Monthly Archives: August 2015

Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


Travels and Adventures

Ever since I left Spain in 2009, I longed for hot sunny summers spent lounging at the beach. So when I finally decided to take a career break earlier this year, I figured this was my chance to make up for the past 6 years!

May: Tenerife – Madrid – Basque Country 

Hiking in Tenerife, Spain

I spent my first month back home soaking up the sunshine, eating fresh fish and on occasional hikes. One of my favorite moments was watching an incredible sunset from a small mirador only a 30-minute walk away from my home.

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

At the end of the month, I flew to Bilbao for a Mom – Daughter trip in the Basque Country to celebrate my 31st birthday! I spent my birthday surrounded by things I love: family, nature and wine. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that!

Marqués de Riscal, Basque Country (Spain)

June: Tenerife – Madrid – Basque Country – Cantabria 

Playa del Ancón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

When I returned to Tenerife from rather rainy Basque Country, I made it a mission to soak up as much sunshine at home and some of my favourite beaches (like the ones above) as possible. I didn’t miss a single day on my duty. I think I did a pretty decent job. 

After a very brief visit to Madrid to attend the Open Day of my preferred MBA Program late May, I returned a couple of weeks later for an interview (which, later on, became an offer that I happily accepted) – now, I’m officially a 2016 MBA Candidate!

San Sebastián, Basque Country (Spain)

On the following day, I took an early train to Irún – where I started my 3-week hike along the northern coast of Spain. I loved discovering tiny villages, lush mountains and beautiful  sandy beaches in the Basque Country and Cantabria – all while challenging myself more than I ever had before.

Cantabria (Spain)

July: – Cantabria – Asturias – Tenerife – Miami – New York

Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Early July I continued my Camino de Santiago along the Northern route from Cantabria into Asturias – which has now become my latest obsession – I mean, look at this place. And this one. Oh, and the one above (Oviedo)!

Arriving in Oviedo (my end point) felt equally wrong and right. I was sad to leave – but also excited for the adventures ahead. I returned back to Tenerife for a few days to rest (and go kayaking!) before flying out to Miami to meet my best friend for 6 days of sunshine, art and cocktails (not necessarily in that order). I absolutely loved exploring the Wynwood Art Walls – and am still talking about it to anyone who cares to listen!

Cocktails in Miami

Following Miami came New York. A lot of plans began to change at this point: my 1-week  photography course had been cancelled** and so had my following trip to Iceland. This reminded me that things don’t always go as planned and you have to learn to make the best out of it.

Sunset from New York City Highline

And so I did. I took my NY trip as an opportunity to explore an entire different aspect of the city. I spent most of my time in Brooklyn, for instance. Every day I woke up without a set plan. Instead, I just walked: along the Hudson river, across bridges, through parks and even along a beach. I saw many incredible sunsets and had some of the best coffees. I even met up with some of my ex-work colleagues – it was so nice to see them again after these months!

**I ended up taking a short weekend photography course which now allows me to feel a bit more comfortable out of auto-mode (just don’t ask me to take backlit photos or indoor portraits!). 

August: New York – Tenerife – Cologne – Madrid 

New York skyline

I left New York for Tenerife once again – but this time for only just enough time to slightly recover from jet lag, squeeze goodbye my little ball of fur and pack my life into one and a half suitcases (oh, and also go on a quick boat trip to some of my favourite corners of the island – Los Gigantes and Teno).

Boat trip in Tenerife, Canary Islands

After dropping off my bags in my little flat, I headed straight back to the airport to fly out to Cologne, Germany, to spend some time with close family. I hadn’t been to Cologne in 20 years – what a beautiful city! I really enjoyed the lifestyle there: the large parks, river walks, beautiful old town, many breweries… I’ve already made it a mission to return some time over the next 2 months!

Cologne, Germany

I’ve been back in Madrid for the past 5 days, slowly easing myself into this new place, new neighbourhood and new life as an MBA student – can’t wait for the program to begin!


Summer Reads

Blue Sea in Tenerife, Spain

Early June I published my summer reading list. I have a problem with reading lists, though: I hardly ever stick to them. Once I find something I like, I tend to stick to it (as happens with terrifying psychological thrillers led by extremely twisted female characters – anti-heroes, as they call them).

