Playa De Palma, Mallorca – Off Season

The Spanish Islands. Known for their beautiful beaches, warm weather and party scene. Ibiza is the island featured in the movies and songs, but Mallorca can get just as rowdy – so I’ve heard. If you are looking to travel to Palma de Mallorca during the months of November-April, this is the blog for you.

I was meeting my friends in Barcelona during the week of Thanksgiving. They had been traveling around Europe for the last couple of weeks. I was short on vacation time, so I decided to come while they were in Spain. Two days in Barcelona and then it was off the Mallorca.

So what is Mallorca like in November? It’s basically closed for the season. But we didn’t learn this until we landed on the island. Our first clue should have been when our original hotel canceled our reservation because business was so slow they were closing up for the season. They transferred us to the Hotel Playa Golf. The hotel was absolutely beautiful. We were upgraded to a higher level ocean view room. It was the kind of view where you wanted to hang out on your balcony and just watch the waves go by. The hotel interior and grounds were also beautiful. Our view overlooked the pool and the ocean. The hotel had a complimentary sauna, steam room and indoor spa. For our first couple of nights, we felt like we were the only ones there.

Our other surprise was how much German influence there was on the island. I had noticed some German signs at the airport, but when we sat down for lunch, our waiter handed us a menu that was written in German and featured German food. As the naïve group of Americans, we were confused about why there was such a German presence on this Spanish Island. This easiest way for me to explain it is Mallorca is to Germany what Mexico is to America. They wanted a fun warm place where they could party, but still, feel like they were in Germany.

I could see the potential this island had. There were tons of bars and shops that lined the beach boardwalk, but they were all boarded up for the winter. My boyfriend had picked the location of our hotel very specifically because it was close to a giant Beer Garden called Megapark. We went to check it out, and sure enough, the Megapark was also boarded up and closed for the winter. In terms of Playa De Palma nightlife, the Bierkoenig is proud to be open year-round. The Bierkoenig is a massive beer garden, but during the off-season, they use maybe a ¼ of the space. The first couple of nights we felt like the only people there, but my Friday night, the Germans had arrived and the tiny space had started to fill up (but still nowhere near what it’s like during the summer).

The nearby restaurant choices were also slim, but each restaurant we went to was absolutely delicious, and we would go back and forth between German and Spanish cuisine. Only in Playa de Palma can you get Paella and Cordon Bleu in the same meal. We did make our way to the city of Palma one evening. You can catch a bus from the beach to the capital, and it takes maybe 25 mins. In the city, we found open restaurants, people, shops and no German beer gardens. However, the city closed early that day. By 9 pm all the shops were closed and the street started to clear.

What we should have done was hire a car or some scooters and explore more of the island, but my friends were on the tail end of a 3-week European adventure and were pretty tired. I also recommend going to the city during the day and visiting Old Town Palma. If you are looking for a “warmer,” peaceful island getaway (warmer is in quotes because you will still need a jacket), than check out Playa De Palma during the off-season. I’m not sure I would enjoy Mallorca during its peak season, but I am curious to see what it is like when the shops are open, the beach a more lively and the weather warmer. It was an experience for sure. Have you ever been to Mallorca or Playa de Palma? What did you do? When did you go? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

(Trying to) Stay Healthy While on Holiday

I have read plenty of articles on how to stay in shape while travelling. They are great articles, and I tend to follow their advice. But staying in shape while on holiday is not as easy as you think. Sacrifices must be made. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen into sacrificing my precious sleep or my time at the pub. Some healthy habits are easier to maintain depending on where you have chosen to holiday, or the time of year. Others healthy habits seem downright impossible. I would like to share some ways to keep fit when you are away from home, while being realistic. Because I feel your pain. Or I may be trying to come up with excuses for why I returned with a few extra pounds.

YouTube

YouTube videos are great! There is a workout for everything. They are fast, heart pumping, and don’t require any equipment or much room. All you need is an internet connection. Some problems I faced was space. Either my hotel room was too small, or I didn’t feel like working out in the middle of my dorm room. Downward Dog when your new, opposite sex, attractive dorm mate walks in could be awkward. Or it could work in your favor. Wink Wink. Then there is that pesky internet connection. In some countries wi-fi isn’t as readily available as you might think, and the speed isn’t up to par with streaming. All in all, when I had my own room, plenty of space and valid internet I usually did a workout video. Unless I was hung over.

Some of my favorite leading ladies on YouTube include: Rebecca Louise, Jessica Smith and Zuzka Light.

Running

For a high intensity workout, running suited me best. The weather had to be quite poor for me to vacate a run. My main problem was daylight. Especially when traveling during the winter, when daylight is limited. After filling my day up with various sights, museums and churches that all close at 5. It left little time for a run, especially when it became dark at 5. I’m not a fan of night running in a foreign country for safety reasons. So I tried to incorporate running into my sightseeing schedule. Whether it was going for a run through Central Park on my way to the Natural History Museum, or running through Hyde Park to see Buckingham Palace. I’m all sweaty in my selfies, but sacrifices must be made.

If you are into tracking your runs, my favorite methods are the Nike Running App, Runkeeper, or my Garmin Forerunner watch.

 

My “sweaty” seflies

 

Walking

This has to be my number one form of exercise while travelling, and my predominant mode of transportation. I would walk instead of taking public transportation. I figured if I walked so much during the day, then I deserved that extra pint with dinner, or butter croissant for breakfast. My only complaint about walking is the weather. While out and about I have been caught in the snow and in numerous rain storms.  I also want to lump hiking into this category. This is probably my favorite form of exercise while traveling. You are among nature and experiencing raw beauty at its finest. If you are at a destination where hiking is a part of your daily routine, will I fit in your suitcase on your next trip?

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Walking with Sandy in South Africa

 

Eat your fruit and vegetables

Pretty sure all the nutrition experts say eating right prevails over exercise in terms of which is more effective.  It’s probably one of the hardest habits to maintain while travelling because you are always on the go, and possibly always eating out. I want you to enjoy your holiday. So please don’t count calories. Instead enjoy everything in moderation, and eat some fruit and vegetables. You can grab an apple at the local supermarket, or maybe even farmers market. And get the side salad with dinner. If you have a kitchen available, cook when you can.

