Months 45-46: Travel Summary and Statistics


I’m all up to date! This is the last time I’ll be bunching my monthly summaries together because I am finally starting to feel better. Yay! Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past couple of months.

Alhambra views, Granada

First, let’s talk about Spain. Spain doesn’t excite me as much as I wish it did. I’ve been to Spain a dozen times before; it’s close to home, and, like many places in Europe, doesn’t challenge me. It was the destination of choice for so many of my family’s holidays over the years, so after visiting so much, it had lost its lustre.

When I decided to base myself in Granada for three months, I wasn’t even that excited at the prospect of taking trips around the country to explore more.

Enter: Madrid. A city I fully expected to fill me with ambivalence.

Park in Madrid

Except it did quite the opposite. I loved my short stint in Madrid and guys, I’m totally thinking about having a base there.

I loved the food, the plazas, the parks, and the fact that there was more English spoken than in Granada. There were so many events to go to and so many new things to try out, it’s close to a big international airport, it’s close to my family, it’s cheap, and I have half a dozen friends currently living there. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you what I’m looking for from a base, but it’s basically all of that. God, I loved it there. I’ll be back.

Madrid plaza

I finally left Granada shortly after my Madrid trip, and I felt a weight lift when I did. Granada’s a gorgeous city but now I can’t help but associate it with the most traumatising period of my life. I know I didn’t make the most of my time there, but there wasn’t really much I could have changed. Sorry, Granada! Maybe I’ll return in the future to give you a decent shot.

I did manage to cram in one wonderful experience before I left: a 21 course tasting menu at a teeny tiny restaurant that isn’t really a restaurant. It was more like having dinner in someone’s living room.

These days, my once debilitating food issues are far, far behind me but the thought of eating 21 courses? Yeah, it made me a little anxious. I have a small stomach, I hate the feeling of being full, and I don’t think I’ve ever had anything more than a three course meal.

Granada meat tapas
Meat!

It was incredible. Oh my god, so good.

Unlimited wine and olive oil, dishes of cheese and pates and jamon and salads and chocolate and so much more. At 38 euros per person it was pricey for Spain, but I still found it to be incredibly good value. Everything we tried was sourced from nearby regions in Spain, and I left having an inordinate amount of knowledge about olive oil

Pineapple Salad in Granada
An orange and radish salad

Even better: the tiny restaurant can only fit a few people inside, so while we were there, there was only one other couple. It made for a relaxing, intimate experience spent learning about local foods and eating so, so well.

Granada Amazing Dessert
Strawberries and cream, one of four amazing desserts!

I flew to the Netherlands next. Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities and I always love to visit, but this time I wanted to explore more of the country. So many people never bother to head outside of Amsterdam, but it’s so easy to get around!

Utrecht Houseboat View

First stop: Utrecht, where I stayed in a houseboat for the first time! There, Dave and I spent much of our time sitting on the deck eating salt and vinegar kettle chips and drinking bottle after bottle of wine. Houseboats are the best.

Leiden windmill

Next, we hit up Leiden, a cute university city with an amazing windmill and so many fun bars and restaurants lining its canals.

I used it as my base to explore Keukenhof Gardens, home to the Netherlands’ famous tulip fields, and I picked the worst possible day to explore. Here’s a photo from when we’d just arrived:

Keukenhof Gardens

And about half an hour later:

Keukenhof Gardens

From Leiden, we took the train down to Maastricht, way down at the bottom of the country. I wanted to experience something different to the Netherlands we’d been exploring so far, and Maastricht checked that box. It’s walking distance from Belgium and cycling distance to the German border, which made for an interesting mix in food, architecture, and culture.

There were no canals, the buildings weren’t so… skinny (quick, somebody hire me as an architect already!), and the food was much better. The city is also home to Selexyz Dominicanen, a 13th Century Dominican church turned into a beautiful bookstore. I wasn’t surprised to discover it’s regularly voted one of the prettiest in the world.

Leiden bookstore

I signed up for a running tour of Maastricht because I’m currently attempting to try as many new things as possible, and a running tour was definitely going to push me out of my comfort zone. Let’s face it, I’m not the fittest person at the best of times, but at this point in my life, I’d also spent most of this year inside. I felt like an astronaut who had returned from space with withered, atrophied muscles. I was in no way qualified for a running tour.

