Paragliding has been on my bucket list for some time, but I never wanted to rush it. Last month, the location, conditions, and price all worked perfectly! Keep reading to hear about my experience with Fly Chamonix.
HOW TO GET TO CHAMONIX
The best way to get to Chamonix is by private car from Geneva. I like it because it’s fast, convenient and you can travel when you want. However, if you are price conscious, you can also check out the FlixBus which offers limited travel times between Geneva and Chamonix. Another way to save money would be to fly into Milan instead of Geneva. From Milan, you can take a bus that takes around 4 hours to get to Chamonix. Geneva is a smaller airport and so it tends to be more expensive to fly into.
WHERE TO STAY
There are lots of great hotels in Chamonix, and I’d recommend staying in the heart of thecity as close to the walking zone as possible. You are expending so much energy during the day on the mountain, that you don’t want to walk too far at night to have dinner. We stayed at the 4 star Hotel Morgane and it was fantastic. Ample sized rooms, great breakfast, and very friendly staff.
Our guides from Fly Chamonix met us at Le Brevent Gondola meeting point. They were right on time and getting us excited for the adventure ahead. When we got to the top of the windsock, the guides started putting our gear on us including harnesses and helmets, and setting up the parachutes. The take-off was such a rush: the idea is you run as fast as you can while the parachute is filling with air. Pretty soon, you’re floating in the sky! I loved how my guide gave me the opportunity to “drive.” For more adventurous people, you have the chance to do acrobatics and have a big adrenaline rush!
All of my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience with Fly Chamonix. A highlight was flying in front of the breath-taking backdrop of Mont Blanc. A bonus with going with Fly Chamonix is how they set you up with an ongoing video of the flight for a reasonable fee. I love my GoPro footage!
Are you planning a trip to Montreux, Switzerland? Maybe you are heading to the Montreux Jazz Fest like my girlfriends and I did. Keep reading to hear all about our travels!
Getting to Montreux, Switzerland
The girls and I met up in Geneva for three days before we headed on our hiking trip on the Tour de Mont Blanc. We happened to be in town during the Montreux Jazz Festival. It seemed like it was meant to be! So we hopped on a train and headed to Montreux. We switched trains in Lausanne and then we decided to take the train passed Montreux to Chateau Chillon and then walk the 30 minutes back along the lake to the festival.
Chateau Chillon is worth the Trip
One of the most iconic things to do when you’re visiting Montreux is to walk along Lake Geneva and visit the
ChateauChillon. What is it exactly? A gorgeous medieval chateau that was controlled by the Savoy family. We found it to be very well maintained and inside found lots of great information about living in the medieval times. The Savoy family only spent about one month a year here back in the 1400s. They would come with 300 horses, all their wares, and they would make furniture as soon as they arrived. I found it crazy to think that the family owned this beautiful chateau on Lake Geneva but only stayed a month out of the year!
Onto the Jazz Festival
After the chateau, we took a beautiful walk right along Lake Geneva back to Montreux. The Montreux Jazz Festival is a music festival in Switzerland about an hour and a half by train from Geneva. It was founded in 1967, lasted three days and was based in the Montreux casino. It was exclusively jazz at that time with Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Soft Machine Weather Report, and Ella Fitzgerald as some of the headlining artists. Nowadays, the festival lasts two weeks and happens every July. I suggest to visit all the shops along Lake Geneva where you can buy hats, shirts, and all the eclectic bohemian stuff that you would find at any festival. After that, you can head to the supermarket for some wine and snacks and sit at one of the picnic tables before you go see the music. That’s what we did.
We decided not to spend the155 Swiss francs to go see Slash and the other headliners. Instead, we went to the park to hear the wonderful artists that were playing there. All in all, it was a fabulous festival with the best views. I hope you enjoyed this blog. Make sure to stay tuned next week because I’m going to be paragliding in France!
Are you looking for ideas for day trips from Madrid? In this video I share why Toledo is well worth the trip and what to do.
Toledo is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, and there is nothing like it in all of Spain. The cathedral is incredible, and there are plenty of monuments and museums to keep you busy. The beauty of Toledo is just getting lost. If you’re looking for a gorgeous medieval city, look no further!
