Ambling Around Barcelona

I ended up with a ton of work due tonight because I forgot to tell the client who sends me stuff on Fridays that I’d be traveling tomorrow. Thankfully, my jobs were easy, so I decided I would do one of them in the morning, go out and walk until my feet hurt, and then come in to do the other one. I got to work around 9AM and was ready to head out at about 1PM. It was cool and very overcast, so I pulled out my cool weather clothes and made sure to pack my umbrella!

My only plan for the day was to visit a beach and then just amble around and see what I could find. But first, lunch!

I headed towards the marina area, stopping first at the same place as yesterday for a coffee. I would normally have given up on coffee so late in the day, but I’ve been on such a late schedule here I figured it wouldn’t matter. I sipped my magic bean potion as I walked very slowly behind a huge gaggle of school kids blocking the entire sidewalk and was glad to be rid of them around the monument to Columbus.

These trees were by the monument and I was not the only person photographing them. They are Ceiba trees, just like we find in Mexico. I’ve just never seen any there that look so roly-poly!



They have beautiful flowers.




Barcelona has a couple of cable cars. Very $$$ to ride them, of course.


I wonder if this is the world’s second biggest lobster.



I got to the turnoff to head towards the beach at about 2PM, which is right bang at lunchtime for Spaniards. So I decided to head inland to find lunch and then return to the water when I spotted this restaurant across the street:


Ooh. I haven’t had conveyor belt sushi since Eugene, Oregon! I hurried to the nearest crosswalk and doubled back to the restaurant to see if they had a lunch special. Yes. 12.53 euros for all you can eat with a drink, including beer. That’s only 19CAD, a bargain! I did a quick review check and any less than five-star reviews were by folks who admitted they came very early or very late, so the food wasn’t as fresh. I went in and was seated at the best table in the place — the first stop after the kitchen.

I dug in, knowing I wouldn’t need to eat again today. I focussed on the sushi, but did try a few other tidbits, like noodles and gyoza (dumplings). The salmon nigiri (bottom right) were were the best I’ve ever had, with the fish fresh and the rice perfectly seasoned. I could not believe what a deal I was getting. I like this format better than the all you can eat in that the portions are smaller and so you can get a bigger variety of stuff. With all you can eat, you’re committed to a large roll of whatever, plus you have to wait for your orders.


What a wonderful find and a great experience. I love stumbling on places like these!


I then headed back to the waterfront to find a beach. Here’s the museum of Catalonian History. Like most museums, there was a hefty admittance fee and a long line up. I have no regrets about my trip to Barcelona being mostly spent ambling somewhat aimlessly as I’ve been spoiled by the non-touristy Balkans.


I’d rather like to rent a Ferrari for a day… 🙂



I loved the last line on this sign:


And tah-dah!


Can you imagine how long this journey would have taken in ancient times?



I sat there for a long while, studying my map before setting off again.


“We are and ever will be a refuge city.”


The number of refugees Barcelona has welcomed.


There were some amazing sand artists at work.




I’ve seen these signs all over the parts of Barcelona I’ve visited. Half a roasted chicken with potatoes or a whole one. About twice as expensive as in Mexico, but Mexican chickens tend to be scrawny, so this might not be a bad deal, although I’d rather have rice than potatoes.



Exterior window blinds like in Belgrade.


This was an interesting building. It belongs to a natural gas company.


These signs always make me laugh. How many people had to drink the water or swim in it for the sign to be necessary?



Torre d’AigĂŒes (water tower).


I’m starting to notice some linguistic similarities between Mexico/Spain and Quebec/France, with the younger country holding on to a purer form of the language while the older country is starting to have a lot of anglicisms. For example, Mexico has “alto” signs and you look for estacionamento, while Spain has “stop” signs and you look for parking, just as Quebec has “arrĂȘt” signs and you look for stationnement, while France has “stop” signs and you look for parking.



Dead end.


Here’s the natural gas building again.



