Color of Love Blog Hop

Hey! I'm Jamie Wesley, and I'm thrilled you stopped by my blog as part of the Color of Love Blog Hop. We are celebrating multicultural and interracial love, so if you enjoy romance novels featuring people of color, then keep reading.

There are some amazing prizes to be had by visiting each of the blog stops and entering the Rafflecopter drawing.

Grand prizes:

  • 1st prize $75 gift card + 7 ebooks
  • 2nd prize $50 gift card + 7 ebooks
  • 3rd prize $30 gift card + 7 ebooks
  • 4th prize $15 gift card + 7 ebooks
  • 5th prize $10 gift card + 7 ebooks
  • 6th prize $5 gift card + 7 ebooks

I’ll be giving away a copy of SLAMDUNKED BY LOVE to someone who comments below.

I love sports and romance, so it made perfect sense to me to write SLAM. I chose basketball specifically because basketball players need love too. There are a ton of football, baseball, and hockey romances and it's not fair. Basketball players need love, too!

Brady, the hero, has no idea what's in store for him when he plays good Samaritan and pulls over to help Caitlin, the heroine, whose car breaks down.

To enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of SLAMDUNKED BY LOVE, tell me which sport you love to see in your romances. If sports aren't your thing, what profession do you like to read about?

Revenge is supposed to be sweet...

Caitlin Monroe is ready to confront her past. Years ago, her father ditched her mother for the NBA, leaving her pregnant and alone. Now he’s a big-shot coach, and Caitlin’s ready to take the so-called “ family man” down. But on her way to the team gala, her car dies, and it’s her father’s sexy new star player who comes to her rescue.

Brady Hudson wants nothing more than to put his past behind him and concentrate on winning the championship for his new team. But when he finds himself the recipient of unwanted attention—attention that could destroy his career—he introduces the beautiful woman he saved on the side of the road as his "girlfriend."

Brady needs to focus on his job. And Caitlin isn’t about to date an athlete whose career is riding on her father—though he is a convenient way to get the dirt she needs. But sometimes love has other ideas, and it’s not long before their pretend relationship becomes a liability neither can resist...

Ebook: Amazon ·  Amazon Canada · Amazon UK · Barnes & Noble · iBooks · Kobo · Google Play ·  Books-A-Million

This hop is a celebration of book bloggers and authors who enjoy romance books with characters of color, either in interracial relationships or multicultural settings. Visit the next blog in the hop for more chances to win!

The Deal With Love Cover Reveal!!

I'm so excited! I have a cover for my next book, The Deal With Love. This is the third book in my One-On-One series. We met the hero and heroine, Christian and Elise, in Slamdunked By Love. I hope you enjoy watching them deal with the love (get it, get it!) they never expected. 

I kinda love the cover. I hope you do too!

What's the book about you say? It just so happens that I have a blurb!

Once is never enough.

When filmmaker Christian Monroe runs into fiery—and frustrating—Elise Templeton at a party, the night quickly becomes the hottest one-night stand of their lives. But then her boss hires Christian to make a publicity film about Elise, and suddenly they’re in each other’s space. All day. Every day. And things are getting hotter

Outside the bedroom, the two have nothing in common. Elise is focused solely on becoming the NBA’s first female general manager. And Christian learned long ago that being a work-a-holic—or being with one—is a recipe for disaster.

But the more Elise reveals her deepest desires and fears to Christian—something she’s done for no man, ever—the more Christian wonders how much longer he can keep his hands off the infuriating woman who rocked his world…

So yeah, I'm excited. If you're so inclined, click below to add The Deal With Love to your To-Be-Read pile on Goodreads!

In praise of the library

When I was in the third grade my teacher asked if I had a city library card. I said no, and she said I should get one. I said okay and went home and asked my mom to take me to the library up the street from our house. When I stepped into that library, I fell in love. There were so many books, and I had to read them all. The Dallas Public Library is where I discovered and fell in love with The Baby-sitters Club and so many other books.

I often refer to my middle (and high)middle as a school for nerds because it was a talented and gifted academy. I mention this because in the seventh grade, we took a field trip downtown to the Dallas Central Library to learn how to do research. Because it was a school for nerds, and these are the types of field trips we took. When I stepped foot into this place and saw the young adult section, the heavens sang.

Up until that point, I’d only visited one-story branch libraries. The central library was 8 stories tall and had SOOO many books. I’m sure I learned how to do research that day, but I also took home as many books as I could carry. Later that night, I showed my mom my haul and told her she had to take me back there ASAP because they had SO. MANY. BOOKS.  

She did every time I asked, and it was awesome.

Over the years, I’ve gone to the library less and less as I’ve come to depend on bookstores. Every time I do go, I tell myself I need to go more often. Even if I didn’t want to check out books, they have TONS of movies and TV shows on DVD. It’s like Netflix, but free!

