Adventures in Granada Province

Our adventures in the Province of Granada took us to tiny villages, old churches, and, of course, to the world famous Alhambra.

Our adventures in Granada Province were top notch during our one month house sit in Andalusia, Spain. We explored every inch of our small, mountain-top village, several of the nearby villages, and the capital city of Granada. As per usual, we didn’t see nearly as much as we wanted, but we sure did try.


Our village of Freila is about an hour’s drive east of the city of Granada. It doesn’t offer much in the way of tourist attractions, but as with any foreign land, there was still plenty to see and experience. For one thing, I have never been to a mountain-top village before. It was really striking how the houses layer on top of each other and how narrow and steep the roads were in order to accommodate the tight, hilly quarters.Freila, Granada, Spain - The Places We Live

Each house we saw was so beautifully Spanish. I loved the rock and tile work that decorated nearly every home. And although some places looked fairly old and run down, each doorway was still maintained with a meticulous eye for detail.

The church was the largest building in the village, dominating the western side of the mountain. Built on prime property, the public landing/gathering space provided views of the Sierra Nevadas, the neighboring lake, and most of Freila. You could tell it was the pride and joy of the village, as it was easily the cleanest and best maintained area of town. Given how strongly the Spanish identify with Catholicism, it’s no surprise.

Church of Freila, Spain - The Places We Live

Although I didn’t enjoy seeing the wealth disparity between the church and the neighboring homes, I did appreciate feeling the community of it. We were able to explore almost every inch of the church freely, including the cool and inviting terraces that dotted the cliff-side walls. It was very beautiful and felt like a place built for the people’s enjoyment.

Province of Granada’s Villages

Because we rented a car for this stay, we had more freedom to explore a little farther afoot. We drove through many of the neighboring villages and nature reserves. Each was unique and fun in their own right. Several of the villages were mountaintop cave towns like ours, but others were built in a circular shape in the middle of a vast valley. There were cave homes scattered about on the roadside, as well as large orchards and tree farms.

Freila Lake - The Places We Live

The neighboring town of Baza (pronounced Ba-tha) was an easy drive and a fun mini adventure in Granada Province. We had a couple of meals there and even took an afternoon to explore the town center. Once again, the central church dominated the city. We had hoped to see the historic baths that reside in Baza, but unfortunately they were closed each time we visited.

Baza, Spain - The Places We Live


Finally, the main event: the Alhambra. It started as a small fortress in 889 CE. 400 years later, the fortress was renovated and became a palace for the Moorish sultans ruling over Granada. By the 1500’s, the Christians took over and it became the royal court of the Spanish monarchy. The complex continued switching hands and experiencing bouts of abandonment and renovation throughout most of the rest of its history. Now the collection of fortresses, palaces, and churches that make up the Alhambra is one of Spain’s most famous tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alhambra, Granada, Spain - The Places We Live

Because of the long and varied history of the complex, the Alhambra is a feast for the eyes. There is a mix of Moorish buildings, Christian paintings, and Italian furnishings. Every corner holds a different story from a different time. We spent almost three hours exploring the Alhambra and absolutely loved it.

Exploring the Alhambra

The Alhambra hosts a limited number of guests each day, so it is important to buy tickets in advance. As we were there during the off-season, we were able to buy ours only a few days in advance from the official sales site (€14 each). Our tickets gave us access to nearly everything plus a strictly scheduled reservation for the Nasrid Palace.


We started our walk through the gardens. Although I was floored by nearly everything we saw that day, I think was most impressed by the garden. It was spring, so everything was in bloom, the weather was perfect, and the crowds were light.

Adventures in Granada - The Places We Live

From there we wandered in and out of each building. I loved seeing the clash of cultures. The stylings weren’t all perfectly blended, but some of the areas were very beautifully paired. It was just another reminder of how small the world truly is and how even the most different cultures can come together to create something truly special.

Alhambra -  The Places We Live

That’s a Wrap

So ends our stay in Andalusia, Spain. It was a visit I will never forget and the type of journey that I am sure I will be searching out for the rest of my life. Next up, we head north to the cold, gloomy, and surprisingly playful country of England!