Toledo is located one hour South of Madrid. You can get there by bus – and that’s what I did. I paid 5 Euros 50 and it was a 50-minute ride. You can also get there by train, but do note: the trains don’t run as often as the bus. You can also drive, just make sure that your hotel has parking because it is very difficult to get parking in the old walled part of the city.
Where to Stay
I stayed in a beautiful hotel called Hotel Boutique Adolfo. It is a 4-star hotel that opened in September of 2018. Best of all, it’s located in Plaza De Zocodover, the main plaza in Casco Historico Toledo, or the old walled City portion of town. This is where you want to be! Check out their availability here.
How Long to Stay
Most people come to Toledo just for the day from Madrid, which is possible, but I recommend spending at least one night. The city is beautiful and quiet to see at night and there’s at least 24 to 48 hours worth of things to do in the city. The city is known for its food as well she want to make sure to stay long enough to try all the Delicacies including partridge, carcamusas, river trout and a hearty bean dishes.
I arrived 4 noon with a friend and was able to see the sunset from El Mirador which is the famous view point outside the walled City looking back to the walled City.
The next morning, I got up and started my self-guided tour on the east side of the old city at Puente de Alcantara. I started here because the sun was better in the morning, perfect for filming and for the sunrise! I decided to work my way from east to west across the walled City, and finish my day at Puente de San Martin on the west.
After visiting Puente de Alcantara, I went to the Alcazar which is the Roman fortified building on the highest point in Toledo. There is a war museum inside. If you’re into this type of history, it’s worth a look! Since I’m not big into war things I didn’t go in, but I’m so glad I went for the view.
Next, I went to the cathedral called the primate Cathedral of Santa Maria of Toledo. I entered through the “Door of Forgiveness.” The Gothic style Cathedral dates back to the 13th century, and in my opinion, is the most impressive Cathedral in Toledo. It’s huge and bustling with tourists, for good reason!
My next stop was the El Greco Museum. It costs 3 euros and it was well worth the trip. They’re not even sure this was El Greco’s home, but it was purchased to show how people lived during the time that El Greco was alive. He moved to Toledo in 1577. The museum was nice and showed a typical kitchen and living space during the time. It also showed many of El Greco’s works. Note: they were not all originals. I loved the inviting garden to just sit and take a load off.
Next, I headed west through the Jewish part of the city to the oldest standing synagogue that is now owned by theCatholic Church called Santa Maria La Blanca. This is one of the most ‘instagrammable’ locations in Toledo with its white columns, white washed walls, and no furniture. It is located right next to the monastery San Juan De Los Reyes. After taking all of my Instagram photos at the synagogue, I raced back cross-town for my 4:30 tour of the city with the company called de Paseo.
My tour was with Juan Pedro, but he like to be called Juan P. 🙂 Since there were no other English-speaking guests, I had a private tour! I really enjoyed this tour because he didn’t take me to the main tourist sites. Instead, he gave me some of the stories and history of the city, and pointed out some of the unique spots throughout the Casco Historico. Book your walking tour with de Paseo here!
After my tour finished at 6:30 pm, I headed to the infamous Bisagra Gate or the Puerta de Bisagra. It was so impressive and I wish I could have stayed longer but I had to get going to catch the sunset at Puente de San Martin.
Have you ever been to Toledo, Spain? Leave a comment about your experience and if I’m missing any of your favorite spots!
Are you traveling to Spain for the first time? This blog is all about the 20 things to know before you go to Spain!
Welcome to my Spain travel guide!
As an American tourist in Spain, I’ve learned many things over the years. There are some major differences between USA and Spain and I’ve divided my tips for visiting into three categories. We will talk about all things FOOD including a popular Spanish breakfast, dinner time in Spain, and other tips to know when dining out. I discuss Spanish cultural tips like siesta and tipping in Spain, along with my best of Spain tips for traveling. I hope you enjoy this Spain travel guide 2019. Before you go to Spain.. watch this!
Spanish Food Tips
#1 Let’s start with Breakfast
Spain is all about the food but the most curious thing is when you’re served breakfast in the morning, expect to get toasted bread with tomato sauce. What? Tomato sauce?? Yes. With fresh tomatoes garlic and onion they say it’s pan tostado con tomate which is a very very normal breakfast to be eating while you’re in Spain.
