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Favorite "Chillout" Activities?

I started to post this to the Spain Forum, but realized it was a more universal question for European travelers. We've discovered we have about 24 hours in our itinerary -- over a Sunday afternoon to Monday afternoon spread -- in Palencia, Spain where everything is working against us! The Cathedral and Museum we wanted to visit are closed for renovations. The other museums are closed on Sunday before we get there and closed Monday altogether. The restaurants we were eyeballing -- you guessed it -- closed Sunday and Monday!

Hey, we've all been there. It happens. And we'll figure out those 24 hours as well, so this post really is not a cry for help! (Although if you have any insider tips for Palencia...! 😉 )

But it did get me thinking -- what are some of your favorite "chillout" activities? When the Travel Gods are telling you, "Nope, you aren't cramming today with museums and historic sites and exciting cuisine," what do you turn to? When forced to slow down and take a breather, what are some of your favorite ways to just Chill Out?!

Posted by
859 posts

Did it today in Girona. Sat on a bench in a plaza, enjoying the winter sunshine and watched the world go past while eating an apple.

We have also planned public transport days for times when museums are closed. We just pick a direction and catch a train or bus and then go for a walk in a different town or neighbourhood. We had a lovely day in Manresa chosen solely because it was a bit less than 90 minutes by train from Barcelona, and in Usti nad Labem and Litomerice in Czechia for similar reasons - 90 minutes by train from Prague.

Posted by
3965 posts

Most of my trips are chillout time, lol, but in this case I would consider a change, having spent more than one day in a shuttered Spanish town on a Sunday...If the reasons you chose it are now moot, is there another place nearby that would work better?
If there was some kind of outdoors activity nearby, that is typically my choice.

Posted by
1334 posts

Sitting outside a cafe and enjoying a Coke Zero, hot tea or port w/maybe a desert and people watch or review photos on my iPhone.

Heading to a park or piazza w/a beverage or snack and just enjoy the surroundings.

Posted by
10929 posts

We walk. Whether through a park, on a true trail, or an urban jaunt, we can easily walk for a couple of hours, find a place for coffee, lunch, or adult beverage, have a relaxed lunch, duck into shops or a charming church.

Perhaps stop in the TI and see what event are on or ideas they have.

I also use downtime to research anything necessary for the next leg of the trip.

Posted by
6167 posts

When a food tour canceled on me the day before because they didn’t have enough participants, and the museum I had as a backup plan was also closed, I just took a long walk, eventually into a more residential neighborhood. I lingered over an espresso/pastry break at an outdoor cafe and watched the everyday happenings longer than normal. Later I walked back through a park to rent a bike. I probably had an extra gelato that afternoon! And I spent some time in my room, relaxing & catching up with reviewing & deleting unneeded photos and writing a bit.

If I knew ahead of time that absolutely nothing was happening, I probably would have switched locations. I see you’re talking about a Sunday. I don’t typically like to take a bus or train on Sunday - just because the schedule can be less reliable (not sure if that applies to Spain).

Posted by
3648 posts

Love the question. In general, we explore aimlessly. We especially love neighbourhoods and looking at homes and gardens. I think of the morning of the Queen’s funeral last September and everything was closed in Winchester, but we were able to stay amused by wandering streets we wouldn't normally wander and encountering locals who weren't at home watching the funeral. We window shopped in Nice one afternoon, shocked at €60,000 watches. It's gelato o'clock anytime, anywhere in Italy...

Posted by
3640 posts

Usually in Spain we have our big Sunday lunch, either at home or at a nicer restaurant.

Also we enjoy a nice siesta after the big lunch.

Maybe later walk around in the local park or go to the beach, for a paseo.

I have no experience with Palencia, but maybe near by is a natural park for good hiking.

Also see if there is a local football match on for Sunday, to see at the bar or at the stadium.

Posted by
4514 posts

Gardens. I love wandering through gardens; big ones are nice but the small, tucked away ones are even better. I found one in Gengenbach Germany that was a quaint little garden with beautiful plans, ancient stone walls and little inspirational signs scattered here and there.

My second favorite chilling out activity is to stop midday for a cappuccino and some kind of local pastry. I do this every trip and every day (unless I'm tied up with some sightseeing) and use it as a time to rest, reflex and enjoy the wonders of a local cafe.

Posted by
469 posts

My chillout time is lazy mornings. Last time in London I'd watch the tide going in and out on the Thames and the mudlarks walking along the river near Millennium Bridge. I'd go talk to them and they'd share their finds. Especially enjoyed the random 16th or 17th century artifact.

But the best fun was going to the TeamSport track in the Docklands and doing a whole day of kart racing.

Posted by
550 posts

Get the AllTrails app. You don’t need to join to find trails.
Type in Palencia, like I did. 313 trails came up. Upper right corner for map view to narrow it to your location. Then choose what you want.
Since people are recommending walks, this will do fine.
Distances, maps, times, reviews.
All there for you.

Posted by
7786 posts

If you're very far into a trip, there's a good chance you're worn out.

Sleep until noon. Then regroup and hit the streets.

We often take a day off from traveling every five days or so. Or, take a long weekend in a smaller city eating and drinking.

Posted by
654 posts

I love down days. We usually look for a park where we can walk; so much of the “sightseeing” we do on trips is in cities and towns, and it is a refreshing break to spend some time where you can hear the birds and not the traffic.

Also love to wander in town, stopping often for coffee, pastry, cocktails, and gelato.

My husband and I took a whole vacation once with nothing but down days (9 days in Ireland) and it was awesome. Saw lots of sheep and drank lots of beer (I usually hate beer), absolutely no agenda on any day.

