Powering Through: Popayán Day 4

*Disclaimer: Though this post is being written during the COVID 19 crisis, this trip was taken in 2019. I’m merely taking advantage of having time now to post about my adventures. Please read and enjoy being able to travel vicariously while in the safety of your own home!

So this was without a doubt one of my worst days of travel ever.

I’ll go ahead and mention right now that I have rheumatoid arthritis, which essentially means my immune system is very confused and attacks my body rather than the proper things it should attack like germs. As a result I have to take medication that suppresses my immune system to make sure I don’t end up with permanent damage to my body. So, unfortunately that means I am much more likely to get sick.

Before going on my trip I had consulted a travel medicine doctor. All my immunizations were updated, and I was given some antibiotics and anti-Malaria medication (more to come on that). I’d recommend seeing one of these specialists if you plan to travel to places like Colombia, but I just wanted to point out that my experience won’t be everyone’s because I unfortunately just am not as strong as some people.

Needless to say, I turned in early the day before and was sick most of the night. Thankfully I took my antibiotics and by the next morning was feeling a little better, though still not at my best.

Anyhow, just thought I’d point out that travel comes with risks, and illness is unfortunately one of them. Just do your research and be prepared. But if the worst happens, just ride through it. My memories of Colombia are good overall, in spite of these minor hiccups.

I woke up in Salento after a very rough night of being sick. Thankfully, after having my antiobiotics I was feeling a little better so I had some breakfast. My mom opted to stay at the hotel and rest as she too wasn’t feeling well and my dad, brother, and I went off to a little valley where we had seen signs mentioning that there were Tapir in the area.

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Sadly we didn’t see any animals, but it was beautiful and sunny. We enjoyed some time out in nature before heading back to pick up my mom and check out of the hotel.

Unfortunately, I started to feel worse again as we took off. My brother kindly let me take the passenger seat so I could recline. I took a good two hour nap feeling feverish again.

We stopped to pickup some snacks from lunch at a convenience store and then continued.

Before too long we arrived in Popayán. We checked into our hotel Casa la Plazuela which was in a beautiful old colonial home with a courtyard.

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I went ahead and took a nap while my family went out to explore the town. I went ahead and put some of their pictures in here so you can see the beauty of Popayán, also known as The White City.

I was able to get out of bed for dinner. Unfortunately yet again I didn’t write down the name of the restaurant, probably because I was still not feeling great. I had some shrimp and rice, hoping the rice might help settle my stomach at least.

Thankfully I was feeling well enough to take a quick walk around the main square and get to enjoy a little of the beauty of the town before heading back to bed.

Journey Through the Andes: Salento Day 3

* Disclaimer: This post was written during the COVID-19 pandemic due to having time to do so, however the trip itself took place in 2019.

So anyone who really knows me is aware I have a bit of a coffee problem. I absolutely love it. I have it pretty much every day, and I love trying new types and going to new local shops when I find them. So, needless to say, being in Colombia I had to spend some time exploring the coffee region. Thankfully my dad was able to arrange our trip so that we had some time to head through the coffee region on our route.

We started our morning in Ibagué where we’d stayed the night to split up our travel time. Our hotel, The Sonesta, had a lovely buffet breakfast that we enjoyed before hitting the road.

That road was in fact a one lane steep windy drive through the mountains. Part way along we came to a dead stop and ended up waiting for maybe an hour. We never did quite figure out why… whether it was construction or an accident or something else. Thankfully it was beautiful where we were and we enjoyed some butterflies and nice views, as well as a funny dog who came car to car to beg for food.

Finally the traffic cleared and we continued our drive. We struggled to pass trucks going up hill, making our drive slower than we’d anticipated. Thankfully once we got to the peak and started heading down it got a little easier.

We eventually arrived at Finca el Ocaso, a local coffee farm that offered tours. We caught the one o’clock tour with no problems.

Our guide, Daniel led us around the plantation, showing us the whole process of coffee making, from growing the plants all the way to roasting and brewing. We picked some coffee cherries and then wandered the rest of the farm. My brother and I especially loved the farm dog, Emilio, who followed us all over as we took the tour.

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We finished up the tour getting to try a cup of coffee, which was delicious. That was just a traditional blend, so my brother voted to also go to the cafe and buy a cup of the 300 coffee, which goes through a greater fermentation process and sounded interesting.

After finishing the tour and our coffee, we bought a few bags to take home and then headed to our hotel. It was actually a hostel called Coffee Tree Hostel. Initially they had mixed up our reservation and put us in a dorm room, which was a bit strange, but thankfully they were able to correct it and gave us our two private rooms with some beautiful views of the valley.

