WorldTowning have an all-too familiar story of getting caught in the trap of the corporate hamster wheel, trying to fulfil their family life in a meaningful way. And so they set off around the world to give their children an expanded experience of life. As a result of their first-hand perspectives their intention is to build a community of like-minded travellers and dreamers who want to or have chosen to live their lives differently.
Their Inside a Traveler’s Walls series profiles people who made that leap and are willing to share how life looks and feels from within their own personal walls. So why not come see what we shared about our lives on the road.
Thanks guys for giving us a platform to share our passion and our travelling story. Click HERE to read our interview.
So you know that last week saw Karen walk her talk – live life beyond fear by doing the El Caminito del Rey walk in Andalucia, Spain. She’s given us some footage, which we’ve put to a vid. We hope you like it – it gives a bird’s eye view of this exhilarating walk.
Integrity is so important when you write about your travel experiences; and even more so when you proclaim the importance of living life beyond fear – as we do. So when I had the chance to walk my talk I took up the challenge!
El Caminito del Rey in the Malaga region of southern Spain is a notorious gorge walk, which is famous for perhaps all the wrong reasons. Once crowned one of the most dangerous walks in the world, with death-defying climbs, 100m + impenetrable gorge walls and narrow, suspended boardwalks with only a small piece of concrete and a few planks of wood supporting you. It all sounded pretty frightening to me as a girl who loves to feel safe and not take un-calculated risks. Although, you know the sensation you can get when, however scary something is, there is a perverse desire to do it irrespective of what is going on in your stomach? Call it ego, call it foolhardiness, call it what you wish, although there is something inside of us all that just wants to conquer and accomplish. Perhaps it’s just that insane human trait that needs to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones to feel alive.
On first viewing, from the safety of the road, you can look up to the famous Eugenio Ribera’s Aqueduct and get a sense of what the walk would be like. And from afar the boardwalk paths that hug the magnificent rock faces of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes – Gorge of the Throat, look too incredible for words. Tiny lines that seem to decorate the rock, with ant-like images of walkers who have taken up the challenge of hiking El Caminito del Rey.
I felt a mixture of ‘OMG I couldn’t possibly’ to ‘Yes, come on! I’ll have me some of that’. In truth I’m not sure which one came first, the fear or the anticipation, although one thing is for sure, my desire to try the walk was greater than my fear – at that point!
Later that night I started to do some research to identify what was involved and whether I was fit enough to do it. I found this great website which is full of information, images and a place to book up your tickets. The pictures looked incredible although strangely they started to engage my fear with their terrifying suspension, boardwalks seemingly hanging in mid air, without any visible anchors! Except I rationalised that hundreds of people do this walk every day, so surely it must be safe.
Still there was something inside of me that still wanted to do it. So I pitched it into my hubby who took one look at the website and fuelled by his vertigo said, ‘Not a chance in Nelly’ or words to that effect. So there was my dilemma – I could do it, although I’d be doing it alone. When my mum offered to buy it as part of my 50th Birthday, I jumped at the chance. We love to buy experiences and not gifts that will hide away in a cupboard unused. So what a perfect present.
My fears were three-fold; was I fit enough, was I courageous enough and how would I fare alone? Myles and I have been travelling Europe in our camper full-time for two years now and it has been an incredibly enriching experience for this little Miss Safety girl who used to like her roots. In that time I’ve learned the basics of seven languages, toured through US on the back of a Harley Davidson, driven up and down mountain passes and kayaked down rapids. Surely my confidence was great enough that I could tackle this walk – which is after all only 7.7km (that’s about 5 miles in UK money).
Although having made a commitment to myself – and my mum, I was determined to give it a go, as life is just too short not to have amazing experiences. So I tentatively pressed the send button on my €18 online ticket purchase and preparations for my walk began. As always, I knew that the journey would be so much more than treading the boards – it was about overcoming my fears.
