{Hannah} Grand Cayman

Last week I escaped the first New York snowfall by heading to Grand Cayman! I stayed at Major Rod’s Hostel, which was pretty nice, located near the beach and town, but also introduced me to a friend to explore the island with!

The weather on Saturday when I arrived was overcast with storms in the forecast. That didn’t stop us from taking a walk along Seven Mile Beach though!

We got caught in the rain, but sought refuge in the stairwell of a condo building. We ate dinner at Da Fish Shack, which was right on the ocean.

My plans for Sunday included seeing the sights on the east part of the island. We started off at Pedro St. James, where we learned some of the history of the island, and then made our way to Mastic Trail for a little hike. Little did we know that the bottom part of the trail was flooded, and we had to remove our shoes to wade into the water!

We made a quick stop at the Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Park, before hitching a ride to a highly recommended restaurant, Tukka, on the East End.

Due to the windy weather, my snorkel adventure for Monday was postponed, and my buddy couldn’t go diving either, so we headed to the West Bay to go to Hell. There are quite a few stories as to how Hell got its name, but it’s named after these rock formations.

After visiting Hell, we went to the Turtle Centre. It was interesting to learn more about green turtles, but it was definitely more “farm” than “nature center”. We took a bus to the National Gallery, only to find that they had closed for the afternoon for a staff holiday party. Instead, we wandered through a mall, climbed the stairs of the Observation Tower, and used a coupon from a guide book for lunch.

Tuesday was much nicer than Monday, and my snorkel excursion (and my buddy’s dive trip) was a go! After a quick bus ride to the dock, the boat brought us to Stingray City Sandbar, where we were able to swim and touch stingrays! They still have their stingers, but are around people so often that they’re harmless.

We stopped at two more locations to snorkel before heading back to the dock. I asked to be dropped off at the beach instead of the office where we started, and enjoyed a few hours in the sun. I took a leisurely stroll down the beach, before running into my buddy in the middle of the street! We walked back up the beach and watched the sun set, before finding a nice restaurant on the beach for my farewell dinner.

Wednesday morning I wandered around George Town, stopping at the National Museum, before heading to a distillery tour. I ate lunch (and grabbed food for dinner on the plane) at the vegan restaurant Bread and Chocolate. Then it was back to the hostel to pack and hang out one last time with the folks there.

All in all, it was a pretty good trip!

Back to the cold and snow and daily rise-and-grind.

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{Hannah} Europe Trip 2017: The Journey Home

In my trip post about Berlin, I alluded to spending an extra night.  Who knew that trying to return would be so difficult?!

I had gotten to Berlin’s Tegel Airport early, so I waited around until my flight was allowed through security to the boarding area (the airport is so small you stay by the ticketing desk until about a half hour before your flight).  We boarded the plane a little late, but things seemed fine.  There was a mix up with seats, and a mother and daughter that weren’t seated together, so I ended up moving seats twice.

Then, we waited.

I recall looking down the aisle and seeing mechanic-looking people coming and going from the front of the plane, but the captain made no announcement as to why we hadn’t left yet.  We finally pushed back over two hours after our scheduled departure.

Everything seemed fine, until about 20 minutes into the flight, when the captain says we have a mechanical issue and will be returning to the Berlin airport!  That did not make for a pleasant trip back to the airport!

When we landed, we were surrounded by emergency vehicles (even though we didn’t have to do any of the typical emergency landing precautions ourselves).

The captain later explained that it was just standard procedure for whatever was happening, and that they’d leave as soon as the brakes cooled down.  The mechanics came back on board, and we were allowed off the plane a short while later.  Once back in the airport, we headed to another desk, where we were told our flight was delayed a day, and given a hotel voucher and two taxi vouchers.

The hotel voucher was for a hotel near the other Berlin airport, which is on the opposite side of the city and almost an hour away.  I asked my friend if I could stay another night with him at his apartment, which was near the center of Berlin.

As it got later at night, my already delayed flight was delayed another few hours.  To make things more interesting, this flight from the day before had also been delayed a day!  I decided that I would not be getting on that plane again, and I’d try to switch flights.

The next morning I made my way back to Tegel Airport and tried to get on an Air France flight leaving at 10 am.  I chose Air France because it was part of the alliance for my original airline, and if I had to be stuck in another city, why not revisit Paris?!  It almost worked, except I waited in the wrong line twice, and then they wouldn’t let me on the plane even though it hadn’t boarded yet.  Instead, I ended up on the other partner’s flight, which was KLM.

The flight from Berlin to Amsterdam wasn’t noteworthy, other than receiving a snack wrap for the hour-long flight!  Yay free food!  The layover in Amsterdam was supposed to be just over an hour, but shortly after I arrived at the gate, they announced the flight was delayed three hours!  Story of this trip, right?!

Luckily, we received food vouchers for use in the airport.

I spent mine on a beer and flammkuchen, which wasn’t nearly as good as the one I had in Berlin.

I ended up landing back in New York around 11 pm, and took a taxi home.  It was so nice to be back and in my own bed!

But my streak of days spent in airports and on planes wasn’t over yet!  I had travel plans the next day to visit family, which meant I was headed back to the airport less than 12 hours later.