#2 But first (or second) COFFEE!
If you’re a coffee drinker you have to learn the lingo for coffee. First of all, an espresso is called a cafe solo. A Cortado is similar to a Macchiato which is an espresso with a little bit of milk on top. A cafe Largo is the closest thing to coffee that we have in America. It’s similar to an Americano in Italy except it’s thick. You’ll probably need to ask for a little bit of hot water if you’re used to American coffee. And the last is Cafe con Leche which is like a Cafe au Lait: you have your coffee and a bunch of milk on top.
#3 Let’s move on to Lunch!
Lunch or comida is the most important meal of the day. It’s when the Spaniards take off from work they go visit their family, the kids leave school and go home. It’s about a three-hour ordeal and it’s the main meal of the day. Here in the US, we prefer to have dinner as a main meal but in Spain it’s lunchtime between 1:00 and 4:00 pm.
#4 Money Saving tip for Lunch
The best value during comida for lunch is the menu. It’s quite normal to order a menu which is three courses typically 10 to 15 euros and you get a starter of a salad or a soup, a secondi which is a meat course or a fish course, and a dessert. It’s typically served with a glass of wine, beer or water and the coffee that you order after your lunch is going to be extra.
#5 Where’s your bill?
In Spain, it is considered rude for the waiter to bring the bill before you’re ready. That’s right! After every meal, you specifically have to ask for the bill (and expect to wait four or five minutes before it arrives). In Spain, food is never rushed.
#6 To tip or not to tip?
Tipping is not expected or necessary in Spain. Most of the waiters make a real wage and receive health insurance so it’s not common to tip. If you feel like tipping and you feel like you’ve had great service, about 10 percent is enough!
#7 Spanish dinner
Dinner time starts 9:30 10 o’clock at night. Yes, half the world goes to bed by 9:30, but the Spaniards are just getting started! Personally, I love the food in Spain. I love the shareable plates and the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive. Most of all, I love the fact that everyone is getting together for every single meal. No matter where you go, it’s all about sitting with friends, having a drink and socializing.
Spanish Culture Tips
#8 Slow Down
First and foremost, you have to slow down. The locals are living life to enjoy their lives! it’s not about rushing around, getting things done. Everything is at a slower pace, so make sure to kick back relax and enjoy the ride!
Siestas in Spain are serious business. After comida, when the whole family gets together during lunchtime, all the shops are closed (so don’t expect to be shopping then!) Go home, take a nap, go to the park where everybody’s hanging out and laying low. They are resting before the shops and offices open back up for the evening sessions.
#10 Religious Holidays
It’s important to remember that Spain is primarily Catholic. You might want to check the Catholic religious holiday schedule before you head to the country. You don’t want to end up here during Semana Santa when everything is closed and all the Spaniards are on holiday so your hotel prices are higher. Also, there’s many things will be closed, so you don’t have anything to do!
#11 Diversity in Spain
The next cultural tip is to note that even though the country is primarily Catholic there is a huge influence of other cultures into this beautiful country. If you go to the south, there’s a Moorish influence as well as an Arab influence from Morocco. If you’re in the north, there’s a huge French influence across the Pyrenees, and if you’re in Barcelona, it’s a completely different culture and they have even considered seceding from the country of Spain.
#12 Look into my Eyes
This next cultural tip applies to the female readers, but also good to note for everyone. It’s quite common for men to be walking down the street and giving you a piercing look. It’s very normal for people to try and make eye contact. At first, it can seem a bit strange when we’re used to looking down, not paying attention to anybody. But here in Spain it’s quite normal… and quite exciting!
#13 Spanish Time
The last cultural tip I have for you is called Spanish time. If you’re out meeting a Spaniard for tapas or for a drink and they say they’re going to show up at 7 p.m, expect them to show up some time around 7:30. Remember as I started this conversation, just kick back relax and enjoy the ride!
Travel Tips for Spain
#14 Ablo Español?
My first travel tip actually applies to every single country that you go to: it’s best if you learn a few words of the native language. It doesn’t hurt anything; we know you’re going to butcher it, they know you’re going to butcher it, but the fact that you gave the effort makes all the difference in the world!