Anywho, a couple of days ago, somehow I got to thinking about Nora Roberts’ Born in Fire. It’s one of, if not my favorite, book. I was like “Oh, I haven’t read it in so long. I want to read it!” Unfortunately, my copy is in a box at my mother’s house all the way across town. But I’m me, and once I become fixated on something, it is O-V-E-R. I can think about nothing else until I get what I want.

So I headed to Amazon to see how much the ebook cost. $7.99. For a book I already own? When I’m as cheap as I am? Yeah, no. But again, I’m me, and I don’t take too kindly to obstacles.

I stewed for a bit until it dawned on me. TRY THE LIBRARY!

I crossed my fingers, went to dallaslibrary.org, and searched for the Born in Fire ebook.

AND THEY HAD IT. AND IT WAS AVAILABLE TO CHECK OUT!

I did so as fast as I could, and soon I was reading Born in Fire. Best decision ever.                                                                 

I fell in love with the book and the characters all over again. And felt completely inadequate as a writer, but that’s okay because the book is sooo good.

So thank you, Dallas Public Library (and other libraries I’ve patroned over the years) for always being there and having SO. MANY. BOOKS.

Friday Jams: Extraordinary Love

Welcome to Friday Jams!

For all of my books, I create a playlist. Every Friday, I want to highlight one of those songs and tell you why it made it on the playlist.

When I was writing the below scene in SLAMDUNKED BY LOVE, I needed a word for "terrific." I threw around a bunch of words like "fantastic" and "amazing" but they weren't good enough. All of a sudden, "extraordinary" popped out. As soon as it did, I heard Stacy Barthe singing "extraordinary looove" in my head and I knew it was the perfect word. The only word that would work.
_____________________________________________________________

Excerpt:


He drew away slowly. If she thought about it long enough, she’d be embarrassed that it was she who clung to him, but her mind and senses were too rattled.

“What was that about?” she asked, unwilling to say good-bye to him. Needing to hear him say he was as affected by the kiss as she was.

“I wanted to know what it was like to kiss you just for us, no one else,” he said, confirming her earlier thoughts.

“You were testing a theory?”

“A theory I’ve wondered about way too much.”

“And?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“Ten times better than I remembered. And you? What did you think?”

“It was…” Fantastic. Remarkable. “Good.”

“Good? I can do better than that.” He cupped her nape, sliding his hand into her hair and tugging her head back. She did nothing to stop him. The look in his eye told her he had one goal—to seduce.

He went to work, not in any hurry, teasing her. A slow slide of his lips against her. A small tug on her bottom lip, encouraging her to open up and let him. She did. His tongue swept inside, causing hers to chase his. Their tongues tangled in a slow, perfectly choreographed dance. Degree by degree he took the kiss deeper, drawing her into his web of lust and desire.

Even more so when his hands joined in the action, finding their way inside her dress after finding the zipper on the side. He pushed aside her bra and cupped her breast. He murmured in approval when her nipple tightened against his palm. Squeezed harder. She gasped at the arrow of heat that landed between her legs. Her chest heaved when he drew away.

“How was that?” His voice, so deep, so enthralling, came out husky, like he too felt their insane chemistry which only got more potent each time they touched.

He’d set out to seduce. Had he succeeded? Hell, yeah. “That was…” Her eyes fluttered open. “Extraordinary.”

Day 8, Spanish Spree: Are you in Ibiza? Cuz I'm still in Ibiza!

 

Need to catch up? Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4 Day 5Day 6Day 7

Throughout the trip, my tour mates and I remarked at how surreal it was to be in Spain and how lucky we were. It’s a gorgeous country and so different from my regular life.

After the night (and early morning) at Space, we had a free day in Ibiza, which for me meant sleeping in and not rolling out of bed until after 11 a.m.

When I did rejoin the Land of the Living, I knew exactly how I wanted to spend the day: on a beach reading a book and people-watching.

And that’s exactly what I did for the next few hours. A few tour mates and I took a taxi to the beach by the Bora Bora Resort. I dipped my toe in the water and yanked it out even faster because it was cold.  In any case, the water was gorgeous. I took a few photos because I wanted to remember how colorful and crystal clear the water was – aquamarine and turquoise and amazing with not many waves.

While relaxing, I kept thinking about the chicken club sandwich I’d had the night before. Yeah, I wanted another one. The beach was near the restaurant, so I said good bye to my tour mates who wanted to explore the beach more. When I arrived at the strip where the restaurant was located, I noticed something was different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I kept walking, and then it hit me! The restaurant was closed! Nooo!! I didn’t notice at first because other restaurants were open, and I was thinking my restaurant was farther down. It was not.

I guess it’s only open at night to take advantage of all the club goers. Sigh. So I went next door and had a really good pasta with cream sauce, ham, and peas dish. Then I went back to the hotel, showered, and put in motion the second part of Jamie’s perfect day – shopping!

