January 29, 2018
My Experience Traveling Solo

My Experience Traveling Solo

January 29, 2018
teacher outfit travel tommy hilfiger dot skirt catedral leon españa
Until I met my husband I did most of my traveling solo. I've been to the US, UK, Ireland, Belgium and Brazil on my own. You see, traveling with people is difficult for me. Even with close friends, it's not the same to go out for dinner as spending a few days together 24/7. BFFs clash too, you can disagree on things that are really important to me such as:
  • Time to wake up and set off. Some people like to sleep until noon, I like to make the most of my day.
  • Things to see. You may be interested in museums but your bestie finds them boring.
  • Places to eat/stay. Not everyone earns the same amount of money or likes spending a lot on these things. A nice hotel and good food are important for me.
teacher outfit travel tommy hilfiger dot skirt catedral leon españa
teacher outfit travel tommy hilfiger dot skirt catedral leon españa girl traveling solo
Of course, I understand there are ways to reach an agreement and there are many times in life when you have to give in. However, when you are traveling you are on a tight schedule, so you may not have time to see lots of things. That's why I'm inflexible when it comes to traveling.

Fortunately, my husband and I agree on those 3 points which was quite a relief when we started dating. He does ask to see a sports stadium but I also need him to be patient when I'm shopping so that's our agreement.
teacher outfit travel tommy hilfiger dot skirt catedral leon españa
girl traveling solo compass
art architecture arte arquitectura leon españa spain arco ojival
catedral leon españa cathedral spain
Apart from the freedom, I believe that traveling solo gives you time for contemplation and personal growth. It forces you to be a problem solver and it changes your view of the world opening your mind like nothing else does.

Surely, all that glitters is not gold. There were times when I felt lonely and I wished I had someone by my side. At those times it's good to talk with locals, join tours or stay at a hostels where you'll find more people in the same situation.

When I tell people about my experience traveling solo I hear things like...

"YOU ARE BRAVE"
I don't consider myself to be brave, I don't like taking risks and I have a hard time with things I can't control. I love watching planes fly, but I hate being in them. However, I do consider myself a determined person, when I really want something, nothing gets in my way. Not being afraid of flying, not being on my own, nothing. My mind completely changes when I'm traveling. I'm so passionate about it that I feel safe and at ease when I'm abroad. It's like exploring new places feels natural to me.

"OH POOR YOU"
Some people seem to be sorry for me because "you poor thing had to travel alone". They couldn't be more wrong. It's my decision to do this and I really recommend doing it at least once in your life.
teacher outfit travel tommy hilfiger dot skirt
teacher outfit travel tommy hilfiger dot skirt
catedral leon españa cathedral spain
A few quick tips for the solo traveler:
  • Is it safe? I've never ever had a problem as a solo traveler, however not all destinations are equal. Choosing an organized tour is better for places that aren't considered so safe.
  • Plan your itinerary and do some research: can you drink tap water? will my chargers work?
  • Choose the right luggage. Check that you are able to carry that weight.
  • Take a little first aid kit with you that includes band aids, ibuprofen and oral saline solution.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member at home.
  • If you want to have your photo taken, ask someone with a DSLR. Not only will the photo be good, but it's also less likely that they will run away with your camera.
If you are going to travel alone for the first time or want to reminisce about past experiences, I suggest you read Eat, Pray, Love the best-selling solo travel memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Have you ever traveled solo? Are you considering doing it?
xo Cristina

OUTFIT DETAILS
Tommy Hilfiger Skirt

ESSENTIALS FOR THE SOLO TRAVELER


cathedral leon spain girl traveling solo
January 22, 2018
The Australia Series: Honeymooners at Uluru

The Australia Series: Honeymooners at Uluru

January 22, 2018
uluru australia outback honeymoon
Our adventure in the Australian outback started with an early flight from Cairns to Ayers Rock. We had a package breakfast at the airport as we usually did whenever we had to leave at the crack of dawn. It may sound silly but it became a little thing with a big meaning. We won't forget those carton boxes full of goodies! When we got to Ayers Rock airport a bus (there are free shuttle buses for all flights) took us to our hotel: Desert Gardens. 