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We rested a bit, all pretty tired from the long day before deciding to head out for aw alk in an area called the Cocoro Valley. Not only is this a beautiful natural landscape, but it features a lot of Wax Palms, a beautiful tall variety of palm tree that only grows natively in the Andes of Peru and Colombia. They can grow up to 45 m (148 ft) and sometimes even taller.

We wandered through the valley for a while, enjoying the beauty of the palms and snapping lots of pictures.

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After our walk we went to grab dinner in Salento. It looks like for some reason I didn’t write down our restaurant from that night, but some of that might have to do with the fact that I was beginning to feel somewhat sick and was only able to stomach some spaghetti and bread rather than anything more adventurous.

Then off to bed for me, while my brother and dad headed out for a night walk. I was excited for another fun day ahead, not yet realizing that my travel experience was going to get just a little bit more interesting.

Out of the City: Bogotá to Ibagué Day 2

* Disclaimer, this trip was taken in 2019. Due to the current COVID 19 situation I have extra time on my hands and therefore want to blog about it now.

The family and I woke in Bogotá and had another delicious breakfast at Casa Platypus, our lovely hotel.

We then set out to climb Monserrate Sanctuary, a beautiful mountain with a church on the top and gorgeous views of the city.

Monserrate was surprisingly crowded for a Monday. We rode the funicular up the mountain and then explored a little up top before deciding to walk down. It was a steep climb, and some of the paths were pretty slippery. I ended up falling on my butt once or twice, amazed as I saw an older Colombian man lap us twice while jogging up and down. It was definitely an adventure. We learned later that day from our cab driver that it was Ascension Day, and therefore a holiday, hence why people were out enjoying the good weather and visiting the church.

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Having made our way back to the bottom, we headed back to our hotel, grabbing a picnic lunch on the way. We packed our bags, and then caught a cab to the airport where we picked up our rental car.

From there, we simply worked on making our way out of the city, which was quite the adventure. I’ve ridden my fair share on European roads, but this was a whole new type of crazy. Motorcycles everywhere. Pedestrians and people selling things just heading straight into the road without a second thought. Stray dogs. And so much traffic.

Once we’d finally gotten out of Bogotá, my dad headed for a waterfall he thought might be fun to check out. The day was sunny and beautiful, so it seemed like a great idea.

However, as we got closer, a fog suddenly appeared. As we drove down into a valley, it made the road barely visible in front of us.

On top of that, as it was still Ascension Day and therefore a holiday, the road was extremely crowded, and we saw nowhere to park. Unfortunately we had to give up on seeing the waterfall and turn around. Once we were out of the valley the fog completely disappeared.

After a few hours on the road we came to the town of Ibagué where we would be staying for the night. Our ultimate goal was to get down into the coffee territory, but it was a little too much of a drive for one day.

We checked into the Sonesta, a lovely hotel with a beautiful view over the city and nearby mountains. After enjoying some refreshing drinks and settling into rest in our rooms, we headed out to grab some dinner.

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We had dinner at a restaurant called Deregio. Most of the people there appeared to be locals, made clear especially by a number of birthday celebrations going on.

For food I had chicken in mushroom sauce as well as a cherry lemonade. The family had various other dishes that I had a few bites of and very much enjoyed. Then for dessert, the family split a cake with Nutella and amaretto, and a fluffy pastry with caramel, ice cream, and berries. Everything tasted delicious.

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Completely full we headed back to the hotel where we went up to the roof to enjoy the infinity pool overlooking the city. My brother and I also hit up the Turkish steam room, though my father thought it was pretty funny considering we would soon be in some really hot and humid areas. Nonetheless it felt amazing and was just what was needed after a long day of walking, driving, and having more amazing adventures.

Stay tuned for future Colombian posts and let me know if you have any questions.

 

A Colombian Adventure: Bogotá Day 1

So with the continued Coronavirus quarantine, I have a little more time on my hands. Therefore, I decided it might be a great chance to write about some past adventures that didn’t make it on the blog due to lack of time with work and everything else going on.

First up it’s my South American adventure! Join me in my 2019 trip to Colombia. I hope maybe it’ll be a chance for some of you to vicariously and virtually explore a little more of the world while you’re stuck inside.

You’ll probably notice most of my posts on the blog feature Europe as a travel destination, and also often highlight solo trips. While I have mostly spent my time in Europe, I am always looking for opportunities to expand my horizons beyond that familiar continent. I also, love traveling by myself, but in some places it’s just a little more comforting to have people with me. Which is why when my family offered to do a Colombian expedition together, I jumped at the chance.

