I have been dancing Kizomba for some time now. A sensual couple dance, with African origin, that is now danced in various styles and increasing in popularity rapidly. Within the dancing community it has become very popular to travel to festivals to explore Kizomba & other Afro Latin dances through workshops with global teachers from all over. The schedules are always very thorough, not to forget to mention the evening/night schedules that most of the time follows special themes or per-decided color scales.
Last summer I managed to convince Louise to come a long to Porto where they have a annual 10 days Latin festival every year called “DMAES summer boot camp”. So after a week in Lisbon we took the bus to beautiful Porto to settle down for some days in Vila Nova de Gaia, adjacent to Porto.
Porto has a different beauty & feel from Lisbon, more mysterious! And Porto has plenty of amazing wines & great Port wine from the Douro Valley which both tasted wonderful & kept us warm😉
Louise & me chose to not join in on every part of the dancing schedule but spent a lot of time to walk around and explore the beautiful surroundings.
One nice part with festivals is of course to make new acquaintances. We spent some nice moments with Franz from Hamburg & Ann from London. Ann later came to visit me in Göteborg for a Kizomba event and in a few weeks me & Louise will travel to London to spend a weekend dancing Kizomba in the regular venues where Ann goes To be honest, I have figured out that is probably more my thing, to enjoy local regular Kizomba life.
One evening we had dinner in central Porto followed by a night walk. As many cities, Porto shines at night! And it also had a bit of a spooky feel
We went into Porto a few times to just stroll around. One day we also did some Port wine tasting. Several wine lodges offers tours & tasting for free. Considering the constantly present chilly wind it was even more pleasant to warm up with some good Port😉
No trip to Porto would be complete without a Douro river trip. Unfortunately we had picked a rather cloudy and cold day. The only thing that could warm me up was, again… some Port wine and odd layers of clothes (not actually meant to be combined). At the end of the tour however it both became warmer and even a bit sunny. A very relaxing day on a boat, enjoying nice views and doing nothing. And passing two sluices
Close by to the hotel we found our all time favorite restaurant. I do not remember the name but they had the most delicious seafood casserole. And since it was not a tourist area the prices were too good to be truth😛
Finally, some workshop pictures below. At the end of a workshop the instructors always demonstrates the full sequence so that everyone can record for home practicing. The Porto week was great and I enjoyed the city strolls evenly much as the workshops. Festival parties are usually not the dance evenings I enjoy the most since I feel more relaxed when I can dress in the clothes and colors that fits me rather than according to special themes. But it was for sure an interesting and instructive week
Last summer I went back to beautiful Lisbon, this time with my friend Louise. (Find my previous Lisbon posts here>> ) Since I had great experience with Airbnb from Budapest, trying the same concept in Lisbon seemed like the best option. Especially since we were going to spend almost a full week in this amazing city. Rather late at night we checked in to our little apartment in the sweet, local area Sao Bento. Even if the apartment was a bit dark and had a slight smell of mold, the area was perfect. Louise and I had one bedroom each and the beds were super comfy.
After a wonderful night´s sleep we enjoyed a great day exploring the coziness of Lisbon. At night I took Louise to a favorite restaurant called “Sinal Vermelho” which I had found on my previous visit. After dinner we went on to the Rua Nova do Carvalho, also referred to as the “Pink Street“, since it is actually painted all pink. It turns in to one big outdoor pub area at night. We ended the evening with great dancing at the Afro Beat dance club “Music Box”. Oh I loved it!! What a day!
After a perfect start of our vacation I woke up after a second night and soon realized the small bites I had discovered on my arms and legs the previous day, was not mosquito bites. I felt in my gut that I had been the victim of bedbugs for the third time in my life. And here the not so nice day started….
