Motorbikes and beer – a perfect day in Santa Cruz de Tenerife

cofAs much as I love nature, hiking and the beach, I am starting to crave city life. So I when I read in the local paper that there is a beer festival in Santa Cruz, I convinced my mum it’s time for a girls day out. After all, how can two Germans ignore a beer festival. Impossible! And a little window shopping has never hurt anyone.

Tip: if your not fluent in the lingo simply check out the local expat papers. There is always something happening on the island, fiestas  and cultural events take place in many villages all around the year.

So off we went by bus which was less than an hour (so not much difference to getting from A-B in London).

Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the capital for Tenerife and more importantly joint capital with Las Palmas for the Canary Islands. Since I visited the first time nearly 12 years ago it’s exponentially grown to a city that can hold it’s own with other major cities in the world.

I personally like to stop by the African Market (El Mercado Nuestra Senora de Africa). It’s a food and  flower market and simply the best place to get a good treat. It’s less then 10 min walking distance from the coach station connecting you to ever part of the island.

From there simply head over to the city centre and explore the small historic alleys, escape the heat in one of the parks or venture up by tram (Line 1) to La Laguna.  Its historic centre is a World Heritage Site since 1999. La Laguna is also where you find the University of the Island and consequently a vibrant student community including bars and cafes.

But this time we were in pursuit of beer;  €3 entrance with the first beer is included, live music and food trucks, what’s not to like. admittedly du to Dorada sponsoring the festival there wasn’t much variety in beer flavours but we generously overlooked this.

When we arrived at ‘Plaza de la Alameda del Duque de Santa Elena’ (directly near the peer)  we found ourselved in the middle of a large motorcycle gathering. Motorbike clubs are popular on the island and you can often see groups of varying sizes cicrling the winding roads. However, this time it felt like everyone who owns a bike was there. It was an impressive spectacle and I swear some of the bikes were real monster machines. I swear you either need a step to get on it or be The Hulk to even hold this thing in an upright position.

One day I really need to get my motor cycle licences!

t turns out this was a rally for ‘Queremos un circuito de Velocidad en Tenerife’. Apparently for years people trying to get a propper racing track to support and grow the sport but more importantly to boost the motor industry on the island. If you speak Spanish check out their facebook group. I think it would be fab. It such a popular pastime here and would defiantly be boost for both locals and tourists.

All in all we had a lot of fun, got slightly tipsy and even managed to get some shopping under our belts.

Check in for the next post. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. For more videos subscribe to my YouTube channel.

 

Hiking in Las Vegas Tenerife

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My mum

My time in Tenerife is almost over. I have spent over a month with my parents and I am so glad mum has found her confidence back to go hiking. Just over 2 years ago she was diagnosed with MPN (myeloproliferative neoplasms), which is the name for a group of rare disorders of the bone marrow. Basically, mum produces too much red blood cells and her blood becomes like gel. In some cases it can lead to leukaemia.

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Me: isibue

To being we were all scared and my active mum couldn’t even make her own bed. It took ages to get a diagnosis but now she is doing fine.

So after 2 years, we decided to build up her stamina and see if we can’t get back into hiking. We’ve started with a few smaller walks and last week we tried our luck with Las Vegas.

Las vegas is a small village in the South of Tenerife. There are a few trails from as little as 4km to 11km plus (i.e. Las Vegas, Risco del Muerto, Pino el Guirre, El Molino, Las Vegas). We thought we give a 7km a go but it went so well, we went a little further. Mum was so happy and I am very proud of her. Check out trail suggestions  

Sights on route

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Old water mill

The hiking trail in Las Vegas isn’t hard but I do think offers something for everyone. The route varies in difficulty from simple paths over to rocky grounds, up and down hill and simple country roads. It can get very hot but there is always a tree with shade nearby.  I simply love the views over the valleys and the traditional rock farm terraces you can see all overs the island. Along the way, you’ll find signs about historic landmarks such as the food preservation ovens or the old water mill. The area is home to many birds, including a pair of falcons which are beautiful to watch when they circle above you. We spotted them a few times as if they were following us.