Now, I know for some it seems a bit odd that a woman in her late twenties still takes family vacations with her parents and younger brother. I’ve had people who just can’t seem to understand it, but my family has always been pretty tight knit and as I haven’t started one of my own yet, I still can enjoy going places with them. It also really helps that my dad speaks pretty much fluent Spanish and French, is a great driver who is willing to go places in a car I would never dare to try driving, and also just has a knack for finding fun places, restaurants, and experiences.

So, with that introduction to the facts that this vacation was: in the past (before quarantine), with my family, and a little different from my usual travel experiences, let’s get this adventure on the road.

We started our adventure in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia nestled in the Andes in the middle of the country. Many who go to Colombia stick with the coast (understandable as it is gorgeous and less of a hassle to reach in some ways), but our family was determined to see as much of the country as we could.

We had spent all day the day before traveling, flying down to Bogotá from the States and got in late. So after a good night’s sleep, we rose the next morning at our hotel called Casa Platypus and got ready to start our day.

The hotel was really fun! It was in a more historic neighborhood, and housed in this beautiful old restored building. They served us breakfast, starting off with a tropical fruit, which I believe was a granadilla, a sort of passion fruit variety. It was not my favorite, but it was very fun to try something I had never seen in my home country. Otherwise the rest was more Americanized fair like waffles, eggs, bread, and coffee.

After a filling breakfast, we set off for our first destination of the day, admiring the city as we went. Bogotá is not all that historic (at least in comparison with some of the European cities we’ve visited), but still beautiful in its own way. We especially loved the fountains running through the street, almost canal like in the way they weaved down the hill. We also saw a lot of amazing street art, which made the city very colorful and unique. You’ll see plenty more photos of that to come.

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Our first destination of the day was the Gold Museum. This is actually pretty much the largest collection of gold artifacts in the world, making it one of the more impressive museums in the country. As I walked among the various gold jewelry and other amazing crafts, I definitely had some understanding of why the conquistadors were so eager to find El Dorado. There is definitely beauty in this precious metal, and I enjoyed getting to see the culture of these people the settlers mostly wiped out in their greed.

Not everything was gold, of course. One of my favorite pieces showed a jaguar eating a man’s head (see below).

After exploring the collection for a while, we finally felt we’d seen enough and headed out into the beautiful sunshine. The clouds were clearing.

We wandered over to another museum, this one completely free. This was the Botero museum. Fernando Botero was an artist who had a very distinctive style. Rather than embarrassing myself by trying to elaborate, I’ll just share my photos here so you can see for yourself. It’s not really my favorite type of art, but it was interesting, and the museum itself was beautiful.

My family traditionally has a picnic lunch on most of our travels, and then has a larger evening meal at the end of the day. It helps us stay budget, and also keep a fast pace during the middle part of the day when we want to do our most exploring. I tend to follow this practice in my own individual travels as well.

So we grabbed some food from a nearby grocery store. We ended up with this weird fruity cornbread, which none of us really liked, but was definitely unique, and some chips, fruit, and soft drinks.

After all of that, we joined up with a free walking tour. As always, you’ll hear my plug for these. They are one of my favorite things to do while traveling, and I’ve really never had any I thought were bad. Since the guides rely completely on tips to make their income, they usually do a pretty great job in giving insight into the various city attractions, country culture, and other trivia you might find useful.

We saw a lot of amazing street art on the tour, as well as some fun historic sites.

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We also got to stop at a coffee shop where we tried chicha, a fermented corn and cane sugar drink, and chucula, a hot drink of ground up corn, beans and spices–sort of like a weird chai.

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After finishing up the tour, we decided it was time to get some dinner. We ended up at a barbecue place our guide had recommended. I had veal with potatoes, corn bread, plantains, and also a delicious coconut drink. I’m a huge coconut fan, so I was glad to get to enjoy having it in one of its native habitats.

We finished up eating and went back to our hotel to rest a bit. All of us were pretty tired after such a busy day. We did go out later to grab some ice cream at a supermarket and wander a little bit more, but eventually returned to get some good rest in order to be ready for another big day ahead.

One Last Day in Budapest: Adventure Day 12

Well I’ve reached the end of the road, and so has this series of blog posts. It was quite the adventure, but like all good things it had to come to an end.

I began my morning in Budapest with some breakfast at my hotel. The breakfast room had a beautiful view of the Parliament Building, which was amazing.

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After breakfast, it was time for the one thing in Budapest I’d actually booked. A ticket to one of the Turkish Baths.

For any who aren’t aware, Budapest has natural thermal waters and as a result the city has multiple baths and spas that allow you to enjoy these hot springs.

