The medieval village of La Guardia

A short 20 minute bus ride from Logroño is the very pretty medieval village of La Guardia.

Last week, 4 of my favourite Australians came to visit me in Logroño ~ my very good friend Cheryl, her two sisters and her 19 year old daughter. It was so wonderful to see them again as it had been almost two years since we had last enjoyed a wine and a chat together. Of course, I was eager to show them my home in Logroño, the old town and the wonderful pinchos bars of Calle Laurel. They were enjoying it all and they had fallen in love with Spain but they were in for another treat, as I planned to take them to La Guardia.La Guardia

La Guardia is a lovely picturesque walled pueblo with a good vibe and a great place to go for the day and walk around its lanes and alleys, and enjoy a late lunch, along with a bottle of Rioja wine of course. It is a weekend favourite with the local tourists and has beautiful cosy boutique hotels and charming restaurants. As for international tourists, La Guardia is not on most tourists travel itinerary unless they are keen wine connoisseurs and are following the La Rioja Wine Route.
La GuardiaLa Guardia

I love visiting La Guardia as it really is so quaint and charming and feels like you have gone back in time. The entire village is built over a network of tunnels and wine cellars, and wine is still very much a big part of life in La Guardia. The village is perched on a hill in a beautiful valley, the Cantabrian mountains as a back drop and surrounded by vineyards for as far as one can Guardia

A little history

First founded in the 10 th century as a defence town against the invading French forces, La Guardia continued its existence as a wine making centre. The climate was perfect for growing grapes and the tunnels, which were originally built for defence purposes were cool and made a great place to store wine. Today you can still visit some old wineries and have a tour of the tunnels. All that is left of the original castle are two bell towers and of course there is a beautiful church to visit also. La GuardiaLa Guardia

La GuardiaLa Guardia

Outside of the walls, is a beautifully maintained garden area and walk way that takes you around the entire village. At different vantage points you get amazing views of the surrounding vineyards and one particularly impressive winery called Ysios, which was designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, and looks somewhat like barrels of wine.La Guardia

My friends thoroughly enjoyed their day at La Guardia, walking around the cobbled lane ways and following the garden area around the village. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for their late lunch as I had a lesson, but by all reports they loved that too.La Guardia

So, if you are in this area, definitely set aside a day for a visit to this very impressive medieval village of La Guardia.

I loved having Cheryl and her family here. It was a great few days, much wine flowed and we laughed a lot. They continued on their way down south and on Friday, I’m heading over to San Francisco to visit my son. It’s a hard life!





Wizzed over to Budapest

This Easter I decided to fly over to Budapest for a few days solo travel. I had enjoyed Spain’s Semana Santa last year and really wasn’t up for all the processions and huge crowds again. So I found some seats on Hungary’s budget airline, WizzAir and was pleasantly surprised. The plane was very new and comfortable, friendly cabin crew and the flight was right on time. And when you fly with WizzAir you can book a door to door transfer for 10 euro. As I was arriving at midnight this made for a smooth and easy trip to my rental apartment. And I have to mention my apartment, at All-4U-Apartments because it was perfect in every way; clean, comfortable, quiet and a great location.Budapest

One of Europe’s most beautiful cities

I spent 4 days in Budapest and that allowed me to take in the city slowly. I was able to see all the sights as well as fit in some relaxation time cruising down the Danube or sitting in one of Budapest’s famous coffee shops.Budapest coffee shop

New York Cafe Budapest

Transport in Budapest is cheap and easy by tram, bus or metro. Or another idea is to purchase a ticket on the Budapest Big Bus City Tour. This allowed me 2 days of hop on and hop off at any of the city attractions as well giving an interesting commentary on the city’s history.

What to do

Said to be one of the most beautiful cities of Europe, Hungary’s capital city does have some very impressive landmarks. A prime example of this is the very beautiful Houses of Parliament situated on the banks of the river Danube. Budapest

Budapest is divided in two, Buda and Pest, by the River Danube. On the Buda side is the UNESCO Buda Castle. From Castle Hill you have a spectacular view of Budapest city. Gellert Hill is another excellent point for a wonderful panoramic shot of the city.
Buda Castle BudapestBudapest view from Castle Hill

My apartment was very close to Ferenc Deak Square, an excellent location in the heart of Pest side. Here you could take the tram or Metro, or the Hop on and Hop Off bus. 

