So where in the world did we last leave off? We checked in with our last big travel update during our final few days roaming around Mexico. Since then we’re torn through 10 countries and now here we are in Spain once again getting ready to pack our bags for another big adventure.
Where to next? I’m getting to that. But first, here’s a quick recap of what went down between Mexico and now.
Spring 2016 Travel Recap
- Length of Time: 90 days
- Distance Traveled: 12,597 miles
- Number of Countries: 10
- Mexico, USA, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia, Sint Maarten (Netherlands), Saint Martin (France), Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar (UK).
- Number of Beds Slept In: 24
- Place-to-Place Transport Segments: 29
- Flights: 3
- Cars: 3 cars, traveling 12 segments
- Ships/Boats: 3 vessels, 6 segments
- Buses: 17
- Trains: 6
Returning to the US and Making an Impact in the DR
After flying from Mexico to Fort Lauderdale, I broke away from Heather for a few days so that I could help a friend celebrate his last few days of bachelorhood down in the Florida Keys. Fishin’ and beer drinkin’ were on the agenda and it was a mission accomplished.
That same day the guys and I left the Keys, I did 180° turn to rejoin Heather and we immediately departed on the newly-branded Fathom Adonia ship, for a completely novel and different experience. Fathom invited us to test out this new concept in which we cruised down to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic to participate in four days of impact activities. We had so much fun “traveling deep” immersing ourselves into people’s homes to teach them English and working alongside our new Dominican friends to reforest the barren mountainsides. You can checkout our in-depth review of the Fathom Adonia here.
Soon after returning from the Dominican Republic, we snagged a rental car and set off on a little road trip. Our goal was to make up for lost time with the friends and family we’ve been away from over the past years. We visited Heather’s family in Melbourne, FL, then friends in Orlando, and next to Charlotte, NC. We made a pit stop in Asheville, which is often cited as “Beer City USA” as it boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the US. Hence, whenever in the area, we always try to work in a stop to visit some of our local favorites and also to see what is new. Speaking of the latter, we were really impressed by the new 200+ acre Sierra Nevada campus and it will go down as one of the most memorable breweries we’ve toured. At some point we felt it was necessary to hike off all those extra calories we consumed and the surrounding mountains provide no lack of options. We chose to explore Pisgah National Forest, which sports more waterfalls than we can count. There are waterfalls on the side of the road, waterfalls you can walk behind, and even waterfalls you can slide down!
Soon after returning from the Dominican Republic, we snagged a rental car and set off on a little road trip. Our goal was to make up for lost time with the friends and family we’ve been away from over the past years. We visited Heather’s family in Melbourne, FL, then friends in Orlando, and next to Charlotte, NC.
We made a pit stop in Asheville, which is often cited as “Beer City USA” as it boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the US. Hence, whenever in the area, we always try to work in a stop to visit some of our local favorites and also to see what is new. Speaking of the latter, we were really impressed by the new 200+ acre Sierra Nevada campus and it will go down as one of the most memorable breweries we’ve toured.
At some point we felt it was necessary to hike off all those extra calories we consumed and the surrounding mountains provide no lack of options. We chose to explore Pisgah National Forest, which sports more waterfalls than we can count. There are waterfalls on the side of the road, waterfalls you can walk behind, and even waterfalls you can slide down!
But our ultimate destination was Highlands, NC, to attend a beautiful wedding of some great friends of ours. They couldn’t have picked a more picture-perfect destination for their big day. True to its name, Highlands is one of the highest municipalities east of the Mississippi and we’ve found it to be such a charming town that makes for a great base to explore the mountains.
After exploring the mountains of Northern Georgia, we made a beeline to return our rental car at the world’s busiest airport: Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson. From there it was a short flight back to Fort Lauderdale, where we spent the next few days preparing to depart yet again for our next adventure. It felt good to be back in the States for a little bit, but it felt even better to be back with friends and family.
Embarking on Our Fifth Repositioning Cruise
Yet wanderlust was calling. We answered that call by flying to Panama. It was just a few quick days to revisit this thriving metropolis surrounded by rainforest in Central America. Oddly enough, the reason for our pitstop here was because we were using it as a launch pad for our route back to Europe.
We had booked yet another repositioning cruise to transport us across the Atlantic and this one departed from Panama’s gritty port city of Colon, sailing on the Pullmantur Monarch. It was an interesting experience on this ship and not our favorite crossing, but we still loved utilizing the cruise to get to Europe for what is among the cheapest ways possible yet with a little luxury, some fun in the sun, and an open bar! Here’s a review of the Pullmantur Monarch repositioning cruise if you want to hear more about this deal of a century, sailing across the Atlantic for only $159!
We made a port call into the familiar waters of Cartagena, Colombia, where we enjoyed revisiting some of our favorite places during prior travels here. Upon reboarding the Monarch, we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary out in the warm Caribbean waters.
The ship made a final port call for the day in St Marteen where we took the opportunity to explore as much as the island as possible before making our final push across the Atlantic. We managed to venture onto the French half of the island for some croissants in the morning and were back on the Dutch side drinking Heinekens by the afternoon!
Exploring the Iberian Peninsula
Our trip to Portugal began in Lisbon. We attempted to see all the major sights in just the few days we had there. Often visitors to Lisbon are enamored by the Belem Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, but it was the St Gorge Castle that really impressed us. Yet above all else, we really enjoyed attempting to mix with the locals in the charming historic alleyways while enjoying the summertime snacks of sardines and caracolas (snails).
