In September this year I visited Istanbul for the third time, read more about that HERE >>
One of the reasons me & my friend Louise makes such a great travel company is that we share the same view of how a great vacation should look like. We are looking for the same ingredients and the same balance :-) Party is not the primary need for us but we do like to experience the local nightlife in most places we visit. We share the joy of dancing to really good electro music now and then but we also share the curiosity of discovering the local flavors.
When we were in Istanbul we decided to try to capture different scenes into one night. We dressed up to start of with the famous Golden Mile in Istanbul. The Golden mile is a strip along The Bosphorus that hosts some fancy clubs with great international line ups of DJ´s. We wanted to see how it looked like, even if we suspected the ambiance would not really be ours. Before hopping in to the taxi that would take us there we bought ourself some delicious Turkish kebab around the corner from our hotel. The taxi ride was so much fun with a driver that decided to get us going with some great old hits like “Mr Vain” with Culture Beat. The ride took a while and it was one big party in the backseat ;-)
Our pick was the glamorous Anjelique. Luckily the entrance was for free because the drink we had was damn expensive. But it was not that that made us flee, but the uncomfortably bratty atmosphere. The night view over the Bosphorus bridge with the Ortaköy mosque in front was amazing and the DJ played great house. But the people were so cold that we left after just one hour. Before heading to our next target, which we hoped would be a more chilled place, we quickly went by our hotel since I wanted to change clothes.
Our next goal was a place I had read about called 5.Kat. It was supposed to be one of those splendid rooftop bars in Istanbul that are hard to find but with rewarding views. After some help from the locals we hit our target but the rooftop restaurant/bar had just closed. Instead we ended up in the basement of the same building in a small, trendy club with great music and a hipster vibe. The place had a few smaller rooms with an intimate living room feel and each with a separate DJ.
On our way back to the hotel we strolled the Istiklal Caddesi and when we were almost past it I heard great Turkish club music from a window above and asked the doorman about the entrance which turned out to be free. So we ended our evening in a place called Club Lupe which turned out to be my favorite. The atmosphere was just fun and the DJ played the kind of club music I really had hoped to find, upbeat house with Turkish sounds. I loved it and it was a perfect finish of our evening out in Istanbul, the city that never sleeps!
Istanbul – the city where where East meets West! And where traditional meets modern and melts together in one colorful, vibrant and magnificent waterfront metropolis! :-D
Since my list of “want to visit” places is long, going back to a city for the third time really means I am hooked. Here you can read about my first and second visit to Istanbul. This third visit was done in September this year with my friend Louise. Our three days were pretty much about relaxing and just loading ourself with impressions. I do warn you, Istanbul is among the most photogenic places I have experienced and I had a very hard time choosing my images. And I do know they are too many. But what drives me when it comes to this blog, apart from securing a nice memory library for myself, is to give the reader a nuanced picture of the places I visit. And in this case that requires many images. I hope you enjoy :-)
In Istanbul very much takes place along the waterfronts. I really like to enjoy a moment on one of the cafés under the Galata Bridge each time I visit Istanbul. The one below where Louise is enjoying a beer is my favorite :-)
On our first day we took a short boat ride to vibrant Kadiköy on the Anatolian side. It is a very local area with lots of shops and eateries. Great getaway from the tourist scenes. And the sunset views over Sultanahmet and the two most famous mosques in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya, are allways breathtaking.
Before day 1 was finished we strolled the narrow bar and restaurant streets around Istiklal Caddesi before heading back to our hotel. Istanbul is one of those cities which never sleeps as I am sure you can imagine from below pictures.
Day 2 was dedicated to the beautiful area Sultanahmet, better described in my first post about Istanbul. Even if I had been to Istanbul twice before I had never visited the famous mosques. I simply find them so extraordinary from the outside and that, combined with big queues and crowds, always put me of. But this time we did visit Aya Sofya. And my conclusion is, it is nice to have done once but nothing beats the view from the outside. Apart from the mosques Sultanahmet has a very special architecture and many places to rewind. And close by is the famous Grand Bazar and Spice Market. They are nice to stroll through but the crowds and the impressions are a bit too much to get me in to a shopping mood ;-) But it did get me in to ice cream mood. Turkish ice cream is delicious. It is made out of goat milk and for some reason the ice cream is really chewy in the texture.