We were staying near Old Town, where a bunch of stores were located, so I walked over there. I bought a supercute white skirt from Pimkie and a red striped shirt from Stradivarius.

That night we went to Café del Mar to watch the sun set over the water. Café del Mar is famous for its sunset views. It was obvious why. Beautiful.

The only downside to Café del Mar was that I paid 6 euro for a tiny bottle of Sprite! I will forever be mad about that. The price wasn’t on the menu. If I’d known it cost that much, I would have gotten a mojito for only a little more!

After the sun set, I went back to the hotel and called it a night. I could have gone to Pasha, another famous Ibiza club, but I was tired and not feeling it. Oh well.

So long Ibiza, party capital of the world!

Photo of the Day:

Looking at the photo now, dude looks dorky, but I remember him being really good looking. He was a promoter trying to get us to go to his club. We took photos and then sent him on his way.

Looking at the photo now, dude looks dorky, but I remember him being really good looking. He was a promoter trying to get us to go to his club. We took photos and then sent him on his way.

Next? Day 9: I get on a boat!

Day 7, Spanish Spree: Are you in Ibiza? Cuz I'm in Ibiza!

Need to catch up? Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4 Day 5Day 6

Today was our last day in Barcelona. Most of the tour group went on a bike tour of the city, which I would’ve done if I had any clue how to ride a bicycle, but I don’t and I didn’t think today was the day I needed to try learning.

On the way to the city center where the group would start the bike tour, we stopped at La Pedrera, an apartment building designed by Gaudi. Whoever wasn’t going on the bike tour could get off here if they wanted. I did because like I said yesterday, I didn’t feel like I had maximized my time in Barcelona.

I’m so happy I did. The building was gorgeous. My photos don’t do it justice. Gaudi really was a man ahead of his time. His sense of style and innovation in design are incredible. The view from the roof was amazing. The way he designed the rooms to take in all the natural light, his use of wrought iron, etc…

Below: A couple of interior shots of a replica apartment in La Pedrera. People do still live in the building. Part of it has been converted to a museum, but the rest is composed of residences.

After taking a bunch of photos, I headed to La Rambla to see if I could get some shopping in, but most stores were closed because it was Sunday, but that was all right. I got in some quality people-watching time. Maybe I should have figured out how to get to the beach or something, but I didn’t, so onward!

Next stop: Ibiza! We went to the airport and got through security with no problems, but they do things differently at the Barcelona airport or maybe it was the airline. I don’t know. What I do know is we weren’t assigned a gate to depart from until about 40 minutes before the flight took off. Umm, OK.

I was starving by this point. While roaming Barcelona, I couldn’t decide where to eat and I really didn’t want to go the McDonald’s route. That was a promise I’d made myself before leaving for the trip. Confession: I did use the McDonald’s bathrooms a few times over the two weeks I was in Spain. The place was always packed, so clearly other people were not at all concerned about falling into the American fast food trap.

Also, in case you were wondering, the fast food joints I saw the most in Spain were McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Subway. One more aside: thanks to my tour mates, I now know that Aussies call McDonald’s Mackers (you have to say it with an Australian accent). This is the important cultural stuff you learn when traveling with people from all over the world.

BACK TO THE TRIP: I was starving. I ended up having some seriously unsatisfying pasta Bolognese. I ate it because I was starving, and I paid for it, but it was dry and flavorless. This was one of those times when I would have been better off going to McDonald’s.

By the time I finished eating and wandering through a few stores at the airport, a gate had been assigned for our flight. However, they don’t do boarding groups. They did have us line up in two lines based on seat numbers, but all that did was allow the gate attendants to scan two tickets at one time. And because there were no boarding groups, boarding took forever because of the bottlenecks created by the lack of boarding groups.

Anyway, we left 35-40 minutes after our scheduled departure time, but the flight was only 30 minutes long. Best flight ever!

We took a shuttle to the hotel. After checking in, Chrissy, one of my tour mates, and I went down the street and ate pizza at one of the restaurants by the pier. The food was good, and the waiter was nice. He talked about moving somewhere else, and we were like, “Dude! You live in Ibiza!”

We scarfed the pizza down because we had to get back to the hotel. Why? Because we had to get ready to go to Space!

Before the trip, a tour mate posted something on our group web page about how we would be in Ibiza for the Space Opening Party, which had gotten pushed back a week. My reaction was something along the lines of “Umm, OK?” I asked my BFF Mr. Google what the big deal was. Apparently, Space is the stuff of legend and the Opening Party is even crazier. According to Ms. Wikipedia, “It was awarded "Best Global Club" at the International Dance Music Awards in 2005, 2006, 2012, and again in 2013.”

