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Ilha Grande: Jungle Jail

Ilha Grande is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to. When you arrive to this 150 km long island between Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo, you first keep wondering how they managed to preserve it so wild and untouched. There are no streets, no cars and no cash machines on the entire island. Well, the reason lies in it´s dark history. For almost a century Ilha Grande was closed by the Brazilian goverment because it housed a leper colony and after a top-security jail with some of the most dangerous prisoners within the Brazilian penal system. The jail was closed in 1994 but the island still looks like an unexplored piece of jungle – except the main village Vila do Abraão (approximately 1900 inhabitants), where you can find some bars, shops and affordable places to spend a night. Ironically, everything was booked out in the village at the time we were travelling. We still wanted to stay some days on the island, so we picked the last remaining pousada for nearly 300 euros/per night. First pretty grumpy about the price, by arrival we realized that it was probably the best forced decision ever.
P1210629P1210669How to arrive? There is a bus departing every two hours from Rio de Janeiro to Angra dos Reis (160 km, ticket aprox. 15 euros), then you take a ferry to Ilha Grande (1h, ticket aprox. 5 euros). Make sure to check the ferry hours before you go, it’s only operating in the mornings and in the evenings. P1220417P1210844We arrived in the main village where we were picked up by a smaller boat and it took us another half an hour to come to our pousada Atlantica Jungle Lodge. As we were approaching it, I could barely believe my eyes. A house in the middle of the jungle with only 3 rooms, a private beach and a lady preparing the catch of the day just for us. The rooms were beautiful but simple and I loved the smell of the sheets (I am crazy about fresh white sheets).P1210802P1210699P1210812 KopieP1210714P1210709P1210737P1210742P1210738We were having grilled fish and an octopus with a view to a floating bar, which also belonged to the pousada. You had to either swim or puddle to have a drink over there but it was not an option for me after finishing all these beans alone…P1220332P1220405P1220366In case you are asking yourself why I look so weird: This picture has a special story. Before my trip to Brazil friends kept telling me not to take jewellery and nice clothes with me – just some pants and old tshirts. Girls, now I will tell you one thing: It’s a trap! When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, you really could tell I was a tourist, because all the Brazilian ladies were so dressed up – even at the beach. So I told my boyfriend I was not leaving the hotel room untill we went shopping. On Ilha Grande I finally had the right outfit on, but unfortunately nobody was there watching. Well, at least we took this picture haha.P1220413P1220300From our pousada you could hike to the famous Lopes Mendes beach (picture above), which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches of the world. I liked our little private beach so much more to be honest, but still: It’s a nice hike through the jungle and you meet some apes and some bats on your way. P1220255P1210771P1220240P1210848If you are staying on the island just for a short period time a full day boat trip (aprox. 50 euros/per person) would be a perfect way to explore the most beautiful beaches of Ilha Grande. We shared our boat with a group of Columbian guys who brought some Pisco – so you can imagine the fun we had! P1210877P1210866P1220010 KopieP1220150P1220027P1220140At some point we ran out of Pisco. We were lucky the whole island was surrounded by floating bars though. P1220177P1220211P1220182P1220217P1220076P1220104P1220063This is the most famous palm tree of Ilha Grande and the pefect proof that it’s never too late to change your mind and go up! I would have loved to stay at least one week longer…P1220125P1220113 KopieP1220425

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Hasta la Playa Siempre

Ironically, the best all inclusive advice I’ve ever been given came from some backpackers. They told me they were using their all-inclusive hotel as a homebase, travelling around and coming back from time to time to change their clothes, spend some days on the beach and to get lots of food. We found out (it was in Yucatán, Mexico) they have paid for their hotel and flight combo only 100 euros more than me just for the flight. This trick certainly doesn’t work in countries with long distances between the places you want to visit. But if you are staying on an island it’s always a good idea to check the package price instead of just the flight. So my parents and I did during our vacation in Cuba. We stayed 3 days at Iberostar Varadero, travelled around the island for 6 days, came backt to pick up some new stuff, left for another island trip and finally came back to take the flight home. Why I’m telling you all this? Well, this post is full of showing off pictures from these 3 first days in Varadero. So I thought with a travel trick in it, it would make a bit more sense…
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Flying over the Maldives

