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in Europe, My Travels, Travel

A Weekend Trip to the Rock of Gibraltar

Since European road trips are our new favorite thing to do together, my husband and I decided to take a ride to visit the Rock of Gibraltar this past weekend.  Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory, located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.  It shares its northern border with Spain, so we decided to stay in La Linea de la Concepción, and walk across the border into Gibraltar.  Keep reading to hear all about our trip!

Viña & Bodega Remsamen

Since we had all weekend to visit The rock of Gibraltar,  we decided to take a short detour on the way to Gibraltar and stopped in Monda, Spain to have lunch at Cafe Bar Luna, followed by a vineyard tour and tasting at Viña & Bodega Remsamen.  Remsamen is a small vineyard, owned and run by a nice couple from Holland, René and Marjolin.

The other tour groups scheduled for that day ended up cancelling, so we ended up having our own personal tour!  René and Marjolin were really thorough with describing the wine making process with us, and their vineyard was beautiful!

La Linea de la Concepción

Delicious food and drinks at aQa!

We stayed in an apartment we found on Airbnb.  It was really close to the border of Gibraltar, so it had a beautiful view.  For dinner the first night, we went to aQa, a waterfront Mediterranean restaurant.  It was a beautiful restaurant, with views of the water and the Rock of Gibraltar.  Both the food and drinks were delicious!  If you ever end up staying near the border crossing, you should definitely stop in for some drinks and a bite to eat.

 

The Rock of Gibraltar

The traffic headed into Gibraltar is CRAZY, so I would recommend you park your car in the lot on the Spanish side of the border and walk over. Overnight parking is €15. Make sure you have your passport.  Security isn’t super tight, but they do check for it when you pass through.

Cable Car headed up to the top of The Rock of Gibraltar

While Gibraltar is a small place, you probably won’t want to walk all the way from the border to The Rock.  We caught the #10 bus from the first bus stop inside the gate.  Round trip tickets from the front gate to the bottom of The Rock was €3 per person, round trip.

Once you get to The Rock, you have 3 options. You can walk, catch a cab, or take a cable car to the top.  We decided to do the touristy thing and take the cable car, but keep in mind that 1.) the wait will likely be at least an hour, and 2.) it costs about £22 (Gibraltar is part of the UK, so they take pounds) for round trip cable car tickets and entry into most of the attractions on The Rock.  If you know ahead of time that you want to take the cable car, you should purchase the tickets online before arriving.

Once you get to the top, there will be Barbary Macaques EVERYWHERE.  Some of them are super cute, but don’t be fooled;  you should never get too close to them and definitely don’t flash anything that is (or could be mistaken for) food.  That means no candy wrappers, no plastic bags, no styrofoam containers.  No one will enforce this, but these monkeys WILL jump on you to snatch your food.

Its easy to lose track of where you are in relation to the top of the mountain.  We got so distracted by the rest of the attractions, by the time we started thinking about catching the cable car back down, we realized the walk back up to the top would be way too much for my poor feet :(.  We ended up walking all the way back down, which was a great workout, but I definitely would try to arrange for a taxi if I had thought this all the way through.

Rendezvous Chargrill

Our bartenders at Rendezvous

Once we made it to the bottom of The Rock,  we were starving, so we made our way to the Ordnance Wharf.  It is a beautiful waterfront strip that has several nice restaurants and bars.  We bar hopped for quite a while, but our favorite was called Rendezvous Chargrill.  The food and drinks were great, and the service was awesome!  Roxana and Laura were our primary servers, and they were super funny and made sure we were well taken care of.

 

While brief, our trip to Gibraltar was super fun, and it was definitely worth the trip!  There was tons that we didn’t get a chance to do.  Have any of you been to Gibraltar?  What are some must-sees that you have?  It is a very short drive for us so we may definitely return!

 

 

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Overnight in Ronda, Malaga

Last weekend, my husband and I made a last minute decision to go on a road trip.  We’ve finally gotten settled here in Spain, so we figured, why not get out and explore??  One thing that we’ve heard is a must do in Spain is to be in town during a Feria weekend.  Ferias are local annual festivals that occur throughout Spain (and southern France) throughout the spring and summer months.  We unfortunately missed the Feria here in Rota, so we decided to head to Ronda, Malaga to catch the Feria de Pedro Romero.  We were only there for one night, but it was such a beautiful little town, and I definitely plan to return!  If you ever find yourself in Malaga, here are a few things to do:

Grab Lunch at Bodega el Socorro

We arrived at our Airbnb in Ronda (use my referral link if you don’t have an account already) in the early afternoon, so we had a few hours to kill before the Feria festivities started.  The apartment we stayed in was right in the middle of everything, so we decided to wander around for a while to find somewhere to eat lunch.  Finally, we came across Bodega el Socorro.  We had several tapas and a few rounds of drinks, and all of it was delicious.