 

Village of Las Vegas

IMG_3360Once we descended and made our way off the mountain and through an old river bed (aka cactus valley), you’ll come by the area popular with rock climbers before you finally reach the village of Las Vegas. It’s a very small and as typical for every village here has its own church. Newly renovated, the little white building is placed at the top of the village and offers a magnificent view over the South coast.  Just tucked beside the church walls is a little restaurant La Tasquita de Las Vegas. There are only a few tables inside but the big garden is where you want to be. We managed to stayed ages hard work as you can imagine but beer, wine and nibbles is a must after the hike 🙂

Where do you like to relax? Let me know via the comments below. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebookor Instagram. For more videos subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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Ermita Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza

A little stroll through a Spanish village

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Dogs on roof tops. A common sight in Spanish villages

When my parents decided move to Tenerife they were determined not to end up in one of those pensioner expat villages. Instead they’ve decided to move away from the beach into the hills and the small village of El Rio, Arico. Over ten years they’ve managed to learn the language and become part of the local community. Since then we kids visit on a regular basis.

At first we had to figure out what to do in such a small place, especially if you are used to big city life and you don’t speak Spanish. But there is more to Tenerife than beaches. Many professional and amateur cyclists that use the island as training ground. It’s a real task to make your way, on a bike up the mountain over small winding roads and in extreme heat. I do admire these people but I am glad I don’t have to swap place. I rather sit in front of my parents house with a coffee in the morning and watch the show 😉

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El Rio is located alongside the Barranco Del Rio a ravine that’s famous for rock climbing, canyoning and hiking.

Signpost for the Barranco del Rio

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Presa del Rio

Signpost of the Presa del RioPersonally, I am in love with hiking and like to explore the the trails in the area. Mum and I share this passion and often took the dogs up the the Presa del Rio as it lies pretty much opposite of the house. Because mum hasn’t been well for a while and wasn’t able to hike for almost a year, we decided to take a smaller route of the Presa as our first test hike. To make it more interesting we went in search of an an old bride that apparently takes you over the barranco (canyon). As you’ll see we did it! Mum was so happy, we actually expanded to 8km walk down to El Poris the following week (a separate post to follow) and now we plan the big Las Vegas tour which is more challenging. I am very proud of her and look forward to the hike.

Small note about hiking trails on Tenerife.

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Typical stone pile which marks the right way

Small or big routes, if you decide to set off by yourself rather than a guided tour (of which there are many) be sure to do your homework. Wear proper shoes, bring water and if possible have a map (or GPS on your phone). The local municipals have done a lot to improve the trails over the years and put up many trail signs. But sometimes and on older/ lesser hiked routes, the path may be overgrown, rocky and hard to spot. You may also need to know that sometimes the sign is a traditional little stone pile. It’s nothing to be concerned about but it’s worth to pay attention. Mum and I often decide to start late in the day ( for short routes) because of the heat but be aware that once the sun goes down it gets dark quickly.

Next time you’r on the island try out some hiking. I’d love to hear where and/or what your favourite trail is. Just post a comment below. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. For more videos subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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We spotted the tiny old bridge across the barranco.

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we weren’t quite sure where we can get out. So next time we’ll try it from the other end
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Candelabra cactus

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Relaxing at El Médano beach in Tenerife

 

Tenerife is my home from home. My parents decided to swap cold Germany for the Canary Islands almost a decade ago and since then I am on the island at least twice a year.

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Many come to enjoy the beaches and its all inclusive packages in the South along Playa de Las Américas and Los Cristianos or to play golf. If so that’s ok but you are unlikely to see any of the beauty of the island. I personally prefer the quieter and authentic parts of the island without the Las Vegas style theatres and full English or Germans bars.