The day arrived and we found a great wild spot to camp for the night, only 10 minutes drive away. So with my body strapped and wrapped as if I was about to climb Kilimanjaro, Myles dropped me off at the entrance for the walk. Not being completely clear as to where I would meet my group, I set off to the anticipated rendezvous point. It was strangely emotional as I saw our camper drive off, leaving me there. I was so used to doing things together – being alone left my inner child feeling vulnerable, although in truth I had little time to indulge her as my first challenge was slap bang in front of me. A low and seemingly long tunnel with no lights and a no Torch App on my phone. It felt so symbolic. I was in the dark, not knowing where I was going and with a long path ahead of me. And yet contrary to that, the pinhole light some 1/2km away really was ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’; hope that my darkness would soon end! With affirmations running in my head about how ‘I am strong, confident and capable’, I forged ahead, talking nervously into my GoPro that would record my journey.
With the tunnel nailed, it took just another 10 minutes to find my rendezvous point at the main Control Centre. I’d chosen to go for a 10.00am Guided Walk, so that I was guaranteed to be with others and have the relative safety and humanity of like-minded souls. Donned with safety hats, which I must admit didn’t fuel my confidence, and a Ref-Link radio and ear phones, we were ready to start our journey. Now there was no going back. With Marcelo, our Spanish Guide who translated into English for me, we were on our way, into the depths of this little known Caminito, whose soil had been blessed by a King almost 100 years ago.
The boardwalks – of which there are two sections both of which are about 1.5km each and have been skilfully reconstructed after the death of five people. A complete refurbishment of the walk took place between 2000-2015 making it a safer place to walk. Whilst the height is breathtaking and the views beyond adjectives, the catwalks are very secure, wider and more robust than I imagined. The wire fencing and cables keep the suspended paths secure and there is simply no way you can fall or wobble. The website photographs certainly conjure up a walkway from hell in your imagination, which is simply not the reality. With each step I grew in confidence and my nervous chatter into the GoPro subsided into a mindful silence as the scenery in front of me took my breath away.
Hundreds of vultures circle overhead, gliding on the thermals and the sound of the river coursing its way thunderously through the narrow gorges makes the walk an orchestral symphony for your senses. My fears simply didn’t have any space to control me.
With a glass viewing platform to test your nerve, tales of 19th Century sailors who worked in the gorge to satiate your inner historian and the sight of 23 million year old fossils – your anxieties soon disappear. The blend of ancient and modern Caminito stories are mesmerising and make your efforts to tackle this walk, so worth it.
And what of my fears? They evaporated within 30 minutes when I saw how easy the walk was both in terms of safety and my fitness. The most strenuous part of the hike is actually the 2km after leaving the gorge to El Chorro. And given that even with a few stops along the way for drinks and photos, it’s no more than a two hour walk from one Control Centre to another. And I would add, this is done at a gentle amble rather than a Rambler’s purposeful stride.
Then there is a strange sense of disappointment when I reached the final bridge as I realised it was over and that my return from the hidden canyons of Narnia meant I was back in the real world. And then I reflected on my feat – not my feet that had trodden the boards with the deftness of a gazelle – no the feat of my achievement and completing this incredible walk whilst learning about its secrets.
Fear paralyses us in so many ways with its deep-seated presence somewhere in our guts. It holds us back from living our life to its full potential and from doing things that could bring us joy, happiness and untold riches. Fear is only a figment of our imagination, developed into scenes of horror by our minds and is so rarely the reality. When we push beyond our fearful voice we can experience beauty beyond words. What is life, if not to embrace all of its faces and to learn about the extraordinary story that the world has to offer. Movies and encyclopaedias have their place, although they cannot begin to replace our participation in all that this magnificent place has to offer.
El Caminito del Rey? Come! It’s amazing.
Recommendations for your trip based on my experiences
My visit was in January 2018 and it was cold although quite sunny. You are in gorges for 2/3rds of the walk, which don’t get much sunlight, so do wrap up in layers. The paths were dry, although if there has been rain, ensure you wear robust footwear.
I suggest that you book your tickets on-line through this website rather than buying at the Control Centre, as you may risk not getting the time slot you want, as it does get booked up. Then you’re having to wait around.
You can choose half-an-hour slots, from 9.30am up until 3.00pm.
The earlier times are good, as you can park more easily and get a quieter experience, although the trips are scheduled in 15 minute slots so you are never on-top of one another.
Only take a small rucksack with water and snack bars. You have a couple of short stops for refreshments, although there are no facilities (including toilets) once you are in the gorge. There are though toilets at the Control Centre office and again at the end of the route in El Chorro.
