image1 (1)Have you ever visited a place that you wish you could keep to yourself, like a secret? Like a truly, hidden gem? That’s how I felt when some friends and I completed the length of the Paiva Walkways in Northern Portugal earlier this summer.

I even went so far as to be cryptic about where I was on social media, and I requested my friends do the same.

The truth is, beautiful moments like this walk are meant to be shared. And, I think where I was really coming from was a hope that others that take the opportunity to walk this path and others like it appreciate it as much more than a cool Instagram photo (though, I won’t deny that its winding steps are striking against the natural landscape).

Its stewards seems to be aware of this too. According to its website, there is a limit to the number of people that can pass through per day. There is a fee of €1 per person, which is a nominal price to pay for a little more than five miles of unspoiled nature along the Paiva river.

Think, the trickling or rushing sounds of the river, shades of green and other earth tones and a tranquility that soothes even the most complicated thoughts we tend to carry with us from day to day.

Or, see for yourself.

A mere glance will do you in. On every corner, there they are. In every cafe and restaurant , at all hours of the day their temptation never ceases. They expose themselves in full view of anyone who dares make eye contact; daily commuters, wandering tourists, weekend lollygaggers. They are shameless, and we are weak. No use fighting it, might as well give in.

Beneath clear glass domes they taunt, with their velvety chocolate frosting or custard filling just begging to be devoured alongside a café con leche.

Whether you’re attempting to crawl back home after an enormous menu del día or are on the hunt for the first meal of the day, they do not care. They pay absolutely no mind to your calorie-counting, low-carb, no-sugar, salad-eating ways.

They are shameless, and we are weak. No use fighting it, might as well give in.

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In the Gràcia neighborhood one mid-week afternoon, we salivated over the selection of cakes and pies at A Casa Portuguesa. Coconut cake with a custard filling pleased, a balanced maracuya meringue pie with reminded me of Hawaii’s Liliko’i pies back home, cheesecake with chocolate and berries comforted.

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On another occasion, we wandered into the flamingo-print walls, charming mismatched chairs and china bruncherie of Ugot. From what I recall, a quick coffee before returning to the flat to work was the original intent, or in my British companion’s case, a cup of tea.

We sauntered up to the counter, admired the decor and nearly stayed true to our original plan, until our eyes made contact with those orbs of heaven that gazed longingly at us from beneath their glass cake covers. Give in we did, regret we did not.

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From the depths of my dreams, the insistent chime of my iPhone alarm signaled that it was way too early to function. A quick look at my messages suggested that it would be easy to deviate from my the mission.

“I don’t know if we’ll make it before then. Should we just go another day?” the proposition tempted.

The plan was to make it to Park Güell before 8 a.m. An insider tip recommended an early call time to beat the crowds and slip into the park free of charge before ticketing opened. With those benefits in mind I cursed the heavy pressure behind my eyes, summoned my willpower and shoved a banana and my water bottle in my tote and stepped out into the quiet streets in San Antoni. This is happening.

I entered the park through a side entrance and meandered around a path while more energetic early birds walked their dogs, jogged and did push-ups on park benches. Gaudi’s wavy, kaleidoscopic bench came into view and aside from two young girls taking selfies and a few others with serious camera equipment, I was able to snap a few iPhone photos myself; no jostling for the best angle, or waiting for other tourists to get out of my frame.

Higher I climbed to one of the viewpoints that gave me a panoramic view from the Sagrada Familia, out toward the Mediterranean and Montjuic. Planes glided over the city’s super blocks toward El Prat. Birds gossiped, pigeons cooed. Pollen tickled my nose as I tapped notes into my phone and snapped more photos.

In my periphery, elderly locals prattled away on park benches while their dogs played. The sun drenched the city in morning warmth, clouds nowhere in sight. A cool breeze brushed through the park like the final resting pose in yoga; welcome relief.

“Sube Miko, sube…Miko, adonde vas? Adonde vas Miko?” one of the men mildly threatened as he patted the bench. Miko, the most mischievous and stubborn of the pack did what he wanted. A few weeks ago, I didn’t want to get out of bed, though I’m glad I did.

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Photo: Alina Mendoza, ARoseTravels.com

When it comes to tacos, Southern California can’t be beat. From street corner food trucks, to that go-to shop with a generic sounding name and unflattering fluorescent lighting, and fancier establishments elevating a casual favorite, San Diego boasts what seems to be an endless number of tasty options.

To help wash it all down, an ice cold beer seem like the natural selection.

However, what if I told you that wine is as good of a pairing for tacos as beer? As a taco enthusiast and self-proclaimed dark beer gal, this subject is unfamiliar. On the other hand, the San Diego-based experts I spoke with below make it their job to navigate the world of wine pairings, and they’ve got the rundown for uncorking the best grapes to match your taco habit.

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Last week, #HaapsandBarleyXCuriousPassport brought you this tasty recipe for Avocado Egg Salad. This week, we’re taking it to the miso-marinated streets with this protein and fiber-packed clean feast.

I’m a big fan of miso-glazed salmon and lentils, so I’m excited to try this recipe that combines the two! Plus, the prep work sounds pretty manageable for a culinary newbie like me. Looking at the list of ingredients I’ll need, I could probably get them all at Sprouts and Trader Joe’s – though, does anyone know if TJ’s carries miso? If not, a trip to the nearest asian market should do it.

Miso-Marinated Salmon by Haaps & Barley

Photo: Haaps & Barley

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