My parents live in the South not far from El Médano (aka “The sand dune”). It’s the wind and kite surf mecca of the Island and very close to the South Airport. You can see it’s coast and famous Montaña Roja (“The Red Mountain”) from the plane during decent.

My mum and I have developed a perfect ritual when in town. First we have a coffee and sometimes breakfast at one of the little beach bars overlooking the bay. Once we’ve gathered our strength we start walking along the 3 km coast into the attached nature reserve, crossing over until we reach Playa La Tejita. Once we return, we choose the beach bar that offers the perfect angle to ogle the wind and kit surfers.

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Playa La Tejita is located on the opposite site of Montaña Roja. The sea is a bit rougher and if the stars align right you might see whales (although I have yet to be so lucky). Because it is more secluded, it’s less busy and there are no shops and only basic facilities. There is one bar at the opposite edge of this cove (at least another 15min walk). It’s also the official nudist beach so be prepared for the sights 😉

 

 

 

If you want the perfect view over the entire coast, take the hike up Montaña Roja. If you are reasonable fit it’s not a difficult walk. But I would recommend proper shoes and a hike before midday and maybe not necessarily on day with strong winds. Mum and I hiked it a few years back (see images below).

 

 

 

This time around we just took a walking with a family friend although with the extreme wind we had a real work out. I am still finding sand in places where no sand should be … Our reward – seeing great waves.

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Beside beaches Tenerife has great hiking trails and outdoor rock climbing. I am here for a few weeks and should certainly take a few hikes. Just keep an eye on my next post and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. For more videos subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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Warsaw and Krakow two cities that delight

After an initial stressed and grumpy start (see previous post) to our Poland trip I am happy tor report it was a really enjoyable. Lisa and I knew that we had about 8 days and the original idea was to stay 2 nights in Warsaw and then move on somewhere else and eventually end up in Krakow and maybe near the Tatra mountains in Zakopane.

Polski BusWe wanted to keep it as cheap as possible so only stayed in hostels and used the Polski Bus instead of train or plane to get from Warsaw to Krakow. I have to say the bus was great and very comfy.

Couchsurfing was a total let down. We quickly gave up. Not because for lack of trying but because if you can’t plan ahead and need people to put you up on short notice and during summer holidays then it’s not really the right tool. So instead of wasting all day to find people who may put us up, we stuck to hostels and enjoyed the town.

To be honest Poland is very cheap and that helped a lot.

In the end we liked Warsaw so much that we decided to extend our stay and skip anything in between. We made it to Krakow but sadly I couldn’t come to Zakopane with my friend. We didn’t make any plans and for me it was a matter of getting home. My choice at the time was finding a reasonable priced flight or spending 28hrs on a bus or car back to London (my friend used bla bla car to get back to Germany). Frankly, a 28hrs journey wasn’t appealing to me at the time. I had been to Zakopane a couple of years ago so my friend went alone whilst I spent 14 hrs getting home. Yes irony struck. Besides everything going swimmingly during our trip getting home was a bit of a night mare. I swear airport administrations in Warsaw suck!

Morskie Oko lake  in PolandAnyhow, I you have time and like hiking then make time for a visit in Zakopane. I am from Germany and it reminded me of the time my parents took us kids to Austria for a hiking on school holidays. Here is a picture of the Morskie Oko lake (8km hike) I saw a few years back.

Warsaw

Marie Skłodowska Curie
Marie Skłodowska Curie

I was a little apprehensive about visiting Warsaw at first. To my shame I had this really outdated image in my head that it would look like East Berlin after the wall came down. Grey and run down and that people would be weird. I don’t know old cliches die hard I suppose. I was so so wrong. It’s a modern city with a rich cultural heritage and rightly proud of it. It’s a city attracting tourists from Poland and the world alike. A city that loves music from classic to folk to street or some sort of fusion of traditional chines and electric rock – there is always music in the air. Even the little pop up bar behind our hostel sprouted a spontaneous band rehearsal for traditional Irish instrumental music with fiddle, violin, guitar and flute.

