TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

Although it was just a “fake” maternity leave, to a certain extend I can now understand why a mom who needs to get back to work after 3 or 6 months would say that it´s too early as she´s just learned how to deal with the baby and have finally managed to settle into the new routines and daily schedule.

It does take a long time to get your head off the daily office tasks and suddenly being forced (from one day to the next) to not constantly thinking, breathing and speaking work any longer was extremely difficult for me and I don´t think that I´ve truly been able to forget about my job and the company and completely relax and focus on myself only for a single day of those 3 months but as I was and am and will not be in danger of any of the modern world stress related sicknesses, I don´t feel that this complete oblivion would have been necessary to recharge my batteries.

I did entirely enjoy this journey and am grateful that my company and especially my boss made this possible. I know that there are workplaces out there, where these “mini sabbaticals” are being granted on a regular base, as research shows that an employee is a better one when given those special times off, when needed, but as this was a first time in our organisation, it´s been a great gift for me to receive.

I am happily looking forward to going back to work on the 4th of january as I´m not ready to retire just, yet, but do still feel that there is a lot of things I want to pursue and achieve in the years to come and as the fortune teller In NOLA told me – there are the most exciting times and projects laying ahead of me –  but I will definitely look back to this journey as I´ve learned a lot from it.

Here comes a recap in numbers:

In 3 months, I´ve:

 – come through 18 airports

 – visited 8 countries

 – driven close to 8000 km

 – slept in 30 different hotels and beds in 70 travel days

 – spend around 17.000.- Euro

 – seen 20 possible apartments in 2 countries on 3 islands and still don´t know where to go

 – been 55 days on my own

 – walked 724.741 steps which equals 552 km (an average of 6,7 km per day)

 – did 20 workouts in 10 weeks

 – researched countless hours on the internet mainly for trip planning and hotel booking

 – will always remember this time by listening to Adele´s “Hello”

THE BEST: Uluru – Ayers Rock, Cumberland Island and Oak Alley plantation

THE WORST: New Zealand

What I would do differently next time I´m planning a 3 months vacation is that I would pick 2 or 3 places of interest where I would stay each for 4-6 weeks and be less restless and eager to see it all, know it all and do it all in a mere 90 days as there was not a lot of relaxing happening the way I´ve planned and experienced this time out. 🙂

Most of the time I have enjoyed to telling you all about my days, tours, sights and excitements and as I´ve been to so many places, seen so many great things, met a lot of interesting people and experienced loads of new things in a relatively short time, I´m actually very happy that I´ve started this blog as it will also be a perfect reminder for myself should I ever have the desire to go back in time and wanting to remember. I´d like to thank you all for following my first steps to becoming a famous author and for regularly commenting on my blog – it meant a lot to me and showed me that I was never really on my own – no matter where I´ve been.

I´m “flying home for christmas” tomorrow and am glad to see my parents, siblings, my boys and good friends and wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a very happy and special year 2016!

2016

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TAPAS – OR NOT

palma2

It´s been the 3rd night in a row today, that I have been sitting in a restaurant totally on my own. (No – it´s not been the same restaurant – it was 3 different ones!) restaurant For once, this is a clear sign of “off-off” season and second – I am not used to the Spanish dinner hours (which are starting around 9 pm) The food I´ve had during my 10 days in Spain was and is really good but has had nothing to do with local specialities. I´ve had Italian, Greek, Indian, Thai and a few attempts to “Fusian food” but have not yet, been able to find a good, small, local Tapas bar with lots of great Spanish (or Mallorquin) food. It almost seems as if “us tourists” from all over the world have wrongly “educated” the locals to adapt to our requests and they have totally forgotten about their great local cuisine, which is very disappointing.

I´ve looked at a great apartment in a village (or better settlement) on the East coast of Mallorca – called “Cala Murada” today. The whole place is mainly a living quarter, with just a few restaurants and very minor commercial buildings.

The apartment itself is located in some type of “holiday village” which is build on 350.000 m2 grounds of a property developer. The “holiday village” is consisting out of various types of buildings, houses, row and double houses as well as apartments in multiple sizes, shapes and styles so that it does not entirely look like an artificial place build straight from the drawing board, but you are obviously able to recognise that the whole areal belongs together. The apartment is brand new, 2 bed, 2 bath, has got a little garden a huge terrace and can be bought fully furnished (with 2 different “sets” of available furniture). The areal does have a pool which can be used by “everyone” but the ocean and next beach is just 1 km away.