I´ll try to make a long long story short. Apart from all the mental suffering that bedbugs means (the fear of getting the creatures or their eggs with you in clothing and bags) this is when we strongly discovered the backside of Airbnb. In a hotel or hostel we would simply have gone to the reception and gotten a new room. Now we spent a full day having to make expensive calls to US (no Swedish customer service in the weekends). Our hosts unfortunately turned out to not be understanding and supportive at all, but just wanted us out of the apartment so that they could get started with the extermination process. We had nowhere to go and it was tears, sweat and anxiety! At the end we decided to book a hotel in a different area, where we had found a good deal on Booking.com.
Louise was lucky to not have bedbugs in her room and after yet some tears & sweat we got a refund. But the story unfortunately followed us during the vacation since I had to deal with a claim process etc. Despite this we continued to enjoy a great vacation in Lisbon and also in Porto (next post). And our new hotel Sana Rex had an amazing view and great location too. The evening after the exhausting bed bug adventures we went to relax and listen to soothing Fado in Alfama. Something which should not be missed on a visit to Lisbon! On our way back we passed several cozy street kiosk areas. (Read more about Lisbon Kisoks here>>) At one of them people were dancing the Brazilian dance “Forro”on the street. We stayed and watched for a while and I remember feeling so in love with Lisbon! ♥
Lisbon is all about indulging in food, drinks, views, atmospheres, cozy streets, friendly people and, if time allows, the beautiful surrounding areas. Apart from just cruising Lisbon we also spend two days visiting two different beach areas called Estrela & Cascais. After one week in Lisbon we moved on to the city Porto which I will write about in next post.
On our last day in Lisbon, after Porto, we found the “Mercado da Ribeira” which is a big indoor food market with high quality food stalls lined up all around a big open space. You by what you want and eat & drink it at the common tables. This was a big highlight which I can´t wait to repeat in October this year when we´ll be back!! Lisbon delivers!
Appendix 1 | A beach day at Estrela
Appendix 2 | A bedbug full of blood, my bites & how my beds look like after “bed bug check”😉
Last summer me & Robert decided to go to a European city for a full week to really be able to explore in a relaxed way. Budapest was a place that I long had been wanting to visit. In fact I was there as part of an inter-rail journey in my early twenties but I had very little memories from that visit. For this stay we tried Airbnb for the first time. I had chosen a place on the Buda side, which is the less commercial side, since I figured that would be a more peaceful experience. The cute apartment was up on a hill with a balcony looking over to Buda. The host was wonderful and one of our best memories from Budapest is actually this little Airbnb apartment.
A few days I went for a morning walk before Robert woke up. The best part about Budapest is to walk along Danube and I really enjoyed to do some early morning sightseeing on my own at the same time as I got some exercise
Budapest is famous for the many thermal baths. We visited three of them during our stay. The first one we tried was the one displayed below, called Szechenyi. It is the most famous one that everyone visits. We really disliked it since it was too commercial & crowded and we felt the hygiene was bad as well. We also tried the more upscale Gellert which was nice. Also very touristic but with a beautiful outside area for sunny days. Our favorite was for sure Rudas which had one old and one modern part. I really recommend to visit both (they can be purchased as combo or either of them alone). The modern section has an outside hot pool on the roof with Danube views. The old part has many different pools and saunas. I loved it! It was both tourists and locals there and not as busy as the others. I am sure there are many more local baths that are even quieter to be found.
Apart from bathing we mostly walked around, had coffee & cake, visited the markets and discovered nice eateries. Our favorite area to hang out was the Jewish quarter that is mostly famous for the so called ruin bars. Many streets in Budapest are rather wide but the Jewish quarter is a cozy area with nice small streets full of stores, bars & restaurants. Read more about Budapest ruin bars here>>
One evening we had Langos in the Jewish quarter followed by an evening visit to some ruin bars. The ruin bars are both nice during day & night. Many of them are like multi purpose venues that might be a flee market and café during daytime and partyplace or restaurant at night. Below images might illustrate why the bars are called ruin bars😉
On our last evening we went for dinner in a buffet style place almost opposite the beautiful Budapest palace. The place was called “Trofea Grill Etterem”. For a very affordable price one could eat and drink unlimited. After dinner we took a nice evening walk to see all the extraordinary buildings & bridges that Budapest has to offer, lit up in the dark.