Don’t get mo wrong. I am not romanticising the place. Money clearly was invested into the infrastructure and architecture. Parks feature cultural events and concerts and the pubs and bars a filled with tourists like in any other major European city. Prices are cheap, especially if you from places like London or Paris, but I have to say I have seen a lot of homeless people. Again, I am living in London and it’s a sad sight I should be familiar with but the extend to what I have seen in Poland is heart breaking (Krakow was similar). If you mange to cross the river to Praga and move away to the older parts, the less tourist oriented bits of town then you can see people are still not doing that great (much closer to the image I had in mind before the trip). There are always 2 sides to a coin. I don’t say don’t enjoy your time away but I think if visiting a place don’t be afraid to acknowledge the less glorious sides too.

 

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Warsaw by night

 

By the way if you have a sweet tooth check out the Pirate Candy Shop in Warsaw

 

Krakow

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No swimming above boats??

This was my second visit to Krakow. It’s more touristy overall but compared to Warsaw feels more relaxed. You can walk pretty much anywhere and as the core is literally encircled by a park, it’s very hard to get lost. What is also nice that you can walk along the river. Whilst in Warsaw, you’ll be disappointed to see that any type of walk along the river is beside a major road and there is no greenery just pavements. In Krakow you can stroll or cycle along the river for ages and locals meet for picnics.

Krakow is also a good hub for day trips such as Zakopane or Auschwitz. Lisa and I are both German and felt a visit to is Auschwitz is absolutely mandatory if anything then out of respect. I visited a few years back and Lisa went this time around. I wouldn’t post or take pictures. To me it feels invasive but that’s it’s for everyone themselves to decided.

Overall, visiting Krakow’s hit home the dark history of our country. Lisa and I both loved visiting Kazimierz the old Jewish quarter of town. Today it’s full of little shops and cafes. During the war the main Ghetto was just across the river in Podgorze and that’s where you can still visit Schindler’s fabric. In contrast to what it must have been like during the war it’s mind twisting. Little golf carts repurposed for city tours pass by you and your hear many different pre-recorded languages with information about the area, including German. But there are still people living here who remember and some when they overhear you speak German have almost instinctive reactions to you. It’s fleeting looks and body language encompassing everything form curiosity to fear and pure anger. It’s made both Lisa and I very self-concious for a while. I think it’s just something to be mindful when visiting as I felt history was living and breathing in the area alongside the present. I recommend when in the area take a trip to the Galicia Jewish Museum (maybe on a rainy day).

 

Check out the rest of the sights below. Let me know if you have any other ideas for future trips in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. For more videos subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Many thanks Isibue

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Camino sign

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Cloth Hall
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Church of Saint Bernardino
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Wawel castle by night

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Wawel Royal castle
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Wawel Royal castle

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Wawel cathedral
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Otto Nikodym and Stefan Banach Memorial Bench

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Obwarzanek Krakowski – Polish bretzel
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Town Hall Tower

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Netherlands explored!

So the story begins

Not that I need an excuse to travel but I wanted to catch up with my friend Chia-Hua who I met the previous year walking the Camino (Way of Saint James) to Santiago de Compostela. She and her husband Ab kindly let me crash at their house for 8 days and they were gracious, generous hosts.Chia-Hua and Ab

Their place is a 30 mins bus ride from Amsterdam and I was able to got a little taste of what is is like living in the Netherlands compared to the cliché Amsterdam city break with its dodgy coffeeshops and the red light district – Done that! Been there! – Instead I stayed in a real home, including crazy neighbours who like a chat (or beer) over the garden fence, rode a bike for the first time in two years, joint my friend at her yoga class (entirely in Dutch which was hilarious and painful) and walked the country side.