Next on our Portugal agenda was Sintra, known for its many royal palaces, grand estates, and historic castles. There’s also a network of great hiking trails connecting all these sites. Nearby is also the eastern most point in continental Europe, which sports dramatic cliffs to match its notoriety. It all makes for an incredible day trip from Portugal!
Our final stop in Portugal was the town of Lagos along the country’s rugged southern coast. We were only here for two days but quickly fell in love. The highlight of our stay was the 1-hour boat tour that takes you on a small boat into the ocean, and all around the astonishing limestone cliffs, tunnels, and rock formations.
Here We Are in Spain
Finally it was onto Spain. This has been one of our favorite countries from all of our prior travels. The culture, the food, the history, the value for your money, the drinks, the people, and the beautiful landscapes all help to contribute to being one of our most beloved places. It’s been great to be back. We had spent a good month in Spain in the past. But for this visit, we decided to focus only on the Andalucía region and only visit places we hadn’t traveled to before. That meant Cadiz, Malaga, Granada, and Cabo de Gada would be out.
Instead, we started in the heart of Andalucía: Seville. From there we ventured onward to the cliffside town of Ronda to get an introduction to Spain’s white villages. We then hit the beach in Tarifa. Finally, we went to the UK territory of Gibraltar, despite recommendations not to, and found it to be a great day trip. We’ll be writing much more in depth posts about our Spain travels, so am being purposely brief in this summary. Stay tuned!
Ultimately we’ve wound up in the tiny village of Bubion, up in Alpujarras region on the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The population of this tiny town is only 315 people, so we’re having fun discovering the charms of small-town living.
Ultimately we’re really enjoying the tranquility up here in these realitively remote mountains. It’s giving us some much-needed downtime for us to catch up on remote work that we occasionally take on. When work is done, countless mountain hikes are only steps away from our front door. In fact, we most recently embarked on hiking up to summit of the highest mountain in Spain!
So Where to Next?
We’re staying put here in Bubion for a total of four weeks, which is soon coming to a conclusion. We’ll then be spending a few days roaming around the Andalucían town of Cordoba before ultimately making our way to our exit point of Madrid.
Where are we going from there? We’ve got some big plans that we’re super excited for. In fact, this may be one of our most highly anticipated adventures yet. But this post is already long enough and I need to go eat some more jamon. So I’m just going to leave you hangin’ for now and will continue this blog tomorrow with a “Part 2” post to spill the details on our big plans. So as they say here in Spain – hasta manaña! (See you tomorrow!) Update: Part 2 is now posted: See Where We’re Roaming Next!
Jan Tyree says
Hi guys! I am sooo late to this post, but I read here that you went to Gibraltar and found it to be a great day trip, but I can’t find where you’ve written more about it. I’m on the fence because I have read several negative reviews describing it as overcrowded and touristy, but Robert says we should try to go. We’ll be nearby and will have the time; I just can’t decide if it’s worth it.. so once again I came searching for what you might have to say about it. 🙂
John Widmer says
Hey Jan! Sadly, we never got a chance to write much more about it. But happy to share a bit more now, thinking back fondly on our 2016 visit…
So many people had warned us that it’s “not worth it,” it’s overrated, etc. So we went in with low expectations. But we really enjoyed Gibraltar. For us, it felt like such a novelty traveling through Spain and then suddenly being in a British territory, with a striking change in language, cuisine (fish & chips – yum!), and culture. Oh, and British pubs! 😉 But perhaps best memory is hiking all around the famous rock. The hiking was great, awesome views of the Med, and much of the trails were away from where the mass of tourists tend to cluster. Many people have a differing opinion about Gibraltar, so take our opinion for whatever it’s worth, but we really enjoyed it. 🙂 A full day felt right for us and am glad we squeezed it in.
Also, found a few old posts and pics on FB:
Gibraltar , hiking, macaques, opinion
Jan Tyree says
Thank you for that! Trails away from the masses sound better to me. It also looks like we’ll drive through a natural park area on the way. I think we’ll spare a day for it!
Thanks for the update about roaming around Mexico.
The maps certainly make a difference on your blog. Pictures tell a story too, but maps are vital I feel when trying to tell a story like this.
Hi, I’ve just written a comment on a previous post as we too are looking at this Pullmantur cruise, have you written your entry about it yet as I would be really interested? We have never cruised and I’m keen, my husband less so. When did you book yours as $159 is a lot cheaper than it is at the moment, that is before port fees were added I assume?
Really hope to hear back from you
John Widmer says
Last year we booked our Pullmantur repositioning cruise around mid to late February. Will this one come down in price? Maybe but there’s no telling depending on booking trends the execs that decide on pricing. It is possible that the price goes up too. No, we never got around to publishing our post reviewing the ship as we got really behind on the blog while traveling across Africa. But that post was drafted and I do, in fact, hope to publish this very-delayed soon, so stay tuned! 🙂 (Have been getting lots of questions about it.) I elaborated more about the cruise in response to your other question, so be sure to see that and let me know if any other questions in the meantime before we get our big review out about last year’s Pullmantur cruise.
Thanks for your reply, really appreciate it
Great travels! Love the redesign of the site.
Heather Widmer says
Hey Pete! Thanks so much for the comment and for noticing the travel tips that were added to the monthly updates 🙂
very interesting post, photos and videos both are looking awesome.
Heather Widmer says
Hi! Thanks for the comment. We are happy to hear you found the post entertaining!