Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A big THANK YOU!

Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a great Easter holiday and are enjoying a wonderful spring - I don't know about you but we continue having an amazing weather here in Basel with temperatures well over the 20ºC, though we had some rain and a couple of chilly days past weekend. I haven't been able to blog as much as I'd like to in the last week because I have just moved to a new appartment with Boyfriend and we don't have any internet connection yet. Besides, I may not be blogging very frequently in the next weeks (maybe months) because several major changes are about to take place in my otherwise ordinary life. I have moved, I am going to Tenerife for a week of holidays next Tuesday and I am putting an end to my imposed sabbatical year in June, as I have already found a job. I will not tell you just yet but this also implies some more unexpected changes in my life. Just hinting, I will be changing countries again very soon ... but I'm just not revealing the whole story yet, in case some last-minute change redefines my erratic existence for the nth time this year.

thank you sticky note

Anyway, the first and main reason for writing this post and to THANK YOU all my lovely readers for your inconditional support and kind words. Thank you for your happy thoughts, thank you for the good vibes and positive energy you've sent my way, thank you for your prayers. Life can be a weird and unpredictable thing but I am more than happy for having found a good job after almost a year in unemployment. Moreover, I don't know if you still remember when I took a blogging break last November to fully concentrate on studying for the exam of a competetive recruitment program (thank you again for your nice wishes back then). Well, if you don't remember and want to go back in time you can read it here and if you do remember, I am thrilled to tell you that last week I just got a long awaited mail saying that I had passed the exam. I just couldn't believe it when I saw my candidate number among the lucky ones, my hands started to shake and soon I was shivering. In the end, all those lonely studying weeks, the nights reading about international organizations and the huge effort memorizing statistic formulas were not fruitless, for I have made it to the next phase. I have been convoked for an interview, so I'll be busy during the upcoming few weeks preparing myself for this next step. Yet another good reason to ease up on my blogging schedule.

I am not taking an official pause from blogging this time but I might be quite under the radar in the next few months. I will try to blog when I do have time, especially if I have something worth sharing, and I will keep up with all my favourite reads when a reliable internet connection allows. Oh, and any day soon - possibly today - you may find me guest-posting over Have Ashley, Will Travel, sharing some of the good things that traveling has taught me. And if I'm not there yet, you can always have a good time reading Ashley's happy blog, a sort of personal journal where she keeps track of her past and present travels, offers a glimpse of her daily life and shares some yummy recipes every now and then.

So, until the next post. And once again, THANK YOU for being dear readers and friends!
Have a lovely week!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tenerife for first-timers (Part II)

Welcome to the second part of my small travel guide to Tenerife. In the first part I shared some insightful information about Tenerife as well as some practical advice on how to get there and around and where to stay. Today taking you on a more extended tour of the island and giving you some ideas on what to see and do based on my own first-hand experience. I hope you find this series somewhat useful and if you have any questions or suggestions do not hesitate to post a comment or drop me a few lines on my mailbox. Here we go!