The last time I was in Budapest I went to Szechenyi Baths which was amazing, but I’d also seen some pictures of the Gellert Baths, and decided with a second trip it would be fun to try those as well and compare.

So with my booking in hand I packed a day bag with a swimsuit, some water, flip flops, etc. and headed off to walk to the Gellert Spa.

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I arrived and headed in to check in at the front desk. I received my wristband which would get me into the entrance and then connect to my cabin to allow me to get in and out. Cabins were only slightly more than a locker, so I definitely wanted that for the comfort of changing and storing my things.

And then I headed off to experience the baths in all their glory.

I’ll let my pictures do most of the talking. The beautiful historic decorations were very enjoyable, and the water felt amazing. I took a few photos before locking my phone back away, and just carrying my rented towel and a bottle of water around (important to stay hydrated in the heat).

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I spent maybe two or three hours enjoying the various pools, and the multiple saunas and steam rooms. Due to it being March, the outdoor wave pool was closed, but the small heated outdoor one was open at least. I also didn’t know the large swimming pool (the one with all the columns) required a cap to be in it, so I wasn’t able to experience that. But otherwise I enjoyed the whole place and made the most of my time there.

All in all I’d have to say if you want to pick one Spa, Szechenyi is probably a little better. They have more pools, and their outdoor area is incredible, and I believe open year round. However, Gellert is still beautiful and definitely is a good experience. Without anything to compare it to, I’d say it’s pretty amazing in its own right.

I turned my towel back in and headed out. I enjoyed the beautiful entrance area and took a few pictures before heading off.

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It was getting a little bit stormy, unfortunately, so I headed across the river to the Great Market Hall. It’s an indoor market selling a large variety of different foods, produce, and goods.

I wandered a bit, glad to be out of the rain. After some window shopping, I headed to the basement of the market where there was a grocery store. The food stalls were all pretty crowded, so I opted to just pick up some grocery store pastries and a drink. By the time I came out, the bad weather had mostly passed so I sat in a nearby square and ate.

After that I headed off to explore the castle district. I started by wandering the Fisherman’s Bastion, which was free. I thought about going into Matthias Church, but it was getting close to closing time by the time I got up there, so I opted to skip it, and decided to head over to the Budapest History Museum in Buda Castle.

 

The museum was decent. Not anything extraordinary, but fun and a good way to spend some time.

After I was done there I walked back around the castle, enjoying the views as the sun set.

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With the sun going down, I decided it was time to get some food. It was still pretty early, but being a Friday night, I figured getting there a little early couldn’t hurt. On top of that I had a 6:30 AM flight to catch the next morning, so I headed off to find food.

I ended up at a place called Kacsa Restaurant. I was the first one there, and also felt pretty under-dressed. But I went for it anyways since the reviews of the food were good.

My first course was a pastry with duck in it. It was amazing! Second course was a stuffed cabbage, which maybe wasn’t exactly my normal type of dish, but was something that sounded traditional and different. And then finished off with another traditional dessert. They also had live music with a violinist and pianist playing. It was a great way to end my trip.

I grabbed a tram back to bottom of the big hill my hotel was on and then caught a bus up to the top. From there it was just packing up and getting ready for another big day of travel.

I thankfully got back to the States with no problem, even with the travel restrictions in place. The good thing about it was the planes were relatively empty so I had lots of space to spread out. And after a full day of flying I arrived safely at home sweet home.

The timing of my trip really was pretty incredible. Less than a week after I was back, things pretty much completely locked down. I’m so glad I was able to experience the beauty of such amazing places as Croatia, Slovenia, and Budapest. It was a really incredible vacation.

With all this time on my hands with the quarantine I might write about some older trips on here as well. Please feel free to subscribe, comment, like, etc. And hopefully there will be more adventures to share with you in the future.

Off to Budapest: Adventure Day 11

So if you read my last post, you’ll know I had some changes to my travel plans, meaning most of my time in Zagreb was lost. However, all that meant was I was getting on the road earlier, ready to head off to my next destination: Budapest.

I’d actually been there before, but I found decent tickets flying home and honestly loved my time there before. I also felt like, the last time I was there, I was overwhelmed and didn’t get to see as much as I wanted. So, I was determined to go there a second time. To read about my first adventure in Budapest see this post. 

I took off early from Zagreb. I had to miss breakfast at my hostel, but I figured early was better than late, especially since the borders had been so congested the day before.

On the bus it was mostly the same old thing. Enjoying views of the Croatian countryside and listening to audiobooks. Until we arrived at the Hungarian border,

Thankfully, there were hardly any other people there, so I was hoping we might get through faster.

