One of my first posts in this blog was about Cappadocia in Turkey, one of the most remarkable and fascinating places I ever visited. Welcome to check out the moon landscapes of this area here >>. A very spiritual moment was when I went up early one morning to watch all the hot air balloons take of. Due to my phobia I could not take a balloon ride myself since with the claustrophobia also comes fear of being stuck in a small space without control. But honestly I was so grateful right then to just be able to have the moment I had. I still get goose bumps when watching the pictures from that very special morning. Originally there was a few pictures of this in my Cappadocia blog but I decided they deserved their own post and more space :-)
If you read my last post about Amsterdam and liked what you saw on the pictures, this is how to find those places. People often ask me for tip when they go to Amsterdam and that is how below three walking tours were born. I have also included some information about the former national holiday Queen´s Day, nowadays changed to King´s Day :-D
Focus: Jordaan & surroundings
With Central Station in the back walk to the right on street Niewendijk and follow it until it becomes Haarlemmerstraat. Continue to enjoy Haarlemmerstraat and it´s many cafés and fun shops until it is crossed by Binnen Brouwersgracht, then turn left onto that street. Now the real nice surprise starts. You have entered Jordaan with all the channels, small bridges, houseboats and leaning houses. You will have cozy eetcafe´s everywhere (an eetcafé is a café with a small menu and beer/wine/coffee. Until 18:00 they serve lighter food, after 18 dinner). Your guidance in this area will be the four big channels running parallel. The Prinsen, Keizer, Heren and Singel gracht (gracht meaning channel). On Saturdays there is a great atmosphere around the Noordermarkt by the Noorderkerk (a square with a church) on Prinsengracht. This area is ofcourse nice any day of the week NT! Joradaan must also be visited after dark! It is the most romantic walk you might ever do in your life! A really good eetcafé around Noordermarkt is “Café Winkel” Really great food at night and during the day they serve one of Amsterdam´s most famous apple cake :-P Try to keep the same direction as the big channels to avoid getting lost. If you plan Anne Frank´s house, you will have that on the left side of Prinsengracht as you move along. Once the big channels are crossed by a big street (that when looking at the map can be called anything from Raadhuisstraat to Westermarkt) you enter an area that is a another “must”. You have the same 4 channels running parallel but the small streets/lanes that connects them is what is interesting here. They are called “De 9 straatjes” which means The nine streets. Those 9 small streets are filled with funny shops, cafés and restaurants. You will love it! Here you can sit down, rewind and just watch Amsterdam life going on next to you. Once those four channels are crossed by Leidsestraat I suggest you walk right onto this streets where trams are also running. Walk until you reach Leidseplein (the square). It is one of the most commercial areas but still fun. Lots of restaurants around but I don´t recommend to eat there, rather chose and eetcafé around the channels. Leidseplein is nice for people watching and to sit on the nice square and enjoy a beer.
If you want you can spend the rest of the day visiting the museums around Museum plein, not too far from Leidseplein. I am not a museum person thus no particular advice here. You also have the big park Vondelpark nearby. Fun for people watching but too much smell of dog poop if you ask me. (Look out! Dutch people don´t take the dog poop from the streets.) You could also continue doing route 3. Or get lost, or walk back through Jordaan again and see it after dark! :-D
Focus: The most central parts
With Central Station in the back follow Damrak street a bit. Soon you will have “Manneke Pis” on your right. For a real Dutch (or actually Belgian, but as normal in the Netherlands) experience have a “potat met”, fries with special mayo :-P After Manneke Pis you can turn right on any tiny alley that will lead you to Niewendijk, a small carefree street with shops on both sides. If you have already walked as far as the Dam square you will instead connect on the evenly interesting alley called Kalverstraat. Damrak continues to be called Rokin. But it is the same big streets. And with the smaller alleys on the “inside”. Don´t mis it! Commercial but cozy! If you manage not to get lost you will end up at Muntplein. If you are hungry by now have a falafel at Maoz. Yum! And if you are up to taking a channel boat tour, do that from any of the places along Damrak or Rokin. After Muntplein it is time for some coziness again. Walk over the bridge Doelensluis onto the Doelenstraat. You pass Hotel de Europé on your right hand side. Walk until you see “Café Jaren”. If there are seats outside sit down and have something refreshing while you watch boats passing by. After this continue on the same street until you have Staalstraat on your right. From the first bridge you will have a magnificent view (very much photographed). Continue on the same street. You will soon have Puccini bon bon´s on your left. If you have not yet tried Belgian pralines, this is the time do it! (Not actually sure if this brand i Belgian but they are magnificent!) After you have crossed another channel walk left and spend some time at the Waterloo flee market (closed Sundays). A bit touristic but fun. When you are done head towards Niewmarkt. You can cross back on Sint Antoniesbreesstraat. Continue that street until you reach Niewmarkt which is a cozy square at the edge of redlight district. If you dare you can enter red light from here. It is actually a really cozy area! (As you might have understood a lot of things are cozy in Amsterdam. The word for cozy in dutch is “gezellig” and in fact a very commonly used word in Holland). Before walking back towards central station try to find Zeedjik. The Chinatown of Amsterdam with some really great restaurants! It will lead you back to the station. And one more amazing day will be gone.