In the end, we received a $175 travel voucher for our troubles.  I wasn’t pleased with it–and much less so given it was on an airline I rarely fly.  After almost two hours on the phone with two or three different customer service agents, they converted it into a gift card, which is only valid at a handful of merchants.  It’s just barely better than just walking away with a crazy story tho!

{Hannah} Europe Trip 2017: Berlin

The final stop on my European adventure was Berlin! A friend has been traveling the world for almost a year, and he made it known he’d be in Berlin for two months and would appreciate visitors. So I visited!

The first day, I tried flammkuchen, which is kind of like a pizza. Then we went to the DDR museum, and wandered around that area, passing by an old synagogue, eating at a great Chinese restaurant, and trying various beers at two of his favorite bars.

There were a lot of stolpersteins in Berlin–the little plaques in the ground that indicate a victim of the Holocaust had lived or worked there. These were the first two we happened upon while I was there.

Two relatives were deported on November 29, 1942, and murdered in Auschwitz

I had the mornings free to myself, so I spent the first morning wandering around the most famous sites. The first stop was the Brandenburger Tor and Pariser Platz.

I continued through past the Holocaust Memorial…

berlin germany holocaust memorial

…then onto Potsdamer Platz, the Topographie des Terrors…

Berlin Wall remnant

…and Check Point Charlie. We at lunch at a German restaurant, and I tried spaetzle, which is German macaroni and cheese. We went to the Judisches Museum, and then visited the Reischtag before heading to a blues dance class and a fondue dinner.

Plaque outlining where the Berlin Wall once stood

The next morning I went for a run through Grosser Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest park. It’s a beautiful park, with a lot of statues and history.

The Siegessaule (Victory Column) in the middle of the park

We spent the rest of the day wandering around town and eating a lot of food. We stopped at the old church Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche before heading back to the apartment.

It was the Fourth of July, which isn’t a holiday in Berlin, but is a holiday for two Americans! To celebrate, we made dinner, baked cookies, and drank a homemade red, white, and blue drink.

I left the next morning for my flight, but ended up staying another night (more on that later). The “bonus night” in Berlin was spent going to a nice restaurant and returning to his favorite local bar to have a banana beer.

{Hannah} Europe Trip 2017: Venice

We actually spent two nights in Venice, though they weren’t contiguous. The first was the night before the cruise, which we spent on the island of Lido.

Sunset as seen from the boat to Lido

That morning we walked along the main road on Lido and spent some time chilling on the beach. The water was the perfect temperature! Of course, we had pizza for lunch.

The canals in Lido were so beautiful

We took a vaporetto (the public boats in Venice) up the Grand Canal to the cruise terminal. We got an awesome view of the Rialto Bridge as we approached and went under it.

rialto bridge venice italy

When we returned from the cruise, we stayed on the actual island of Venice. Venice has a biannual art show called the Biennale, where various countries have an artist represent them. It’s all modern art, but some exhibits were more interesting than others.

This art piece was like being in a tree fort

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the narrow streets, enjoying the canals…

…and taking in the sights like Piazza San Marco, the Doge’s Palace, and the shopping on the Rialto Bridge.

Because we were in Italy, we managed to eat pizza for both lunch and dinner, and have gelato three times!

It was a short amount of time in Venice, but we felt like it was enough to see the whole island (though there’s of course more we could have done). The next day my friend flew back to the States, and I was on my way to Berlin!

{Hannah} Europe Trip 2017: Cruise to Greece

Our cruise left from Venice in the evening (more on Venice later). We boarded the boat in the afternoon, and were pleasantly surprised to see we were upgraded to a room with a balcony! The first night on the boat was spent eating and exploring.

Our first stop was Trieste, Italy. We docked earlier than the shops and sights opened, so I explored the town before getting on a city bus to the Miramare castle. It was beautiful and had a wonderful garden to wander around.

View of Miramare castle from the boat

As we were leaving the port, it started to rain. But that was ok, because we were rewarded with a beautiful double rainbow!

We sailed until the following afternoon when we arrived in Corfu, Greece. It was a quaint old town. We tried to see the New Fort, but it was closed for the day. Instead we saw the Old Fortress, and then walked around the bay to an old church and some ancient ruins.

Corfu as seen from the boat

The next morning we arrived in Katakolon. It’s a small fishing town, but it’s the closest port to Olympia. I took a tour to the ruins and museum at Olympia. It was very interesting, but the tour I was on was rushed and we didn’t have much time to explore and really soak it in. We arrived back at the boat with almost two hours left in port, so I went for a run down the beach.

Katakolon and the cruise boat from down the beach

Then it was time for a full day in Mykonos! I walked through all the little streets and up the hills and stairs of the old town in the morning. Then we headed to the beach in the afternoon. The water was so clear and a perfect temperature for swimming.

Mykonos is famous for their windmills

After so many exciting stops, we had a relaxing day at sea, where we slept in, ate a lot, and hung out on our balcony.

cruise costa luminosa ocean deck

Our final stop was in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was another cute little town. We walked around the city walls, and then took the cable car up Mount Srd. There was heavy fog at the top, so we didn’t get the beautiful views of the old town that people talk about.

Dubrovnik from the city wall

We had one last afternoon and night on the boat before returning to Venice. It was so much fun to explore so many new places in such a short amount of time! But the trip wasn’t over quite yet…