Sunday, December 30, 2012

Daytripping: Las Cañadas del Teide

Today I made a family trip to one of the most beautiful places in the world and probably the most beautiful place in Tenerife. We drove to the national park of Las Cañadas del Teide to hike around and take some pictures and it was a great day for pictures as the sun was shining brightly and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky. The last time I visited El Teide the area was totally dry. All bushes were greyish and thirsty and trees had no leaves and were still black due to a terrible fire that had devastated most flora from the north of Tenerife. This time El Teide volcano looking better than ever, with some little snow left on the summit, and the surrounding area was fully recovered. Tress were covered with leaves, bushes had grown back and everything was green again. Actually, the whole island is surprisingly green after a very rainy November and it looks good.

So, these are some photos taken this morning. And you can read some more about El Teide here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Four Days in Basel

My time in Basel was really brief. Four days is not a long time but I tried to make the best out of it and I had a lovely holiday in Switzerland. Luckily, as I had already lived there for a couple of months I didn't feel any pressure to do lots of sightseeing and shrink a couple of trips in such a tight schedule. Instead of that, I could simply relax and sleep as much as I wanted (much needed after a month of sleep deprivation in favor of long studying evenings) and I could just enjoy the simple things that I love and miss when not in Switzerland. And I also spent four whole days of quality time with my boyfriend and his family. But back to Basel, these are some of the charms of the city that I couldn't wait to experience again!

A couple of days I went for a walk in the city. Basel is not too big and just like many medium-sized cities in Europe is very pedestrian-friendly. The city center has some lovely cobbled alleys with small boutiques and some beautiful fountains here and there. I spent some time in a furniture store (I don't remember the name) which sells lots of cute stuff waiting to serve some wonderful tea, coffee or chocolate moments.There were so many things I wished I could have! Then I lost myself in the wonderful Thalia bookstore. It may not be charming and full of character but it has 5 or 6 stores full of books, dvd's and inspiring gifts. Once again I was left hoping that my luggage was bigger and less heavy. There was also time for a short visit to the Christmas market and to wander around the small market on the Marktplatz.

Another great experience I delighted myself with was a visit to the thermal baths in Rheinfelden. I enjoyed two hours of bubbles and steamy waters with my boyfriend and I felt totally relaxed afterwards. My favourite feature of this spa complex is the Intensiv-Solobecken, a pool filled with salty water that'll help you float effortlessly and while you're drifting carelessly you can hear relaxing music underwater. Too good to be true! 

My final treat on Basel was food. There are so many delicious things to try in Switzerland that I didn't even know where to start and the lack of time didn't make it any easy to choose. Many traditional winter treats were simply dismissed because the weather wasn't cold at all and somehow I wasn't lusting them. But there was one thing I knew that I wanted to savour again, piadina! Piadina are a sort of Italian rigid crepe-a-like which are usually filled with typical Italian salamis or cheese. As I'm very picky with these kind of foods, I usually go for veggy options and my favourite is aubergine with tomato and mozzarella. It is so delicious that I went not once but twice to the Piadina Bar. And another favourite I couldn't pass by was the Mr. Wong restaurant, an Asian on the go where food is freshly wokked in front of you.

So, that was my time in Basel, great but way too short, so I'm already looking forward to being back there again! In the meantime I'll keep on enjoying every other place I live in or visit and right now it's Tenerife time. Almost three weeks of family, friends and winter sun!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

To all of you, my dear readers, I wish you a merry, merry Christmas!

I hope that you're having a wonderful celebration and that you're indulging in some delicious food, carolling out loud, laughing and giggling and enjoying some quality time with your loved ones.

I took these photos a couple of days ago in the Christmas Market in Basel. It was really nice to wander around staring at all those bright lights and singing along to Christmas songs. The only drawback was that the weather was actually quite warm and mulled wine and bratwurst (grilled sausages) were not so appealing. But still, it was a very cosy evening and I enjoyed myself like a little child!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas lights in Maastricht

Time has finally arrived for me to be almost on holidays and in order to celebrate my first evening of freedom after a terribly hard term at uni I went for a walk to the city and I spent some time at the Christmas market for the first time this year. The Christmas market in Maastricht is quite small and not especially beautiful but still it was nice to finally let go and get in the mood for Christmas. I took some pictures of the Christmas lights and decorations in Maastricht and even though they're quite simple I really like them. Most of the decorations simply consist of small white leds hanging around naked trees of from street lamps but as ordinary as it might sound, the effect is rather beautiful on cold, dark evenings. So, I hope you like these pictures, even though they're not so good (I should play more with my camera settings and explore the night mode, any advice?) 

