Tenerife and La Gomera

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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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.

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And it was perfect for some silly mermaiding.

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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

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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RIP Sunglasses that were blown away by some very sudden strong wind while they were sitting comfortably on my nose. There was no way to retrieve them since they landed on uneven ground in a restricted area. The wife had to convince me that they are “just sunglasses” and “it wasn’t worth it to risk my life over them” — yeah, right. 
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He’s just everywhere you look.

La Gomera

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.

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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:

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At garden centres they are rather small

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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.

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View of the island of Tenerife from La Gomera

Beaches

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.

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This one is Playa El Bollullo which is located in the north. Though gorgeous, the stretch is almost in full shadow which is a shame because it’s really cold.

Snorkeling

  • 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.
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Make sure to get yourself one of these babies if you want to snorkel because these are great and you don’t even have to accidentally breathe in seawater to spot some critters. Find them here.

Food

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!

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One Guachinche was part of a banana plantation which made my heart really happy

 

 

Christmas in Mallorca

For someone who wasn’t supposed to do anything special this holiday season, I had such a blast! We were only away for four days but we have seen so much and we had such a great time. I never thought I would ever want to go to Mallorca – an island that is so overly crowded during the summer and the flight ticket prices are going through the roof. Not to mention, it’s a popular holiday destination for the people that surround me everyday so I never really got the point in going away yet feeling like you’ve never left home because everybody speaks your language. So to me, Mallorca was just one of those places that everyone can talk about while I think of all the places I’ve been/want to go to that they would never think of ever seeing. Oh, but how wrong I was! And here’s why:

Mallorca in a nutshell

I’ve got to admit, it does have a lot to offer.

Road trip

The easiest way to get around Mallorca, and by that I mean the whole island, is by car. They have a great motorway which leads you to the most important spots. Even on the road there is already so much to see and you’ll find a lot of opportunities to take photos.

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Rental car for 4 days: 104,06 €
Day 1 & day 2 of our road trip. This is just a rough guide and I’m sure we have made a few more stops along the way.

Beaches

We have been to a handful of beaches on the island, ones we have chosen randomly so I am not quite sure if they are among the best ones. I am also just trying my best here to give out correct information for sometimes I’m not even sure anymore if I got them right. Depending on the time of day, the temperature of the water was warm enough to go for a short dip. Unfortunately, we did not bring any swimsuits with us because we just didn’t expect that. At around noon I was able to go hip-deep without freezing. It was quite refreshing! Seriously, I had felt colder on a summer day in Portugal (but that’s Atlantic water).

Cala Mesquida
Alcudia
Port de Soller
Sant Elm
Magaluf

Towns

We have also sighted a few towns where we got to walk around in peace while the local people are busy inside their homes for Christmas. It’s usually in these places where one can find some of the most exquisite churches on the island.

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Christmas in Mallorca – Navidades en Mallorca

Spending Christmas in Mallorca, I must say, has been quite an experience. We arrived on the 23rd late at night so we had to spend the best part of the day on the 24th shopping for our Nochebuena dinner. Our Airbnb came with a charcoal grill on the rooftop terrace so we did not waste the opportunity and bought some meats and shellfish. We had some trouble finding open restaurants in our area (El Molinar) during the holidays and the ones that were open were of course full, so it’s best to go to the more central area of Palma. The towns were usually quiet during the day especially while mass is going on.

The Airbnb Experience

Once again, we have been quite lucky with our Airbnb pickings. Also, with the weather! We had originally booked a different apartment but the host was forced to cancel because it had rained hard all week before our arrival and it caused some damages to his home. Fortunately, we have found another host right away and his place was gorgeous!

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And by that I mean waking up to this on Christmas morning.

Airbnb – whole place for 4 nights located 10 minutes away from airport: 247,- €

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So I guess that was it for travelling this year, huh? What a year!

Stockholm in Winter

Stockholm – Beauty on Water, so they say. In winter, it is partially on ice.

In this post, I talk about the highlights of our recent trip to Stockholm and share with you what it is like to travel there during winter.