So, yeah, I guess you won’t be surprised that two out of my three strongest recommendations are thrillers. Oops. 

Anyway, I have read some great (and some not so great) books this summer. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your next purchase, I definitely recommend adding these 3 to your reading list:

Luckiest girl alive – by Jessica Knoll ★★★★★

I have read mixed reviews about this book before even picking it up in June as my next read. Lets put it this way: I really wouldn’t sell it as a light beach read. But. BUT. I personally loved it. If you enjoy dynamic reads that switch between past and present, cold and calculating anti-heroes and don’t mind rather graphic descriptions and swear words – give it a go (and let me know what you think!).

Disclaimer – by Renée Knight ★★★★

I devoured Disclaimer in 1.5 days! Catherine begins to read a book she finds by her bedside until she realises it’s all about her. It threatens to expose her darkest secret, one she thought she was safe from. The book is written in past and present form from the perspective of two characters. It was dynamic, gripping, fast-paced and twisted – highly recommend it!

The wrong knickers: A decade of chaos – by Bryony Gordon ★★★★

I simply loved this book for 3 reasons: it’s honest, real and hilarious! I believe there’s a little bit of Bryony in every one of us – and it’s so refreshing to find someone who (graphically) depicts the ups and downs of this awkward, f*cked up decade. I’d say a must-read for any woman who has successfully survived (or is still surviving) her 20s!


Instagram

New York skyline

I wanted this photo to say…

Look at me, I’m sophisticated. I spend my summer evening sipping rosé from rooftops overlooking Manhattan.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes…

I queued to get to this rooftop (which is stunning, by the way). It was still broad daylight when I negotiated my way through the crowds to the ‘perfect place to take photos of the skyline‘. I forced my friends to follow me and feed me drinks so I didn’t have to leave my rather privileged spot.

I took a grand total of 27 photos of this sunset (12 with my iPhone and 15 with my Canon EOS). This wasn’t the best one of all – but I couldn’t really wait to get home and download my DSLR photos, so I picked my best iPhone shot instead. It’s grainy. But hey, it became my most liked shot so far!

Hate is heavy, so let it go

I wanted this photo to say…

I am a street art hunter with an exceptional eye for detail. Also, this quote is so inspiring!

Meanwhile, behind the scenes…

We only came across Wynwood because our Uber driver had mentioned it. I don’t really know any artists’ names and don’t recognise styles (though I wish I could).

All through the cool streets of Wynwood, I was dragging behind – we had actually come here on a mission to find good mexican food. It was getting dark – which wasn’t great in  neighbourhood filled with warehouses we didn’t know almost anything about. Most of my shots (well, those taken outside the Wynwood Art Walls) were taken with my iPhone because I was on a rush!

Asturias, Spain

I wanted this photo to say…

Asturias is beautiful and wild. It is full of contrasts and manages to be stunning even on gloomy days.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes…

I was a tiny step away from missing this bit. My feet were still aching from the 38km hike  the day before and the thought of even walking 5km today was killing me. Thankfully, the train wasn’t leaving until 2 hours later and I chose to give walking a chance instead.

At this point, I was completely on my own. While I usually didn’t mind this during my Camino, this day was different: I was desperate to share this landscape with friends and family. I sat down on a wooden bench and sent this photo to my girlfriends. This day, I really wished they were there.

PS: Are we friends on Instagram?


By the numbers

Brooklyn Bridge

Since May (which symbolized the start of my extended summer holidays), I…

  • Took 13 flights: Tenerife – Madrid – Bilbao – Tenerife // Tenerife – Madrid // Oviedo – Tenerife // Tenerife – Madrid – Miami – New York – Madrid – Tenerife // Tenerife – Madrid – Cologne – Madrid
  • Rode 1 long distance train: from Madrid to Irún – the starting point of my Camino del Norte!
  • Hiked +450 km from Irún to Oviedo in 21 days
  • Booked a ridiculous amount of Ubers (my new source of local gems)
  • Slept 1 night at a Twelve Tribes location
  • Shot over 1000 photos with my new Canon EOS 7D (although only about 700 have made it into Aperture)

Inspiration

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison


 

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Like most places we visited in Miami, Wynwood Art District was recommended to us by one of our Uber drivers.