Can you spot Uluru through the window of the plane?
uluru australia outback
DAY 1
After unpacking we had lunch at the Mangata Bristro which was in our hotel. We hadn't chosen any of our accommodation before the trip but most of the places where we stayed were really good. Desert Gardens was our favorite from the whole trip. Next, we explored the surroundings. Desert Gardens is located in a service village called Yulara. Lying just outside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (20km from Uluru and 53km from Kata Tjuta) this is the closest base for exploring the park so that's where most tourists stay. We checked out the other hotels, the town square and went as far as Imalung, a vantage point from which you can see Uluru. When the sun started to set we went back to the hotel. We had to get a good rest because we had another early wake up call the following day.
uluru australia outback desert gardens hotel mangata bistro restaurant
uluru australia outback desert gardens hotel mangata bistro restaurant
uluru australia outback desert gardens hotel mangata bistro restaurant
uluru australia outback desert gardens hotel
uluru australia outback desert gardens hotel
uluru australia outback desert gardens hotel
DAY 2
Raise and shine! 
It was still dark outside when the SEIT van picked us up. SEIT is the tour company that was taking us to see the national park. The tour was divided in two parts: first Kata-Tjuta and later in the day Uluru. First of all, we saw the sun rise next to Uluru from a viewpoint, at -1ºC we were freezing but the spectacular views made it worthwhile. Then, they had arranged an amazing picnic breakfast before starting to explore the Kata-Tjuta. Those warm drinks and toast with butter were a blessing! 
Kata Tjuta (which means 'many heads') is a striking group of domed rocks with deep valley and steep-sided gorges in between. It may be less known than Uluru but we found it even more impressive.uluru australia outback kata-tjuta
uluru australia outback kata-tjuta breakfast picnic
After that they dropped us back at the hotel where we had lunch and a very much needed Spanish "siesta" before they picked us up again. This time to see the crown Jewel: Uluru. The guide told us amazing stories about the place and the Aboriginal people. It is hard to believe that they used to live there! For those who are not familiar with Uluru, let me tell you a few interesting facts:

  • This large sandstone rock changes color during the day, depending on how the sun shines on it. Sometimes it looks brown. At dawn and at dusk, it looks red.
  • Uluru is the Aboriginal name for this rock. It is also called Ayers Rock, after Sir Henry Ayers. Explorer William Gosse gave it this name when he discovered it in 1873.
  • The rock was created over 600 million years ago. The Aborigines have lived there for 10,000 years.
  • The Aborigines consider Uluru a sacred place. People are not allowed to climb it. There are even some areas where you can't take photos.

uluru australia outback
Our day ended in the best possible way: with a glass of champagne, watching the sun set and the different colors of the magnificent Uluru. The tour guide took us back before it was completely dark, I wish we had been able to stay longer because this is one of the best places to star gaze in the world.uluru australia sunset champagne picnic
uluru australia sunset vintage van
uluru australia sunset
USEFUL INFO
  • Temperature varies a lot during the day. We were there in August and the minimum was -1ºC and maximum was 18ºC so it's important to wear layers.
  • Carry a bottle of water and wear sunscreen no matter the time of the year.
  • Wear dark sneakers because of the terracotta colored soil. It's easy to clean though.
  • Buses: apart from the free airport buses, there's a free shuttle bus that loops through the resort, it stops at all accommodation points and the shopping centre every 15 minutes.
  • Town Square at Yulara: here you'll find many services like supermarket, bank, post office, souvenir shops, restaurants... It's a great place to hang out because there are some activities taking place during the day. We got to see a local playing didgeridoo which was so cool!
  • Our favorite shop was Mulgara Gallery where you can find a wide range of quality, handmade Australian arts and crafts such as textiles, paintings and crafty Indigenous knick-knacks. This is the place where I got my Aboriginal art scarf.
  • There are so many flies at Uluru! They even sell postcards with jokes about it. You have to be careful not to let them in your hotel room because they are like bungalows at ground level so bugs easily get in. I even saw one on our flight to Sydney.

xo Cristina

OUTBACK ESSENTIALS


English corner for ESL learners
outback - remote and usually uninhabited inland areas of Australia
crack of dawn - very early in the morning