Tenerife Teide


WHAT TO SEE

  • El Teide: Even if you are only planning a sea and sun holiday with no sightseeing at all you should take at a day off the beach and a bus or car to visit the Teide volcano. At 3718 m above sea level it is the highest peak of Spain (and third highest volcano in the world). It lies in the middle of the Las Cañadas National Park, the most visited national park in Spain, and it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The aborigin people of Tenerife considered it a sacred place and even today it is very magnificent sight and probably the most iconic and photographed monument of the island. Do wear good walking shoes and both warm gear and sunscreen as it can be very cold or terribly warm - just don't do the very touristy thing of going around wearing shorts and flip-flops just because the sun was shining on your seaside hotel. Read more about El Teide here.
Tenerife Teide
  • Loro Parque: For many years now, the Loro Parque has been promoted as the MUST-SEE attraction of the Canary Islands and it is indeed a lovely place to enjoy a family day - though prices may not be that family-friendly. Loro Parque was born as an animal park dedicated specially to parrots and other exotic birds but over the years it has grown into a proper zoo. Dolphins, whales or penguins are some of the most popular animals right now but you can also see gorillas, tigers, jaguars or flamingoes in a beautiful and well-kept park. Part of their benefits go to their own foundation which is dedicated to the protection endangered animal species. Afterwards you can take a walk around Puerto de la Cruz and taste some delicious seafood. Read more about Loro Parque here.
Loro Parque Tenerife
  • Santa Cruz and La Laguna: Santa Cruz is the capital and biggest city of Tenerife and in the last decade it has undergone a dramatic facelift and now is quite a cool city with interesting museums, a decent transport system and maybe the best nightlife of the island. Plus all the historic sites that were already there. La Laguna is the second biggest city of Tenerife and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the last years, La Laguna has also reinvented itself and now it is more than a gritty university city. It has big pedestrian-friendly avenues with nice boutiques and some chain retailers, and many cosy cafés to enjoy a cup or coffee or tea, many of them with a terrace outside for the sunny days. Read more about Santa Cruz and La Laguna here and here.
Tenerife La Laguna
  • Northern coast: Many tourists stay in some resort in the south of the island and don't even bother to make their way north for a day. And that's a pity because the north side of Tenerife has some interesting villages rich in history and traditions and offering good food and wine. La Orotava was one of the first cities to be founded in Tenerife by Spanish conquerors and its rich history can be guessed from the colourful colonial houses with ample wooded balconies and big stone churches that remain intact. Icod de los Vinos is also quite touristic spot, thanks to the famous Thousand-Year-Old Dragon tree, though it has no more than a couple of centuries. Garachico is nowadays nor more than a fishers village but during the 16th and 17th century it was the main port of Tenerife and trade with America and Europe made Garachico a very prosperous town. Rumour has it that even the streets were embellished with gold ornaments but the prosperity of the town and its golden dreams came to an end when the original town was destroyed by a volcanic eruption at the beginning of the 18th century.
Tenerife "Icod de los Vinos" "drago milenario"



WHAT TO DO

  • Relax on the beach: This is what most tourist have on the top on the list and there are indeed many good beaches to enjoy in Tenerife. The south of the island has long,black beaches and the sun is guaranteed almost all year round. Las Teresitas is the nearest beach to Santa Cruz and it is very recommendable for families as it has a long breakwater, so it is usually very calmy (and also terribly crowded during the summer months!). I particularly like Playa Jardín in Puerto de la Cruz, which is not very big but has some nice paths and it can be easily reached by foot from the city or bus station. Playa Martianez, also in Puerto de la Cruz, is tiny but nice as well and I think it is possible to take some surf or body-board lessons there.
Tenerife
  • Go hiking: Tenerife has some great hikes and is especially popular with German tourists who want to enjoy more than the sun and the sea. Besides the possibilities that El Teide and Las Cañadas del Teide offer, walking paths and routes aboud on the northern side of the island. The Anaga mountain range, in the northeast of Tenerife, has some of the most scenics landscapes of the island and the vegetation there is very unique as there are still some laurisilva forests. The area is to be granted the status of Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO later this year. Another popular hike is the Masca walk, which starts in the village of the same name and descend to the beach through a steep gorge.
Tenerife laurisilva
  • See dolphins and whales: It is possible to book an excursion on a glass-floored boat to sail and see the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. And it should not be difficult to spot some dolphins and whales on your way. I have never done this but Boyfriend absolutely recommends it. These excursions usually leave from the south of Tenerife (Los Cristianos or Playa de las Américas) as it is a really touristy thing. Another possibility is to hire a catamaran to circumnavigate the island.


And there you have it, Tenerife in a nutshell. Have you ever been to Tenerife? What did you like most? And less?