Food in Andalusia

In Spain, food isn’t just about sustenance. It is an art and a way of life. This is what I love about food and one of the many things I love about Spain.

The perfect weather, laid-back lifestyle, and beautiful people were enough to sell me on the idea of Andalusia, Spain. But this amazing region does stop there. Spain is world-renowned for their cuisine, Andalusia even more so, for their tradition of serving free tapas! I was in a foodie’s paradise while also in literal paradise.

Spanish Cuisine

Spanish cuisine has a unique flavor and style thanks to their varied history and climate. Two of Spain’s most famous dishes are paella and jamón. Paella also happens to be one of my favorite dishes in the world. It is a rice dish originating from the region of Valencia, the neighboring region to Andalusia. There are several types of paella, but my favorite is seafood paella, which requires the rice to be cooked in seafood broth along with a hefty helping of fresh seafood. It is heavenly.

Photo by Kaitlin Dowis on Unsplash

Jamón is one of Josh’s favorite dishes in the whole world. It is cured ham most often cut directly from the leg before serving. Like most cured hams, it is deliciously salty and flavorful. We not only enjoy the flavor, but also the show of it all. I would love to one day have a leg of pork sitting up on my kitchen wall, ready for when guests arrive. There is something very intimate and special about it.

Photo by Z S on Unsplash

Spanish Tapas

Tapas are small dishes used as appetizers or snacks. They are most often enjoyed along with a pitcher of sangria or a local beer. The word “tapa” translates to “lid” or “cover”. It is believed that tapas may have originally been created as a literal top for one’s drink, a slice of bread to keep the flies out of your beer. There are several other theories, some of which are quite funny, but we found this one to be our favorite…

Anthony Bourdain did an excellent piece in the Province of Granada. This is a 4 minute clip about tapas.

As tourism throughout Spain has increased, the distribution of free “lids” for one’s drinks has decreased. People still enjoy tapas, but throughout most of Spain they are no longer complimentary and must be ordered separately. The region of Andalusia, however, has held on to the tradition of complimentary tapas as a way of life. They feel it creates a better feeling of community and encourages socializing. Because of this, it is very common for diners throughout the region to be served a free tapa with every drink order.

Food in Andalusia

I could not believe that Andalusian tapas were being served for free with drink purchases. It seemed too good to be true. But time and time again, pub after pub, restaurant after restaurant, we were treated to delicious drinks and amazing, FREE tapas. On top of that, even the full-sized dishes were incredibly cheap and well made. Check out this single meal we enjoyed one day at the local, lake-side restaurant:

Round One – Tinto and Beer ($3.95)

We sat ourselves at a lovely table overlooking the village lake. When the server arrived, I ordered a tinto de verano (translated as The Red Wine of Summer) which is one part red wine and one part soda. Josh ordered a beer. The server returned with our drinks, then again a few minutes later with a plate of six shrimps and a large pile of green olives.

I was so excited to eat, I forgot to take a picture first. Haha!

Round Two – Pinchitos ($2.03)

Although I knew we could simply continue to eat delicious free food, I opted to order a small plate of pinchitos. They are similar to a kabab and originate from the times when Spain was under Moorish rule. We were shortly served four perfectly prepared pork skewers, along with some slices of fresh bread.

Food in Andalusia - Tapas

Round Three – Tinto and Beer ($3.95)

Upon delivery of our pinchitos, we ordered another round of drinks. They arrived shortly after, along with another delicious tapa. This time, we were served two slices of lightly toasted bread topped with cheese spread and Spanish tortillas. Spanish tortillas are not the same as Mexican tortillas. Some people called them Spanish Omelets, but I thought they seemed more like a potato quiche. They were thick, creamy, and absolutely delicious!


Round Four – Jamón and Queso ($8.50)

Once again, I let my stomach do the talking and ordered off the menu. I asked for a large portion of jamón and queso. The server returned promptly with a big plate of cold cured meats, slices of cheese, and a basket of warm bread. Although far from free, it was still well worth the price. It tasted so fresh. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Food in Andalusia - Jamon and Queso

Round Five – Tinto and Beer ($3.95)

We could have easily stopped eating by this point, but I wanted one last drink for the road. So, we ordered one last round of drinks right as the kitchen was closing. This time we got a bowl of hand-made snack mix. While eating in restaurants in the touristy areas of Granada, we were either charged $1 for tapas or given a tapa like this. It was just their way of saying “Socializing time is over. We want to go home.” It wasn’t fancy, but it was tasty and the perfect ending to a perfect afternoon.