Focus: The area Pijp! – (Not Sundays when the market is closed!)
Walk, bike or take a tram to the Heineken museum. (Tramstop Weteringcircuit/Weteringsch). Everyone knows this place so just ask your way there. I have never been myself and it is very touristic but if you feel the urge, pay a visit. Behind the Heineken museum you have the Marie Heineken plein. From there find the street called Albert Cuypstraat. Just ask anyone! That street is a market every day except Sundays. The area between Albert Cuypstraat and Maria Heineken plein hosts many really great cafés and restaurants, where you will never want to leave. There are shops and restaurants also along the market street. Once the markets ends, walks left and walk along Van Woustraat, pass Frederiks plein and then onto Utrechterstraat. Nice street with shops, cafés and restaurants. Follow it until Rembrandts plein. Another very commercial square, great for people watching. From there try to find Regulier Dwarsstraat and experience the most popular (and very cozy) gay street of Amsterdam. If you walk to the right on any small lane from that street you will be in the famous flowermarket. Walk back towards central station in any direction. However, if you still have not done Jordaan after dark, this is the time to do so!
If you are in Amsterdam last week of April
For many many years Queen´s Day (Koninginnedag in dutch), the most cheerful Dutch public holiday, has been celebrated on the 30st of April every year, however I read this will change to 27th of April which is the current King Willem-Alexander´s birthday. And with that the name will also change to “The King´s day”. Nevertheless I am sure the concept will stay the same. That is; people dressing up in Hollands national color orange, partying and trading on every street around the whole Netherlands. I have only cerebrated Queen´s Day in Amsterdam and it sure is something very memorable. The channels fills up with party boats, young and old selling things everywhere. Entertainment, food and drinks around every corner. Big clubs and cafés moves out on the streets with DJ´s spinning house music. The party goes on until midnight and the atmosphere is usually really fun and friendly. I think you might get a glimpse of this event from below pictures. It is a fun celebration and people are just happy in a good way. Last time I celebrated it was when Robert & I visited my old colleague Hanna from Finland, now living in California. I would recommend to plan a visit as this period of the year is also one of the most beautiful times. I hope you will enjoy my walking tours if you visit Amsterdam as a first timer :-)
Finally the time has come to show you my Amsterdam :-) I used to live in Amsterdam and surroundings between 1996-2003 and therefor, as you can imagine, that city is very special too me. Nowadays I make a re-visit about every second or third year. It has become less frequent with the years that has passed. This spring I went there with Robert for a long weekend. I did just what I always do when in Amsterdam. Strolling around. And if you like what you see on below pictures look out for my next post where I will present my three walking tours which will make you discover some of the most cozy places that Amsterdam has to offer. It started with a colleague asking for tips when she was about to go. I made three walking tours for fun and they have since been used by two more satisfied colleagues ;-)
Sure there are lot´s of museums and other things to see in and around Amsterdam but for me Amsterdam is all about relaxing, watching people and just feel the place. I normally tend to plan a bit too much when I travel but when I go to Amsterdam I do not have too, I know what I want. I know that I will spend most of my time having a coffee or a beer along one of the cozy channels in the Jordaan and surrounding areas or just getting lost on small streets and surprised by some odd shop or random sight along the way. And I try to allways cover the Noordermark by the Noordekerk, which is a farmers market and handicaraft marker that runs every Saturday.