After sleeping in after a party evening, day 3 started with a visit to Ortaköy. I will not describe that further here since I did that in my first Istanbul post. But it is a nice neighborhood for a Sunday stroll. After that we took an expensive beer in one of the most extraordinary rooftop bars in Istanbul, the 360. 360 is both a restaurant and a nightclub. When we were there it was quiet and the rooftop terrace empty due to rain. But it was still a nice stop before making our final stroll over the Galata bridge and all the way back to Sultanahmet where we were going to end our last day with a Turkish bath at a classic Hamam. On the way we stopped by at our favorite “Pide place”. A kind of pizza alike foodie that quickly made us addicted :-P
This was all from Istanbul for now. In my next and last post for this year I will share some images from a fun night out in Istanbul! See you then :-)
Appendix – Taksim Nacre Hotel
On this trip we decided to base ourself near Taksim square and found charming Taksim Nacre Hotel which lies in a regular neighborhood but with close walking distance to Taksim and Istiklal Caddesi. As most houses in Istanbul there was a rooftop terrace where breakfast was served every morning. Apart from hotel guests two hungry Seagulls were present every day, jealously looking in through the window ;-) Nacre was a very friendly small hotel but ask for a room on higher floor since the lobby on ground floor could be a bit noisy.
In September this year I visited Istanbul for the third time, together with my travel mate Louise (often mentioned in this blog). Before making a post about that trip I felt the need to organize my previous posts about the city. Istanbul was the first post I ever made and I merged the trip 2011 with my first visit 2009 and did not do the city justice at all. With so much material I decided to re-do my my first post to cover only 2009. This post covers the re-visit 2011 and the following one, which I will blog about next week, will cover the third trip :-)
So, before reading any further I suggest you take a look at my first post, “A fist encounter with lovely Istanbul” :-) That will also give you some background to how I met my friend Canem and the network Couchsurfing.
My 2011 visit to Istanbul was done in connection to a round trip I did in Turkey that summer. I had picked the hottest month July which unfortunately is when I am expected to take my main holiday due to the Swedish laws. I started with a few days at Canem´s place which gave me a new insight to Istanbul. Canem lives on the Anatolian side which I had no time to visit 2009. She let me see a totally non touristic side of Istanbul and I had a few wonderful days with her. I also managed to meet up with a guy from Istanbul that I actually got to know in Tokyo on a night out with a bunch of Couchsurfers. It was great to see Armagan in his home environment and we had a lovely dinner together one night.
After a few days in Istanbul at Canem´s place it was time to board the night bus to Göreme (I did totally three night bus journeys in Turkey on my 2011 trip and they were all excellent!). I can only say that Turkey went up to my Top 5 favorite countries rather fast. Learn more about my Turkey trip from following posts:
Cappadocia - one of the most extraordinary landscapes you will ever come across
Kas - lovely Mediterranean town that made me postpone my departure and reschedule my trip
Fetiye – the hub for sailing tours on turquoises waters and much more…
Pamukkale – top tourist attraction in Turkey famous for the hanging white chalk pools & ancient Hierapolis
Selcuk – cozy town close to the famous archaeological site Ephesus (ancient very well preserved Roman city)
Before flying back to Sweden I had another two nights in Istanbul that I spent in a hostel in Sultanahmet. I dedicated my full day to a boat trip on the Bosphorus. The boat departed from central Istanbul, at Eminönü, and stopped at different small harbors on the way towards the Black Sea. You can hop of any time and board a new boat whenever you area ready discovering. On the way you can view the magnificent residences along the waterfront. It was a perfect day! And a nice ending of my first re-visit to Istanbul.
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!