Posted by
12618 posts

Vote #2 for Mardee's plan...I look for a garden and have my iPad Mini with me so I sit and read and/or people watch. I found in Paris that I need to take a plastic bag with me because often garden benches are covered in bird poo or tree sap, lol. I have both a heavier plastic grocery bag from Trader Joes as well as a heavier bag from Ross Dress for Less. Both are great for keeping my seat clean!

I also usually have a few walks in mind for other times. For instance in Paris I look ahead at some of the various tour guides who video walking tours and pull things out that are of interest, then build a walk for myself. A couple of years ago I fashioned one of Roman ruins or where Roman buildings were in Paris and did that one afternoon.

I've had a few enforced chill-out afternoons/days when heavy rains prevented me from doing my planned activities and then I usually default to reading in the hotel room.

Posted by
16012 posts

I look for a wine bar and stay until I know the name of everyone working there. Sometimes that takes days depending on how hard the language is.

Posted by
4418 posts

Aside from the AI comment above, Alltrails is just one of a few apps or websites with hiking information - pretty global.
My most favourite chillout is a day at the hotel pool, but perhaps that isn't the right season in Palencia.
Do you have hobbies? I am a bird watcher, so any down day means hiring a local guide for intense birding out of the city, or finding a park or greenspace. Personally, all time in greenspace is a renewal for me.
Sketching, painting, photography? Journalling, weeding through current photos? I have been known to search for quilt shows and fabric stores to link up with like minded locals.
- it also often means major laundry day :-(

Posted by
3961 posts

We tend to seek out cities where we enjoy parks, pedestrian-only streets, botanical gardens, bike paths, hiking trails, etc. My favorite green space city is Ljubljana, Slovenia (ranked the #1 European Green Capital) It’s been car free since 2008. Other favorites: Netherlands, Madrid, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Budapest, Vienna, Paris. We’ve also enjoyed our times in Italy. Always enjoyable to stop at an outdoor market, cafe, church, walking tours…
Edited to add: Sicily- Ortigia, Noto, Ragusa, Modica!

Posted by
551 posts

You pose an interesting question.
One chillout for us can be simply relaxing in public gardens. Some countries seem to care more about such places. Italy would be one of those. Locorotondo and also Ragusa are but two towns that offer wonderful municipal gardens.
I am done. the chill.

Posted by
361 posts

UPDATE: It turns out Palencia Cathedral and the adjoining museum will have reopened by the time we go! I probably wouldn't have created this post if I'd known that originally, but I'm glad I did. The conversation has been informative and insightful.

Posted by
2868 posts

Walking alone the Seine in the evening with some wine and snacks, finding a place to sit down and watch life go by, like gigantic tour boats with 1,000 Chinese tourists sitting at rigid attention. I'll never forget that site.

Posted by
437 posts

I like to go to a museum and find one piece that captures my eye, then spending some time with it: think about who made it; who found it; the time period it came from; what it meant to its owner; what it means to us now; why is it in this museum?

Then get yelled at by the security guard because the museum closed 20 minutes ago!

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
385 posts

One of my favorites activities is reading the book I brought along -- and the new book I inevitably will buy on the trip -- to chill for a few hours.

In 1997, when I was in Galway, Ireland, all the sites I wanted to see were closed one day. No problem: I found a great pub and brought a ton of reading materials -- my books, the Galway newspaper and the Times of London. I had four or so blissful hours of reading and journal and postcard writing.

The highlight was an Irish trad band set up, and locals started to dance to it. I had a great encounter with authentic Irish culture because the band and dancers were not put on display for tourists. They were Irish people enjoying their own culture.

Posted by
551 posts

Your flexible attitude not only served you well, but ended up gifting you a peak experience involving music.
A lesson for all us travelers, yeah?
I am done. the jig

Posted by
385 posts

Gregglamarsh: Listening to the Irish trad music in a locals pub was a peak experience. I have seen dozens of professional concerts in Europe, such as the Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna. The trad musicians in Galway were by far my favorite musical experience.

Posted by
5926 posts

Some truly great ideas here; Mr E, you made me laugh out loud.

If we have unexpected down time, usually I head out and walk, while Stan takes a nap!

Posted by
361 posts

Update #2 and an additional lesson learned -- Don't give up too easily. Turns out, buried in various nooks and crannies, I've found a wealth of things in Palencia to fill the day after all. Still, all the ideas in this thread have been so great I might chuck my finds and go to the pub, but they are there. Bottom line: Don't get thwarted just because a couple "biggies" in a town are closed. The world is filled with smaller gems and pleasures. (I knew all that, of course, but sometimes it is good to be reminded...)

Posted by
2933 posts

@Mike Beebe & stroudy60-LOL!!!
History traveler-nice post!
We are usually back to our hotel by 4pm after a day of sightseeing and take a siesta. Then we have happy hour hopefully on our hotel balcony or in hotel bar (if we have one), then head to dinner.

Posted by
1321 posts

My family enjoys public pools and or public strandbad style beaches on chill out days. Kids love taking a day off to go swimming, play on water slides, play lawn games, screw around on the diving boards etc. And going to a public swimming area in Europe is more of a cultural experience than you might expect.

Posted by
16012 posts

On a more widely accepted note, i enjoy fly fishing. Part of the beauty is that all the gear fits in my carryon personal item (except on Lufthansa), except for the rod and for that I've got a sweet little 4wt - 7 piece that takes up little room in my carryon.

So far, 4 US states, Canada, Scotland, Slovakia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania (i think i am forgetting one). A few multiple times.

All I need is a river and peace and quiet. Oh, and a bottle if wine.