Lanzarote

Taking advantage of ski week in February we decided to go to Lanzarote. Lanzarote is one of the Canary islands and where my parents go frequently. I have been to Gran Canaria and Tenerife growing up but never to Lanzarote. It never striked me as a place that I would want to visit. However, it turned out to be a great week away from Barcelona. We booked our flight with Ryanair and our apartment called Luz y Mar with Atrapalo. We arrived pretty late on Saturday night so we didn’t do alot. We did venture down to a bar and had a drink.

Sunday – Puerto del Carmen, Honda Bay, Old town

The next day we walked down by Puerto del Carmen and on to Playa Honda. There’s a footpath and bike path that goes on for many kilometers so its easy to get from one resort to the next. Along the beach there are plenty of bars, shops and restaurants. We also checked out the old town, down by the harbour. Very pretty down there. Near to our apartments there is a Lidl so we bought our groceries for the week in there. Below shows Puerto del Carmen and a beautiful house by the port.

Mon – Cycled to Arrecife

The plan today was to go to Yaiza and to to the national park of Timanfaya. However, the buses that passed us seemed to be all full. So, in the end we changed our plan. We rented bikes from a place called Revolution bikes on the same street as out apartment (opposite Lidl). The bikes were mountain bikes (specialized) and cost 10euro for the day, a helmet being 1euro extra.  A deposit of 50 euro is needed in many places and is returned when you bring back the bike. We cycled along the bike path all the way to Arrecife, the capital along the way passing some nice quiet beach towns and stopping off to see airplanes fly over our heads. The houses in Lanzarote are all white  with green rims on the windows and green doors. Houses rarely exceed 2 floors which makes a change from other developed beach places. We got hit with all kinds of weather on the bikes. At one stage there was a downpour that we got caught in, other times it was sunny and windy. We ate lunch in Arrecife and cycled back to Puetro del Carmen to return the bikes by 5pm. Edgar had a problem with the chain of the bike so we ended up walking the last 20 mins.

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Cycling back from Arrecife

Tues – Timanfaya National Park

We had prebooked to do stand up paddle (sup) with Surf Sup & Yoga School3S  school located in Pueto del Carmen. However, it was cancelled for the next day due to the weather being too windy. So, instead we decided to go to Timanfaya park. We were earlier this time and managed to get a bus to Yaiza (bus 161). Cost: 1.40euro. Once we got off in Yaiza we got a taxi to the national park. Cost: 15euro. The weather wasn’t the best and there was a few showers along the way. Once we arrived, we bought our bus tickets (9 euro). Getting a bus tour is the only real way to explore the park. I thought it would be a bit difficult to see everything out of the bus but it was actually fine. We had a bit of an adventure on the bus as one of the buses ahead of us got stuck on a hill which in turn effected our bus and all the buses behind. With just a narrow road we ended up stuck for about an hour. The landscape of  Timanfaya is really unique and covers 1/5 of the island. Once the tour was finished we ate in the restaurant there. On the way in, there is a gigantic well where fire from the ground cooks the meat. It was impressive. We also watched a man pour water into the ground and a few minutes later it was shooting out like a geyser. After lunch we decided to walk out of the park and make our way to Yaiza. This was a bit of a walk, 13km in which we got soaked along the way by a crazy shower. We stopped off to see the camels along the way and kept going. Once in Yaiza we took the bus, 161 back to Puerto del Carmen.Below are some pics of Timanfaya Park.