From another Space website:

“Every year the Space Ibiza club put on a show of ridiculous proportions, completely transforming the already cavernous club into a festival of music.
The biggest difference to the club is the erection of a massive open-air arena which adds well over 7,000 extra capacity to the club making a total capacity of around 15,000 for the Space Opening Party 2015! This new arena is called the ‘flight arena.’
The flight arena often has the biggest DJs playing and is open from the afternoon until Midnight – when the party doesn’t stop but continues inside to the rest of the club. Every area is open and alive with different music. It’s like a maze inside Space and you can get lost in the music for hours!”

So yeah, that’s where we were going. We’d bought tickets to the party earlier in the day and headed to a bar down the street from Space because the drinks were cheaper than those sold in Space. I downed the strongest mojito I’ve ever tasted at the encouragement of my tour mates.

Space was insane. So many rooms. House music. Packed bodies gyrating and inhaling Lord only knows what. All was well until I went to the bathroom, and I came out and my group was no longer where I’d left them. Luckily, a few other tour mates had also gotten separated from the larger group, so I wasn’t totally alone. Eventually, somehow (remember there are at least 5 rooms packed with thousands of people) I found the larger group. We danced for a few hours to some trippy house music which really isn’t my thing, but I’m glad I went.

I mean how often do you get to say you went to the Space Opening Fiesta in Ibiza?!!

After we left, we went to a restaurant across the street. I was just going to have some fries and call it a night, but then I saw this chicken/ham club sandwich on the menu, and I had to have it. Oh. My. God. It was sooo good. Like sooo good. I want to fly to Ibiza just so I can eat that sandwich again. Seriously.

A taxi ride later, we were back at the hotel. I’d survived Space.

Photo of the Day:

That's Nicole, one of my tour mates, on the shoulders of someone in the tour group at Space

That's Nicole, one of my tour mates, on the shoulders of someone in the tour group at Space

What's next? Day 8: Even more fun in Ibiza!

 

Day 6, Spanish Spree: Oh, the (mass of) Humanity, Part Dos!

Need to catch up? Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4 Day 5

We started the day doing a walking tour of the Gothic quarters in Barcelona.

Catedral de Santa Eulalia

Catedral de Santa Eulalia

Yes, that’s a wall with bullet holes in it put there during the Spanish Civil War. Apparently, Spaniards don’t like talking much about this painful part of their history, but the walls with the bullet holes remain, so…

Here are the steps where the man who “discovered” America stood to show off his great find from the New World: the potato.

After the walking tour, we had the rest of the day to ourselves, which meant I could do whatever I wanted, but that requires plans and/or a familiarity with the city that I didn’t have.

So I probably should have bought a ticket to go inside Gaudi’s church, but I didn’t. I forgot or got lazy or something. I wandered around Barcelona with some of my tour mates, which was fun, but I still can’t help think I was missing something. We went into a few stores to shop, but I didn’t buy anything.

I will say that Barcelona is beautiful. Shocking, I know. There are an endless number of side streets you can wander through and never come to an end. There’s always another street.

Yeah, that's me trying to recreate the pose from the statue. The pose was a lot more awkward than I realized.

Yeah, that's me trying to recreate the pose from the statue. The pose was a lot more awkward than I realized.

The coolest thing was seeing one side street completely filled with Bilbao soccer club fans. Athletic Bilbao was playing FC Barcelona in the Copa del Rey championship that night, and the Bilbao fans had come into the city to watch. It was insane. Bilbao is the only team that requires that all its players be from Bilbao.

Anyway, back to the fans. They were chanting and waving flags in their Bilbao jerseys as far as the eye could see. It was sooo cool.

Not cool? All the walking we did today. Walking, walking, walking. My feet started to KILL me. I did have a good time hanging out with my tour mates, but it was a long day after not getting much sleep the night before. At one point, we stumbled into a café. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but it had this cool courtyard in the back. We happily took our seats and ordered sangrias. I’ve never drunk so much sangria in my life, but it’s good stuff.

Almost forgot this story: we’re sitting on the steps of a church (I think) taking a rest. I think we’d stopped for gelato. Anyway, this guy came out of the church and basically just fell down the stairs. It was so hard not bursting into laughter. Poor dude.

Later that evening, we joined up with the rest of the tour group and did a walking tapas tour, where we tried tapas in a different restaurants. We started in the Mercat de la Boqueria where we were supposed to do this scavenger hunt thing. Meh. The whole tapas tour was kinda meh. Again, I was exhausted and the tour was in a different neighborhood than La Rambla, a long street/shopping district in Barcelona where we’d spent the day, so we walked and walked some more. Did I mention my feet were killing me?

After the tapas dinner, I returned to the hotel. Some of my tour mates stayed to watch the soccer match on huge TV screens set up in Catalunya, the city center, with all the Bilbao fans. I was too tired. I watched the game in my hotel bed. In case you were wondering, FC Barcelona won.

Photo of the Day:

The Bilbao fans! There was no other choice. I hope you can see how far back the mass of people extended. Blocks and blocks. I'm so glad I got to see it!

