How to spend 36 hours in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

The Canary Islands are known throughout Europe as one of the best vacation spots. The island of Gran Canaria soaks in an average of 320 days of sun (more than Michigan’s average of 158 days) and according to a much-flaunted rating in a 1996 scientific study called the ‘Pleasant Weather Ratings,’ it boasts the “best climate in the world.”

If you’re looking to escape the winter blues — or want to embrace the island life for the weekend, here are a few must-sees and must-dos.

Eats & Drinks

Surprisingly, the food scene in Las Palmas is a bit lacking. With Spain’s robust gastro scene, I would have thought that it’d be overflowing with tapas, pintxos and other Spanish culinary delights.

However, I did find a few hidden gems. Did I miss any? Drop them in the comments below and I’ll hit them up when I’m back later this year.

Brunch at The Couple

Nestled along the touristy restaurants of Las Canteras beach, pop into The Couple for an excellent brunch. Run by (you guessed it) a French-Italian couple, it features the best brunch at a fair price. With a full bar (stop in at night for an excellent cocktail), sip a mimosa while enjoying an excellent view of the beach.

Choose from themed breakfast menus, like the Essential, with bacon, eggs, and toast with OJ and a coffee (€6), or the English Breakfast, with bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans and toast (€10) , which features ingredients imported from the UK to give the frequent British tourists a taste of home.

Paseo Las Canteras 23, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Pizza at Restaurante Pizzeria Pulcinella

I didn’t expect to have delicious Italian pizza in Las Palmas. Restaurante Pizzeria Pulcinella is a small place, maybe 8 tables inside and the same outside, so advance reservations are suggested. The wood-fired pizzas reminded me of Napoli; they’re plentiful in sauce and cheese with a tasty, crunchy crust.

Service was cheerful but slow — so embrace the La Dolce Vita with a glass (or two) of Italian vino.

Calle Naval 4, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

La Azotea de Benito Cocktail Bar

Looking for a fancy cocktail bar and a view of the city? Head to La Azotea de Benito Cocktail Bar. It’s located on the rooftop of the Centro Commercial Monopol, in the old town of Las Palmas (Vegueta). Sip on craft cocktails with an excellent view of the Cathedral of Santa Ana (also known as the Las Palmas Cathedral). 

Centro Commercial Monopol 2ª Planta, Plaza Hurtado Mendoza, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

La Bikina

For south-of-the-border (American border, that is) flavors, try La Bikina. It’s toward the south-middle area of Las Canteras beach. Enjoy dining on the expected (like ceviche and tacos) and the unexpected (pad thai and nasi goreng). They also feature a strong cocktail menu and a good variety of fresh fruit juices.

Paseo de las Canteras 63, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Sights

 The Cathedral of Santa Ana in all her beauty

The Cathedral of Santa Ana in all her beauty

Cathedral of Santa Ana

If you see one thing in Las Palmas, make sure to check out the Cathedral of Santa Ana / Las Palmas Cathedral. It overlooks the Plaza de Santa Ana in Vegueta. Take the elevator (yes, no climbing stairs!) to the top for a spectacular view of the hilly neighborhoods or the port. Take a short climb to one of the top spires for an extra-high vantagepoint. Open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p..m.,or on Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. €3 per person.

Plaza de Santa Ana, 13, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Casa de Colón

Interested in learning more about Christopher Columbus? You’ll want to stop into the Columbus’ House, located behind the Cathedral of Santa Ana. Read up on the voyage of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria (and his other ventures to the Americas), and tour a replica of Columbus’ cabin. Tour through an original Canarian home and check out indigenous South American relics (in the basement). Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. €4 per person.

c / Colon 1, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

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Surf's up

at Las Canteras 

Las Canteras Beach

Situated along the western coast of Las Palmas is one of the best beaches on the island, Las Canteras. It’s flanked by a long promenade that features a shopping mall (Las Arenas) and a performing arts center (Auditorio Alfredo Kraus) at the southern end, and the residential neighborhood (La Isleta) to the north. Take the 45-minute walk along the promenade and enjoy the seaside views, or stop in at one of the plentiful bars and coffee shops for a sunny break.

 El Confital is a secluded beach north of Las Canteras

El Confital is a secluded beach north of Las Canteras

El Confital Beach

Las Palmas is a surfer’s paradise. While surfing schools prefer the smaller waves of Las Canteras beach, watch the experts ride bigger swells at El Confital. If you’re feeling restless, try the hike up the small mountain (more of an overlook than a mountain) behind the beach for an incredible view of Las Palmas and the bay. 