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One of numerous consumed gelatos in Italy

 

Health apps

I decided to separate this from YouTube, because a lot of the workout videos you can download prior and don’t need internet for. I am not a big fan of their instruction, if there is any, but it’s still a workout. You can still run into the same issue of space, but since you are no longer bound to the internet, you can take your workout to a nearby park. Only downside would be weather. It the park is muddy, or it’s raining, your best bet is to head to the nearest pub.

I love the Nike Training club app and Pinterest.

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Canyoning in Wanaka

 

Drop in Classes

If you are on a tight budget, you may not want to fork out the money for that hot yoga class. But studio classes are a great option of meeting new people while getting your workout on. Check your local Groupon; there might be a discount available.

 

Cheers to looking fit and fabulous in all your Instagram photos on your next holiday. 

 

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Trying to look cool in New Zealand

 

 

 

Change for a 20?

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It was March 1st; my last day in Rome, and the weather was beautiful. The sun was out. There was no wind. I wish it had been weather like this my entire trip. Baking in the sun I felt happy. I decided to sleep in as late as possible, and not leave my room until checkout. My flight to London wasn’t until 8:30pm, so I had some time to kill. I had basically seen what I wanted to see. I could have visited a museum, but with the weather so nice I felt guilty about spending it inside. I decided to revisit the places I liked most, and pick a few spots to enjoy the sunshine and read a good book. I decided to get breakfast. Italy was the first place I saw signs that read, “No sitting fee.” You would charge me more to sit in your café? Why would I ever sit there? It might be the cynical American in me speaking, but if you charge me to sit in your café, you can better believe I won’t be tipping, but more likely I won’t be eating there. So in places like that, everyone crowds around the counter and drinks their coffee or eats their biscuit. I was tricked when I ate breakfast. I don’t remember seeing a sign about a sitting fee. The guy asked if I wanted to sit and I said sure. Sure enough when I got up to pay a $2 fee was added to my bill. And I only had a coffee and a croissant. I thought that was a cheeky move. My first stop in the great sunshine was to the colosseum again. I really liked that place. I saw the queue to get in, and was glad I didn’t have to wait in it. Rome did seem a bit more crowded, and I’m sure it was because of the abundance of sunshine. I walked around and took more pictures. You know, typical tourist things. Then I made my way up the main road, past the Roman Forum, and to Palazzo Valentini (which was that large museum I was describing in my previous blog). I then went to the Campidoglio, and just chilled for a bit. I could sit on the wall and gaze at the ruins below. People watch. I could have read my book, but decided not to. It had actually been a few hours since I left my room and decided it was time to figure out lunch. There was an outdoor market plaza place I had gone to everyday and I really wanted to get some food there. I hate it though, when I am looking at a menu and some guy comes up to me and says “come to my restaurant”. “Come follow me”. I really don’t like being told what to do. And I like to make my own decisions. So I went into the restaurant next to his. I went with the homemade pasta fettuccine alfredo. And it was good. Not quite like the raviolis I had in Florence, but still good. Better than the tortellinis I had which I’m pretty sure came from the same package that I buy at the grocery store. After my pasta, it was time for one last gelato. There was a plaza of ruins I liked, and decided to sit and eat it there. But before gelato, I went to the ruins and saw more cats. Tons of cats this time. And they were lying out in the sun all over the ruins. I was really confused why there were so many cats. I pet about 3 cats before I saw the sign that said “Cat Sanctuary.” It all made sense. I went in and checked it out. There were cats everywhere. But at the sanctuary they feed them, and take care of them. Make sure they aren’t sick or and that they can’t make more cats. Some cats were disabled and had to be kept in a special room. All the cats were friendly. So after the cat sanctuary, I went and got my gelato, and came back to the ruins to eat it. I had invented a cool game of I spy a Kitty. And you could really find kitties hidden all over the ruins. My first night in Rome, I stayed in a different place than where I had been staying recently. I also left my book there. They had it. I just needed to go get it. My time in Rome was coming to an end, so I decided to go and retrieve my book. It ended up being quite a walk. And I was sweating by the time I got there. And when I looked at the time, I felt like I was running out of time. I needed to collect my book, walk back to my new place, collect my bag, walk to the train station, take the train to the airport, check in, and then relax. And that is what I did. All that walking in the Italian sun made me sweat a little. Opps. But everything worked out. I was on an empty airplane headed back to London for the last time. It was after 10pm when we landed. So it was after 11pm in Italy. I took the train, and decided I could walk from the station to my hotel. It was maybe a 15 minute walk. The Paddington Station was confusing to get out of for someone looking to walk. I ended in a plaza type thing, and decided to follow this large group of people. Well they were headed to their hotel which lead to nowhere. So I had to pull out a map and figure out where I was. The hotel clerk gave me some direction which was nice. I finally found the main road after wondering around aimlessly for 15-20 minutes. So my 15 minute walk turned into a 40 minute walk. All while lugging my suitcase in the dark through London. The area I was in seemed pretty empty to, so I kept looking over my shoulder just in case. Really I had been walking since 11am in Rome, and it was now almost midnight in London and I was still walking. Once I got on the main road I could sort of tell where I was. And I was headed in a direction I was familiar with, so I wasn’t worried. I finally made it to the hotel at midnight. Checked in and went to sleep. I was going to see the Lion King play the following day, and my friend from America was coming to meet me. It was going to be another long day. The play was at 2, and I didn’t get out of bed until almost 11. It poured rain all morning, and I had experienced enough of that in Italy. The play was amazing. I loved the songs and the visuals. I could totally be a play goer if they didn’t cost an arm and a leg. After the play, I decided to hang out in the Covent Garden area and wait for my friend. She was scheduled to land around 7:30. I found a neat bar that sold 3 pound Stellas. I hung there until about 8, and decided to head to the hotel and wait for Wilma. I arrived at 8:30 and no sign of her. 8:30 turned into 9 and still no sign. We had dinner plans. I only ate a small salad after the play to hold me over til dinner. At 9:30 I was getting ready to eat my arm. I finally had to leave a note and go to Tesco’s for something to snack on. At almost 10pm, I was getting ready for bed. I suppose I could have turned the TV on, but didn’t think of that. Instead I sat there in silence, and every time I heard footsteps outside I ran and opened the door to find my neighbors coming and going. And after the third time of that happening, I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a freak. At 10pm I heard a knock. It was Wilma. She was finally here! Turns out the subway I told her to take was on a delay. So she went to a different stop and decided to walk. I think she didn’t realize how massive Hyde Park is, and so she walked for over an hour. She was about to eat her arm off as well so we went down the road for some Indian. The curry was good. Spicy but good. I asked the worker if he could break my 20. He said he didn’t have enough bills to do so. Basically the story is the bill was 22 pounds. Wilma and I each owed 11. We both has 20s, and I had a 10. The worker refused to break a 20. He saw my 20 and 10, and basically said you have enough money to pay for it. Use this. Well that would consist of me paying for the whole meal. Then Wilma asked if he could split the check, and he almost got angry. So I ended up paying for it, and Wilma and I worked it out later. But now looking back, we should have each thrown in a 20. Since the bill was 22 he would basically have to break a 20 anyway. And what type of restaurant doesn’t have change for a 20! My second thought was I should have put it on my card. Something to say forget you for being difficult. I left no tip. Though I think the worker being difficult about the bill was different from our waiter. I was upset and couldn’t really tell. Thus concluded my second night and Wilma’s first in London. What respectable establishment doesn’t have change for a 20?!

