Beachlife around Lisbon

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Lisbon is blessed with a lot of lovely beach towns nearby. Three of my nine lesson days I took the train (around 30 minutes) to meet Angelo in different seaside locations. And after my three hours lesson there was time to relax by the sea. The first place we met was in Cascais. Cascais is a small lively city with a few different beaches to choose from and a lovely center full of restaurants & shops. I had fun editing above picture where I am enjoying an XL caipi while watching the sun set ;-)

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Close to Cascais is the town Estoril. I really liked that place, especially watching different types of people enjoying them self by the water. The beaches seems to always be packed and the tan to be an important part for some. I watched many funny positions people seemed to take in order for the sun to reach all body parts.

I preferred the cliffs section. And the lovely place I found with comfortable “puffs” to lean back on.  Yeh, I am having a caipi again, but there were in fact a few days in between Cascais & Estoril ;-)

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On one of my last days of lessons Angelo & I met up in Carcavelos, another lovely spot. Afterwards Angelo & his girlfriend took me & Robert on a trip. We first went to Sintra, described in my previous post. I had already been there but it was nice with short re-visit. After we went to Cabo da Roca which is Europe’s most western point. It was windy and cold up on the high cliff but very beautiful and rough. Sadly a few weeks later I read that a Polish couple died there when taking a selfie. I guess they must have stood just by the edge, that you can see behind me on th picture where I am blowing in the wind, when they fell over. Very tragic.

After Cabo da Roca we drove towards Cascais and Angelo showed some hidden gems (cafes & eateries) along the way. We also stopped by at the beach Praia do Guincho, famous among kite surfers. It was a lovely afternoon with lovely company :-) I miss it all when thinking back!  Muito muito bonito!

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Just a short train ride from Lisbon – Sintra

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Hop on the train in Lisbon and in less than an hour you can be in Sintra. A fairy tail city which is full of surprises. Here a unique micro climate has led to an almost jungle like fauna and everywhere in the green hilly surroundings lies old castles and palaces spread out, just waiting to be explored. There are so many of them that you could spend several days exploring. I managed to see two of the most famous once. The Castle of the Moors & the Pena Palace.

From the center there are shuttle buses that will take you to different entrance points but after all pastry eating in Lisbon I felt like a hike. :-) Small paths through the forested hills takes you up in about 45 minutes to 1 hour. My first stop was the castle. Unfortunately this day was a bit cloudy but there was still good views from there. Afterwards I continued walking for about another 30 minutes and reached the Pena Palace. Even though in clouds and under construction it was a delight to see this colorful creation. Inside all furnished rooms took you back in time. Can you spot my selfie?

Not only the palace is amazing but also the mysterious surrounding gardens called the Pena gardens. I really loved being in Sintra. A week later Angelo, my teacher, took me & Robert to Sintra for another short visit. But he also told us that tourists only reaches a small part of this area. There are so much rough nature to be discovered which is better reached by private vehicles or by a longer hike. Don´t miss this! You will be enchanted!

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Lisbon food, drinks and entertainment

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In my last post I described the views of Lisbon city. In this post I will talk a  bit more about the food, drinks & entertainment. From my last post I guess you understand by now that my biggest entertainment was my daily private Portuguese classes :-) But I also managed some more highlights that I would like to share.

During my two weeks in Lisbon I stayed in a central hostel called “Home”. It has among the best reviews on-line and seemed like a good choice. Despite some sleeping problems (the beds were good but all the noise from the wooden drawers underneath them and the terrible buzzing locker system kept me awake many times a night) I enjoyed very much the special “Mamas dinner”. Every evening apart from Tuesday´s you could sign up for home cooked food, made by the hostels mother herself. For just 10 Euro per person she made soup, main course & desert and along with that red wine, beer and Port wine was served. I enjoyed this dinner many times as it was great value for money, very tasty and a good way to meet fellow travelers. And Mama was an amazing lady!

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On my one and only full weekend in Lisbon I had signed up for a dance weekend with Joana Machado and Avelino Chantre, running the Ultimate Kizomba school. My biggest motivation was the Kizomba part. Kizomba is a sensual couple dance from Angola that has hit Europe (and the world) big times. In Sweden Kizomba has gone from basically unknown to almost more popular than salsa in 1 1/2 year. I started dancing half a year ago and I love it. The weekend with Joana & Avelino was so much fun. Not only did I dance Kizomba but I learnt some Kuduro (also Angolan) and other Afro styles as well (naturally afro tunes are popular in Portugal) + special lady styling. I also managed to visit the most popular Kizomba spot in Lisbon twice, Bairro Latino! The dance weekend left great memories since it was a very local happening.

