Saturday, December 9, 2017

spring break in the canaries

in an effort to get to more new places, caitlin and i headed the canary islands for spring break. we hoped for warm weather and time on the beach.

those goals were sort of met?

we flew direct from milan to tenerife. it is so easy to travel around europe and the surrounding areas that it makes the travel options around the u.s. look shameful.

there we are, off the west african coast
don't mind all the travel saves i'm collecting all over europe

the beach in costa adeje
and it's not often that we don't enjoy a place, but tenerife is one place that falls into that category. our airbnb was not great. the food in the area is so touristy: every menu was huge, with pictures and seven languages of explanations. and we quickly tired of the walk from our airbnb to the beach. it wasn't that far, but with an annoying overpass in between the two, we weren't thrilled.

something i did enjoy: the coffee, complete with sweetened condensed milk 

we complain, but life could be worse #firstworldproblems

marina in tenerife
thankfully, we had planned only a few days in the costa adeje area. we had read about a neighboring island in an article and so we hopped the ferry and took a ride to la gomera.

la gomera
it seemed like an easy ask to get to valley gran rey when we researched beforehand. we took the ferry from tenerife without issue and found the local bus that would take us to our destination.


if you look at this map, we started to the right of the blue dot in san sebastian de la gomera. this is the ferry port from tenerife. the bus takes you up over the mountain top of the island and down into the valley marked with a yellow star. i had expected it to be about 60 to 90 minutes, but i think in the end it was more like 2.5 to 3 hours to make the whole journey. we started to feel motion sickness, as the roads were all curvy and steep.

took this when we were finally getting closer. the town at the beach was our destination.

happily we booked a really nice two story apartment in valle gran rey. we had a little patio, a living room, kitchen and a bedroom upstairs. the wifi was temperamental but we managed. the restaurants in this area were of much better quality and we found quite a few interesting options. we shopped at the small markets for snacks to take to the beach each day.

spanish wine...the canary islands are part of spain

the beaches are black sand.
it is a volcano after all.

the weather wasn't perfectly beach weather, so we didn't swim too much.
the people watching was pretty amazing. and unbelievable.


the nudity on the beaches here by far exceeded any amount i anticipated or expected. it seems that no european visiting here would ever sit in a wet swimsuit. they'd come to the beach in street clothes and change on the beach, then hop in the water for a swim and once out of the water immediately change into a second dry swimsuit. many would change back into the wet suit if they were to get in the water again. all i can say is 'no way' would i ever go to the beach if it involved that much effort.


ask us sometime to tell you about the yoga on the beach. now that was something.


we ended the week with another long bus ride across this tiny island and ferry back to tenerife. another interesting airbnb experience before heading back to milan. it wasn't our most amazing spring break, but interesting nonetheless.

travel tips: avoid any and all tourist areas in the canaries. la gomera was fine, but i would suggest a rental car to skip the bus ride.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

40 is the new 30.

this summer i celebrated my 40th birthday.

growing up, 40 seemed so old!

but now of course 40 is the new 30...right?

before leaving milan for the summer, my co-workers joined me in celebrating!

they also generously donated to my friends in laos, allowing me to send a check for over $800 to assist michael in continuing to educate those in need in that country.

many thanks go out to everyone who came out to celebrate and contributed to this cause.  a special thanks to jackie, jenna and caitlin who helped to organize this little fiesta!



i woke to a million selfies of this one on my phone.







jackie made this amazing cake!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

uk, ok.

several years back i met my friend marc in ireland at a conference. ever since we've tried to catch up with each other at least once a year. we've met in amsterdam and paris. he's come to milan...and this year caitlin and i went to nottingham to visit him and his partner adam.


it was awesome to travel somewhere and have to think about nothing! marc and adam planned everything and we just went along for the ride, literally...a zillion miles to be exact, but we'll get to that.

we wandered around wollaton hall...home of 'wayne manor' in the 2011 batman movie the dark knight rises.

it was so pretty.

this guy was a surprise!

