A Travellerspoint blog

España

Spain

sunny 2 °C

Well we have been planning the Spain part of our trip this summer and 2 weeks is just not enough to see this country. But we think we have found a path to take. We came across this neat website which has suggested travel itineraries for many countries and durations, its called Way-Away. So we put in our details and voila there is was the perfect 13 day itinerary for our trip. I'll comment on the perfect part after we have done the trip.

But here is the itinerary:

Arrive in Barcelona, where we stay for 4 nights. The way-away itinerary does suggest things for you to do during your stay in each area. Which I think is helpful for seeing the sights and provides you with a guideline to the city. We are used to planning our trips and pretty good at figuring out where to go and what to do.

No trip to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to the Sagrada Familia or the Church of the Holy Family. It was designed by architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), still incomplete, the church was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ground was first broken on the site in 1882 and the estimated completion date of the project is 2026-2028, approximately 146 years of construction. It also happens to be Gay Pride week while we are in Barcelona.

Sagrada_Familia.jpg

From Barcelona we head off to Seville, which is the 4th largest city in Spain. Its Old Town, contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. It is also the only river port in Spain.

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Our next stop on the trip is going to be Cordoba. Cordoba has the second largest Old town in Europe, the largest urban area in the world declared World Heritage by UNESCO. The city was once part of the Roman Empire and in the middle ages became the capital of an Islamic caliphate. A must see while in Cordoba is the Cordoba Mosque.

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After Cordoba our next stop is Granada. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and is only an hour from the mediterranean coast. Granada is home to the University of Granada and the approximately 80,000 student who study at it. No visit to Granada would be complete without a visit to La Alhambra. La Alhambra is a massive castle constructed over many centuries and was home to many of the Arab Sultans who ruled the whole province.

Alhambra.jpg

And last but not least we get to Madrid, and it just so happens that during our time in Madrid is the start of MADO 2013. Which is Madrid's Gay Pride Festival, what a happy accident. There are many sights to see in Madrid besides the pride parade. Madrid is the capital city and the largest city in Spain, it is also the 3rd largest city in the EU, after London and Berlin.

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After our time in Madrid we take the train back to Barcelona for the night and fly out on our way back home. Like I said 2 weeks is just not enough time to explore Spain, its a large country with a very colourful past. We have opted to take the train between or destinations and may rent a car in Seville to explore the smaller cities and give it up when we reach Madrid.

We decided to buy a DSLR camera, so I have to spend sometime figuring out all the settings and buttons. Hopefully I'll be able to improve my photography skill and treat you to some better pictures in the future.

Posted by MRCL72 07:56 Archived in Canada Tagged spain Comments (0)

Iceland

sunny 1 °C

As I mentioned before friends of ours are getting married in Iceland this June and we are going to celebrate with them. The more I read about Iceland the more excited I get about visiting this amazing place. With a population of approx 320,000 people it is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, it is also the worlds 18th largest island.

One of the unique features of Iceland is the availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. About 80% of energy Iceland needs comes from geothermal energy, which itself is pretty amazing.

We are going to be staying Reykjavík, we have rented a car to get around with. Rental cars in iceland are not cheap, but with only a week to spend in Iceland it will allow us the most flexibility to get around. Our friends are getting married at the Blue Lagoon so we are going to be staying the night at this beautiful place.

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The Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, the mineral rich waters are said to help those suffering from psoriasis. They also do research here to help find cures for other skin diseases.

Another thing I am very excited about is diving here. Dive IS has a very cool dive, done in Thingvellir National Park. The dive takes place in a crack between the American and Eurasian continents. How cool is that. Pretty cool actually, the water is only about 3 degrees. The water comes from a glacier about 50km away, so its pure fresh water that you can drink anytime during the dive if you need too.

We haven't quite finished planning our trip to Iceland but there is no shortage of sights to see and attractions to keep you occupied in this amazing land.

Stay tuned.

Richard

Posted by MRCL72 08:53 Archived in Canada Tagged diving iceland Comments (1)

Where to next

sunny -7 °C

While we were in the midst of planning our Ecuador and Galapagos trip, we received an email from friends telling us to save the date. They are getting married this June in Iceland. Now I have never really considered Iceland to be on my list of must visit places in the world. Basically the name just conjures up images of ice, snow and cold weather.

So I started doing some research and WOW, what a beautiful country during the summer season. I say summer, simply because this is when we are going to be there. I'm sure its beautiful during the winter too, but coming from Canada we see our share of snow and cold and really don't want it on our holidays.

Iceland Travel
Visit Iceland

And of course for you divers out there - Dive Iceland. Check out the Silfra dive info, that's the one I am doing.

As I do more of my research I'll be sure and share it all with you. Since we were going to be halfway to Europe we decided to tack on another country and Spain won the coin toss. Now I don't have to tell anyone how beautiful Spain is. All we know so far is that we get into Barcelona and leave 13 days later from Barcelona. So if you have been and have any suggestions about where to go, what to do and things we simply cannot miss while we are visiting, please let me know.

Lonely Planet Spain
Spain

I'll be sure and keep you updated about our planning.

Posted by MRCL72 08:55 Archived in Canada Tagged spain Comments (0)

Thanks for reading

sunny -7 °C

I just wanted to say thanks to all the readers, I have received some great feedback from people. I'm going to continue this blog of our travels, so if you are interested in following along please subscribe.

