Island Hopping: From The Balearics to The Canaries

We hadn’t even been back in Palma for 2 weeks before we were packing up to head out on another adventure. This time though, to a place a little bit warmer than the alps of Switzerland. The beautiful Canary Islands! Specifically the island of Gran Canaria.

This was one of the longer trips to take since the Canaries are a little over 3 hours from Barcelona by plane. One wouldn’t even think of them as Spanish islands since they are 62 miles from Morocco at the closest point. I didn’t know what to really expect or how different they might be from Mallorca but I sure was excited to sit (and eventually burn) in that 70 degree sunshine.

While flying over, I kept peering through the window on our three hour journey to see various little islands that seemed too small to be inhabited. Then as the sun began to set a larger island appeared. From above, Gran Canaria looked like the middle was strictly filled with mountains and all the population lived along the coast.

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We stayed at a nice hostel in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria. Lucky for us our 8 bed room only had one other person in it during the stay. First time I’ve stayed in a hostel and actually gotten good sleep! Our plans were simple, two days of beach and relaxation and one to either hike or explore another part of the island.

After a well needed rest we ventured for the beach of and some breakfast at a cute little cafe called “The Couple”. It filled us up perfectly to then spend the rest of the day lounging. We were at a beach called “Playa de Las Canteras”. The weather was perfect once the clouds cleared and the beaches were filled with tourists and locals. It was significantly cleaner than Palma beach… probably because the weather was nicer so more people are drawn to the beach. We spent the entire day there and our poor skin paid for it. A sunburn from my head to my waist made me realize I wasn’t as invincible as I thought to the sunny rays. After resting a bit and getting ready to hit the town we soon realized we were one of very few out and about. Maybe we didn’t know where the “hot” spots were or maybe it was just too early but Las Palmas resembled a ghost town. Our second failed attempt at going out at night landed us right back in the hostel, ready for another day of relaxation.

Rather similar to the first day, we started our day again at “The Couple”, even after living abroad for a few months I still can’t give up my stereotypical American breakfast. Unfortunately this day wasn’t as beautiful as the first and clouds blocked the sun intermittently throughout the day. Even with the few moments of cold breezes it was still a beautiful day at the beach. Forgetting how much the sun can take energy from you we went back to the hostel early and with the help of Glovo, didn’t have to leave until the next morning.

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The last day, having spent quite a long time sitting and relaxing we decided to rent a car and drive the island. Our goal was to go all around the coast and into the mountains to a popular hiking spot called “Roque Nublo”. We started at the Las Palmas Airport and made our way to Maspalomas, a widely recommended spot. Little did we know there were the Maspalomas Dunes, which made us feel as if we made a quick journey to Egypt. The beach though, was too far to walk to through all the sand but hey we got some great pics!

Next up was a town called Puerto Rico and no, I’m not talking about the country. It was even more touristy than Las Palmas with populated beaches, hotels on cliffs overlooking the ocean and a large shopping center that resembled Coney Island. We made a quick trip to Subway and an even shorter trip to the ocean.

After, we started to make our way up and BOY was it an interesting drive to get to the top of the mountains. This was my first time driving in Europe and there were no markings on the roads to differentiate between cars coming and going. Add in some expert cyclists to the mix and you’ve knocked quite a few years off of my life due to all the anxiety. The roads were windy but the view was stunning. As we climbed our way up the mountain the temperature began to drop. In Puerto Rico it was around 22 celsius (about 71 degrees) and by the time we got to the top of Roque Nublo it was a mere 7 celsius (44 degrees)! The sunshine turned into dark clouds and heavy fog making my heart race even faster than those cyclists on the road.

We finally began to make our way back down to the coast into a town called Agaete. It’s crazy to think we saw a majority of the island in our 7 hours on the road. We took our final pictures knowing that we had a flight to catch.

The Canaries resembled parts of Mallorca but had it’s own style and unique way of life. It felt quite a bit more touristy than Palma but then again tourist season hasn’t started here yet. Now that I’ve visited one, I surely added the others to my bucket list! Hopefully next time though I won’t forget the sunscreen!

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In just a few more days we will begin our spring break travels. To Milan, Athens, Sofia and Amsterdam we go! Until next time.

 

To Switzerland, France, Italy and Back Again.

Ever since I had studied abroad at 16 I dreamed of going skiing in the Swiss alps. The dream was finally going to come true when we purchased our tickets to fly into Geneva, Switzerland and drive to Zermatt. Unfortunately, Zermatt is not exactly priced for teachers in Spain so we decided to venture into the beautiful town of Aosta, Italy.

Our trip had quite an interesting start to it. We arrived at the airport as we normally do for our 8:30 am flight, only to find out it had been delayed due to weather until 12:30 pm. After a few hours of waiting and way too many trips to the customer service desk our flight was eventually cancelled. We opted to take the hotel and free transportation option from EasyJet even though we are all residents here… Upon arriving at our hotel we found out that not only was it a highly ranked hotel but it was all-inclusive. Our food for the entire day was free and an open bar was simply 15 euros. It turned the whole cancellation ordeal around quite fast.

The next morning, we were able to take our 8:30 am rescheduled flight and after circling the air for quite some time (as the airport was still closed) we landed with a small delay around 12:30pm. We picked up the rental cars, grabbed some snacks and we were well on our way to the beautiful alps. The drive was even more stunning than one could imagine, huge mountains covered with snow and small towns lit up brightly at night. It felt strange to arrive in Switzerland and then drive to France to finally end up in Italy.  The 25 degree temperature was quite different to the 65 degrees that we left in Palma. After our long travel day we were all tired and went right to bed so we could begin our first day of skiing.

(Outside our Airbnb, and our new little pupper friend)

We woke up early and ready to ski/snowboard. I was pretty excited as it had been about a year since the last time I skied. Once we arrived to Pila Ski Resort I quickly saw why so many people adored the alps. With each ski lift we took the view got even more beautiful. We were a group with a mixture of skiers, snowboarders, beginners and intermediate so it was fun to see everyone try a totally new sport.

Our Airbnb was situated about 15 minutes from the slopes which made it easy to access. The town however, was 30 minutes down the mountain so we spent most of our time skiing, or warming up in the cabin. It was a cute spot with no wifi or reception which made a cell phone free trip. We made small dinners and large breakfast’s to help us stay fueled for our long days on the mountain. We did get to try a small bit of Italian food for lunch which brought me back to 16 eating loads of pasta and other carbs.

Due to the cancellation, half of our group was departing on Monday and the rest on Tuesday. In order to get the first half back to their flight on time we needed to drive them back to the Geneva airport, which allowed us even more time to see the beautiful alps. It also included a brief trip to the UN! Something I wanted to see after knowing we were flying into Geneva. After a late return into Aosta we got ready for a good night’s rest to enjoy our final day of exploring.

Our last day we had planned to go visit Zermatt but we weren’t quite prepared for distance to get there and it was extremely cloudy which wouldn’t allow us to see the Matterhorn. We decided to keep exploring through different towns on our way back to the airport. We stopped in Cervinia, Italy and Charmonix, France before arriving back in Geneva. In Cervinia we got some pretty great Italian pizza (unfortunately no pictures to prove it). In Charmonix it was a cute little French ski town with a million foreigners (again, apparently I got tired of taking photos). We tried taking our time getting back to Geneva knowing that our bed for the night was the oh-so-comfortable airport seats. Through all the travel and disruptions we certainly learned what to do for next time and I’m already wanting to plan another ski trip!