The price is OK (a little over budget but I would be getting a lot more for my money than the new development from yesterday, for example) and as it´s already done, I could just order the furniture and move in in february (if I wanted to….)

The landscape and countryside on the way towards the West is different from the North (where I´ve been the last 2 days) and also different from the South (where I´m currently staying) It´s much greener and more lush, the trees are still holding all their leafs, there´s more forrest, fruits and farmland (I´ve seen at least 5 typical Mallorquin windmills today…) and I did prefer the view over the one from the last 2 days.

palma1

Afterwards I stopped in Palma – the beautiful capital of Mallorca and realised once again that I really like it. The big old cathedral is extremely impressive and the old town with it´s cobblestoned, tiny alleys and little shops and boutiques and local cafe´s and restaurants is charming and inspiring. I was lucky as it was a very warm day today (guess around 22 degrees) so it was perfect to sit outside in a street café and practice some people watching.

Tomorrow is my last day in Mallorca and I will spend it relaxing…..

MORE HOUSE HUNTING

The more apartments I look at, the more difficult it becomes. I´m probably now at a total count of 20´ish and feel that it´s got the same effect as smelling too many perfumes at the same time – after a few of them, your nose is no longer capable to differentiate the various flavours any longer and everything starts to smell the same.

I´ve seen 5 apartments today. One which I really like and would/could buy instantly and another one which is also nice and more sensible (bigger and cheaper) but definitely not as stunning as the first one.

I´ll quickly explain the 2 options for you: The one I really like is in Palmanova. That is in the south towards west of the island, not too far away from the world famous “Ballermann strip” but still in a little beach village which is not known for the young English/German crowd, drinking Sangria with straws out of buckets and making sure to spend as much time as possible in a total wasted state of mind. It´s a mere 20 minutes drive to Palma (as well as to the airport) in a brand new development (will be finished in july 2016) and it´s 2 minutes walking distance away from 2 beautiful beaches. All 35 apartments in the house are the same size and layout – 1 livingroom/kitchen, one bedroom and 1 bathroom. There will be a commonly usable rooftop terrace with barbecue, sun loungers and a splash pool. Super modern, all glass/aluminium/concrete and just the way I like it. The price is a bit higher than my budget but this is the first place where I am almost 100% sure that it would be a very good investment and I would be able to resell it (after a certain amount of time) for a lot more than what I´ve paid for (purely because of the location)

The option number 2 is in the north of the island – a little village called Sa Pobla – probably 15 minutes driving distance from the beach. (45 minutes from Palma and the airport) It´s got a living room, kitchen, 2 bathrooms and 2 bedrooms as well as a parking garage (which is very unusual) and is also first time move in but not done with such “attention to detail” as the first one. Everything is a little less modern and the view is literally towards one of the walls of the neighbouring houses. (me – a true HongKong´er being used to this, still don´t like it…) But it´s 60.000 Euro cheaper and with another bed/bath – a lot bigger.

The thing I am realising while driving around and looking at property in Mallorca is that this is – by far – the most beautiful island of them all but also – by far – the most expensive as well as the coldest one (this evening the temperature was 7 degrees and all of the real estate guys I´ve met are telling me that this is the warmest december they have had in the last 10 years…. )

Tomorrow will be the final visit and then I should probably prepare a pro/con list by island 🙂

IN STYLE

the last hotel I chose is definitely the most stylish and modern (and non practical) of probably all hotels I´ve ever stayed in and I did pick it to finish my time out in style!

I´ve got a room with a stone wall, a huge bathtub standing on top of a black marble socket, a rain shower, thousands of hidden lights and spots and all inner doors (even the ones to the closet) are made out of milky glass. The view out of my King size bed over the wooden balcony with a private jacuzzi is the ocean and the sun rise.

Breakfast is completely over the top. As they do only have a few guests, they did decide not to put up the big buffet but are serving each table with their own tray of 7 different sweet and salty buns, a plate with sausages, ham, cheeses and olives, a fruit platter and a platter with yoghurt, muesli and several jams and butter. Additionally they are bringing you a selection of freshly pressed juices as well as any eggs your style (and obviously coffee). When the whole table was prepared, this morning I did invite all 5 waiters (who were serving me only as I was the only guest….) to join me and have breakfast together.

The not so practical part of the room is obviously the open concept of the bathtub and shower which is spreading hot damp air all over the wooden floors, furniture and bedlinen and everything gets mouldy and smelly after a while. The other small disadvantage is the jacuzzi on the balcony – it is not heated and after dipping my toe in, I have decided that with an outside temperature of 10 ish degrees (in the evening) and a jacuzzi temperature which is very much alike – I´m not going to test the waters….