To conclude on Budapest I can say that I very much enjoyed to explore the city. I loved the Danube views & the thermal baths. And I really enjoyed the Gallert hill and our sweet apartment on top of it. But I did not connect to the soul of the city. My three European city favorites remains to be Amsterdam, Lisbon & Istanbul! They were all instant love that is still lasting😀
The island Sal in Cape Verde is not so much more than sea and desert. It is said that Cape Verde has an average och 350 sunny days a year and after some dark winter months me & Louise were eager to feel the warmth of this sun.
We were delighted the first day when we saw the white sand and the turquoise water. Luckily I took some pictures that first day because that weather never returned during our week in Sal. We did have another half day of good weather and that was the hours when we went on an island excursion. Therefore it looks on my pictures like we had a sunny week but actually there were dark sky the rest of the days. Since Sal is a very windy island it was almost too cold to lie on the beach most days. And guess what? Still we enjoyed ourselves so much that we are returning in October😉
We had chosen an all-inclusive concept in a resort by the sea, called Belorizonte. No high rise buildings but just cute little bungalows spread out all over the complex. There were three pool areas. The size of the hotel made it possible to always find some peace and quietness. The guests were a good mix of nationalities and types. Lots of Kite Surfers, couples, friends and just a few families with kids (rough sea makes Sal not optimal for children, lucky us ;-)) There was a buffet for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Unfortunately the food was rather tasteless and over cooked. But that helped us keeping weight since one plate was enough😉
At night the animation team gave different shows. I have to state that the animation in the hotel was very moderate and laid back, something we were very thankful for. It was both possible to be entertained in case you wanted that but also possible for a peaceful moment at the sea with just the sound of the waves or at one of the swimming pools.
We stayed close to the town Santa Maria. A small little village with a few shops with souvenirs, mainly from Guinea Bissau, some cafés and a handful of dance bars. We took a stroll through the residential area one afternoon but mostly stuck to a few more lively streets and the beach area.
One day we took a half a day island exploration tour. There is really not that much to see in the island Sal but it was a fun get away in Jeeps and three girls from our city, that we had become acquainted with, were in the same tour And floating in a salt crater was a fun experience!
So what did we enjoy so much that we have the urge to go back? Cape Verde has a very rich culture around music & dance. And me & Louise love to dance. After dinner & the daily show we had the possibility to dance Kizomba with the animation team. And in town you found a few cafés with live music every night with locals dancing traditional Cabo dances like Coladeira, Funana & more. Since we were there around carnival time it was also some Brazilian rhythms played one night. And there was a great local dance bar called Calema in town with Afro house which is the type of music I enjoy mostly nowadays. Check out my YouTube list that I just started for some inspiration, found here>>
Apart from the dance & the music we liked the wind & the rough sea and the endless beach. And the laid back and stress free atmosphere. In October every year a Portuguese travel agency arranges a week of dance in Sal, actually in the same hotel where we stayed. The event is called “Sabor a Cabo Verde”. We will travel back to join this week and after we will continue to explore two more of the totally 9 inhabited islands in Cape Verde, Sao Vicente & Santo Antao. And an extra plus for me with Cape Verde is also that I am studying Portuguese and I love to listen to this amazing language, both spoken and sung.
Already looking forward to next adventure!! Cabo Verde, no stress😉
It was a long time ago since I made a blog post. It s not that I stopped traveling or completed my past travel history. I guess you could say I got a blog burn out which started with me not finding enough time to do both my weekly weekend blog post and have time for my Portuguese studies. But as I love the result of a documented trip I would like to give it a new try And to start with I actually would like to document a wonderful winter day that I was blessed to witness earlier this year in my hometown Göteborg. Snowy winters in the southern part of Sweden is not a guarantee and when we do get snow it tend to melt away evenly fast as it appeared which usually results in nothing but a mess of slush. But one day this winter, Göteborg woke up to an extraordinary landscape that lasted for almost a week. There was no wind and the temperature stayed minus degrees which resulted in an untouched amazing landscape reminding of a real life painting. That week was mostly sunny and the energy I got from the combination of sun and the snow that week made me reconsider if maybe a winter holiday in a guaranteed snowy place, like the Alps or similar, would do me good now and then.
