Getting Lost in 2017: A Year in Photos
The end of the year always leaves me with notes of nostalgia, and this morning as I lazily sipped my coffee I got to thinking about all the places I’ve gotten lost in 2017 (and some plans for the coming year!)
This year was great for local travel within Gran Canaria as well as a few other islands in the Canary archipelago. I’ve had the opportunity to pop over to mainland Spain (Madrid, Barcelona and Granada) more than a handful of times, and even snagged a couple of long layovers in Amsterdam and Geneva on my way to and from east and west coast visits to the states.
Here’s a look back at some highlights of 2017 as I start to make plans for the upcoming year!
January: Gorgeous La Gomera
(La Gomera, Canary Islands 🇮🇨, Spain 🇪🇸)
2017 began on a high note as I kicked off the new year with a long-awaited visit to the gorgeous little island of La Gomera, one of the smaller western Canary Islands.
Breathtaking would be an understatement. Dramatic cliffs plunging into the Atlantic, quiet swimming coves and acres of banana plantations flaunting every imaginable hue of blue and green. The dense laurisilva forests of Garajonay National Park made for some unforgettable hikes and the Mirador de Abrante’s epic vistas of Tenerife’s Mt. Teide peeking out from behind the blue sound left us all speechless.
And to top it all off, the grub. From La Gomera’s traditional almogrote cheese spread to the warm comfort of potaje de berros and fresh local fish, Gomeran gastronomy was definitely a highlight of the trip, and as far as I’m concerned, the best cuisine of the Canary Islands.
February: Carnaval & Cumbres in Gran Canaria
(Gran Canaria, Canary Islands 🇮🇨, Spain 🇪🇸)
Carnaval in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
February means one thing in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Carnaval. Local party goers spend months preparing their costumes, while dance troops and murgas perfect their choreography.
Carnaval in the Canaries is not to be missed. And to top it all off, one of my best and longest friends came all the way from Los Angeles to experience the madness for himself!
Getting to Know Gran Canaria
Having just moved to Las Palmas in September, I had spent most of the sunny autumn months soaking up the sun on Las Canteras beach and had yet to experience the rest of what the island had to offer. With Carnaval winding down and the February chill in the air, it was finally time for some overdue exploration throughout the rest of the island.
Beach season was on hold, so we traded in our bikinis for hiking boots and spent some time hiking and exploring the rugged mountainous interior regions and fell absolutely in love.
The whole region surrounding Tejeda is breathtaking, but one of the most memorable excursions was in the peaks of a tiny village north of Toscón de Tejeda, where we dipped our toes in a frigid turquoise lagoon, perched ourselves precariously above a Grand Canyon-esque cavern, and stayed one starry night in the cave house of a friends’ great, great grandmother.
March – Home Sweet Home in Gran Canaria
(Gran Canaria, Canary Islands 🇮🇨, Spain 🇪🇸)
With an expensive trip to the states on the horizon and a post friend-in-town budget, March started out looking like it would be a quiet one. Luckily with temperatures on the rise and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, there wasn’t much time to get bored!
After months of enjoying the northern coastline, I finally made it down south to visit the famous dunes of Maspalomas and the canals of Mogan (“Gran Canaria’s Venice).
It was a great peak into the other end of the island, but I’ve always been more inclined toward the less-touristic beaches, so of course I found plenty of time to enjoy my usual spots in Las Canteras and my favourite little northern villages – Agaete and Sardina.
April – California & Amsterdam
🎶California, I’m Comin’ Home 🎶
(In & Around Los Angeles, CA, USA 🇺🇸)
Months of anticipation and excitement finally came to a head in April as I packed my bags to spend Semana Santa back at home in Los Angeles, celebrating the first birthday of my perfect and precious niece. With only ten days to see, do and eat all of my favorite things from back home, there was no time to spare.
Cruising through Marina del Rey on my beach cruiser, grilling veggie burgers in Dockweiler Beach and even introducing my mom to the secret redwood grove hidden in northern Orange County.
Ten days flew by and before I knew it I was heading back to the airport, reluctantly kissing my sweet niece goodbye. But the week wasn’t over yet, and before heading home to Spain, I had a long layover ahead in a city I’d always wanted to visit bus had as yet eluded me… Amsterdam!
Out & About in Amsterdam
(Amsterdam, Netherlands 🇳🇱)
Living on a little island means flights can be pricey and everything takes longer to get to, so I try to take advantage of every opportunity to make the most of my time in continental Europe. This time meant booking a little 20 hour layover in Amsterdam.
My Italian amici Luca (who lives in Amsterdam) picked me up from the train station and took me on a tour of the city, complete with tulip markets, cheese tasting (translation: pure bliss) a glimpse into the Red Light District and Heinekens at a sunny outdoor café amid the Museum Quarter.