The Damage


We had several meals just like this during our month house sitting in Andalusia. Every-other night for dinner, we would walk to Freila’s best (and only) tapas bar. We would order two rounds of drinks and one main dish. Our tapas were always free and always amazing. One time, we even got a plate of six, full garlic squid, a dish that we estimated would have cost us at least $12 anywhere else in the world. At Bar El Veneno, our entire dinner cost $10! The Spanish put a lot of love into their food and I could taste the difference. Everything we ate tasted fresh and was cooked to perfection. And if that wasn’t good enough, the low prices were unbelievable. The meal I outlined above, with the five dishes, six alcoholic beverages, and a view of the lake cost us $22!

Spain is a magical place with food that left me screaming and kicking across the border. There hasn’t been a day since we left that Josh hasn’t had to listen to me whine about how much I love the food in Andalusia. “Spain, I love you and I promise that one day I will return and never leave.” – Jen

Spanish Beer

Our adventures in tasting beers around the world continues in Spain. Although I frequently mixed things up with my beverage choices, adding in the occasional tinto or sangria, we did enjoy our fair share of Spanish beers… ten unique brews to be specific.

Spanish Beer - The Places We Live

The Spanish beers did not provide us with much variety in flavor, but they were exactly what I wanted out of a beverage on a hot day. They were light and refreshing. My favorite of the collection was Estrella de Levante, a pilsner brewed in the province of Murcia. It was light, smooth, and surprisingly malty.

Food Lover’s Paradise

If I haven’t made it clear enough, I am in love with Spain, its people, and its food. From the refreshing beers and free tapas, to the carefully prepared Spanish dishes, there is something for everyone to love about Spanish cuisine. In Spain, food wasn’t just about sustenance. It was an art and a way of life. The meals brought together the community. Bars were regularly filled with laughter and restaurants packed with extended families. This is what I love about food and one of the many things I love about Spain.


House Sitting in Andalusia

Anyone who has spoken with us knows that house sitting in Andalusia was the adventure we were most looking forward to. It was our immediate connection with Barcelona that really spurred this whole adventure. So, I was pretty sure that Andalusia would make us fall head over heels all over again. Not to spoil the upcoming posts, but I was totally right. Don’t be surprised if we are living in Andalusia once this crazy adventure is all over!

Freila, Andalusia, Spain - The Places We Live.jpg

Freila, Andalusia, Spain

This was our third trip to Spain after a life-changing 10 days in Barcelona and two quick shore excursions to Alicante and Valencia. This time around we were in a southern region of Spain called Andalusia. My bestie, Rick Steves, has said that the area is one of his favorite places in all of Europe. I would have to agree. With its hot weather, spellbinding flamenco music, and tradition of free tapas, what’s not to love?!

Andalusia Tapas - The Places We Live

The region of Andalusia is divided into eight provinces. Our tiny village of Freila was located in the Province of Granada. It is about an hour’s drive from the capital city, which is called (you guessed it!) Granada. In addition to the cultural pleasures of the region, it is also home to the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the amazing ancient fortress-city known as the Alhambra.

Alhambra - The Places We Live
The Alhambra. We did not house sit here.

Freila is a hill village located in the northern part of the province. It is home to three restaurants/bars, a grocery store, and less than 1,500 residents. Like other villages in the area, many of the homes are built into the side of the mountain, and either have or simply are caves. There’s a reservoir nearby for keeping cool in the hot weather, and plenty of little hiking trails through the nearby arroyos.

Freila, Granada, Spain - The Places We Live
The village of Freila

House Sitting in Andalusia

Our home was located on the edge of the village, overlooking the reservoir and nearby mountain ranges. There were three living areas on the property: the main house, a downstairs apartment, and a livable cave. The house itself has three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, a large kitchen with dining nook, two living areas, a laundry room, and a multi-level terrace.

