Archive | April, 2011

One Year of 100 Miles Highway: 12 Photos – 12 Places

I published my first post on 100 Miles Highway on the 15th of April 2010. Back then, although I had already been living in Switzerland for 7 months, it was the first time I really felt lonely. It was probably when I moved from the honeymoon to frustration in the 4 phases of culture shock. Hoping to escape from this feeling of not belonging in Switzerland, I traveled as often as time (and money) would allow.

One year later, I’m now in the stage of Understanding the country, its culture and traditions. I’m learning french and enjoy my quality time at the lake or in the mountains. I’ve changed. And my blog has changed, too! At the beginning of April, I bought my own domain, moved from Blogger to WordPress and gave 100 Miles Highway a whole makeover. So I don’t think it will mind that we celebrate a late birthday – after all, it already received an early birthday package!

For this occasion, I’ve gathered together my favorite 12 photos of 12 places I’ve visited in the last 12 months. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Sydney, Australia

Mid-May las year, I flew over to the other side of the World. My first stop was Sydney. Although I only stayed for 5 days, the city immediately hit my heart.

Having free champagne and sushi when visiting a small art auction, walking along the coast side watching business people changing their work suits for wetsuits and running off to the beach (and secretly hoping that could someday be me) and feeding kangaroos at Featherdale Wildlife Park are only some of my favorite memories of that short period of time. In less than a week, the city won my heart and obtained the second position in my Top 5 City Ranking (right after Buenos Aires).

New Zealand – North Island

Tongariro, New Zealand

Right after Sydney, we flew over to Auckland. 2 intensive weeks of road tripping from the north to the south were just ahead us! I was fascinated by the country’s geothermal activity, discovered I had the physical health of a couch potato and spent most of my extra cash in Wellington’s thrift shops.

The Roadtrip
Auckland: The Party Animal
Rotorua: New Zealand’s Geothermal Paradise
Tongariro: The Day I realized I was a Couch Potato
Wellington: Impressions

New Zealand – South Island

Glacier Hiking, Franz Joseph, New Zealand

On an early morning, we took the ferry from Wellington to Picton and then slowly drove down to Queenstown. We stopped in Franz Joseph hoping to do a helicopter ride over the glacier, but our adventurous spirit pulled us towards the 3 and a half hours glacier hike. I never thought I’d enjoy ice this much and would do it all over again!

Glacier Hiking in Franz Joseph
Celebrating my 26th birthday in Queenstown
The Glowworm Cave and NZ’s Fiordland

Annecy, France

Annecy, France

Annecy is a little Venice in France, not far away from the swiss border. Besides for being quite crowded during summer time, it’s a beautiful place to walk, eat crêpes and drink french cider.

A day in Annecy, France
In Search of the perfect Crêpe

Lavaux Region, Switzerland

Lavaux Wine Region, Switzerland

I was just celebrating my one year in Switzerland when I discovered the beautiful region of Lavaux and haven’t stopped dreaming of it ever since. Good wine, some cheese, the Alps and the lake – could there be any better combination to spend a warm summer night?

Wine Tasting in Lavaux Region
Last Days of Wine and Sunset

La Habana, Cuba

La Habana, Cuba

In October, my job took me to the timeless city of La Habana. During those two weeks, when I wasn’t working, I walked along its colorful streets, danced to the rhythm of casino (the real cuban salsa) and ate far too many fried banana chips. I love my job.

10 Things you must know about Cuba (Part I)
10 Things you must know about Cuba (Part II)
Havana Nights – The Cuban Way
La Habana Vieja, Cuba

London, UK

London, UK

London is my safe haven – Whenever I feel lonely or just need a change, I know that this city won’t fail. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to London in the last year, but I do know that, the more I walk through its streets admiring its Victorian mansions, the more I fall in love with it.

The Sweetest Corner of London
An Alternative New Year’s Eve – Vaporizers and Corsets
The Day I drank Champagne under a Dinosaur’s Tail
Dining at London’s Oldest Restaurant

Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

La Geria Wine Region, Lanzarote, Spain

I spent Christmas on a neighbor island – Lanzarote, particularly known for its volcanic scenery and good wine (interesting mix, isn’t it?).