Tomorrow I'm flying to Switzerland and after Christmas I'll spend almost three weeks in Tenerife, so I'm really excited about being on the go again and also about being back in two of my favourite places spending time with my loved ones. So, all that's left to say by now is: bye, bye Maastricht, see you in 2013!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Enjoying Switzerland with all 5 senses

Time goes by really, really fast and I can't believe that I'll be in Switzerland just in five days! I am really looking forward to it as Switzerland quickly became one of my favourite countries and I haven't been back  there for almost a year and a half now. So, to celebrate my upcoming short visit to Switzerland I decided to reflect upon my previous trips and make a 5 senses special post about Switzerland. Switzerland is a very diverse country and it can be enjoyed in many ways, with all of the senses, so here are my top sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch experiences. I hope that you like this atypical tour through the country and get inspired to search for your own unique experiences wherever you are! And if you come up with some similar 5 senses post, let me know!

  • SIGHT: Switzerland has landscapes for everyone's taste! Lakes, glaciers, mountains, rivers, ... All of  them are utterly beautiful and seem like a tempting invite to leave all the stress behind and get lost away from restless cities. For me, the most awesome view was the first time that I saw the Alps. I was driving to Bern (I think) when I suddenly spotted those big, shiny, snowy mountains ahead. Within seconds I was totally taken and forgot about Bern. I tried to get as close to the Alps as I could and I finally stopped at Interlaken, a tiny city by the Alps that I love. I don't think I'll ever forget the first moment I got a glimpse of the Alps and felt the sudden urge to drive ahead to take a closer look.

  • HEARING: Probably, the most quirky hearing experience is listening to and trying to understand a single word of the German dialect that is spoken in the German part of Switzerland ('Grüezi, wie göht's?' for 'Hallo, wie geht's?') However, the most impressive hearing experience was visiting Rheinfell and hearing the endless thunderous sound of the water falling down the waterfalls. I had never seen a waterfall before and, even though this one was a little one, it didn't fail to impress. When I started the walk I could hear the water in the distance , but the closer I got, the more deafening it became. And suddenly I was there, so close that the water splashed me and I couldn't even hear my own thoughts. All I heard was the water falling down non-stop and it really got me thinking of how powerful and beautiful nature is!

  • TASTE: Eating a raclette really got me! Normally I wouldn't have tried it, as I don't like cheese and I would have sworn that I wouldn't like this one as well, as it was too smelly when raw. But my boyf cooked it for me so I had to try it ... and I liked it! First of all I like the way it is done. The table is laid with raw food (bacon, sausages, gerkhins, ...) and boiled potatoes. The raclette apparat is turned on and the fun begins! Raclette is like DIY food. Cheese is melt in small spatulas and meat and vegetable are grilled above. Then cheese is pourred on potatoes, sausage and whatever you like and seasoned with raclette seasoning spices ... delicious!

  • SMELL: Well, I'm gonna carry on talking about food. Every Swiss town holds for sure at least one market throught the year. My fave is the Christmas Market, Weihnachtsmarkt. I was this year in Basels Weihnachtsmarkt and it was great. The main squares are full with stalls selling all kind of crafty gifts. The air is chilly and the market is crowded. People walk en masse heading to the food stalls and even though temperatures are probably below 0ºC I could smell many delicious things being cooked around, specially sausage and mulled wine! I love them both and I also found out that mulled wine is a very useful thing on cold days. After all, the main reason to buy yourself a warm cup of mulled wine is to warm up your hands.

  • TOUCH: It's difficult to describe touch experiences involving a landscape. However, I can say that I had a great touch experience in Switzerland, which is probably my best experience ever and the closest that one can get to Heaven on Earth. I visited some thermal baths in winter. It was in Leukerbad, right in the middles of the Alps. The bath was outside and it offered an amazing view of the Alps mountain (truly heavenly view to enjoy from a thermal bath) It was -2ºC and suddenly it started to snow. And I was there, in my swimsuit, feeling how the snowflakes landed on my face and froze but still, I felt no cold at all, as I was lounging in 35ºC or so waters. I even dared to go outside the water for a minute and felt the frozen air on my skin. Going back to the water felt like bliss!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas markets across Europe

One of my favourite things about spending the (pre)Christmas season in Europe is being able to enjoy the wonders of Christmas markets. Oh, Christmas markets, just the thought of it makes me rejoice and I start daydreaming of all those beautiful lights and the delicious smells of gingerbread and mulled wine. I think we also have Christmas markets in Spain but there's no point in comparing them to the traditional ones in Germany and neighbouring countries. Well, at least the one we have in Tenerife would not pass the test, I really don't know for the rest.