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uluru australia

January 15, 2018
You can Stay in a Castle in Spain, Here's How

You can Stay in a Castle in Spain, Here's How

January 15, 2018
winter travel outfit parka castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
Have you ever wondered how Eleanor of Aquitaine or Isabella of Castile lived? Or maybe you are a fan of King Arthur and Guinevere? Whatever the case may be, we've all thought about what life was like back in Medieval times. Fortunately, there are some remnants left in a condition good enough to even stay. This is the case of this castle/hotel in Sigüenza. It is part of the Spanish hotel chain Paradores, which refurbishes historic buildings and turns them into hotels. Last week I told you all about this town which is a hidden gem in central Spain, today I'm going to spill the details on where we stayed. Let's take a walk around it.
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
winter travel outfit parka pom-pom snow boots castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
The facade and walls of this place are breathtaking. It almost seems impossible that this could be built with the few resources available at that time. The decor inside mixes Medieval elements with modern art work.
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
This little chapel left us speechless. Seeing it from the top we felt transported back in the day and expected to see Medieval aristocracy coming in any minute.
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa cafeteria
The hotel let's you come in and visit some areas like the courtyard, restaurant and cafeteria even if you are not a guest. So if you are just visiting for the day be sure to pop in and grab a bite.
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa cafeteria
Here I found my dream living-room. In this stately room you can sit on one of the sofas and read your book, play a board game or grab one of the art books laying around and you'll feel like home.
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
Since the weather outside was frightful (pun intended, it was during the Christmas holidays), we knew we were going to spend a lot of time in, but it wasn't a problem. On our first evening there, we visited every single corner of the castle discovering the most beautiful places. Then, we took refuge in the cozy bedroom and heard the wind and rain outside.
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa habitacion room
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa fachada exterior facade
castillo parador sigüenza castle spain españa fachada exterior facade
What do you think of the castle? What's the most peculiar place where you've stayed?
xo Cristina

STAY WARM

English corner for ESL learners
whatever the case may be - sea como sea
pop in - enter/go in
grab a bite - to get something to eat (tomar/comer algo)
pun - word game
January 8, 2018
Sigüenza, a Historic Town in Guadalajara

Sigüenza, a Historic Town in Guadalajara

January 8, 2018
sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
Sigüenza is a little town with a big history. Sigüenza is a city in Guadalajara, central Spain. It’s known for its centuries-old architecture, including an imposing Medieval Castle where you can spend the night. It's a wonderful place to breath Spanish history. Let me show you around.
catedral sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
THINGS TO DO
Wander around the cobbled streets and shop some craftsmanship at the picturesque shops around town.

Stay at El Castillo (the Castle). The main street of Sigüenza heads south up the hill from the cathedral to the castle, which was originally built by the Romans and was, a Moorish fortress, royal palace, asylum and army barracks. It was partially destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and subsequently rebuilt  as a Parador (hotel). Even if you are not a guest, you are welcome to wander in and use the cafeteria, restaurant and other general areas, which overlook a beautiful courtyard.

We only spent one night here because Sigüenza is a place that can be seen in one day. It's a great stop if you are taking a tour around Spain or as a 1-day visit if your are based in Madrid. If you are coming from the capital of Spain you can take the Medieval train. Troubadours, stilt-walkers and jugglers all climb on board this peculiar train. Throughout the trip, you can enjoy medieval entertainment, sample sweets and pastries (info here).
sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
Take a guided tour of the cathedral. It started as a Romanesque piece in 1130 and continued to expand over the following 4 centuries. It has elements from Gothic, Plateresque, Renaissance and even Mudejar style making it one of the most beautiful and impressive cathedrals I've ever seen. The church was heavily damaged during the civil war, but was subsequently rebuilt. The tour walks you through the cloister, shows you a masterpiece by El Greco, takes you into the breathtaking Sacristía de las Cabezas -with a ceiling adorned with hundreds of sculpted heads- and lets you see a magnificent collection of tapestry. The icing on the cake is the is the Capilla Mayor, home of the reclining marble statue of Don Martín Vázquez de Arce (the statue is named El Doncel), who died at 25 fighting the Muslims in the final stages of the Reconquista.

I just love walking around historic places and imagining what life was like at the time. Just like in the Pillars of the Earth.
catedral sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
catedral sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
catedral sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
castillo castle sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
Be sure to bundle up if you visit Sigüenza in winter. Apart from the famous landmarks, this place is also well-known for being one of the coldest places in Spain. 

Next Monday I'll give you a tour around El Castillo. It was a great experience and we got to tick the "sleep in a castle" box in our bucket list!
xo Cristinapaisaje sigüenza guadalajara spain españa
GET THE LOOK

English corner 
stilt-walker - zancudo
juggler - malabarista
the icing on the cake - something that makes a good situation even better (la guinda del pastel)