October 31, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel, Travels in Europe, Travels in Spain

This week, I bring you a guest post from Agness; a Polish vagabond who, after graduating in 2011, left her comfort zone, setting off for the journey of a lifetime to China. She has been constantly traveling the world since then, living like a local for less than $25 a day. She has become passionate about photography and adventure blogging, sharing her enthusiasm for life as well as her travel experiences.

The Rock of Gibraltar: You’ve probably heard the name before, but how much do you know about it? Did you know that it’s home to some 300 monkeys? Or that it’s the perfect place to try both traditional Spanish and British cuisine? Or that it offers up adventure on the cheap? Allow me to introduce you.

Where is Gibraltar?
Gibraltar (meaning “The Rock”) is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom (yes, the citizens of Gibraltar are British people so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier), which sits at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, it is also bordered by Spain to the north, so you can easily border hop by car or foot to carry on your travel adventures. Most of the visitors land in Spain to get to Gibraltar, but you can also fly there.

Why did I go and how long did I spend there?
My two friends (Cez and Barbara) and I rented a car in Malaga and drove all the way to see Gibraltar. We slept in the car and parked outside of the “Rock,” so that we could do it cheaply and comfortably — let’s face it, at only a short walk away, Spain has more space for parking lots and hostels, and is therefore a lot more budget friendly. We spent one whole day in Gibraltar, which — despite its small size — may not have been enough. There’s definitely more for me to see when I visit next time.

Why should you visit Gibraltar?
Gibraltar is one of a kind: It’s small and intense, expensive on hostels and cheap on duty-free, tiny on the map and huge on sightseeing. It’s got it all.

Things to See and Do on a Budget

1. Exploring St. Michael’s Cave
St. Michael’s Cave is a stunning natural grotto attracting a million visitors each year. The cave formations are colourfully lit, and travellers can read displays documenting the caves’ history. The entrance ticket is £10 ($16) and you can spend a whole day there if you wish to.

2. Watching monkeys in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve
The Upper Rock Nature Reserve is a great place to see wildlife as well as numerous plant species that are rare or unknown elsewhere in the world. Moreover, the scenery seen from the top is simply breathtaking. Be careful as there are plenty of cheeky monkeys around trying to steal a wallet or a piece of jewellery from you!

3. Shopping
While, you may think that such a small destination might have not-so-small prices, this is not actually the case in Gibraltar. Because of its political stance, it serves as a duty-free heaven for shoppers from around the world. Although the British Pound is the official currency, dollars, euros and other currencies will be happily accepted by shop-owners.

Where should you stay?
I am a budget traveller, hence I would not recommend staying in Gibraltar. Within just a 30-minute walk, you can be in Spain, where accommodation prices are much more attractive.

What and where should you eat?
Gibraltar is full of food and booze (British influence maybe?). Cafes, pubs and bars are scattered all over the place and will look very tempting on a hot Mediterranean day. You should not leave Gibraltar without a full English breakfast!

What’s the best way to get around?
A pair of trainers or sandals will do just fine. It’s a small place and everything is within walking distance. Nevertheless, I would recommend getting a cable car when you go to the top of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. And, since the way back is easy and picturesque, you may as well just walk again.

Now that you’ve become acquainted with the famous rocky mass that is Gibraltar, I suggest you get to know it in person. With a mixture of adventure, cultures and scenery, it’s a European stop that shouldn’t be missed.

Follow Agness on:
The eTramping blog

October 19, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Spain, Travel

Oh hey! Do you remember me? La Tortuga Viajera? I’ve been, um, a little MIA lately. So I thought it might be the perfect time to make a bunch of excuses about why I haven’t been blogging as regularly to give a little background on, well, me, and also what’s keeping me so crazy busy these days.

As you may know from reading my story, I — like many expats — started blogging as a means to keep my family and friends up to speed on my life abroad. One thing led to another, though, and eventually I decided to not only start this site, but to actually shift my career path….not to blogging, however (believe it or not, I’ve never cashed in a single penny on this site, because that’s simply not my objective).