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One especially nice Australian girl that I had met in the hostel, and who actually was brave enough to join me to Bairro the first time (which was a bit out of the center), came back for a second time to Lisbon after  traveling around for a few days. On her last night, before returning back to Australia, we decided to go for a great dinner. And we were extremely lucky to find “Sinal Vermelho” where we ate amazing food. From my three weeks in Portugal I have to say that although the ingredients are fantastic (especially all the fresh fish) the Portuguese cuisine sometimes lacks a bit of flavor, in my opinion. (Extra note added 140826 after comment from a reader: I have not tried the food from all different regions in Portugal. In fact the food in Alentejo was much more spicy than around Lisbon, I just gave a personal reflection which I always do in my blog. Maybe my taste buds are damaged by too much chili in the past ;-) AND Mamas food was terrific. Maybe home cooked is the thing!) Signal Vermelho served more interesting food than many other places I tried and the flavors were great! Not to forget the deserts. The Portuguese really knows how to make both great deserts & pastries!!! (I will come back to the pastries part ;-))

After dinner we took a stroll in Bairro Alto which is a very much alive area at night. The small alleys fills up with people and  becomes one big party. Many mini clubs along the small streets offers a variety of music and themes. Below in the first picture Erin is getting ready for dinner in our dormitory :-).

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About 20-30 minutes with tram away from the central parts of Lisbon lies Belém, most famous for their pastries. Everywhere else those pastries are called Pastel de Nata but in Belém they are called Pasteis de Belém and they are the original once. In my opinion they are not much tastier than any other Pastel de Nata (and I ate two a day during three weeks from different places :P .) But to go there was kind of an adventures. Below queue and crowed is only because of those pastries. Belém also has many other beautiful sights as well. Nice green parks and a great waterfront promenade with some beautiful sights along the way. Not to forget the stunning Jerónimos Monastery that makes the trip very well wort :-)

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At the end of my Lisbon stay my boyfriend arrived to join me for around 12 days :-). He started with spending three days in Lisbon with me and after that we traveled south (later posts). I had wanted to try one of many wine bars that Lisbon has to offer but I waited until Robert arrived to get his company. I had been looking at one just across the street from “Home” for many days and one night we went there. In the wine bars you drink wine (rather obvious ;)) and enjoy delicious cheeses and other tapas. We found the big mirror in-front of us rather amusing and had a great time making many selfies :-)

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In Portugal prices are very good compared to many other parts of Europe. One thing I really appreciated was the low prices for Caipirinhas. I love Caipi´s but in Sweden you pay at least 12 Euro for one and that is just not worth it for me. But in Portugal I could enjoy them whenever I wanted  as you can understand from below price list ;-)

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Fado is a special type of music that Portugal is very known for. It  features sentimental songs sung in a very emotional way. The way the Fado is performed, the facial and body expressions, are sometimes even more powerful than the actual words. Many restaurant in Lisbon, especially in the area Alfama (where the Fado was born), has free Fado entertainment if you dine at their place. I am so happy with the place we picked, “Esquina de Alfama” Many felt like it would be a tourist trap but this one felt genuine and the four Fado singers, including one of the waiters, gave an amazing show. At one moment tears fell down my cheeks when the younger lady in blue below was singing. Portuguese people enjoys to get in touch with the feeling of nostalgia, despair and desire. This is the way they do it and it is a very beautiful and strong memory for me to have witnessed a live Fado performance.

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Lisbon is a beautiful place with many interesting  things to do and see. I love that Lisbon feels very genuine and it´s people are laid back and very friendly. I will be back for sure! :-D

The feeling of Lisbon

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It has been a while since my last post. For me blogging about my trips is a way to process and gather all my memories once I get back home. During vacation I don´t spend time behind the screen.

This summer I did something different. I went to Portugal with the main purpose to learn some Portuguese. I just love that language and have been wanting to learn it for some time. Through Internet I found Angelo´s website which right now seems to be down but he also has a page on facebook for more information. Angelo lives just outside Lisbon and teaches live in Lisbon and surroundings but also through Skype. I had heard Lisbon should be a great city so I based myself there for two weeks during which I met with Angelo 9 times x 3 hours, in different cafes. Those two weeks turned out to be amazing. Angelo is a fantastic person and a great teacher and the time with him was really fun and well invested. Before and after the lessons (which were 1:1) I wandered around a lot in Lisbon. And so those two weeks flew very fast and I am loaded with motivation ;-)

