Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lanzarote; the answer is...


When I started this blog back in September of 2010, I never could have imagined the amazing opportunities and adventures that were ahead of me. It has been a great medium for sharing my adventures with friends and family world wide, and I have been able to document so many unforgettable memories I will be able to look back on. As I sit here trying to capture my most recent adventure I find myself feeling overwhelmed. I left the island forever changed and will remember so many special moments and places on the island forever. 



Life over the past few months has been pretty stressful with work, and this vacation came at a much needed time. Both Christian and I were in need of a week's beach holiday so we have been planning this since returning from the USA in January. Christian had visited  Lanzarote, an island which is part of the Canary Islands, around 6 years ago and has been telling me how interesting the island is and all the fun stuff to do. I have to say I love having a partner with as much passion to travel as I do, and I gave him the green light to start planning the trip. I really had no idea what to expect, and did very minimal research before the trip so it was all a surprise when we arrived. After leaving Edinburgh at 6am we landed in sunny Lanzarote stepping off the plane into a heat wave of mid to high 30's (90's F) and sun. After picking up our rental car we headed to the southern point of the island, Playa Blanca, where Christian organized our stay an an H10 4 star hotel. It was such a bargain as it was the off season and as you can see from the pictures it was spectacular in design. 



Playa Blanca has three H10's and we chose the "no kids allowed" one. It was a very peaceful atmosphere, and the resort had so many spectacular views. It was situated beach front with a volcanic mountain in the distance. We got to see this view every morning at breakfast and it never got old! 



The resort also had cabanas for guests to use, and on the really hot days we were so happy to have refugee from the sun's rays. Even though we were really careful, we did get some pretty severe sunburn being so close to the equator. Thankfully there is aloe vera everywhere on the island to help ease our burns. The island has a really nice breeze so you don't really realize how hot it gets at times, but it was so nice to relax by the pool. I had never stayed at a "no kids" resort before, but we really noticed a difference when by the pool. It was super quiet as most people were on their kindles or had noses in books. Side note: did I mention the senior citizen couple next to me on the plane were both reading 50 Shades of Gray? I really had to contain myself when I saw this, and those of you who have read the books know why! 

Christian tried to do as much swimming as he could while on holiday. This was his favorite pool, which had a waterfall at one end. 
You can see Christian had the pool to himself most of the time! 

On our first full day we didn't want to lay in the sun too much for fear of burning so we decided to explore the west coast of the island. This section has many black sand beaches with huge waves. The views were incredible. 


We ended up at a section called Los Hervideros where the waves crash against the coast shooting up water through caves. 

The sea was really raging on the day we were there which made the visit even more awesome!

Christian said this was his favorite spot on the entire island as he always is captivated by waves. 

My favorite spot was the black sand beach we visited. I have never been to a black sand beach before, but it was really cool. There was also a surfer hitting the waves so I was entertained while catching some rays. 

We also ventured to El Golfo, also on the west coast. There is a crater in the side of the volcanic area which the sea has created, along with a green laguna. The colors on the clear day were pretty amazing as well! 
This is the view  where the sea crashed against the coast to creating the crater.  
Another really interesting part of the island is the national park, Timanfaya. This park is entirely made up of volcanic soil, ash, and volcanic rock. 


The most recent eruption was a little over 200 years ago, and this is one of the locations the lava flowed from. 




Some of the lava that cooled did so with multiple colors. 

The mountains on the island are called MontaƱas del Fuego, which literally translates to Mountains of Fire. You can see they give off a reddish color, hence the name. I would definitely recommend visiting the park if you ever are on the island. It was a highlight for both Christian and I during our vacation.
One of the coolest parts of the National Park was at the top of one of the volcanic area where they had holes drilled 100 yards into the Earth. Workers would put water down and steam would shoot out, showing the Earth is still very hot. They would even hand me rocks from the top of the surface that I couldn't hold in my hands as they felt as if they were on fire. 


The park has a restaurant as well that uses the heat from the Earth to cook meats. There is no fire, just the heat given off from the old volcanoes center. 

We did have one day of clouds while on the island so we did some exploring on the North coast. Here we visited Jameos Del Agus which has a volcano museum, a little oasis, and underground caves and grottoes. 

They use the caves for concerts throughout the year. 
Christian rocking his jorts. 
After the caves we headed back to our hotel for a few rounds of mini golf. I of course showed Christian how it's done as I have had many years of practice growing up in Ocean City, MD where there are hundreds of mini golf courses to choose from. 

Four! 


When the sun was back out I did push Christian into a cheesy tourist attraction. We headed back to the national park where we did a camel excursion of one of the volcanoes. 




I think this may be the one and only time I can convince him to ride a camel. 

He was such a good sport throughout the journey...

And the views were a lot better than the smells and sounds coming from the camels! 


After going on the camel excursion we decided to hit up one of the black pebble beaches on the west coast. We really couldn't get enough of the waves and turquoise water. 


Christian went in for a dip but the waves were really too rough for any real swimming. The water was also a lot colder on this side of the island, wasn't it Chris? 

The black pebbles were pretty challenging to walk on, but did feel pretty cool. It's also nice to not feel so sandy after a day at the beach. 

The next day we hit up one of the local beaches near Playa Blanca, which was a lot calmer, warmer, and safer for a swim. Check out the German floating below. 

They had a lot of activities to do, like banana boating. 

Even though we live at near the sea in Scotland we don' t get to swim to often. I took advantage of warm water while I had it too! 