#friends

we had 'american' burgers. marc needed us to give them our seal of approval.

verdict: yummmmm!

in fairness, this is barely even a burger. 

we biked 20+ miles in the peak district national park. and then walked another handful.


marc and i seem to bike a lot while traveling...tulips, Versailles...



all this exercise paid off because we went straight to bakewell, home of the famous bakewell tart. i had actually heard of this...just had no idea what it was.

reminded me a bit of paula deen's gooey butter cake


came across several groups of dancers that were entertaining. why were they there? we have no idea.





since we needed more sugar, the next morning we headed to 'doughnotts' and they were amazing. and over the top. and crazy. but so worth it.



there's no such thing as too many pictures of donuts, right?

we settled on some 'simpler' choices. comparatively speaking, one might even say boring. but i'm okay with that.



what a great weekend in the uk! thanks to marc and adam for hosting us and taking such good care of us all weekend! can't wait for our next adventure! 







Saturday, November 18, 2017

#40by40

when i moved to italy in 2011 i never would've imagined the amount of travel and experiences i would be fortunate enough to have in the subsequent years.

living here, i spend my money differently than i did in the us. 

less things, more experiences. 

and so, instead of buying tons of stuff, i travel. 



with my 40th birthday looming in 2017, i set out a goal of visiting 40 countries by my 40th birthday. 

with my trip to romania in may, the goal was met!



here's my list of the 40 countries i've visited!

europe
1. austria
2. belgium
3. croatia
4. czech republic
5. denmark
6. england
7. france
8. germany
9. hungary
10. iceland
11. ireland
12. italy
13. luxembourg
14. norway
15. poland
16. portugal
17. romania
18. san marino
19. scotland
20. slovakia
21. slovenia
22. spain
23. sweden
24. switzerland
25. the netherlands
26. the vatican
27. turkey

asia
28. cambodia
29. laos
30. oman
31. philippines
32. thailand
33. united arab emirates
34. vietnam

north america
35. canada
36. mexico
37. the bahamas
38. usa

africa
39. egypt
40. morocco

here's to 40 more! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

the best spa ever!!! and other parts of romania...

in an effort to get to country #40 before my 40th birthday i had to get to romania before the school year let out.

i had tried to go in february, but had to stay behind to take my italian language exam. (btw, i passed!)

so on another random weekend in may, i jumped on a cheap ryan air flight to bucharest.

i had received some recommendations from a friend who taught in bucharest for several years, and one of her suggestions was a huge spa that had been built outside the city.

after the requisite stop at starbucks for coffee, we found a taxi and made our way out to the spa.


this spa, therme' bucharest, is quite frankly, amazing.

there are three parts to the spa and their prices are tiered. basically, the galaxy area is a water park full of fun water slides and wave pools. then there is the palm, which includes the area featured above. it includes this large pool with a large drink bar, a couple mineral pools, and a few other areas. the third area, elysium, includes multiple saunas. the cost for elysium includes the palm and the galaxy areas as well.

you can pay for the top tier entrance for three hours for 75 lei, which is 16 euro or 19 USD. if you stay longer than three hours, you pay for the additional time on your way out. towel rental is 16 lei, 3.5 euro or 4 USD.

we just loved this spa and ended up spending nearly the entire day there.





we made arrangements with our taxi driver from the spa to take a day trip the following day to peles castle outside of bucharest. we worried that this decision was not our smartest, but decided that all good travel stories come from some risky moves.

after storing our luggage at the town's very convenient luggage lockers. these are unmonitored, easy to use and handy for those with late flights. (however, it seemed that a local without proper toilet access might have also used this small storage space as his toilet, so beware.)

peles castle is located in the carpathian mountains about 80 miles outside of bucharest. i had seen some pictures and it was just so picturesque that i had really wanted to see it for myself.





our driver and his wife took us to a local restaurant and helped us order traditional romanian food.




during this trip we spent very little time in the city of bucharest, but we did wander about a little with some of our few extra moments.

view from our airbnb

what a deal!




cute window art
travel tips:
- take flip flops for the spa. without them, you'll have to buy a pair before going in.
- taxis were difficult. we used the taxify app to finally find a taxi. there were others around, but they were all unmarked and that made us nervous.
- we stayed in this airbnb. pretty good. i'd stay there again.
- prices in romania, like most of eastern europe, are pretty low! makes it a very affordable travel stop!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

spring break in the canaries

in an effort to get to more new places, caitlin and i headed the canary islands for spring break. we hoped for warm weather and time on the beach.