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I have been thinking about how to best present Lisbon in this post. Lisbon is not a city full of “must see” things and it is a bit rough on the edges. Still there is so much to discover if you like me just love to wander around and feel a place. Lisbon had this great vibe that made me relaxed & happy. It is not a chaotic huge city. Is is touristy but in a good and integrated way. The facades of Lisbon are amazingly beautiful with many houses covered in mosaic patterns. And the pavements too are a delight to walk on with different cobblestone patterns everywhere. I stumbled upon a web page that I wish I would have found before I went but now I have a reason to return to look up the best facades and pavement art that Lisbon has to offer :-D

Lisbon is a hilly city with nice viewpoints to enjoy. Walking is possible but there are also trams to bring you up and down if you wish. And there is no shortage of cozy plazas to wind down at with a coffee and some of the best pastries ever eaten :-P. When the sun gets lower it is wonderful to hang out by the waterfront with a beer or caipirinha and just watch the laid back life pass by…

I hope you enjoy below images of Lisbon, a new found favorite that I will revisit for sure. In next post I will introduce some more Lisbon culture and after that I will cover some coastal delights :-)

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In love with Rome

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There is only one thing I did not like about Rome – massive crowds of tourists everywhere! But no wonder since Rome is such an amazing place. Me & Louise based ourself close to Colosseum which turned out to be a good choice since we could walk almost everywhere.

The first evening we just strolled aimlessly towards the old city. I really loved the Vittorio Emanuele monument, seen on below pictures. We passed it almost every day and the horses on top of this marvelous place was seen from most of the locations where we visited. We also saw a glimpses of the massive 2000 year old Parthenon the first nigh and cozy street life in the old town. Not to forget the daily Gelato (Italian ice-cream) ;-) This specific night we tried a place that has no less than 150  flavors. On below picture Louise is trying to make her choice…

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The next day we decided to start with the Vatican city. Is is one of those “must do things” that I would not do again. Crowds! Exhausted after our visit to the St. Peters Basilica we sat down in a café close by to unwind with two scopes of ice-cream and a coffee. The bill? 24 Euro! We though it was a bad joke. Learning; chose carefully where you eat and drink in Rome.

After the Vatican city we payed a visit to the St. Angelo Castle. And what a view from up there! The top picture above is taken from this castle. You had amazing views all directions. Do not miss this if you go!

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A visit to Rome is of course not complete without seeing the Fontana di Trevi. But really, it is surrounded by so much people that is hard to enjoy. Same goes for the famous Spanish stairs which were in fact so uncharming that they did not deserve to be on a picture in this post.

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On Saturday evening we went to non touristy Testaccio and had a wonderful meal at the very local restaurant “Acqua e Farina”. The bill was not much more than the two scopes of ice-cream and the coffee close by the Vatican city, remember? ;-) And then we ate a lot and shared a bottle of wine too. Testaccio is a nice place for going out as well. Many small clubs are lined up along a narrow street. There is something for all tastes and we had such a great night that we took a sleep in the next day ;-)

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The biggest “must see” in Rome apart from Colosseum is the Forum Romanum, the center of ancient Rome. It is truly magic to walk around this area, located just in central Rome, and realize that you gaze at (parts of) the same buildings that the people of the Roman empire once did.

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What amazed me most, and became a true highlight of my visit to Rome, was to get inside the Colosseum. It is one thing to view it from the outside. But it is first when you stand inside its walls that you realize the grandiosity of this place. I regret so much that we did not take a guided tour. But I managed to sneak up to a group and listen in to parts of the bloody stories that this place hides.

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We saved the coziest area to the last evening. Despite lots of tourists Trastevere has a nice local vibe. Is is a great area to to have a bit or a drink or just do some people watching. We had a lovely last evening in this nice vibrant area. Afterwards I really felt in love with Rome :-)

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On of the tastiest highlights however was the ice-cream place just around the corner from where we lived. The pistachio at Ciuri Ciuri – Oh My! I could go back to Rome just for that ;-)

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Going back in time in Pompeii

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79 AD the volcano Vesuvius erupted and killed 16000 people living in Pompeii. The heat waves were so strong that the people died instantly while doing there things. Therefore the bodies were preserved under the ash, many in motion, and can be viewed in this extraordinary open air museum that Pompeii today is. Excavations started 1748 and what you now experience as a visitor is a well preserved large ancient roman city that takes you right back into the past. In some houses there are still wall paintings that looks like they did almost 2000 years ago. The bathhouses are so well kept that you really can imagine how it was back then. I was never fond of history at school but it is hard not to become when you walk around in such a place as Pompeii. Unfortunately it took us a lot of time to get there from Amalfi, where we were based, and to be able to get back again in time we had only three hours to walk around. To cover as much as possibly we almost ran parts of it and still we had no time for the Amphitheater and many other extraordinary sights. What we heard much about were the interesting wall paintings of the old brothels. Unfortunately the one we were going to visit was closed for restoration, as many other parts, so we missed that ;-) If you go, spend a full day! Don´t underestimate the size of this place. And without a map you will get lost. Below some pictures from our time traveling…

