The Zoo in Zurich

On our last vacation without kid we visited the zoo in Zurich, where they have an amazing indoor rain forest and a great elephant house.
I am so looking forward to doing this again with a toddler :-).

The Botanical Garden on Mahe

The Botanical Garden on Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles, deserves its own photo gallery.

The Seychelles

Two weeks on the Seychelles: the main island Mahe, the islands Praslin and Curieuse, giant tortoises, driving on the left (“wrong”) side of the road, beautiful sunshine on a gorgeous beach and incredible amounts of pouring rain. Oh, and a ship that’s called like an application server.

Ironie bei der Deutschen Bahn?

Wenn ich für eine Monatskarte zahle und sie aufgrund von Bahnstreiks nicht benutzen kann, sehe ich erst die Ironie in der Werbung der Deutschen Bahn…

Deutsche Bahn

… und freue mich, dass ich zumindest mit Photoshop ganz legal Züge “ansprayen” darf.

The Galapagos Islands

Half my life I thought that Yosemite National Park was the single most beautiful place in the world. In November I changed my mind — not because I was disappointed by Yosemite but because the Galapagos were even more impressive with their breath-taking nature and most of all their fascinating animals.

I flew in to the island Santa Cruz in the very center of the archipelago, where I almost stumbled over a sea iguana during my first stroll through the village Puerto Ayora. On the evening of the first day I visited the Darwin Center and the next morning I saw iguana without number at Tortuga Bay. In the afternoon I went on a guided tour the a tortoise farm, lava tunnels and big craters in the island center.
The day after that, in the very early morning, I went by speed boat to Isabela, the largest of the islands. There I hiked to the volcano were I could see lava in various bright colors. The third day on Isabela was easily the best day of my entire trip to Ecuador: I went snorkeling in the south of the island and saw sea turtles (so close that I could have touched them), white-tipped sharks (about 1,5m in length), a sea horse, a moray, and incredibly many colorful fish. From there, the speed boat took us to (and through) the so called “Tuneles”, an absolutely wonderful area, where we watched a ballet of sea turtles and a large crowd of blue footed boobies.
Finally, I flew to the island San Cristobal in the very east. Even the flight was a very unique experience. I had a hand-written plane ticket, that I had paid for in cash. At the airport of Puerto Villami on Isabela the pilot parked his motor bike in the waiting hall. The security control was conducted at a small wooden counter and consisted of me being asked whether I had any dangerous/forbidden goods in my luggage. The flight took about 45 minutes and the plane had eight seats (including pilot and copilot).
The village Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal seems to be populated by sea lions. They are everywhere — not only at the beach but also on the streets, sleeping on park benches, … And they were just having offspring. They say you should not touch the animals at Galapagos and always stay a few feet away — but baby sea lions are very curious. In fact, they came to me and nudged me with their noses. So cute!

Puenting in Baños

Baños is a village in the Andes where I spent one weekend with a few friends from the language school. We took the waterfall tour, visited the “Casa del Arbol” with the swing and did “Puenting” (from “puenta” — bridge). It’s like bungee jumping but the rope is not elastic. It is fixed on the other side of the bridge and you then swing down.

5000 Meters

During my stay in Quito and especially during the Spanish classes El Cotopaxi was omnipresent.
After my four weeks in the language school, I went for a guided 5-day-hiking tour through the Ecuadorian Andes to spend some more time in the shadow of this majestic giant.

Our group consisted of our Ecuadorian guide, the cook, a Canadian, two guys from Sweden (one Swedish, one British), and me. So the funny thing was: I could understand all of them, in English, Spanish or Swedish ;-). The three guys — all apparently successful business men, though in one case retired — were really  friendly and interesting people. In the evenings they would share their stories about hiking to the North pole and heli skiing. I somewhat stuck out in that group, standing just at the beginning of my career and being… well… a woman. While camping that was quite annoying since they would all use the women’s bathroom because it said M (for mujeres — women) on the door. 

During these five days I climbed two 4000m mountains (at rougly 4200m and 4700m, respectively) and went up to an altitude of 5000m on Cotopaxi (higher than all of Europe, yeah).

The others spent two more days and actually went for the summit of Cotopaxi. I had quarreled with myself for a long time but then decided that I’d rather have two more days on the Galapagos islands instead — and it was absolutely worth it.

Quito — Centro Historico

Die Altstadt von Quito gehört mit ihren zahlreichen Kirchen, engen Gassen und alten Gebäuden seit 1978 zum Weltkulturerbe. Von der Basilika hat man auch einen wunderbaren Blick über die Stadt und auf die südlich gelegene Bergkuppe Panecillo.

In einem kleinen Cafe haben wir außerdem eine Führung über Kakaoherstellung belauscht, erfahren, dass Schokolade zuerst in Ecuador erfunden wurde, und später die Pralinenherstellung beobachtet.

Monaco

On our trip through France, we also visited Monaco. And while I found an ugly rock covered in buildings not that impressive, the botanical garden with its stalactite cave deserved its own photo gallery.

Southern France

In May, a friend and I spent two weeks in the South of France.

We went by TGV to Avignon, where we visited the pope’s palace and the famous Pont d’Avignon. Before I hadn’t known that it’s not actually a bridge but an unfinished project…
We drove on to Arles, were we wandered on the traces of van Gogh and visited the famous Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. We tried to take photos from the same angle as van Gogh’s picture.
From there we went along the coast. Our stops included the Camargue, Marseilles with the Calanques, Cannes (during the film festival), Antibe (since there were no hotel rooms in Cannes), Nice, Monaco (were we drove on the formula 1 track — with a Yaris) and Menton.

Our rental car included a (not so great) navigation system, whose language we kept at French and which we named Odile. Because of the many round-abouts I was really good with small ordinal numbers in French after this trip. At one point she even said “Prenez le quintieme sortie” in a round-about with only three exits — we used the shortcut modulo 3…

Then we went to the countryside and into the perfume city of Grasse, where we took a perfume workshop and earned diplomas for our fragrances “Tout sourir” and “Le mistral verde”.
We rewarded our great work with four days in the gorgeous Gorges du Verdon.

On the way back to Avignon (were we had to return our car) we stopped in Aix au Provence and at the Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct across the Gardon river — an absolutely stunning monument.

On the way to Pont du Gard I wrecked our rental car. When suddenly a pipe lid came off of the fire engine in front of us, I could have avoided it by crashing into the opposing traffic on the one or the gutter on the other side. I chose to keep the wheel steady and drive over it. Unfortunately, the lid was solid metal and slightly higher than the clearance of our car. The car kept working but at certain engine speeds it made really weird sounds. We were glad that this had happened on the second to last day.