House Sitting in Spain, Freila - The Places We Live

While house sitting in Andalusia, we stayed in the downstairs apartment. We had our own terrace along with one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living area. It was beautifully appointed and was incredibly quiet and peaceful. As it was below the main house and tucked into the hillside, it always stayed cool. We didn’t need to turn on the AC at all, and instead enjoyed a light breeze through the windows.


Trusted House Sitters Referral Code: RAF156424


Below us was another huge terrace, along with the traditional white cave house. The cave had a bedroom, living area, and a built-in bar. We didn’t spend much time in the cave, but I could definitely see the appeal with the fun architecture and cool temperatures.

White Cave House - The Places We Live

Our Family

Unlike most other house sits, we were actually living with our host and her nephew, along with her seven cats: Smarty, Charlie, Pepper, Benjamin, Bently, Raya, and Maximus. Our host is a retired English woman who moved to Spain over 10 years ago. Since then, she’s seen it all. She even blogs about her experience and provides helpful advice as an expat in rural Spain. We enjoyed spending each morning chatting with our host and her nephew over coffee before all heading our separate ways.

Smarty the Cat

The cats spent most of their days outside, but otherwise lived in the main house. Smarty was the queen of the house and also one of the main reasons for our visit. She is diabetic and needs twice daily injections at specific times. Since our host was commuting back and forth to Granada, we were there to help take care of Smarty and the others to free up her time.

House Sitting Medication - The Places We Live

All of the Cats

The remaining cats were all special in their own way, as cats generally are. They each had a personality that could put the whole village to shame. Charlie is a lovely Siamese cat who regularly reverts back to being feral. He is a bit scruffy and easily spooked, but enjoys the occasional pet, as long as it lasts no more than 13 seconds. I honestly didn’t see Pepper very often, and when I did, it was only long enough for her to leer at me. Benjamin acted much the same. Although, they did look alike, so I don’t actually know for sure if only one of them hated me or they both did. [Editor’s note: I got to pet Pepper, and she’s sweet :p]

House Sitting Benjamin and Charlie - The Places We Live

We arrived at the house while our host was out, so we sat on the terrace and got to know three of the more curious cats. To pass the time, we gave them each a name. The smallest of the bunch (Raya) was very pretty, sweet, but also a little saucy. We named her Sansa. Bentley, who we later found out was a proper little gentleman, was temporarily named Princess Fluff. He is adorably fluffy and could easily pass for a pretty little lady. Finally, there is Maximus, whom we had named Tank. We weren’t too far off. He is a big boy who loves pets, but also enjoys being in charge.

House Sitting Bentley, Raya, and Maximus - The Places We Live

Our Lives House Sitting in Andalusia

Again, this sit was a little different than most due to the hosts being on-site. But we were able to maintain our regular routines of work and adventure without any problems. We were up early each morning to feed the cats and administer Smarty’s medication. Then it was time for a little bit of chat time with our host over tea or coffee. From there, the afternoon was pretty much ours. I would water the plants and do one major chore each day, but otherwise spent most of my time either working, reading (Infinity Born by Douglas E. Richards), or meditating.

House Sitting in Spain - The Places We Live

In the evenings we ate out for dinner, rotating among the three restaurants in the village (when they were open, which wasn’t often). There was another evening shift of feeding and medicating the cats, but overall the evenings were incredibly peaceful and cool. It was my favorite time of the day. I often found myself just sitting on the terrace and watching the sunset. Again, don’t be surprised when I announce that we’re moving permanently.

Adventures Ahead

Get excited for nearly a month’s worth of Andalusia adventures coming up! The region is famous for their food, so we obviously ate everything we could get our hands on. We took our usual daily walks through the village, but also explored a little farther afoot. Our adventures while house sitting in Andalusia took us to neighboring villages as well as an unforgettable trip to Granada. We love Spain and I can’t wait to tell everyone why. Stay tuned!