The Bilbao fans! There was no other choice. I hope you can see how far back the mass of people extended. Blocks and blocks. I'm so glad I got to see it!

Tomorrow - Day 7: Are you in Ibiza? Cuz I'm in Ibiza!

Day 5, Spanish Spree: Oh, the (mass of) Humanity

Need to catch up? Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4

This morning we headed to Zaragova first.

The cathedral there is huge.

 

I didn’t take any pictures inside because we weren’t supposed to. Others did, but I didn’t want God’s smite to fall on me, so I just walked around. It was beautiful though. It’s hard to imagine people building something so intricate and timeless today.

We only spent an hour in the town because we had to get to Barcelona!

It was a long bus trip – about 6 hours. When we arrived, we did a driving tour around the city.

I’m pretty sure this is Olympic Stadium. We couldn't get the bus closer because they had the road closed for of construction or something. 1992 was the year I started watching/obsessing about the Olympics, so Barcelona, the host of the 1992 Summer Olympics, has always held a special place in my heart. I wish we could have gotten closer/done a tour, but oh well.

We also visited a church, La Sagrada Familia, which Gaudi designed. Work on the church started in 1882 (Gaudi took over in 1883) and it’s STILL not finished. It was Gaudi’s masterpiece. The architecture and design is incredible. It’s scheduled to be finished in 2040. I think that’s an optimistic estimate.

Before heading out to the clubs, we had a group tapas dinner on top of the world (or a building overlooking the city).

I believe today was the day it hit me that Spaniards LOVE pork. Since I’m a ham and bacon fan, that’s A-OK with me! We had bacon/ham, white asparagus, Spanish omelet (which I became obsessed with during the trip), a gazpacho dip/soup thing, and a cheesecake gelatinous thing. It was good. Portions in Spain tend to be smaller than what Americans are used to, but we’ll deal.

After dinner, we went to a bar, Jagerbomb, owned by a friend of our tour guide. Good times were had by all. Lowlight: one of my tour mates had a wee bit too much to drink and projectile vomited on another tour mate. I’m STILL upset I missed it!

Me and a couple of my tour mates, Zai and Chrissy. Aren't they supercute?

Me and a couple of my tour mates, Zai and Chrissy. Aren't they supercute?

After all that excitement we went to another club, Shoko. It was insane! We got in without having to wait in line or pay because clearly we were VIPS or our tour guide knew the right person, but I know which explanation makes a better story.

We had so much fun, but there were a TON of people inside. We stayed for a few hours then went across the street to a restaurant and ate pizza to close out the night.

Photo of the Day:

A dancer/paid employee at Shoko. Isn't she cool?

Tomorrow- Day 6: Oh, the (Mass of) Humanity Part Dos

 

 

Day 4, Spanish Spree: The Day I Ran with the Bulls (OK, No, I Didn't)

Need to catch up? Day 1Day 2Day 3

Today, we started the day in San Sebastian.

That’s a picture of a Jesus statue. Notice how far away Jesus is. See all that lush greenery below Jesus? Yeah, a path cuts through all that greenery. A path you have to take on foot to get to the top. Now, our guide TOLD us it takes 20-30 minutes to get to the top. Unlike yesterday with the tower, I could see the path before me. But I went anyway because again who knows if I’ll ever be here again. Knowledge is power and all, but it didn’t stop me from gasping for air all the way to the top. At least the path was outside unlike the tower staircase, so I could keep track of my progress and know all that walking was leading somewhere.

Here’s proof that I made it to the top! I’m way closer to Jesus now!

And the views were amazing! I know I keep saying that, but Spain really is beautiful.

After making my way down to the town again, we wandered through the town and then found a place to eat. I knew about tapas, but another word I learned on the trip was pintxos! Pintxos are basically tapas on bread. I ate a lot of pintxos and tapas on this trip.

These are the pintxos I had for lunch. We went to a restaurant that had a bunch out on the counter to choose from. I chose the bacon ones, because, hello bacon! The one with orange sauce was DELICIOUS. I didn’t realize until I bit into it that it had shrimp inside. Heaven in my mouth!

After lunch, we went to the beach. I went through my photos to see if I took a photo while there and the answer is nope! I guess I was in the mood to relax. LOL. Oh well. Here’s a shot of the beach from when I was visiting the Jesus statue.

I had a mini-adventure before I made it to the beach. I went into a bathroom to change into shorts before going to the beach. I went into the first bathroom I saw. I got yelled at by a guy in pantomime when I came out. Another guy yelled at me too. I told the second guy “No hablo espanol” and he left me alone. What I think happened was that the bathroom was for the use of a private gym right next to the beach. There was a separate changing area/bathroom farther down the beach that I didn’t see until later. Oh well. It was an innocent mistake.

So after all that excitement, I chilled on the beach with some of my tour mates for an hour or so. While we were hanging out, this old guy walked by and STARED at me. I thought I might be paranoid, but my tour mates mentioned it before I could say anything. As one of them said, I must have been the first black person he’d ever seen. He was old, so I find this hard to believe, but dude was staring. Whatever.