My career in fact began at big ol’ tech corporations in Silicon Valley (Google or VeriSign ring any bells?). Marketing was my bag, I lived in San Francisco, life was A.O.K. Then I moved to Spain and worked at startups for awhile before realizing that I wanted to make a change – a big change.

Part of that change included increased consumption of cheese, jamón and wine – duh. But along with that — and perhaps in a drunken cheese-filled state — I decided to follow my childhood dream of writing. (My other childhood dream: to be a bunny doctor. No joke.)

So, with one foot still in the marketing world, I wrote. Since then, I’ve had articles published in The Huffington Post, WildJunket and in a slew of other publications. Beyond the travel world, I also regularly cover subjects ranging from ethical clothing to DIY fashion, at The Genteel.

Then of course there’s the travel. In the last couple of months, I’ve made two trips to the US, one to Morocco, and have a trip to India and another one to the US on the horizon. So when I’m not writing, I’ve mostly been in a car, on a plane, or spending time with family.

So that’s my excuse: I’m following my passion. And boy is it a lot of work. I hope you’ll all still come along for the ride, even it means that sometimes I’m blogging once every two weeks instead of once per week.

Now, prepare yourself as I dazzle you with a few photos from a recent lunch trip to the pueblo of Pastrana ;).

October 10, 2012 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Travel, Travels in Africa

On any given trip, my number one priority is to taste a country through its food. My recent visit to Morocco was no different, but this time the whole “tasting the country” thing got taken to a different level – like a “high altitude, eat it straight from the bush” level.

It wasn’t supposed to be a foodie excursion, though. No, not at all. It was just supposed to be a leisurely trek through the red-soiled High Atlas Mountains and a few of its Berber villages. Nothing more. With our guide Sharif – a 40-something-year-old native – in tow, though, we set off into the dusty, shrubbery-powdered landscape, completely unaware that our surprise culinary journey was about to begin.

The weather was cool. Well, cooler – perhaps hovering around 90F instead of a suffocating 120F. Sharif bumbled through the underbrush, leading the way as he plucked leaves off of bushes. “Smell it. This is peppermint.” Then a moment later he’d pass back another twig. “This one is thyme.” Only steps into the trip and we’d already collected enough fragrant herbs to season a steaming tagine of veggies.

Our path became swallowed by bushes and trees as the brush thickened and the landscape sheltered us with welcome shade. With a swipe of the hand, Sharif would masterfully collect blackberries from their bush, rattle a tree to grab hold of a dangling grapevine, and smash a walnut pod to reveal its crunchy inner treasure. He’d pass the goodies on to us with indifference, meanwhile we’d gobble them up as we walked, churning up a dust storm in our wake.

We passed through near-century-year-old Berber villages held together by foundations of melon-sized rocks, and walls of the land’s terracotta-colored earth. And between each town, we filled our traveling tummies with more of the valley’s treats, from juicy figs to miniature green apples and fresh-from-the-shell almonds.

We even made a little friend along the way: A chameleon crawling along a grapevine. Sharif scooped up the reptile like he were a little toy, telling us, as he opened its mouth, that if we gave him a little water, he’d be our friend. A few healthy gulps later and our new lizard buddy was crawling on Jacobo’s white shirt, slowly shifting from a vibrant grapevine green to a lighter, less conspicuous shade.

We ended our walk in the town of Ouirgane, where, almost full from trail snacking, we dined on cous cous, olives and freshly baked slabs of bread. Indeed, the day wasn’t what we’d expected, and certainly wasn’t the foodie version of Morocco that we’d had in mind, but I’m pretty sure that no country has every tasted quite so good.

*Update: Our tour was booked through Linaya Transport. They can be reached at 00 212 524 33 03 99 (apparently they’re in the process of getting their website up and running).