Discount: RAF156424

Journey to Our House Sit in Spain

Our journey from Switzerland to our house sit in Spain was an adventure in itself. Once again, the flights were a little overpriced, so I put my crazy planning skills to work and found us transportation for a fraction of the price. But the road was long and more than a little bumpy. Only days before we set off on our 1,000 mile journey from our house sit in Mannedorf, we received a sad call from our host. But I’ve skipped too far ahead. Let’s start at the beginning…

Travel Expenses

This may be a bit unsurprising, but our biggest monthly expense is transportation. It’s relatively inexpensive when compared with the US, but still an obstacle to overcome when working with a budget of less than $30 per day like we are. Our house sit in Spain was in the small village of Freila, located in the heart of Andalusia. There are no airports in the village and very little public transit (as in one bus, once a day). So, I set to work looking for an airport that wasn’t too far away nor too expensive to get to, as well as the best option for car rentals.

Mannedorf to Freila.jpg

After days of research, I was flummoxed. I tried every conceivable angle. I put together numerous departure and arrival combinations, using plane, train, and bus schedules. All were expensive. After a few more days of trying, I finally cracked the code and found the perfect solution, and managed to cut our travel expenses from a minimum of $250 to a total of $110. Oh, the things I do for the pleasure of finding the perfect price! Haha!

Männedorf to Freila House Sit

Finding travel arrangements for over half the price of a direct flight or train isn’t easy, nor does it come without some extra discomfort. This time around we had some strange layovers and two extra travel days, but we made it comfortably, happily, and with $100 extra in our pockets. I still call it a win.

Switzerland - The Places We Live
View from the bus window: Zurich to Milan

From Männedorf, we took the train 12 miles to Zurich. Next, we hopped on a bus and enjoyed a stunning 200 mile bus ride to Milan, Italy.  We stayed one night in a surprisingly nice hotel near the Milan airport for only $45. Then from Milan, we then flew via RyanAir to Alicante, Spain for $13 each. That whole journey, including the hotel in Milan cost only $110, including food (breakfast was free at the hotel).

In Alicante, we hired a car and booked an AirBnB on the beach while we waited for our sit to begin in Freila a week later. But before we even left Switzerland, we received some troubling news.

Change of Plans

Our house sit in Freila, Spain was booked months in advance. We had been chatting with our two hosts (sisters) throughout our European journey. Shortly before leaving Switzerland, we got an update that broke our hearts.

My sister had a heart attack last night and is in the hospital in Granada (45 minutes away). She is booked for surgery in a few days and I have been visiting her as often as I can.

– Host in Spain (highly adjusted)

Josh and I began making back-up plans in case the sit was cancelled when Josh mentioned how hard it must be to drive back and forth so far with a diabetic cat. I wrote our host back and offered to come earlier if she needed some extra help with the cat, but half expected she would cancel the sit entirely. To our surprise, she welcomed the help and asked us to come early. We cancelled our hotel in Alicante and instead went straight to her house upon landing.

An Unusual House Sit

Although understandably blue, our host was extremely welcoming and kind. We spent our time taking care of the house and pets as we usually would, but with the added benefit of chats over tea afterwards. Josh was able to provide our cat, Smarty, with her twice daily insulin injections so that our host could travel freely between home and the hospital.

Injections at our House Sit - The Places We Live

Unfortunately, less than a week into our stay, her sister passed away. We did what we could to try and make the situation a bit easier, doing extra little chores around the house, baking cookies on our day off, and making ourselves available to talk. We also did our best not to complicate the situation further by being too “present”. After all, it’s a difficult enough situation to navigate without having guests (near strangers, no less!) in the house.

On the day of the funeral, we assisted with the post-service gathering at the house. We cleared our schedules and helped clean up, fried up some potato pancakes (which turned out delicious), and welcomed the guests while our host was taking care of some final details in town. Circumstances aside, it was a surprisingly enjoyable occasion. We got the chance to learn more about our hosts, met an expat from Idaho(?!), and ate some tasty finger foods. I’m not sure if fun is the right word, but it was far from melancholy and we really appreciated the chance to mingle with the local expat community.