Onward to Pamplona, home of the annual Running of the Bulls!

This is the building where the run starts every year.

We walked the route of the run, which wasn’t very long to be honest, which is good when bulls and bull horns are concerned.

It’s frowned upon for women to run with the bulls because it’s a “male” thing. OK, I guess. It’s not my place to judge another culture I know very little about even if the feminist in me longs to roll her eyes.

The door where the bulls come out of

The door where the bulls come out of

An actual part of the fence they use to keep the bulls on the path.

An actual part of the fence they use to keep the bulls on the path.

After that, it was time for dinner which means MORE PINTXOS!

Potato and sausage

Potato and sausage

 

The first place we went to was small and crowded (there were 50 people in my tour group) and hot, so naturally I had a glass of sangria!

I downed that bad boy like it was going out of style. I’m so not a drinker, so I started to feel a little “loose.” Can’t have that, so I ate another pintxo at the next stop.

We ended up at another bar, where we chilled and talked for an hour, maybe more. It was good times. I remember that it was a Michelin-starred restaurant, which is a big deal in the hospitality industry, but I forgot to get the name or take any pictures while there. Oh well.

Like I said, because I’d been feeling loose, I ordered a Coke. Speaking of, my Spanish skills were starting to come in handy. I’m not fluent by any stretch, but I did take 6 years of Spanish throughout middle school, high school, and college. I SHOULD retain something, right?! I know how to say “Tiene Coke?” a very difficult question that means “Do you have Coke?”

Anyway, one of my tour mates wanted to buy me a shot because clearly a Coke was kinda sad, so I let him. If I ain’t paying for it, it’s all good! I got a shot of tequila and lived to tell the tale, so obviously my ability to hold my liquor was getting better. Obviously.

After hanging out, it was time to meet up with everyone in the tour group to go back to the hotel. On the way, we got interrupted by a “parade.” There were wearing red scarves tied around their necks and white shirts, so I think it was a bunch of tourists following the bull run route, but I could be talking out of my you-know-what.

I returned to the hotel to call it an early night. I was plum tuckered out.

Photo of the Day: It should probably be one of the panoramic views of San Sebastian, but this sign outside a monument in Pamplona makes me giggle. Not one or two, but three signs telling people who come to the Running of the Bulls not to climb to the top of the statue, jump off, and try to crowd surf because they won’t make it all the way down without hitting their heads and/or killing themselves. I cheated because I don't have one photo in which you can see both the sign and the monument.

 

Tomorrow- Day 5: Oh, the Mass of Humanity

 

 

Day 3, Spanish Spree: The Day I Almost Died

Day 1Day 2

Today, we left Madrid and headed to Bilbao with a stop in Segovia.

So here’s what I can say about Segovia. It was beautiful. Gorgeous views everywhere. At the time, I didn’t realize this would be a refrain as we traveled throughout Spain.


The first thing our tour guide showed us was the Aqueduct of Segovia (granted, it was kind of hard to miss). Still, it’s amazing that it’s still standing. Wikipedia tells me that it was likely built around AD 81-96. It’s been reconstructed several times, but still how freaking amazing is that? It was fully functional as a water supplier until the mid- 1800s.

 

After studying the aqueduct, we went to the Alcazar of Segovia. Super cool bonus (in my opinion), the castle was one of the inspirations for Cinderella castle in Walt Disney World. You see it, right?

 

You could pay to go into the museum and tower (which would give you an amazing view of the city at the top) or just the museum. I believe the tower was only 2 euro more, so why not, right?

O.M.G.

I am such an idiot. I did not think. Remember, this is a castle. It’s old. Places weren’t built for comfort back in the day. So I entered the tower and started climbing the spiral staircase. And climbing. And climbing. These steps were steep. There wasn't much space, so it was a good thing I don’t get claustrophobic. I’d complete a spiral and think “I have to be almost there.” Nope, there was another spiral to complete.

Oh, did I mention that I don’t exercise? I’m okay with this fact until I find myself in situations like these. I seriously thought I was going to die. My lungs were BURN.ING.

Eventually, after taking a couple of rest stops and completing Lord only knows how many spirals, I made it to the top. Beautiful views as far as the eye could see.

 

After taking photos and catching my breath, I headed down the stairs, thanking God that gravity was on my side this time. It wasn’t a total picnic, however. Remember how I said the stairs were steep? Yeah, they were.

When I got to the end, I noticed a sign by the entrance to the tower that clearly says there are 152 steps to the top. How I missed that going in, I don’t know. I am such an idiot.

Onward to the museum in the castle. My notes tell me that I thought the castle was “really cool.” LOL. It was. Like people used to live there. There was a lot of artwork inside. See pictures.