Ferenc Deak Square, BudapestLeading off from Ferenc Deak Square,  Andrassy Avenue is known as the ‘Champs Elysees of Budapest’ and a walk along this beautiful avenue will take you to Heroes Square. Along your way you will pass the Hungarian National Opera House, The Franz Liszt Museum and the House of Terror, a museum commemorating the victims of the Communist and Nazi regimes in Hungary.Heroes SquareOpera House Budapest

A highlight for me was an afternoon spent at the Szechenyi Thermal Baths located near the City park, behind Heroes Square. These thermal baths have been operating for over a hundred years. The weather on the day I went was not the best. It was a cool 5 degrees and some drizzly rain, but in the baths the water was a glorious 39/40 C degrees. There are indoor pools, lap pools, saunas and you can get a massage, but I preferred to just soak in the outdoors. Luckily I met someone to chat with and the five hours I was there just flew by. Take a towel and you will get a locker for your clothes. There is a cafe and you can enjoy a drink or a coffee whilst you soak away your woes and pains. Don’t miss this wonderful experience.Szecheny Thermal BathsBudapest


Can’t say I am a big fan of Hungarian food but I did take a liking to their cakes. The coffee shops serve some deliciously evil treats and that wasn’t good for my never-ending diet. I didn’t find the rest of the food to my taste, but luckily there are so many different cuisines on offer in Budapest from Turkish to Thai.

Vaci Utca is a large pedestrian street with many fashion shops, souvenir shops and street food stalls. If you like pork sausages and goulash, you will find it here at reasonable prices. Or maybe you fancy some rooster testicles in a paprika soup.Rrooster testicles BudapestBudapest food

The Great Market Hall is a great place to explore, buy paprika, taste some of the local cuisine and buy souvenirs. Also it is a lot cheaper than on  Vaci Utca. Great Market HallGreat market HllGreat market hall

Budapest for solo travellers

I found Budapest to be a warm and friendly city and I had no problems getting around Budapest solo. Many people spoke English and I had absolutely no language problems. I was lucky enough to meet a few fellow travellers to share a beer with or a coffee and cake. I took in a lot of Budapest on foot, enjoying the small lanes and alley ways of the Jewish Quarter, and even at night I never felt unsafe. Budapest

A young engineer that I met on the Danube River cruise and later shared a meal with, was not so lucky. He was wandering the Vaci Utca at night and met a group of young people who invited him to a bar, and you guessed it….he was severely scammed. After drinking all night, this group then claimed to have no money and he was burdened with the hugely overpriced bill. He demanded the police to come but he still had to pay a large amount and endured this stress which will always be a part of his Budapest memories. In my opinion these groups operate in many large cities, (I’ve heard the same scenario in Istanbul) and usually seem to target young single male tourists who are looking for a good time. As a solo traveller you need to always be cautious and sensible and for me, I always follow my gut feeling and so far, luckily I have never had any issues travelling alone.

For me, Budapest was a wonderful 4 days and I’d like to return if just for the glorious and relaxing thermal baths.

Have you been to Budapest?

What was the highlight for you?


Bad Behaviour on Buses

Since moving to the northern hemisphere over seven years ago, bus travel has become a big part of my life. Bus travel is convenient and economical, and usually I enjoy it.

In Australia, I drove my car everywhere and would never have even considered taking a bus, but here in Europe, bus travel is the norm. Strangely, even people that have their own cars prefer to take a bus if the journey is long.

So last week I was travelling home from Madrid by bus, a reasonable 4 hour journey. The buses in Spain are very comfortable and usually the journey is relaxing and peaceful and I am able to read my book, listen to some of my favourite tunes and maybe nod off a little.

On this journey, a woman probably in her mid sixties, boarded the bus and sat a couple of rows in front of me. Shortly into the trip, her phone rang. Loudly. An ear piercing ringtone. Then she began her epic one hour conversation at the top of her voice. It was as if she was calling to someone across the country. At times it sounded angry but then her phone chat was punctuated with loud bouts of laughter. I’m happy that she was happy but she seemed to have no consideration at all for her fellow passengers. Even with my headphones on, listening to the soulful sounds of Diana Krall, this woman’s voice dominated my ear drums. This got me thinking about bus travel, bad behaviour on buses and the many times I’ve been astounded at people’s total lack of consideration for their fellow passengers.

Bad behaviour on buses comes in many different forms. The most obvious is the loud and boisterous group sitting in the back of the school bus. But I’m talking about intercity long distance travel on public buses.

Here are some examples of bad behaviour on buses, that I have experienced;

