TBT # Zadar: where our hearts got stolen 

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Planing our trip to Africa has woken up a wanderlust that, I thought, had retired. But come on, whom am I kidding? Once you got the bug, it never goes away. I. Should. Know. Better! But I won’t complaint (for once): this wanderlust had brought me to wonderful places around the world and today, on my traditional ThrowBackThursday, my daydreaming sent me back to Zadar. 

While roadtripping through Croatia last October with my Alaskan sweetheart, we unexpectedly found warmth in Zadar. For the first time in days, we were able to wander around wearing fliflops and tank top; hat and extra layers were politely (read: thrown with enthusiasm on the floor) left in our cute and centrally located studio that was conveniently waiting for us. Our landlords, a delightful couple, gave us great tips to have a fantastic Zadarian time. We grabbed cameras and sunglasses ready to discover, what we discovered was, a cute town! 

About Zadar: 

  • Located on the Croatia’s Dalmatian coast
  • It is the country’s fifth largest city 
  • It is known for the Roman and Venetian ruins
  • It has around 15 churches – it almost feels like the Zadarians spent centuries to build churches. What else? 

Fun facts about Zadar:

  • The main street in Zadar is named Široka ulica (široka = ‘wide’) and it is believed it’s as old as the city itself
  • According to Alfred Hitchcock, “nowhere in the world can a person witness a more beautiful sunset than in Zadar”
  • The sphynx of Zadar is said to grant love wishes

If you only have 24 hours in Zadar, have fun:

  • Having a rendez-vous with a wonderful sunset 
  • Chilling on the promenade next to the greetings to the sun
  • Listening to an enchanted sea organ concert at the pier
  • Jumping into the sea or if you aren’t that brave, simply soaking your feet in the refreshing sea. Bliss 
  • Tasting so delicious seafood (pssst, they have some great black risotto)
  • Sitting at the Roman forum and sipping a gin tonic in the sun 

We absolutely loved Zadar and it was hard to leave this seaside paradise. If you are in Croatia, don’t miss this gem!

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!

TBT # Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia

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Through my travels, I have come across incredibles places (really struggling to decide which one is my favorite so far! but maybe one of those days I will come up with my top 5) and I am grateful for it. To be able to follow my wanderlust and to keep on traveling is priceless. Last year, when we were planing our Malaysian trip, one of our friends really wanted to go to Borneo Island. Since we were up for anything really, as long as adventures and fun were promised, we started to do some research. We asked around to find out what we could (or should) do on Borneo. We were told that we could not leave Malaysia before climbing Mount Kinabalu with its challenging hike. Challenge? Hike? Where do I sign up? I got pretty excited and I am very happy to take you this week to Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia.

About Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia

  • Mt. Kinabalu is located on Borneo Island in the Kinabalu National Park
  • It culminates at 4’095 meters and is one of the highest mountains in the world (Top 20)
  • It was established in 1964 as Malaysia’s first national park and in 2000 it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
  • Kinabalu’s name’s origin is unknown and there are several hypothesis. My favorite one derives from the Kadazan words, Aki Nabalu, meaning ‘the revered place of the dead’. The local Kadazan people believe that spirits dwell on the mountain top

Mt. Kinabalu’s random and funny facts:

  • In 2015, tourists were blamed by the Malaysian government for the terrible earthquake after posing naked on top of Mt. Kinabalu. They allegedly made the “Mountain Protectors” very angry
  • The world’s highest Via Ferrata can be found on the mountain
  • 100’000 years ago, Mt. Kinabalu was covered with glaciers

If you have 48 hours in Mt. Kinabalu, have fun:

  • Having a fantastic ‘made in Borneo’ experience! It was pretty unique!
  • Hiking 6 km in less than 5 hours with an elevation gain of 1’406.7 meters, started at Timpohon gate (1’866 meters) on day 1
  • Staying overnight at Panar Laban hut (3’272.7 meters). It was a cute little hut with 6 beds, 2 British girls joined our sleeping arrangement.
  • Waking up at 1:30 am to hike after a (more than very early) breakfast. Day two was definitely more strenuous!
  • Climbing the trail in the pitch black night -A long procession of hikers, eager to reach the top by sunrise, was following a path lightened by hundreds of head torches. A part of the trail led us on the rock and a rope had to be held at all times. An interesting and exciting way of hiking / climbing!
  • Reaching the top: The sense of achievement was amazing! We proudly made it to the top, known as Low’s Peak. What a view!
  • Witnessing the sunrise: Because time was against us (some climbers we met along the trail were slow, old or out of shape), we took all the energy we could gather and we passed one hiker at a time. There was no way we were missing that sunrise! Determination is the key of many success stories and ours did a great job! We ended up getting to the summit right on time and we got a well deserved break while the sun was coming up
  • Taking a bloody picture at the top… with the sign! Quite a torture, almost more painful than the hike itself as 100 of people want to get group pictures as well!