 

See a bullfight at Plaza del Toro

After our delicious lunch, we stopped by Plaza del Toro to pick up tickets to the bullfight.  Bullfights are basically the pinnacle of the Feria in Ronda, and since neither of us had ever seen one in person, we wanted to get our seats early.

Did you know that they kill the bulls in front of the audience at the end of the fight?!  I didn’t :(. Not sure what I thought was supposed to happen, but I definitely wasn’t ready.  Either way, it was an interesting experience and I recommend going to watch if you find yourself in town during Feria week.

Take in the views at Paseo de Blas Infante

Just a few steps from the Plaza del Toro is Paseo de Blas Infante, one of the most recommended spots in Ronda, for good reason.  It is made up of beautiful gardens that lead up to a breathtaking lookout point from which you can take in panoramic views of the countryside.

 

Head to the Feria Grounds

Later on in the evening (after napping for a few hours, of course), we took a taxi to the Feria grounds.  Its a really family friendly event, that involves drinks, dancing, rides, and people dressed in beautiful Feria dresses!

Wine Tasting at Bodega Joaquin Fernando

The next morning, we decided to make our way over to Bodega Joaquin Fernando.  It is an organic winery in the middle of the countryside, so the views from the vineyard were beautiful!  We were the first people to show up for the day, so we pretty much got our own private tour of the vineyard and seller.  Moises, our guide, was very knowledgeable and walked us through the entire wine making process.  After the tour, we were given a tasting of several wines, along with sliced ham and cheese pairings.

 

 

Ronda was such a beautiful little town.  While we definitely plan on exploring other towns within driving distance, Ronda is definitely a place we plan on returning to.  What about you?  If you’ve spent time in Spain and have some favorite small towns, recommend them in the comments!

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Update: We’ve Moved Abroad!

The first half of 2017 has been a doozy!  We’ve moved abroad! My husband is in the military and we have been stationed in Rota, Spain.  I’ve always wanted to spend time abroad so this is a really exciting time for us.

With such a huge change on the horizon, there were tons of things to do in preparation.  I’m going to share the key steps you should take if you happen to be moving abroad.

Find a Tenant/Sell your home

I’ve lived in the same condo in Washington, DC for my whole adult life.  The idea of moving abroad was super exciting, but all the work that came with relocating was a little overwhelming! The most important thing I needed to do was to find a tenant for my condo, since I have no intentions to sell anytime soon.  I started this process about 3 months out.  This gave me time to find a property manager and a tenant that I liked.  Being a landlord can be a pain, so you don’t want to start out on the wrong foot by rushing into a contract with a tenant or a property manager.

If you decide you don’t want to be bothered as a landlord while abroad, use this time to put your home on the market.  The sale of your home is definitely not something you want to do under pressure.

Prepare your home/vehicle for the move

The next most pressing thing to do was prepare my home and vehicle for shipment.  Its super important to take inventory of what you have, and what you want to take with you.  This will make it easy to identify the things you need to sell or donate.  You should start this process in advance, to increase your chances of selling items you don’t want to give away.

For your vehicle, make sure everything is up to date.  Vehicle shipping companies will have standards that you have to meet in order to ship the car.  In order to ship my car, I had to provide an accurate Certificate of Title.  I had my name changed after I got married, but never bothered to have the name changed on the title.  In order to have it shipped, a marriage certificate was not adequate, so I had to make a trip to the DMV to have a new Title issued in my new name.

Make sure there are no unresolved recalls on your car, or there is a high probability that the shipping company will not ship the car.  Click here to search for your VIN number to see if you have any unresolved recalls on your vehicle.

Check with your local DMV to see what you need to do with your tags once you leave.  DC allows you to cancel your tags online, which is great because I needed to keep my tags on my car in order to drive in Spain until I received hard tags here.

Start looking for employment

Depending on your situation, finding employment in your new country may be difficult.  In my case, military spouses are not allowed to work outside of the military base here, and employment opportunities for us on base are extremely limited.  I spent a lot of time before I left reaching out to my my network for remote opportunities, and eventually found one.

If you find yourself having trouble finding employment in your new country, keep in mind that lots of states have recently started to allow spouses to file for unemployment if you have left your job to follow a spouse.  Check with your state’s employment commission to see if you would be eligible.

Get your affairs in order

In addition to the major things, there were also a ton of small things I needed to take care of.

Insurance

Make sure you’ve coordinated with your car and renters/homeowner insurance company to ensure you don’t continue to pay for the time after you move, and pick up insurance at your new home if they offer insurance there.

Identification

Make sure all your identification is up to date.  You wouldn’t want to be abroad, trying to figure out how to renew a drivers license or passport, especially if this is not a permanent move.