However, this time they collected our passports to take them to be scanned, then handed them back one by one and as we went to get on the bus they took our temperature. Nothing like a spontaneous temperature check to get you sweating.

Thankfully, I wasn’t running a fever (and as I’m writing this nearly a month after can confirm I didn’t have Covid 19). So I was allowed to enter the bus and take my seat again. Only one person was held back, but I guess they double checked his temperature and it was fine so he was eventually allowed to take his seat.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and soon I was pulling into to the bus station in Budapest. From there it was just a quick tram ride and then a long climb up a hill to my hotel, mostly ending up taking stairs since I neglected to properly read directions.

I was staying at a bed and breakfast called Budavar Pension, right next to Fisherman’s Bastion, a famous landmark on the hill. I thought it would be fun to stay on the Buda side of the river since my first time I’d stayed on the Pest side (for those who don’t know they were originally two separate towns on opposite sides of the Danube).

After checking in at my hotel and dropping my luggage, I opted to head to the Hungarian parliament building and see if I could get a tour. I booked quickly online to ensure my spot before heading in that direction. On my walk over, I enjoyed some of the views of the Danube and the bridges there and then meandered towards the parliament building, enjoying the sunshine.

For any who love beautiful architecture, I highly recommend seeing this amazing building. It’s huge and ornate, and the tour was very fun.

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After that I wandered over to Margaret Island, a park in the middle of the Danube. It was very busy, but still a fun excursion.

Then it was back to the hotel to clean up for dinner. I especially enjoyed the view from my window as the lights of the Fisherman’s Bastion turned on.

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I decided to go to Paris Budapest, a French Hungarian fusion restaurant. It sounded different and wasn’t too far of a walk from my hotel, just down the large hill and right across the river.

The lighting was a little strange, so apologies for the not so great pictures, but nonetheless here is what I can tell you about my meal. I started off with a beet soup, supposedly using local and seasonal products. I love beets, so I enjoyed it pretty well. For my second course I had the duck, which is another of my favorite foods I don’t get much in the United States. And to finish off I had some kind of a caramel nut dessert. I had asked for a different one but the waiter talked me out of it. Regardless the meal was delicious and I enjoyed it.

Finished with my meal, I took back off for my hotel. I walked up the large hill and stopped at the Fisherman’s Bastion to enjoy the view of the city. And then it was off to my hotel to get a good night’s sleep. I had one more day left in Europe and was determined to enjoy it.

Retreat to the Mountains & Lake Bled: Adventure Day 9

When doing “would you rather” questions you sometimes hear “would you rather visit the beach or the mountains?” I’ve always been torn on that question. Sure, the beach can be beautiful and amazing, but there’s something fun about escaping into the wilderness of the mountains (and to be honest as an Idaho girl I’m more used to it anyways). One of the beauties of my recent adventure was getting to see a variety of different landscapes in a short amount of time. And sure enough I made it to both the beach and the mountains.

After finishing my time in Ljubljana, I opted to head into the Julian Alps and stay a night at Lake Bled. With more time and a car I might have enjoyed getting to explore more in the area, but with limited time and relying on public transport, I opted to just hit the highlights.

If you’re like me and had never heard of Lake Bled before now, let me just mention it’s a beautiful lakeside town in the Julian Alps with one of the oldest castles in Slovenia and an island with a pilgrimage church surrounded by a crystalline lake. It sounded like the perfect place to visit while in Slovenia.

I rose and had breakfast at my hotel in Ljubljana before walking to the bus station. It was another 30 minute walk, but again the weather was good, and I figured I’d use the money I would otherwise spend on a cab on something fun elsewhere.

At the station I found my bus heading up to the lake. The bus was relatively empty, the ride only about an hour. I enjoyed the views driving before arriving in the town.

My hotel graciously let me check in on arrival around eleven AM. I had opted to stay at another bed and breakfast in the Old Parish House, located right next to the church of St. Martin. I’d splurged for a lakeside view from my room just for fun.

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After dropping my things, I decided I’d like to make sure I got out to the island first thing. I walked around the lake, enjoying some views and then headed down to an electric boat that could take me out to the island. You can rent little rowboats, usually more in summer, but this seemed efficient, warmer, and simpler (especially by myself).

The man running the boat dropped me and one other person, telling us he’d be back in an hour. I headed up the steps to the bell tower and church. I headed into the church of the Assumption of Mary first where I was able to ring the bell of wishes. It was pretty amazing, getting to tug on the big rope three times and then hear the bell ring out above me. Sadly as a solo traveler I couldn’t get a picture or video of me doing it very easily, but still a fun memory, and you can see the rope in the pictures at least.