We took our time to get back down as we were in no rush, enjoying the nature and the sun. In two days, we covered over 16 km with a total elevations gain and loss of 2’229.7 meters. What a wonderful experience! I would highly recommend it to any mountain lover…

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!

So… 40 days, huh?!

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Can you believe that three months ago I handed in my resignation and I only have 40 days to go until the next chapter of my life begins?! I am really looking forward to traveling the world with M.  Far from idealizing this ambitious project (hoping to backpack through 12 countries in 6 months), I am aware that it will be tough and challenging for us but let’s face it, I could not have chosen a better partner to go on this journey with. Secretly, I am very much looking forward to our heated arguments. I can already picture him losing it when I will be running late (French vs. Swiss exactitude, I cannot win anyway) or when the room will look like it has been burgled (nothing better than a comforting chaos in a hostel room, don’t you think?). But I don’t mind because I have got to know him over the years and come to love his caring and beautiful soul. It is a perfect travel companion to my artistic tortured (read late and messy personality) soul.

So 40 days, huh?! Where on earth has the time gone I asked myself yesterday when my work colleagues asked me how many days were left? Far far are the days with three digits when I started to daydream that I eventually could (might, should, would) quit my job to travel the world. Since the resignation, the countdown has miraculously “melted” at an accelerated pace! So many things have to be organized before I can leave! Yours truly has been very busy (and I have still sh** load to do! Argggggh). What has to be done before one leaves home behind? Here is my to do list:

  1. Immigration: (If like me, you live and work abroad) Check your rights and duties with your host country. Regulations in Switzerland can be tough to comprehend. I was very lucky to talk to a nice officer who patiently explained me what to do (and mostly what not to do). With my residence permit, I am (only) allowed to leave Switzerland for 180 days per year. A special derogation can be applied for but I was told that traveling the world is not considered as a good reason to request an extension. Say whaaaat?!
  2. Finances: Set up all the needed direct debits (phone bill, health insurance, credit card…). It is easily done in Switzerland and perfect to travel worry free! No risk to miss a payment, which is great when you don’t know when you will have (reliable) wifi next! Make sure you have two credit / debit cards that will travel with you. If one would get stolen, lost or deactivated, the second would become handy. I have had two cards “hacked” while traveling. Not fun!
  3. Apartment: Find a subtenant who will take over your monthly rent. Of course, this must prior be agreed with your landlord / lady. Every country has its own regulations so better be safe and check than to be sorry!
  4. Health: Book appointments for check ups (dentist, GP…) and make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date! Your doctor should be able to tell you which shot you need if you let him know which country you will travel to / through. Very important: Do not forget to pack your vaccination booklet as it is mandatory to enter some countries!
  5. Travel insurance: Do. Your. Homework. Find the right one that suits your needs. This is certainly the one expense that can not be avoided. We should not underestimate its importance: in case of emergency, to know that we can be flown home without spending any penny is priceless
  6. Documents: Copy all your documents: passport, credit cards, health insurance confirmation and email them to yourself and to friends. It would help to speed up the replacement process if you would misplace them (a polite way to say get robbed)
  7. Entertainment: Buy a few e-books and create a traveling playlist. This will make long bus journeys and bad days much easier! Any input on books?
  8. Backpacking equipment: Decide if your backpack is the one. My Australian trip confirmed that my backpack was the perfect size, enough space but still rather small to limit myself to a 10 to 12kg weight. The only downside was my day pack so I made some research and I found the perfect one! Ready to travel with my house on my back for 6 months, whoop whoop!
  9. Photography equipment: (if like me, pictures are for you as important as all the memories you will gather along the way) Make sure your equipment will allow you to share the beauty of this world without being a burden to you and your travels. Quality vs weight has been a dilemma to me for years. I have been traveling and shooting a lot with a Lumix, small camera, pocket size, easily out, easily in again. It did a great job (especially in macro) but when it came to wildlife, I had a lot of frustrations (limited zoom for instance) so I am taking my Nikon on this trip. I know it will be heavier but I will be traveling with one lens instead of two, this will be my compromise. Any input on a light tripod?