By this point, I was completely disoriented, off my map, and Siri helpfully told me I was in “Barcelona, Catalonia.” I had to ask a local to orientate me towards the Old City!

Here’s the natural gas building again. It’s really interesting!


I found myself for the first time in my travels since June in an area that made the hair on the nape of my neck stand up. Turns out there was a reason for it.


“No tourist apartments.” My host told me about this the other night. Barcelonans are unhappy with tourists moving into residential areas through sites like Airbnb and behaving badly. I was told that if anyone asks, I’m her friend and a guest, not an Airbnb customer. Now, I know I’m not at all the kind of tourist this sign is warning off, but it did nothing to make me feel welcome and I was glad to return to a main boulevard.


More interesting exterior window shades.



I was surprised that this one appears abandoned.



Ah, the name of the abandoned building. I found an article on the Catalan Wikipedia (who knew there was such a thing) and between it and Google Translate I learned that in 2008, major deficiencies within the building were found that halted renovations as there is not enough money to restore it properly.



Entrance to the Parc de la Ciutadella. It’s near the beaches and my map indicated it had some interesting buildings, so it seemed like a good place to end my day.



It is the home of the Barcelona Zoo.




There are abandoned buildings on it from the 1888 Universal Exposition. This one is called L’Umbracle.


And another building called the Castle of the Three Dragons.


And an abandoned museum.


That had huge chunks of rock outside of it, all labeled.



This is L’Hivernacle, a greenhouse for tropical plants during the exhibition. It is a contemporary of Paris’ Eiffel Tower.







The Castell dels Tres Dragons was the café/restaurant for the Universal Exhibition.



I liked these chameleons at a non-functioning fountain in front of the castle.





Here’s the Arch of Triumph I saw the other day, from the other side.


Toilets in Catalan are lavabos, which, spelled exactly like that, are bathroom sinks in French…


There’s that gas company building again. 🙂


I just love these details at the top of the castle!



Hommage to the Universal Exposition.



It was getting late, so it was time to head home. I wanted to do a withdrawal and found a Deutsche Bank on my exact route. How convenient!

Vicki, I found your toad!


This sounds like a great deal if you’re not a nervous nilly like me.







The one-way system in the Old City made more sense to me at intersections between wide and narrow streets. So here, you would turn onto the wide street from the narrow street.



I liked both the shape and colour of this building.


I decided at the last minute to make a detour down Barcelona’s famed pedestrian walking street, La Rambla, since I hadn’t taken any pictures of it.


With all due respect to Barcelona, anyone who has ambled down Plovdiv’s Ulitsa Knyaz Aleksandr, Belgrade’s Ulitca Knez Mihailova, and/or Sofia’s Vitosha Boulevard would find La Rambla laughable. I didn’t see anyone who looked like a local and all the restaurants served the same overpriced menu, a far cry from the bustling pedestrian streets I encountered in the Balkans where locals truly live and restaurants are of very high quality. There is a pedestrian street just a block from my flat that is much more like what I’ve become used to.







I couldn’t resist taking a picture of all the goodies in this window. They don’t look real!



Here’s “my” pedestrian street waiting for the sun to go down to come to life.


Here’s a map of my day:


I’ve had a lovely stay in Barcelona! Next stop, Alicante.

A Second Very Full Day in Plovdiv

It was a very late night yesterday, yet again. One of my clients had an “all hands needed on deck” express job and the pay compared to the effort I’d have to put out was such that it was extremely worth powering through and doing my share even though I was exhausted. But, thankfully, I had a good night’s sleep. I was up too early to even think about going out to look for coffee, so I did a bit more work for the client. Fridays are pay day with them, so after two slow weeks, I was keen to pad my current invoice with small jobs that would only take 15 or 30 minutes of work and not feel like a huge effort. Eventually, though, I couldn’t ignore my growling stomach, so I dressed and headed out.