Chasing the sun in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain

The Canary Islands are known throughout Europe as one of the best vacation spots. The island of Gran Canaria soaks in an average of 320 days of sun (more than Michigan's average of 158 days) and according to a much-flaunted rating in a 1996 scientific study called the 'Pleasant Weather Ratings,' it boasts the "best climate in the world."

Sadly, my experience was nothing as expected, it was surprisingly cold (ranging from 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit). 

But, with mountains, deserts, jungles and spectacular ocean views, it still made for an excellent spot to work from. 

Below are a few snapshots from my time in Las Palmas. Enjoy!

How to get a new emergency American passport in Bali in one week

The last week of my incredible month in Bali (October 2017), my wallet and passport went missing. I searching the web to understand the process to get a new emergency passport, but couldn't find much information. Thus, I thought I'd put together an overview of how I got an emergency American passport in a week.

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I'll set the scene. 

I had received the free Visa On Arrival while I landed at the Denpasar airport, which allows you to stay in Bali for up to 30 days. Not expecting anything would go wrong, I booked my flight for the 30th day (Tuesday, Nov. 21). This gave me no wiggle room when it came to leaving the country if I didn't get my passport on time (spoiler alert, I did!).

My wallet and passport went missing in Ubud, Bali, on Sunday, Nov. 12, giving me exactly 10 days to get a new passport. Plenty of time, right? HA! Barely. Luckily I had a photocopy of my old passport -- and I ended up showing it to everyone as my "proof of ID."

STEP 1: POLICE REPORT

If your passport goes missing, the first thing you need to do is go to the police station. Since I was staying in Ubud, I went to the police station that's east of the downtown area. It was quiet and there were only two officers working. They took me in right away and had me fill out a form. Then, they inputted in my info into the computer and printed, signed and stamped an official police report. KEEP THIS WITH YOU and maybe get a copy of this, as you'll need to reference this until you get home. 

STEP 2: PASSPORT PHOTO

In order to get an emergency, temporary passport, you'll need to bring a new passport photo. There are a few places in Ubud that offer them -- I can't remember what it cost, but it was way less than it would have cost in America. Less than $10 for sure, and I got 6, just in case. I ended up only using 2.

STEP 3: U.S. CONSULATE AGENCY IN DENPASAR

*Please refer to this link for the most updated process info, I'm only writing about my personal experience which could be different than your experience or the official process.

Hire a driver (driving there by scooter is quite the endeavor) and get your butt as fast as you can to the Consulate Agency in Denpasar. You're supposed to make an appointment, but if it's an emergency (which this was), you can just show up. I got there at 8:45 a.m., and they opened at 9 a.m. I was the only one there. They did a security scan and then had me fill out paperwork. When you get into the office, you'll have to provide your passport photo, money for the passport ($135, payable in Indonesian Rupiah cash or by credit card), and fill out two forms in advance: DS-11 and DS-64. You'll also need to provide your police report (you still have it, right?).

They will tell you that they can't actually process passports and that they will need to send everything by mail to the U.S. Consulate office in Surabaya on the island of Java. If you have a photo ID, you could fly there and get it processed and picked up same-day. However, since I didn't have a photo ID since my wallet also went missing, I couldn't fly anywhere. It takes up to a week to receive your passport.

Submitted Monday. It would arrive in Surabaya by Wednesday. They would process and send back on Thursday. Then, it could arrive by either Friday or Monday (since the agency office is closed on the weekend.) 

Even if it arrived on Monday, it'd be fine right?! NO. 

After you have your emergency passport in your hot little hands, you then have to go to the immigration office that's 45 minutes to an hour away (south of the airport) to get an entrance stamp, since your new passport doesn't show record that you entered the country. That office closes at 4. If you get your passport on Monday at 2, that gives you only two hours to get to the office and get the stamp before they close. And with Bali infrastructure, the mail could be delayed or the immigration office could close early -- you never know. 

STEP 4: THE IMMIGRATION OFFICE

Luckily, my passport arrived on Friday afternoon. But, it was right before they closed the agency office, meaning I would have to pick it up bright and early Monday morning. 

I arrived at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 20. I signed for the passport and the agency staff also gave me an official letter to give to the immigration office. I then hitched an uber from the mall next door and arrived at the immigration office at 10:30.

If you can get a copy of both your flight itinerary in - and out - of the country, your new passport, and the police report, do so before going to the immigration office. Otherwise, they'll have you go get it copied. It's just pass the office - the next building over, and cost about $2 to get it all copied. 

The office you're looking for is on the second floor in the back. 

Then, of course, typical government, they closed for lunch at noon, so there I sat. I finally got my passport and stamp at 2:30 p.m. and was on my way.