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

I love the concept: warehouse buildings acting as giant blank canvases to showcase a major art statement. I honestly believe every larger city should have district that allows its artists to express themselves and give them an opportunity for appreciation and recognition.

Wynwood is one of those places I can’t stop reading, thinking and talking about. This level of fascination with a district doesn’t happen very often. I think I can safely say that Wynwood Miami is up there with Palermo Buenos Aires right now – and that, my friends, is quite a thing to say coming from someone who has been imagining a life in Palermo for the past 5 years.

And then, just to make things even cooler, there’s the Wynwood Walls art project.

Just picture this: Over the past 6 years, the Wynwood Walls have seen over 50 artists representing 16 countries and have covered over 7,400 m2 (or 80000 square feet) of walls.

Can you imagine the mix of styles, colours and techniques?

Even better jet, have a look at what the Wynwood Walls art project looks like. And then maybe book a trip to Miami and take me with you!

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Wynwood, Miami (USA)

Which is your favourite Wynwood Wall?


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In June 2015, I ventured on a 3-week solo hike along Northern Spain starting in Irún (Basque Country) and finishing in Oviedo (Asturias). This is the third post in my Camino series – click here if you missed the first and/or second post!


On my 16th day, I kicked-off in Serdio (Cantabria) at 7:45 AM (which, admittedly, wasn’t even that early) and arrived in Llanes (Asturias) more than 12 hours later. It was, without any doubt, my longest day on the Camino (which also made it one of the hardest ones). But looking back, it’s also the one I remember most fondly.

Maybe because I didn’t rush it. Maybe because I did it my own way – stopping to take a photo or going off the official route whenever I wanted. Or maybe because I had the perfect combination of solo and social time.

Although probably what really made my day was having a baby goat following us along the way.

Asturias (Spain)

I walked slow and took in as much from the landscape as I could. Eventually, my Camino family split for the day and I found myself in a not-so-well-marked coastal area on my own – doubting my own orientation skills. Soon enough, though, I saw Klaus (do you remember him?): at that point, I knew I was at least going in the right direction.

Asturias (Spain)

Asturias (Spain)

Shortly after, I was caught up by two Germans doctors and an English girl – with whom I explored hidden caves (how cool is that?) and had one too many sidras (cider) in Buelna. Later in the afternoon, outside a tiny market in Pendueles, I met a Spanish peregrino who soon became my companion for the rest of the afternoon to Llanes.

I walked about 38km on that day. I fell on my face when trying to climb a passage and got caught under drizzly rain. I never felt so much pain in my feet and honestly doubted I would ever get to Llanes in one piece. Ultimately, I almost cried when I was informed that the entire city of Llanes was booked out that night (and we were suggested to continue walking! another 5km! are they crazy?).

But somehow, it all worked out. I found a hotel room (the very last one) – and even got a pilgrim discount. I was on some kind of tiredness-fuelled energy high that even got me out of that lovely room to have more celebratory sidra that night. While I shared my pictures of caves, rugged coastlines, green hills and bird-eye view of Llanes I kept on thinking to myself: wow, I actually did it!

Asturias (Spain)

So it’s no surprise that I decided to take the next day off walking. Or at least, off long-distance trekking – as, for some reason, I just couldn’t sit still. After wandering through the streets of beautiful Llanes (above), I headed off along the coastline to the next small town with an albergue (Po). And then, on to the next one (Celorio).

Playa de Po, Llanes (Asturias)

Concejo de Llanes, Asturias (Spain)

The entire Concejo de Llanes has an incredible amount of beautiful natural beaches surrounded by luscious green hills. I’m determined to return to Llanes next summer for a longer period just to spend more time exploring the coast!

Asturias (Spain)

The walk to Ribadesella on day 18 felt surprisingly easy! Granted, there was hardly any hight difference and the path was a rather balanced mix of road and trail – leading through small villages, grassy fields and great cultural sights (such as the above of the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores in Barro).

My favourite bit of this day was, without doubt, the entrance into Ribadesella through the colourful old fishers town of El Portiellu.