I did some research last night about Bulgarians and breakfast and it confirmed my impressions, so I conceded that I wasn’t going to do any better than a plain croissant and a tiny coffee at the bakery right next to my hotel (they didn’t have food yesterday). It was a meagre meal, but I have to confess I like the excuse to eat croissants! 🙂

I then headed towards the Maritsa River to visit the Regional Natural History Museum. En route, I passed this truly remarkable map showing all the points of interest in Plovdiv, right down to public washrooms.



Research told me the natural history museum was under heavy renovation and there was barely anything to see, but for 4BGN, it was worth assuaging my curiosity. After walking through a construction site and being led to a smelly basement with a few fish tanks, I really wondered why they didn’t just close down as, really, the “museum” wasn’t worth a detour. And then, I saw that there were a couple more rooms I could visit and one had snakes! I enjoyed watching a couple of boas, hurried past the tarantula tanks, and spent a few minutes ogling a chameleon. Its eyes were really neat, reminiscent of a camera lens. I also got to see a bearded dragon.

I then went to an upstairs room to see a working beehive, fossils, and some mounted butterflies. No photography was allowed in the museum, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a pic of these giant lobsters!


I think the museum will be incredible when the renovations are complete, but, for now, I suggest you skip it.

A man at the tourist info centre had told me yesterday that if I liked the archaeology museum, I just had to visit Trakart. He wouldn’t tell me why and suggested strongly that I go in cold! So that was my next stop this morning, but I took my time getting there, just enjoying the sights of Plovdiv. I liked this street a lot.


I passed this statue of a family. Do you see what’s on the tree stump in the foreground?





Like Sofia and London, Plovdiv utilises barriers to discourage people from crossing busy streets at places other than crosswalks or underpasses.


I was curious about this obviously Jewish monument.


I got shivers when I read this. Remember that Bulgaria saved all its Jews during the Holocaust!


There are coffee vending machines all over Plovdiv and Sofia. People actually use them, even this disgusting looking one! I don’t get it, even with the price of 0.40BGN per cup. I guess I should try it one day!


Nice mosaic on what appeared to be an abandoned building.



Isn’t this smart? Folks coming into Plovdiv can see where there is parking available. Downtown is extremely car unfriendly so it would be a relief to me to know where to go to drop my wheels.


I knew exactly where Trakart is because it’s really near my hostel and I opted to get there through the tunnel under the Old Town. It was neat to see familiar sites from below.


Crossing the tunnel on foot sucked. It was loud, echoey, and smelly. 🙂 I emerged and noticed this interesting church:


Trakart is located in the underpass below Tsar Boris at Patriarh Evtimiy.


I got a shiver as I read this, beginning to understand why the tourist info guy had sent me here!


I paid the 5BGN entry fee. The lady apologised and said that they were out of English programs, but they had French and German. French worked! 😀


And so, this is Trakart. Mosaics from an ancient house excavated in situ! I spent so much time ogling everything and went around multiple times to make sense of the space and match up what the guide said with what I was seeing. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mr. Tourist Info Guy!


This is the entrance floor. That broken bit in the middle would have been a fresh water fountain.


On the walls are mosaics from other sites.



This space dates from the time of the transition of apostolic Christianity to the official Christianity of Emperor Constantine the Great! Above the fountain is text that says, “Welcome. Have a happy and peaceful stay.” Unlike other buildings of the era, this one did not have heating.


I liked how they showed that we could walk on the glass.












The swastika is a truly ancient symbol.



Part of the original lead sewer system.









Besides the mosaic, you can see Proto-Thrace artifacts dating from prehistory (4-3,000 years BC):




The venue also has a stage.


Trakart was absolutely amazing. Please give the tourist info centre guy a raise!