Fried German Potato Pancakes topped with horseradish and smoked salmon

Looking Back

Although our usual social awkwardness made us a little extra edgy during this sit, we actually had a wonderful time. I loved the area and came to truly love our host and her nephew. The experience made for a very unusual sit, but it was also positive in a lot of ways. It wasn’t just a first day meet and greet where everything goes perfectly to plan and our best “meeting-the-hosts” outfits stay crisp and clean. It was real life, day after day, getting to know each other in our pajamas, with laughter and tears. This was an opportunity for us to step up and be there for someone in need, a goal we hope we achieved. I learned a lot on this trip and am so glad that we went, and can’t wait to get back to Freila to visit our new adopted aunt.

Adventures in Switzerland

Our adventures in Switzerland lacked for nothing. We explored our old town, visited the even older town of Rapperswil, the city of Zurich, and we of course ate everything we could get our hands on.

Living in the beautiful country of Switzerland has been a dream come true, albeit a very expensive one. As Switzerland is ranked as one of the most expensive places to in the world to visit, we ended up staying closer to home and spent most of our time hiking and visiting local shops. However, our adventures in Switzerland lacked for nothing. We explored our old town, visited the even older town of Rapperswil, the city of Zurich, and we of course ate everything we could get our hands on.

Exploring Our Town

Our little village of Männedorf was so adorably Swiss. It was clean, green, and walkable from end to end. We visited nearly every inch of the village from the farm lands on the hilltops to the factories on the lake. Even on a cloudy  day (of which there were many), Männedorf seemed to be alive with vibrant color.


At only eight miles south of Männedorf on Lake Zurich, Rapperswil made for the perfect mini adventure in Switzerland. It is the perfect blend of new and old. Dominating the skyline, Rapperswil Castle was built in the 1200’s. Now, the town is home to one of the most significant transportation junctions in the region. We rode in on the ferry and enjoyed an evening of exploring the castle exterior as well as the modern shops that lined the major roadways.


Even though the train ticket was a little on the spendy side, we did eventually opt for a quick trip over to Zurich. It was a beautiful sunny day and I wasn’t going to waste it. Our adventures in Switzerland’s major financial city took us through old town, new town, and any shop that smelled of bread.

All of the Food

Our adventures in Switzerland would not be complete without taking a moment to taste as many things as we could afford. My favorite treat was a pretzel sandwich with prosciutto, butter, and cheese. It was heavenly! The beer wasn’t too bad either 😉

Moving On

Our stay in Switzerland was not nearly long enough. At only ten days, we were just barely getting the lay of the land. As we left the country for our next house sit, we promised each other that we would return as soon as we could. I think I would like to try kayaking through some of the many lakes and rivers. Or maybe do some skiing. Either way, we will be back to see more of this colorful country and its natural beauty.

House Sitting on Lake Zurich, Switzerland

While house sitting on Lake Zurich, we had the pleasure of staying in a stunning, hill side home with two adorable dogs.

After an amazing house sit in Germany, it was time to move south to Switzerland. For our next European adventure, we spent a little over a week house sitting on Lake Zurich. We traveled 200 miles in a little less than four hours by bus to get from Karlsruhe to Zurich. Then another 20 minutes on a train (that cost about the same amount as our four hour bus ride!) to get to the lovely Swiss town of Männedorf.

Männedorf, Switerland - The Places We Live.jpg

Trusted House Sitters Promo Code:

Männedorf, Switzerland

I’ve always boasted that my home town in Idaho is the most beautiful place on earth. Upon arrival in Switzerland, I was forced to rethink my stance on the subject. Switzerland is hands-down the most stunningly beautiful place I have ever been. It is a country packed with tall mountains, lush hills, and crystal clear lakes. The streets are clean, the food is delicious, and the people are model-level beautiful.

Switzerland - The Places We Live

Switzerland is located in central Europe and bordered by Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France, and Italy. Because of this, the country actually has four national languages including German, Italian, French, and Romansh. While in Zurich, we mostly heard German, but even then there was a local dialect that is spoken among more than half of the population called Swiss German.

Mannedorf, Switzerland Sign - The Places We Live

Männedorf is the most adorable little village, nestled on the shores of Lake Zurich about 13 miles south of the city. Scientists suggest that the area has been populated since the stone age. However, the first official settlement was established in the 700s! Now, the small village of around 12,000 people is one of the many agglomerations of the grand city of Zurich.