  1. When the person sitting next to you is listening to their music through their headphones, but has the volume so high that you still get to hear the duff…duff…duff sounds which is actually more annoying than the music.
  2. When the person sitting next to you is loudly chewing gum and blowing bubbles every few minutes that burst with a pop.
  3. When the person next to you decides to get out the corn chips and crunch them loudly in your ear. Are corn chips or crisps, or any smelly foods really the best food choice for bus travel?
  4. When the girl passenger besides you decides to brush her long hair and look for split ends and toss them your way. Do you really want to be covered with someone’s hair? Wouldn’t it be more considerate to wait till you are home to do your grooming? This has happened to me numerous times whilst travelling in Turkey.
  5. Again in Turkey a frequent occurrence, is when people don’t want to pay for their children’s bus ticket and therefore have the child sitting on their lap. For a six hour journey. And when the child is 9 or 10 years old. Yes, I have experienced this more than once and as the passenger sitting next to them,  it is an uncomfortable ride for all of us.
  6. What about the guy who is listening to his music through his headphones but singing along. Yes, it happens. I once asked the young guy next to me to stop singing and he seemed to be stunned that I didn’t appreciate his vocals.
  7. And then there is the person who likes to play Candy Crush on their phone, but can’t seem to play it without sound, so their fellow passengers have to listen to every ping, ding and beep. This is on top of all the sounds alerting us all to the fact that they just received a text message.
  8. How annoying is it when the person in front of you reclines their seat so abruptly and without an ounce of consideration or the thought to ask you if you mind. You had been working on your Ipad which was sitting on the table, and the next minute, without warning is thrown into your lap.
  9. Smelly feet. One memorable bus trip, I was travelling to Istanbul when all of a sudden a disgusting foul smell reeked through the air. A fellow passenger had decided to remove his shoes for his comfort. As people shrieked and gagged, the ‘garson’ quickly came to the back of the bus to find out what the smell was. With it impossible these days to open bus windows, all he could do was order the man to put his shoes back on and then spray us liberally with room freshener. Now we travelled with the fragrant concoction of smelly feet and roses. That bus couldn’t arrive fast enough.
  10. I’m saving the best for last. This really happened and is maybe the epitome of bad behaviour on buses. I was travelling from Valencia to Cuenca on a late afternoon bus. The bus was almost empty and as I always choose to sit near the back, I was all alone and enjoying the ride. There were a few people seated in the front half of the bus. Along the way a young couple boarded the bus and sat in the rear section a couple rows in front of me, but they hadn’t noticed me there. Not long after they had boarded I had noticed a young woman get up and move all her stuff to the very front of the bus. She seemed a bit distressed. Next thing I noticed in the seats in front of me was the bobbing head of the female of the couple that had boarded earlier. Surely not?? Removing my headphones, I decided to investigate and sure enough there she was straddling the guy. They were surprised to see me and I was shocked. I returned to my seat in disbelief. Next thing the guy came to offer me chocolate and he was laughing. They were from Morocco he told me. And he was sorry. I said I was disgusted and didn’t want his chocolate. Then he got aggressive and I threatened to go to the bus driver. He returned to his seat and they just laughed and carried on and again, that journey couldn’t end fast enough. After we arrived, the other young woman was explaining to the driver what had happened and I backed her up, but the Moroccan couple had disappeared. Sex on the bus… unbelievable bad behaviour.

Have you experienced bad behaviour on buses?



The Spanish driving test ~ lost in translation

I do love living in Spain, but everywhere has its minor frustrations, right? Well I just ran into a big one. The Spanish driving test.

Living in Spain now, after 6 years in Turkey, I realised just how much I yearned to buy a little car and drive again. Explore the quaint little villages and the mountains, the rugged coastline and beaches and maybe trips to France and Portugal.Spain

Driving in Turkey wasn’t fun but here in Spain the traffic is as normal as it gets. Everyone stops at red lights and crossings. Everyone pays attention to the road rules and everyone on the road seems to be rather polite. A little car would give me the freedom to explore this beautiful region. Well, my dream has had to go on hold for a short while. Why? Read on.

For all the British expats living in Spain, they can drive with their British drivers licence for a year and then they are obliged to swap it for a Spanish one. A straight swap – a fee of course – but no exams.

For Australian and American expats, unfortunately there are different rules and they can only use their licence for 6 months. If they are caught driving after the 6 months of residence in Spain, they will be in big trouble and a fine, of course.

So, I’m a bit different, in that yes, I’m Australian, but I have a British passport. This passport allows me to live in Spain with no problems. I was lucky there. But I have an Australian drivers licence, not so lucky as I can not swap it, but need to do the Spanish driving test.

The Spanish driving test consists of a theory test which needs to be passed before you can start the practical driving lessons and test. And all Spanish driving tests must be done through an official driving school. Even the theory is a month of attending theory classes.

After a bit of research, I found out that I can do the Spanish theory test in English. The practical will still be in Spanish but I could probably get through that with my beginners Spanish. Turn left, turn right, straight ahead, turn at the roundabout etc etc – I could learn these phrases.

I proceeded to try and find a driving school that had an instructor that spoke English for my theory classes. Another factor is that this doesn’t come cheap and costs upwards of 500 Euro. Anyway I had made my decision and found a school that had an English speaking instructor. Great. Also let’s not forget I have driven for over 30 years in Australia. This was going to be easy.

From the first lesson I realised how wrong I was. The Spanish driving code is one of the most detailed in Europe. So ok, that could be a challenge and I would need to study.

It was after some theory instruction, we did a few practice questions from the many practice exams available and that’s when I realised that this was a joke. The translation was unbelievable. (See some sample questions below)

If the Spanish government driving department has decided to translate the Spanish driving test into English for the many expats living here, why didn’t they use a reliable and competent translator? There are so many native English speakers that are fluent in Spanish and could have done an efficient job with this test, but instead, I’m guessing they had used a Spanish translator and been dependant on the Google translator.

You must get at least 27 out of 30 questions right, to pass the theory. If you fail you must wait 3 weeks before you can try again. And all this before you can get into a car. Failing again will start to see the costs rise.