I got an ice cream after and then headed back to the hostel to do a bit more work. It was not even 11:30 by the time I got there! By 12:30, I was ready for lunch and really wanted a burger. Research didn’t come up with a definitive place to get one, so I decided to head back to Happy Grill, where I had sushi my first night, to see if they had a burger on their menu. If not, worst case, I’d have sushi again. 😉

Well, they had a burger… with bacon. Cheese. Fried onions. And… honey mustard sauce. Dang was it good! Even the fries were yummy! Only 9.50CAD with the tip, including a small beer. Amusing moment: me opening that red packet expecting ketchup and being disappointed by the moist towelette!


I then had to walk off my heavy lunch. It had been positively cool this morning and still wasn’t too bad, so I decided to climb the Clock Tower and Liberator Hills. First stop, Clock Tower Hill (Sahat Tepe or Danov Tepe).








I made a new friend!



Looking towards the Unknown Russian Soldier.


This little guy was so affectionate!



Looking towards Nebet Hill in Old Town, which I climbed my first night.


Graffiti made this fountain scary!


I headed down to go find the evangelical church before going to the next hill and took some time to enjoy the Roman stadium again:


It was getting hot by this point and I was tired, so I couldn’t decide what I wanted more, a fresh pressed grapefruit juice or a coffee. I came to a halt when I passed this sign: coffee and juice (including grapefruit!) for 3.50BGN! Now I understand why I see so many Bulgarians with both juice and coffee in front of them. This must be a common pairing for them.


The restaurants in Plovdiv are so much less intimidating than those in Sofia. I just plonked myself down at a free table and a server came immediately with a menu. I pointed to the sign and confirmed that I just wanted coffee and grapefruit juice. She returned momentarily with this:


The juice really hit the spot. Yum! I prefer coffee with a bit of milk, but they know how to make espresso here, so I can enjoy it black (no sugar!). The little rolled up piece of paper was kind of like a fortune cookie, but with what I assume is a proverb:



Ooookay. LOL

I meandered through some residential streets and was amused by this sign posted on several gates, announcing that work was going to be done. Love the picture!


Here’s the evangelical church, worth the effort made to find it!


Wonder what those are. They are related to parking.






The road here was in bad condition.


I finally got to the Liberator Hill, Bunardzhik. It’s off of my tourist map and all the street signage around there is only in Cyrillic!


There are two choices to get up to the statue. You can follow a meandering path with a gentle rising slope around the mountain or go straight up using stairs. I started with the stairs until I realised that the path would take me to the same place. No problem climbing a tall hill with a gentle slope, but it’s a lot of effort to lift your legs to climb stairs!




I stopped partway to enjoy the view:


Notice that gold and blue dome?

IMGP5467Getting close!



My tour guide mentioned that after the Monument to Communism was vandalised in Sofia and the soldiers painted to look like superheroes, some very enterprising folks enveloped the unknown Russian soldier with a red cape. What a feat!


Looking towards the clock tower.




I headed back down, partially using the stairs.



It had gotten increasingly hot as I climbed and I’d used up all my water. So I was really glad to find this fountain. Tap water is generally excellent in Bulgaria!


The crest of Plovdiv and its motto: Ancient and…




This informational sign in English was surrounded by thorns!!! There was no way to get close enough to read it. 🙁


I passed this car as I headed home. The Bulgarian counterpart to El pollo loco?


I came in and did another small job before starting on this post. I got a call as I was doing that — a rental car company with a car for me at a price I was willing to pay for a week of freedom on wheels! I have mixed feelings about that in that like many of the smaller car rental companies in Bulgaria, they only take the deposit in cash. So I have no protection if something happens to the car or if they say something happened to the car (my credit card has a car rental insurance policy). I know, I know, I’m a worry wart but 300BGN is a lot of money. The only reason I agreed is that any of the larger international companies had prices that were at least twice what the little companies charge, so even if my deposit is stolen, I’ll still be ahead. We shall see… I’m still not sure yet what sort of route I’m taking to the Black Sea, but I suspect I will not be there tomorrow and rather arrive on Sunday. Working out my itinerary will be tonight’s project!