After that I climbed the tower. The view wasn’t great because there was mesh on the windows, but, I still enjoyed getting to see the inside of the clock tower.

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After that I headed to the cafe on the island. My ticket for the visit had included a freem slice of Potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, with coffee. It was a little too dry for my taste, and not nearly sweet enough (I have a huge sweet tooth), but still fun to try.

With a little more time to kill before the boat came back, I wandered the gift shop, went to admire the views at the edge of the island, and then took some more pictures.

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After that, the boat took me back to shore, and I headed up to the castle. It’s definitely a bit of a climb, but the views from there were amazing and I actually really enjoyed the castle itself too. It had an audioguide you could use on your phone, so I listened as I walked around.

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One area I really enjoyed in the castle, besides the fantastic views, was the museum. They had some fun artifacts from the area and good overview of the history.

After I finished exploring the castle, I headed back down the hill to the lakeside. I knew what I wanted to do next was walk all the way around the lake. It was a little over three miles, though I ended up having to take a quick detour when I hit construction midway around. The views were spectacular though, and well worth the walk.

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By the time I was back at my hotel, the sun was going down. I opted to head out to find food. Unfortunately, one of the first places I decided to go to was completely shut down. No indication if it was just seasonal or the restaurant had gone out of business, but either way it threw me for a loop.

I scrambled to find something else. The nearest restaurant to that one was both expensive and fancy looking. As I wasn’t dressed for it, and wasn’t sure I wanted to spend so much, I realized I’d have to search elsewhere.

One of the recommendations I’d had in my guidebook was Ostarija Peglez’n. I looked in, but not only saw pretty much no one in the restaurant, but also didn’t see a menu posted, and was therefore hesitant to just walk in.

I kept looking, but honestly wasn’t seeing much. Feeling very hungry and a little cold, I decided to just go with Ostarija Peglez’n and take a chance.

Unfortunately my waiter not only didn’t give me much time to look over the menu, but also had very unhelpful advice when I asked for recommendations, basically saying everything was good (which wasn’t the point– I just wanted to narrow down my choices). I knew I didn’t want steak, as I’d had that several days in a row, and I’m unfortunately not much of a seafood person, which were a lot of the other options.

I ordered a vegetable soup to start and then salmon for my second course, figuring it would be a healthy option and keep me away from red meat.

The soup was at least pretty good, the salmon kind of dry and not very interesting. I guess the place doesn’t do much in the way of creative cooking, just kind of traditional hearty food. Thankfully the dessert was homemade strudel with vanilla ice cream which was delicious!

After a fantastic day, I was ready to head to bed. I definitely felt like I’d made the most of my day at Lake Bled. Though I certainly wouldn’t have said no to staying another day, I was ready to explore more destinations.

Falling in Love with Ljubljana: Adventure Day 7

As I said in my last blog post, because I was traveling in the off season (early March) I opted to head north to Slovenia rather than remaining in Croatia for the rest of my vacation. It ended up being a pretty good choice overall.

I woke up very early to catch a bus to Ljubljana. Unfortunately the only two bus choices I could find were either very early in the morning, or very late at night, so I opted to go for the early morning option. Thankfully the manager of the hotel I was staying at was very gracious and served me breakfast before I left. And then after that I took off for the bus station, just a short walk from my hotel.

The last few buses I took during my trip were all through the company Flixbus. Unfortunately my experience them was largely negative, which I’ll elaborate in future posts, but my first ride was actually fine. We crossed over the Slovenian border, which I had completely forgotten would involve a passport check. Even though Croatia and Slovenia are both part of the EU, Slovenia is part of the Schengen Zone and Croatia is not, which means it’s more of an official border crossing than most of the ones in the EU. I felt a little nervous because apparently everyone else on the bus was either Croatian or Slovenian, meaning I was held back for my passport to be stamped while everyone else was able to walk across the border (yes with buses they have you get out, line up and show your passport, and when okay-ed walk over the border where the bus meets you on the other side).

Thankfully, only a moment later my passport was returned and I was able to join my fellow passengers.

I arrived in Ljubljana probably around 10 AM. My hotel had said I couldn’t check in that early, understandably, but was welcome to come leave my luggage. I knew I could try to figure out the bus system in town to get there, but the weather was actually really nice, and since I didn’t have any Euros yet (Croatia uses their own currency called Kuna), I opted to walk.

It was about a thirty minute walk, maybe a mile and a half (2.3 km). I enjoyed getting to see some of the city as I strolled, pulling my suitcase along behind me.

I arrived at my accommodations, a bed and breakfast called Isabella Rooms. I met the owner Manja who was very sweet and actually did allow me to check in early. I dropped my things in my room, a small single bed with a shared bathroom, not my fanciest accommodations but a good bargain and close to the city center.