Starting to have serious doubts now, I decided to look at the various expat forums and see if there were any comments or tips. Anyone else gone through it? The first comment I came across didn’t help at all.

‘There are few things in life as difficult or intimidating as getting a Spanish driver’s license. It’s a bit like trying to solve Fermat’s last theorem while sitting on death row in a Texas prison. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has been through it.’ by Sal de Traglia, an American expat blogger.

A total nightmare. I’m quite academic and have done many professional exams but this takes the biscuit.’ by Frustrated Expat.

I started to consider my options and as I want to visit my son in the States in June, which is only 4 months away, I realised that this task was too big for me and I dropped out. The more I tried some of the practice tests, the more I realised that it wasn’t about knowing the road rules, as it was  trying to work out what the f* the question meant. And if all went well and by some miracle I passed everything, I would have to drive around with a large green L on the back of my car for the first 12 months and not exceed 80 kilometres an hour, after I have been driving for 30 years. I decided to drop out.

Ill take my other option which is to live in the UK for a short while and swap my Aussie licence there for a British one, and then come back to Spain. It actually seems easier in the long run.

Here are a few questions for your amusement :-

A picture of a regular sign with a cow on it.

Question: This signal, what does it indicate? 

a) You can find wild animals

b) I can find animals but have no preference

c) I can find pets and have preference   (and this is the correct answer)

Question: To stop drowsiness, avoid driving at this time

a) Early morning hours

b) Early hours of the morning

c) Late afternoon hours

Question: Drowsy driving, why is it dangerous?

a) Because it circulates more slowly

b) As the trip takes longer

c) Resilience is lost

Question: Circulating with a free escape is prohibited

a) only on interurban roads

b) only on urban roads

C) on both

Question: The elderly can be a factor that favours distraction while driving?

a) No

b) Yes, always

c) Yes if proper precautions are not taken

Question: Is it advisable to drive at night to avoid fatigue?

a) Is it advisable to drive at night to avoid fatigue?  (Yes, the question is repeated)

b) Yes, because there is less traffic

c) Yes, to avoid traffic jams if the journey is long

Have you experienced the Spanish driving test?


Logroño ~ one year on

I’ve been living in Logroño a year now.

I can’t believe how fast this past 12 months has flown. I moved into my flat on 10 February with a one year contract. As I signed the contract I thought to myself, what if I don’t like it here, a year can be a long time.Living in Logrono

Fortunately for me, the year has been great. Logroño is a beautiful small city, the capital of the wine region of La Rioja in the north of Spain. For a small city, it has just about everything. Today I went to an exhibition of Goya etchings at the local gallery. We have flamenco concerts all this week at the Teatro Breton, right opposite my home. There is always a concert or play somewhere and the wine and tapas culture is the best.Living in Logroño

Cost of living in Logroño

For anyone considering moving to Logroño, I can say it is a good choice. It’s a small enough city that you can walk everywhere. The city buses out to two major shopping centres, Berceo and Al Campo, are very regular and cost .72 euro cents or .52 cents if you purchase a Bus card.Logroño

My flat is beautifully restored in a 50 year old building in the old city or Casco Antiguo. It is 70 square metres and has one decent size bedroom and one very small one. I pay 400 Euros a month. My landlord just sent me all my electricity bills for the year and they average out at about 25 euro a month. Yes, I wish he’d given them to me monthly but it seems that’s how they do it here when you rent.

Logroño’s wine and pinchos

Living in Logroño, you soon realise that life here revolves around wine and food. The wine is exquisite, all locally made and delectable. I haven’t had a bad one yet. I’ve learnt a little about the wines and have found my favourite to be a Rioja Crianza, aged at least 2 years and a minimum of one  year in oak casks. But seriously, I will drink any of the other styles of Rioja wine; Joven is the youngest wine, Reserva has been aged for at least 3 years, and the best of the bunch, the Gran Reserva which can cellar up to 30

As for the food, its deliciously appetising. The pinchos are so creative, fresh and delicious. pinchos logroñoliving in Logrono

Calle Laurel

The street directly behind my flat is called Calle Laurel and is the main street for wine and pinchos. Pinchos is the local name for tapas. Logroño’s Calle Laurel is well known all over Spain and on the weekends it is absolutely crowded with many out-of-towners coming here for a weekend of drunken fun. Last weekend was a particularly crazy and jovial time with many football teams from neighbouring cities coming here to visit. We also see many bucks night parties. These groups of young men come to Calle Laurel to celebrate their last night of ‘freedom’ and let their hair down. A common theme, is dressing up in women’s clothes and also seen many cow costumes. living in Logrono

For the locals, Calle Laurel is always open  and always busy. Every night of the week this little lane of over 60 bars is alive with music and merriment. There is the local drunk who is entertaining to watch. Drummers and buskers add music and colour and many of the locals will clap their hands and dance in the streets. I just love the way the Spanish people know how to live, how to let loose  and enjoy themselves.Calle Laurel

The Spanish have often enjoyed a big lunch and so an evening of wine and pinchos is enough for dinner. Usually a group of friends goes out and we all put in 10 euros. This is the easiest way and as we hop from bar to bar, sampling a wine and a pinchos, the person in charge pays for all. Usually 10 euros buys each at least 3 drinks and 3 pinchos, which is excellent value.Calle Laurel

Living in Logroño, I have embraced the spontaneity of life here in Spain. What starts as a Café con leche at 5pm can end up with vino and pinchos and getting home at 2am. Its wonderful how the Spanish people always put enjoyment and fun above all else. Even if its cold, even if its raining, Calle laurel is still full.