By 6:30, I was famished, so I headed out to Gusto, which is in front of the Happy Bar. I’d checked out the menu today and it had something I hadn’t seen since I got to Bulgaria, so it was on my mind all afternoon!

Behold broccoli! Oh, I’ve missed you ssoooooooo much! 😀 With it is a chicken breast and a blue cheese cream sauce. Yes, I had blue cheese yesterday. Hey, I haven’t had blue cheese in ages either. 🙂 One thing I knew about more traditional Bulgarian restaurants is that you don’t get any sides with your meal (which is why prices seem so low). The mashed potatoes were inexpensive and would be a good vehicle for sopping up the sauce, so I went with that.


It was sooooo good. I haven’t had a bad meal in Plovdiv yet! I cannot believe the prices I’m paying. I would not be able to afford meals like these in Western Europe or in Canada:


I gave a 2BGN tip, so that came out to 13.30CAD, and it includes wine! Contessa, notice the price for the wine glass, 2.66CAD. Then, you have my potatoes and finally the chicken and broccoli. I still had a bit of room after and wasn’t ready to go in, so I grabbed an ice cream (cherry cheesecake!) and went for a walk towards the stadium. I passed a store that sells Ipanema sandals! Love mine. What a great buy they were!


There was an event going on at the stadium, the DroneUp IFF, and they had cushions out for the spectators.


A drone.


The crowd was a bit rowdy for my taste, so I headed back to the hostel, where I settled up my bill. I’m expected to pick up the car around 10:15 and I didn’t want to have to chase down the host in the morning. My total was 90BGN (68.40CAD) for the three nights. Great deal! I am going to reconsider my stance on hostels. I wouldn’t want to be in a huge one sharing a crappy bathroom with 50 billion other women, but it hasn’t been an issue in a small place like this and they are fastidious about cleaning. Of course, I’m past the dorm room scenario and would only stay in places with my own room.

Well, I’m off to figure out where I’m going tomorrow. I am so stupidly nervous about having the car that like when I RV, I want to know where I’m parking it tomorrow night before I go anywhere and I want the route to that parking spot mapped out! 🙂

I’ve had a wonderful time in Plovdiv. An evening and two days here has been just the right amount of time.

Brunch and the London Sea Life Aquarium

The only plan I had for today was to see the Palace of Westminster/Big Ben and then just walk around in the general vicinity and see what came up. I told you, I am not going to go mad trying to cram in a huge list of things to see and do. I never planned to visit London and whatever I see while I’m here is a bonus!

Here’s Kensal Green station, where I waited a few minutes for my train this morning. Those stairs were heavy yesterday with my bags, and there’s another flight after!


Guess where I had to transfer for the Jubilee line?


From the Jubilee line, I got off at Westminster and this was what greeted me when I came out of the station:


I have to say Big Ben is nowhere near as tall as I had expected. In fact, I think Ottawa’s Peace Tower is more impressive. 😀 But wow! Now I knew for sure I was really in London!

First glimpse of the London Eye.


London is super easy to get around in. There are maps and signage galore. I never felt a need to get a paper map, ask for directions, or look up anything on my phone (which I couldn’t do anyway since I didn’t get a SIM card after all).


I was famished by this time so I eagerly looked at restaurant menus trying to find somewhere that would do something I’d actually want to eat for breakfast (ie. savoury and not involving eggs). I came to the pretty Caffe Concerto and was so grateful that I can afford to eat somewhere so pretty and with a menu that appealed to me. I’m being mindful of what I’m spending, but can relax and treat myself within reason. I know I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy London just a year ago. Can you see me in this picture?


I love the combination of teal and orange!


I enjoyed a ham and cheese croissant, perfectly grilled, with a side of mixed spring greens and a ginormous cafe americano that was so good I didn’t need to add milk to it. Note that the bill includes the tax and tip.


I resumed my walk after. Not sure what this is:


Here’s a name I recognise from Mexico! These are bike rentals.