The first thing I did was just head down to the old town. The weather was just incredible. Sunny, but not hot. There was a flea market going on along the river because it was Sunday, and I had fun browsing. After that, I grabbed some lunch at a grocery store (some cheese, crackers, fruit, and a drink) and settled on a bench along the river to enjoy the sun and people watch. It was lovely.

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I did quite a bit of wandering, just enjoying the sights. I found a fun free exhibit on the Roman archaeological finds from the area. I explored most of the old town, and then headed over to Tivoli Park, a large open space which was filled with people enjoying the lovely weather. There was an open-air exhibit on architecture in Ljubljana as well.

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I also peeked into the Serbian Orthodox church near the park, which had beautiful interior decorations. It was very different from a lot of the Catholic cathedrals I’d seen.

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Once done in that area, I was reluctant to leave the sunshine, but as almost all museums in Ljubljana are closed on Mondays, I knew if I wanted to see any I had to do it while they were still open on Sunday. So I headed off to the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum. A bit of an odd choice perhaps, but I’d seen good reviews and it sounded very different.

The museum was a mixed bag. Some of the exhibits were really interesting, but there were some parts that really didn’t have any English available. Still, I enjoyed getting to learn more about Slovenia’s culture, which is definitely unique. They also had temporary exhibits on gingerbread making, candle making, shoes, and Croatian toys. It provided a fun afternoon.

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I walked back to my bed and breakfast and had a break to rest my feet for a bit. I did some research on restaurants as well, figuring since it was a Sunday night I might want to make sure I had some options in case places were crowded.

Sure enough, when I arrived at my choice Julija (Julia), a cute little place in the old town just off the river, it was already getting crowded. One of my favorite parts of traveling alone is that it means I’m usually able to get a table even without reservations when things are busy. Thankfully, this ended up being the case.

The place was really cute and the food was delicious. I had a plate of zucchini and eggplant cooked in marinara sauce and covered in mozzarella to start. Then I had some steak with black truffles, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. And of course a glass of Slovenian red wine. Unfortunately I was too full to enjoy dessert, and the place was still very busy, so I opted to give my table to someone else rather than trying anything else.

It was an absolutely amazing day. As I walked back to my room for the night, I couldn’t help but smile. What a perfect introduction to Slovenia. Most think Ljubljana means “to love/like” and I definitely fell in love with the city. I went to bed so excited to get to wake up and have more adventures there the next day.

The Spontaneous Adventure Begins: Dubrovnik

Hello everyone. I know it’s been quite some time since my last blog post, but I haven’t been traveling as much now that I live in the States again. However, I recently had a pretty fun spontaneous vacation and have had several people ask me to blog about it. And since I’m currently in isolation due to the COVID-19 situation, I have some time on my hands.

A little more than a month ago I was feeling a little bit drained from my daily life. I keep some travel photos by my desk at work, and I remember looking over at them and thinking how much I could use another adventure about now.

Which was how I very spontaneously decided to purchase plane tickets to visit Croatia. I had two weeks of paid time off saved up at my job, a decent amount tucked away in savings, and as it was March and therefore the off season, I knew I could find things for much cheaper than I would normally.

Of course, when I booked all this Coronavirus really hadn’t become the pandemic it is now, or I obviously would have chosen to postpone my trip to a better time. But it did make things kind of an adventure, which I hope to elaborate for you here.

The first stop on my tour was Dubrovnik. For any who don’t know, its a beautiful UNESCO protected city on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, surrounded by strong fortifications and filled with history. For any Game of Thrones Fans, there was some filming done there (I am not personally a GOT person so cannot attest to everything the city has to offer– but it definitely has upped the popularity of Dubrovnik as a travel destination).

I’ll skip the boring travel details for you. I flew from Seattle to Frankfurt and then down to Dubrovnik from there. It was a long two days of travel. So I was pretty exhausted when I arrived in the evening. But even then, as my taxi driver delivered me to the walls and dropped me off to walk to my hotel (as there are no cars allowed in the old city), I was pretty awed by what I saw.

Driving in at night really served to highlight the beauty of these strong walls surrounding the old town. They looked so impressive lit up.

The town itself was completely quiet as I snuck down to my hotel. I stayed in a cute bed and breakfast called Andio (meaning angel in Croatian) tucked back in a street in the old town.

Needless to say I turned in for the night, and woke the next morning ready for an exciting day.

When I opened my blinds I was delighted to see sunshine. Rain had been in the forecast before I arrived, and it had been pouring on my way in that evening. Thankfully the sky was clear, making it the perfect day to get out and explore.