Stepping out of my flat, and I am right in the thick of it, bars and terraces near my front door. I love that. I know there is a crisis and a high unemployment rate but you would never know it by looking at the streets at night. Spain has to be one of the most social countries in the world.

Love living in Spain

So a year on, and I am even more in love with Spain. I am happy I made the decision to leave Turkey and move here. It has been relatively easy to organise my residence card and health cover. Spanish bureaucracy is infamous and it did take a couple of months, many visits to the council and everything in triplicate, but its all finalised now and I am officially a resident of Logroño. I’ve made lots of friends, seen a lot of the local area, improved my Spanish and I can say its been a great 12 months.

This weekend is Carnival

Some scenes of the Carnival procession tonight from my balcony.CarnivalCarnivalCarnival

And next weekend is San Valentin……the Spanish love a party





A weekend away in Zaragoza

Before the Christmas holidays, I took a trip to Zaragoza, the capital city of Aragon, in the north east of Spain.

Since living in Logroño, in Spain’s northern region of La Rioja, I take every opportunity I have, to get on a bus and visit a nearby city or town. Zaragoza was on my list but I didn’t want to go in summer when the temperature can reach the 40s and I didn’t want to go in winter when temps are below freezing, so late November was a good choice and I was lucky enough to have beautiful blue skies.

When one travels to Spain on a few weeks holiday, it is only natural to check out all the famous and well known cities and attractions such as Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada and Cordoba. But that’s why I love living in a country and being able to explore the country slowly and visit the smaller and lesser known jewels…..and Spain has many of these gems just packed full of history and culture. Zaragoza is one of them.

Some history

Zaragoza has over 2000 years of history, beginning with the Roman Empire under Caesar Augustus. Many archaeological remains from this period are found around the city. Zaragoza

Next the Islamic occupation saw Zaragoza develop into a centre for art, music and science. The Palacio de la Aljaferia built by the Moors in the 11th Century is a wonderful example of Muslim art and architecture.ZaragozaZaragoza

Then in 1118, when Zaragoza was captured by Alfonzo I of Aragon, the Aljaferia became the residence of Spanish Christian kings and queens such as  Queen Isabella and King Fernando.

What to see and do in Zaragoza

When I arrive in a new city, I love to wander the streets and explore with no particular plan to start with. Zaragoza sits along the banks of the River Ebro, the second longest river in Spain and the same river passing by my home city of Logroño. I started with a wander down along the river. Zaragoza

Zaragoza bridgeThis bridge is called the Puente de Piedra, but also goes by the name Bridge of Lions, due to the four lions on pillars at each end of the bridge.

The most noticeable and famous site one sees as one walks along the river is the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pillar or Basilica of our Lady of the Pillar.Basilica

This baroque style Roman Catholic church is built on the site where St James (same St James from the Camino) was preaching the gospel back in 40 AD and an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to him. She gave him a small wooden statue of herself as well as a small column of jasper. He built the first chapel dedicated to Mary on that spot. It was destroyed  during the subsequent invasions but the statue and small pillar remained. Other churches on that site followed but the current one that we see today was built in 1681 by Charles II, King of Spain.Basilica of Our Lady

There are of course, many more churches and monasteries to see if that’s your thing, but I prefer to wander the streets, enjoy a wine at one of the many terrazas, people watch, and get a feel for the city.

There are some interesting bronze statues around Zaragoza…..this one is of the famous Spanish artist, Francisco Goya, born 1746 in a village near Zaragoza.Goyaand this one….Boy

Exploring the back streets……colourful and photogenicback streets

And then the main bar area…….which at night is swarming with locals and tourists enjoying a few drinks and tapas.Bar streetBar streetBar street

I found Zaragoza to be a very charming city with a large array of museums and art galleries, spacious boulevards, exciting restaurants and bars, and excellent shopping with many rather up market looking shops.

So if you are in the area, travelling from Barcelona to Madrid, or Barcelona to Bilbao, definitely spend a night in Zaragoza… will enjoy the experience.

My favourite places in Turkey

When I think about the years I lived in Turkey, I remember fondly my favourite places, the places I would return to and have wonderful memories of.

Well, everyone has heard the news last week about the suicide bomber in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, that killed 10 German tourists and injured many more. There is no denying that the world is becoming a dangerous place to travel and I’m sure many people feel they are better just staying at home.

