Spain With a Service Animal

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m on my way home from my very first international trip with Brit, and boy has it been a learning experience. If you’ve been following the blog since the beginning, you’ll know that nearly two years ago I took Nala, my 10lb yorkie, with me all around Europe. It was great. I booked pet friendly Airbnb’s hung out at outdoor cafes, and when I wanted to tour inside something, I simply left Nala at home for a few hours.

Europe is so pet friendly.

Europe is not service dog friendly.

I know that’s a sweeping accusation, so let me refine it. Spain is not service dog friendly. I really wish I had some positive things to say here, but simply put, my trip was extremely uncomfortable from start to finish. The lack of relief areas in the airport sucked, the hotel requesting additional documentation for her training was stressful, being thrown out of restaurants and kicked out of markets was dismaying, and the constant disbelief and doubt was a struggle. (What do you mean she’s your dog? What’s wrong with you?”)

Worst of all? The lack of awareness within the country meant that people were constantly after Brit. Calling her, grabbing her, petting her, dragging their dogs over to her…like I said, they’re very pet friendly. Unfortunately, Brit is not a pet. My stress came to a peak as I went through security at Madrid airport, where I put Brit into a stay and prepared to walk through the metal detector, at which point the security guard called her over and straight through ahead of me. He then grabbed her and began roughhousing, which Brit totally went with because she’s a dog.

Mid-play, as I’m freaking out, one of the other security workers realizes what’s going on and tells him to stop because she’s a working dog and you’re not supposed to touch them. I thanked her profusely, but this basically just sums up my entire experience in Spain.

I’m going to keep this brief before it becomes a ten page complaint fest of what an awful time I had.

Enjoy some nice photos of Brit looking cute instead.

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At the terrible Airbnb in Barcelona that I left early. Brit for scale. (This is literally the whole apartment!)
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At the amazing (Hilton) hotel I went to instead. Brit for scale. 
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All the photo I took of myself during this trip
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A dog posing in front of a dog

-Carissa “For The Love of God She’s a Service Animal!” Rawson

Mileage Running- Mad Genius, or Just Mad?

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s that time of year again, where I make intensely insane decisions for the sake of status. Last year, I flew for a weekend to Nice in order to make Platinum status with Delta for 2018.

This year? This year I flew from LA to Spain in order to make Platinum Premier status with United for 2020.

You may be asking yourself, “for the love of God, why?”

Sometimes I ask myself the same thing. But the long and the short of it is this: ThePointsGuy values Premier Platinum elite status worth $4,580 for the year of 2018. Why? For the huge number of benefits you get as a result. (Free economy+ on all flights, free exit row seating, free upgrades to business and first class, free priority boarding, free checked bags (all of these things are for you and up to 8 companions on your ticket), Star Alliance gold status, and free access to all Star Alliance lounges whenever you’re flying on them).

More than this, though, I am acquiring my Premier Platinum status through a status match challenge. It’s pretty common, as airlines try to poach frequent fliers from each other. So just before my Delta status expired (which I earned through real flying), I emailed United, asking for the challenge.

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The requirements for a status challenge are that you fly 18,000 miles on United owned aircraft (so no partner flights) within 90 days. For me, that’s an easy trip to Israel and back.

Or so I thought. I didn’t know about the United owned aircraft clause, so after I completed a trip to Israel in November, I was still like 8,000 miles short of my goal and had until January 26th to complete it.

This put me in a bit of a bind. You see, I could either let the challenge lapse and not get status on United, which would have probably been the easy route.

I have been meaning to stay home more often, after all.

But the thing is, I was planning on using my United status for 2020 American Airlines status (worth $3,430), and my 2020 American Airlines status for 2021 Delta status (worth $4,025). It was a serious waterfall effect, you see.

Which is how I ended up on a plane to Spain a mere seven days after returning home from my most recent trip. This time, my service dog Brit flew with me, and she was a total champ. Brit happens to be a bit of a potty snob, as she’s used to the lush, rolling hills of Illinois in which to do her business. Airport service dog relief areas are not her jam.

“Please let me potty”

Which is how she ended up holding it from Los Angeles-Houston-Frankfurt-Madrid.

She’s a better woman than me.

-Carissa “Never Gonna Stop” Rawson

Phenomenal Flamenco

Hello!

I realize my last post was pretty serious. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback, and I think you guys will be glad to know that I’ve decided to report the man to AirBnB. Cultural differences aside, if you’re going to be inviting people into your home, you should never force yourself on them or act so inappropriately.

So! That being said, I want to talk today about my most recent shenanigans with Sarah. She keeps cropping up, doesn’t she? That’s because we’re both so much fun!