Today I drove up to the North East of the island to have a look at 4 different apartments. The cities up there are very beautiful, with old historical city centres, cobblestoned streets, little artsy shops and restaurants and medieval churches but it´s clearly visible that we are in the off off season as most of the restaurants and shops are closed, a lot of the houses are locked up and the shutters and doors are firmly sealed. Whenever I am getting closer to a decision where and what to buy, I do think I need to consider the size of the city and it´s hustle and bustle in the off season, as I don´t want to be completely on my own in that place.

007

Apologies for not “talking to you” yesterday but I did spend an exciting evening with Mr Bond – James Bond. As the film and working crew were all wearing Helly Hansen jackets while filming the scenes in Austria, it was a mandatory “must do” to go and see the movie.

I am a bit of an “007” fan and do actually like Daniel Craig as James, but was extremely disappointed by the last Bond movie, cause it was slow, dark and sad and with James being so quiet and insightful (wasn´t he even crying at one stage…?) I regretted to having paid for the cinema experience. The new “Spectre” was absolutely meeting my expectations of a Bond movie. Lots of action, explosions and totally over the top stunts, fast cars and hot girls and when Christoph Waltz was crawling across the London bridge in the final scene with a fake eyeball, scars across his face and half of his leg cut open and bleeding badly – but still not beaten – it felt a bit like a scene from Robocop or Terminator – very unreal and very “I´ll be back”-like.

One thing I do have to comment, though, is the choice of suits for Daniel Craig. The few scenes where he is wearing suits, they are at least 1 size too small and the pants are a minimum of 5 cm too short. The jacket is closed with 1 button but it´s opening too much towards the hip and the “butt is eating his pants”…- which does really not look sexy (if that´s the purpose of it…) but it´s simply too tight and a very bad pick by his stylist!

Today I have travelled and arrived in Mallorca – the final destination of my 3 months vacations. Time flies, especially when you are constantly busy, planning, checking, following up and discovering things.

The flight down here was a bit crazy (sitting in the midst of a school class of adolescent Spanish kids, chatting, singing, yelling, haggling and laughing with each other – obviously – across 7 rows of seats) Then picking up my rental car with a “Tom-Tom” Navigation system which was totally not guiding me to my hotel but I did have to stop and do it the old fashioned way – asking a few locals where to go and receiving the full Spanish instructions from which I did understand: “autopista – Palma – salida – Cala Major”…. (I was able to show my gratitude with “Gracias and buenos noches”) and the last bit was supported by a cab driver who pointed me in the right direction.

I´m really looking forward to using this wonderful GPS system for my appointments with the real estate guys… – NOT!

By the way – it is 11 degrees Celsius and foggy outside….. should I even start looking for a place here….?

PACKING

those of you who already had the pleasure of sharing a hotel room with me know that I do have a very special way of packing the clothes which I am taking with me on a trip. A psychiatrist would probably call this a “compulsive disorder” and prescribe some colourful pills for me to take, but I just call it a “habit” which goes along with the way my brain is functioning and it helps me to relax and not being stressed out about having forgotten something.

I am one of those “most desirable customers” for any clothing store who likes to buy complete outfits. With “complete outfit” I do not only mean a bottom and the matching top – no – I like to buy shoes, socks, scarfs, belts, jackets and sometimes even the matching jewellery which goes along with it. If a stylist is able to meet my taste on a dressed up mannequin in a shop window, it might happen that I enter the store and ask the staff to give me the exact outfit with all accessories included for me to try on – and if it fits and I like it on me, I buy the whole “shebang”.

To me it´s one of the great things which is making my life easier when someone with good taste is doing the selecting and picking for me and as I travel so much, I do also prefer the clothes in my suitcase to match (and not mix!) This is the main reason why I would pack as many “complete outfits” for a trip as days I am planning to stay away. I would stack those outfits in my suitcase next or on top of each other (together with one daily set of underwear) and just take out stack after stack during my travel without having to think about colours, weather, occasions or other things in the morning.

This does obviously also require me knowing in advance, where I´ll go, whom I will meet, the planned events for each day and an exact weather forecast. In case of something “unexpected” (like an evening invite or something a bit more special) I would always have a bit of a “fancy” outfit with me AND (you might believe it or not….) I am able to trade the monday outfit for the wednesday one or the other way around – if needed 😉

I do totally understand that this behaviour sounds completely crazy to anyone who does mainly buy  and wear black, white, beige and shades of grey coloured garments as they would always go together, no matter how you mix and match them but as I do (sometimes) like very colourful and specific tones (like a rich berry/deep turquoise/burnt orange or very bold patterned stuff) in my opinion it is necessary that they are being matched with things which go along with it and other than black, there´s nothing to mix it with.