Twenty measly hours was absolutely not enough to get my heart’s fill of Amsterdam (or cheese dipped in mustard!) but the city is small and very walkable and it allowed me a little taste until I find time to make it back and really savor everything on offer there.
May – Exploring El Hierro
(El Hierro, Canary Islands 🇮🇨, Spain 🇪🇸)
The tiniest of the Canary Islands, El Hierro packs a lot of punch for its size. With a long-awaited long weekend looming in May, we found some cheap flights, packed our bags and hopped on a tiny propeller plane to little El Hierro.
Piled up in the rental car, we set off along the twists and turns of the seemingly deserted highway, awestruck at the views from mountain miradores, cooling off in sapphire natural pools and stuffing ourselves with seafood that we watched come out fresh from the docks.
El Hierro is a perfect escape for a long 4-5 day weekend. It’s small enough that you can see everything there is to see, but without the stress or worry of having to rush. Time runs more slowly here on the islands in general, but El Hierro is a whole other world of quiet contemplation and relaxation at its finest.
June – Back to Barcelona
(Barcelona, Cataluña, Spain 🇪🇸)
Any teacher can tell you that June means one thing – FREEDOM! Schools out and so was I, preparing to head back to the states for a wedding, but not without a stopover in one of my favorite Spanish cities.
Back in 2009, Barcelona was my first stop in Spain, and the first Spanish city I fell in love with. Living in Madrid, I had been able to visit once a year or so, but at this point it had been about five years since my last taste of the city.
And it was as wonderful as I remembered it.
Vibrant street art, sun drenched terrazas, the bravura of Guadi’s Sagrada Familia and the hidden secrets around every corner of the Barri Gòtic. There is truly something magical about the capital of Cataluña, and each time I visit, I discover something new and fall just a little bit more in love.
July – Hitched in The Hamptons & a Jaunt in Geneva
(Long Island & The Hamptons, New York, USA 🇺🇸)
July meant another trip back to the states, only this time to the east coast. One of my best friends and college roommates from California was marrying the love of her life (a New Yorker) in a cross country backyard bash in the Hamptons.
I always say that the test of true friendship is the ease of reconnecting after a long time apart, and with this group of incredible friends, it’s always as if not a day has passed.
We spent the week floating from one event to another – bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, brunch on the east bay and of course the big day itself.
Though I’ve been to NYC a few times, this was my first time in Long Island and the Hamptons and it was a refreshing peek into what the state of New York has to offer.
A Juant in Geneva
(Geneva, Switzerland 🇨🇭)
On my way back to Spain, I made sure to check for a flight with a long layover so I could enjoy a cheeky detour on my way home, and I was in luck! A 24-hour layover in Geneva, a city I’d never been to but had always caught my attention.
I left my bags at at the airport and took off for the city, a quick train trip away from the airport. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and Geneva was glowing.
I spent the day strolling around the cerulean waters of Lake Geneva and dipping in and out of cafés in the bohemian neighborhood of Carouge. It was a lovely taste of Geneva, but it absolutely left me wanderlusting to come back and explore the Alps and smaller countryside towns.
August: Cumpleaños en Cuenca,
La Paloma in Madrid & La Rama de Agaete
La Paloma de Madrid
(Madrid, Spain 🇪🇸)
My flight from Geneva brought me back to my old stomping grounds – Madrid. While most locals ditch Madrid’s August sizzle for cooler coastal breezes, I always enjoy seeing the city in its quieter semi-deserted summer state.
Madrid in August is a whole other animal, with many shops shuttered for a month-long holiday and leisurely strolls along the usually jam-packed Gran Via.
It’s also the celebration of one of my favorite Madrid festivals, barrio La Latina’s annual La Paloma. Hot summer nights intensified by live music, colorful flags and cool vermouth cocktails. I simply love summer in the city!
Cumpleaños in Cuenca
(Cuenca, Castilla-la Mancha, Spain 🇪🇸)
With my heart full after a much-needed visit to Madrid, it was time to set off on a little romantic getaway to continue my time honored tradition of never celebrating a birthday in the same place twice. Since I’d commemorated my cumpleaños in Madrid the year before, it was time to celebrate somewhere new, somewhere I’d never been but had long been on my list – Cuenca.
Cuenca is an ancient medieval city famous for her gravity defying casas colgadas perched above the deep gorges of the Huécar and Júcar rivers. The city is surrounded by thick, verdant greens of the Serranía de Cuenca and is nothing if not dramatic.
Five days of meandering along cobbled alleyways, sipping cafés beneath the shade of verdant groves along the river and catching my breath crossing the Puente de San Pablo, a 115-year-old bridge towering 50 meters above the gorge. Cuenca was everything I hoped it would be and a little more. Not a bad way to start off my next loop around the sun!
La Rama de Agaete
(Agaete, Canary Islands, Spain 🇪🇸)
Back home in Gran Canaria, I was lucky to catch one of my favorite Spanish summer festivals – La Rama de Agaete.