those goals were sort of met?

we flew direct from milan to tenerife. it is so easy to travel around europe and the surrounding areas that it makes the travel options around the u.s. look shameful.

there we are, off the west african coast
don't mind all the travel saves i'm collecting all over europe

the beach in costa adeje
and it's not often that we don't enjoy a place, but tenerife is one place that falls into that category. our airbnb was not great. the food in the area is so touristy: every menu was huge, with pictures and seven languages of explanations. and we quickly tired of the walk from our airbnb to the beach. it wasn't that far, but with an annoying overpass in between the two, we weren't thrilled.

something i did enjoy: the coffee, complete with sweetened condensed milk 

we complain, but life could be worse #firstworldproblems

marina in tenerife
thankfully, we had planned only a few days in the costa adeje area. we had read about a neighboring island in an article and so we hopped the ferry and took a ride to la gomera.

la gomera
it seemed like an easy ask to get to valley gran rey when we researched beforehand. we took the ferry from tenerife without issue and found the local bus that would take us to our destination.


if you look at this map, we started to the right of the blue dot in san sebastian de la gomera. this is the ferry port from tenerife. the bus takes you up over the mountain top of the island and down into the valley marked with a yellow star. i had expected it to be about 60 to 90 minutes, but i think in the end it was more like 2.5 to 3 hours to make the whole journey. we started to feel motion sickness, as the roads were all curvy and steep.

took this when we were finally getting closer. the town at the beach was our destination.

happily we booked a really nice two story apartment in valle gran rey. we had a little patio, a living room, kitchen and a bedroom upstairs. the wifi was temperamental but we managed. the restaurants in this area were of much better quality and we found quite a few interesting options. we shopped at the small markets for snacks to take to the beach each day.

spanish wine...the canary islands are part of spain

the beaches are black sand.
it is a volcano after all.

the weather wasn't perfectly beach weather, so we didn't swim too much.
the people watching was pretty amazing. and unbelievable.


the nudity on the beaches here by far exceeded any amount i anticipated or expected. it seems that no european visiting here would ever sit in a wet swimsuit. they'd come to the beach in street clothes and change on the beach, then hop in the water for a swim and once out of the water immediately change into a second dry swimsuit. many would change back into the wet suit if they were to get in the water again. all i can say is 'no way' would i ever go to the beach if it involved that much effort.


ask us sometime to tell you about the yoga on the beach. now that was something.


we ended the week with another long bus ride across this tiny island and ferry back to tenerife. another interesting airbnb experience before heading back to milan. it wasn't our most amazing spring break, but interesting nonetheless.

travel tips: avoid any and all tourist areas in the canaries. la gomera was fine, but i would suggest a rental car to skip the bus ride.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

40 is the new 30.

this summer i celebrated my 40th birthday.

growing up, 40 seemed so old!

but now of course 40 is the new 30...right?

before leaving milan for the summer, my co-workers joined me in celebrating!

they also generously donated to my friends in laos, allowing me to send a check for over $800 to assist michael in continuing to educate those in need in that country.

many thanks go out to everyone who came out to celebrate and contributed to this cause.  a special thanks to jackie, jenna and caitlin who helped to organize this little fiesta!



i woke to a million selfies of this one on my phone.







jackie made this amazing cake!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

uk, ok.

several years back i met my friend marc in ireland at a conference. ever since we've tried to catch up with each other at least once a year. we've met in amsterdam and paris. he's come to milan...and this year caitlin and i went to nottingham to visit him and his partner adam.


it was awesome to travel somewhere and have to think about nothing! marc and adam planned everything and we just went along for the ride, literally...a zillion miles to be exact, but we'll get to that.

we wandered around wollaton hall...home of 'wayne manor' in the 2011 batman movie the dark knight rises.

it was so pretty.

this guy was a surprise!