Wed – Surfing at Famara beach

Wednesday was our day for what we thought our first time trying stand up paddle (sup). We got picked up by Diego and picked up another man from Donegal, Ireland (turns out he knows my dad) who was going surfing. We were talking for awhile in the van, we were explaining that we were doing stand up paddle etc.. After some time in the van Edgar was asking Diego about paddle surf and how it was compared to surfing etc.. it was at this moment Diego asked but you are surfing? Our faces dropped, as we never planned to try surfing ever and seeing big waves in the distance ..well we decided to do it! Got our wetsuits on and Diego explained the movements to get on the board. First wave, Tracy was on the board! We spent about an hour an a half trying the catch the waves. It was brilliant. I think the mix up of surfing and sup was a good thing, otherwise we never would have tried it, and we really enjoyed it. Once our time was up, we drove back to Puerto del Carmen ate lunch and walked on a trail to Puerto Calero, 2.2km each way, stopping off to have some papas arrugadas along the way.  Below: Edgar catching the wave and some papas arrugadas.

Thurs – Cycled to El Golfo
We took the bus to Playa Blanca 161, 5.50e with the idea of renting bikes there and to cycle up the coast to El Golfo. Once in Playa Blanca we walked down by the beach along the front. It took us a while to find a place where we could rent bikes but in the end we found one called Papagayo bikes. We rented the bikes for 12euro. Before we set off we had some lunch nearby and off we went. The first 9km are a bit boring as its flat and not a lot to see. The good thing is that it is a bike path so no traffic to deal with. The bad thing was the wind. Once passed the 9km, the landscape started to get interesting. Smooth tarmac cutting through the rough volcanic landscape and big waves crashing into the cliffs. First stop was the salt plains, salinas de janubio. Another few kilometers and we were at los hervideros (the boiling pots). We stopped here to walk around and see this interesting place. Finally, we made it to our destination, lago de los clicos (green lagoon). This is quite impressive with amazing contrasting colours, black sand and red, orange and yellow backdrop of the crater. The green colour of the lagoon is due to  the presence of Ruppia-Maritima algae. All of these sights are free to enter. In total we cycled around 16 km each way. We returned the bikes in the evening and took the bus to Puerto del Carmen making an appearance in Murphys bar, where my dad is quite famous. There are pictures of him behind the bar.

Fri – Jameos del Agua & Cueva de los verdes
We decided to venture north of the island, unsure of going to the little island La Graciosa or not. We took bus no.3 to Arrecife (3.40euro both) and connected to another bus going to Orzola, bus, no. 9 (7.20euro). It was at this point we decided not to go to La Graciosa as the weather was not great, but instead to go to other sights which were on the way. They were Jameos del agua and cuervos de los verdes. We got off at Jameos del Agua and decided to visit  Cueva de los Verdes (also 9 euro) first. This was interesting. The caves are quite big, 6km in length made from lava. The explanation by the guide was also good. There is a surprise at the end of the tour which is cool. Once we had finished there we walked down the road to the other attraction, Jameos del Agua (9 euro entrance). This was developed by the local artist Cesar Manrique. He created concert audotorium, pool, house, restaurant and bar by using what the lava created. Its quite impressive. After seeing both sites we walked to Punta mujeres, 2 km down the road to catch the bus, no.7 changing in Arrecife to get no.3 to Puerto del Carmen. We booked sup for our last morning.

Sat- SUP and fly to Barcelona

We decided to try sup as it was part of the plan since the beginning. We did sup with the same company as the surfing. It cost: 30e/hr. We had an early start at 8.30am and stayed for 1 hr doing sup in Puerto del Carmen. It was so much easier than surfing. When we finished up, we checked out and spent a few hours sitting and watching until it was time to make our way to the airport (bus.161).

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Tracy doing SUP

Overall, a great trip to Lanzarote!

A useful website for all information about Lanzarote that I came across is: http://www.lanzaroteinformation.com/, along with the company we used to do both surfing and stand up paddle: http://www.school3s.es/en/

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Sofia, Bulgaria

Taking advantage of the long weekend that we had for thanksgiving we decided to spend it in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. We flew with Ryanair and stayed in a central apartment with AirBnB. Once we arrived to Sofia, we took a free shuttle bus to the other terminal where the metro is, and took it to Serdika as this was where we would be staying for the next few days. It was really cold in Sofia, and I wasn’t prepared.Once we found our apartment we left our things are went out for the evening.