I suggest learning:
please, thank you
where are the bathrooms?
a couple of things about your hotel
#15 It’s a big country
The next travel tip I have for you is to know that Spain is big! It’s almost as big as Texas, where I’m from, and it takes more than ten hours to drive from north to south and east to west. It’s really really important to note that it takes quite a while to get from point A to point B in Spain.
#16 On the Road Again
But not to worry! The roads are fantastic in Spain so it’s okay if it takes you ten hours… the roads are great! It’s very easy to hire a car and travel anywhere you want to go in the country. Just note: there are lots of camera speed traps everywhere throughout the country and the speed limit is usually about 120 kilometres an hour when you’re on the highway. I think every single time I’ve driven in this country I’ve ended up with a ticket in the mail so… follow speed limit signs!
#17 Fly if you can
If you don’t feel like driving: book flights! Typically in Spain, flights are cheaper than booking a train and just as cheap as booking the bus. It’s a lot faster to book a cheap air flight to get from point A to point B.
#18 Beware of the Summers
The summer heat in Spain is not for the faint of heart. Expect it to be over a hundred sometimes 110 in Madrid andeven worse in Sevilla and Granada to the south. You might want to come to Spain in an off season, perhaps in April in May. OR come in September or October.
#19 Get outta town
To me, this is the most important: don’t just hit the big cities. There are so many incredible things to see in this country. Don’t just go to Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla. There’s so much more to this country and I love every single part of it.
#20 Shop till you drop
When you’re in Madrid, definitely come to Calle de la Montera for some epic shoe-hopping!
That wraps up my top 20 tips for when you come to Spain. Make sure to check out my next blog all about one of the best day trips in Spain, a trip to Toledo!
The Lucky Catch Cruises Lobster Tour to Portland Headlight
Want to go on the best lobster cruise in Portland? My favorite is the Lucky Catch Cruise. What makes this company so different is the education you receive about the lobster industry and all that goes into a lobster fishing trip.
Lucky Catch Cruises Information
The cruise lasts for about an hour and a half and takes you through the daily routines of a lobsterman and has been around for
more than a decade. We had the opportunity to haul in traps, measure the lobsters, and band their claws. Once our cruise was over, we could take our catch over to the Portland Lobster Company where they would cook up our delicious dinner. It is a great value and one of the best things I did during my stay in Portland Maine.
Booking your Lucky Catch Cruise
There are a couple ways to book your cruise. You can book a tour at luckycatch.com or you can go down to the long wharf and book at their kiosk. Make sure to book early because you don’t want to miss the opportunity and they book up fast. In summer, there are 5 cruises a day starting at 10:30 in the morning the last one leaving at 5:30 in the afternoon. Make sure when you go on the tour you ask for Captain Brian and Kate. Kate was actually a marine biology teacher, and so the information they provide is exceptional. On this tour you don’t have to worry about being seasick, you are only in the bay. There are three possible itineraries each and every day. The first two trips to Portland Headlight, two trips seal watching, and one trip to the Whitehead Passage. Our cruise was to the Portland Headlight and it was beautiful to see this iconic lighthouse from the water. It was the first lighthouse that was commissioned by George Washington and the second lighthouse in the US to be completed, right after Boston. The cruises leave from the Long Wharf right in the center of Downtown Portland. It’s very easy to locate because it’s right next to Dimillo’s on the water.
All about the Lucky Catch Vessel
The vessel we were on was a 37 foot Maine built fiberglass lobster boat designed to be smooth and stable in the ocean waters. Built in 1983 for the sole purpose of commercial lobstering, this Lucky Catch didn’t carry it’s first paying customer until 1997. Not only do you have a great time on this tour, you get a huge education about the lobster industry in Maine. You get to know the conservation practices of the fisherman and you realize how sustainable they make their own industry. I recently learned that they catch more lobsters now than they did 60 years ago. So make sure to come in the summer to the lucky catch tour. They run commercial lobstering fishing from October to May so the Lucky Catch is only open during the off-season from May until October.
My review of the Lucky Catch Cruise
Not quite as scary as the deadliest catch but it’s been a lot of fun, a lot of adventure and we got a ton of information from Captain Brian and Kate. Thank you Lucky – Catch it’s been a