That was it for Segovia. I wish we could have spent more time there. It’s a lovely city.

Next, we headed to Bilbao. I spent most of my time in the Guggenheim Museum. I went because I’ve never gone to a Guggenheim Museum before and who knows if I’ll ever make it back to Bilbao again?

 

The main exhibit at the museum was by Niki de Saint Phille, who came to prominence in the 1960s. When I stepped into the first room, I admit I kinda thought she was a crazy artist lady. She would fill balloons with paint and attach the balloons to a canvas. She would then shoot the balloons, the paint would run out of the balloons, and tada, she’d have a painting. But as I continued on, reading more about her work, and watching interview clips, her message resonated more and more with me. She was a staunch feminist, who challenged the perceived value of women in society. According to her, the world would be a better place if women ran it because men think taking emotion out of decisions is good, and it’s not. You have to care for people.

At the end of the tour, I went into the gift shop thinking I could buy something to commemorate my trip to see her art. However, none of the souvenirs appealed to me, and it occurred to me that while I appreciated her message, I didn’t actually like the art itself. But that’s often my reaction to modern art. Oh well.

That was it for today. It was a pretty low-key day (other than me almost dying). Bilbao isn’t known for its nightlife, so there was no clubbing/staying out late. I can say that Bilbao (like everywhere else in Spain) is beautiful.

Photo of the Day

It's a giant puppy bush staring at Giselle outside the Guggenheim. Makes total sense.

It's a giant puppy bush staring at Giselle outside the Guggenheim. Makes total sense.

 

Tomorrow - Day 4: The Day I Ran with the Bulls

 

 

 

Day 2, Spanish Spree: Things Couldn't Possibly Get Any Worse, Could They?

Well after the trauma of Day 1, today is a new day! I’m FINALLY going to Spain. I’m up early. Ready to go. I’d rescheduled my shuttle to the airport.

The shuttle driver called and asked if he could pick me up early. Uh, sure? He arrived and said there was a scheduling snafu and he had to take a passenger to Love Field before he could go to DFW Airport. The two other ladies in the van were not pleased with him. I have no clue what happened before he picked me up, but the driver was a talkative mess. At a red light, he claimed he was just resting his eyes even as the light turned green and another passenger had to call his attention to it. The other ladies thought he fell asleep. I don’t know, but I do know he WOULD. NOT. STOP. TALKING.

Anywho, after taking the completely out of the way detour to Love Field, we arrived at DFW. I checked into my flight and made my way to my gate. On the way, I ran into one of the women from the shuttle because our gates were right next to each other. She said, “Oh, good. We can chat.”

Yay?

I’m not good at small talk in general and definitely not with strangers. Mostly, I listened to her bitch about the shuttle driver until my flight was ready to board.

An aside: I’ve never understood why people crowd around the gate until their boarding group is called. It’s not like they won’t let you on the plane if you’re not one of the first people in line.

Anyway, we board. And then we sit for two hours because of nonstop rain in Dallas. A 10-hour flight became a 12-hour flight. Yay.

Good news: My seatmate, Ryan, was a sweetheart. He was from Arkansas, but lives in Spain teaching English to 7th and 8th graders. How cool is that? Apparently, 12-13 year olds are the same all across the world. They think they know everything. I told him I planned to take a taxi to my hotel because the tour company said the subway would require a transfer and I wasn’t feeling that since it was my first time in Spain and I was dragging a heavy suitcase behind me. Ryan thought the route they suggested was dumb because there was a commuter train with a stop right by my hotel, and the stop was only two stops from the airport. The best part was the fare was less than 3 euros as opposed to the 30 euro taxi fare.   

So I took his advice, which turned out to be great. The hotel was directly across the street from the stop. I said goodbye to Ryan (his stop was farther down from mine) and went inside the hotel to check in.

After checking in, I thought about trying to find my group, but they’d gone into the mountains about 40 minutes away, so I crashed instead. I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights in my room, but I knew the electricity worked because the TV came on, and I figured my roommate would have complained if it didn’t work. It was the middle of the day, so I didn’t need the lights.

I turned on the TV and flipped through the channel. Oh, look, that’s Castle dubbed in Spanish. And there’s Wheel of Fortune. Or something close to it. I don’t know if this how the show always is, but in this particular episode, when the contestant solved the puzzle, she sang the answer because the puzzle was song lyrics. AND THEN the band started playing the song. How awesome is that?! Get it together, Pat and Vanna!

My tour guide, Nihar, called me after the hotel informed him that I’d checked in. I went and met him. We talked for a bit, and then I went back to my room.

 Eventually, my roommate, Denise, returned and showed me how to turn on the lights. Basically, there was a slot on the wall you stuck your room key into and, like magic, the lights came on. It’s actually genius because it means people aren’t wasting electricity when they’re not in the room.

Denise and I talked for a bit, and then it was time to meet the group and actually SEE Madrid.