We walked around the centre, the main pedestrian street  is called Vitosha, which is full of restaurants, shops and bars. Buildings are a mix between Europe and Communist-style and there are many religious buildings which include a mosque, synagogue (one of the largest in Europe), orthodox churches..any more. There are mineral baths also in the centre and one of the springs is free (nice to warm up your freezing hands) and lion statues everywhere- the symbol of Sofia. We decided to take advantage of a free city tour that evening. The website is:  http://freesofiatour.com/ and the group is on facebook as well. And it’s free! You can email beforehand to say your going so the guide has an idea of how many people will be there. Our guide was from Sofia and brought us all around the city explaining the sites along the way.

We were impressed with the food there. There are plenty of restaurants and we found it very cheap. Currency of Bulgaris is Lev (they are members of the EU), but no euros yet. We ate in Spaghetti Kitchen and other places. We tried to eat in Made In Home: great little restaurant with lots of veg options https://www.facebook.com/madeinhomesofia/, but it was full!  We ate a lot of Shopska salad, it seemed to be on every menu. Is traditionally eaten before a meal and with a glass of rakia. We didn’t have the rakia, but the salad was great. Other typical dishes from Bulgaria are: French fries with sirene cheese (similar to Feta, but of course they say it’s better), Banitsa (phyllo dough pastry filled with either cheese, spinach, or usually in autumn you can find it with pumpkin, yum!) Often eaten for breakfast, Snezhanka salad (similar to tzatziki) with bread, Lyutenitsa-tomato, red pepper, carrot puree spread served with bread usually, Guevetch-stew baked in a clay pot. can be vegetarian but often isn’t, Yogurt and honey: Bulgarians claim they have the best of both of these, much better than the Greeks (so they say) :). They also make delicious jams and marmalades.

On the same street as Made In Home is Zona Urbana: a shop that sells bags, wallets, etc made out of recycled maps, old communist newspapers, sheet music, etc. We didn’t buy anything but it had nice things. Here is the website:https://www.zurbana.com/.

The next day we had planned to go to the developed ski-resort, the Vitosha mountain. But, the ski lifts were not functioning as it was not ski season yet and we didn’t have warm enough clothes to hike up. We were already cold in the city centre…cant imagine how cold it would be at the top. So, we walked around the centre again! This time we checked out Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the largest orthodox churches worldwide. We went inside and it was full of people..and lots of buses parked outside. It must have been a special day. Outside the church, there was a market, people were selling old school artifacts and memoirbilia.  We walked by the mineral baths and then we came across a Christmas market by chance where we got to see some tradition Bulgarian dance.

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

There are many statues in Sofia. The most interesting one for us was the head of Stefan Stambolov. This is a giant head of the politian who was killed in broad daylight by two assassins in the late 19th century. He was attacked and slashed his face.The statue shows this pretty well.

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Stefan Stamolov Statue

 

Overall, a nice long weekend. Maybe next time we can hike Vitosha mountain and take a day trip to Plovdiv, it looks nice..

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Stavanger, Norway

Edgar found cheap flights to Stavanger from Barcelona with Norwegian airlines (127eur return) so we took advantage of this and spent 4 days there (Thur-Sun), squeezing in the last holiday before work starts again. We stayed with our host Monica through AirBnB who lives in Tananger (just 20 mins. outside Stavanger) for 3 nights which cost 96eur.

Thurs-Around Stavanger and Tananger

We arrived in Stavanger airport early Thursday morning and took bus no.42 from platform no.3 outside the airport airport to get to Tananger. We bought our bus tickets on the bus and bought a 7 day pass (570NOK) for both of us. The bus company is called Kolumbus. We found our place pretty easily, in a residential area with beautiful Norwegian houses, met Monica and off we went into Stavanger centre. The bus stop was right outside our house which was handy. Bus no.2 to get into the centre of Stavanger.