Our Home

While house sitting on Lake Zurich, we had the pleasure of staying in a stunning hillside home. The main house (there was also an on-site office and a cottage apartment) had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, kitchen, large dining room, living room, gym, and an office. My favorite part of the home, however, was the deck and infinity pool overlooking Lake Zurich.

House Sitting on Lake Zurich - The Places We Live

Our hosts were a married couple, a doctor and a photographer, and both of their personalities came through in the house. It was beautifully decorated with an artist’s eye for colors and negative space. Much of the space was dedicated to physical and mental health, including a meditation room, sauna, and an organic vegetable garden.

Our Family

We had the privilege of meeting the hosts both before and after the sit. They were a remarkable couple that really inspired us to live healthier lives and use our strengths to do some good in the world. We were served a delicious local meal upon our arrival and shared some great conversation over drinks.

Pet Sitting on Lake Zurich - The Places We Live

Charlie was a doll who became instantly attached to Josh. I once tried to take him on a walk without Josh but Charlie just refused to go. He was loyal and loving. His favorite things were sleeping near the windows and following Josh. Charlie slept under Josh’s feet while he worked, next to him on the floor when we watched tv (specifically, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo), and even snuck upstairs to sleep on the floor near the bed. Those two were inseparable.

Dog Sitting on Lake Zurich - The Places We Live

If Charlie was “Josh’s dog” then Tiffy was definitely “my dog”. She was the cutest thing and would tip tap behind me everywhere I went. I’d like to think it is because she liked me as much a Charlie liked Josh, but I think it was more because she knew I was the one who served dinner. She enjoyed snoozing on her bed and treats. Tiffy didn’t beg for pets very often, but when she did, I loved the way she would squirm and wiggle to get every little bit of attention.

Our Lives

Like most of the places we visit, we made some adjustments to our usual schedules to better fit our new home. For this house sit, we added a lot more health-focused activities to our daily routine. We did meditation daily and found it to really improve our productivity and happiness. Josh used the gym regularly and I could often be found relaxing in the garden.

Josh demonstrating his “pet sitting” skills

Although the weather was a bit off and on, we walked and explored each day. We loved the area and the kindness of the neighbors. Our favorite bakery was only a few blocks away and it didn’t take long for the cashiers to begin to recognize us. We toured just about all of the area and even made a couple of trips up to Zurich and south to the old town of Rappersville. There was so much to see and we made every effort to see it all. We didn’t, of course, but we still had an amazing time.

Trusted House Sitters Discount Code: RAF156424 

Free Things to Do in Karlsruhe, Germany

Here is my surprisingly long list of free things to do in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Because Karlsruhe was our first stop in Europe we ended up being a little tighter with our money than usual. Mostly, we were nervous about all of the upcoming unknowns, like travel costs, booking more house sits, that sort of thing. Thankfully, we found a ton to do in Karlsruhe and all of it was FREE!!! Here is my surprisingly long list of free things to do in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Free Things to Do in Karlsruhe:

Explore by Bicycle

Bicycling in Karlsruhe - The Places We Live

Bicycling is very popular in Karlsruhe, so bike lanes are prevalent and well-maintained. Even better, the entire city is quite flat, making it easy to go for a nice, relaxing ride. We were lucky enough to have bikes provided for us at our house sit in Karlsruhe and at our AirBnB on the other side of town. If free access isn’t an option, bikes are available to rent throughout the city for around €15 per day. There are miles and miles of paths outside of the city, winding through beautiful farmland, villages, and forested reserves. For more info, check out the suggested Karlsruhe Cycling Routes on MapMyRide.

Biking was one of our favorite free things to do in Karlsruhe. One particularly good ride was along the Rhine River, ending at the border with France. Starting at the Maxau Train Station and turning around at Rheinkiosk Seyfert beer garden, we rode for 14 miles (23km) round-trip. The ride included views of the Rhine River, one of the most efficient steam power plants in the world, an outdoor swimming area, and wooded reserves packed with singing birds.