All the best,

Richard

Posted by MRCL72 08:10 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Practical Info for the Boat

-10 °C

I thought I would share some info on what to expect while on the boat for anyone who is thinking about doing a cruise around the Galapagos. First off book early, you can't start planning your trip too soon. There were plenty of travel agencies in both Puerto Ayora and Quito that were advertising last minute deals for cruise's around the islands. We never stopped to check them out or see about pricing, but its such an amazing trip why leave it up to chance.

We booked our trip through CNH Tours and found them very easy to deal with, responsive and pretty well organized. We had no problems with any of the reservations that they made for us. The boat we were on was called Tip Top III for an 8 day 7 night cruise. Personally I feel this is the right amount of time to be on the cruise and that we were on the right size of boat. There were 16 passengers on our boat, which was a good amount. Tours larger than 16 people require an extra naturalist guide. With 8 people in each panga (dingy), they were comfortable and not overcrowded, shuttling us to the islands from the boat was quick and efficient. Something that would be lost with a larger group of people. Quite a few times during my research I came across the statement, "spend as much as you can afford on the cruise, but don't spend over $4000.00 usd per person". I found this to be quite true. I feel we got excellent value for our money and did not spend over $4000.00 per person, close but not over. Prices go up every year, so this may change in the future.

The boat was large enough to afford everyone some breathing room, with the dining room, saloon, covered deck and sun deck you could easily find some personal space. If you really wanted to be alone you could return to your cabin whenever you felt like it. There was a small library onboard, some games, a tv and dvd's and a laptop with music hooked up to the boats speaker system. The crew always made sure the boat was clean and comfortable, by the time breakfast was finished they had made your bed and cleaned up your cabin. Fresh bath towels were available whenever you needed or wanted a new one. No face cloths are available so if you are used to using them, bring a couple along for the trip. Biodegradable body wash and shampoo were in dispenser's inside the shower stall. Toilet paper and hand soap were also supplied. Beach towels were also provided for the snorkel trips and beach days.

The cabins are small but comfortable and we had enough space to store our luggage in the closet, if you are used to sleeping in a king bed you may want to opt for the twin bedded room, other wise you get a cozy double bed. But your pretty tired each evening so falling to sleep was never really an issue. The first night was the tough one, especially if you have never slept on a boat before. We took some anti-nausea pills and patches, we did end up using the patches near the end of our trip as the boat got into more open ocean. They worked great, made you thirsty but other wise I highly recommend them. The boat had purified water for the passengers to drink, but the desalinized water out of the bathroom tap was fine for brushing your teeth.

What to pack. As soon as you board the boat they ask you to remove your shoe's, boots, flip flops whatever you are wearing and leave them outside the main cabin. These become your outdoor shoes, we brought our Keen sandals, hiking boots and a pair of flip flops for inside the boat. It you don't mind running around barefoot, you could skip the flip flops. We brought mostly shorts and t-shirts, a pair of khaki's and pair of jeans and a couple collared shirts. You are not required to dress up for meals, but quite often the people on our boat did have long pants and a nice top on for dinner. Bring enough pairs of underwear for the time you are on the boat and one extra. There is no laundry on the boat, and soaking wet clothes don't dry very fast. A wind breaker/rain coat is a good idea, a hat to keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes. We also brought a fleece and were glad we did the nights can get a little cool, and some people found the a/c to be a bit cool in the evenings. Don't worry about having to wear the same clothes a second or third time, everyone has too. Some fleece pants or yoga pants would be a good idea if you tend to get chilly. Sunscreen is a must have, bug repellant is a good idea as well. We also brought some Benadryl allergy medication, Imodium and Ciprofloxacin, incase someone got a bad tummy bug. We brought our own snorkels and masks, many because I don't like using rental ones. Shorty wetsuits were available for rent at a cost of $35 for the week, but you could bring your own if you wanted too. For the guys there was power in the bathrooms for an electric razor and a blow dryer was in all the bathrooms.

The food on the boat was excellent, we were very impressed with the quality, flavour and presentation of the food. It was always buffet style, and lunch always started with soup. Beer, wine and pop were available for purchase, they run a tab for you and on the last night the money is due. If you rented the wetsuits they are on the bar tab as well. Cash only...

Breakfast was usually at 7am, sometimes earlier depending on the days activites, lunch was usually between noon and 1pm. Dinner was always at 7pm. Two snacks were provided, a mid morning one and a mid afternoon one. We brought some granola bars with us, just incase. But there was always plenty to eat.

The itinerary starts out fast and busy and gets a little less busy at the end of the trip. You can always opt out of any activity if you choose, and stay onboard to relax. Each naturalist guide is going to be different, ours was excellent. Very helpful, informative and a great manager of our groups time. I don't think we could have asked for a better guide. The boat crew was just as excellent. They worked very hard to keep the boat clean, and to keep the passengers happy. Something everyone on the boat appreciated.

We read some comments by people who didn't want to live on a boat for the week and instead choose to do day trips everywhere. Each to their own, but we did a day trip to Bartolome Island. We got picked up at 6am in Puerto Ayora and bused to the other side of the island to catch the boat. While the day trip was wonderful, it was a long 12 hour day and I personally think it would get old fast. The cruise is a much more relaxed way to see the Galapagos.

I hope I have provided some good information for anyone planning a cruise in the Galapagos, if you would like to ask me a question please feel free to comment on this post and I'll try to provide an answer for you.

Posted by MRCL72 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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