotting TV instead!
Viator introduce their website by stating that their goal is wanting each customer to “have an unforgettable experience” every time they travel. This certainly applied to me!
Viator is a company that generously agreed to sponsor the Ultimate Triptrotting adventures, meaning that I was able to choose a Viator tour in each city that I traveled where they were available. The toughest part was narrowing it down to one tour in each city. After that all I had to do was enjoy! (In fact, sometimes they even picked me up and dropped me off after the tours!)
It’s hard to choose highlights from my Viator tours. All of them taught me something new and showed me ways to have fun in the cities I visited. I started out by segwaying in Budapest (a bit silly but actually heaps of fun!). In Prague when torrential rain forced the cancellation of my bike tour, the tour guide came with me to an art exhibit and picnic instead. My Belgrade tour was meant to last just four hours, but turned into a 16 hour extravaganza wherein we crisscrossed the important historical and cultural parts of the city and delved deep into the underground café and bar scene. Through Jelena (my guide aboce), I discovered some of my favourite spaces to date! Sofia, in Belgrade, was an entirely different sort of tour. A lot of focus was put on the Eastern Orthodox religion—we visited numerous iconic churches as well as a 13th century chapel with some of the world’s best-preserved frescoes! Finally, my tours in Istanbul and Athens were a bit more light-hearted—in Istanbul I was treated to a five course meal and a display of typical Turkish dancing, and in Athens I went on a cruise of three islands. They even let me wear the captain’s hat and steer the ship on the way back! (Pity the other passengers when I was in control).
All in all, I had an absolutely fabulous time with Viator! Definitely a great addition to my Triptrotting adventures.
By Triptrotting Team
The best souvenirs from all of our travel adventures are the friendships we’ve created along the way. They’ve given us perspective and even inspired us to join the Local Travel Movement and create a community of people who share the same passion for traveling and connecting with like-minded locals – Triptrotting (www.triptrotting.com). Here is a collection of travel memories where knowing local friends really made our travel experience extraordinary.
I’ve been to over 25 different countries, but the experiences below specifically taught me two key lessons: one is that hanging with locals completely changes your travel experiences and two, hanging out with your peers you realize how similar we all are, despite the fact that we come from so many different corners of the world.
Tunis, Tunisia — As I write this, Tunisia is a newly democratic country with new Presidential elections coming up soon, but when I visited I took a picture of the Presidential palace and my Tunisian friend Rola freaked out! She yelled at me that I should put my camera away if I don’t want the cops to take it away! I learned so much on that trip about Tunisia, its culture and its people. I got to stay with Rola’s family in Tunis for 3 nights and one night with her younger sister, husband and her 8 month daughter. We visited Rola’s high school, went horseback riding on a professional ranch and hung out with her high school friends. I could tell back then the growing frustration among the young people about the autocratic government, but at the same time feeling of hopelessness of the situation. Without knowing Rola in Tunisia, I would’ve probably never gone there! This was the first time I realized how knowing locals could actually drive people to take trips to places they would never go.
New Zealand (all over) — In December of 2009 I set off on my very first solo trip, but it was solo only on the flight there! Unlike most other student travelers, I didn’t choose a kiwi bus. Once I arrived to Auckland my local friend, Brendon Potter, with his whole family met me in the airport and we set off for a 5 day Christmas road trip from Auckland all the way to Wanaka in South Island. I listened to amazing stories about their lives, learned random local facts as we passed through vast green fields and herds of sheep, ate fresh caught fish in local Kaikoura cafe, stayed with their friend in Christchurch by the beach and stopped by to take pictures with seals. I got to see how real kiwis live, unlike any other traveler, even backpacker, gets to see. Brendon’s family was the warmest and nicest family ever! They truly showed me Kiwi hospitality.
Eurotrip (Bordeaux, Lisbon, Barcelona) — After my New Zealand solo trip, I realized that traveling “solo” is actually fun because you get to meet way more locals when you are alone. So in summer 2010 I went on my first backpacking/business trip through Europe. On this trip I decided to meet up with my peers.
First I went to Lisbon, where I met up with Joao, local Medical school student, who took me on a walking tour of Lisbon and then drove us to a local beach outside of Lisbon. I had such a blast learning from Joao, native born Portuguese, about the history and current life in Portugal, about the things that they do as students, concerns they have… It was really funny to learn quickly that they have exactly same concerns as we do in the States: what do I do with my life? Do I really want to be doctor or lawyer, like my parents encourage me? When and where do I want to settle down? How do I plan into my life at least a year of round the world travels?
After spending only 2 days in Lisbon (definitely going back:) I took an overnight train to Barcelona, where I was met by my local host Maria Florit, student at ESADE Business School. I met her when she was studying abroad in the states the previous year. Maria lived in the residential area of Barcelona and for some time I felt like there were 2 Barcelonas: one with overcrowded streets, full of tourists, pick-pocketers and overpriced restaurants and another one with cute little cafes, open air evening movies and small bars where most local students hang out. I got to chat there with local Catalans, who were supporting Holland for the World Cup 2010 final, and learn about the historical tensions between Catalans and Spaniards.
Off from Barcelona I took off to Bordeaux where I met up with my old friend from small town around Bordeaux. For my birthday he took me to St. Emilion, where I had the best wine and cheese in my life! He also worked for Societe Generale and I used to work at UBS, so we had a lot to chat about during the 2 hour ride:)
It’s difficult for me to look back on my travel experiences without seeing the faces that have inspired me to think outside of the box and have really enriched my life. Think back to all the times a travel memory is brought up in conversation. Are you just talking about the lovely statue you photographed? For me, the stories I rave about over and over again and get all the laughs and “wow’s” all involve the great friendships I’ve made and experiences I’ve shared. In each place I visit, the best souvenir for me is a new friendship and a brand new perspective.
Bangkok, Thailand – My trip to Bangkok, Thailand was eye opening and so very intriguing. Aside from the elephant rides, the jungle safari, the floating market and being bit by a monkey while feeding it bananas, I remember all the hospitable faces and helpful locals. The locals were extraordinarily friendly. One of the girls on our trip had a local friend who invited us to her home for an afternoon pool party. Little did I know, I had entered into a home with maids, guest houses and infinity pools. Our host was friendly and even took us to experience a different side of Thailand only the more privileged frequented.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Before going to Dubai, I didn’t know too much about the city except for what was in the news. At that time, Dubai was in the news for being the place where everything was possible. The biggest, the tallest, and the fastest anything can be found there. I had no clue what to expect and my imagination of the Middle East had images of Aladdin and camels. It wasn’t until I had the chance to meet a few locals who brought us out to a local restaurant did we get a chance to learn more about Dubai. Underneath the glamour of what we saw to be a Vegas–like tourism destination, there was the local view of the changes to their city. It seemed that in a place of tradition, there is an ever increasing gap between what is “traditional” and what is “modern” and “westernized.” To hear a local’s perspective is incredibly valuable. In exchange, our new friends had even more questions for us. They seemed even more excited to learn about the United States, what it’s really like and not just what they see on TV.
Hong Kong, China – Although I am originally from mainland China, Hong Kong was a world of difference from the northern China I knew in early 1990s. When I had a chance to live in Hong Kong for 6 months during college, I specifically requested to share a room with a local student and determined to close the gap on the differences between what so little I knew about Hong Kong only from watching television shows. I tried to learn Cantonese – failed miserably. I tried to grasp Cantonese comedy – I pretended to understand. I sat in on my local friends’ Mahjong session – I got it! Let’s just say, some things are universal. We partied at night and she even helped me get local rates on cell phones! Later on, she even became one of the first Triptrotters in Hong Kong!