Zurich and Chur, a stopover on the way to the Bernina Express

When we started planning this trip and decided we would try and get from Paris to Malta without planes I decided we should probably take a scenic train through the alps.

Turns out that can be very expensive. Switzerland ain’t cheap. Thankfully the Man in Seat 61 has a killer workaround for getting tickets on the Bernina Express for cheap! https://www.seat61.com/BerninaExpress.htm

We followed his advice but decided to spend our overnight stopover in Chur instead of Zurich for a bit of a sleep-in.

We left Paris at 7:30 and arrived in Zurich at 8:45. A very quick and cheap train ride into the main station later we were ready to explore. Fun fact! Nothing is open on Sunday’s in Switzerland. No clothing stores or other shops. Only a few restaurants and bars. It was a weird tourist ghost town.

After a quick breakfast we decided to hit the art gallery. And if you have a Sunday in Zurich, you should really visit. It’s so quiet. It was the most chill experience ever. We got to actually enjoy the art. And get up close!

We did struggle to fill the rest of the day. Which is really not that bad. We did some wandering, ate some bratwurst, wandered more. And then found Oktoberfest at the train station! Perfect way to wait for your train!

We grabbed our train to Chur, which took about an hour and a half. The scenery was gorgeous, mountains set against lakes.

We got into Chur just before 7pm. And it was like the town that feared sundown. There was no one out. No restaurants open. We checked into our hotel and then set our for food. And came up short. A Swiss Bierhalle was open but they didn’t have a great menu. So we kept winding our way through the tiny streets, becoming more and more disheartened until we finally found a kebab shop! And it was open and they were massive and amazing.

We stayed at the Ambiente Hotel Freieck, would recommend. Easy walk to and from the train, large rooms, great breakfast!

Constant Vigilance in Paris

We started our trip in Paris, which for me was super anxiety inducing. You see, Paris and I don’t have a great past. I’ve been sexually harassed and terrified in Paris and also pickpocketed. That was trip one and two. So why did we fly into Paris? Because Air France had a banging deal and I LOVE that airline. I’ve never had a bad time with them. They make air travel enjoyable. So I figured what the hell, let’s give it a third try.

And you know what? It worked. Was it my rock bottom expectations? Or maybe the fact that I was so ON GUARD THE ENTIRE TIME WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME THAT WAY oh sorry.

Paris was only a layover, and we did it the Anthony Bourdain way, no major sightseeing, no plans, just wandering to cafes and wine bars and seeing the sights whilst fighting the jet lag. Highly recommend.

I can also recommend Ob-la-di in the Marsais. A teeny little cafe producing delightful and highly Instagramable avocado toasts and beautiful pastries. Plus lovely ass coffee.

We had a nice relaxing brunch and then strolled down to the Sein. We did pop over to visit Notre Damn and view the destruction. Then a lovely long walk up to Canal St. Martin to have wine and cheese at La Vache dans les Vignes.

Let them pick your cheese, we advised what we were into and picked our wine – Pinot Noir- and he came back with three amazing cheeses. One blue that was very bluey but also smooth? If that makes any sense? And then two really rad goat cheeses. Of which I have no names. Sorry. Guess you gotta go there.

After crushing that awesome cheese plate and those rad wines we were ready for sleeps. Headed back to the airport and the Holiday Inn Express CDG, which due to shitty old people, I feel I need to endorse. It’s fine. Stay there. It’s like super clean and convenient . Yes you have to walk like half a block from the CDG airport train but it’s not an issue. And if you’re a member of whatever hotel chain group that IHG is in you get free early check in!

EuropeanFive0

My lovely, wonderful Shawn turned 50 this October so we (ok me) decided what better way to celebrate than to tour around Europe for 3 weeks. You know, cause I need a reason to visit…

We hashtagged the entire trip on Instagram with #europeanfive0 so feel free to catch up there as well as the accompanying posts.

We covered a fair amount of ground and I answered a lot of questions I had before we left. So maybe this blog can help some other traveller out?

Or it’ll be an everlasting testament to our best 3 week holiday.

This is our itinerary:

Paris – 1 day

Zurich and Chur – 1 day

Tirano and Milan – 1 day

Rome – 1.5 days

Sicily – 4 days

Malta – 10 days

Our goal was to fly into Paris and then train all the way to Sicily, ferry to Malta and then fly Malta-Paris-Home.

We ended up flying Paris to Zurich as the flight was substantially cheaper than the train. We also flew from Catania, Sicily to Malta as the ferries get cancelled if the waves are more than around 6 ft and we didn’t want to take that chance. Turns out we could have ferried as the weather was perfect the day we were to leave, but Ryan Air was really cheap and surprisingly on time.

Valladolid Stole My Heart

faql8390.jpgSurprise! I’m back again at this travel blogging business.  And like usual, its a post about Mexico.  I spent a week in the Yucatan in March with my friend Sarah.  We did some beachin’ on Isla Mujeres, which was great, but the colonial city of Valladolid won both of our hearts.