STEP 5: GETTING HOME

My experience added a bit more stress, since I had a week trip planned to Japan on my way home from Bali. In talking to many officials on the phone in both the U.S. and Japan, nobody knew if I could use my emergency passport to enter Japan, even though it had a full year validity.

I just winged it. 

At the Denpasar airport, I had to show my police report, the letter from the consolate agency and my passport to get through security. I had to do the same during my layover in KL.

When I arrived in Japan, they asked about my passport (since it's smaller than a regular passport.) I just said my original one was stolen in Bali, and that it was an emergency passport. 

They just looked at it a bit, and let me in.

Getting back into America, I had the same process getting through immigration and I was home!

Hopefully, if you're reading this because your passport was lost or stolen in Bali, this gives you hope that you can get home. It's a lot of hoops to jump through, but it's relatively painless.

Good luck, and make sure to keep an eye on that passport better next time!

Top 3 places to eat/drink in Bali

Ubud a small town toward the center of the island of Bali, Indonesia. It’s about an hour from the Denpasar airport - not because of distance but because of the narrow roads and excessive traffic. 

But if you make it through the dusty streets to this tropical Garden of Eden, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping vistas of lush rice terraces cascading down the highlands. The aroma of sweet frangipani and hibiscus saturates the air — but don’t stop to smell the flowers for too long, you’ll likely have to dodge a poor American learning how to drive his scooter.

Ubud is a city that seems hang in a delicate balance between the eastern and western worlds.

Largely untouched by big brands (in town, you’ll only find a Starbucks and DQ) it’s peppered with warungs (small, family-owned restaurants), local herb shops and boutiques flaunting hand-made wares. But, 10+ years after Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” and Bali has been officially ’discovered.’ Expect to see an abundance of Australians with yoga mats strapped to the backs and European digital nomads hunched over laptops at craft coffee shops across town. 

You’ll revel in beautiful Bali-style villas with open-air bathroom and kitchen while still appreciating abundant wifi, plumbing and swanky pools. Dine on traditional Balinese dishes like sate, nasi campur and gado-gado, while knowing alternative tastes of home are also available (like hamburgers, pasta, burritos and pizza).

Try to learn a few words of Bahasah Bali (like the greeting “Om Swastiastu”) -- the locals love it. But, it’s not necessary to know the language. Nearly everyone speaks English and all signs and menus are in English as well. 

So, if you venture to this island paradise, you’ll likely hit the I highly recommend you check out the six things below. 

Indulge in a gastronomic experience at Kubu at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

While you can snap up a fabulous meal for under $10 most places in Bali, the prix fixe multi-course menu at the Ritz Carlton Ubud is worth the price tag; the same meal in the U.S. likely would cost at least double. Reservations are required, and I’m told they fill up far in advance. You immediate feel like an A-lister, as your name has to be on *the list* to enter the giant gates at the front of the hotel. From the front outdoor foyer, you’re whisked away on a private golf cart down the hillside villa complex. The staff know your name before you arrive, and you’re quickly nestled in a private cocoon overlooking the Ayung River. You didn’t travel all this way for the ordinary. The 7- or 9-course degustation menu features small bites packed with flavor, like their lobster and fennel ravioli and melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef. Add a wine paring to accompany each course for an extra 400,000 rupiah (~$30). They also have a tasty menu for vegetarians. $56-$85

Sip a cocktail overlooking the Indian Ocean at the Single Fin

Step into the Single Fin, and you’re transported to somewhere reminiscent of boho beach towns in SoCal. Sip an ice-cold beer overlooking the Indian Ocean speckled with surfers. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set, and there is live music upstairs. Take the stairs to the bottom of the cliff and enjoy one of Bali’s most beautiful beaches. As the sun sinks below the horizon, it’s a scene that can only be described as magical.

Eat dessert first at Room4Dessert

Will Goldfarb isn’t native Balinese, but he’s well-known around Ubud. Everyone I talked to seemed to know the accomplished pastry chef. He earned a nomination from the James Beard Foundation for Best Pastry Chef in America. And he’s likely the best pastry chef in Indonesia, too. The Space is all created custom, from the beautiful custom bar to the lush canteen in the back. Even the plates are custom-made for each dessert by Gaya Ceramics. Snack on their delightful aperitivi collection of cheeses and meats, accompanied with toasted house-made bread. But the real star of the show is dessert. Opt for the BIG dessert tasting menu ($825) to get a full-sized portion of the nine out-of-this-world desserts. Dragon fruit dances with beetroot cake while cookies, kluwak, nibs nougatine and warm mousse from a deep, rich chocolate sensation. This isn’t your average dessert menu - so prepare to try the new and unusual, like jackfruit, kemangi and salak.