Other Useful Cycling Links:

Innenstadt (Downtown)

Free in Karlsruhe - Exploring Karlsruhe Palace

The area near the palace also held a bunch of free things to do in Karlsruhe. When looking at a map of of the city, there is an obvious ring road called Adenauaerring. Within that there is a smaller, less obvious ring, that encircles Karlsruhe Palace. It was inside this smaller loop that we found enough free things to see and do to keep us busy for an entire sunny afternoon.


Karlsruhe Palace, Germany - The Places We Live

Schlossplatz square hosts an amazing frontal view of Karlsruhe Palace, an 18th century beauty that sits in the center of downtown. In front of the palace is a grassy area decorated with running water features and lined with white Grecian statues. The grassy was so beautifully designed and maintained, and was packed with people picnicking, lounging, and children playing the running water. I wish we’d had the foresight to come with a bit of cheese and bread for a picnic of our own!

Tickets for the palace tour cost €12. Or, you could tour Karlsruhe Palace for FREE on Fridays between 2PM and 6PMHowever, we opted to wander the square and look at the statues, admire the palace, and do a bit of discreet people-watching. Simply walking around the palace made for an enjoyable afternoon.

Karlsruhe Botanical Garden

Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens - The Places We Live

Located in the Southwest quadrant of the circle, Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens in one of the gems of the city. It costs €3 to enter the glass houses, but the outdoor area is free. The outdoor garden isn’t as impressive, but definitely worth a visit. We were lucky enough to come in the spring when everything was in bloom. Like the grassy area in the square, the outdoor garden seemed to be a popular place for locals to hang out and relax.

Schlossgarten Park

Free Things to Do in Karlsruhe, Germany

The majority of the remaining area within the inner loop is the downtown park. There are expansive lawns, a pond, tree lined walkways, and hidden sculpture gardens. We walked nearly all of the paths and watched the birds that hung out near the pond. I even spotted my first Mandarin Duck!

ZKM – Center for Art and Media

ZKM Karlsruhe - The Places We Live

Started in 1989 and housed inside of a retired arms and ammunition factory, the ZKM is a modern art museum dedicated to bringing classical art into the digital age. I would have never expected this amazing museum to be on the list of free things to do in Karlsruhe, but here it is! On most days, the adult admission to the ZKM is €7. However, the ZKM exhibitions are free every Friday after 2:00PM. We visited during one such Friday afternoon and could have easily spent the entire day exploring the unique museum.

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Open Wednesday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM 

Open Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM

ZKM Website

Negative Space

Free Things to do in Karlsruhe - The Places We Live

The exhibitions change regularly, but I wanted to share the ones we were lucky enough to see. My favorite was Negative Space, a sculpture exhibition that will be running until November 2019. “The aim of the exhibition is to rethink the relationship between sculpture and space in a decidedly spatial way,” says the ZKM website.

zkm_gamplay. the next level

ZKM - Gameplay

As fans of video games, this was another highlight of the museum. Running until December 2021, zkm_gameplay. the next level is a multi level exhibition focusing on a few themes. The first level encompassed retro games and gaming culture. There were retro arcade games available to play and old memorable consoles on display. Second was all about the possibilities of modern narratives in gaming. Third were aesthetic and creative games. These were all lovely works of art in their own right.

The fourth level was our particular favorite. This section included political games. One such game was The Democracy Machine that pit two players against each other and asked them to vote on a “yes” or “no” topic. If the two people disagreed, the goal of the game was then to debate until the players came to an agreement.

Open Codes

I know I’ve already listed two favorites, but would be OK if I listed this one too? We found this exhibition particularly moving due less to the art on display and more because of the message: “We live in a world created, controlled[sic] and controlled by data. Digital codes shape our present and have a profound impact on all areas of our lives, economy and society, politics and justice.” – ZKM Open Codes. Each display was fairly high tech and demonstrated the power of data. Upon entry, for example, we walked past several monitors that reflected us in different ways. One of the spookiest was the screen that estimated information about us simply by capturing us on video.

With only a short time in this amazing city, we only scratched the surface of all the free things to do in Karlsruhe. Still, we had an great time, and can’t wait to come back and explore even more.

Like it? Share it!

Free things to do in Karlsruhe, Germany - The Places We Live