Have a lovely Wednesday!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tenerife for first-timers (Part I)

With the days getting warmer and warmer and Easter just upon us it seems only right to start thinking of holidays. Even I am thinking of a nice holiday and I might just happen to book some tickets soon for a week of doing nothing in my home island before I start working full-time this summer again (weird to be thinking of holidays when I've actually had a gap year without wanting it). Anyway, if you are also daydreaming of an unforgettable holiday somewhere warm, let me tell you that Tenerife has everything it takes to make a perfect holiday. Good weather, great beaches, nice people, many hiking possibilities, interesting bars and amazing food. So, in case you are ready to dive in and enjoy the holiday of a lifetime in Tenerife, here's a small guide to help you decide and plan your first steps towards that dream holiday.

I wanted to put together some practicalities plus some personal advice on what to see and enjoy. My first thought was to do only one post but when I realised how lenghty it got I decided to split the information on two posts. This is the first part of a humble travel guide to my home island. You can find here practical information about how to get there and around. The next part will cover what to see and do. Hope you find all this information somewhat useful!


Tenerife El Teide

ABOUT

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, an archipelago consisting of seven big islands and six smaller ones in the Atlantic Ocean. The Canary islands are opposite Morocco, with Lanzarote being only 100 km away from the African shores. The Canary Islands enjoy a mild weather all year round, though Tenerife and the other western islands have a more varied climate that can changed drastically from one town to another despite the short distances (to give you a broad idea, winter in the northern part of Tenerife can be chilly with temperatures around 10C while the south is always sunny with temperatures above 20C. It often snows in winter, if only in the mountains, and this year has been particularly snowy - it has just snowed again last Saturday!). The Canary Islands are part of Spain, hence the official language is Spanish and the local currency is the euro (€). The capital and biggest city of Tenerife is Santa Cruz de Tenerife.


Tenerife La Laguna

HOW TO GET THERE

Tenerife has two airports, Tenerife North (Aeropuerto de Los Rodeos) and Tenerife South (Aeropuerto Reina Sofía). The first one serves mostly national and domestic routes, while the latter one is the international airport and main entry gate in the island. Ryanair and Easyjet both offer direct conexions with many European countries and other less-well known companies have charter flights. The Canary Islands are far but most people only realise how far they actually are when they are sitting in a plane for hours with only the Atlantic Ocean beneath. As an example, it takes 2 hours 45 minutes to get there from Madrid (Spain) and approximately 4 hours 30 minutes from Basel (Switzerland). 


Tenerife

HOW TO GET AROUND

Tenerife has a bus network linking most places in the island, though not all connections are direct. All bus services are provided by TITSA (with the exception of the La Esperanza region, which has its own independent bus services, but this not a really touristy place and I myself have never taken those buses). There is also a tram line connecting Tenerife's two biggest cities, Santa Cruz and La Laguna, a very popular and reliable service, though it usually takes longer than a bus ride. It is possible to buy a pass valid for both the tram and all TITSA buses. Still, one of the best ways to see the island and some of its best attractions is by car, so renting a car at least for a day is highly recommendable.

In case you are interested in visiting other islands, Gran Canaria and La Gomera are the nearest ones and they can be reached by boat in less than a hour with Fred Olsen fast ferries. Naviera Armas is the other main ferry line in the Canary Islands, serving more or less the same routes but with cheaper fares (and longer travel times). All Canary Islands have an airport and can be reached by plane from Tenerife. Binter has flight connections to all islands form Tenerife with most routes available from Tenerife south and north airports. Flights within the Canary Islands take less than an hour.

Tenerife Candelaria


WHERE TO STAY

Tenerife has two main touristic regions. The south of island is probably the most popular place to stay and it is specially popular with British, Russian and young people. In the last decades dozens of new hotels were built in this part of the island, some of them being real state-of-the-art properties. It is not difficult to find a week stay in an all-inclusive five star hotel for €400 or €500. There are also many resorts of self-catered appartments. Los Cristianos, Playa de las Américas or Adeje are some of the towns in the south of Tenerife bursting with hotels and appartment towers.