Your phones have no signal in the gorge until you reach El Chorro, although there are plenty of people around if you decide to walk alone and you need help.
If like me, you are walking alone, going with a group with your own Guide is great as you get to learn so much more and ask questions. It felt like a more rounded experience than just simply just doing the walking. Tickets for going alone are €10 and with a Group are €18.
The walk is one way – north to south and not circular. It STARTS at Ardales – North Entrance and finishes in El Chorro – South Entrance.
This North Entrance though is NOT where you meet up with your Group. You have two routes to take to get to the main entrance, where you present your ticket and rendezvous with your Group. You can either go the 1.5km route, which takes you 20 minutes where you go through a long tunnel of 1/2km. Alternatively you can go on the 40 minute route which is about 2.7km and it has a shorter tunnel. So if you dislike the dark and feel claustrophobic, then you will need to factor in the longer route or simply take a torch with you.
You need to rendezvous with your Group at least 15 minutes before your scheduled slot, as you need to register and go through a safety briefing. So make sure you allow enough time to walk there and arrive in plenty of time.
When you arrive at El Chorro there are scheduled buses that run throughout the day that will take you back up to your car, if you parked it at the North Entrance. Alternatively you can park at El Chorro and catch the bus up to the starting point. It costs an additional €1.55 for the bus.
Your Guide will leave you at the bridge at the end of the Gaitanes Gorge and you will walk the final 2.1km back to the Control Centre alone. Strangely this is one of the more strenuous parts of the walk with lots of steps to negotiate. Refreshments and toilets are available at the end.
And finally, if you’re in the area for a couple of days – I would strongly recommend doing it for a second time to really appreciate the walk. I was aware of my sense of awe and photograph taking and I think for a second trip, I would certainly have a more connected experience.
If you travel with a camper, there are a number of spots you can stop for the night that are close by. There is an official campsite and a number of wild spots you can stop at safely for no cost:
Ardales Camping – official campsite a few minutes south of the walk’s Northern Entrance. It didn’t look very open when we visited in January 2018. (36.919983 -4.80424)
So imagine this… It’s winter and the archetypal seasonal blues are hibernating right now as we sit watching the crystal blue waters rolling into the coast reflected against the brilliant blue skies. The boats, on the other side of us, clink with a mariner’s melody all of their very own and the sun shines brightly through the enormous glass windows of our restaurant as we set about celebrating an early family Christmas. And not a hat, scarf or jumper in sight as this is south eastern Spain….Dénia to be precise.
We chose our desired eatery for our special family meal with care; the ambiance and good quality food needed to be in partnership and Dénia’s Republic restaurant had the perfect solution for us. The elegance of Denia’s marina on the one side, the shadow of the magnificent Montgó mountain on the other and to top it all off, the regal castle, casting its eye over the town, creates a stunning setting for our meal.
Our eyes are drawn to the simplicity of the restaurant – a warm environment that has crisp white tablecloths and purple glasses to create an elegant affair without feeling stuffy. The sun pouring through the windows, that in the summer I imagine are open to the elements, allowing the smell of the sea to penetrate the senses as the sun warms even the coldest heart. Although even in the middle of winter, this restaurant has a cosy charm that creates an expectation of an experience not just a meal.
Welcomed by a team of beautiful waiters and waitresses we take our position at the glass fronted windows with the best view in the house – in truth though, every table has the luxury of that vista, so there’s no elitism happening here. And before we know it our tastebuds are being tantalised by a Menu del Dia, for a mere €21.50. That in itself may not sound too spectacular, although when I tell you that it includes six courses and a complementary digestif to finish off your culinary delights then it may well impress.
The Republic is one of the those special establishments that gives a unique combination of warm and friendly staff, great food, super views and an rare attention to detail applied lovingly to each plate. So if you love great quality food with a tinge of fine-dining to it, without the pretence (or price tag), then you must visit. Don’t expect huge plates of homely stews – you can get that in the bistro next door. What you will get are carefully composed dishes where flavours are fused together in an orchestral harmony that just make your tastebuds want to sing with joy. Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not by any means demanding clientele, we simply enjoy food that has been lovingly prepared and not messed with and the Republic gave us just that – food composed with a blend of art and taste as their primary drivers.