Getting there and and back – why I ditched the plane

Yamasaki RestaurantI had read an article in the Independent about the closure of the Hoek van Holland train station which was first opened in 1893. The station catered for those arriving by ferry to the Netherlands and connecting them to the major cities. Reading the article, it felt like the end of a era and I wanted to see the station before it entirely disappeared.

Stena Line check-in signpostAnd indeed it was a said sight. The old station platform is still there but the rest is heavily under construction. You can see traces of the old tracks leading away from the station. For the entire summer this little harbour has no train connection what so ever. The new Rotterdam metro link is scheduled to open at some point in September.

Abandone cafe table setI walked on the empty platform and an eerie feeling creeped up my spine. Looking at the abandoned Japanese restaurant that must have catered to many commuters over time, somehow it felt like people just decided one day never to return and the got up and left everting as it where. The menu reads the specials of the day and clearly it wasn’t worth the effort to clear the last coffee cup from the table outside the restaurant. You wonder where everyone’s gone.

Statue at Hock van HollandI decided to stay one night in this place. To be honest after getting up ridiculously early to travel from London to Harwich in order to catch the Stena Line ferry for the 9am departure, it is now past 5pm and I am tired. The thought of another 2/12 hrs on bus and train to get to Amsterdam and another 30 min to Purmerend wasn’t very appealing.

Honestly, as cheap as the travel by ferry is, it’s taken me all day. If you don’t want to to take the plane for financial or environmental reasons, you’d better have enough time to waste.

By the way the same counts for the return journey.  ‘Wenn schon, denn schon’ as we say in Germany  – let’s go the whole hog and take the coach back to London. Another jolly 8hrs on the bus but for £35 I won’t complain. I decided on Flexibus after reading the review ‘Rotterdam to London by ‘The Hostel Girl‘ and I can pretty much confirm her account.

My personal tip, be prepared with food and drink as there are no stops that would allow a quick pitstop. And maybe don’t sit too close to the loos. Not so much because of smells but surly every 5 minutes someone will uses it. It can get a bit annoying after some time; pretty much like it would on a plane. CONFINED SPACES PEOPLE.  But it was my first time driving through the Eurotunnel. One more item ticked off the list. YAY. Back to the story…

I used the saved money from the ferry trip and stayed in a local B&B. To my delight both B&B and Hoek van Holland were actually nice places.

I have to admit I became mesmerised watching the big ferries and container ships driving in and out the canal.

A day at the beach

In and around Amsterdam

Amsterdam bus station

I spent the rest of my trip exploring Amsterdam and its surroundings. I got myself a 3 day Amsterdam+Regional travel card for €33.50. It included pretty much any form of public transport in Amsterdam and the regions including some intercity trains as long as they cover the region. A map with info is provided with the card. Check out the I Amsterdam website for more details. There are various combi ticket options available if you are interested.

Fare warning, the Netherlands are not cheap. Unlike London, museums are not free. The tourist information centre will charge you for a simple map which isn’t all that great. I saw many tourist struggle with it.

Nemo science Museum Amsterdam
Nemo Science Musum

However, if you browse a little there are leaflets for free which will have simple maps of the boroughs including the tram/bus lines.  And there is always GPS on the phone (the gift of no more roaming charges).

 

 

I decided not to buy a map. Instead I steered straight for the canals to explore the backwaters. Every time I hit the main canal I took a turn to see what’s in the “back streets”.  Half the time I had no idea where exactly I was. There are signpost to important tourist sites everywhere but I only used those for rough orientation. Still by following the canals I pretty much walked past the major tourist sites anyhow.  It was nice just letting go of the map. Thanks to the travel pass I knew if all fails I could get a tram back to the main train station. I am proud to say I found my own way. Going forward I applied the same principle everywhere I went (with exception of the 34km cycling trip I used a map for that).

What I saw in pictures

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Bicycles

Vintage cars

Shops and other stuff

Statues

Architecture

 

Monnickerdam

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