During my 3 months off, I did have 2 long trips which were each lasting more than 20 days and even though I am always using my luggage allowance up to the maximum I was not able to pack 20 complete outfits, so one of the more important things I´ve learned during that time out is that it is actually possible to use a pair of pants more than twice (before it has to be washed) and that I am able to use the purple shirt not only for a purple pant but I can also wear it together with a black, blue or even a white jeans….. 😉

packing

 

FINCA

I´ve seen 4 different houses and apartments today. 2 of them were not for me. Early 70´s style, tiles, wall colours, bathrooms and kitchen too old and would need a complete overhaul, which would probably be OK if my Dad was a bit younger as he could take care about the construction and watch over the builders, but I´ve also seen 2 Fincas which are really beautiful and I like them a lot 🙂

They are both located in the North of the Island – a village which is a little up the mountain with the name Icod La Vega and Icod El Amparo.

House 1 (below is the layout I´ve drawn up when back at the hotel – I´m neither a designer nor an architect, so please bear with me….hopefully the pics are explaining my drawing a little)

haus1plan

It is up the mountain on a very steep alleyway and the owner did put a lot of work, heart and soul in its renovation. It´s basically an inner yard, when you´re first stepping in with some older building structures on the left (which can still be renovated into a proper building) and the house on the right. When you enter the house, there is a little bathroom with a shower on the left and a guest bedroom on the right. Next to the bathroom are stairs which are going up to the rooftop (which is usable) Further ahead you walk into a proper kitchen from which you step up into bedroom 2, outside to the back of the house, where you´ll find a patio with a full outside kitchen, barbecue and sitting and to the left, where you find the living room, a bathroom (with a tub) and the master bedroom. On the ground floor, there is another fully equipped apartment (1 bed, 1 bath) and you can enter into an office space. The garden is huge (but extremely steep) arranged in 3 big terraces and in perfect condition and full of fruit trees (avocados, oranges, lemons and fruits which I don´t even know as well as a big greenhouse and lots of herbs) There is a chicken stable and a doghouse and a cistern which collects the rainwater for watering the garden and the plants. The view from the house is the ocean (on one side) and the highest mountain of the island – the Teide – on the other side – totally stunning! The woman of the house is a painter and did paint a lot of the walls with very special motives but it´s charming and suits the place. Most of the furniture is handmade and will be sold, as well. The place is offered for 149.000 Euro (which is extremely cheap but the owner has got cancer in its final stage and wants to sell rather today than tomorrow)

haus1

House 2 (again – below is the layout and the pics of it, as well) is very different.

haus2plan

From the outside (my mum would say – and I have to agree a little….) it looks like a total ruin. When you open the big (very old and weathered) wooden gates, you also end up in an inner yard. On the left is an old stone building which can be renovated and made into a guest house (or you integrate it with the new part) On the right, there is a super modern building which features 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, a separate toilet an integrated kitchen/livingroom, a walk in closet and a utility room (with boiler, washing machine and dryer). The outside is covered with a huge wooden deck which looks a bit “zen like” and you can also climb to the rooftop to enjoy the view (or just sit there in your sun chair and watch the sunset). It´s owner is an “middle aged hippie Dutchman” who used to live in the non renovated building while he did modernise and work on the other part. Now he “got” himself a french girlfriend and moved with her to France to renovate an old french farmhouse…. Although this house/areal is very close to the first one, the view is far from as spectacular as house 1 but I do like the super modern look a lot and with a very reasonable price (“only” 88.000 Euro) I could use another 20´ish to redo the other half of the place and make it a little more spacious.

haus2

Both of the houses are build “onto” the mountain and you need to drive around 20 minutes to get to the next beach. They are also not close to any “civilisation” (shops, restaurant, bars or similar) but you´ve got real Spanish neighbours. The places are very difficult to get to, as the tiny little windy roads are mega steep and small and the big Mercedes of the real estate agent was “touching” some walls, asphalt and other stuff a few times on our way there, so not made for elderly people or for anyone who has got an issue with walking….

I do like both of them – each for a very different reason and do not think that I will see anything similar in Mallorca as the prices are much higher for those type of buildings in similar sizes, but we will see…..what do you think my friends?

DRIVING

The roads in Tenerife today managed what thousands of driven kilometres in Australia and the US were not able to accomplish – they stressed me out completely!