Jubilee foot bridge. The London Eye is on the other side so I decided that with the weather being decent, I would do it then.


Pretty impressive!


Now, that’s a quintessential view of London!


On the other side of the Thames, this made me laugh.




I had a lot of time to think as I queued to buy my ticket for the London Eye. You can combine a ticket for it with a few other attractions and save money. I’m still mad about losing all my pictures from Madame Tussaud’s in Vegas and rather wanted to see the museum here. Both attractions combined were pricy, something like ÂŁ63! But I could do a combo of those two and another attraction for just ÂŁ50. The only other thing on the list that interested me was the London Sea Life Aquarium, and it would essentially be free, with my getting a bit of a break for the other two attractions. So that’s what I bought. I “look forward” to seeing what that cost me in CAD!

After purchasing the ticket, I got to see the London Eye 4D video, which was a lot of fun. It goes as far as to sprinkle you with water!

You’d think I then headed for the London Eye and you’d be wrong. I was advised to do the aquarium first since you have to book a time slot for it. I went in (it’s almost right next to the ticket office for the Eye) and there was no queue and was told there weren’t many people inside. Sounded like just the right time to visit!

The aquarium was a lot smaller than I expected and not something I’d recommend paying full price for. I’ve just been to so many really good aquariums that my standards are pretty high. But it was interesting. It’s hard to get good pictures in aquariums (dark and glare-y), so here’s what I could salvage.

Jelly fish are very peculiar…


Sting ray.


I liked all the things in this tank, like this skeleton.



I’m a sucker for turtles!


I had fun watching the little guy on the right climb out of the water and then shove everybody out of the way!


There are sewage changes in the works in London. Right now, overflow sewage goes into the Thames.


Later, it will flow into a tunnel under the Thames.


I enjoyed watching the penguins swim.





This was good to know.



This was an interesting effect, where the floor would “crack” under you.


All told, I spent maybe an hour in the aquarium. One thing I liked was how they adjusted the temperature to the room. It was hot and humid in the “tropics” and down right chilly in “Antarctica!

The aquarium is basically dedicated to educating visitors about non-sustainable fishing practices and how to eat fish in a more environmentally friendly way. I’m glad I visited, but, again, it’s not worth the price of admission. Only go if you can get a deal or if you haven’t been to many aquariums before.

When I came out, it was almost noon and I got into the queue to ride the London Eye…

El acuario de MazatlĂĄn (Aquarium), Redux

My friend Sue is leaving on Friday and hadn’t been to the aquarium yet, so I proposed that we squeeze in a visit this week. Thankfully, she found some time to do so! I really enjoyed the aquarium last year and looked forward to seeing how it had, or hadn’t, changed this year.

We met at the embarcadero on this side around 9:30 and grabbed a pulmonĂ­a since we would have had to walk fully halfway to grab a bus.

The admission price had gone up from $100 to $115. I thought $100 last year was decent value so I assured Sue that as long as we got in at least one show, we’d get our money’s worth.

The biggest changes I noticed were the addition of sharks and the deletion of most of the tortoises as well as the ostrich. There were also extra shows. We were able to take in all four, and they were in rapid succession! The aquarium was packed and you could only attend a show if you had the right coloured ticket.

We did a tour inside before the first show. The big skeleton was labeled this year and as it turns out, it’s a grey whale.


I liked how all the bones were labeled to show the similarities with humans.



I liked the detail of this pelican skeleton with a fish in its beak.


Iguana with a long tail.




Lion fish.



I was hungry and these guys looked delicious.





This guy looked a little deformed…


We went outside after so Sue could get a sense of the gardens and zoo pens. Crocodiles:





We headed back inside for the first show, called “buceo,” which means dive. It was a quick thing of a guy going into the “shark tank” and swimming with the fish. He got hold of the shark and took it around for everyone to get a good look. He was quite entertaining and I learned a few things about sharks that I have, of course, forgotten already. 🙂 The audio was echoey and difficult to understand so I’m glad there was lots of visual entertainment!