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya
The View from Ermita de las Nieves
Bodega Stratvs: Wine Tour
El Charco de los Clicos

Paris, France

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Paris and me. A Love-Hate Story. On a sunny friday afternoon, as I was on my way to the train station and return to Switzerland for the weekend, I finally decided to put my resentment aside and give the city of love a second chance. And then I fell in love again.

The Day I Planned the Unplanned.
I Eat Paris.
Paris Photo Essay (by a frustrated architect)

New York, USA

New York, USA

January 2010, I won the best prize I could ever receive a company’s party: 2 tickets to New York! I invited one of my best friends and we had a great time – despite the big freeze.

Falling Night from the Empire State
NY’s Misunderstood Financial District
5 Things I’ve Learned about NY

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh was one of those impulsive ticket purchases on a really low price (for swiss standards, that is) – and I’m so glad I did! It did rain all the time, but this didn’t stop me of walking its small and enchanted alleys. This is where I discovered that rainy days make out for great pictures!

Extraordinary Colors of Edinburgh

Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)

Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)

Home Sweet Home. I just returned from a relaxing week in what still is one of my favorite places worldwide – How couldn’t it? Its black sand beaches and breathtaking mountain scenery, its fresh fish and good wine, my family and two cats. My one week vacation was just too short…

Lessons I’ve Learned after Hiking in Tenerife

Thanks so much everyone for your support and love! I’m also curious to know about what you would like to see more on my blog. I’m always happy to receive suggestions, so please just drop me a line in the comment box or send me an e-mail!

Misadventures of a Daydreaming Traveler

The following short stories may make you wonder who is foolish enough to ever give me any kind of responsibility, be blind enough to describe as a person with attention to detail and, most particularly, where did all my german gens go (this, I wonder too, some times). But before misjudging me for my stupidity, please bear in mind that although theoretically we all turn into experts the more we repeat the same procedure over and over again, practically, there’s always a higher probability of screwing things up when you start doing the procedures automatically (that is, shutting off your brain).

Me taking 15 to 25 planes a year does make me pack quicker, lighter, and learn what to wear (or not to wear) to quickly go through the security check at airports. But I also automate my steps, leaving a gap for misfortunate adventures when traveling. On the positive side, each of these experiences have taught me a very valuable lesson, and hopefully will avoid you committing the same.

That one little thing.

When travelling, you’ll only need three things: the flight ticket, a credit card and your passport. This little list of essentials may even be reduced to two when you’re carrying an e-ticket, as many companies now offer you getting your ticket from a machine by simple typing in your e-ticket number or scanning your passport. When one of these essentials is missing, then you’re in trouble.

On a friday evening after work, I went home to finish packing and get the train to the nearest airport. I was exhausted but also excited about visiting m friends in London. I packed everything I needed, from toothbrush to socks and ran out to catch the train. I sat down and took a deep breath and carefully ran through my mental packing list. Then I snapped. I couldn’t picture taking my passport with me.

That one time, I wish I had taken the regional train instead of the direct one to the airport. After the 50 minutes ride, I arrived to Geneva Airport already knowing already I had no chance to take the flight that night.

Moral of this Story: It doesn’t really matter if you forgot to pack socks, underwear or a rain coat. You could travel anywhere my just having your passport and a credit card (and your flight ticket, if needed).

Everything was Nice (the French City, not the Adjective).

There was a time, where I really really wanted to learn french and registered for a one month french course for dummies (no offense for other participants) in the beautiful city of Nice, in Côte d’Azur. My flight didn’t go straight from Madrid to Nice, but went through Paris. My flight to Paris was delayed for about 3 hours, and so I missed my flight connection (not good). Me and my zero french knowledge managed to get into one of the first planes the next morning, which departed at 7am.

I was there on time, took a huge latte and sat in front of the gate that was shown on the schedules. I did realize that at some point the boarding time switched from 7:00am to 7:10am. But I was sleepy, and I believed this was just a short delay. Well, it wasn’t.