Cell Phone Providers

Confirm with your cell phone providers that you would like to cancel (or pause, if you’re eligible) your cell phone service.  Figure out what service provider you want to use once you relocate.

Change of Address

File change of address forms with the local post office.  If you don’t have a permanent address yet (I didn’t until well after I’d moved out of my condo), file a temporary change of address and have it forwarded to a trusted friend or family member.

Once you get a permanent address, update it on any accounts you have that store your address.

Banking

Contact your bank and let them know you will be moving.  If you have a permanent address, give it to them.  If not, just make sure they know where you’ll be.  Definitely set up online banking if you don’t have it already.

Keep in Touch!

Sign up for a service that allows you to have a US number.  Yes, in 2017 there are tons of ways to contact people.  You have email, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, the list goes on.  However, unless you plan on moving and cutting ALL ties with the US, there will be times where having a US number saves you a lot of headache.  While getting settled, you will likely need to be on the line with customer service; which could mean lots of international fees on your phone bill.  You may need to verify your identity to access certain accounts online by entering your phone number, and a lot of US based companies do not even allow you to enter an international number.  I personally like to use Google Voice, but you should establish your phone number before you leave.  It will not allow you to set this service up abroad.

Important Documents

Create a folder with hard copies of your important documents so you can hand carry them.  This includes marriage certificates, birth certificates, social security cards, etc.  Also create a folder on your computer or trusted cloud service in case any important documents get misplaced.

Contact your children’s school

Notify your children’s school of the upcoming move and request transfer certificates and any other relevant information.

Take care of your pets!

Check to make sure that your pet’s breed is even allowed in the country you’re moving to.  If they are, make sure they have all the vaccinations necessary to be in the country, and keep a record of it.  Arrange for their transportation and care on the way to your new home.

Cancel Services

Cancel any services you may have, and make sure you’re up to date on payments.  This would include cable, internet, utilities, housekeeping services, etc.

Have fun!

We’ve been here for a little more than a month now, finding a place, getting settled, and traveling to nearby towns/countries.  It’s been an awesome time so far, and I definitely plan to share details as I settle into this new life!

 

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in My Travels, Travel

A Year In Review: My 2016 Highlights

For most of us, today is an opportunity to leave old habits and memories in the past.  Most of us are also making new plans and resolutions for the future.  But first, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my 2016 highlights.

Ringing in 2016 in Capetown, South Africa

Last year, my sister along with about 16 other friends decided to go on an epic trip to Capetown, South Africa to ring in the new year.  We went on a safari, ate lots of great food, visited several vineyards, and paid a visit to Table Mountain!  Capetown (and the surrounding area) is BEAUTIFUL, and I will definitely make it a point to go back.

Martinique

I’d been wanting to go to Martinique since forever!  It seemed like such a colorful and interesting place, and of course a beautiful landscape.  Unfortunately, flights from the east coast to Martinique were SUPER expensive, and lack of American tourism meant that accommodations were scarce and expensive.

But, with new flight service with Norwegian airlines starting last year, and the new popularity of Airbnb, I was finally able to get over there and I was not disappointed (check out my recap of the trip)!  All the food was delicious, and the beaches were gorgeous and unspoiled.  I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time there as I would have liked, so I will definitely be returning.

I Got Married!

My husband and I decided to get married last year, exactly one year from the day we met (he’s a romantic like that).  We initially got married in a VERY informal and small ceremony (me, my husband, and my friends who married us) in my kitchen, and had an actual ceremony later in the summer.  Obviously this is my #1 highlight of the year, but I wanted to go in chronological order for the sake of this post.  Forgive me lol.

Saint Maarten

For my birthday, my husband and I decided to go to Saint Maarten to celebrate.  I found a nice studio apartment within walking distance of Orient Bay beach.  It was just a really relaxing time, with beautiful beach views and awesome weather every day.

Our Honeymoon in Cancun

For our honeymoon, my husband and I spent 10 days in Cancun.  We stayed an an awesome all-inclusive resort, called Secrets The Vine.  The resort itself was enough to make the vacation awesome, but we also went on a tour to see Tulum and Xel-Ha, as well as other adventures we chose to do on our own.  It was an awesome trip!

My Friend’s Birthday Cruise

One of my closest friends hit her 30th birthday this year, and to celebrate, several friends and family members all joined her on a cruise to Nassau, Bahamas.  Unfortunately we only had a day to spend on the island, but it was great catching up with her and our other mutual friends that I had not seen in a while!

What about you?  Any experiences or achievements in 2016 that you are especially proud of or excited about!  What are your travel goals for 2017?  Post it in the comments!