To whet our appetites we are treated to an appetiser, consisting of a shot glass filled with salmon, a mirepoix of vegetables and a light lemony sauce. What a great entrée. What on earth would delight us next?
The stage was set and course two would soon have the audience gasping with an ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ with effortlessness. A carpaccio of swordfish with fennel strips and a brilliant yellow curry dressing and orange segments dressed with peashoots and a single strand of chives. The thought and delicate balance of flavours and textures was exquisite and I would not class myself as a connoisseur, yet to appreciate the art was very easy.
The main course was still some way off, as we had yet another dish to satiate our intrigued palates, in the shape of a vegetable velouté which seriously lived up to its French ‘Mother Sauce’ label. This was no ordinary soup, it has to be said. This was dressed with smoked duck slices that had been delicately cooked, partnered with a couple of leaves of spinach. The design was sublime, the taste delightful – the lightness of touch that only an artist could perform. No effort was required to demolish this bowl of divine sauce.
At last you think the main course is arriving – the piece de resistance – or whatever the equivalent is in Spanish. Yet no! Before that a delightful palate cleanser – a Mise-en-bouche de menthe. A shot glass of lightly iced sorbet that is so much more. Just perfect to get our mouths ready for the guest appearance – the star of the show. As if what we had eaten so far wasn’t red carpet treatment enough. Now we were ready!
Here it comes! The star of the show. Now for those of you who really love a good plate of food, you will not be disappointed. Although this is no Christmas Day stuffed! And the main course options for us; a crispy-coated pork steak on a bed of crushed potatoes and courgette crisps, decorated with the signature vibrant sauce making you serious not want to touch it, it was so pretty. Or two tuna steaks on lightly steamed peppers and a triangle of polenta. Stunningly delicious.
With bellies dancing in delight at the main feature, what more could tantalise our eyes and our bellies? I’m not a great dessert person in truth. The idea of dessert always seems more appealing that the reality. Although this work of art certainly made me rethink my attitudes towards puddings! Our final course was a light sponge cake that had been soaked in a liquor and dressed with praline, sugar work and strawberries. And of course, however I feel about puds, I of course did it justice by demolishing it without discussion or question and it was very pleasant. Not my favourite dish, although still very, very nice and definitely pretty.
Well what a meal, with flavours that tickled our tongue, a vision that was a feast for our eyes and in place that gave us just a touch of class and simplicity all at the same time. And then to be offered a glass of complementary Muscadet over ice was just the icing on the cake. And not a bill to shock the system. The only really expensive bit is the bottled water at €2.50 although the rest of the meal feels like an investment and thoroughly enjoyed by each and every one of us.
Surrounded by gorgeous staff, talented chefs and an ambiance that makes you feel special, the Republic is a restaurant that needs experiencing if fine dining is your cup of tea. A great way to celebrate with special people. Why not give them a whirl – and put yourselves in the hands of gastronomic experts?
Contact these guys at www.republicdenia.com or telephone them at 00 34 966 430123
For some people eating is a passion and cooking is a work of art; for others, it’s just a necessary evil. Whichever is true for you, there’s no doubt that seeking out a traditional restaurant is one of the best ways to get a true flavour of another country’s culture.
We don’t eat out often because when you have the luxury of your own home on wheels, eating in is so easy. Although we do love to try local food and experiment with regional delicacies; yet finding a restaurant that serves up authentic fare and not just a tourist designed menu at exorbitant prices, can be hard. Let’s face it we are visitors to a strange land and whilst we may well be armed with the latest Travel Guide, finding a place that suits our budget and our palette can be like looking for a needle in a haystack – especially in the heart of a throbbing city.
So when someone can share their personal insights of an outstanding restaurant with great food and service, then it surely must be done.
Hungry in Hungary
With our flying visit through Hungary and a pit stop at Budapest to rendezvous with friends and family, we were introduced to a restaurant that looked too good to be true. Our research took us to their website that promotes their unique approach to dining, offering traditional Hungarian recipes inspired by Grandma’s family kitchen. And unlike lots of websites that often don’t uphold their promises – The Hungarikum Bisztró most certainly delivered – on all counts. And we liked it so much we went back twice.