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A daytour along the Bohuslän coast of Sweden

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My father lives on the southeast coast of Sweden and I on the west. When he visits me he always comes with the train. That is much cheaper than driving and very comfortable :) When he visited me this weekend we rented a car over the day one day, to be able to discover a bit more of the fantastic Bohuslän coast.

We stopped in three places. Fiskebäckskil, Fjällbacka and Grebbestad. Fiskebäckskil was by far the most picturesque. With just around 400 residents it is a small place. It was wonderful to just walk around and watch all the colorful perfect houses, standing tight together like in most small villages in this area. Fjällbacka was a bit bigger. Around 800 people lives there. I am not a reader myself, but there is a famous crime author that has Fjällbacka as location for her crimes. Camilla Läckberg is her name. Fjällbacka has a mountain called Vetteberget stretching out behind the little community. From there you have a stunning view over the Fjällbacka archipelago. I would love to go and stay on one of those islands sometimes. It must be so peaceful.

Our last stop, and the shortest stop, was Grebbestad. A small town with around 1400 residents. I liked what I saw and wish we had more time to hang around but both me and my father were tired from all the impressions and wanted to head back to Gothenburg to relax on my balcony before bedtime. To summarize we had a fantastic day with perfect weather and lots of beautiful surroundings that for sure made me want to come back!

Below images are from Fiskebäckskil.

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Below images are from Fjällbacka.

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Below images are from Grebbestad.

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Discovering the Amalfi coast

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As I wrote about in my last post Louise & I chose to base ourself in the little town Montepertuso, just above famous Positano, during our vacation to the Amalfi coast. Above is the view that met us when descending the more than 1000 steps to the shore. We walked up almost every day as Italy´s high carb cuisine demands lots of exercise ;-) However we only walked down twice since it is a bit tough for the knees with all the steps. The other days we took the small local bus down the hill.

Positano was not really my cup of tea. Too crowded and not so authentic (maybe it was but you did not see it due to the crowds). The one going to the Amalfi coast should be aware that the buses does not run very frequently, nor does the boats. They are also not matched in schedule. This means that a big amount of our days went to transporting ourself. But this is the only way if you want to see different areas. We used the waiting time to eat ice cream :-P Italy has wonderful ice cream – Gelato!

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We really wanted to see the pretty mountain town Ravello. The way to go there was by boat from Positano to the town Amalfi and then bus from there. Ravello is most famous for the Villa Rufolo garden from where you have magnificent coastal views, framed by trees and flowers. The little town Ravello is cozy to stroll around. I was amazed by the huge lemons outside one of the stores. The Amalfi coast is very famous for their lemons used for many purposes.

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There are many trekking possibilities on the Amalfi coast. The most famous walk, and the one that should not be missed, is the “Walk of the Gods”. In Italian called Sentiero degli Dei. To start the walk transport was needed by boat from Positano to pretty Amalfi (once again) and then bus to the mountain village Bomerano. The walk actually ends near to Montepertuso where we were staying.

It is ofcourse possible to do it the other way around but we were advised that the views would be more dramatic if we started in Bomerano (and it was!) It was really an amazing walk and not particular difficult at all. We stopped in Monteperstuso (it continues a bit after that). It took us only 3 1/2 hours completing the walk including about 30 minutes breaks for photographing and enjoying views.

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On our last day we decided to walk down the stairs as we had done the first day. The views are very pretty  as you descend. We had heard about a lunch restaurant in a small bay not far from Positano. The place was supposed to have a free shuttle boat to take you there and back and the reputation said they had amazing, and very affordable, seafood. We found the boat with the red fish sign saying “Da Adolfo” and jumped in. It was a nice short journey before approaching the bay. We ate great food, drank beer and relaxed but unfortunately bad weather reached us just after dinner so we never had the possibility to swim and sunbathe as planned. (Worth mentioning here is that the Amalfi coast is not a beach destination, the beaches are not very nice).

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To conclude we had a couple of fantastic days in the Amalfi coast. But my experience would not have been the same would we have stayed in busy Positano or elsewhere. It was really Montepertuso and our B&B Le Ghiande that made my experience complete!