When it was time for boarding, the flight attendant scanned my ticket and the machine alerted that the ticket was not valid. “Madame”, she said, “this is not your flight, your flight has just departed”. How was this possible? The explanation: Air France has flights from Paris to Nice every 10-15 minutes, and they are all in the same terminal. They changed the gate number for my flight, and substituted this with the next flight to the same destination. They never called out my name (nor did I understand what they were announcing in french). Frustrated, after having missed two flights to Nice, I cried to the ground attendants, who kindly sat me in the next flight without additional (stupidity) costs.

Moral of this story: Don’t just trust a gate by its destination and flight time – Always check (and re-check) the flight number!.

The Trader Syndrome.

A tiny little part of me aims to become a trader. Although in general terms I like to make plans on medium term when it comes to work and life plans, I have a very short-term view when i comes to purchasing flight tickets. I like following flight prices as if tickets were stocks trading on the stock market. I go numb when I see prices drop radically, and my mind immediately sends out “buy” commands in all directions. That’s all good if I actually was a trader. But I’m not.

The consequence of this is me buying return tickets on the wrong days because I didn’t re-check the dates of the flight or even reserving a room in the wrong hotel (being this, a hotel that was listed as one of the Gatwick Airport hotels but actually was 50 pounds in taxi away from it).

Moral of this story: Simple – Check two or three times before purchasing. I know this seems like the easiest one, but frankly, special offers and last-minute deals can make you forget about the importance of this (at least for me).

What about you? Do you have any shameful stories from your travels? I’d love to read about them!

Guest Post: Photo Tour – Puerto Plata: More than All-Inclusive Resorts

I’m happy to introduce my second guest post on 100 Miles Highway today from Lacey, from Perks of being a Jap. Lacey (otherwise known as Lacey Bean) is a sarcastic, funny and slightly spastic 20-something born and raised in NYC. An event planner by day, and social media wannabe by night. Easily amused, and obsessed with the following: Travel, meal planning, baking, crossing items off her life list, her android phone, chasing down food trucks, GLEE!, collecting every hard rock cafe shot glass out there, and rubber duckies.

It’s always been one of my Life List goals to stay at an all inclusive resort. This February, my husband and I were finally able to cross that one off the list, as we headed to Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic.

As much as we love lazing around the beach with a drink in hand, we’re also explorers by nature, and we’d feel horrible if we went to another country and never left the resort! So we made sure to have a few excursions planned, and one of them was a cable car ride up to the top of Mount Isabel de Torres, the nearby mountaintop. The mountain is famous for its gorgeous views of Puerto Plata, the Isabel de Torres nature reserve and also for its replica of Christ the Redeemer. We pulled up to the cable car building, and I was surprised that it looked like any other nondescript office building (I guess they didn’t put any money into making it “Disney-fied” for the tourists). The ascent to the top takes 10 minutes. And once you get high enough, the scenery, as promised, is breathtaking.



And while the Dominican version of Christ the Redeemer is half the size of the original, it’s still a pretty impressive structure once you’ve reached the top, and are staring at it from the base.

We took some time at the top, walking around the conservatory, listening to our guide tell semi-lewd jokes (they seriously LOVE their risqué jokes there!) and then took the cable car back down to the bottom. Then were off to explore downtown Puerto Plata – or explore it as much as our tour would safely allow. We visited quite a few sights and stores, but only a few worth mentioning, like the cigar factory, and the main square of Puerto Plata. The cigar factory was really just a shop, but it was really cool to go inside and see all the dried tobacco leaves hanging from the ceiling, and hear about the cigars. Also funny that Dave and I were the only ones to raise our hands when the owner asked who smoked cigars! (Yes, I’ve grown to love them since trying my first on our honeymoon.) Dave also got to roll his own cigar to take home.

One last stop before heading back to the resort was the main square of Puerto Plata. As they were getting ready for their Independence Day, the square was decorated with masks and streamers.

There was also a gorgeous church right there, that had some amazing stained glass windows that I couldn’t help taking photos of. The craftsmanship was just stunning.