Valladolid is in the Yucatan State and seems to be used as a lunch stop for tour buses headed to Cancun after a visit to Chichen Itza.  You should really spend a few days there either as a base to visit the ruins of Chichen Itza and Ek Balm or just to enjoy the beautiful architecture and amazing food!

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Christmas Day in San Agustinillo

IMG_0396.jpgOnce we decided that we’d spend our week off during christmas in Mexico, we had to decide where to go outside of Huatulco.  I think I emailed every single hotel between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido desperately trying to find vacancy with less than 2 weeks to go before we landed.

And that’s how we ended up in San Agustinillo, solely based on our ability to find vacancy.  I’ve never traveled like this before and I was pretty nervous, but it worked out perfectly.

San Agustinillo is a little fishing town on the coast Oaxacan coast between Hualtulco and PE.  If you like surfing this is the area for you.  The waves are intense.  You can still find some spots to swim, but you have to be very mindful of those warning flags.

We got the hotel in Huatulco to call a taxi for us, I knew from previous research that it would cost 500 pesos to get to San Agustinillo and that’s exactly what the man charged us.  He was lovely, spoke a little English, taught me how to properly say all the town names we passed through.  It was about an hour drive but it didn’t feel that long at all.

Our first hotel was Casa Bagus right on the beach.   A lovely French Canadian named Manon runs the hotel, she was super helpful, especially letting us know what parts of the beach were the safest for swimming.     IMG_0349.jpg

We dumped our bags behind the checkin desk and headed down to the beach chairs.  We took some time to watch the waves and try to get an idea of what we’d be getting ourselves into.  There were plenty of younger kids in the water so we figured we’d be fine.   And we were, but holy shit are those waves intense!   Our hotel was in what was considered the quieter, calmer part of the bay and we still fought the undertow and waves every time we dared to venture into the water.IMG_0430.jpg

That’s Shawn being eaten by a wave in front of our hotel!  We didn’t last long, it was a very exhausting workout trying to stay above the waves.

I can’t sing the praises of Casa Bagus enough.  We were so lucky to get a room because the hotel was still very new, if you’re going to be in the San Agustinillo area you should look them up and see if they have vacancy.   It is a bit on the spendy side BUT we had a full kitchen (that we did not utilize), a sofa bed, dining room table, separate bedroom, large bathroom and, the best part, a long private balcony that faced the beach.

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San Agustinillo is very small, with a few restaurants, mostly in the hotels.   Casa Bagus has its own small restaurant run by Chef Oscar.  He told us that he plans the menu around whatever is caught that day.IMG_0398.jpg

For Christmas dinner Oscar was serving filet mignon and tuna steaks.   Shawn got the filet and I went with the tuna.  IMG_0397.jpg

It was quite possibly the best tuna, or fish, I have ever had.  And a massive portion.  Shawn’s steak was perfect.  We each had two margaritas with dinner and ended up paying $40.   We couldn’t believe it.

We headed back up to our room to drink some beers we’d bought earlier at a tienda.  Sitting on our balcony, drinking beers and listening to the surf was the perfect way to end the best christmas day I’ve ever had.

Christmas in Mexico 2017, or how I’m months behind on this blog

We had a solid plan for our christmas 2017 week off.  We were going to rent a car, drive down the Washington coast and stay in a cabin right on the beach for a few days.  Super romantic and low key.

Aaaaand 13 days before christmas I found a really cheap airfare deal to Huatulco Mexico.   Westjet has seasonal direct flights every Sunday, and its a decent 6 hour flight straight down

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Huatulco is a tourist development like Cancun, it was developed in the 80s when the government decided to do more to attract tourists to the area.  Now there are loads of all inclusive resorts and cruise ships dock at Huatulco.

Shawn and I aren’t resort people so we decided we would head out of Huatulco along the coast and spend most our time in a small town called San Agustinillo.

Our flight arrived in the evening so we had to spend a night in Huatulco, we stayed at Hotel Casa Danna, a smaller hotel close to the ocean.   It was super easy to get to from the airport, we decided to splurge and get a taxi directly from the terminal.  If you want to save money you can walk out of the airport grounds completely and hire a taxi on the main highway.   I think it ended up costing us around $430 pesos, which was worth it for us to not have to walk down toward the highway in the heat with our backpacks.

IMG_0348The view from our hotel room, you can just see the ocean peeking through the trees.

Our hotel was a easy 15 minute walk into the La Crucecita area.  We tried El Grillo Marinero for dinner and I had the octopus in butter and garlic, and guys, it was amazing! And it was super reasonably priced.img_0311.jpgIMG_0310

We headed to the main square after dinner for some margaritas and to watch some traditional Oaxacan dancing. IMG_0319IMG_0329

We ended the night on our hotel balcony enjoying some Tecates from OXXO and watching the fireworks over the ocean.