Agaete is a coastal fishing town on the northern coast of Gran Canaria, and one of my absolute favorite parts of the island. Normally a quiet village, Agaete lights up and lets loose whenever there’s a festival, and La Rama de Agaete is their most significant celebration.
La #bajadadelarama is one of favorite #canario festivals. Thousands of people sing and dance amidst the #papagüevos under the blazing summer sun☀️. The procession comes to an end at the small, pebbly beach of #puertodelasnieves 🌊. Here, the locals revive an indigenous #canarii rain dance, where pine and eucalyptus branches are beat against the sea 🌿
We braved the scorching heat, eucalyptus branches in one hand and a cool caña in the other, and danced along with the papagüevos until the sun dipped into the sea and children emerged with their traditional farolillo lanterns.
For me, immersing myself in these time honored traditions is one the most impactful elements of living an expat lifestyle.
September: Back to School in Arucas
With summer reaching its end and a new school year on the horizon, I decided to do some exploring around the city where I’d be working the following year – Arucas.
Arucas in a charming little city in northern Gran Canaria, set atop a hill surrounded by banana plantations with bird’s eye views of the coastline below. The city is most well-known for the towering church of San Juan Bautista and the Arehucas Rum Distillery, where visitors can tour the facilities and taste the many varieties of rum on offer. So what better way to get to know the city than to get to know it’s primary export? 😉
October: Work & Pleasure in Madrid
October meant back to Madrid, but this time as a guest speaker at the annual BEDA Symposium (Bilingual English Development & Assesment). Obviously though, if I had to board a flight to give a presentation about teaching English creatively, I might as well make a weekend out of it (thinking creatively at its finest 😉)!
With just five days in my beloved Madrid and a conference on the horizon, I did my best to squeeze in some of my favourites – a lazy stroll through Retiro Park, a mouthwatering tortilla at Bodega de Ardosa, and late night laughter with my favotie Madrilleños in barrio Malasaña. I think despite how many years I’m away, Madrid will always feel like home.
November: Taking My Time in Tenerife
(Tenerife, Canary Islands 🇮🇨, Spain 🇪🇸)
November meant another BEDA training session, this time in the neighboring island of Tenerife. I lived in Tenerife for two years when I first moved to the Canary Islands, so this would also be a rendezvous in some of my favorite old haunts.
We stuffed our faces in three of my all-time favorite guachinches, enjoyed sunset cocktails at the always impressive Terraza Sunset 290 and strolled through my favorite streets in Santa Cruz. It’s always a peculiar kind of nostalgia revisiting a place I once called home – both refreshing and melancholy at once.
December: Christmas in the Canaries &
A Granada Grand Finale
And that just about brings us nearly up to date! The last month of holiday festivities has been a whirlwind of celebrations, meetups with friends near and far, a visit from my brother and sister-in-law and TRAVEL!
We celebrated four days of Christmas here in Las Palmas – a Christmas lunch with my school colleagues, a big group get together at Las Canteras beach, a Spanish Christmas Eve with my best friends’ family and a British Christmas karaoke bash with some expat English friends on the island. And, of course, plenty of time for a dip in the sea and a sandy snowman under the Canary Island sunshine!
The next day we headed to the airport to meet my brother and sister-in-law in Madrid (yes, Madrid once again!!), where we spent the next two days dashing around the city trying to show them anything and everything we could pack into a time crunch. Food & drinks, landmarks & parks, and not to mention the Christmas markets and Christmas crowds?! Two weeks would hardly be enough to introduce my brother to Madrid, but I did what I could under the 48 hour circumstances. Le sigh.
And then finally, to my happy place. Granada!
Granada, Spain: Ringing in 2018!
Granada is magical. The city exudes charm, whimsy, and buenas vibras from each winding alley, cobblestone path and trickling ancient fountain. It is a place that can only be experienced, as words could never do her justice. So what better place to bring the out-of-towners to ring in a brand spankin’ new year?
The week in Granada was a whirlwind of tapas, getting lost in the Albayzín, and of course a visit to the Alhambra. We rang in 2018 with 12 grapes and sparkling cava, and a post-midnight dash up to the Mirador de San Nicolas, where I let the wonder and awe of that magical place wash over me. In all my travels, few places have come close to the sensation that that very spot gives me once the sun goes down and the crowds shuffle away.
And on and on we go!
Another year gone, and another one to come. Our 2018 travel plans are still very much up in the air, but I’ll definitely be visiting California in a few months and plan to explore Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and La Palma before school let’s out in June. As far as big trips go, there are a few possibilities on the horizon: visiting the novio’s family in Uruguay, perhaps finally making it up to Machu Picchu, and maybe even a cheeky visit to Jordan’s Petra.
What are your travel plans for 2018? I’d love to hear about them below!
Happy New Year!
Love and light,
Erica 💙 🍾🥂
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