I have a friend from Australia that is planning her big trip to Spain this year and she has said that if she hadn’t already bought the plane tickets, she would probably just stay at home. Everywhere is a potential target. Many people here where I live predict that Madrid will be next, others say London. That’s the thing…..we just don’t know where. So, do we stop travelling? Do we stop doing what we love?

As I said in my last post, I spent Christmas in Turkey and I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy that trip and actually came home a few days early. But when I think back to earlier days and my travels through Turkey, when I look at my old photos and read my diary, I smile and remember what amazing adventures I have had there. So I just thought I might share some of those favourite places.


When it comes to favourite places, Cappadocia is probably my most favourite place in Turkey. I’ve been there 3 times now and it never disappoints. It is really ‘out of this world’ and there is so much to do and see there; hiking through unique landscapes, hot air ballooning, visiting underground cities, archaeological sites and the wonderfully delicious Anatolian food. Then you can go in winter and its a whole new wonderland. Cappadocia


Selçuk is another favourite place. I can’t even say how many times I’ve been there. There is something unique about Selçuk, something that always draws you back and of course, it is the base for visiting the fantastic ruins of Ephesus. Favourite places

I’ve had many visits to Selçuk, taken both my sons there, and met up with Aussie friends there. Many expats, many different nationalities are living there and you can usually find them any evening at the Tat restaurant, enjoying a few cold ones and catching up with the local gossip. I once watched my friend’s flat for two weeks, looking after her cat whilst she went back to the States. That cat, called Sylvia, was not a happy cat and even though I wanted to kill Sylvia for the trouble and pain she put me through, I still think back fondly to that time. I got my education on Turkish carpets in Selçuk, learnt how to play backgammon and my first taste of the deliciously intoxicating raki.favourite places

The south eastHarran

Ok, it’s not advisable to travel there now, but I have had some wonderful adventures in Turkey’s south eastern regions. Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Harran, Hasankeyf before the damming, Mt Nemrut, and ancient Mardin. Travelling to these places with my son was an experience that we will both never forget. The friendliness of the people and the totally awesome sites that we saw…..I just think how lucky we were to be able to visit these amazing places before all this current trouble erupted. And I hope these priceless heritage sites and their people can come through these difficult times unscathed.Mt NemrutŞanlıurfaMardin

The north eastAni

My travels to the north east of Turkey seem like just yesterday. You can read about those adventures here.

The Coastal RegionsPhaselis

I’m an off season traveller and I love all the coastal areas when I can have them to myself. That’s just me. But places like Fethiye, Bodrum, and Antalya are very popular seaside resorts areas and very popular with tourists. The scenery in these areas is breathtaking and the water is crystal clear and warm. It’s no wonder the Brits like to escape to here. I’ve had a few lovely holidays in these areas, with the small fishing town of Kaş being a favourite  as well as Olympus and Çıralı.Favourite places

I could go on, as I have many more favourites. Travelling in Turkey has always been an adventure….from the amazingly diverse landscapes to the friendliness and hospitality of its people….but everything changes and unfortunately not always for the best.

Is Turkey safe to travel to now

Who can say? Who knows which area of the world will be the target of the next insane and cowardly terrorist attack?

What we do know, is what we hear in the news. The bomb blasts in Ankara and Istanbul, the plight of the thousands of Syrian refugees passing through Turkey on their way to Europe, the continued and escalating violence out east between the Kurds and Turkish forces, the ridiculous antics of a dictator and the continued imprisonment of innocent academics and journalists for simply speaking their mind. Its definitely doesn’t make Turkey sound like the holiday paradise it once was. Tourism has taken a big hit.

Should you still book Turkey for your summer holiday

Despite the many travel warnings, some people still like to visit their favourite places for their holidays. The Germans and the British do love to holiday at the coastal towns of Turkey and enjoy the sun and sea, as well as the delicious food. Many expats are living and continue to live in these towns and if they don’t watch the news, are oblivious to any of the current issues.

I’m quite sure that holidaying in Turkey this summer, will be a very economical time for tourists. Prices at resorts and hotels are sure to drop in an effort to win back customers. Having said that, alcohol prices are at an all time high….a glass of wine is about 20 lira now….and a beer is about 9 or 10 lira. Thats more than most European countries.

So, obviously to holiday in Turkey in 2016 is a personal decision and you need to keep up to date with the news and happenings. I would imagine that at the coastal resorts, it will be business as usual…….restaurants, boat trips, excursions and parties……..but I would also imagine that the numbers will be down this summer.

Its a tough call…..on one hand I want to help the Turkish tourism sector and the many people whose livelihoods depend on it. On the other hand, caution is necessary and also I don’t like to support a country where innocent people are imprisoned, social media is often banned and there is no freedom of speech.

But if Turkey has always been one of your favourite places to holiday, its hard not to return this summer. One could consider the beach resorts and coastal towns as safe as anywhere…..even Cappadocia doesn’t seem like a likely danger spot to me. However, best to keep in mind, that the situation can change quickly and the danger is if civil unrest in the country does escalates, this could effect airports, bus stations and borders with Greece and Bulgaria.

Are you thinking of holidaying in Turkey this summer?