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Traveling Alone: Tips For Solo Travel

Solo travel, while gaining popularity, is still a mode of travel that a lot of people are not comfortable with.  Most people worry about feeling lonely or unsafe.  But those who do it regularly know that traveling alone can be the ultimate experience to be able to enjoy a new (or repeat) destination without dealing with the tastes, schedules or budget of other people.  You get to indulge as much or as little as you’d like.  And your mistakes are all your own; you don’t have to worry about disappointing your travel companion if one of your ideas does not go as planned.  With that said, there are some things that solo travelers should keep in mind before and during their trip.

Let Someone Know Where You’re Going

My husband after a solo trek to the top of Mt. Fuji

I know it can be super exciting to just pick up and go, but its always a good idea to let at least one person know where you’re going and how to contact you before you leave.  This should be someone you speak to regularly, and would notice right away if they haven’t heard from you since you were supposed to be back home.  If you purchased travel insurance, make sure you forward this person a copy of your policy, and send them your travel itinerary if one is available.

Make Friends With A Local

There are tons of websites out there with lists of must-dos, but you’ll almost always get the most authentic experience when you’re actually hanging out with a person that lives in the area.  This is where your gut instincts will come in.  I’m not suggesting you go out an announce that you’re looking for new friends.  In fact, I recommend that you keep the fact that you’re traveling alone to yourself until you meet someone that doesn’t set off your spidey sense, and who you actually think you’d enjoy hanging with.

I’ve made friends that are still my friends to this day, just by being open to meeting new people.  Sit at the bar when you go out to eat, instead of getting a table for one.  You’re much more likely to be approached by other people who may be alone at the bar, or even the bartender and service staff.  Hotel and restaurant staff are often the most friendly and resourceful people you’ll meet.  If you go on any excursions, use this shared adventure as an opportunity to spark conversation with others.  You never know where it’ll go!

Leave Breadcrumbs

If and when you do decide to hang out with someone new, let someone know where you’re going and who you’re going with.  Take a selfie with your new friend and send it to someone at home.  Mention to the front desk staff at your hotel that you’re going out for drinks with a new friend.  And always carry some form of identification on you, even if its just your drivers license.

Try Avoiding Single Supplements

One downside to traveling solo is that many hotels, cruises and tour operators will charge you extra to make up for the fact that they are not profiting off an extra person in the room with you.  One way around this is by booking with a tour operator that caters to single travelers and will match you with a roommate, such as G Adventures and Intrepid Travel. By matching you with a roommate, they maximize their own profit off each room and save you the single supplement. The catch is, of course, that you’ll have to share a room with a stranger.

I also recommend staying in an Airbnb, which for the most part will just charge you per room, instead of per person.  Others have recommended staying in a hostel.  I’ve heard it is a great option, but it is not something I’ve actually done myself, so I won’t push that too hard.

Do any of you like to travel alone?  Where are some of your favorite destinations to go on a solo trip?  Post it in the comments!

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Honeymoonin’ (pt 2): Highlights From Cancun

For our Honeymoon,  my husband and I spent 10 days in Cancun.  We loved every minute of it!  Obviously, the best part of the honeymoon was the hotel we stayed at, Secrets The Vine.  It was a luxury adults-only all inclusive resort, so our stay was all about indulgence.  You can read all about our experience at the hotel in my last post:  Honeymoonin’: Our Stay at Secrets The Vine Cancun.  I totally expected to spend most of the vacation laying on the beach eating all the food, but my husband made sure to arrange plenty of exciting activities for us.  Here are some of the highlights!

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Cruisin’: Prepping for your Carnival Cruise

Cruises are a fun and convenient way to book a quick getaway or group trip.  There are tons of options, from a long luxury cruise, to a cheap weekend getaway.  Food is generally included, and there are tons of options for entertainment, so there will never be a dull moment!  I’m gearing up to go on a Carnival Cruise to celebrate my friend’s birthday soon, and the process for booking and boarding a cruise is a lot different from booking a flight and hotel; here are a few things to keep in mind when booking your cruise.

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5 Things You Should Know When Using Airbnb

I love Airbnb.  It has something for everyone’s travel style and budget.  You can book a luxury villa for a group of friends, a studio apartment for you and your significant other, or a room in someone’s house.  You’re essentially renting from another person instead of a business or hotel chain, so there are a lot of other factors you have to consider that may keep people who are on the fence from taking the plunge.  Airbnb has policies in place to protect both hosts and guests, but here are a few things you may not know that can make your search (and your stay) a little easier.

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No Passport Required: 5 Beach Destinations That Don’t Require A Passport

There’s nothing like getting away to a tropical beach destination.  I know I can never get enough to waking up to warm sun, white sandy beaches and clear water.  Unfortunately, most of these places require a passport, which can be a bummer if you or someone in your group doesn’t have one or has let theirs expire.  But don’t fret!  Here are 5 beautiful beach destinations that you can visit that don’t require a passport.

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