Some attractions start before you even get there. So was my trip to the Maldives last week. I was on the plane approaching the islands (there are 1196 of them) after a loooong flight via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines, looked out of the window and was just: Wow. Doesn´t matter what is expecting me on the next few days, this view has already been worth the whole trip. The stewardesses were not strict at all and let me switch seats during the landing all the time, so I could take some nice shots I would like to share with you. P1900751P1900772P1900796P1900815P1900837P1900827P1900860 - Arbeitskopie 2P1900860P1900887P1900892P1900869P1900897We landed near Malé. It is the capital with the biggest population per qm (75000 inhabitans on 5,8 qkm) of the world. You will recognize this island from the plane as soon as you see it because it doesn´t fit into the landscape at all. The are boats going to Malé and other near islands on the opposite side of the airport exit but I had to take another domestic flight of 1,5 hours to get to “my island”. The Robinson Club Maldives is located near the island of Kaadedhdhoo, which is 400 km far away from Malé (even Sri Lanka is closer). And for the first time of my life I was happy about an extra flight – because it meant even more air pictures for me!P1900918P1900931P1910069P1900943P1900987P1910019P1910063P1910060P1910070P1910074P1910079Another 30 min on a boat and I was finally there. In my princess beach bungalow with my princess bed and my princess bathroom – located in the garden and all open.P1910109P1910115P1910118P1910117P1910124P1910128I took some minutes to watch the sunset from “my beach” and then had a shower under the stars. Not too bad for the first day almost spent on the plane…

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Rock the Boat

If you are staying in a hotel in the South of Mauritius, one thing you should definitely book is a catamaran trip. There are trips on every coast but this is the most popular one. They say it´s because you can see the dolphins (which is probably the case on 99 % of catamaran tours worldwide), snorkle (get ready to say hi to one fish you wouldn´t even care about in Egypt) and spot a weird coral which looks like a mushroom (this is really a funny picture though). But to me, the really special thing about this trip is the fact that you can see the beautiful mountain landscape of the island (since you don´t get to see a lot of it staying in the South) and notice how fast they get covered by clouds and the weather changes. Well, and it´s certainly not too bad being the whole day on a boat with some drinks, music and a barbecue, loosing half of your bikini while jumping into the water and… don´t forget the dolphins! So the first thing we did when we arrived at our hotel Shanti Maurice and had some indian style pancakes was to head straight to a catamaran tour.P1810906P1810909P1810897P1810914P1810943P1810971P1810956The dolphins. Amazing.P1810975P1810979P1820011P1820030P1820003This is how a bar works on a catamaran…P1820028P1820067P1820041Banana steak anyone?P1820039P1820044As you can see, snorkling is very popular at this place…P1820055P1820122P1820020P1820134A mushroom? After three of these rainbow cocktails this coral could be anything to me.

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Rehab-Weekend

If you live in Berlin or you are visiting Berlin and you have had a really hard night (as good as always) there is one place that can truly help you to recover.  A-ROSA Scharmützelsee is a sport & spa resort located one hour from Berlin – close enough for a spontaneous ride, far enough from all the trouble. It´s actually more a golf place, but especially in the early autumn it´s perfect for just walking around, having a boat ride, a spa treatment or to play some tennis. They are also offering cooking classes. So if you put cheese above every meal you did to make it taste good (just like I do) – it´s probably the right place for you as well… P1330365P1330401P1330368P1330566P1330428P1330564P1330558P1330610P1330521P1330516You can also book this hotel as a full one week package with Thomas Cook.