THE place to stay in Amalfi is Montepertuso!!!

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Just back from a 10 days vacation in Italy it is time to blog again. As most of my trips nowadays, I was accompanied by my friend Louise :) We started of with six active but relaxing days in the Amalfi region and ended with four days Rome.

Amalfi, as many parts of Italy, is extremely busy with tourists. No wonder as it is exceptionally beautiful. When doing research about where to stay in Amafli I fell for B&B Le Ghiande, a place higher up in the mountains, in the small town Montepertuso above the famous town Positano. Le Ghiande had top rates and reviews that made me convinced that this was the place for us! The more than 1000 steps up from the coast might not make this the first choice for everyone (no worries, there are buses). But we could not be happier about our stay! I don´t have enough words to explain how great Le Ghiande is. It was dark when we arrived and below is the view we woke up to on our first day!

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Le Ghiande is run by Salvatore & his father Carlo. To their help they also have a guy called Dimitri working with them. Those people are so genuinely kind. Salvatore is English speaking and takes care of all praticalities around the guests and makes sure everyone is informed an comfortable. Papa Carlo does not speak English but he is very social and loves to share his homemade Limoncello with the guests. He grows beans & lemons in the garden and maybe some other things too that we never saw. He is a very proud man. Dimitri serves breakfasts, makes sure your room is as clean as is possible and also prepares the jacuzzi for the small amount of 5 Euro.

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After an active day around Amalfi it was so relaxing to come back to Le Ghiande and wind down before going out for dinner. And now to another great things; Montepertuso happens to have some of Amalfi´s best restaurants, just around the corner from where we lived. We ate at Il Ritrovo three times. An amazing family restaurant with great discount for Le Ghiande guests.

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One day, after an active trekking day, we used the jacuzzi and then tried the restaurant La Tagliata around the corner from Le Ghiande. Another family restaurant that does not have a meny. Instead for a set price you eat and drink all kinds of traditional food that are served throughout the evening. Many hotels in Positano have an arrangement where they bus guests up for an evening here and picks them up again. When we were there the evening ended in on big Limoncello party. From being the observers from our small table we suddenly ended up being in the center of attention as we happily entertained the American guests with Swedish drinking songs ;-) Our table that night looked like we had one wild party. But to tell the truth, me & Louise were perfectly fine, compared to the rest of the guests. What a night!

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It was a bit sad to leave this magic place, but other adventures were waiting and left are only beautiful memories from a peaceful and friendly stay in Montepertuso and B&B Le Ghiande.

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A last sushi & a night in a capsule

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Before my second trip to Japan came to an end I really wanted to experience a capsule hotel. So my last night after arriving back to Tokyo, after a wonderful week in Kyushu, I spent at Capsule In Kinshicho. The hotel was conveniently located close to a station with direct train to Narita International airport. Before I went there I had a great last sushi meal the station Kinshicho. In Japan there are many types of sushi restaurants. At the roller band kind there are always two peaces at each plate. At this particular place the plates had the same price tag. Most common is that they come on different colored plates and the color will indicate a certain price which makes it easy at the end to calculate your total price.

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The particular capsule hotel that I had chosen had several floors dedicated to men but just one for women. It is simply not so many women using those. On each floor everything was, as always in Japan, very organized. And at the bottom of the hotel you found the small reception. Since the hotel itself did not have any bathing facilities they had a deal with a sento next door. In Japan the bathing culture does not only occur in special onsen towns, which I have written about in my last two posts, it takes place in every corner. If the water is not of the better sort, it is called sento. Sentos will be found in every neighborhood and many people take their bath there instead of in their homes. Sentos are usual very small but the principles are the same. The one next door to Kinshicho was really good and I was so happy that I could enjoy this culture one last time. :-D

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So how did I sleep? Well, actually I was not claustrophobic as I had feared but the mattress inside was rather dodgy. Since I had read about a bed bugs experience from a fellow traveler I carefully checked my mattress. (If you have followed my blog for a while you know I have had bed bugs encounters twice and I never want to have it again!!!).

Since there are tv and radio in each capsule it is very noisy. I had bad luck that someone had the tv on the whole night which gave me a very bad sleep. But so I did not really mind to be exhausted for my long flight back to Sweden.

I have now finished documenting trip 2 to Japan. A country full of mysteries. I would love to go back again but as always, many other destinations are waiting to be explored. Tomorrow I am leaving to Italy :-) After I come back I will for sure have some focus on that for a few posts. Stay tuned…

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