It was my wife’s birthday last weekend and we had another last-minute change of plans. We were supposed to stay in Germany and go on a road trip but decided against it when we realised that the country was about to reach the peak of winter. Going on a road trip while it’s cold and slippery just didn’t seem appealing, not to mention, safe. Joan had always wanted to go to Venice but somehow the idea never materialised because, well, other trips and places got in the way. But, hey, we finally made it!
So let me just get this out of the way: Venice is stunning. Gorgeous. A masterpiece, really. But please forgive me if I don’t seem too excited about it as I go on on this entry. The trip just got frustrating at some point, somehow, and the weather is to blame for most of it. You won’t believe how much I miss the sun and not having to wrap myself up in layers and layers of clothing!
Venice is famous for its canals and bridges. It’s made up of islands and, instead of by car, you get around by boat – or you walk. We have been warned about 430+ bridges of this city and we were worried about rolling our luggage around and having to carry them when crossing the bridges so we looked for a better alternative:
So this is a backpack that measures like the maximum size allowed on most European airlines for cabin bags and it opens up just like your favourite hard shell carry-on luggage! Minus the wheels and the handle, it is much lighter so it allows you to pack a little more and it’s perfect for walking around. It can take up 44 Litres which was just right for six days worth of thick winter clothing. Buy yours here.
Where to stay in Venice
Finding budget-friendly accommodation in this city is challenging especially if you choose to stay on the main island. For the first three nights we stayed in a litte boutique hotel in Murano. It’s a short boat ride away from the city centre and it has its own charm. It’s awfully quiet especially at night so it might not be the best option if you prefer a place that is more alive. During the day, you may want to visit one of the many glass factories.
For the remaining two nights, we moved to a different hotel right before our 72h public transportation ticket expired. Since we were staying in the city, we did not need to ride the boats anymore to get around. There is a clear difference between staying in the city and staying on another island. For one, you pay more for one night and get less (smaller room, no window, no breakfast). But on the bright side, you’re closer to all of this:
Burano is another island right off a postcard. Its colourful houses by the canals are attracting tourists, and for good reason. The sun came out when we went there and the light hit the brightly coloured houses beautifully.
More on Venice
It was rainy when we arrived and the first couple of days had been really windy. It was hard to endure walking around in -12°C temperature and it got frustrating. Other than just walking around and sight-seeing (or visiting some museums, galleries), there is not much else to do. I must admit, six days is a really long time to be staying in this city. Maybe a whole weekend would have been enough to keep the excitement going. It can also burn a huge hole in your pocket because eating out is just so expensive. But I’m glad to be finally home after consuming an uncomfortable amount of carbs and I’m sure I won’t be touching any pizza or pasta again for the next couple of weeks!
Happy New Year, everyone! I’m back with a fresh(ish) post on our most recent trip. The second half of last year was exhausting at best as we did not go on holiday from August until December, something that the recent years have proven unusual for us. So before the year ended, we were on our maximum holiday vibe and bid Germany goodbye for the next ten days.
So why Tenerife?
Tenerife is a Canary Island on the Atlantic Ocean, located closer to the African continental plate than the European and the winters are moderately warm.
I may have mentioned before that we have been keeping up going to Spain at least once a year since 2015 as part of my studying the language.
I also may have mentioned before that I work for an airline that is, for the most part, a holiday flyer and among our destinations are 5 of 7 Canary Islands, including Tenerife which we picked because it’s the biggest among the islands.
Did I mention moderately warm winters? (as in around 25C, full sun and the ocean)
Where to stay in Tenerife
It is important to consider that the northern part of the island is much different than the southern. It is not only because of the wave of tourism that contrasts the two but also the climate. When we were in the north, it got cloudy with some drizzle from time to time especially in the early mornings and it was cold and wet on some days. The south, on the other hand, was warm and sunny, though on some days too windy for a proper swim in the ocean. But it was much quieter in the north, even in the capital, Santa Cruz. Tourists are everywhere on the island even this time of the year but the south is more of a haven for families on all-inclusive holiday packages. I guess it’s all more of a matter of taste.
In our case, we had 4 different accommodations with 2-3 overnights at each.
What to do / Where to go
During the first few days, we were staying in Tacoronte, which is about 20 minutes away from Santa Cruz and Icod de los Vinos, respectively. We spent the days just driving around and exploring the area and the small towns.
Bajamar Natural Pools
Some coasts of the island are not safe for swimming because of the strong waves. As a solution, natural pools were built so people can still get their dose of Vitamin Sea without the danger of getting wiped out. Entrance to the pools is free of charge and it’s open to everyone! Unfortunately, we did not get to swim on that day because the water was just really cold and it was a windy day. But it was relaxing to watch the waves crash against the walls of the pools as they often get really high.
Puerto de la Cruz
There is much more going on in this city since there are also some big hotels in the area. It’s a port city that also has a beach and some shops and restaurants.
Garachico is a quaint little town close to our second Airbnb in Icod de los Vinos. We got out rather late to buy some snacks so our host recommended this town to us since there the other ones in the surrounding area close down early. We found this small café in the town’s plaza and it was beautifully decorated for the yuletide season.
Sitio Litre – Orchid Garden
The orchid garden of Sitio Litre is open to the public for a small fee to satisfy our eyes with a variety of flora of all colours. Agatha Christie used to come to this garden and it inspired some of her works.