Christmas market in Basel

Christmas market in Aachen

Christmas market in Maastricht

Christmas markets are usually made of dozens of wooden stalls selling all kind of Christmas treats: sweets, toys, winter apparel, mulled wine, ... Traditional Christmas carols play all day long and there are usually some attractions for children (and the not so little ones) like carroussels and ice rinks. They originated in the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking regions of Europe but the tradition has spread all over the continent and nowadays many countries count with a couple of well renowned Christmas markets. So far, I have visited and enjoyed them in Antwerp (Belgium), Basel (Switzerland), Strasbourg (France), Aachen (Germany) and Maastricht (The Netherlands) and my favourite has been Aachen. After all, German Christmas markets still retain their original glory and usually make for the most alluring destinations among Christmas markets lovers. Unfortunately, this year I'm stuck at home with some boring books to study and I couldn't go to Germany to indulge on some seasonal shopping and Christmas snacks but I hope that I will manage to catch up later this month in Basel, once my exams are done. Until then, I hope that all of you are enjoying the countdown to Christmas! 

Are there also Christmas markets in your countries? Do you love them as much as I do? Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It ain't called Costa del Sol for nothing

Late autumn in Malaga

Costa del Sol, meaning Coast of the Sun in Spanish, is the region in Andalusia comprising all coastal towns of the province of Malaga, including Malaga city itself. It is a very beautiful coastline plaggued by nice beaches with dark sand and pictoric towns with white houses, inhabited by friendly people, owning a rich cultural heritage and a delicious gastronomical tradition and, well, accounting for an amazingly high number of sunlight hours per year. Here the sun shines probably more than in most other places in Europe and temperatures are usually quite mild during the winter and very hot during the summer, so no wonder that many Europeans already know and love the charms of this Spanish touristic region. The only drawback are the consequences of mass tourism: tacky resorts, to many hotels and shopping malls and polluted beaches. Probably that's one of the reasons why the interior regions of the province of Malaga, and of Andalusia in general, are becoming so popular among many tourist who are looking for a peaceful and soulful place to rest, as well as seeking the sun.

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a long weekend in Malaga (perks of having a geographically disperse family) and besides all the nice things that come with family reunion I also enjoyed a couple of days under the sun without almost any worries on my mind. No studying, no coursework, no group meetings ... Just sleeping, eating, gossiping and shopping with my brother, strolling around the city and attending the illumination of Malaga's Christmas Lights. The lights were really beautiful: a huge golden and purple light tree and many more golden and purple lights along one of Malaga's main streets, Calle Larios. There was a great street party with balloons and puppet shows for children and Alex Ubago singing for the delight of many teenagers, youngsters and some of their mums. The only thing I was missing was a bit more of Christmas sfeer but I guess this is more difficult to achieve with the sun shining and the music playing is Danza Kuduro instead of traditional Christmas carols. 

I didn't have much time to do some sightseeing, but at this point I don't really need to do that much sightseeing anymore as I know Malaga quite well and I've been to quite a few lovely towns at Costa del Sol, including Marbella, Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Nerja, Ronda or Benahavis. Still, my boyfriend and I sometimes toy with the idea of doing a roadtrip around Andalusia, so we better start planning, as our wish list is growing beyond the scope of a lifetime possibilities!

More on Malaga coming soon ...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 2012 - Almost in the mood!

Wow! I can't believe that December is already here and that there are just 30 days left for 2012 to be over. Where did all the other 335 days go to?! Well, I know more or less the answer to that question and I can actually say that 2012 was a good year. And even better, the 30 days to come will also be great ... or at least I hope so, after all Christmas time is almost here and I love every tiny bit of Christmas! 

In Maastricht the streets are lit since a couple of weeks ago, temperatures are dropping drastically and I think the Christmas market must be about to start (if it didn't start this weekend). I'm really enjoying taking all my winter clothes out of the shelves, indulging in harty meals and pre-Christmas treats and looking forward to seeing some snow. However, before I can get in the spirit and be in full party mood, I still have to finish this study block somehow and that implies spending two long weeks in the library and studying until midnight. So, until the time comes when I can just let go and enjoy the holiday season like the inner child in me longs to, I will just fantasize about the visits I'll pay to some Christmas market, the wonderful days I'll spend in Switzerland and the cosy Christmas holidays I'll enjoy at home in Tenerife. And if I could do anything I wanted to in this December instead of just studying until my eyes ache, my top three would be:

  1. Ice-skating outdoors and have some mulled wine afterwards to warm me up.
  2. Christmas shopping for my loved ones (well, brother and boyfriend almost done!)
  3. Cosy movie evenings at home watching all sort of Christmas cringey movies.
So, what are you up to this month? Any nice plans? More cosy ideas?

Have a merry December!
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