Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hiking in Switzerland: Of Waterfalls and Sherlock Holmes in Meiringen




This post is long overdue. It's already been more than a year since Boyfriend and I went hiking together here in Switzerland. But with so much going on in between, it definitely feels more like a lifetime than a year ago. Before I moved to Dublin last year in June, Boyfriend and I decided to make a daytrip to somewhere new for both of us in Switzerland. And inspired by the newest Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr as Mr Holmes and Jude Law as Dr Watson, we set off to follow Sherlock's last steps in Switzerland and investigate the site of his mysterious disappearance, the Reichenbach Falls.




Our quest took us to the otherwise uneventful village of Meiringen. Tucked among some of the highest peaks in Switzerland, Meiringen is a very tranquil town and if it wasn't for Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty's inconclusive adventure here, the number of tourists around would be nearing zero. Its main attraction is a tiny museum dedicated to Mr Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle located in the basement of a small church. The museum has a replica of Doyle's studio and that's the most interesting thing about it.

We started our day taking the Reichenbachfall funicular, more a train than a funicular which drives from Meiringen to a balcony where you can already admire the infamous waterfall. From there we  continued on foot, hiking through a green path surrounded by tall ancient trees that took us closer to the falls. We enjoyed beautiful views of the waterfall from several points along the way and reached the (fictitious) point from where Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty jumped into the unknown. We carried on our hike downhill to finish at our starting point and then rested for a while in quiet Meiringen.









If you have seen the film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, you've probably been impressed by the mighty waterfalls that witness Holmes and Moriarty's last game. And have also been in awe of the magnificent location of the castle chosen for that fateful meeting of ambassadors. Well, sadly that place isn't in Switzerland and the real falls are a far cry from the beautiful cinema depiction. I don't know what they were like in the 19th century but if Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty were to take that final step together today, chances are that none of them would have survived.





Have you ever been to the Bernese Overland part of Switzerland? Been following Sherlock Holmes footsteps elsewhere? Or any other literary touristy trip?

Have a lovely Tuesday!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How baby-friendly is Spain really?


Spain is a great country to travel with children, everyone agrees on that. From guidebooks to mummy bloggers to parents themselves, all of them will praise the friendliness of the locals, the many outdoors activities available for children and the gorgeous weather that will delight families all year round - that depends on the destination, of course, Spain is a big country after all. But what about babies? Is it really that easy to travel to Spain with a little bundle in your arms? I had never thought about it until now.

I grew up in Tenerife and as a child I spent most of my holidays in the Spanish mainland. So whatever I was given, I would take as normal. And as a child you may cry or throw a tantrum if uncomfortable but you wouldn't try and analyse what could be improved to make things smoother for both children and parents. But things have changed now as I'm not the child anymore and I no longer live in Spain. Now I am responsible for a baby of my own and after my first holiday ever with BabyGirl in the south of Spain I have realised that as good as everything is, Spain could definitely do with a bit more of baby-friendliness.




Below is a list of the most inconvenient moments I found during my short stay in Malaga. Again, Spain is a big country and customs differs widely from the south to the north, so the situation might be drastically different depending on where you go. And as this is my first holiday with a baby I cannot compare to anything else, only to our tranquil life here in Switzerland. So maybe Spain is still scoring top of the list of baby-friendly holiday destinations and I just don't realise it yet.



PUBLIC TRANSPORT

A bus ride can be a very bumpy experience in Spain. Drivers are reckless, it is hot inside and people share the most intimates details of their lives out loud with everyone and anyone. Most Spanish people still prefer a private car over any means of public transport and I guess that's partly the reason why travelling with baby and buggy on a bus is not as easy as it is here in Basel. First you have to use the front door to get in, which is usually narrower and unlike in Switzerland where you can use any door. Not only are back doors wider but they usher you straight into the area for buggies and wheelchairs. Besides, help is scarce. Maybe because people are not used to seeing many people pushing buggies into a bus, maybe because it's too hot during the summer and people cannot be bothered or maybe I was just unlucky.


STREET PAVEMENT

Now, more than everything else on this list, this really depends on the place. But my (limited) experience tells me that too often the Spanish streets are not particularly baby-friendly. Or better said, buggy-friendly. They can be too steep, inconveniently cobbled or simply dotted with a hole here and another there because of ongoing maintenance works. Anyway, either some strong and skilled arms or a sling will see you through.


CHANGING FACILITIES

Having to change baby's nappy in town can be a tricky situation, especially if you don't have everything you might need with you. Changing facilities are not very widespread - you're more likely to find them at big shopping centres and similar - and not particularly up to date. Usually, they consist of a rigid changing table tucked in the ladies toilets. So no private room for you and your baby and very little comfort if any. Hopefully, this is more a case of me trying too few of them but I'm afraid that this is still the norm in most places.