San Cristobal de la Laguna
We found this city from driving from one Airbnb to another. Its historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its the most populous city of the island.
Teide National Park
No trip to Tenerife is complete without a trip to Teide National Park. The summit of Mount Teide is the highest point in Spain. We were able to book cable car tickets on the same day for 27,-€ each (roundtrip) so we could skip the queue. Driving up to the cable car station, I was already anxious because I thought we just blew away our money on the cable car tickets. We drove up some hairpin curves with very low visibility and couldn’t see 10 metres ahead of us because of the fog and I was afraid we won’t be able to see anything once we’re up there because of that. But once we were at a much higher point, it was clear and sunny and, apparently, we were high above the clouds. From this point everything around us was just spectacular and a visit was well worth it. Good thing the wife is an amazing driver even if the drive required her hand stuck permanently on the handbrake to start accelerating again mid-steep.
Once we finally got to the cable car station, we noticed immediately how the air was just different. It got harder to breathe because the air was so thin and it was also really cold, something one must not ever underestimate when planning a trip to Mount Teide.
We combined our trip to Tenerife with a day-long excursion to La Gomera. It’s the second smallest of the Canary Islands and it’s pretty close to Tenerife, requiring only a 30-minute ferry ride. We took an organised tour which was a new experience for us. It was just rather hard to go by your own when you don’t really know where to go (also, it’s cheaper at around 60,-€ per person all-inclusive). This way, we were able to see the most important attractions — which were all spectacular. Also, I think it helps in the preservation of the island if tourists are in a more controlled environment.
Our tour guide was a quirky guy who explained everything well. He was so passionate about keeping La Gomera a paradise. He brought us to beautiful, photographable places and also to a small eatery that serves a local specialty, the Gomeron – a mixture of grappa and palm nectar, a local product of the island. Next, he had us walk around a little bit to show us some plants, like this amazingly big Ficus benjamina:
The trip included lunch at a local restaurant where some locals let us hear the Silbo Gomero – traditional whistling language used by the Gomerans to communicate even up to this day.
Lunch was followed by the trip to Garajonay National Park.
Bigger than your regular Dandelions
Back to Tenerife, we explored some beaches as we were staying in the south in the latter days of our holiday. As expected, it was much warmer and the weather was a bit more predictable on this part of the island.
Los Gigantes, Masca Bay. Los Gigantes is another port city but this one comes with some adventure. We booked a kayaking tour with Teno Activo that took us to see Masca Bay. Two hours of kayaking did our physical fitness a favour and it helped that we were surrounded by such beauty. Also, we had the chance to go snorkeling, which was a first for me and we took advantage of our new snorkeling gear which I recommend to everybody for they are really great.
Playa de las Teresitas. It’s a clean and family-friendly, but nonetheless quiet beach in San Andres with yellow sand and a chance to see some fish swimming close to the shore.
El Puertito. We read somewhere that there is a chance to see turtles here but no such luck for us. Anyhow, there were plenty of other sea creatures to stalk since the floor is pretty rocky but the water shallow and it was so far the best one we snorkeled at.
Spanish cuisine is absolute comfort food for me. I could dive into a tub of jamón anytime. But the Canarian cuisine has a few more specialties that are easy to love. The best way to find local food is to look out for Guachinches. Traditionally, they are small establishments that serve their own wine and homemade food. Today, more and more restaurants across the island tag themselves as “Guanchinche-style” but these are good nonetheless since they also serve traditional food that include grilled meat dishes, seafood, paired with the typical Canarian sauces called mojo. What I especially loved is the Canarian grilled goat cheese. Yum!
I don’t believe there is anything that I can tell you about Rome that you don’t already know or haven’t already seen so I’ll keep this short.
So after our trip to Santorini, we flew out to Rome to spend one night there before going back to Berlin. So with two whole days to go roam around, we tried to make the most out of it.
After lunch, we took the mandatory tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Obviously, it was fantastic and worth a visit – just probably not on a summer’s day because it just gets really hot in Rome this time of the year. We would have wanted to see more if it hadn’t been 40C outside.
We were surprised by how cheap a cab ride is in this city – to a point that we even let ourselves be toured by a local cab driver, showing us the most important attractions in this city. We didn’t have to pay more than 10 € for a 10 minute ride with light traffic.
For more flexibility, we decided to rent Vespas – one for each couple, to complete the whole Italian experience.
At night we drove around Vatican City, and then to Fountain Trevi. Some attractions in this city are just so busy even late at night.
The next day, our friends woke up to some bad news from back home and they had to leave for LA with the next flight. We were supposed to leave Rome at night then spend the whole day in Berlin the next day and drive them to the airport the day after that. The wife and I then decided to make a quiet day of it, just driving around on our Vespa.
At some point in the afternoon, we went to Torre Argentina. Today it doubles as a cat sanctuary that houses around 150 gatti. It may be visited in the afternoons during which you may choose to adopt a little feline of all ages. They also sell some goodies like towels and mugs made by a few volunteers to help raise some money for the cats’ needs. Don’t forget to leave a donation!
From there, we walked towards the Pantheon, which in my opinion, was the most beautiful attraction in this city. Seeing the inside of this building is free of charge and it’s just amazing how it’s still standing hundreds of years after it was built.
And after we have satisfied our eyes and tastebuds with all the best of Italy, we took our ride to the airport to take our flight back to Berlin. It was a short holiday indeed, but so eventful.