Not sure if you have ever experienced this yourself but I did have to stop on my way to a planned sight just to breathe, stand there for a bit and loosen up my arms, legs and hands cause they were so tensed that I was almost shaking….

If I have “complained” about the road up the Anaga forest yesterday then this was basically “kindergarden” compared to the the one running through the Teno Nationalpark which I drove today on my way to discover the North-East of the island.

It was not only that it was super mega small and most of the times not made for 2 cars passing each other, it was also the fact that I had to squeeze my car (almost) against the rocks of the mountain while the steepness of the road itself was crazy and on top of it there were 180 degree curves all the way up and down and I had to concentrate extremely to not hitting the rock or the passing cars. When I saw a full length passenger bus coming up towards me and had to back up for quite a bit to let him pass, I decided to take a little break and breathe…..

(I am really not able to understand the guys bicycling (Men AND Women!!) their way up or down – in my opinion they suffer from a very serious case of “insanity”…)

The landscape, vegetation and little villages up there are beautiful and I do prefer this over the south of the island but as the highway is not covering the “full” circle and as you do need to use those windy and steep roads to being able to get to this area, I have already cancelled it from my list of possible places to buy a home.

On my way back to the hotel, I was rewarded by a sunset covered peak of the highest mountain on the island – the Teide (3.718m high) and as I was not able to stop in the middle of the road, I had to shoot this pic while driving.

teide

CALCULATIONS

I´ve read somewhere that the island is 50 km long and 50 km wide.

candelaria

My tour today took me along the southern highway, first to a little town called: Candelaria, to look at the Basilica de la Virgen de Candelaria. It´s guided by nine very strong and (even according to today´s standards) fairly handsome looking statues of the first kings who ruled Teneriffa a long time ago.

Continuing towards the Anaga forest and mountain range where one can find one of the oldest laurel forests in the world and with its peak a little over 1000 m height, it´s a great spot for hiking and biking (if you are that crazy….) Driving with my rental car was maybe not such a wonderful idea as the road is so small that I had real issues whenever cars were passing, let alone the buses which are also using this route….

la laguna1

My final stop of the day was “La Laguna” – the old capital of Tenerife with its Unescu world heritage protected old town, its famous cathedral (and lots of other churches) and a huge amount of really old houses. Wandering the cobblestone streets, the people surrounding me did (almost) only speak Spanish which sounded really good after all the Russian, German and English conversations I´m hearing in my hotel and the area around it.

As calculations was never one of my strong subjects, I should probably not even attempt to ask this but here comes a question from me to you (who are hopefully much better in maths than I am)

How is it possible that one is driving from one end of the island to (almost) the other end, up and down some mountains and yes – a bit of zig zagging along the coast and the car shows a final meter count of the day which is more than 200 km (remember – the island is only 50 km long…)??

The joke of the day happened when I came back from dinner and heard the daily band playing (and singing) some old Bee Gees songs and my gang of pensioners shoving along on the dance floor looking and moving a bit like the dead guys in Michael Jackson´s Thriller video…. 🙂

thriller

BEST AGERS

teneriffa night

A lot of people did comment my plans to going to Tenerife with: “…. so you will be hanging out with the best agers – better known as pensioners….” and looking at today´s average age around the pool/beach area, it is definitely true that the majority is over 60 years old. But – in just a mere 14 years, I will belong to that group of people and knowing that those 14 years will fly by faster than one would wish for, I am no longer feeling like the young chick who used to think that I would never make it to that age….. (thoughts of a very young teenage girl…)

The guests in the hotel are mainly from Russia, England and Germany and my morning started with another very typical German reaction from 2 elderly ladies, who sat down on the table behind me, discussing with each other that it was pretty annoying that I had the guts to take “their table” on their last vacation day, so they had to readjust…..

My day was totally filled by sunbathing, doing nothing, reading and googling for places I want to see on the island – so after a vast and very rich breakfast buffet I sat down on a sun chair and did not get up before the sun did set, this evening when I´ve decided that I had to go to the gym to feel a little less guilty about my complete laziness today.

Me being me thought that a 22 degree warm sun would not do any damage to my already pre tanned skin, but this assumption was wrong and I`m (once again) presenting myself in some “shade of red” which I do not really like just hoping that it won´t peel off but turn into a much nicer golden brown after a few days…..

I´m planning to discover the southern part of the island tomorrow and have organised an appointment with a real estate agent for Monday to look at 4 different apartments in the northern part of the island (as the southern part does not seem to offer anything suitable for me which fits my price/style/requirements.)