Songkran water festival in Thailand is just one month away!

 

Check out my feature on how to survive Songkran – one of the world’s craziest parties.

I wrote this one for Jetstar Asia inflight magazine for all those people heading to the festival and in need of travel hacks to make sure they have the most bodacious time ever! 🙂 Go to the feature by clicking below.

Click here

The German felsenmeer – it’s rock climbing but not as you know it..

It was a sunny day so my boyfriend Mario suggested we go climbing on rocks…
I thought he was getting confused with his English (being German) so I said “Don’t you mean rock climbing?”
It turned out that he actually meant what he said. We spent a bright morning climbing and scrambling over rocks at a felsenmeer, in the town of Reichenbach, which is something of a geological wonder.

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I mean look at all of those rocks! Where did they come from?

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Without going into a full blown geology lesson I can tell you that no one put them there and that their existence is the result of a type of weathering that happens when water gets into rock and turns into ice, thus expanding and breaking up the rock. Some people however will tell you that two giants had a fight and started chucking boulders at each other and kept on going until they created the “sea of rocks”, which is what felsenmeer actually means in German.

If you live in the southern hemisphere and you are going to travel to the north going to hang out at a felsenmeer is something you should try because these rock formations only exist in the northern part of the world and mostly in places like Iceland.

This one has boulders as big as trucks to trek over but if you don’t fancy climbing there is a woodland path that trails alongside.

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I would describe this felsenmeer as a play park created by mother nature –  pretty cool non?

We decided to climb from the bottom to the top for more of a challenge. Mario hopped from one rock to another without a care in the world. He can get to the top within an hour.

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I, on the other hand, was like a Bambi – all shaky legged and not knowing where to put my feet. It takes me twice as long to conquer the felsenmeer on a good day. I wouldn’t even attempt it if the weather is wet and the rocks are super slippery. Having said that, neither would Mario.

Good thing is there is a snack bar at the bottom and a restaurant at the top! We had no idea about the opening times of them so we took a picnic.

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It turned out to be a pretty awesome day and cheap too. It was a two hour drive from Frankfurt on the A5 in the direction of Darmstadt and Mannheim. We got off towards Reichenbach. Parking was just two euros and there was no charge to get in. I can’t wait to go back and give it another go 🙂

How to eat fresh and local in Gran Canaria – the foodie adventure!

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We have been having some seriously good eats in Gran Canaria!

I am a total foodie and so far the restaurant offerings on the island are yet to impress me. It is so hard to get away from flavourless dishes, ‘tourist food’ and meals that go ‘ping’. Yes, it’s true there are restaurants out here that think people want to eat out on microwave meals! The easiest way to spot these bad boys is to check that there is actually a kitchen. If there is a menu and no kitchen…well you know what is going on.

Our most memorable food adventures have come from exploring the markets and the harbour.

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Our favourite place to get fresh fruit and vegetables is San Mateo Farmers Market in the north of the island. It is open on the weekends from 7am to 7pm, on Saturday, and 7am to 2pm, on Sunday.

Gran Canaria’s  main products include tomatoes, bananas and aloe vera. So get hold of these when you see them because the quality is top notch.

We stocked up on sweet peppers, oranges, carrots, sugar apples, avocados, onions, lemons, pears, pomegranates, courgettes, strawberries, spices, fresh herbs, Lanzarote wine, cakes and cheese. The prices are cheaper than in the more touristy areas. The stalls all have different prices so it’s worth shopping around. Also there are lots of cheeses so try before you buy.

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Next stop was to Arguineguin. There is small fish store at the port that sells the catches of the day until 3pm. The variety changes depending on the haul but the quality is always great. Here, we found red snapper, shark, squid, salmon, tuna, sardines and many others selections of fish, which we had no idea what they were because of the language barrier and our lack of knowledge about fish. There was a poster on the wall labelling the fish in Spanish…

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The harbour is a working place. Fishermen sort out their equipment and engineers work on boats. There is a eating place next door but, like I said, I am yet to be impressed by Gran Canaria’s restaurants.

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So back home and stocked up with the best of Gran Canaria’s produce we cooked like our lives depended on it! Lol!

We fried the fish one morning. It’s a big smelly job. Dip the fish in spiced flour first and then fry. Simples. Those fish were great steamed over onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes (see above).

The paella was a lot more complicated. We found a recipe online and adjusted it to our tastes and it came out a treat.

I keep saying we, but I was merely sous chef and my boyfriend Mario was head chef.

 

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And then came a wonderful tapas meal. We made a salsa, guacamole, grilled courgettes, spiced shrimp, fish, bitter peppers and served it with the wine from Lanzarote.

Everyone was in the kitchen for this one, chopping, frying and seasoning under the direction of the lovely Mario. It was a fun-filled evening that ended with great eating!

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I got it wrong, you don’t have to be rich to relocate for the winter

Hi guys. It has been a while, but trust me I have been finding out how to make life into the ultimate adventure. Not just once in a while, but everyday. Here’s the latest..

I used to think that popping off long-term to a sunnier place when the winter months became too much was a privilege of the rich but I was wrong, it’s something anyone can do if you are prepared to change your life.

This is my new life.

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I came to Gran Canaria for a month to see if it was really possible to live the dream and be a digital nomad. The temperatures back in Germany were heading towards freezing and having spent the last three years of my life living and working in Thailand, it just felt too cold. So I had to do something about it. It was time to pack up the ‘office’ and change location, but could I really do it on the cheap?

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One thing living in Thailand taught me was that there is a growing number of people working at the beach, by the pool or soaking up the sun in some other wonderful place. It was a discovery that changed me and made me change my life. Who says I have to go to the office, deal with the commute and put up with the humdrum? When I left Thailand I came back to Europe knowing whatever my next career move was going to be, it was going to be online. For me, teaching English online and writing was an obvious choice.

When winter came all I knew was I needed some sunshine and some heat so I Googled the cheapest hottest place in Europe and Gran Canaria was my answer. Flights were 100 GBP so all I had to do was find a base. I used ihacom.co.uk to book an apartment, near to the famous sand dunes of Maspalomas, direct with the owner. My mother, stepfather and boyfriend all wanted to go so we paid 300GBP a head for the apartment for five weeks.

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I wanted to be able to work with good internet connection and then go for a stroll on the beach or swim. Mum needed conveniences and my boyfriend Mario wanted to find some good surfing spots so we ended up in the tourist area. It is easy to rent a car for about 150GBP for the week. When you take into account taxi and bus prices this is the most cost effective option for a group of people.

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Internet connection in apartments are notoriously slow because they are often shared among a lot of flats so I had to invest in renting a mobile wifi modem. I used a company called Traveler Canaries Smart, who delivered the fast wifi connection to me at the airport. A representative was waiting for me as soon as I got off the plane. He signed me in and I was connected. It cost 100 euros for the biggest package.

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So here I am, working and exploring the island. It has amazing mountains and these stunning sand dunes. It doesn’t have the glamour of a tropical country but it has what I need within my budget. Let’s see how the next few weeks turn out…

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So you think you can ride a bicycle?

This post includes top tips to make your bike ride go smoothly

Of course I can ride a bike!

Like most people I learnt to ride a bicycle when I was about four years old. I rode a bike with no wheels, a bike with three wheels, a bike with  two wheels and two additional stabalising wheels and eventually a bike with just two wheels. After that I rode a Barbie bike, a BMX bike, a foldable bike and a bike with a basket on the front and then when I hit puberty I decided high heels and taxis were cooler and didn’t ride again until well into my twenties. Does this sound familiar?

So now I’m (ahem) in my thirties, I love going for a bike ride and I always thought I knew what I was doing until recently.

It all started with my boyfriend who is a well seasoned cyclist and has been taking me in the direction of mountains and for increasingly longer distances.

Today he presented me with padded pants and padded leggins (or pussy protectors as I have nicknamed them). He said from now on it’s function over fashion!

There was an unprecedented amount of padding bunched up between my thighs! I felt like I was wearing a nappy 🙁

Once I got going I realised my pussy protectors were like seat cushions!

This was not the only thing I learnt about cycling so I have compiled a list for anyone else who thinks they can cycle but could do with a few tips…

The top cycling tips I learnt today:

  • Check your bike for debris in the chain, air in the tyres and clean brakes. Also make sure the bolts are not loose.
  • Take a backpack and don’t wrap your tops or jackets around your waist because it can be dangerous if they come loose and wrap around the wheel.
  • Place the ball of your foot on the pedals and make sure all of your foot is on so that none of your energy is wasted.
  • peddleAdjust your bottom off of the seat whenever you can to prevent aches and pains.
  • In fact, change position frequently. It’s so much more comfortable.
  • Be loose. Don’t hunch your shoulders and don’t grip too tight as you will stress out your muscles.
  • Play with your gears on clear empty straights. This is a great way of getting the hang of what they do.
  • Use a high gear for downward slopes and on-road riding and use a low gear for upward slopes.
  • When riding down a steep bumpy hill, brake to slow down, stand on the pedals, lean your bum back and hold the seat between your thighs. This will put weight at the back and stop you from flipping forward.
  • Another tip for those downward hills is to keep your legs and arms slightly bent while standing on the pedals. This will help absorb those bumps.
  • Don’t ever slam on both brakes. Instead go for the back brakes first and do it lightly on and off.
  • If you cannot ride up a steep hill. Get off the bike and wheel it up. Don’t stay on and try and walk it up as the front wheel could pop up and send you falling backwards.
  • Cross the road in a low gear to ensure you have good speed.

So there you are. If you have any more tips feel free to post them in the comment box and don’t forget to follow this blog to join me on my adventures.

See you on the next adventure!

5 cheap things to do in Vinci, Italy

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci.

One: Go wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio vineyard.

We didn’t know we had a good thing, when it came to drinking wine in Vinci, until we left.

Look at me enjoying that bargain wine! It was a moment of innocence when we wandered into Doccia al Poggio vineyard, which is located next to the camper parking place we stayed at. We had no idea it was going to be the cheapest wine-buying experience of the whole trip.

The lowest price red was 2.50 euros, there were a few other reds at 3.50 euros, Chianti at 6 euros and the priciest bottle was a dessert wine at 12.50 euros. In comparison to the entry price of about 15 euros for a bottle of wine in the Chianti region, this was the holy grail: this was paying what the locals’ pay.

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2. Dinner for two for under 10 euros at La Monna Lisa.

At 5pm locals, construction workers, mums and children and students, queue at this pizzeria to get their dinner. It was the only place with a buzz in the small village so we decided to eat there and we were so glad we did. We bought some decent slices of capriccosia, salami and margherita pizzas ranging from 1.50 to 1.80 euros each. What topped it off nicely was the local vino rossi at 4 euros a bottle and the pretty outdoor seating surrounded by aromatic herb boxes.

The museum is a pretty cool day out

The museum is a pretty cool day out

3. Visit The Leonardo da Vinci Museum – it’s a full day out for 10 euros!

When it comes to museums and art galleries, Tuscany has them at every corner. Some are awesome and keep you amused for days while others are small, poky and leave you feeling totally unsatisfied after you get to fumble around for 15 minutes and realise there isn’t not much to it. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci sits in the middle of these types.

I loved it because it has so many places to visit, the museum itself, an art exhibition in the Church of Santa Croce, Conti Guidi Castle and also Leonardo’s birthplace, which is 3km away.

This means, for the 10-euro cover charge, you can make a day of it by first going to the museum, castle and church, in the centre of Vinci, and after that take a picnic and cycle or hike up to the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci.

We walked around the exhibitions, which included real models of designs by the great inventor, and then we went on the challenging cycle up the hill and through the olive groves to his home where we were rewarded with a movie that helped us really get to know Leonardo da Vinci and, as it was 6pm, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset after.

Mario loved the Vinci countryside

Mario loved the Vinci countryside

4. Explore the countryside.

Vinci is a scenic town (actually it’s officialy a city) that is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards and has remained more or less the same as it was when Leonardo da Vinci grew up here. This means it is awesome for mountain biking. It has steep hills that will get your heart racing – going both up and down them – and amazing views. We took the track, which directs tourists to Leonardo da Vinci’s birthplace, and came across The Hill Of Art sculpture park, mysterious abandoned farmhouses and plenty of fruit trees along the way.

We found a place to park the mobile home for free

We found a place to park the mobile home for free

5. Stay for free in your mobile home.

The last thing you want to do after paying for petrol to travel to and around Tuscany in a mobile home is also pay for camping. Some camping places can cost as much as a hotel room (50 euros) so our aim was to find free camper parking all the way.

Area Comunale Via Girolamo Calvi 50059 Vinci (GPS N 43.78088,  E 10.92857) is one of those places that costs nothing to park and has all the facilities we needed – waste water and chemical toilet discharge and fresh water – for free. To make it really special it has gorgeous views of the countryside.

Wine tasting at Doccia al Poggio in Vinci, Italy.

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There are so many wine tasting tours around Tuscany, I wanted to go where the locals go so while in the small town of Vinci (where Leonardo Da Vinci was born) we popped into the local wine and olive farm, Doccia al Poggio, which is directed by Celeste Policicchio.
Celeste wasn’t around but his young sons were at hand to pour us some generous measures of everything they had to offer. They had little English and I had about five words of Italian but we got on well. They even happily posed for some pictures!
Steeped in history, the farm was the property of Count Mesetti, who was a nobleman and pioneer of racing cars.
Today the Policicchio family produce six wines. A white Bianci di Toscana, a Chianti, a Tuscany red, a rose and a dessert wine.
I tried four (it was Sep 22 and they had already sold out of two wines and all of their olive oil).
The white had delicious scents of honey and a fruity warm taste. A great one for slurping with a cheese and fruit feast or casually.
The Chianti had good character and the other red was less impressive but good by all means.
The dessert wine was actually one of the finest I have tasted.
We took some white, Chianti and red bottles.
The prices range from 2.50 euros (for the cheapest wine that was sold out) to the most expensive (dessert wine) at 12.50 euros.
We spent 16 euros on four bottles.