On saving money

I make a very detailed itinerary whenever we travel and we try our best to stick to it. I plan ahead most of our activities just in case we would have to book them early and also to gain insight on into how much we would have to spend while we’re away. So when we went to Stockholm last February for my wife’s birthday, we already had an idea on what we would be doing there, how to get to where we want to go, and approx. how much it would cost us. Here are some of our activities and bookings sorted by date and at the end of each are the prices.

February 24, 2016

We’ve booked our flights as early as November. We took a low-fare flight with Norwegian from Berlin SXF and arrived in Stockholm-Arlanda airport before midnight. From there, we took the airport shuttle going to the city. I found this very convenient because there’s a bus leaving every 15 minutes and they had WIFI on board. The ride took about 40 minutes. The place we were to stay at, an Airbnb, was in Fredhäll – just a few minutes away from the Central Station by subway or “T-bana”.

Flights (roundtrip, for two): 122.80 €
Shuttle from ARL to City Center (per person per trip): 99 SEK or ca. 10 €
Airbnb – whole flat (four nights for three people): 233 €

The Airbnb we rented was a two-bedroom apartment owned by an artist, and we got the whole place to ourselves since she was on a holiday with her family at the time. This was our view from the balcony when we arrived:

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February 25, 2016

So on this day we went to see The Royal Palace mostly because it seemed necessary . It was a short tour of the palace, The Royal Apartments, and The Royal Treasury. After that, we rode the SkyView, which is a spherical gondola that goes up and down the Ericsson Globe for a 360° view of the city. We booked our tickets online to avoid a queue but it being a Thursday afternoon in winter, we were among only a handful of tourists.

The Royal Palace entrance fee (per person): 150 SEK or ca. 15 €
Ericsson Globe SkyView entrance fee (per person): 150 SEK or ca. 15 €

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The view from the top of the Globe wasn’t too impressive since there aren’t a lot of recognisable landmarks on the city’s skyline from where we stood but it was such a beautiful day and that helped a lot in making it a pleasurable 30 minute ride.

February 26, 2016

On this day, we met up with a friend who has been living in Stockholm for about a year now. She took us to a place called Skansen, which is an open-air museum that exhibits rural culture of Sweden. It is located on a hilltop and it’s also home to some local animals of Sweden like lynxes, wolverines, seals, elks, and more. Again, this place was nearly empty given the season but one can easily see it turning into a beautiful green area on the warmer days. It was her treat to us but entrance fee during winter is 100 SEK or ca. 10 € per person.

February 27, 2016

One shouldn’t miss this activity when visiting Stockholm. Given the city’s topography, one of the best ways to see more of the place is by boat. So for this day’s activity, we chose to book the Brunch Cruise offered by Strömma. It’s a three-hour cruise going to Vaxholm and back to Östermalm and is only available on weekends. Early booking is recommended. The weather on this day was gorgeous! It was sunny and the sky was clear. The highlight of this cruise, though, was the brunch buffet that served a variety of Swedish specialties like smoked salmon and, of course, Köttbullar (meatballs). The price is 465 SEK or ca. 47 € per person which includes a table for your party, all you can eat brunch from the buffet and the three-hour cruise itself. The price is quite shocking at first sight but, if you think about it, dining out in Stockholm is rather expensive and considering this was our breakfast, lunch, and half of our dinner, I’d say it’s a fair price.

Brunch Cruise: 465 SEK or ca. 47 €

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Too bad we did not have more time to walk around Stockholm but we’ll be back, for sure.

More on saving money

As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, one reason why we book an Airbnb rather than a hotel room is so we don’t have to spend too much on food. Sure, we splurge a little for a local dining experience but we had most of our meals at “home”. We always make sure to hit the grocery stores at the beginning of our stay (which, by the way, can also be quite an experience if you are in any way interested in knowing what the local people are eating on an ordinary day).

Maybe on our next adventures I will try to give a more detailed recollection of our trip with more ways on how to save or, rather, not spend so much and weigh some more practical options. But that’s it for the mean time!