You guys know all those really heartwarming videos of soldiers coming home and being reunited with their dogs? Well, Nala and I had a similar moment, which I will illustrate in the photo below:

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Isn’t she adorable? I got a full face tongue bath, which is really gross but also I love her so it’s ok. Since Sarah and I didn’t have much time together, we decided to go full out. We checked into our hotel, dropped off Nala and headed out to make the most of our time in Madrid.

Now, you guys know the last time I was in Spain I subsided almost solely on churros with dipping chocolate and champagne. I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed. I swiftly introduced Sarah to these vices, and within the space of twenty minutes we had consumed chocolate, churros, a pile of Iberian ham, and were each clutching a glass of Cava. We’re efficient, you know.

I had made reservations as a surprise to dinner and a Flamenco show, so we headed over there to have an awesome three course meal, which we complemented with a bottle of more champagne. I mean, why not?

Have you guys ever been to a Flamenco show? I know I’ve heard so much about the passion of the dancers (and Spanish people as a whole), but it all seemed a little blown out of proportion. Well, let me tell you…it’s not.

We had front row seats to the show, and at first, the place seemed kind of small and crowded. However, when the music started…just wow.

There were two singers, a violinist, and two guitarists. They began playing, slowly at first, to warm up the crowd, before breaking into amazing, fast-paced music. These people have got some serious skills. Shortly thereafter, the two dancers, a man and a woman, came out.

Words fail me here, but I’m going to try to describe it.

The music pulsed through the room as the crowd murmured, some leaning back in their seats, others sipping glasses of wine as everyone sat, waiting. A low tension hummed in the air, and slowly, subtly, the beat of the music sped up.

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Abruptly, the curtain at the back of the stage was turned aside, and a woman strode out. She was passion, personified. Her long dress trailed behind her as she took center stage, her face regal, her back straight.

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One breath, two, and she began to stomp, her shoes tapping a staccato on the wooden floor as she moved with the music.

The floor, scarred with the marks of a thousand dances, echoed with every step, and she twirled, her dress fanning out, her arms weaving, framing her face, her neck, her hips, as she poured her soul into the movement.

Suddenly, the curtain twitched again, and her partner came out, his clothes tailored tightly to his body, his eyes dark, and he, too, began to dance.

Together, they stepped across the stage, first moving together, then apart, each one competing to outdo the other. Faster, faster, they moved, the strain of the violin drifting past their frantic feet, until the room was full with the sound of their song.

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Sweat beaded on his brow as he spun, whirling around her, his feet a blur as he tapped, tapped, tapped, to the beat of the music. Together, they told a story- of love, of heat, of flame and fury and passion, until the music built to a crescendo and came, crashing, to a halt.

As one, they turned to us, arms outflung, chests heaving, and bowed.

The room exploded with applause.

To say it was phenomenal would be an understatement. If there’s one thing you do in Spain, go see a Flamenco show.

After the show we headed out to a rooftop bar, where we enjoyed a “few” drinks before heading back to the hotel at around 2am. Overall the night was a great success, and definitely a foreshadowing for the excellent day to come.
-Carissa “I wanna dance like that” Rawson

¡Que Guapa! Beautiful Barcelona

Hey! Another picture gallery post for you guys, because I spent some amazing days walking around Barcelona and I think you all need to see how beautiful it is. (But also me. I’m beautiful too. And Nala. Very pretty.)

-Carissa

Free Alcohol and Food! No, But Really.

Hello Dear Readers!

Do you know where I’m writing this from? No? You don’t? Well let me inform you. I am currently plopped in the dead middle of the Hilton Barcelona’s executive lounge.

“How does this happen?!?” you may ask, confounded, as you recall that I have been staying with some Argentinians in an Airbnb.

Ok, enough teasing (bragging) and let me tell you guys why I’m here. Do you remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about earning Hilton Diamond status with the increased sign up bonus? There’s actually another route you can take to earn Diamond and keep it through 2019. Hilton currently has a promotion going on where they will match your status with another chain’s (in an effort to poach you). Then, once your status is matched, you can complete 8 stays within 90 days in order to hold your status through 2019. It’s a pretty awesome deal if you can take advantage of it.

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Actually through 2019, not 2018.

However, I’m assuming most of you don’t have elite status with other hotels. Or, at least, you don’t have one high enough to match you to Diamond with Hilton. Well, luckily for us, there is one credit card that does offer such a benefit.

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IHG’s (Intercontinental Hotel Group) credit card offers 60,000 bonus points after 1k in spend, as well as automatic Platinum Status with the chain. Now, I’ve stayed at an IHG hotel a bare minimum of times, so don’t think I earned my status or anything.

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I deserve none of this

This is just something they give you when you get the card. Anyway, Hilton will match your IHG Platinum Status with their Diamond status and give you the option to complete the 8 stays in order to keep it.