The Final Go

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It was Thursday, and on Saturday I was scheduled to participate in the Nuts Challenge. It is 14k (two laps) in the cold, sloppy mud, and about 50 obstacles or something. Bottom line, I really needed to go on one final run to prepare my body for torture on Saturday. I told Wilma my plan, and gave her some suggestions to do while I was out. She was sleeping when I left, and 10k later she was still sleeping. In all fairness, she had been consistently traveling for the last few days, and probably hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep to adjust to the time difference yet. Plus she was getting sick. Anyway, it worked out. Because I did my run, and still had time to shower and get ready, and then we could hit the town of London together. I had already done most of London tourist things before, so I let Wilma pick what she wanted to see and guided her there. We got lunch, checked out Parliament, Buckingham Palace and then went to Harrods. Harrods was a recommendation of my Nana’s. It’s her favorite store even though she can’t really afford to shop there. I think most people can’t afford to shop there. We both needed to use the restroom and searched for it in Harrods. I don’t know why the bathroom was so difficult to find there, but it took about 4 floors, two workers and almost 20 minutes to find it. Harrods reminded me of a casino. The décor was Egyptian Jungle themed. Wilma described it as the Disneyland of department stores. We went to a café on the 6 floor or something and had some overpriced coffee and hot chocolate. Earlier in the day we had tried to buy our train ticket from London to Worthing. This would have been my third ticket I bought with them. For some reason we could not purchase the tickets online. I thought it was their website, but it was now 5pm and I still couldn’t purchase train tickets, so I decided to call them. The lady on the phone said she could see where I had tried to buy my train tickets 3 different times. She said their restricted my account for fraud. I explained it was not fraud. I had bought tickets online with them before using the exact same credit card. She said there was nothing she could do and the restriction would be removed tomorrow. I became angry because tomorrow I would have to pay full price for a train ticket which was over 4 times the price I had been quoted online. I argued with them about restricting my account when I had used them before no problem, and the customer service rep started giving me attitude and asking me if I would prefer they did nothing to monitor my account and let random people buy train tickets under my name and card. And I said it’s not FRAUD! You are preventing ME from buying a ticket. It was not a pleasant phone call, as we both started getting rather sassy. I basically told her thanks for nothing, she said you’re welcome and we hung up. I then had a brilliant idea to go to the train station and buy the tickets there. There was no way they could say anything about fraud because I would physically be there with my card and ID. In the kiosk I could only see full price tickets so I waited in line to talk to someone. He searched his computer and could only find full price tickets. I started to argue again. I was looking at my phone maybe ½ hour ago and saw the discounted tickets. He said there was nothing he could do. We saw another customer service place for Southern and Wilma asked if I wanted to go in there and talk to someone. We were headed to a Jack the Ripper tour that night and had originally planned on stopping by the hotel before going to the tour. We were running out of time now and would probably have to head straight to the tour. I went inside the office and complained again. The lady said she understood my frustration, was confused why Southern put a fraud warning on my account and told me there was nothing she could do. The only good thing the lady said was at 6pm the systems reset and advance tickets were no longer available. Why couldn’t anyway tell me that earlier! I hung up the phone at 5:25 and was talking to this lady at 6:30. I was beyond frustrated with Southern Train and I wish there was another way to get from London to Worthing because I would do it just so I didn’t have to take their service. Unfortunately there wasn’t and I was forced to pay full price for a train ticket. I tried to buy my first train ticket from them at 11am online. It still gets me boiled up thinking about it. I filed a complaint. I’m sure nothing will come from it, but I hope anyone reading this can learn the cheeky ways of the train companies so they don’t get scammed like me.  So after paying a ridiculous amount of money for a train ticket, we went to East London for our Jack the Ripper tour. The tour was pretty cool. It was a history lesson about the era, the area and the famed killer all in one. After the tour we finally made it back to our hotel to drop off some shopping and I needed to brush my hair. It was now after 10pm and definitely dinner time. I thought we might go for a few beers afterwards and decided to head to Camden Town. The only place still serving food was the kebab joint but oh well. We made our way into a local pub and quickly made friends with a group of boys there. We were chatting and having a good time when one of the boys got creepy. Think Italian Creepy but even more abrasive and up front about his intentions. He even pulled some of the same lines as the Italian like, “what kind of adventures are you looking for.” And I rolled my eyes and thought to myself not again. So again I said no, no, no and no. But he wouldn’t drop it. I had no idea how to get Wilma involved in the conversation. It wasn’t like I could text her an SOS. The creepo finally asked a question about her and I said, “How about you ask her yourself.” Wilma heard her name called and turned to us. The Turkish boy now living in London asked Wilma his questions and she was quite taken aback. WTF is what she was thinking. And thank goodness I’m not in this alone anymore is what I was thinking. I would have left a long time ago, but I really wanted to finish my drink. And for a second there I thought the guy was kidding with his advances. But after he received more nos from both Wilma and I he said, “Well why you don’t guys leave then.” At this point the rest of his friend had gone out for a cigarette, and Wilma said, “Don’t you smoke?”  The boy left for a minute, I started chugging my beer, and when he returned he said, “Why are you two still here?” It wasn’t funny anymore. I finished my beer, went to the bathroom and we left. We said goodbye to the normal boys we met and they were confused as to why we were leaving so soon. I thought in my head. Your friend is a freak. That’s why. Chilling at the second bar we saw two of the normal boys show up and I shook my head. Please don’t let the creep be here. He wasn’t thank goodness. They even admitted to him getting perverted when he is drinking. Thanks for warning us aholes. We basically shut everything is Camden Town down and then took a cab home. I called the front desk to ask what time check out was and he said whenever, just not before 7am. Since it was 3:30am I don’t think checking out after 7am would be an issue. But for me to check out whenever. That clerk might regret telling us that.