Do you have favourite places in Turkey?

Have recent events caused you to cancel your trip?







My Christmas

As the year was coming to a close and the silly season was upon us, I was thinking about my options for this holiday. I’ve never been one to really enjoy Christmas. It stresses me out in fact with all the commercialism and the expectations. I hate shopping at the best of times, so when this season is upon us and the shops are crazy, I get stressed and tend to stay away.

I guess that’s another reason why I loved living in Turkey. Christmas would just sneak up on me and I was totally unaware that it was approaching. Usually I was working on Christmas Day…its just another day in Turkey. Businesses are open as usual and children go to school as usual and I can escape the whole kerfuffle.

Christmas in Spain

Anyway, I’m living in Spain now and Spain is crazy over Christmas. The shops were displaying Christmas goodies since October. Every where are the words Feliz Navidad……Merry Christmas. The streets have been decorated with lights and Christmas trees since early November and there is a giant nativity scene created in the plaza outside the ayuntamiento or local council. Its all a bit over the top for me. The school where I work did put on a lovely little Christmas party serving excellent Rioja wine, of course. Well I had a lesson straight after and I can admit that my students got to enjoy some Christmas YouTubes for that last hour.

Interestingly Spanish Christmas doesn’t end in December but goes on till January 6 when they celebrate the Epiphany and Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes Mages or Festival of the Three Wise Men. So Spanish children get some presents on 25 December, but most are received on January 6. Also, strangely, I have not seen a single Santa Claus.

Spain’s Christmas Lottery

Another crazy thing is the Christmas lottery, El Gordo Navidad. El Gordo meaning ‘the fat one’. This lottery has been running since 1812 and didn’t even stop during Franco’s regime. I remember last year I was in Madrid in December. I couldn’t help but notice huge numbers of people queuing in the Plaza del Sol. Eventually I stopped and asked someone what was happening? ‘We are queuing to buy the Christmas lottery ticket’, they said. I was astounded. But now here in Logroño I see it every day, for the last few months. Apparently the total prise winnings are over 2 billion euros, 2 billion….!Christmas lottery

So what was I going to do for Christmas?

A few friends were going home to the States or UK, so I thought I’d make a short visit to Turkey. It had been my home for 6 years and Australia is just too far and too expensive for such a short visit.

Staying in Istanbul, I visited one of the huge shopping centres there and they had as many Christmas trees, decorations and lights as Spain. Mutlu Noeller, Merry Christmas was everywhere. They even had Christmas carols playing over the sound system.Christmas

Me rambling on

Well for me, Istanbul meant meeting up with an old friend and enjoying some wonderful Turkish food and raki. Turkish breakfast in my hotel didn’t disappoint. It was good to be back but the crowds did seem to effect me more and something just didn’t feel right.

My hotel was obviously far from full and they pleaded with me to pay in cash. It is apparent that tourism has been sadly effected by all the recent events. The latest affair with Russia has had a huge effect, bringing the number of Russian holiday makers to a stop as well as effecting Turkey’s export of fruits and vegetables. The lira is down and prices are going up.Canakkale

We travelled to my old home town of Çanakkale where I could catch up with another friend and see some other familiar faces and places but it didn’t feel home any more.  I realised that I had truly moved on and I felt alien in Çanakkale.

Again I felt this heaviness or depressive feeling. There were obvious cost cutting measures in my hotel; the bread at breakfast was day old. Turkey is known for its delicious bread and serving day old bread is unbelievable. Also the office workers in my hotel were sitting at their computers in total darkness except for the computer screen. The cleaners were cleaning the floors in the breakfast salon in darkness. They used their phone torches when necessary. When I asked about this, I was told it was to save on electricity costs.

The receptionist in my hotel that I have known for a few years now said to me: ‘You are lucky, you can leave here, but we have no chance.’ How sad that was to hear and  I felt guilty for my good fortune of having such freedom to come and go.

Is it safe?

People ask me if it is safe to travel to Turkey now? Many of my friends and family cautioned me and said ‘be careful’. But is it safe to travel anywhere these days? I felt safe in Turkey. I didn’t feel any threats or danger. However I didn’t feel like travelling around the countryside as I usually do. Initially I had planned to celebrate my New Year’s Eve in Turkey, in Istanbul or maybe Bodrum where I have another good friend. Well my Istanbul friend said that there is no way he is going out, its not safe and the alcohol prices are through the roof now. Should I go to Bodrum?

I’d seen photos of Esenler Otogar, Istanbul’s main bus station, the crowds and masses of refugees trying to make it to the Greek or Bulgarian borders.  We’ve all seen the news and the tragic attempts by Syrian refugees to travel to the Greek island of Lesbos by boat from the Turkish coast. It weighs so heavy and so how could I take a holiday there? How could I not think about the desperate people trying to flee from war.  Maybe I could have helped in some small way. I don’t know but I decided to fly home.


Well I just hope that 2016 can see some kind of order brought to this area. It would be naive to hope for peace but still I hope and pray for some solutions for the refugee crisis and that Turkey can return to better days.