El Portiellu, Ribadesella (Asturias)

El Portiellu, Ribadesella (Asturias)

My Camino family split in Llanes – so at the time we reached Ribadesella, only 3 of us were left. You would think that having to say goodbye to people you’ve only met 2 weeks ago would be easy, but when you’ve been through hell and heaven on the Camino, your relationship to those around you is intensified.

As my deadline and destination goal was approaching as well, I felt a bit blue (for the lack of a better word).

On the 19th day, we walked roughly 20km to Colunga – a big part of it along the Camino Real, which covers the local beaches and surrounding hills. It was a beautiful day to walk – not too hot, not too cold (although the latter had never really been the issue, really!).

Signage Camino del Norte, Spain

Asturias (Spain)

While sitting in a beach café in La Isla with Sara, we overheard a group of women discussing the disappearance of a female pilgrim on the Camino Francés earlier this year. We were both aware of this event (in fact, Sara had packed a pepper spray can in her backpack), but it didn’t stop us from going solo. Nor did it stop many other female travellers we crossed paths with over the past 3 weeks. It made us realise that there hadn’t been a moment when we felt in danger.

Yes, terrible things happen sometimes. When walking on a less-frequented paths, I was always alert and intuitive and usually knew how far/close the next group of pilgrims were. And by doing this, I always felt safe.

Asturias (Spain)

On my last day as part of (what was left of) my Camino family, we walked 18km to Villaviciosa – the apple capital of Spain. Yes, there was certainly lots of cider!

Villaviciosa, Asturias (Spain)

We reminisced about the many stories we collected along our Camino and remembered all the people we had met. We promised to keep in touch (thanks, Facebook!) and to always remember this experience.

As my final Camino day arrived, I was equally excited and sort of heart-broken. I actually didn’t really want this adventure to end! Soon after leaving Villanueva, I reached the point at which the Camino divided in two parts: on the right, it would continue to Gijón along the Camino del Norte, and on the left, it would route towards Oviedo – the start of the Camino Primitivo.

Towards Oviedo, I came across de impressive pre-romanesque Monasterio de San Salvador de Valdediós (below).

Monasterio de San Salvador, Asturias (Spain)

After the Monastery, the path went uphill to Alto de la Campa (photo below) – constantly allowing me to peek over the Valley from different angles.

I had heard that, on the Camino Primitivo, signs were less frequent and sometimes a bit confusing. True – In fact, I even came across conflicting signs! But somehow, with a bit of intuition, I didn’t get lost on this rather solitary path. During the whole day I only came across 2 fellow pilgrims, so I guess most of them decide to continue along the Camino del Norte to Gijón instead!

At Vega del Siero I hopped on a bus with one of the wisest pilgrims I had come across with: a french retiree who who had already walked over 1000km starting in France. She reminded me of how personal the Camino is:

There’s really no right or wrong way of walking it. No age, belief or physical requirements. There’s no minimum distance and no real schedule (but the one you build up in your head). And there’s nobody to impress or feel judged by (but ourselves).

Alto de Campa, Asturias (Spain)

That afternoon, I arrived in Oviedo without much of a plan but to walk through the old town, explore every inch of the city and eat local bonito del norte a la plancha (below) before saying goodbye to the Camino (for now!).

Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Bonito del Norte, Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Catedral de Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Have you been to Asturias in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Basque Country (Spain) is the third post of my Camino series:


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In June 2015, I ventured on a 3-week solo hike along Northern Spain starting in Irún (Basque Country) and finishing in Oviedo (Asturias). This is the second post in my Camino seriesclick here if you missed the first post!


I had been on the road for 8 days and was in serious need of a good night sleep and a long hot shower. I had survived the hardest bit (or that, at least, I kept on repeating to myself). As long as I had a good night sleep, I could be back climbing hills and mountains.

I allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in a design pension in the heart of Castro Urdiales. It was Friday night and the city was buzzing with live and laughter. Not that I saw any of it – I was soundly asleep.

Castro Urdiales, Cantabria (Spain)

After spending 12 hours in bed, I was ready to explore Castro – its beautiful cathedral, lively old town and port as well as its beaches and natural pools. I wasn’t ready to leave yet. This would be the place I would stay for two nights. It never felt wrong – in contrary, it was incredibly right in so many ways. This extra time allowed me to recover from my lack of sleep, heal some rough patches on my feet and just spend the rest of the day on the beach!