Had a walk around Stavanger. It’s not a big place so it’s pretty easy to see all the main sights in an afternoon! There’s a lovely lake in the centre, an old town with typical houses from Norway, and the port with nice boats. We did want to take a boat cruise when we arrived but all boats had already departed. We did however get information about pulpit rock for the next day.

Here are some pictures of Stavanger lake, port and the old town. Click on the pic to see the title.

Once back in Tananger we bought some food for the next days in the local supermarket there called Kiwi, which wasn’t too expensive and checked out the local harbour there which was stunning. The whole area of Tananger is beautiful and very quiet. So quiet that people there don’t even lock there doors. A super safe environment.

Below are some images from Tananger Port.


Friday-Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)
Today was dedicated to going to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), probably one of the most famous landmarks in Norway. Preikestolen is a steep cliff which rises 604 metres above the Lysefjorden. We bought a combination pack for both the ferry and bus which cost 300NOK each. Tickets can be bought on the ferry. We took the ferry to Tau at 10am arriving around 40 mins later. There was a bus waiting for all the passengers to continue on to where the start of the hike to Preikestolen begins. The bus only took around 30 mins. We checked out the lake where the hike starts first before we set off. The signs say it takes 2 hours each way but it can be done in an hour and a half. The walk is uphill and is mainly big rocks with some wooden footpaths thrown in. It’s not a hard walk and the views are unreal. Once on the top, the view of the fjord is amazing. We were very lucky with the weather. It was a beautiful day. We hung around for about an hour there, ate our packed lunch, took some photos and headed back down again. There was bus waiting so we managed to get on that and later the ferry. We returned around 4.30pm to Stavanger. Once back we found out different prices for the boat cruises and the cost of going to Kjerag. We decided to go for the fjord boat trip on Saturday as it was looking like rain and we didn’t want to hike in the rain.

Pictures of the walk to Pulpit rock and the view of Lysefjorden fjord.

Saturday-Lysefjord cruise

The tickets for this boat trip cost 420NOK each for 2 and a half hrs with the company called Nor led. There is another company called Rodne which costs 480 NOK for 3 hrs. We actually wanted to go with a cheaper company, on a boat called Sandnes which cost 400NOK but it was not running the day we wanted to go. The boats go frequently, 10, 12 and 2pm, Mon-Fri. On Sat, there is just one at 11am, the one we took. The weather wasn’t as good as the day before but it was dry. Outside the boat it was super windy, thought we would get blown away. There are many places where the boat slows down to see some attractions..cabin houses, bridges, waterfall,pulpit rock, goat..etc.  It was a nice trip but the weather was a bit dull and windy. I’m sure it’s more stunning with the sun out. Once back in Stavanger, be walked around and the rain came so we went back to Tananger.

Pictures from the boat cruise down Lysefjorden.


Sunday-Dalsnuten

Instead of doing a big hike we decided to do some walking near Sandnes. There are many trails there and we decided to do the walk to Dalsnuten peak. We packed our bags and left our place. We took bus n0.42 to Sandnes. Buses are not so frequent on Sundays so be aware of that. Once in Sandnes we took bus no.29 to Dale. We got off at Dale, not really knowing where to go. There was a little beach nearby so we checked that out then found a trail in a forest so took that. This walk was a little tricky as it was full of slippy rocks. At the top of this trail we continued to walk and found a sign to get to the peak. Around an hour later we were at the peak of Dalsnuten 324m. Great views from the top of Sandnes and islands. Unsure of the time of the buses from Dale to Sandnes, we walked pretty fast downhill, a different route from before but we made the bus from Dale to Sandnes. We killed some hours there before taking the bus to the airport. Sandnes was really quiet, with nothing really going on at all.

Overall, a lovely 4 days in Norway. Clean, fresh, safe and organized. Next time maybe we can hike Kjerag and and Trolltunga. They look amazing!

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Gozo Island, Malta

To take a break from Barcelona and to celebrate our 3 years of marriage we decided to go to Malta for a few days in August. After booking the flight to Malta we were not sure which part of the island we should stay. After a little searching we decided we would stay on the much smaller and quieter island of Malta called Gozo. We booked our apartment, Triton Court in an area of Gozo called: Marsalforn which is in the north east of the island.