So that’s what I’m doing! I’ve rebooked a few of my stays throughout the next few months in order to meet the challenge (any Hilton hotel within the portfolio will work), and then I’m good to go.

Why is Diamond so great? Well, it gives you a number of benefits, such as room upgrades, late check-out, early check-in, and free premium internet access. However, most importantly (to me) is executive lounge access, which means free food and drinks (including alcohol!) for the entirety of your stay.

For someone professionally unemployed, like me, this is a huge deal. Now please excuse me while I go stuff my pockets with free apples.

-Carissa “Elite AF” Rawson

A Girl and Her Dog: One is the Loneliest Number

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As I sit here on La Rambla, one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, a litre of sangria in front of me and a dog on my lap, a few thoughts come to mind:

First, traveling alone is hard. No one ever told me how hard this was going to be. Not only do I have to carry all my stuff, I have to carry Nala’s as well. Hauling bags up and down the steps of the metro is miserable.

Second, traveling alone with a dog is doubly hard. Seriously, if you thought dragging your significant other along was difficult, imagine you had to feed and water them and pick up all their poop.

So. Much. Poop.

Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love my doggie dearly and she keeps me from getting too lonely out here.

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Such support.

Anyway, the last few days have been…difficult, to say the least. We made our way into Madrid at the crack of dawn on Thursday, stayed two nights, then hopped over here to Barcelona. I’m here for a week before we take the train over to Nice.

I know I’ve plugged Airbnb before, but let me tell you guys, this is the most affordable way to travel. Is it the most glamorous? Not always, but I’m staying in a room in an apartment for eleven bucks a night. Eleven. I even have some awesome flat mates, a gay Argentinian couple with a tiny dog named Fiona and an evil looking Himalayan cat. Their English isn’t the best, but, hey, when in Rome, right? (I mean, when in Rome, attempt to speak dismal Spanish at them. Works out great.)

I spent my first two days here just wandering around. Barcelona is a vibrant, busy, city, with tons to do. Of course, I did no research (I know, unlike me ), so I had no idea what I was doing. However, I did manage to find the beaches, La Rambla, Park Güell, and some awesome local spots.

 

How did I find the local spots? I’m glad you asked! I downloaded an app, called Spotted By Locals, which has over 65 different cities available around Europe. It’s a couple bucks to download each city map, but they’re full of restaurants, sights to see, and things to do that aren’t totally packed with tourists (me).

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I live to fulfill stereotypes
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Basic in every country

I also bought myself a five day Barcelona tourist card, which cost 60 Euros (it’s cheaper online) and includes free transport and admission to all the city’s best museums. Worth it if you’re into art and culture and stuff. It also has discounted admission to The Erotic Museum so obviously I was going to buy it.

Now, the other day I went ahead and booked myself a couple of group tours, because I was feeling especially lonely. I mean, there are like 10,000 tapas places here and every single one of them is full of groups of people. I just wanted to fit in, ok guys?

Today I had my first tour, a stroll around Barcelona tasting chocolates and wine. I showed up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and there was my guide, a nice young woman who informed me that I was the only person to sign up. There went my plan.
It was ok though, because my guide was fantastic. I signed up for the tour via Viator, and she and I walked throughout Barcelona eating all kinds of different chocolates. I tried churros and dipping chocolate, a specialty here in Barcelona, chocolate filled with rum and whiskey, and even spicy chocolate, which I totally did not gag on embarrassingly. The girl ended up being from Ecuador, a Master’s student who had fallen in love in Spain and ended up making her home here. She’s currently attempting to get her Phd.

Now let me just pause here for a second. I just need you guys to know that I studied Spanish for 4 years and never, not once, did someone tell me that they don’t speak Spanish in Barcelona. That’s right. They speak Catalan here, which is its own language evolved from Latin and which I did not remotely prepare for. Whoops!

On the bright side, it’s not too different from Spanish and I can understand it almost as well. Which is to say, dismally.

So what are my plans for the future? Well, I’ve yet to visit a museum out here, and since they’re all free, I figure I should get on that. I also want to take Nala for some more walks on the beach, because she looked so adorably confused when I took her the first time. Seriously, she danced around then spilled all of the sand into my shoes. So endearing.

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What is sand?!?!

But for now, I think I’m going to sit here, watch the people pass by, and snuggle my dog. Because what else is life for?

-Carissa “La Catalunya” Rawson

A Girl and Her Dog: The Beginning of A European Adventure

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Hey guys!

Just wanted to let you know I’m not dead. In fact, today is my first day of a multi-month trip throughout Europe!

I’m sitting at a cafe’ in Madrid at the moment, dreaming up things to do and places to go. I’ll write more when I get home later.

Adios!

Carissa La Rubia