Tenerife El Medano

In the northern side of Tenerife, Puerto de la Cruz has been a popular holiday resort town since the 19th century (even Agatha Christie lived there for a while). Unlike the south of the island, Puerto de la Cruz has remained the same since the 60s and 70s when several skyscraping hotels were built to boost the tourist industry. It is a much more tranquil town than the resorts in the south of the island and nowadays a big share of visitors are Germans, Scandinavian and Spanish. It is also a favourite for elder tourists who seek quietness and a mild climate.

Santa Cruz and La Laguna also have a number a modern hotels more aimed for business trips (especially those in Santa Cruz). They can be a convenient option due to their location, though pricier than their more touristy counterparts.


Tenerife Puerto de la Cruz


Do you have any suggestions for a fine vacation in Tenerife? Any question?

Have a lovely week!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sights I saw in Dublin

I have already shown you some pics of Dublin and I also shared my first impressions of the city with you but I haven't told you about the places and sights I visited during my short trip to Dublin last February. I was only for three days in Dublin and I could only dedicate one of them to sightseeing - the other two days I was busy and tired but also enjoyed the evenings having dinner with a friend form college. Anyway, I tried to make the most of my time in Dublin and I think I managed to squeeze as many touristic landmarks as I could in that tight schedule. Sadly, that means that I only admired those sites from the outside, but hopefully I'll go back to Dublin some day and have plenty of time to explore the city as much as I want. But until then, here are some tourisy spots I saw and loved.

Trinity College: This is probably Dublin's most famous institution. The Trinity College has been around since the 16th century and it is the most prestigous university in Ireland. The campus has several squares and green spots surrounded by buildings both old and new. I took a quick look the same day I left Dublin. It was early in the morning and some students were already showing around for their lectures and long study days. I found the classical buildings and the campanile impressing and I'd like to take a walking tour someday, especially to glimpse at the book of Kells.

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity College, Dublin

Dublin Castle: This one doesn't really look like a castle at all and most of it was built and rebuilt on the foundations of the original castle. Even from the narrow streets around, it would be pretty difficult to guess that there is a castle right in the centre of Dublin but there it is. I passed through the entry gates and took a closer look from the upper yard but I didn't find anything castle-like there either. There is a statue of Lady Justice on top of the entrance from Cork Hill and she may one of the few Justice figures to not have her eyes folded. Besides, she is facing the inner yard of the castle, thus turning her back on the Irish small folk. Probably very representative of the justice the English delivered the Irish for centuries.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

St Patrick' Cathedral: Though Ireland is eminently catholic today that was not always the case. Centuries of revolts and English domination led to a divided city with an Anglican nobility and Catholic lower classes. As a result, Dublin has several cathedrals and St Patrick's Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican diocese (I've always found the terms Protestant and Anglican confusing and I'm not really sure about the difference). Some time ago Jonathan Swift was dean of St Patrick's Cathedral and he was buried inside.

St Patrick Cathedral, Dublin

St Patrick Cathedral, Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral: Christ Church is Dublin's oldest cathedral and serves as the cathedral church of the Church of Ireland, a branch of the Anglican church (again, more religious confusion to me). The Christ Chruch Cathedral is one of the most iconic and photographed buildings in Dublin and I was totally in awe of its beautiful flying buttresses. 

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

St Stephen Green: A lovely park in the middle of the city. St Stephen Green is not especially big but it is a tranquil spot to take a break from the crazy traffic and crowded shopping streets around it. There are a few paths which make a realxing walk, a pond with a bandstand overlooking it and several statues of Dublin's literary glories, among other interesting points. It is the perfect place to spend a sunny lunch break.

St Stephen Green, Dublin

St Stephen Green, Dublin

St Stephen Green, Dublin

The Temple Bar: I didn't kow about Temple Bar until I read about it on my guide book but it is one of the most iconic Irish pubs in the world, if not the most. People come around by day to take a photo of its façade and by night to enjoy a good pint. I only dropped by during the day because I didn't feel like having a drink on my own, even if enjoying some Irish beer is a must on most visitors list.

The Temple Bar, Dublin

I also visited the archaeology section of the National Museum of Ireland and that was one of the highlights of my trip. I really enjoy archaeology, ethnographic and natural museums, sometimes even more than art museums. The National Museum of Ireland has several rooms detailing the Viking past of the city (and country) and I've always been quite interested in Viking history and stories. Besides, there were some mummies perfectly preserved, you could even see their hairdos still! Oh, and there was no entrance fee to the museum.

One of the big misses was the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery but just as with Temple Bar, I didn't feel like drinking (or drink-taste-testing in this case) alone. And I've never been that big on beer anyway. While I would love to go wine sipping in Italy, California or Australia, I cannot be really bother with beer. I never visited the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, never made it to a beer museum in Belgium and I might never go to the Guinness Brewery, though this is a bit more likely to happen as my heart always warms up to all things Irish.

Well, that was all about Dublin for a while! Hope you enjoyed this small tour.
Have you ever been to Dublin? Any recommendation? Something else I missed?

Have a lovely Wednesday!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Another lesson of Baseldütsch

A couple of weeks ago I arrived to my Russian course a little sooner than usual. The previous group was still in the classroom so I looked for a place to sit and wait and saw another classmate of mine also waiting outside the classroom. I walked towards him to do some small talk and said the only word I've mastered in Baseldütsch so far, 'Griezi!'. He looked at me perplexed and said something I didn't fully understand - as it happenes anytime someone speaks to me in any of the Swiss dialects. After several tries I realised he was surprised because I was using a very polite greeting to address him when we had already agreed in the course that after six months we could start addressing each other informally, rather than sticking the to formalities German-speakers are used to. That was my lesson for the day, griezi (or whichever way you choose to write it) is a formal greeting and there I was smiling and saying griezi to almost everyone instead of a much more normal and informal hallo!.


Oh, Baseldütsch or any other Schwizerdütsch dialect! This is definitely one of my least favourite parts of living in Switzerland. As much as I try to listen and get used to it I simply can't and I feel that this is going to be a lifetime struggle. Sometimes, I can follow a conversation when I know what it is about but most of the time I'm clueless. And that's a pity because people can be really chatty here and I really wish I could understand what they say to me. They will start talking about anything at the supermarket queue, the tram stop or wherever and all I do is smile and nod politely. I feel terrible but so relieved when I drive to Germany and I suddenly understand everything and, oh, so grateful when Boyfriend is watching German tv or even Austrian instead of Swiss because then I can actually know what's going on. I especially like ProSieben and its realities and I laugh at most of the jokes. But while I had so much fun watching The Voice of Germany last autumn I cannot stand The voice of Switzerland and I know it's all about the dialect, sorry!

Anyway, I have learnt a few more words of Baseldütsch since I moved to Basel last summer. Now I am able to understand numbers and the days of the week correctly. So, nine months later, here's a new lesson of Baseldütsch, in case you ever plan a holiday around Switzerland and need some help with the local dialects.

0 null - 1 eis - 2 zwäi - 3 drai - 4 vier - 5 füüf - 6 sächs - 7 siebe - 8 acht - 9 nün - 10 zäh 
11 elf - 12 zwölf - 13 drüzäh - 14 vierzäh - 15 füfzäh - 16 sächzäh - 17 sibzäh - 18 achzäh - 19 nünzäh - 20 zwänzg

Mäntig (Montag) - Monday
Zischtig (Dienstag) - Tuesday
Mittwoch (Mittwoch) - Wednesday
Donnstig (Donnerstag) - Thursday
Fritig (Freitag) - Friday
Samschtig (Samstag) - Saturday
Suntig (Sonntag) - Sunday


Well, that was all for today! You can take a look at the very basics of Baseldütsch in this post. And who knows, maybe I'll be back with a new lesson learnt soon. Maybe next time will be food names - yeah, that's also a funny one!

Have a lovely week!

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