Another thing we both really enjoyed about where we were staying is that Playa Blanca's promenade was right at our doorstep. It was so nice to take walks along the sea to and from dinner.  

Christian along the promenade. 



The architecture on the island is all similar. White houses with either green or blue accents. Much needed to help keep cooler homes in the high temperatures! 

Another fabulous part of the trip was the seafood. Both Christian and I LOVE seafood. We enjoyed squid, octopus, fish, mussels, and prawns as often as we could! 

Yum! 

The trip was truly amazing but it really ended better than I ever could have expected. On our last night we went for a fabulous seafood dinner and followed it up by having ice cream sitting on the beach. Then Christian asked to take a long walk where he took me out to the point in the picture below. It was night but I wanted to capture the spot the next morning because....Christian asked me to marry him here. 

Yes, that's right, we are officially engaged! 

I couldn't have asked for a better holiday and the ending was the cherry on top. We are both so excited and have been overwhelmed with well wishes and support since returning.  A good friend of mine recently told me, It is amazing sometimes to think how small decisions create big impacts in our lives. I honestly never knew when I decided to move to Scotland how many opportunities I would would be given as well as the ability to see so many wonderful parts of the world. I am so thankful to have an amazing partner to do it with and we couldn't be happier! 

Until next time, I'll will see you on the internet! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Loch Lomond Birthday Weekend


Well it's official. I only have one year left in my 20's, and this past weekend the German organized my 29th birthday celebration in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park here in Scotland. The entire trip was a complete surprise, and I must say he really did an amazing job with all of the planning. I am one lucky girl! On Friday after work we  packed the car and headed out of town, stopping along the way to pick up two of my friends Kamilla and LoLo.  This was the first of many surprises as I did not know they were joining us for the weekend until the night before the trip. How everyone managed to keep this a secret for over a month is beyond me. Those of you who know me best know that I am rubbish at keeping secrets, but I was so excited for them to join and to kick off my 29th year!


 We headed past Glasgow and into the National Park, which was about a 1 1/2 hour drive from our place in the Burgh. I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of accommodation, but the German really hit the nail on the head when we pulled up to Loch Lomond Castle. It was one of the nicest accommodations I have stayed in, and was a perfect self-catering accommodation for the four of us! The views were really hard to beat. We arrived close to sunset, and as you can see the lake was right outside our patio. 




After a long work week, it's so nice to have a place to chill out, and our accommodation had the best sofa to just relax and enjoy the evening!   

Saturday morning I woke to my favorite American candy, red vines, which the German strategically placed on my pillow. Since I only get to enjoy these a few times a year I was very excited when I woke up to see he had treated me to my favorite sweet! 

We had a lovely breakfast with a view directly to the loch. The weather was really outstanding- sunshine, which for Scotland can be rare especially in April. 

Thanks to my Aunt and Uncle who sent us happy Birthday hats! I am never going to be too old to celebrate in style! 

After breakfast the German and I strolled along the bank by the castle. The water was beautiful, and on a sunny day there is no better place than Scotland!


Me and CB 
My only request to Christian for the weekend was to do a hike someplace in the woods, but other than that I was pretty open to anything. We loaded up in the car and headed towards the middle part of the National Park where we stopped at the visitor center  From this building, there is a world famous path called The West Highland Way, and we were going to hike a part of it called Conic Hill. The hike was a 350 meter decent to the summit, hiking through forest and hills. It was about a 2 1/2 hour hike round trip, and was really beautiful. Chris did a great job of snapping some photos while we all made our way to the top of the hill. 




Oh I guess I should mention that the hike was technically closed, but that didn't stop us or the dozens of other hikers out enjoying the beautiful weather. 




As we started the hike there was a little sheep dog named Baxter who joined us. He stayed with us the entire climb to the top. His owners were a little ways behind us, but Baxter enjoyed our company just as much as we enjoyed his! It really makes me miss having dogs around full time, and I was so glad to have him join our hike. 

One of my friends let us borrow his walking sticks for the hike. I have always been one of those people who would laugh at the thought of using a stick, but to be honest it made the hike a lot easier, especially on the steep sections. Maybe this makes me an old fogey, but I will be using sticks on more hill hikes!  And of course they make for great fighting weapons. 

After about an hour of hiking we finally made it to the summit. It was windy but beautiful. Baxter the dog even made a guest appearance in our group shot!  

Looking at this picture of a view from the summit I really don't think it does the landscape justice, but take my word it was spectacular.  

We then started our decent, which is sooooo much easier than the climb up. We were down in about 20 minutes. 

Then it was time to reward ourselves with some ice cream! Nothing better after a long hike. 

After we returned to the accommodation, we spent the afternoon relaxing and watching movies. We were pretty exhausted, and were again so thankful for the great furniture the flat provided! 

 Oh and as it is April all of the little baby sheep are being born. I just love those little guys, and we must have seen hundreds throughout the trip!  

 Sunday was pretty low key. We did a mini hike to a waterfall in a different part of the park. It was a nice leisurely walk and a good way to end the weekend. 

 We also visited Loch Katrina, which would be a place I would like to go back and explore more of later during my time here in Scotland. 
  

Overall my 29th birthday was exactly how I would have wanted it to be. I received so many lovely messages from friends and family around the world, and got to spend it with some great people here in Scotland. Special thanks to Christian for all of his hard work in planning! I have big shoes to fill for his birthday weekend! Next stop, Lanzarote on the Canary Islands for spring break. Can't wait for a week of sun and beach! 

Until Next time, I'll see you on the internet.