3 must-see places to visit in Iceland

The Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland has quickly become one of the hottest destinations in the world, and it only takes a quick scroll through @InspiredByIceland’s Instagram feed to see why.

The country is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes on the globe: Dust swirls over red, sulfur-streaked deserts, steam boils off cloudy-blue geothermal pools and icy glacial streams rush over inky volcanic rock into pools of crystal-clear water.

There’s nowhere else in the world where these natural sights can be found in such proximity or on an equal scale.

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Jónas Hallgrímsson:

"Our land of lakes forever fair, below blue mountain summits, of swans, of salmon leaping where the silver water plummets."

In August 2017, a friend and I took a long-awaited trip to Iceland. We had been planning the trip for years and had accumulated a lengthy list of places to see and things to do.

We read countless articles (like this one from Travel+Leisure or this one from The Telegraph). But nothing can actually prepare you for the wonder that is Iceland.

After our 10-day road trip around the Ring Road, following the leads and tips from tourists that had gone before us, I've named these three places *musts* to add to your list. Take my word for it – you won’t be disappointed!

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Flatey Island

Flatey Island remains my favorite part of Iceland. It’s located in the middle of the Breiðafjörður Bay, more than a 3-hour drive north of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. During the summer it has visitors, but there are only five people who live on the island all year.

It’s only accessible by ferry boat, and you can’t bring your car. You board the boat from the south at Stykkishólmur or from the north at Flókalundur. Our 2-hour boat ride was speckled with sightings of minke whales, dolphins and sharks.

You can also send your car across the sea and stop for the night on the island – which is what we did.

Stay 

There’s only one hotel on the island: Hotel Flatey ($250), a 12-room bed-and-breakfast-style hotel that’s only open from June-August. The island has limited fresh water supply, so you share bathrooms with the other guests. They have toilets on the room floors and a room of showers in the basement; in our experience, we never had to wait for either. The rooms are larger than any of the other rooms we stayed in Iceland (which by American standards is still small), but they were clean, the beds were comfy, and the room windows opened up to an incredible view of the sea. Your stay includes breakfast, an amazing spread of puffed wheat porridge, warm-baked bread, skyr, fruit and plenty of juices and coffee.

Eat

There’s also only one place to eat on Flatey, and it’s the restaurant connected to the hotel. The seafood is caught fresh, and many of the vegetables are sourced from the island’s small garden.

While the herb-crusted lamb was incredible, you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten their blue mussels stewed in a ginger and white wine broth mixed with carrots, onion and cilantro. Hands down the best meal we had the entire trip.

Sights

One of the most beautiful experiences was watching the sunset over the bay. The sun cast a deep palette of purples, blues and oranges as it set behind the glacier peaked fjords across the bay.

There’s also a walking path that goes around the island. Not only is it uneven, it’s also littered with poop from the island’s sheep population, so it’s a bit more of an adventure than we anticipated. You’re able to hike out to see a statue that, ehm… is quite interesting (I won’t give it away), and you’re also able to visit the island’s church and library.

If you’re a big city lover who loves to party, Flatey Island isn’t the place for you. But if you’re interested in incredible food, amazing views and meeting warm hospitable Icelanders, then you’ll love this place.

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Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

There’s a reason why Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. Not only does the water cascade 200-feet, you can also walk behind the falls for an up-close and personal view.

From the parking lot, it’s a short walk up to the waterfall path. While there have been attempts to create more accessible walking paths, the stairs and dirt paths are slick and dangerous, with limited railings to keep you from plunging into the pool below.

You’ll also get wet. The mist from the waterfall is unavoidable, and by the time we were done, my jeans and hiking boots were soaked.

But all that aside, it’s still an unreal experience to stand behind one of the largest waterfalls of its kind and hear the roar of the water as it charges over the ledge.

Its proximity to the capital region makes this an easily accessible destination – and a must-see for anyone going to Iceland.

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Glacier Lagoon

The last spot on my list is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, located in the southern region of Iceland.

You’re driving along the Ring Road from the west when you see an unassuming rocky hill and a small parking lot. If you don’t know it’s there, you’ll miss it. After you get out of your car and brave the strong winds to the top of the small hill, and you’re met with the most amazing sight: Toilet-cleaner blue icebergs everywhere. So blue, that they almost look fake. And it’s free!

You can book boat tours to get up-close and personal, but I found them to be fantastic even from shore. Then, if you get back in your car and drive down the road a bit more, right before a bridge is a pull off to the beach on the right. Diamond Beach is named for the broken pieces of icebergs that have washed up on shore, giving the appearance of diamonds glittering on the black sand.

It’s a two-for-one stop that’ll make for excellent pictures and even better memories.