When in Rome

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It is my last day in The United Kingdom. Today I will head back to NYC, and then make the journey to my beloved West Coast. I remember when it was my final day in New Zealand. That seems like ages ago now. New Zealand flew by so fast. When I was leaving, I felt as if I had just arrived. Now as I am getting ready to leave the UK, I feel like I have been here forever. Before I recall my final week in England, let me finish up with Italy. I woke up early and made my way to the Colosseum. Because I was so early I didn’t have to queue for long. I got my audio guide and started exploring inside. The first view was spectacular. I could imagine myself being thrown back in time and gathered in the colosseum for a fight. You can now see the stage floor and what lies beneath. I envisioned the ferocious beasts roaring below, and the gladiators preparing for their next fight. I could picture where the nobility would sit and the peasants. You get a sense of how loud the colosseum would get, and the cheers and boos echoing off the walls. Anytime I would throw myself back into Roman times, I would be thrusted back into the present as I ducked to avoid a selfie stick being handled by a giggling girl. This was the colosseum now. Home to thousands of visitors and selfie sticks daily. Although it was crowded, it was manageable. I couldn’t imagine this place in the summer. Hot, and about 5 times as crowded. For how massive the colosseum is, you can only view a small portion of it. I’m sure it’s for safety reasons, and to help preserve the ancient ruins. After the colosseum, I wondered around the surrounding area and ticked sights off of my checklist. I made my way up the main road and gazed at the ruins on each side. I visited a few more piazzas, and saw statues similar to those in Florence. There is a giant museum, dawned with flags, heroic statues, and I was memorized. I walked to the Pantheon and had a cappuccino at Saint-Eustache. The birthplace of the espresso. At this point it starting pouring. I didn’t bring my umbrella. It was too heavy to carry both my umbrella and water bottle, so each morning I made a decision which to bring. Yet each time I didn’t bring my umbrella it poured, and when I did bring it, it never rained. I stopped by the Trevi Fountain one more time. This time there was only about 50 people around since it was pouring. I didn’t stay long. I was getting soaked. After my “linner”. Late lunch, early dinner. I dried off, changed and went back out to wonder the streets of Rome. I went back to stroll through the ruins on the main road again. I explored on the other side of the river, and stepped inside of a church when Mass was in session. This church must be used to visitors because people were coming and going from the back seats frequently. I hung out for a bit and then decided to make my way back to my side of town. It had been a long day walking around Rome, and tomorrow was going to be another long day. I was going to Vatican City. I didn’t wake up as early the following morning as I had hoped. Instead of arriving at the Vatican at 7am like it had been suggested to me, I finally arrived around 8:45am. I took the subway. I was very cautious of my surroundings. Everyone’s warnings came rushing to me about pick-pocketers, or people who would hold a knife to you for 20 Euros. I really didn’t want any of that to happen. The subway was packed. We were honestly packed in like sardines. I didn’t have a thick coat on thank goodness because I was sweating. The lady standing next to me was getting overheated as well. Each time we stopped I prayed no one else tried to get on the subway. I don’t know how we would fit in another soul. Luckily it thinned out. I got off at my stop, and when I emerged from the subway there was a man waiting there. Are you going to the Vatican? And he rambled off directions and told me about the different queues. I made my way closer and could see the queue. I tried to pull out my map to make sure this is where I wanted to be. My goal was to see St Peter’s Cathedral first. A groups of guys at the corner started shouting more directions at me, and asking if I wanted to pay for a tour to skip the queue. I tried to ignore then and they started asking, “Do you speak English?!” I really wish I knew a line in some uncommon language like Klingon and could pretend I didn’t speak English so people would leave me alone. I got in the queue which turned out to be the line for the Vatican Museum. I had no idea if this was the line I needed to be in to see St. Peter’s or whether I would have to queue again. And thus my issue with Vatican City. I was ill prepared. I didn’t have a map. My only tips were about visiting St Peter’s, and now I was heading into a museum. The best thing about Vatican City was the abundant supply of bathrooms. Rome lacks public bathrooms, so it was nice being in a place where I could drink as much water as I wanted and know a toilet would be nearby. It also may have been beneficial taking a tour through the Vatican because I had no idea what I was looking at. I saw so many tapestries and religious paintings while in Italy. I made my way into the Sistine Chapel which was crowded, an Italian theme. I didn’t know anything about the Sistine Chapel expect it was famous, but I didn’t know what for. The museum didn’t offer any reading material, so I couldn’t tell what I was looking for. I stared at the walls and the roof which I found very busy. I was looking for a way into St Peter’s Basilica, and was hoping I wouldn’t have to wait in another queue. One guard told me I could get there through the Sistine Chapel. Instead of going left like I did, I needed to go right. I couldn’t backtrack to the Sistine Chapel; I had to go through the museum again. So I walked swiftly through the museum again, passed all the same artifacts, and was back in the Sistine Chapel. I looked at the walls again and headed for the door on the right. The sign said guided tours only. I asked another guard how to get to St Peter’s and the guard said through the door on the right. So I walked through the door for guided tours only. I was promptly presented with a fork in the road. One was the cupola, the top of the Basilica, and the other was for the Tombs. My friend recommended the tombs, so that is where I went. I thought I might have a chance to visit the cupola later, but I never saw another entrance to it that didn’t include queuing up again outside. The tombs of the past Popes was a sight to see. I wasn’t disappointed, and when I finally made it inside St Peter’s it was magical. The floor, the ceiling, the walls, the decor, everything about it was stunning. It was huge, and looked like it could host multiple Masses at once. I walked around every nook and cranny that I could and tried to absorb all the good juju around me. Being inside such a magical place took its emotional toll on me, and I was ready to go. I spent some time in the square outside which was just as spectacular as the inside. The sun started to come out as well. It was still early in the day. I had a lot of time to see what was left of Rome, so I decided to walk back to the other side of the river. I saw Rome’s castle. I went to another square that had Egyptian looking cats all around it. Then I decided to check out Leonardo da Vinci’s museum. For a few reasons. One was, I really needed to use the restroom, and I figured a museum would have a bathroom. I never saw any public bathrooms in Rome, and most of the time I either went where I had lunch, a museum, or I walked back to my place. And two, I thought a Leonardo da Vinci museum would be cool. The museum was in a church and had no bathroom. The workers pointed me in a direction of a public bathroom which I never found and a Burger King which had closed their bathroom for cleaning. I did eventually find a bar that let me use their restroom without having to buy anything. I then decided Rome smells like poo because there are no public toilets. I went back to the museum which ended up being quite cool. As I emerged from the museum, I saw the rain. It was raining cats and dogs. I did have better rain pants on, and a rain coat, but I knew I would still get drenched. At this point I was just ready to go home. It was probably a 45-minute walk in the rain, but I eventually made it back. My under layers were dry, but my pants, jacket and shoes were soaked. I changed into something dry and relaxed for the rest of the night. I sat in my room and watched the rain pour down from the window. Not the most exciting way to spend my last night in Italy, but it’s what I did.

 

Caio!

IMG_9690I had spent most of my time in Europe in the UK, or the British Isles if you include Ireland. I wanted to spend a week somewhere on the mainland. Some of my family said I should visit Greece, others said I should visit Italy, all agreed I should go somewhere where the weather is warmer. I checked the future weather report for both Greece and Italy and they both were reporting the same type of weather. I tried to ask around to see if I could get a tie breaker. I even asked twitter. No one could tell me Italy or Greece. I flipped a coin. Seriously. And it landed on Italy. After I returned from Ireland, I booked my trip plane to Italy. I booked the rest of my t.rip while in Edinbraugh. It gave me something to look forward to. I was enjoying my time in Scotland, but it was nice to think that in a weeks time I would be enjoying Italy at its 16 degrees celsius sunshine. Plus all the delicious pasta and wine I would be consuming.  As I was flying over Europe, I realized Italy’s primary language wasn’t English. This would be my first time in a country by myself where the primary language wasn’t English. No Wilma the translator with me this time. Navagating the airport was fine, the signs were in both Italian and English. And I know a little bit of Spanish, which has some similarities to Italian, so I was making do. I booked my train ticket, and was on my way to Rome. On the train it dawned on me I forgot to research what kind of plugs Italy uses. I did have a universal plug, which I was pretty sure would work. The English plug on it was loose, but I had aquired a few replacements. I googled the Italian plug, which happens to be an European plug, and I had a converter for it. Crisis adverted. I made it to Rome, and located where my accomidation was, and started walking. Just outside the train station Rome is covered in graffiti, litter, and smells a bit of poo. There are a lot of people hanging about, and I felt a little more self aware walking the streets. Walking around Rome was definitely a bit diffierent compared to Scotland. I kept a better eye on my small backpack, my rather large suitcaste and my surroundings. It was hard not to look like a tourist. Not only did I have all my luggage, but I was boosting long blonde hair and pale skin. I made it to my room and got settled in. The staff was great, very friendly. They told me a few places I could go for some pizza and gelato. I was only staying in Rome one night because I was headed to Florence the following morning. My train to Florence wasn’t until one, so I figured I had time to do one thing in Rome in the morning, and I choose the Colosseum. I speed walked down there, took a few pictures and speed walked back. The sun was out and shinning. I had a long sleeve on but no jacket. As I was speed walking back, I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. I hadn’t sweat with such little clothing on since Africa. I grabbed my luggage and went back to the train station. I could not find the train to Florence on the digital screen. I asked one of the ticket masters and he told me to sit tight for a bit, the train would show up soon. It was about 10 til my train was to leave and I still didn’t see it on the screen. I decided my train must continue on to one of spots listed on the digital board. I matched the train number to the train going to Venice. I had less then 10 minutes to get to the other side of the train station. I made it thanks goodness. I arrived in Florence and once again lugged my suitcase around the cobblestone to my next accomidation. After settling in, I decided to go see David. Not my David haha. Michelangelo’s. I went into the Galleria dell’ Accademia and saw the religious paintings, the various sculptures, and when I turned the corner the mighty David. He stands at about 20 feet tall and is gorgeous. You could spend a good amount of time just staring at his magnificence. I walked a bit more around Florence. I was staying near The Church of Santa Maria or The Duomo which is basically the center of town. Florence doesn’t have the graffitti like Rome. Its a bit cleaner, and more uniform. All the churches have the same marble design, and the roofs are a red tile. It really is a beautiful city. I checked out the market, which is basically a bunch of carts full of stuff for sale. Now that I have packed my bag for home I’m glad that I didn’t buy anything. I was really looking at the purses and the scarves. I walked back to my room when I met a Canadian girl staying at the same place as I. We chatted a bit and decided to go get a drink and some food after checking in. She is from Canada but has been living in Slovenia for the past few years. We walked around Florence for a bit more until decided we were absolutely shattered and it was time to retire for the night. I was running my mud run in less then two weeks time, and decided I should do a bit more running. I woke up early and ran up to Michelangelo Piazza. From there you can see the see the whole city and the view is beautiful. I had moments of sunshine and some overcast. There is a replica statue of David in the piazza. It was about 8:30am when I made it up there, there were a few tour buses up, but I’ve heard that usually the place is crawling with them. So I  made do with the light number of visitors. I had heard of the view from Santa Miniato was just as good, so I ran up there. It was a spectacular view as well, a bit different, but still brillant. I don’t know if I could pick one over the other because they boosted different things. I decided to run back to my room and came across a lovely running path. One I would use again if I was staying longer. I made my way back through town and to my room. There is a giant river that runs though Florence. I spent most time on the Duomo side, but it was nice to get on the other side and cross the Ponte Vecchio which is the most popular bridge in Florence. I had a few churches on my adgenda as well as a few plazzas. My favorite was the outside sculpture muesum. There you saw Donatello’s take on David along with a few other famous statues. I stayed there until the rain came. And when the rain came it fell hard. I rushed inside a church, but I was already soaked. The rain let up a bit and I decided to grab some lunch. One of the server’s at the resturaunt was getting off their shift soon and volunteered to show me a bit around Florence. It is amazing the amount of history the locals retain about their city. I don’t think I could tell you any history about Gridley, and not much more about California. I decided to go on one final walk for my daily gelato which I consumed in the outside sculptor museum. It wasn’t raining, and a lovely evening out in Florence. I had one final full day in Florence. I spent it climbing 900 steps. I climbed both the Duomo and the Bell Tower. I visited the Santa Croce which holds the tombs of Michelangelo, Galelio and Machiavelli to name a few. The rain came again and I was drenched. I made my way back to my room to change for dinner. I was meeting one of Mckenna’s Navy friends who lives in Pisa (about 1 hour from Florence). We ordered a variety of dishes and everything was absolutely delicious. The raviolis were to die for, and I am pretty sure I ate veal. Reason I think is beause the meat was really red, like it looked to be cooked rare, but it didn’t bleed like a regular medium rare steak would. It was also really tender. It’s only a guess that I had veal. Whatever it was, it tasted delicious. After dinner, we walked around a bit and I got another history lesson. Florence has a lot of high end shopping and we laughed at the high priced hideous items for sale in the window. It had been another long day, so Johnny and I said our goodbyes and I went back to my room. My plan for tomorrow was to sleep in as late as possible.

A Blustery Day

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It was a blustery morning when I arrived in Edinburgh. The pilot completed an excellent landing in the winds, and it was also his 30th birthday. I made my way to the tram station and headed to central Edinburgh. I had about a 10 minute walk to the hotel after my drop off point. After walking for a few moments, I was presented with a hill. I treked up the hill with my suitcase (which stands to my hip) as the wind tried to blow us around. I tried to read the map, and saw where I needed to go next. It was another hill. This one steeper, made of cobblestone, the wind was picking up and it was even starting to sprinkle a bit. I kept walking and made it onto a main street. A man was playing the bag pipes. There was a giant old Catherdral. People everywhere. Souvienor shops. And the spectacular Edinburgh Castle. I was in Scotland, and it was beautiful. I continued to follow the directions, but I was lost. I was on an upper street and needed to be on the lower street. I couldn’t understand google maps. I stopped to study the map. It was really howling now, and my 10 minutue walk turned into a 20 minute trek up two large hills in the wind and rain all while lugging my suitcase around. I finally figured out there was a secret staircase that I needed to use to get to the lower street. I lugged my suitcase down the small and dark case. A case being an alleyway for people only. I finally reached a downhill point in my journey. And at the bottom of the hill was my hotel. My room wasn’t quite ready, but that was okay. I had some errands to run. Yep, I was on holiday and running errands. I booked my Highland tour for the following morning and then made my way into town. One of my errands was I wanted to figure out Peru. I went into the STA travel shop and found a program that would work for me. It isn’t quite as long as what I was originally looking for, but I’m okay with that. So basically I booked a volunteer/adventure package. I will work with children and help them gain certain skills so they can succeed in life, and then I will have two side trips. One to Machu Picchu (which was my main goal for Peru) and another to the Amazon. Everything is already planned for me. Where I’m going to stay, what I will be doing each day, plus some scheduled free days. My airport transfer, my two side trips are all organized, and I have a few day trip activities already planned. It’ll be different than what I’m used to but I’m okay with that. I will be with the same people for the entire 20 days, and most of my time with be spent in Cuzco. I’m looking forward to staying in one place for a bit because consistently traveling does get tiresome. Also, I could be more excited for Machu Picchu and the Amazon. One last adventure before it’s back to the real world. The flight was the most difficult to situate. San Francisco had the most options, but not without a long layover. I have about 24 hours of travel on my way there and back. Plus I fly in and out of San Francisco at really bizarre times. No direct route to South America for me. Another cool thought, this will be my 5 continent since I started my travels. Besides Antartcia , I only have Asia left. Settling everything for Peru took a while, but that is okay. The weather was atrocious anyway. My second errand was renewing my mobile phone plan. I officially checked into my hotel and settled down. I walked around a little bit and got some dinner.  I was right next to a few pubs, one being the smallest pub in Scotland. I was also situated next to Scobby’s Cafe which I loved. My tour the next day had an early start, so I wasn’t going to be doing anything crazy.

The Emerald Isle: Back to the Uk

My trip is silly so far. I have gone from USA > UK> Africa> UK>Ireland> UK> Ireland> UK (where I am currently in Scotland). I was driving to Northern Ireland to visit a friend of mine I had met in New Zealand. This would be the second NZ friend I have met in Europe. I now have friends all over the world. Its wicked. It was a long drive to her house

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. And I never went through another town since I left Galway. I was in the middle of nowhere Ireland. There is no border patrol. Didn’t even know I was back in the UK until I tried to pay for my chocolate milk in Euros and the cashier looked at me silly. “Oh..you want a pound.” My friend lives in the middle of nowhere. I drove about a half hour off the main road through farms until Siri said my destination was on the left. I tried calling Rose to let her know I’m nearby because I wasn’t entirely sure which house was her’s. No service. I aimlessy walked around utill I found reception. I had dropped my car off at the fish and chips shop. I was in the right area. Siri told me I had arrived about 30 seconds to late. Rose was impressed. She said she will now tell her other local friends that they have no excuse if they can’t find her house. The American girl found it. She had another friend over (Cardessia…I know I didn’t spell that right). Long story short there was a lady who had been sick. The doctors didn’t really have an answer for her as to why she was sick. Cardessia had a relic of a powerful Saint someone had lent to her. Her and Rose were going to lady’s house to say a few prayers and bless her with the relic. My next observation about Ireland was that it was very religious, but the Irish also like to party and have fun. I had come to that conclusion before I arrived at Rose’s. I hadn’t seen so many catherdrals and churches in such a small area. But I haven’t been to Italy yet. We went to the lady’s house. On our way there we saw a wake was going on at her neighbors. Rose asked the guys standing out front who had passed away, and if they new where house Mcgholin was. They knew. Small town. Frances was a lovely women. Bless her. She made us tea, brought out crackers. We chated for a bit. Turns out she used to take Cardessia’s Granny to mass when she was wee. The girls wanted to make sure I wasn’t feeling uncomfotable. I said not at all. I was getting a local Irish experience I would remember for the rest of my life. Some stories were told. Tales exchanged. We said some prayers and blessed Frances. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but my sister Fraine came to surface and some tears were shed and more prayers were exchanged. God works in mysterious ways. And we all agreed he doesn’t take those who aren’t ready, and have served their time on earth. It’s still tough because she didn’t need to serve long. We went back to Rose’s house and ordered some take out. Since it was Valentine’s Weekend most of the restaurants were fully booked up. Rose and I were going out that night with another friend of her’s named Ciara. I said my goodbyes to Cardessia. We went to a little bit bigger of a town. Kind of like going from Gridley to Chico, expect the big town is Gridley. And Gridley has about one street full of pubs. We drank, we danced, we chated. I had a blast. We got back into Rose’s house late. My drive was shorter the following day, but it had been a long week. I was made a traditional Irish breakfast which was brillant. Rose showed me around a few more highlights in her town which included some cottages, the lake they live near, and the chapel. This is how I know I wasn’t possesed back in Killarney. I walked into the chapel and even spoke with a Father. No spirit would have been able to do that. I said my goodbyes to Rose, but they were only temporary. Turns out she has a friend in Glasgow, and will be visiting her the same time I’m in Glasgow. What are the chances. I drove to Dublin, and walked around. I checked out the Temple District. The whole week I had been listening to Irish radio, and all they talked about was a shooting in Dublin. The gang problem in Dublin. How violence had risen, and the cops were scared of the mob. I was a little hesitant to be walking around Dublin on my own at night, so I made sure to stay in crowded areas. There was an awesome band playing a free show on the street. It started snowing. Lots of couples since it was actual Valentine’s Day. Dublin was okay. I didn’t get to see lots of the usual sights because I ran out of time. That was my last night in Ireland. I made it to the airport. Returned the car okay, and faced no problems coming back into England. Actually I didn’t even go through immigration. Go figure.

The Emerald Isle Night 2-4

075I woke up at a decent time. Showered, had breakfast, explored Cork long enough to get myself a pair of earings and Mckenna her jersey and then went up to Blarney. I parked a bit away,  but I enjoyed the walk. The sun came out for a bit even though the grounds were muddy. I wasn’t sure if there would be a queue to “kiss the stone” so that is where I bolted. No queue, and we actually had to ask another visitor nicely if she would press the button to take the picture of me kissing it. The stone is in a really random location, and you have to go backwards off the edge of the castle and kiss the stone upside down. I’ve now been blessed with the gift of gab. The castle is ancient, and narrow. Unsure how the hefty Winston Churchill made it up that staircase. I explored the castle and its surrounding grounds. I found a witches stone. Apparently she is released from the stone every night. There were a few other superstitious relics around the castle grounds. Something I’ve noticed about the Irish. They are superstitious. I noticed some people walking around with a black dot on their forehead. Oh! It was Ash Wednesday. After lunch in Blarney (where people were having pints, not me, I was driving) I made my way to Killarney. Once again about 1/2 hour before dark. I made dinner and then walked around the town a little bit. Checked out one pub, and then I found out they had a LOTR pub! It was called the Shire. I had to go there! I walked through the Hobbit door to find out I was the only one in the pub who didn’t know the bartender. There were only 3 people in the pub. I drank my Gandolf ale and left. I needed to be up early tomorrow anyway. I woke up bright and early and drove into the National Park. It was really pretty. My first stop was an old abandoned abbey surrounded by a graveyard. My second notice about Ireland is that its creepy. Its haunted. The roof of the abbey was gone, but there was a corrider that went down into the basement. I shined my cellphone light down there, and hell no. There was some sort of spirit down there waiting to posses my body and take over my life. In a roundabout way, I ended up down in the basement anyway. I sprinted through the corrider and up the stairs toward daylight. In case you’re wondering, I haven’t been posssed. I’m pretty positive. And youll see why later on in my trip. I went for a wee walk to the waterfall. I saw some Irish deer. They look weird. The waterfall was cool. Ireland is green. Very green. I decided to drive through the park a little bit more, and thats when I was blessed with the amazing views of the mountains and the lakes. The mountains aren’t very tall in ireland. But it adds variety besides rolling green hills. There are goats, and some mountain sheep. The sheep were in my way of a pictuesque shot and wouldn’t move. Darn sheep. I had a second road trip to comeplete that day, so it was time to leave Killarney and head to Dingle. After lunch I decided to conquer Slea Head Drive. One of the most scenic drives in all of Ireland. And was it. The cliffs aren’t as tall as the Cliffs of Moher (but that is what makes them special) but they were still divine. The sun was out for a bit, so I took proof that sun in Ireland does exist. I was really becoming an expert driver on the left hand side. We will see what happens when I go back to the US. I would probably pullover ever 2 kilometers or so. That might be an exaggeration, but a 35 km route took me 3 hours or so. I did go for a longer walk at the end though. The sites were memorizing. At one point I noticed a large herd of sheep coming at me. They were on the road. This road wasn’t big enough for the two of us. When they got closer I stopped my car so the sheep could go around. They were confused at first, but eventually figured it out. I could see the dog and the farmer behind them. Darn sheep. Always in my way. As I rounded the peninsula, (STAR WARS SPOILER AHEAD) I am pretty sure I saw Luke Skywalker’s island. I know it is off Dingle. Tiny island though. Not much else there except Luke. I went for a good 1/2 hour walk or so, to probably one of my faveorite views. I didn’t realaze Ireland had so much hiking. Killarney had tons, and so did Dingle. Good to know If I return in the summer. I returned to Dingle and checked into my room for the night. I got some dinner. That town was dead. It is purely a summer town. Have the shops were closed for the winter. But luckily I found a pub to serve me beer and food. I had another long day tomorrow. I was headed to Cliffs of Moher and then Galway. The drive to the Cliffs was fine. Long but fine. The Cliffs were breathtaking. I lucked out and got some sun towards the end of my visit. It was really muddy out there. My pants and shoes were fiflty. I laughed at all the girls walking through the mud in heels (just a small heel) or white canvas shoes. You can walk to the edge of the cliff. I couldn’t do it. I had visions that a gust of wind would come and blow me off the edge. No one would know I was missing, until I didn’t return to London in a few days time. The park would wonder why my car was left overnight. They would probably assume quickly that I fell off the edge. But to put two and two together for my family in England to find out that it was my car at the Cliffs and that I probably fell to my death, I thought that might take 5 days or so. I stayed away from the edge to play it safe. And I had heart attacks for the people who would stand on the edge or dangle there feet. I am now curious how many people have died at the Cliffs of Moher. That was my highlight for day 3 in Ireland. I drove to Galway which is probably my favorite city. The city center was cute. I loved the pubs and all the live music. I would of loved to spend more days there. But that was becoming a theme for my trip. As long as I get a different immigration lady, maybe one day I’ll go back. (Might be the only overseas place I can get David to go to anyway) 🙂 I had yet another long day tomorrow. I was driving to Northern Ireland near Belfast. That trip needs an entry of its own.

The Emerald Isle Night 1

023I could see the Emerald Isle from the window. The sky looked blue, everything looked green. I was ready for a week with the Irish. I made made my way to immigration where there was honestly no one in line. It reminded me of New Zealand, and I instantly thought, “I already love this place.” I showed the lady my passport, and I don’t know what it was. Maybe my backpack, my shortness, because I am an American, because I had been to 3 continents since November (which I think is rad by the way). Whatever the reason, the Irish immigration lady did not like me, and she accosted me with questions. “Keelie, when was the last time you were in the US?” “How are you paying for all your travel?” When do you plan on going back to the US? What have you been doing in the UK since January? Where have you been staying in the UK? Oh with family (insert eye roll). What are you doing in Ireland? Where will you be staying? When are you leaving Ireland? “I’m leaving in a week,” I replied. Show me your flight out of Ireland!! I pulled it out. Then she asked how much money I had saved for my trip, and how I earned this money. She begrudgingly stamped my passport and I was allowed entry into Ireland. But at this point I’m now thinking. Do I want to be here? I made my way to the car rental place and agreed to two upgrades. One from manual to automatic, and the other for the insurnace. I was feeling nervous about driving on the left and didn’t want to take any chances. I got on the freeway and was on my way to Cork. I thought I was doing pretty good. GPS was working, and freeway driving is easy. I wasn’t going extremely fast, but I also wasn’t sure what the speed limit was. It was a two lane freeway, and I was crusing in the right lane, which would be our slow lane in the US.  The man behind me kept flashing his lights and putting on his blinker. I panicked. What is wrong with my car. Is something hanging from it? Is it about the explode? What is wrong? Then he got in the left lane and sped up next to me and kept staring. What did I do to piss this guy off? Is he going to run me off the road? What is wrong with my car? He sped off. Then another car came up to me, and this guy sped up, zoomed into my lane and slammed on his brakes. All while he had his left blinker on. Then I remembered a conversation I had with Karen. The right lane is used only for passing. You don’t drive in it. So the entire time there was nothing wrong with my car. These people just wanted me to go back to the left lane. I moved over no probelm. But my driving woes weren’t over yet. I saw a sign for Killkenny. Oh! I love that beer. Lets check it out. Benefits of having a car. So I got off the freeway and went to Killkenny. It ended up being a 50 kilometer detour but oh well. I noticed I kept drifing to the left side of the road. I kept driving over the warning bumps. The road to Killkenny was narrow and had a lot of pot holes on the side. I also kept hitting those. But the extent of my drifting didn’t really kick in until I got into town. The roads were narrow, there were cars coming at me and cars parked on my left. My rearview mirror folded in. I side swiped something. I just don’t know what. And then it happened again. I was mortified. I had only been driving for maybe 2 hours and I already wrecked the car . When I parked in Killkenny I assed the damage. I popped my rear view mirror back out, and my car was dirty. But that was it really. From then on I made a concious effort to hug the center lane. When I was driving through Dublin near the end of my trip, the car in front of me kept hugging the left line, and would actually drift over it slightly sometimes. Rookie left side driver I mumbled. I made it to Cork no problem, and with about 1/2 hour left of daylight. It had been a long first day in Ireland. I made dinner and went to the pub for some Guinness. There was a soccer game on, and the pub filled up quickly. Two pints later I was full, and feeling a slight buzz. I retired for the night. Big day tomorrow. I was going to Blarney Castle and then to Killarney. Let the Irish road trip begin!