Then, on the tenth day, I was back on my foot.

Cantabria (Spain)

Some days felt longer than they seemed to be on paper. I never had a proper GPS tracking my position, but I am pretty sure that our walk from Castro Urdiales to Laredowas significantly longer than the 30km stated in the Guidebook.

This day, I learned about the many different things can that make a long hike more entertaining: singing (musicals, if possible), finding shapes and patterns, stopping to talk with other pilgrims and locals, creating photo themes, petting every animal that accepts your affection, and getting off the regular path every now and then to see what’s up that hill / down that road (and figuring out how to find your way back to the Camino after that!).

At the end of the day, I had a myriad of photos taken fom unlikely angles and suffered from a funny limp (I might or might not have occasionally skipped to the soundtracks of Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz – while carrying over 12kg on my back). But hey, it was a gorgeous walk!

On day 11, about half of the time we walked from Laredo to Güemes, we were barefoot digging out toes into the sand. It felt like heaven to my feet (and my eyes, too!). 

Laredo, Cantabria (Spain)

Cantabria (Spain)

The other half, however, was spent on asphalt – which (specially on hot days like these) felt like hell. At the end of the day, we were rewarded with one of the most inspiring stays on the Camino del Norte: a night at La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto

Here, we learned about the life and work of Ernesto Bustio – who is well known throughout the Camino del Norte for his hospitality, generosity and sympathy.

Note: You can read more about here: Ernesto Bustio, peregrino de la vida (in Spanish).

Oh, and we also met his adorable dog!

Güemes, Cantabria (Spain)

On the next day, we walked from Güemes to Santander, which was a rather easy 15km hike – mostly along the coastline. This time could have been rather uneventful day – but, instead, it turned into one of my favourite ones for two reasons:

This beach…

Cantabria (Spain)

… And this coastline.

Cantabria (Spain)

We made many stops along the way – and even went swimming! (I’m blocking out the fact that the water was probably on the same temperature level than, say, England *shudder*).

On the next day, we made our way out of Santander to Santillana del Mar. Now, you may remember that, in the Basque Country, I made a few executive decisions to skip small bits that weren’t particularly beautiful. Well, I kind of wish I had done it here, too – but when I realised I was in the heart of the industrial outskirts of Santander, it was too late.

Thankfully, our arrival at Santillana del Mar made up for the otherwise a bit dull walk. The medieval village is filled with half-timbered houses and stone-built mansions that meet on the centric cobblestone streets. Yes, it’s touristy – But hey, it’s pretty, too. It reminded me a bit of Peratallada (Catalonia)!

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria (Spain)

This night, on day 13, we stayed at what soon was referred to as our Castle – a renovated 16th century palace set in the heart of the village, converted into a private Albergue called Solar de Hidalgos. You guys, totally worth it!

Anyway, by now I realised that I’ve never given much detail about my Camino family. Admittedly, to any outsiders, we were a rather unlikely tribe. Nomads, teachers, students, hippies, believers – you would say we would easily run out of common topics, but it never happened.

One of the best things about being part of a little Camino tribe is that we all put our different skills together to benefit the entire group. As luck would have it, one of the guys used to be a tourist Guide and has an insatiable interest in history and volunteered to tour us around Comillas after we had settled in.

Comillas, Cantabria (Spain)

Comillas, Cantabria (Spain)

My 15th day was scheduled to be another long one: 29km from Comillas (Cantabria) to Colombres (Asturias) – However,things don’t always go as planned.

That’s part of the beauty of the Camino de Santiago: even though it’s good to have a plan, it’s good to ditch it, too.

Cantabria (Spain)

Cantabria (Spain)

As we arrived at the charming and friendly town of Serdio and met other peregrinos we had been bumping into every other day, we took the unanimous executive decision to change plans and stay in Serdio instead. It was well worth it – even if this meant walking an extra 9km the next day!

This was, of course, before checking out next day’s itinerary!

Note: Even though my 16th day started off in Cantabria, the majority of the time hiking was spent in Asturias. If you don’t want to miss the next part, just pop you email below and each new post will magically appear in your inbox – and voilá!

Have you been to Cantabria in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Cantabria (Spain) is the second post of my Camino series :


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