Once we arrived to Luqa airport in Malta we took the bus which is just outside (route X1) to the ferry stop called Cirkewwa. All buses cost 2 euro in Malta. They have special offers if you are staying for a week. It took around an hour and a half to get to Cirkewwa, stopping a lot along the way but getting a tour of the island aswell. Once there, we had to wait around 10 mins and we were on our way to Gozo. You don’t pay on the way over to Gozo, just on the return (9-10 euro for both). The ferry trip took around 25 minutes, passing the other little island Comino, which has the amazing blue lagoon.  Once at the ferry terminal in Gozo, called: Mgarr we had to take another bus to get to our place! Again just outside, we got our bus number 322 to Masalforn. This didn’t take long at all. Finally, at Marsalforn we called to meet the owner of the apartment and were in. The apartment was really nice, big kitchen/living space, only a few mins walk to the bay. It cost us 150 for 3 nights. That evening we checked out the area and walked around Marsalforn Bay. A very pretty  and quiet place with restaurants along the front.

The next day we got up early, made lunch and left around 9.30am. The plan was to walk one of the trails to the Azure window, around 10-11km. This took us a lot longer than we planned because we stopped off for a swim along the way and ended up walking along the coast the entire time which added to the hours! Along the ways, the views were really great. From old artilliary buildings in Żebbuġ, to salt beds, gorges (Wied il-Għasri and Wied il-Mielaħ), crazy sandstone formations and amazing cliffs (Gozo’s version of the Cliffs of Moher). Here are some pics: (click on them to see where they were taken)

5 hrs later we arrived to the Azure window from the top. The views along the way were unreal. We were so tired and hot we went straight to the inland Sea for a swim. This is just a few mins walk from the window. After cooling down we checked out the famous window and took some pics.

From the Azure window there is a bus so we took this to Victoria. Victoria is in the centre of the island and it’s the capital. Once there we checked out the famous citadel. At the top you can walk around and see the whole island of Gozo. It’s worth it. After a quick beer in Victoria we took the bus back to Marsalforn.

The next day, we decided that we wouldn’t walk as much but we did walk! This time we went the other direction, so south of Marsalforn to a beach called Rambla bay. This beach is quite famous on the island as it has red sand and is one of the best. It took us an hour to walk there..including a massive hill. Edgar went in the water, I didn’t. We rented an umbrella (5 eur) and stayed there for a few hours later returning to Masalforn for lunch. We spent the rest of the day there, swimming and snorkelling in the bay.

Our last day..the plan was to go to the famous blue lagoon off the Comino island but because of time we decided not to risk it. Our ferry from Gozo left late and it would have been tight so in the end we decided to go see Valletta. Bus no.42 from the ferry terminal goes to Valletta. It took forever to get there..maybe because it was Saturday and there was parties going on. We walked Republic street..which was all decorated with religious banners..ate lunch and took the bus to the airport X4, not too long 25 mins.

Overall, Gozo was really enjoyable. A pity we couldn’t stay longer to check out the Blue Lagoon. Next time!

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Circular Tossa d’Alp

We did our first hike with a Meetup group (Barcelona hikers and outdoor group) in Barcelona in July and it was brilliant. Our organiser was David who knew the area very well and explained various things along the way. We hiked up Tossa d’Alp along the Roca Sanca and down by Comafloriu, passing the hostel Rebost, which is part of the route of the famous Cavalls del Vent. ..so a full circle. Cars were parked at Coll de Pal and off we went walking for the day. It was a beautiful walk, walking a bit through a forest as well. Total distance was 19km and took us around 8 hours with an elevation gain of  + 1.400 m. A great day out. We did have a little problem on return to Barcelona. The minivan that we were in..failed to work on a couple of occassions and in the end died on the motorway. In the end it had to get a towed away. Luckily one of the people we were with had his girlfriend come collect us. Pretty late arriving home but a great day overall!