#friends

we had 'american' burgers. marc needed us to give them our seal of approval.

verdict: yummmmm!

in fairness, this is barely even a burger. 

we biked 20+ miles in the peak district national park. and then walked another handful.


marc and i seem to bike a lot while traveling...tulips, Versailles...



all this exercise paid off because we went straight to bakewell, home of the famous bakewell tart. i had actually heard of this...just had no idea what it was.

reminded me a bit of paula deen's gooey butter cake


came across several groups of dancers that were entertaining. why were they there? we have no idea.





since we needed more sugar, the next morning we headed to 'doughnotts' and they were amazing. and over the top. and crazy. but so worth it.



there's no such thing as too many pictures of donuts, right?

we settled on some 'simpler' choices. comparatively speaking, one might even say boring. but i'm okay with that.



what a great weekend in the uk! thanks to marc and adam for hosting us and taking such good care of us all weekend! can't wait for our next adventure! 







Saturday, November 18, 2017

#40by40

when i moved to italy in 2011 i never would've imagined the amount of travel and experiences i would be fortunate enough to have in the subsequent years.

living here, i spend my money differently than i did in the us. 

less things, more experiences. 

and so, instead of buying tons of stuff, i travel. 



with my 40th birthday looming in 2017, i set out a goal of visiting 40 countries by my 40th birthday. 

with my trip to romania in may, the goal was met!



here's my list of the 40 countries i've visited!

europe
1. austria
2. belgium
3. croatia
4. czech republic
5. denmark
6. england
7. france
8. germany
9. hungary
10. iceland
11. ireland
12. italy
13. luxembourg
14. norway
15. poland
16. portugal
17. romania
18. san marino
19. scotland
20. slovakia
21. slovenia
22. spain
23. sweden
24. switzerland
25. the netherlands
26. the vatican
27. turkey

asia
28. cambodia
29. laos
30. oman
31. philippines
32. thailand
33. united arab emirates
34. vietnam

north america
35. canada
36. mexico
37. the bahamas
38. usa

africa
39. egypt
40. morocco

here's to 40 more! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

the best spa ever!!! and other parts of romania...

in an effort to get to country #40 before my 40th birthday i had to get to romania before the school year let out.

i had tried to go in february, but had to stay behind to take my italian language exam. (btw, i passed!)

so on another random weekend in may, i jumped on a cheap ryan air flight to bucharest.

i had received some recommendations from a friend who taught in bucharest for several years, and one of her suggestions was a huge spa that had been built outside the city.

after the requisite stop at starbucks for coffee, we found a taxi and made our way out to the spa.


this spa, therme' bucharest, is quite frankly, amazing.

there are three parts to the spa and their prices are tiered. basically, the galaxy area is a water park full of fun water slides and wave pools. then there is the palm, which includes the area featured above. it includes this large pool with a large drink bar, a couple mineral pools, and a few other areas. the third area, elysium, includes multiple saunas. the cost for elysium includes the palm and the galaxy areas as well.

you can pay for the top tier entrance for three hours for 75 lei, which is 16 euro or 19 USD. if you stay longer than three hours, you pay for the additional time on your way out. towel rental is 16 lei, 3.5 euro or 4 USD.

we just loved this spa and ended up spending nearly the entire day there.





we made arrangements with our taxi driver from the spa to take a day trip the following day to peles castle outside of bucharest. we worried that this decision was not our smartest, but decided that all good travel stories come from some risky moves.

after storing our luggage at the town's very convenient luggage lockers. these are unmonitored, easy to use and handy for those with late flights. (however, it seemed that a local without proper toilet access might have also used this small storage space as his toilet, so beware.)

peles castle is located in the carpathian mountains about 80 miles outside of bucharest. i had seen some pictures and it was just so picturesque that i had really wanted to see it for myself.





our driver and his wife took us to a local restaurant and helped us order traditional romanian food.




during this trip we spent very little time in the city of bucharest, but we did wander about a little with some of our few extra moments.

view from our airbnb

what a deal!




cute window art
travel tips:
- take flip flops for the spa. without them, you'll have to buy a pair before going in.
- taxis were difficult. we used the taxify app to finally find a taxi. there were others around, but they were all unmarked and that made us nervous.
- we stayed in this airbnb. pretty good. i'd stay there again.
- prices in romania, like most of eastern europe, are pretty low! makes it a very affordable travel stop!