What a lot of people may not realize is that parts of the Dominican Republic were affected by the earthquake that affected Haiti too. While it wasn’t nearly as bad, there was some damage, including in this church! You can’t see anything now, save for a crack or two in the ceiling. In the end, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the all inclusive resort… but I’m so glad that we left the reservation, and actually experienced the beauty that Puerto Plata had to offer.

I hope you enjoyed Lacey’s guest post, and don’t forget to go over to Perks of being a J.A.P. and check out what else she’s got to offer! You can also follow her on Facebook and on Twitter!

Photo Essay: For The Love of Tulips

I didn’t know much about Morges. Despite it was only a 10 minutes train ride away from home, I had only been once walking along its promenade and admiring its impressive mansions, *sigh*. As in any other swiss village with a population of around 15.000, you may believe that it goes unnoticed. But that’s not the case for Morges.

Every now and then, the village turns into Switzerland’s spotlight – specially for wine lovers and flower enthusiasts. This is the case of the current 6-weeks festival held in Morges – Fête de la Tulipe (Tulip Festival).

Every year, since 1971, Morges greets spring with more than 100.000 tulips of 300 different species. This flower lake decorates the Parc de l’Indépendance, located right next to Lac Léman.




Fête de la Tulipe Morges 2011

This picture selection is probably one of the hardest decision I’ve taken in the last week and no means is this a final selection (I just had to post a few in a large size, to give this post a Photo Essay feeling!). However, note that I’ve added a new feature on the top of my blog, Gallery. Whenever I feel like sharing more pictures than I could fit in a photo essay, I’ll be adding them in a separate album onto this section. I took more than a hundred pictures in the Fête de la Tulipe, out of which I’ve created my favorite selection.

Check out the Gallery! – Which is your favorite tulip?

Five Things I Miss About Spain

If you’ve noticed that little widget there, right there, on the right side of this page, called Upcoming Trips, you may have realized what I’m talking about. Switzerland is beautiful – but dang do I miss Spain! And herewith I do not only mean the obvious – family, friends and tapas- but also, some things I never thought I’d miss, until I moved to Switzerland.

Let me warn you that, my list by far does not end after these 5 points. But it’s Friday’s 5, not Friday’s 20 – so I created this top selection.

  • Noise. Let me explain. Obviously, I do not miss the noise caused by neighborhood reforms starting at 8am. Neither do I miss the noise of cars hooting in Madrid’s traffic jams. I miss people talking in public transports, people laughing out loud in a restaurant. Neighbors having friends over for a dinner that lasts until 2am on a thursday. Does this make any sense?
  • Eating Out Late. I know it’s not supposed to be healthy, and I wouldn’t usually start having dinner at midnight. But to be true, going out for dinner was a ritual: we used to meet at 8:30 or 9:00pm for a drink, waited until 9:39pm for everyone to arrive, walked to the restaurant and started ordering at 10pm. No hurries. No waiter telling you to please pay now because they’re closing. No lights out (this happened to me – true story). About a year ago, I had a ticket to Madrid and was supposed to arrive at 9:30pm. We made a reservation at a quite posh restaurant, where we got the semi-private room for ourselves. My plane was delayed, for more than two hours. My friends waited for me. Although they were occupying their main table without even having dinner, they were treated correctly. When I arrived at the restaurant – past midnight – they served us the full menu, without any pressure or hurry. In Switzerland, most of the restaurants will close the kitchen at 9:30pm and kick you out at 11:00pm latest. Seriously – having the possibility to eat out late is priceless.
  • Shoe Shopping. Ruling out the typical Zara / H&M, Switzerland has 2 kind of shoe shops: the practical all-year-round shoes used to climb up its steep streets or ride your bike to the supermarket; and the kind of shoes I’d love to have in my shoe cabinet, but could only buy if I accepted to sell my kidney. Spain, in contrast, has stylish shoes made of good quality leather for just a fraction of what you would pay in Switzerland. I really want to go shoe shopping in Spain – and this is one of the (many) reasons I’m going to Madrid.
  • Partying until dawn. No matter what time of the night (or day) it was, there was always one more bar you could move on to. You only go home once you realize you can’t keep your eyes open anymore, and fall asleep while dancing (I have the ability of falling asleep in the strangest places).
  • Lazy Sundays. This last year has changed me – I hardly can stay still for one day. Each weekend I try to balance shopping, hiking, visiting the neighborhood, socializing, exercising, reading a book, learning french and blogging. Sure, some of these activities are less active than others – but they still require me to be awake. Although I like the new explorer me – I miss spending my sundays doing nothing else but lying on the grass, or in a hammock, listening to music or taking a nap. If I had to go out of my home on a sunday, be sure it would be to do something related to food, drinks and/or sun. Everything else was just not worth the effort.