We then went back out and passed these beautiful black swans. Hmm. I don’t think they were there last year!



Sue’s highlight of the day was the tiger. We did a special trip back to his pen before heading home.


I then showed Sue how to get into the two aviaries where you can walk around.


We were impressed by what the animals were fed. Lots of fresh stuff.


Imposing pelican.


Ducks. I suddenly remembered that I got bitten by a duck when I was in Scotland. I do not recommend the experience. It didn’t break the skin, but I did get a big bruise!


Magnificent peacock. They are starting to grow on me.



Very chatty parrots.



I think this was a prairie dog, or relative thereof.


The next show was about predators. We saw snakes, lizards, and a variety of birds. I wanted to volunteer to go hold a boa, but I was way too far up in the crowd to be a viable candidate. 🙁 This one was a lot of fun even if I couldn’t understand a lot of the information presented.


I liked the owl. The Spanish word sounds like their call, bĂșjo.



A sign that I spotted before going into the parrot show. “If at night you cry for the sun, you will never see the stars.”


Sue helpfully volunteered me at the parrot show. Here I am doing the chicken dance.

20160330_114631_resized copy

And attempting to dance La Macarena (that takes me WAY back!).

20160330_114725_resized copy

But I was rewarded with getting two hold TWO parrots! Blue guy on my shoulder, red guy on my head (sharp talons, both of them!). I had a red macaw when I was a kid. This was a cute show, with the parrots doing a few tricks.

me with parrots

Next stop was the sea lion show, for which I didn’t get any pictures for some reason. While entertaining, it was nowhere near as long or as good as last year’s show, probably because they had to pack in more viewings. I would have been disappointed if that was all we got to see today, but when you add this show to the other three, we really got a lot of value for our tickets!

Sue went to see the tigers one last time and I spent some time with the snakes, iguanas, and and frogs. I’ll spare you the pictures. 🙂

Except of one of the meals… Again, I was really impressed by how well fed the animals are. I do have an issue with the idea of zoos, but they are a valuable tool for education. I think the Maz aquarium does a satisfactory job of taking care of its critters, with clean cages, toys, human interaction, and a good diet.


We headed out around 1:00 and went up to Avenida del Mar for a sushi lunch! Sue doesn’t do raw fish, but was very open to cooked Mexican-style rolls. We split chicken teriyaki, a Miami roll (crab, cream cheese, mango), and a California roll (shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber). The server assumed we’d want the larger versions of the rolls, so there was a mountain of food! Since it’s a cool day and we were coming home straight away, I took the leftovers. I was pleased that Sue really enjoyed her meal since I’m always nervous about taking someone to eat sushi, even when I have no intention of passing the “real” stuff off to them. Even with the error of our rolls being super sized, we only paid $175 each, and that was with a very generous tip. I much prefer eating this stuff with another person since we can get more variety.

It was a great day out with a good friend. Thanks for coming along, Sue!

Stone Island’s Botanical Garden

Isla de la piedra/Stone Island has a secret, one I have known about since I got here, but which I have resisted exploring. It is called AmaitlĂĄn and is a proposed planned sustainable tourist city, the first in the world. What we have right now is the botanical garden, sample cottages, and a dream. I’ve been getting bits and pieces of the AmaitlĂĄn story and what I understand is that they are developing the project as people buy vacation property that hasn’t been built yet. The proposal is for a sustainable self-contained community that recycles its water, grows its own food, and lives in harmony with nature. It’s a grand idea and one that would dramatically change this peninsula and the surrounding communities. Will it come to pass? Who knows. But there has been tons of development away from the existing botanical garden, especially in the last few months.