BREASTFEEDING

If changing facilities can be hard to find, breastfeeding facilities are almost impossible. Spain has a long tradition of c-sections and bottle fed babies and though more and more people are favouring mother nature when it comes to baby matters, breastfeeding facilities are still out of the agenda. Your better bet is to look for the back tables of a cosy café and enjoy some morning snack or evening tapas while baby drinks his milk. Or be prepared to breastfeed in public and ready to get a few odd stares. 


NOISE

Oh my, is Spain noisy! Cars are always honking and somewhere not too far someone will be drilling some street to the core. Music is banging at every shop and bar and inside any house people talk way too loud and the tv is always on maximum volume. Yes, Spain is definitely noisy and babies will notice. And suffer it but then they get used to it. On our first day in Malaga I went with BabyGirl to a shopping centre for some window shopping and despite her being a great sleeper who does a five-hour stretch every morning, she found it impossible to stay in slumberland for longer than a half hour. There was loud music everywhere and it was cold every now and then because of the airco. Anyway, I dared doing the same on our second day and this time she slept peacefully most of the time. As I said, babies get used to (almost) everything. And quickly.


HIGH TEMPERATURES

Keeping up with babies getting used to almost everything when on holidays, heat and coldness are minor offenders under normal circumstances - no colds or sun strokes on sight. Summers can be terribly hot in Spain and babies will notice, sweat and demand food more often to quench their thirst. But they get used to it and live with it. It is usually grown-ups who suffer more under extreme weather and it is us grown-ups who can make babies fussy when we're uncomfortable. Hot or cold, babies (and children) will usually enjoy their holidays all the same.



In spite of every inconvenience I've listed above, I truly enjoyed my first holiday with BabyGirl and I wouldn't trade our holidays in Spain for anything (plans for flying to Tenerife later this summer are in the making). I think it may take a bit of practice to make a holiday with a baby a smooth sail so I'll just keep on trying. 


I would love to hear read your opinions about this. Have you been to Spain with babies, toddlers or children? How did you find it? Holidays anywhere else? How did it go?
Thanks for sharing all your stories and advice.


Have a lovely Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Introduction to Malaga (City + Province)

This post is slightly different from every other post in this blog. This post started as a real mail sent to someone who asked me for some tips to organise a vacation in Malaga. Malaga seemed to be a very popular destination at the time because I was asked for some holidays ideas two more times and again, this mail helped two more people to plan the perfect holiday in Malaga. And because summer after summer Malaga remains a top destination in Spain I decided to publish all this info at Away from Tenerife for everyone out there.

So if you're looking for some advice regarding Malaga as holiday destination and wondering what to do there, look no further than here. Every suggestion I give has been tried and tested, first by me and then by the original recipients of the mail. And we all have a happy holiday to remember - I'm actually packing and flying off to Malaga tomorrow. First holiday ever with BabyGirl!



* * *

Hi!
Here's some info regarding Málaga. The province is really nice with many interesting towns and villages to daytrip around.
First of all, Málaga city is a must-see, as it has some worthy sights and a couple of new museums, which are rather interesting. The Alcazaba is a former moorish palace and it has lovely yards and gardens that offers great views of the city and the port. Nearby is the Roman Theather which can also be visited (but I'm not sure about this). The port has been recently renovated and there's a new promenade called El Palmeral de las Sorpresas which has some cafés. The park is also nearby and so is the beach of the city, which is within walking distance. Some new museums are the Picasso Museum, the Carmen Thyssen Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. There are many churches - just like in most Spanish cities - and the Cathedral is right in the old town. Besides, shopping possibilities abound. Calle Larios and the adjacent streets are probably the most rewarding possibilities and they have all the high street retailers you will find anywhere else in Spain. Calle Larios is particulary charming with its marble floors and in summer some veils are laid over the street to create shades and keep it cool if possible. Casa Mira is a very famous ice-cream parlour and it can be found more or less in the middle of Calle Larios, they serve very good artesanal ice-creams.
For daytrips, Ronda is a very popular option visited by many tourists. It is a land-locked village and is famous because of its canyon and the bridges over it. Its bullring is also quite famous but I don't understand much about this.
Marbella is another nice option. It's always crowded and it's renowned for its famous visitors and high-end shopping. There are nice beaches in Marbella and the Puerto Banús neighbourhood is also cool to visit. Its harbour has many a luxurious yatch and the promenade is lined with restaurants, designer boutiques and top-range cars. It's a very photogenic place and there's also a nice beach at the other side of the harbour.
For more shopping, Marbella/Puerto Banús also offer great affordable options - more shopping malls and El Corte Inglés department stores - and there is a huge shopping center between Marbella and Ojén, called La Cañada, which has every most high-street shops, a cinema theatre, a big supermarket and many bars and restaurants.
Benahavís is a very popular town and is known as the 'kitchen of Andalusia' because of its good restaurants. It also makes for a nice (half)daytrip as it is a typical andalusian village with white houses and any restaurant will be a good option for a tasty meal.
Finally, Granada and Córdoba are also possible daytrips but maybe that's too far for a short stay.
Well, that's all I know, I hope that'll be enough. Happy holiday!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Dublin with all five senses


"That book smells odd," my mother said while flicking through the pages of one of my cookbooks, "like musty or something".
"Yeah, Boyfriend would rather say that it smells of Ireland", I replied smiling to myself.

And just like that, Dublin was back on my mind. It is amazing how the most insignificant words can sometimes be so full of meaning for the appropriate person. And that meaningless conversation suddenly reminded me of that brief part of my life. Memories just kept pouring in and I knew I had to write about them before I forgot. So here is another post of my favourite kind, those which describe places I've been to with all five senses.



SIGHT

The centre of Dublin is filled with historical buildings and sites which are pure eye candy for architecture fans and history lovers. But if I have to choose my favourite view of Dublin, the image that fixed on my retina and will stay on my mind forever it will probably be that of the city bisected in two with the river in between. The Liffey rivers run through the whole city of Dublin and divides it in North Dublin and South Dublin. The river Liffey is crossed by many a bridge along the city centre, from Heuston Station to the very new ones in the Docklands development. O'Connell Bridge, right in the middle of the city probable offers the best views of Dublin, especially when looking in direction to the sea on an early summer morning.





HEARING

Dublin is a crowded city and traffic seems to be on a perpetual rush hour state. It is not difficult, though, to find a respite in some of the many parks of the city and relax not hearing anything. However, my favourite hearing experience is somehow traffic related. As you might already know, I had quite a long commuting and I spent nearly two hours riding a bus everyday. While this was rather tedious, I enjoyed it when the buses had that modern GPS system which announces the next stop and tells you to sit down, not to talk to the driver, etc. In Dublin, those announcements were made both in English and Irish and I always had fun trying to guess whatever was being said in Irish - sometimes I was lucky to also see it written on a screen. Sráid (street), ascuill (avenue), bóthar (road), coláiste (college) or aeglish (church) were some of the few Irish words I learnt. And all that thanks to Dublin buses.





SMELL

Boyfriend warned me about that. His family comes from the countryside and he had spent many summers in Ireland during his childhood. He told me that because Ireland had long used turf instead of coal, clothes washed with warm water usually had that smell, a rusty smell. And sometimes it was so. Even though I lived in Dublin and turf was probably a thing of the past, it is true that sometimes my clothes had a funny, musty smell, I'm not sure if because they had taken too long to dry inside or because of the water. And that smell lingered on. Just the other day I put on some jeans which I hadn't worn in a long time and even though they have already been washed outside Ireland I could still feel that smell. And Boyfriend confirmed it. "Oh yeah, you smell like Ireland and I like that. The smell of my summer holidays and I love it".





TOUCH

Chilly, rainy, windy. And cold. The weather of Ireland is probably not the best in Europe, unless you consider getting soaked up in a cool day to be the definition of good weather. I shouldn't complain much about this because I actually enjoyed a very good summer in Dublin and I cannot say that it rained that much. But if there's something I remember vividly is the freezing feeling I sometimes got when walking around Dublin. The wind would bow against my face and my ears and nose would freeze, especially when walking nearby the river. And if it rained, raindrops would just feel like ice on my skin. Rain and wind. Wind and rain. It was a diabolic combination for any patch of empty skin. Other than that, a good jacket or coat would usually keep the cold at bay.





TASTE

I have already dedicated a full post to the glorious Irish scones, so it would be like cheating if I came back again with a scone ode in here. However, I'm not moving far from a scone and I will tell you that if there's a flavour I will always link to my Dublin memories is that of tea. Irish blends are softer than English ones and with a dash of milk, a cup of tea is just the perfect drink to get through any day, no matter how cold or exhausting it is. And even on a warm day, a cuppa would still be my drink of choice. So I guess I'm off to put the kettle on ...




Have a lovely Thursday!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's been three years ...


Yes, it's already been three years since I started this little blog of mine and despite the blank months every now and then I'm more than happy that I've stuck to this space. A lot has happened in the last three years: I've moved countries twice, I've graduated with a MSc in econometrics, I've started and quit a couple a jobs and I've even had a baby. What a three years it's been! 

Sometimes I could not be bothered about blogging and sometimes I've been just lazy. Sometimes I've even thought of abandoning this blog, starting a new one or simply stopping blogging altogether. But when I look back now, I'm glad that I've taken the time to write about many of those special moments that have taken place in the last three years. And also to reminisce about some other things that had happened before I started Away from Tenerife.

Yes, it's been already three years of blogging at Away form Tenerife and despite my ups and downs I have enjoyed this journey. I like reading your comments and knowing that you find my stories interesting/funny/whatever; I like coming up with new ideas for upcoming posts and reflecting upon my past experiences to look for inspiration; and I like having a sort of journal that reminds me of my travels, special moments and the more ordinary everyday. I guess that in the end, I write as much for my pleasure as that of you, dear readers. And I guess that because of that, I will start focusing more on writing more personal stories and focusing more on keeping track of my so ordinary everyday. Well, let's see how this blogging journey continues. 


To these three years of blogging and the many more to come.


THANKS FOR READING!

And have a cool July, weather permitting!
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