You can see some pictures below!

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Copenhagen

We spent 3 nights in Copenhagen in July. We flew from Brussels (Charloi) airport and once we arrived to Copenhagen took the metro to main station and got a bus to our couch surfing host Jacob. This was our first experience couch surfing and found our Danish host very nice. We actually were not his only guests. When we arrived so did another guest, Isa from Hong Kong, who had lived and worked in Ireland! The first evening we ate dinner together at Jacobs house. It was nice to see what a typical Danish house looked like inside. One thing that was really different was the bathroom. It was really tiny, I think the smallest I’ve been in. Just enough room to stand and turn! Outside, even though a bit chilly, most people were cycling. Can’t imagine cycling in the Winter there, but they do.

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Your nobody if you don’t have a bike in Denmark.

The next day along with Isa, we checked out the walking tour around Copenhagen. This is a free tour given by a local which was great. Here is the link to their website: http://www.copenhagenfreewalkingtours.dk/index.html. We met at city hall and the tour lasted around 3 hours taking in all the main sights around the city. The weather was good but a bit cold. Really noticed that there was bikes everywhere. In the evening we went to Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania. It’s an autonomous neighbourhood with around 850 residents who have developed their own rules independent of the Danish government. On one of the streets inside, called pusher street, people were openly selling hash from stalls. Their faces were covered and no photos were allowed in that part. Interesting place to visit. It lashed rain when we were there so we took shelter in one of the bars there.

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Along the harbour front

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Statue of polar bear getting killed by pipeline

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Christiania

Our second day was spent walking a lot! Near Jacob’s house was a cemetary, so we checked that out. We also walked around the centre, along the harbour Nyhavn, getting a photo with that famous little mermaid found on our biscuit tins, saw Rosenborg castle. In the evening we met up with our host Jacob brought us to an underground cinema. He gave us our own personal tour as it was closed and he opened it up especially for us. We had the cinema to ourselves and watched the movie Babel while there was a Jazz festival going on upstairs.

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The little mermaid

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In one of the lego shops!

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With Jacob in the underground cinema

We spent our last day in Malmo, Sweden. We took the bus across the famous Øresund Bridge, the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe and connects  both Copenhagen and Malmo. It was pretty cheap and took around an hour. Police checked our passports on the bus before we entered. We spent the day there, the highlight eating lunch in an Afghan restaurant. We returned to Copenhagen in the evening and flew on to Dublin!

 

 

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Ghent and Bruges

After spending a few hours in Luxembourg we took the train to Ghent. This wasn’t our first time in Ghent. I had been years ago to an I love Techno party but I didn’t see much of the city then and Edgar had also been before. It was cheaper to buy a return train ticket from Luxembourg than one way..not sure why! We arrived to Ghent pretty late but had made arrangements with our AirBnB host so all was fine. Belgium were playing that night in the World Cup but got beaten by Wales I think!

The next day we changed our AirBnB host as the one we were in was only free for 1 night. The new place that we moved too was available for more time. So, after moving there we got out and walked to the city centre of Ghent. Plenty of things to see in Ghent and it’s all very pretty. Below are some pics of the main sights… Gravensteen castle, The Graslei, Grafiti Street. Click over the picture to see where it is.

 

Beers were also taken in Ghent, but not chocolates. The choice of beers is insane and the percentage is quite high so best not to drink so many!

The next day we visited  the city of Bruges. It’s a small train ride from Ghent and probably more famous, although I prefer Ghent. Below are some pics from Bruges. We had the luck of visiting a flee market as it was the first Sunday of the month. Strange and weird stuff for sale there, but interesting.We walked around and took in the main sights, the famous churches, bell towers…just sat and watched from the main square, ate some Belgium waffles too.

Nice to be back in Europe visiting lovely places like Ghent and Bruges. Next stop: Copenhagen.

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