My riding buddy Sue suggested we go to the botanical garden today. I thought that was a good idea. It’s Semana Santa again and Isla is hopping. I’ll have more about that in another post. But I know that Mexicans are not welcome in the botanical garden at this time of year for some reason while foreigners are, so it would be a chance to escape the crowds and the music for a spell. Here is the entrance, across from the RV park (I’ve included a crude map at the end of the post). There was a security guard and I asked if we could go in. Not a problem.


The pathway stone work is exquisite!


There are several styles of paths, each one more beautiful than the other.


That wall of sticks you see in the back is against the road where Daniel, our riding guide, keeps his horses, just a short ways down. I’ve been passing this place regularly without ever assuaging my curiosity about it!


First, we toured the cactus section. So many varieties!


I was awestruck by how meticulously landscaped the garden is, with many species well labeled. I

I loved this contrast of the coconut palms with the cacti.


Can you see the iguana against the wall? I’m pretty sure it lives in that hole.


Hard to believe this is our Isla.


Sue and I liked the contrast of the orange with the green here.


And we both thought these shriveled things look mouldy and not particularly attractive.


So many pretty colours.


This ramp’s incline is very subtle and wheelchair accessible.


This agave looks like an octopus.


Oh, look at that. It’s called octopus agave!


I thought these were particularly striking, with their dark outline.


So pretty.

Such bright contrasting colours.


The ramp leading back down gently.


The hummingbird garden, with lots of flowers with little tubes (imagine miniature dandelions) for them to stick their beaks into. The French word for hummingbirds is identical, hence why I understood the sign. I’m not quite yet at learning bird names in Spanish. Just not a priority. 🙂


More of those fuschia ones.


And now some coral ones with bigger petals.


This red fluffy thing looked like it was covered in bird feathers.


More stonework.


The lake.


Waterlilies. There were a lot of tadpoles hopping about.


One of the cottages.


More beautiful pink petals.


And yellow ones. These grow in a tree.


My first sighting of bananas growing in the wild!


The butterfly garden.


I liked these blue flowers, a nice change from all the warm colours.


These looked like miniature daffodils.


Bamboo. We’re just right by where our horses are tied up, on the other side of the wall.


I wonder if this ever blooms into something magnificent.

So much bamboo!


Purple things.


White things.


More bamboo. There’s a whole forest of it.


Relaxation area. Bring mosquito repellent!


I was really impressed by the bananas. Notice the pod thing hanging from the bottom of the plant.


Everything was so lush and inviting.

Closeup of one of those banana pod things.


For someone who loves and needs bright colours, this place was truly a feast for the eyes.


Red is not a favourite colour, but I could appreciate these.


Pretty spot for  wedding!


The cottages were open, so Sue and I went exploring. The little one had an open air bedroom upstairs.

Off of which was a split bath, with a shower on one side…


Sink and vanity in the middle, and toilet on the other side. Notice the coconut toilet paper holder.


There is a kitchenette of sorts by the bed.


View to the larger cottage from the upstairs balcony.

Beautiful wooden stairs up.


Downstairs lounge.


Next to the hot tub.


Nice hot tub!


Not a bad place to relax!


The larger cottage had a full kitchen.


Cozy dining area, all downstairs.


Bedroom upstairs, still open air.


Desk area.


Wonderful deck.


Outdoor shower.


Check out the sink!


Indoor shower. Notice that the plumbing was worked into that gorgeous wooden beam.


View of the lake from the balcony:


This one had a stone staircase, but it was also beautiful, with this pattern on the landing.


We believe these are papaya.




View of the larger cottage.


The other side of the lake.


We circled the lake and finished at the fruit garden, opposite the cacti.




Pomelos. I was amazed to see all these fruits in their natural setting!



Miniature/dwarf pineapple. I asked the guard about them when I came out and he said this is as big as they grow and they are ornamental.

There was a bunch of them growing.


More limes.


New building project. Forgot to ask about it. I’m facing the ocean right now, with the RV park between us.


Mushrooms grown in the damp soil.


And just when I thought we were done, this spiral.


Front gate.


And these are at the entrance: