A Walk Down Memory Lane in Barcelona at Azul-Tierra

A Walk Down Memory Lane in Barcelona at Azul-Tierra

It was one of those moments, and I can still see it in my mind’s eye: moody lighting, rich, warm, worldly scents, flickering candles and eye-catching objects of desire.  I return to that moment often in my mind, it’s the perfect escape. Have you ever visited a place that just sticks with you in a completely sensory way? If you close your eyes you can conjure up the fragrance, the quality of light, the sultry temperature, the whole mood of a place.


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My Spa Day at La Perla in San Sebastian, Spain (+ the naked truth)

Spa Day in Spain

For months I've meant to share the story of my spa day in Spain. With over two weeks of travel, through Portugal and Spain, under our belts, spa time was needed to work out the kinks, and soften the edges. The La Perla Spa was located just a few steps down the promenade from our Hotel Niza, in San Sebastian. I had seen the glowing locals leave the spa, as they paraded down the promenade, and thought that would be the perfect way to spend my birthday. When we stopped in to make our reservation, Scott and I looked over the menu with assistance from two beautiful, Spanish women, in stylish black uniforms. They were professional, enthusiastic and glowing. It was one of those "I'll have what she's having" kind of moments. After some consideration, we selected the seaweed scrub and mud wrap special, based on their recommendations.

I've had a number of massages, many while traveling abroad, but I've never booked a scrub and a mud wrap. Somehow the process seemed a little too intimate, with all the scrubbing and wrapping. Do they scrub and wrap ALL the parts? In the luxurious comfort of the La Perla Spa spa concierge desk, I threw caution to the wind. In my mind, I had the impression that these two lovely, professional women would be performing my treatments. THAT was where my logic went wrong!

Following a light birthday breakfast at Hotel Niza, Scott and I made the short walk down the boardwalk to the spa. I love those moments of feeling like a local, and we were feeling it. Following our check-in, changes into comfy terry robes, we waited in the spa lounge sipping on citrus-cucumber water. This is the life! Suddenly, two young men entered the lounge. They were dressed in tight white t-shirts, tight white jeans (leggings?) and...get this...they were wearing plastic gloves. One was snapping the wristband, "Ready??"...snap, snap....I looked at my husband, in horror, and whispered, "Oh Sugar (or something like that)! I forgot to say I didn't want a man"...Snap, snap! Scott later describes these young gentlemen as the "lumberjack and the waiter". I considered my two options: running up those spa stairs to safety or putting on (taking off) my 'big girl' pants. In the end, the birthday girl decided to grin and bare it. After all, it was already paid for!

La Perla Spa San Sebastian Spain

As the "waiter" stepped closer and said my name, I nodded. My cheeks were already burning. He led me to a private spa room where I noticed a shower, table, hoses, a vat of 'mud' but, unfortunately, a surprising lack of any sheets or towels. In America, and luxury resorts abroad, towels and sheets, are abundant. I especially appreciate those privacy sheets, designed to protect the eyes of your spa therapist, and your dignity. You know the ones? I didn't spot a single one. As my "waiter" handed me the teeniest, tiniest, paper string bikini bottom, I would have paid big money for a privacy towel about then. He pantomimed that I should take off all my clothes and get on the table on my stomach. I realized his English was sparse and wondered if that was a good or bad thing. The inner dialogue in my head was deafening, "He's young enough to be my son," "Poor kid, I hope this doesn't burn his eyes!" "Did I shave under my arms?" and "Maybe it's a scrub for the backside only, not the front?".  I was wracking my brain to remember how much of the body they actually cover with a scrub and mud wrap. Clearly, he had given me no top to wear.

As I changed into my dental floss bikini bottom and laid face first on the table I felt very vulnerable. The European idea of nudity seems to be completely different than in the United States. I wondered why I felt so vulnerable, while some of the Europeans paraded confidently, and openly, around the pools, locker room, and beaches.

La Concha Beach San Sebastian Spain
La Concha Beach San Sebastian Spain

I am no prude. I had my dalliances with tiny bikinis back in the day, skinny dipping, a French clothing optional beach on St. Martin, what have you. The idea of almost complete nudity, alone with a young Spanish man, covering my body with seaweed scrub and mud, was not on my radar for my birthday. Now that I think of it, what a decadent gift from my husband, right? LOL!  My burning question, and pardon me but it's the truth, do they put mud on your boobs? There, I said it!

Back to that table, and the naked truth of my spa day in Spain. Turns out my "waiter" was adept at applying scrub all over my backside. The toughest moment was when he pantomimed for me to roll over on my back....ugh!! If I could have communicated in Spanish I might have said, "Just the backside is fine."  Why was this so hard? If I had been 30 how would I have felt? It's a good thing he didn't speak English, because the stream of quips and jokes coming from my mouth, to break the tension, would have been endless. Instead, I steeled myself, and kept quiet, as I rolled over. Hello, glory!  All the scrubbing, and eventually mud application, continued on the front side. In the end, I was relieved when he directed me to rinse my body off in the shower, alone. I'm happy to report that the boobs were left untouched...

Still, poor guy!

San Sebastian Spain, La Concha beach.jpg

I remembered a moment, during our trip to St. Martin, when I saw this difference firsthand. Scott and I took a day trip to the island of St. Barth's on the ferry. We chatted it up with several German and American couples on the way. As we neared the island, the German women, still chatting, pulled their tops off and stowed them in their bags. The American men, including my husband, were suddenly speechless..... imagine! The topless women just kept on chatting. It was comical! I admired their confidence and non-nonchalance. They are just boobs after all. Maybe we treat them a bit too 'preciously', with all the nip-slips and such, here in America. It's definitely a cultural difference that intrigues me when traveling.

Men on the beach in San Sebastian Spain
Men on the beach in San Sebastian Spain

 These gentlemen at the beach, next door to La Perla Spa, have no problem letting it all hang out.

Guard my life in San Sebastian
Guard my life in San Sebastian

A final "I'll have what she's having" moment.

Wait, is that my "waiter" moonlighting as a lifeguard?

My spa day in Spain....revealing!

Is it just me? How would you feel about all that 'naked truth' at the spa?

To my European friends, any advice for getting through those revealing moments?

Ready to book your getaway?

 

Curated Hotel: The chic H-10 Port vell in Barcelona

Curated Hotel: The chic H-10 Port vell in Barcelona

Our getaway to Barcelona was the last stop on our three-week vacation to Portugal and Spain. This was our second time visiting Barcelona, and though our time was short, Scott and I were looking forward to getting better acquainted with this culturally vibrant, sexy city.

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Sunny Getaway to San Sebastian, Spain

Sunny Getaway to San Sebastian, Spain

In direct contrast to the colorful alleys and sun drenched landscapes of southern Spain is the green, Tyrolean flavor of Basque Country of Northern Spain. Scott and I arrived in Bilbao by plane from Sevilla, and were amazed at the verdant green of the hills.  We rented a car and headed to San Sebastian, by the sea. I vacillated on whether to select a hotel more on the outskirts of town, or beach side, on the promenade. In the end we were delighted with our choice of the Hotel Niza, and it’s perfect location, right above the promenade, La Concha Beach and the sea.

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Signature Style: How to Dress European Chic

Signature Style: How to Dress European Chic

We were enjoying lunch at the café outside our hotel, beside the promenade in San Sebastián, Spain, when the European chic styles strolling by caught my eye.  I grabbed my camera and snapped away with the beauty of this seaside scene as the backdrop. I want to thank this couple for walking by at this exact moment, looking as though they stepped out of a French film noir. I noted the flowing maxi dress embellished with lace. Simply chic, whether in Europe or anywhere this season, maxis and lace are on-trend.

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Getaway to Seville, Spain

In my Summer Travel Series we've visited Lisbon, the sunny beaches of Algarve and our next stop is the charming Seville, aka Sevilla, Spain. Scott and I booked a bus transport for this leg of our trip and found it to be a convenient way to travel the 4 hours east from Portugal to Spain.

In Seville we caught a taxi, and experienced an ultra wild ride, through the extremely narrow streets of the city center. I'm sure we could have reached out and touched the buildings on either side if we had only dared open the windows.

From the moment we entered the Fontecruz Sevilla we knew we had made the perfect choice with this sleek, modern hotel in the midst of Bario Santa Cruz. It's located within a couple of winding blocks to cafe-lined streets, the Sevilla Cathedral, the Alcazar, the Plaza de Espana, and the river front. From this 'wagon wheel' of a city center we could pick a direction, head down a tiny street to explore, and it would take us to a new hidden gem.

Along with the excellent location, I liked the vibe of the Fontecruz Sevilla. Our suite was sleek, well-appointed and spacious. The common spaces, were luxurious and comfortable. There is even an outdoor pool for a dip on hot summer days.

When I was making reservations for the trip the photos of this hotel had me at "roof-top terrace overlooking the city". The Fontecruz Sevilla is the perfect perch for capturing a brilliant sunset from the rooftop lounge.

We walked by this friendly fellow (with cap (center) who encouraged us to see the city, escorted by himself and his steed, in this colorful carriage. We politely declined, but a minute later changed our minds. Why not? We found the carriage to be a charming way to see the sights in Sevilla. We recommend a carriage ride in the mid-to-late morning, during the summer months, before the heat sets in.

 I captured a moment during our carriage ride on this video: 

The Seville Cathedral, also called 'Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See', is the third largest church in the world and adorns the ancient city center of Seville like an ornate stone wedding cake. We viewed the burial site of Christopher Columbus and the scope of that slice of history is awe-inspiring. This gothic cathedral is definitely worth a visit and we appreciated it's ability to transport us to another place in time, even for just an hour, on a sunny Spanish afternoon.

One a completely different cultural note, one of our favorite aspects of travel is meeting fellow travelers and locals along our path. Just across the cobbled street from our hotel we spotted 'Abbatia', an authentic tapas restaurant. We thought it would be an excellent first stop for our evening out. Little did we know that the warm, friendly owners, Pedro and Blanco, and their chef Andres, would capture our hearts. Our evening started with tasty tapas, lovely wines and lively conversation. We eventually made our way out on the town to discover more of Sevilla. As we ventured back to our hotel, late at night, our new friends waved us back in for a nightcap, an after-hours flamenco show/dance lesson and the hilarity ensued. We certainly felt the 3:30 am bedtime the next morning, but our adventure was more than worth it! In travel there are those memorable times, when a language barrier simply does not exist, and this was one of them. Thank you to our new friends in Sevilla!

A few more views of Sevilla (the street view taken from our tiny balcony).

We fell in love with the charms of Sevilla. Scott and I agreed that three days was not enough and next time we will plan to stay longer. Our plane reservation was already scheduled so we reluctantly boarded the plane to Bilbao, Spain. Join me on the next leg of our 'Summer Travel to Portugal and Spain' series for a glimpse of the sparkling seaside city of San Sebastián.