This time we decided to splurge a bit and treat us with a boutique hotel with a view over the channel Herengracht. We picked Hotel Hegra and were extremely satisfied. The room was small, simple and clean not to forget to mention amazing beds, linen and pillows! And on top of this our room had a channel view :-D The two gentlemen running the place were attentive in a discrete way and made great breakfast every morning. I mean, just check out picture number two below. How can one not like that? It was fun to look out and see the boats passing by. Amsterdammers likes to cruise the channels while having a picknic or a party on a boat. Great lifestyle :-)
In the little Chinatown of Amsterdam there are many great restaurants. One day we picked one which seemed to have many Chinese customers and were very lucky. The food was fantastic! The streets of Chinatown are bordering to the notorious red light district of Amsterdam. If you can avoid being disturbed about the ladies in some of the windows, the large amount of sex shops and other erotic entertainment + the smell of marijuana, the streets of the red light district them self are very cozy. And there are some really good restaurants and bars in that area. I usually stroll through it at some point of my stay.
Amsterdam by night is very romantic. And there is no lack of bars. Amsterdam has got both the classic brown café bars and very modern once. Many of them serves both as bar and so called “eetcafe”, which means there is a limited bar menu available. In Amsterdam most things “goes”, just look at that cat sleeping on the bar on picture five below ;-)
Amsterdam is not a huge city and very walkable. Once you get thirsty my tip is to order mint thee and you will, in many places, get served hot water with a generous twig of mint leaves in it. It is so fresh and natural. Walking a lot also requires lot´s of energy and there are plenty of possibilities to grab a praline or two. If you pick it up at Puccini you might be satisfied with one, they are huge ;-)
When I first came to Amsterdam in the autumn of 1996 it was love at first sight. I had a wonderful time living there some years but now a distant relation works just perfect. But I do need my Amsterdam dose now and then. It is a liberating place to be, just how I like it!
Lagos is a little gem in the southern part of Portugal, in Algarve. It is far from a hidden gem though. In fact Lagos is probably one of the most touristic places in Portugal. Despite this it is such a charming town. The little center is packed with cafés and eateries dotted along the car free lanes. And there are plenty of cute little shops to keep you busy on cloudy days. The surrounding offers several stunning small coves protected by dramatic red cliffs. They all have a different character and it is nice to walk along the pretty coast to try to find your favorite spot.
We stayed in an absolutely amazing place in Lagos called Casa das Laranjeiras. Even if the guest house was in the middle of the center we were not disturbed by the street noise since we had a room in the attic. You don´t see this room on their web page but might have to ask for it or book through Hostelworld. It sure was an amazing room with our own terrace. The price was very affordable for what you got.
Even if Lagos is a really busy place it has a cozy vibe that I really enjoyed. However I have heard that the nights can get lively in a less cozy way when all the hostels in the town takes their young travelers for pub crawls. But that does not happen until the wee hours. Lagos really has something for everyone :-)
Our lovely room, with fully equipped pentry:
It´s been a while. My computer broke down and my energy to blog temporarily disappeared. But now it is time to catch up where I left. After spending two week in wonderful Lisbon this summer, I went down the coast together with Robert to spend a few relaxing days on the beach. We had picked two places, the first being the small town Vila Nova de Milfontes. Even if I had looked for quietness I had to admit that this place was a bit too quiet even for me. There was a feel about the town that nor me or Robert enjoyed as much as we had hope. We had rented a pretty pricey apartment (to splurge a bit after my noisy hostel nights) which was not that nice. However the surrounding beaches were very beautiful and the best part of the days was always to go out dining. The food in Vila Nova de Milfontes was never disappointing which was not a surprise since I had read that the Alentejo cuisine is among the best in Portugal. And the house wine was always ridiculously cheap ;-) I enjoy glimpsing back and choose to only remember the best parts.
My next post will be about the touristic place Lagos in Algarve. A place I had mixed feeling about before going there since some stories at my Lisbon hostel had made me wondering if we had made the right choice. But sometimes the places you have high expectations on just does not become as great as you hoped and the places you have no expectations on turns out to be fantastic. I absolutely loved Lagos and look forward to share our experiences from there. So long for now :-)
Extra material: some kind of Portuguse hot dog ;-)
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 ;-)
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 ;-)
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 the 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!
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!
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!
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.
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 :-).
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 :-)
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 :-)
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 ;-)
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.
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
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 ;-)
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 :-)
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…
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!
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.
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 ;-)
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.
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.
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 :-)
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 ;-)