Unsurprisingly, I was terrible, and we completed the six kilometre route in almost two hours (haha). Surprisingly, I discovered that running tours are such a great way to see a city. The pace wasn’t too tough, you stop every few minutes to chat about what’s around you, you get to cram in some exercise, and you’re exploring with a local who can show you all kinds of awesome things you wouldn’t see on your own. My highlight: the ruins of a Roman bathhouse in the basement of a hotel!

Maastricht burgers
I celebrated my newfound love of running with an enormous burger. I also may have eaten here three days in a row. Also pictured: raspberry beer! The best.

I finished up the month in the Hague. After a few weeks of incredible weather, it’s been pretty rainy, so I haven’t been able to explore as much as I would have liked. One thing I did manage to squeeze in was an afternoon spent confusing my brain at the Escher Museum!

Onto the statistics! 

month 45-46 travel map

Countries Visited: 2

The Netherlands, Spain

Cities Visited: 7

Granada, Madrid, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Leiden, Maastricht, The Hague.

Distance Travelled: 3341 km

Highlight of the Month:

My first day in Utrecht! Out of Granada; staying on a houseboat; wine and sunshine. It was the perfect day!

Lowlight of the Month:

I don’t know how it happened (probably me dropping it), but my camera has stopped working. I’ve been travelling with a cheap Canon 550D since I first left the Uk, and have been looking at upgrading anyway. I want to up my photography game this year! It’ll be a painful expense, though. I’m thinking of going with the Sony A7. Photographer readers: have any recommendations for me?

Incident of the Month:

I managed to put a hole in the wall in our apartment in Granada!

In our bedroom, we had these huge wooden window shutters that opened up into the inside. Towards the end of our stay, I was crouched beneath one, not realising it was open directly above me.

I stood up straight and slammed into it, scraping a line of skin off my back. I hit it so hard that the shutter ripped from its hinges and flew across the room in a graceful arc that ended when it smacked into the wall. It hit the wall so hard that it knocked a chunk of plaster out of it, showering my perplexed face in dust.

Fortunately, our landlord seemed to live on Spanish time and, although I emailed him immediately and offered to pay to have it repaired, he didn’t do anything about it.

Money Spent:

Annoyingly, I was too stressed to track my expenses this month. Sorry! I’ll be back to normal next month.

Coming up next month!

Month 47 Travel Map

I’ll be exploring Oslo and Bergen over the space of a week, and then flying home to celebrate my birthday with family and friends. I’ll be using this time to catch up on work, but for some reason, I also signed myself up for a 5 km colour obstacle course, too. Am I becoming… a runner?

Finally, I’ll be finishing up the month with a kickass two week road trip around Cornwall. I’m excited to explore more of my homeland beyond London, and I’m particularly looking forward to staying in a luxury yurt and a less luxurious shepherd’s hut while I’m there. I love staying in quirky accommodation. My plans for Cornwall include eating well, trying my hand at some new activities, and lots of long walks along the coastline.

P.S. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of new posts! I’m so excited to start writing here again.

P.P.S. I’ve missed you guys! How have you been?

Have any tips for where to go, what to eat, and what to do in Cornwall? Let me know in the comments!

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

34 Comments

  1. June 3, 2015
    Reply

    I went to Kenkenhof – the day before you did and we had beautiful sun – such a pity you got caught in that rain – we flew home in that and that was not fun !

    • June 3, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, yes, we really did time it badly. I spent the day before sunbathing next to the canals :-). Glad you had a beautiful day for it!

  2. Tonya
    June 3, 2015
    Reply

    If you get a chance check out a place called Treen in Cornwall, the most amazing & beautiful beach and a great campsite,

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, I didn’t make it there this time around, but I’ll put it on the list for next time! And there’ll definitely be a next time :-)

  3. Hatty
    June 4, 2015
    Reply

    If you get chance whilst your in Cornwall go and see the Minack Theatre. It’s built into the side of a cliff and is unbelievably beautiful :)

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      I got there, and it was so amazing! What a stunning location!

  4. June 4, 2015
    Reply

    I upgraded from a Canon 450D (mine also broke and I wasn’t even that sad about it) to the Sony A7 about a year ago. Huge improvement! I’d spend a bit more and get the A7II, though. I’m tempted to upgrade myself. The Mark II is slightly bigger and heavier, but much better designed. More importantly, it has in-camera image stabilization. Let me know if you have any questions about the A7.