Alright, I better get cracking as even though I have done a lot, there is still much more to do. If you look for me, I will most probably be running around, trying to cross off the tasks from my to do list before I run out of time!

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!


Once upon a time in Lyon…

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For an overdue catch up with one of my besties, we chose to meet up in Lyon. I might not be living there anymore but this city will always have a special place in my heart and it was time for her to explore it.

About Lyon:

  • It is located 2 hours from Paris, Geneva or Marseille by car / train
  • It is France’s second-largest city with 1.7 million people in the Metropolitan area
  • It is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
  • Lyon’s park, called Tete d’or, is one of the world’s largest urban parks

If you only have 48 hours in Lyon, have fun: 

  • Taking a stroll in the old town “St Jean” where you should stop at “Secrets d’apiculteurs” to taste all sorts of honey
  • Jumping onto a funicular to Minimes to discover some Roman vestiges)
  • Getting lost in a “traboule” (no worry our traboules are all mapped)
  • Visiting the “Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere”. Incredible view over the city!
  • Experiencing our food in a “bouchon” – I really love La Mere Jean. Friendly and funny staff, great food (You should book a table in advance, it tends to be fully booked)
  • Checking out “Place Bellecour” and its sculpture of Louis XIV – You might even get to see some street performers
  • Sharing a slice of pink pralines pie at “La marquise d’en face” (make sure your best friend does NOT eat the whole slice)
  • Taking pictures by night of the beautiful “Place des Terreaux” and our opera
  • Wandering on the “Rue de la République”(Warning: you might found yourself going on shopping spree)
  • Staying overnight at Mama Shelter (Subway stop: Jean Macé)
  • Going for a jog in the beautiful “Parc de la Tête d’or” (tip: an early start should allow you to do it before breakkie)
  • Tasting our “coussins“, a lovely sweet treat

Of course, my list is not exhaustive and there are many other gems in Lyon. If you have more time and are interested in museums, exhibitions and other monuments, just check the city website and create your own itinerary: OnlyLyon!

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!

One of those days…

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… when you wake up and you have the feeling that today you are meant to achieve great things.

Well, yesterday I had this feeling and I was given the perfect opportunity: a lasertag game.

A few of us had decided to go to the Lasertag arena in Emmen. This is a pretty straightforward concept: two teams (pink vs blue) face each other in a dark arena wearing sensors. The players need to get as many points as possible by shooting players from the other team, dodging “bullets”. You can see it as a soft version of paintball with no pain (but gain) and no color bullet.

The first round was pretty average (no clue what we were doing and two evil teenagers kept shooting at us) and after a quick break, I was highly motivated to go back to the arena and kick some butts for a second round. I knew what to do not to be shot (of course I didn’t hide! This might have crossed my mind but instead I bravely ran around with the words “easy targets” on my forehead). My friend and I had also a very clear strategy, we would have each other’s back and shoot the players from the pink team… This was our bulletproof plan, so we thought… A lot of ducking, screaming “Ahhhhh behind you! Too late, sorry!” and running around were involved.

I would have never thought that lasertag could make you sweat that much. Somehow I always thought that this game was a hobby for geeks (I am sure that Sheldon would agree).

Round 2 was crazy, it seemed that a beast was on the loose in the arena, everybody running around, chasing players from the other team but… I made it! I. Broke. A. Record… Yes, you read this well… I broke a new record: with a shooting accuracy of 5%, I succeeded in getting shot more than I actually shot anything / anyone which brought me to a flabbergasting score of – 375.

Most of you (me included) probably didn’t know that it was actually possible to get negative scores and with a long sigh, I had to admit that I sucked at lasertag.  But even with an embarrassing score, it was lot of fun and after all, a record is a record! You surely expected an impressive one (sorry!) but I would like to quote one of my compatriots, Coubertin, when he said “The important thing (…) is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”.

Give it a try and let’s see if you can beat me at being terrible.

Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!