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Boat Trip in Riga

How often does it happen to you that you see tourists doing something in your home town and then you want to do the same thing as well? I´ve experienced a similar situation when I was visiting Riga last month. I lived there for 14 years and I go at least once a year but I´ve never ever done a boat trip. On my arriving day I saw some tourists going on a boat under the rainbows the fountains were building. I´ve always been thinking Riga was not the best city to explore by boat and I was surprised to see how many canals and secret water pathes it has and to get a completely different perspective on my home town. The tour costs 10 Ls (ca. 13 euro) but I got it for the half by buying an ice cream for the captain.P1670228P1670276P1670290First you pass the beautiful Opera House (the ballet shows there are great!)P1670246Then you are going through tiny canals and rainbowsP1670265P1670250P1670361P1670347P1670371After some minutes you arrive at the Daugava River and pass by the former zeppelin hangars which now are the Central Market pavilions (there is one for meat, one for fish and one for milk products)P1670380P1670391From the river you can see the TV Tower (red building) and the Old Town with it´s St. Peter’s Church (on the right) and Riga Dome Cathedral (on the left)P1670424P1670401P1670395P1670443This doesn´t look really inviting from outside but there are two really cool new bars in the harbour called Aqua Luna and Koya (more about them in one of the next posts) – definitely a great alternative to all the Old Town places. Another thing I´ve learned: Riga has a small yacht harbour (the picture below). If you are sitting in one of the two bars in the evening you can watch the boats coming back to their landing placesP1670456P1670460Some bridges in Riga are really tiny and full of…P1670493…locks. This is one of the tourist things I would NEVER do in Riga! I actually was thinking about coming around in the night and putting a third name on all of them. I´m a real love lock Grinch!P1670515

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Glénan Islands: Caribbean Who?

At the moment we arrived in Fouesnant to catch our ferry to the Glénan islands (the second stop on our island hopping tour through Brittany) I was still thinking: Ok this is exactly the way I was expecting France to look like. Cute doll houses, plenty of flowers and perfect gardens – everything seemed as if Yves Rocher has just finished his last commercial over here.P1460617P1470089P1460569P1470092P1470083P146067620 pictures of houses later we were finally standing at the landing place. And nothing looked french-like at all any more. The white beach and the colourful boats reminded me rather of my last Cuba vacation. But where was actually the ferry?P1460648P1460641P1460695P1460713The ferry was not crossing during the low season. And on this april day the sea was pretty rough. So why not take a tiny boat to get over to the island?P1460747P1460760P1460766As long as the coast was still visible I thought it was a funny experience to be in such a small boat on such a big waves. Later on I felt thankful for everything I could find on the sea to focuse my eyes on (a lighthouse, a buoy, other sinking boats). And during this 40 minute ride at 10 degrees I´ve noticed the first and maybe the main difference to Cuba: the water running down my face and my feet had the temperature of a mini bar.P1460778P1460844When we finally made it to the island, the coast was looking so peaceful again that I remembered why we actually got on this boat without having any doubt. And Cuba was back again!P1460872Îles de Glénan is an archipelago with 7 to 12 islands (depending on low or high tide). Hope you are on the top 7 during the high ride though… But no worries: the ferry brings you only to the main island: Saint-Nicolas. It has the best beaches, a restaurant and a youth hostel for the diving and sailing school.P1460822P1460826P1460857What you can´t see on this picture: Every peace of me was completely wet. But I was really happy that the two most important things survived: 1. my camera and 2. my lunch.P1460861P1460828P1460889You might be thinking: why is she posting pictures of flowers instead of showing us some cute diving students? Well, it´s not just a flower it is the Glénan daffodil, which only grows on this island. 2008 it took 2 weeks for 10 people to count them. The result was: 60000 flowers… and even more crazy visitors to see it. P1460882The beaches of Glénan are also known as the french Caribbean. At the beginning of our island tour I didn´t really believe something could ever compare to the Caribbean. When I saw THIS (scroll down) I was just thinking: Caribbean who? When the high season in June starts there is still one good thing about Saint Nicolas: the whole island is surrounded by beaches like this. So it never gets too crowdy. P1460923I´ve got one more tip to share with you: on the left side of this long beach the water temperature in summer is about 16 degrees (open Atlatic ocean), on the right side 20 degrees! So just step 3 meters to the right!P1460921P1460956P1460917P1460970P1470072P1460940P1470080