What about you? What is it that you miss (or missed) most from your home country?

Picture This: Setting Sails on Lac Léman

Ouchy, Lausanne (Switzerland) – April 2011

I was born in a family of lucrative sailors, who dropped their anchor in the Canary Islands already many years ago. I grew up admiring pictures of my family sailing the Atlantic. I spent many weekends on a sailing boat with my best friend from school and her parents. I was invited to America’s Cup in Valencia, back in 2006. And now live watching little boats sail out each afternoon to enjoy the last rays of sun set behind the mountains.

Dear Universe: Are you trying to tell me something?

Photo Essay: One View, Three Countries

View of the Alps from Vevey, Vaud

Although I’m a beach person, I confess there’s something that fascinates me about mountains. They’re dramatic, uneven and somewhat mysterious. The view on the Alps and Lac Leman is the main reason for choosing the apartment I’m currently living in – I can spend hours hypnotized staring at the high peaks covered with snow during the day, and fall asleep watching the sparking lights of little french villages reflecting on the lake every night.

I’ve rarely visited the Alps. Weather had been playing against most ski and snowboard enthusiasts this winter, and, besides, it’s not an easy task to arrive there from where I live without the privileges of having a car. But last week we made an exception – skies were clear, temperatures were mild and we drove our way toward the Pennine Alps (in canton Valais).

Starting in Siviez (which belongs to Nendaz, the land of bisses), we took a chairlift and two cable cars and enjoyed watching some of the scariest ski pistes I had ever seen (not sure if they were officially “pistes”, people were probably just going off-piste).

Chairlift ride to Mont Fort


View from the Cable Car to Mont Fort

Once we reached the top of Mont Fort, with its 3,329m height, view was breathtaking – we could see some of the highest peaks in Switzerland, Italy and France!

View from the top of Mont Fort


View from the top of Mont Fort

In theory, we could have also had a glance of Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in the Alps and western Europe, rising 4,810m above sea level – but clouds were hanging below this level, hiding away the peak of the mountain.

View from the Top of Mont Fort, towards Mont Blanc

What I was most impressed about (besides for the extremely steep and uneven ski slopes) was that from one peak (Mont Fort), which does not even belong to the highest ones in Europe, I could look over to Italy, France and Switzerland. The Matterhorn is on the border between Switzerland and Italy, Grand Combin and Dent Blanche both are located in Switzerland and Mont Blanc is on the border between France and Italy.

With *only* 3,329m hight, Mont Fort already felt like the top of Europe.

In Search of The Perfect Crêpe

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Cheese & Spinach Crêpe, Crêperie La Chandeleur, Lausanne (Switzerland)

One and a half years of life in the french speaking side of Switzerland have taught me a lot of things – most of them on food, and concretely on cheese (but you already know about that). Anyone living in this country develops his / her sense for tasty food – you really can’t get around it. And what’s tasty and french, besides for cheese? Crêpes!

Back in Spain, crêpes were sweet treats that I would only order in very limited occasions. I still remember ordering a crêpe filled with dulce de leche and topped with vanilla ice cream in an argentinian lounge bar in Madrid. Three minutes walk from my faculty, free wifi, comfortable armchairs, air conditioning and those delicious crêpes with dulce de leche made this place my favorite spot for preparing group presentations.

But just when I thought that crêpes couldn’t get any better, I moved to Switzerland. Here, people don’t leave crêpes for special occasions (or in my case, stressful occasions), but include them in their healthy day-by-day. And so, I’ve discovered my love for salty crêpes.

Crêpe with cheese, ham, egg and spinach, Crêperie du Chateau, Annecy (France)

Salty crêpes in Switzerland are very thin and crunchy, and often made of wholemeal flour. I’ve seen cooks adding some light beer to the batter (you can’t really taste the beer afterwards – I wouldn’t even know about it if I hadn’t seen it). The fillings can be anything from ricotta, spinach & parsley (one of my favorites) to salmon, onions and mushrooms, which is precisely what I like most about them – their large list of possible fillings! I couldn’t choose only one favorite combination, but can assure that any thin crunchy crêpe filled with spinach and fresh cheese is already in my top list, and adding mushrooms, lard and/or fresh parsley can make it even better.

Whatever you finally decide on the filling – enjoy it with a cup of cider, the french way!

French Cider in Annecy

Which is your favorite crêpe filling? Have you tried making them at home?

My Four Phases of Culture Shock in Switzerland

I’ve been an expat for one and a half years now, and had never before sat down to clear my thoughts and feelings on living in Switzerland. It’s not my first time abroad. However, it’s the first time that I left my country without knowing when I’d be going back. I didn’t care about not knowing one single soul in the whole country, nor did I care about my lack of french knowledge. I hardly blinked when it came to leave the comfortable familiarity behind and dive into the unknown. I was going to conquer the World (or at least, Switzerland).

The truth is – culture shock hit me deeper than I thought. It’s not only about learning how to copy with different social norms – i.e. learning where to park my bike and where not to (something I unfortunately learned the hard way). Culture shock continues long after becoming familiar with my new life.

Honeymoon

View of the Terraces - Lavaux, Switzerland

The Honeymoon phase is full of excitement and euphoria. You feel you can grab the World in your hands and do whatever you want. Every day is a new adventure – new faces, a different restaurant, a hidden shop, a cute small side street with boulangeries selling the best baguette you have ever tried. The public transport is reliable, the city is peaceful, clean and safe and people are kind and respectful.

You smile while you walk. Life is good. Actually, scratch that – life is amazing. You are so glad you chose to move and can’t imagine life any other way.

Frustration

Vevey, Switzerland

The shine starts to fade away. You realize that there are actually less than 5 bars where you can go to – either because of the crowds or because of the prices. It’s the fourth time you try asking for a glass of water with your coffee and you receive an arrogant look from the waiter. Maybe even a clueless arrogant look. You’re grammatical mistakes bothers them, and having to repeat the same word 10 times upsets you, too. You go to a hairdresser and come out with a messy cut (that doesn’t resemble a tiny bit what you initially had in mind) and realize that this trend disaster has left you completely broke.

At this point, you start to get familiar with the disadvantages of living abroad. You feel alone and misunderstood, disillusioned, frustrated and angry. Why did you ever even think this move would be a good idea?

Understanding

Water Fountain, Lausanne (Switzerland)

After a while, things start to look brighter – you are adjusting to your new home country. Those things that used to annoy you, are now small and insignificant. You start to see the advantages of having an early start on Saturdays and venture into new activities you never thought you enjoy before. You have set a routine and feel comfortable with it.

You understand the cultural differences with your home country and are learning how to deal with them.

Biculturalism

Sunset in Lausanne (Switzerland)

Although I have adopted some local habits and am adjusting to the new culture, I still don’t feel that I belong here – I feel like a foreigner. I guess the main reason for this is my ridiculous lack of french skills. I truly need to work on that! I envy those that have become bicultural – they are aware of where they came from but have fully embraced swiss culture. They never feel out-of-place.

This phase that takes a lot of understanding and an open mind.

Note: At the point of writing this post, I was in living in Switzerland experiencing the third phase – Understanding. Five months later, I was transferred to London. I have fond memories of living in Switzerland and hope to move back again in the future. Maybe this means that I finally did reach biculturalism – despite my french!