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Daniel! Will drop you an email soon :-)

  5. Barbara Baker
    June 4, 2015
    Reply

    When you’re in Cornwall try to see Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula, it’s beautiful……mind you I was there in the 80’s so might have changed a bit since then.

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      I got there and loved it! One of the prettiest parts of the region :-)

  6. Aisling
    June 4, 2015
    Reply

    So glad to have you back Lauren! Ive become slightly obsessed and checking your website every few days to see if you have a new post! :)

    We used to go away to the Netherlands a lot when I was younger….we weren’t a Spain going family! Love the Dutch countryside!

    • June 4, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Aisling! I’m going to be trying for a Monday – Wednesday – Friday posting schedule from now on, so there’ll be lots of new posts coming up!

  7. June 4, 2015
    Reply

    Funnily enough, I love Granada while I’m pretty neutral towards Madrid – really shows that people and circumstances can make or break a place! One thing we share, though, is the love of raspberry beer! And oh, where was that 21-course dinner? 38 euros sounds like great value for so much delicious food, I want it ;)

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Ha! We’ll see how it goes in Madrid! I’ve just seen the temperatures there and I’m suddenly rethinking my plans… :-). There’s a link to the restaurant in the post!

  8. June 4, 2015
    Reply

    Oh my! You really get around. I just found your blog as I am currently looking for inspiration. I’m moving from the US to the UK for university in a couple of months and hope to someday be a world traveler like you. You inspire me!

    • June 4, 2015
      Reply

      Oh, thank you, Susanna! It’s been good to be on the move again after a few months in Spain. Feel free to drop me an email at any time if you need any advice or have any questions! :-)

  9. Izy Berry
    June 5, 2015
    Reply

    Good post Lauren!! you are doing a lot of things!! Good luck with your book:)

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Izy! :-)

  10. June 6, 2015
    Reply

    I’m so happy that you’re happy again! Very excited indeed to have lots of blog posts coming up to read, and then the book itself too. I’ve missed your writing!

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Aww, thank you so much, Francesca! I’ve missed being here :-D

  11. June 7, 2015
    Reply

    Yay you have finished your book! No more stress and tons more fun :)

  12. Clay
    June 8, 2015
    Reply

    What an exciting time! The Maastricht looks so interesting.

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      It was pretty fascinating :-)

  13. Atanas
    June 9, 2015
    Reply

    Sounds like writing the book had been much more a painful obligation, than a pleasant work.

    • June 9, 2015
      Reply

      Yep, sadly it hasn’t been a very enjoyable experience at all! Still, now that it’s over, I’m glad I persevered and I’m proud of the end product :-). I doubt I’ll write another, though!

  14. Atanas
    June 9, 2015
    Reply

    If you didn’t have a due date, could have been much more enjoyable, I guess. Anyway, I’m glad you’re back to the blog. I was missing your posts. Impatient to learn more about the Scandinavian adventure.

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, definitely! My due date was pretty unrealistic for me to meet, but was my fault for agreeing to meet it!

  15. June 10, 2015
    Reply

    Wow, sounds like a packed month :) Specifically jealous you stayed on a houseboat. I’ve always wanted to do that. Definitely on the bucket list and Holland sounds a great place to do it :)

    Oh and I’m now drooling over your food photos :)

    And I know what you mean about the book. I’m a writer, and I would never ever write a book, LOL.

    • June 12, 2015
      Reply

      I was planning on writing a sequel, but this whole experience has scarred me for life. I’m not sure I have another one in me.

  16. June 15, 2015
    Reply

    That meat plate looks amazing! Mouth = watering

  17. June 27, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren, I’m new to your blog and have loved reading some of your posts especially the one on Morocco as I’ve recently been there and as much as I loved it I also wasn’t so keen on their aggressive attitudes! Anyway cameras.. I’m a photographer and am firmly sticking with my mark iii but I have tried the Fuji system and they’re amazing cameras, my only reason for not selling all of my Canon gear for the Fuji is they aren’t as fast as I need them to be (a bit of shutterlag) they look fab though and are amazing in low light so would be great for your food shots :) Sorry I could talk photography forever lol! keep up the good work :)

    • June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you so much for the advice, Nicola! I’ll take a look at Fuji’s cameras :-)

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