I Like Piña Coladas, But Not Getting Caught in the Rain

That song’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? You’re welcome! We heard it a few times over the course of our trip, along with some other island gems, like Margaritaville.

Anyways, it turns out I do like Piña Coladas, I tried my first one on the beach at Mawimbi.

Our week on Holbox was all about relaxing, which was a first for me.  My vacations usually involve me spending 3-4 very jam packed days in various cities trying to see ALL THE THINGS.   I did that twice in Europe in 2016 and will be doing it again in August, so a week with zero things on my agenda was a much needed change.  Shawn was a little worried I might go crazy, but you guys, I loved it!  I had no idea doing nothing can be so satisfying.  I don’t think I could handle two weeks of it, but 7 days of total relaxation? Yes! Yes! Yes!

So what did a day in the lives of Carly and Shawn look like?

Get up, have breakfast, lounge on beach, read, swim, read, swim, talk about where to have lunch, go for lunch, lounge on beach, swim, nap, watch sunset, walk around town and discuss dinner options, have dinner, have drinks, night time swim, bed.

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The food on Holbox is amazing.  We did not have a bad meal.  The seafood is so fresh, like caught that day fresh.  There were so many different options, mexican, seafood, italian, american, fancy, budget, vegan, sushi… you can find something to satisfy even the pickiest eater.  Which we are not.  There were almost too many options 😉

Las Panchas

Las Panchas was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.   It was Shawn’s favourite of the trip.  We ate there twice and wanted to go back a third time but they’re not open on Mondays.
We highly recommend the mixed ceviche, fish and shrimp tacos and guacamole.  Oh and the potions are massive.  When they say large, they mean it! The food was so cheap too, the large ceviche was $180 pesos, shrimp tacos $130 and fish tacos $100.  Beers were very reasonable at around $25 pesos I believe.

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Raices Beach Club

Raices was just down the beach from our hotel and responsible for all the terrible island music that got stuck in my head.  They have a stage and a band that sets up around 2 p.m. that plays until the sunsets.  If you don’t like live music this is not the place for you.

Also if you’re super fancy you will hate this place.  The tables are in the sand, with a few waiters who don’t speak much English and service can be slow and I’ve heard the food can be a little hit and miss, but we didn’t experience that.

We ate there twice and ordered their guacamole and whole grilled fish both times.  The fish, oh lord the fish.  I hated fish as a kid.  Over the last 10 years I’ve grown to like it, but this was the first time I had ever ordered or eaten a whole fish and I was pretty freaking nervous about what I was getting myself into.   It was perfect.  Garlic and buttery, caught that day, melt in your mouth.  God I miss that fish.  And eating grilled on the beach fish with your feet in the sand was a dope experience.  Prices were pretty reasonable, the grilled fish for two was around $270 pesos.

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La Isla del Colibri

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One of the few restaurants open on a Monday afternoon, Colbri was a delightful find right on the main square of Holbox.  The decor is very eclectic and bright, filled with art.  The service was friendly, a little slow, but that’s island time.  I think I had the largest margarita ever made.

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Seriously, that thing is like a chalice for kings.  It should be called “The King of Margaritas”.

I had the coconut shrimps and Shawn had fish with mango

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Some other restaurants we ate at that I would recommend are Taco Querto and Taco Gordo for cheap no frills tacos and really fantastic Horchata.

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Miriam

Miriam was the first restaurant we ate at on Holbox.   They didn’t seem to serve any alcohol, so that’s something to consider if you want a drink with dinner, but they have pop.  Its a small place, a few tables outside, a few in.  Salsa that came with dinner was very tasty and very spicy.  Shawn splurged and got the lobster and I had the octopus. And the food was so amazing we both dug in before I took any photos.  Whoops 😉 The lobster was quite spendy, but the octopus seemed reasonable.  Another tourist who was just leaving the restaurant told me I had made a great decision eating there as it was the best restaurant on the island.  I think he was right.  We wanted to eat their more than once, but it was also closed on Monday…

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Getting Your Booze On

There’s really no shortage of places to drink on Holbox.  Most of the hotels on the beach close to town have bars, and in the centre of Holbox there’s so many places within walking distance to get your drink on.  Our favourite was El Mesh

El Mesh

Connected to the eco-hostel, El-Mesh was a few buildings down from our hotel, so we passed it a lot.

Only a few stools at a very lovely wooden bar, they make solid cocktails.  We found the drinks very reasonably priced, the service friendly and the music not the typical “island fare” or club noise.

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Hot Corner

We stopped at Hot Corner to pass the time waiting for Las Panchas to open.  It was a cute little set up with swings to sit in.  Very loud music.  Shawn really enjoyed his Mojito.  My margarita was solid as well.