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I had breakfast at my hotel before taking off for the city walls. It is, after all, one of the most famous parts of Dubrovnik.

Once up on the walls, I had fantastic views of the old city and the sea. It was pretty warm in the direct sun even in the spring, so I cannot imagine doing the walls in the summer. For any visiting in June-August I recommend some sunblock and going early in the day!

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Nonetheless, I continued walking the walls, getting all the way around the city and taking a bunch of photos. Please enjoy them if they will load for you. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!

After that, I met up with a walking tour. I’d originally booked a free one. For any who haven’t experienced free walking tours, they are some of the best things to do in a new and unknown city! You meet up with your guide, do the tour, and then tip what you feel is the appropriate amount based on how good it is. I’ve done a couple dozen at this point, and have never had one I felt was “bad” and many that were simply excellent. However, due to the off-season and lack of interest, my free tour ended up cancelling on me last minute. So I had to book with an actual paid tour company instead, though it ended up being worth the money. I showed up and to my surprise only one other person was there! Our guide Ivana walked us around the old town telling us more about the history. I learned a lot and had fun.

Once we were done, I decided to take the cable cars up to the top of Mount Srd (got to love Croatian words without vowels… no it’s not an abbreviation of some kind). It had fantastic views over the old city. Unfortunately it was cold and windy so I didn’t linger for very long.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering the city enjoying the sites. And then I went to find dinner. My tour guide had recommended a restaurant just outside the old city called Dubravka.

I had fresh squeezed orange juice (you might notice some oranges in the pictures above… definitely a good local fruit option), and then a steak with a mustard and gin sauce. It was pretty delicious! On top of that I loved having views of the walls from my table!

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After a fantastic first day I turned in for the night. I was ready for the next day of adventure ahead. You’ll just have to wait for my next post to read about it.

Off to the Isle of Man

“Ah, you’ve come over the water. Powerful wet stuff, ain’t it?”
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”

When I was booking my trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom, I was doing so looking at a map. And on that map, Isle of Man caught my eye. This tiny little country between the two ones I was visiting seemed like the perfect stop over!

I should clarify that it’s not truly its own country as far as I know (I’m no expert on this political stuff). It still remains listed as a colony I believe, but regardless it has its own currency and flag and still seemed like an adventure.

So I set out from Dublin by bus over to the ferry port. And from there I took a ferry to Douglas, Isle of Man.

The ferry was decent value for the price. I booked my next trip in Greece and my word the ferry was expensive! Regardless it seemed like a fairly easy option for how to get to this island I was set on visiting.

I went for an Airbnb as there really aren’t really any hostels on the island and hotels weren’t cheap. I think if you’re more outdoorsy you could do camping or something, but I sadly don’t have the equipment with me to do so. So Airbnb it was.

I stayed in a garden pod on a lovely property not too far from Douglas, which was a very fun setting.

I will warn future visitors that you should probably just take a cab there, as it will be easier. I took the bus to quarter bridge road and then walked the rest of the way, but it is up a steep hill and was a little confusing to access, and the bus is across a very busy road.

Regardless I stopped in and dropped off my bags. The setup was very cute and again the best option for someone looking to stay only a night in a semi-cheap accommodation. It’s not glamorous, but it works.

After dropping my stuff I took the bus to head over to Peel, a town on the opposite coast of the island. It’s like a 30 minute ride from Douglas over, and I was hoping to head to the castle.

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Sadly, I forgot the castle closes at 4, so no luck for me. But still I was able to wander along the coast and enjoy the sights and get some good shots of the castle from the outside. I also hiked up Peel Hill? Mountain? I cannot remember. The town itself was also very quaint and cute. Some pretty old churches and cottages and then the fun marina. It’s just a lovely place to visit, so if you’re on Isle of Man make sure to get over to Peel.

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I enjoyed the views. I was tempted to hike to a tower, but it was a fair distance away, and I was getting hungry. So I decided to take the bus back to Douglas for food. I walked around town a little, though again any museums or anything to see was closed at that point, but with the rain gone it was still nice to be able to explore a little bit and enjoy the town.

I ended up just going to one of the first places I could find, down near the harbor. It was a seafood place called Tanroagan Seafood Restaurant. I had some delicious local beer and fish and chips! The other more creative dishes looked amazing too, but I was trying to be budget. I loved that they brought different kinds of bread to your table and you chose which one you wanted. Very fun! Cute place and nice location. I was very pleased overall.

Then took the bus back to my Airbnb. Was pretty tired out and knew I needed to get an early night’s sleep to have some time in the morning to explore.