Seven years an expat

This month marks seven years since I first left Australia to become an expat.

At the time, I didn’t know that I was going to become an expat. I was jumping out of my comfort zone and going to live in a foreign land to teach English. I hadn’t given any thought to how long I would be gone for, or what were my future plans. I arrived in Istanbul with a single suitcase, a small back pack and a keen thirst for some adventure. 28 years of marriage and divorce can do that to you.

Now seven years later, I can say I am definitely an expat. I have increased my belongings to two large suitcases and a backpack but I’m still fairly free and able to move where ever I like. After 6 years of living in Turkey, I am now living in northern Spain.

How did my expat life begin?

Separated, eldest son at university and youngest son finishing high school, I was looking at my options. I was keen to break free and explore the world, to rekindle my ‘joie de vivre’. As I’ve said in previous posts, gaining my ESL certificate was a great decision and opened up a whole world of possibilities. I applied for various English teaching jobs and accepted a job offer in Izmit, Kocaeli, Turkey. Izmit is about an hour out of Istanbul and a great base for exploring the area. So December, 2008 I flew out to Istanbul and my life was to drastically change forever.

My youngest son joined me a couple months later for his gap year and this was a wonderful opportunity for both of us. My academy was happy for him to join my classes and my students loved having him there. He made many friends and was invited on many outings, picnics, and lunches.

On my days off, we would head straight into Istanbul to explore and discover the magic of this amazing city. We also had the opportunity to travel further a field and made an epic trip through south east Turkey, as well a trip to Jordan and a visit to Petra.

You can read all about my experiences of teaching English in Turkey here.

The challenges of being an expat

Of course, there are many challenges for the expat. Maybe that’s why we like it. For me, the biggest challenge of being an expat is learning the language. Where I lived in Turkey, it was impossible to find any language classes and therefore it was just me and books. Also there wasn’t as much information available on line as there is now. Now you can even learn Turkish with Duolingo.

In Spain, its much more easy. As I said in a previous post on learning Spanish, the local councils here provides free lessons for foreigners and there are so many resources available.

But definitely learning the language is very important if you want to live successfully in your chosen country. As well as all the day to day activities that are necessary, its also important for making friends and getting into the local social circles.

Making friends and being accepted into the community is another challenge for the expat. Often these connections can happen through the work place or to get the ball rolling, you can check out the local profiles on I always use this method to make some new contacts in a new place.

How long will I be an expat

I really can’t say. At this point in time, I’m still enjoying the expat life. Down the track I’m sure I will want to be closer to my kids, wherever they decide to settle. At the moment, one is Sydney and one in San Francisco, which makes Spain a reasonable base for me. And I do enjoy Spanish life. I also miss things about Turkish life…….I definitely enjoy being in Europe…being able to visit different cultures so easily and taking advantage of the cheap airfares available.

If you have an expat story I’d love to hear from you.

If you are an expat in Spain, please drop me a line on the contact form.





Weekend in Noja, Cantabria

3 wonderful days in Noja.

Yes, there was another national holiday in Spain and so I took the opportunity to escape to the Cantabria coast for the weekend.Trengandin Beach, Noja

Where is Noja

Noja is a small beach side town in Cantabria, between Santander and Bilbao, closer to Santander. I had heard about Noja as a popular summer beach destination, but I love the ocean in the winter season too: peaceful and no crowds. Of course, the winter weather can be a bit of a gamble but luckily for me it was perfect; sunny and 20 degree days.


There are two beaches at Noja; Trengandin and Ris.

Trengandin is one of the longest beaches in Cantabria. Its 5 kilometres makes it perfect for walkers and runners. It has clean fine sand and just offshore on the right hand side there are many rocks that become visible in low tide and leaves rock pools to explore. At the far end of the beach there is a walk up a hill called ‘El Brusco’. El Brusco separates Trengandin beach from Berria beach in neighbouring Santoña and affords wonderful views in both directions. There is also an interesting ruin close to the waters edge.El Brusco Noja

Playe de Ris is the other beautiful beach of Noja. It is 3 km long, north facing very photogenic and more protected. Both beaches are connected by the stunning ‘Paseo de la Cosya y Casonas, or coastal walk.Coastal walk NojaThe coastal walk goes past many little beaches and coves and is spectacular, and very photogenic.NojaNojaNoja

Where did I stay

I chose to stay at Posada La Mies, and it was an excellent choice. This family run guest house was so welcoming and friendly, great for solo female travellers. Check out their website.Posad la Mies, Noja

Noja ~ the town

Admittedly most of my time was spent walking the beaches, but I did have a little explore of the town also. It has the main plaza as all Spanish towns do, surrounded by bars and terrazas.Noja Plaza The most prominent landmark is the Iglesia de San Pedro, a Gothic style church.Noja San Pedro Church

And if you enjoy your seafood, then Noja is the place for that too.Seafood

I enjoyed my time here so much and will definitely plan to return.

So if you are travelling this area, don’t pass Noja, without having a little look.