So how can I take you on a gastronomic journey that imparts our experiences and inspires you to visit?
Location, Location, Location
The Danube, Budapest
Let’s start off by the Bisztró’s location. So you are two streets away from the Danube and the bustling vibrance of cruise boats, ferries and tugs gliding up and down the waterway. You are only four blocks away from the most stunning of Budapest buildings – the Parliament Palace and in the same vicinity you have the M3 Underground Metro, making it position perfect.
Now, I’ll be honest, the building that the Bisztró calls home is not magnificent from the outside and has a very understated feel about it, so your initial reaction is one of caution and uncertainty. A discretely branded sign hangs inconspicuously above the door, giving you little hint to the splendour of what is behind. And then you walk through their entrance…
The minute you enter you are transported into a home-from-home room that feels like it could be your own personal dining room, offering no more than forty covers, yet giving you an immediately intimate feel. You are then struck with panic – will we be able to get a table? Your fears are soon allayed, as the girls study their booking sheet and soon have you sat down, even if you have to wait for just a few minutes. In our two visits, the restaurant was full although no one was ever turned away.
Decorated in comforting autumnal tones of deep red and golden yellows, this delightful restaurant creates a warm ambiance that penetrates your tourist weary souls and you feel this wave of restfulness wash over you. And that’s before you have even looked at the menu of simple Hungarian delights. Red checked cloths grace the tables and bookcases of paprika paste and Hungarian wines decorate the walls – you really do feel at home.
Food, Glorious Food
Then you get your menus, in the language of your choice accompanied by a tablet that shows you each and every plate of food so that they can tantalise your imagination as well as your tastebuds. So the difficulty now is what on earth you will eat. Will it be the crispy leg of duck with Hungarian red cabbage or the plaited pork fillet with paprika sauce and cabbage dumplings? Perhaps it will be the Special Dish of the Day – strips of beef fillet in a traditional goulash style sauce and fried potatoes.
And in that gap between your tantalising expectations and your first mouthful, that is so often filled with an emptiness that has you chewing on your fingernails, the girls come out with a complementary appetiser of delicate chunks of Hungarian bread baked with bacon and a piquant paprika dip that will have you reaching for a glass of wine to dowse the heat building in your mouth. The local wines I’m told are delightful and the beers, I am happy to report are scrumptious.
During our first visit, my greedy ego just wanted to taste everything, so I indulged in a platter of Hungarian tasters of bacon and chorizo styled sausage and breads, which was delightful. Although, as so often is the case, my eyes were too big for my tummy and by the time the main course arrived with big smiles and a warmth of your closest friend, I was already quite full. Although nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the deliciousness of my crispy duck. It was heavenly, as was each and every meal on our table. Simplicity and hearty plates of food draw you in seductively to their regional charm.
And with satiated appetites, the girls finally bring you a complementary glass of Grappa; a blast of fire water that alights your mouth with an explosion of taste, rounding off this divine restaurant experience with a sensory finale.
Hungarikum Bisztro Team
We must not go without a mentioning István and his team; both behind the scenes in the all-important the kitchen and the front-of-house. The food is cooked with loving care and consistency and it is delivered by a team of angels. They treat you, not like visitors or tourists, they engage with you like friends and there is a sense of their desire to give you a great experience. The team is picked with care and they each uphold the restaurant’s values that puts authentic cooking and service as its priority.
So as you leave the sanctuary of this friendly and warm restaurant back into the buzz of Budapest, you take with you memories of gastronomic delights in your belly and an eating experience that goes deep into your heart, however you happen to feel about food. This is one place that not only promotes the tastes of Hungary, it also represents Hungarian’s hospitality perfectly and we implore you to put this on your Budapest tour.
You arrive as hungry visitors and you leave as friends of Hungary.
Address: 1051 Budapest, Steindl Imre Utica, 13, (47.503462 19.048057)
Telephone number for recommended reservations: 36 30 661 6244.
Hi, Karen & Myles, The Motoroamers here. We are a fun-loving couple travelling full-time around Europe in Scoobie our trusty camper. We're driven to deliver seriously entertaining travel through our blogs, photography and humorous videos. We hope to inspire you too to travel.