FINALLY, yes, I know!

I tried to pretend I wasn’t an introvert and introduced myself to my tour mates and explain that yes, I was a new person and they hadn’t met me. We went into the Madrid center and Mercado de San Miguel, which I think is a total tourist thing, but still supercool. Basically, it’s a market where they sell all kinds of food and alcohol.  

And here is where I apologize because I am not a professional photographer and looking at my photos in preparation for this blog post made that abundantly clear.

That's my roommate eating some squid thing. She said it was good. I don't believe her.

That's my roommate eating some squid thing. She said it was good. I don't believe her.

At the Mercado, I had ham and cheese croquets, barbecue chicken on a stick, paella and a mojito. Denise and I got yelled at for trying to sit a table outside a restaurant next to the market. Oh well. We relocated and chowed down.

The night concluded with the tour group going to a few clubs. Unfortunately, the party in Spain doesn’t really start until 2 a.m., but we had fun anyway. I mean, hello, how can you not have fun dancing to Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and “Single Ladies” in Madrid?

Photo of the Day

Don't I deserve It after the last two days?! OMG. It was soooo good. A strawberry mojito

Don't I deserve It after the last two days?! OMG. It was soooo good. A strawberry mojito

Tomorrow: Day 3 aka The Day I Almost Died

Day One of My Spanish Adventure: Could There Be A Worse Start to The Trip?

Backstory

When I was in middle school, two of my teachers took a bunch of soon-to-be ninth graders to Europe every year. I was beyond fortunate to go in 1994. However, I was so bummed out to learn that we were going everywhere BUT Spain. I had taken two years of Spanish and wanted to use my skills, man. While I had a great time, I vowed to go to Spain at some point.

Fast forward many years (like 20, but who’s counting, right?). I’m finally in a financial position to go to Spain. I start thinking about planning a trip to Barcelona and Madrid.

Because I do want to travel more, I follow a few travel accounts on Twitter. One day, during a chat, someone asked about a good tour company for solo travelers. One of the companies mentioned was Contiki. I went to the website, did a search for Spain, and discovered the Spanish Spree, a two-week trip that went all around Spain, not just Madrid and Barcelona. And I wouldn’t be looked at as a weirdo or be overcharged for going by myself? SOLD!

I booked the trip and decided to keep a journal of the trip because while I had a great time during my first sojourn to Europe, I only have vague memories of the trip (going to the top of Eiffel Tower, having a pigeon poop on me in Amsterdam, etc.). This was my dream trip, and I didn’t want the same thing to happen again., so a journal it was!

Day One

I ALWAYS underestimate how long it will take me to pack. ALWAYS. Today was no different. I’d booked a SuperShuttle and I had less than an hour before it shows up. In the middle of throwing stuff in my suitcase and sneaking peeks at the clock, it dawned on me that I hadn’t gathered my passport. Keep in mind I hadn’t been out of the country in 21 years. I’d never needed a passport when traveling. So I went to where I’d been keeping the passport. It wasn’t there. Seriously.

Time’s a-ticking. I proceeded to tear up my condo to no avail while fighting back tears. The shuttle driver arrived, and I asked him to wait a few minutes while I continued searching. He was kind enough to wait for an extra ten minutes, but he had other people to pick up, so he left.

Next, I drove myself to the airport. I don’t want to relive this horrible story any more than I have to, so I’ll just say I talked to the most unhelpful, unsympathetic customer service agent ever (actually, she was a supervisor which makes her attitude worse). Anyway, I returned home and tore my condo up AGAIN. I finally found the passport (hiding under a pile of clothes on my bed, seriously the ONLY place I hadn’t looked). Great, but by this time, I’d missed my flight.

I called the airline and asked how much it would cost to reschedule my flight. I’d already looked online and kinda knew what to expect, but was hoping they had some secret airfares not on the website. Newsflash: They don’t. I can’t bring myself to tell you how much it costs to reschedule a flight to Spain. Just know that it’s A LOT. Like A LOT.

So my choices were:

1.       Say “Forget it. I just won’t go.” But that meant that I’d be out the cost of the trip, and I STILL wouldn’t have made my dream trip to Spain.

2.       Suck it up and give the woman on the phone my credit card number.

Obviously, I chose option 2. To make matters worse (yes, that’s possible), I had to wait until the next day to fly out. Yay.

At this point there was only one thing left to do – watch Step Up AND Step Up Revolution on MTV. I’d never seen Revolution before. It was all right. I had to make sure not to ask myself too many questions like, how did the (supercool) dance number at the end of the movie convince the villain to change his mind? I would’ve been like, “That’s great, guys, but I’m still going to do what I want to do.”

And thus concludes Day One of my trip to Spain. Just know that typing this up has made me want to throw up.

Photo of the Day

This is how I was feeling. Yeah. 

This is how I was feeling. Yeah. 

Tomorrow - Day 2: Things Are Looking Up