In my first post about Havana I shared some images mainly from Old Havana & the area Vedado where me & Louise had our “Casa”. When we returned to Havana for our last days we discovered the area called Centro Havana a bit more. An area that is excellent for photographing street life. We really loved our late afternoon stroll there that ended down at the Malecón.
Malecón is a 8 km long road that runs along the sea. Depending on the time of the month the waves can splash really high and often spills over on the roads. Malecón is a popular place for young & old to hang out, either in groups or as a romantic couple. We also saw many persons sitting on the wall alone, looking out over the big Ocean and dreaming them self away.
Me & Louise spent our last nights in Havana salsa dancing at famous spots like “La Gruta”, “Jardines del 1830” and “Casa de la Musica”. And during the day we just strolled around and felt rather sad that such an amazing vacation had come to an end. Cuba does something to all visitors. For us it took longer than normal to emotionally process the impressions we gained. Cuba left us wanting more!
How is it possible to be miserable in a Cuban paradise called Cayo Coco? Well, sometimes back at home when planning a vacation, one option might seem like the optimal idea at that time. But when on vacation that same option might turn out to be a bad choice.
Normally when traveling around I always make sure to have the flexibility to cancel any pre-booked accommodation. But in this specific case that was not possible. So what what so bad about Cayo Coco? Nothing really, it was just wrong timing.
In Sweden when making our Cuba rout me & Louise were rather tired and felt the need for rest, peace and quietness. We thought the perfect ending of our vacation would be to spend a few days in a nice resort by the turquoise sea with nothing else around us. That the location was said to be away from the regular Cuban life did not bother us at that time because we knew we would get a lot of Cuban life our 2 1/2 first weeks. But what happened was that we had 2 1/2 amazing weeks before landing in Cayo Coco. We had been resting out through dancing and interacting with many great acquaintances along the way. Coming from Trinidad where we had danced to salsa on the square every night and fallen in love with the great vibe of the place, ending up in this beautiful resort became rather a prison. There was absolutely nothing around our hotel area and watching the tourist friendly shows at night in the lobby made us even more miserable. We tried to play around with our cigars, watch small creatures and appreciate the surrounding but felt sad. Our only interaction was a sweet retired English couple. And the food was the tastiest we had had in Cuba but after the first evening I got an upset stomach and was ill the day after.
We reviewed our options. We had a flight booked back to Havana from Cayo Coco which could not be canceled. So it was not so easy. Finally we decided to “escape” one day earlier than planned so after four days we where on a seven hours bus journey back to Havana. This gave us an extra day there before going back to Sweden and a chance to gain back that wonderful energy that we had accumulated during our first weeks.
Looking back I have no hard feelings. Just another learning about myself and about life
It is a challenge to find blog time in my busy schedule. But to catch up where I left it is time to share some images from Trinidad in Cuba. A colonial colorful city that despite its very present tourist feel captivates and seduces anyone that passes by. Me and Louise spent a few wonderful days in Trinidad and have very warm feeling when looking back.
Some of the best memories took place in the evenings at the open air “Casa de la Musica” live music venue on the stairs of Plaza Mayor. There we socialized and danced salsa and enjoyed the great atmosphere. Since we prioritized being “handbag free” at night to be able to dance freely I don´t have any evening pictures at all. Everything is kept purely as a memory. Below is a selfie of me & Louise before one of our salsa nights😉
Trinidad is mostly about strolling around the picturesque and colorful streets and taking in the atmosphere. The little girls on below pictures got ball pens from Louise. Something, along with many other items, that we were told people lack in Cuba.
A great part about staying in a “Casa Particular” is to have dinner at the casa at night. For a nice price most casas offers a three course meal which is much tastier than what the restaurants offers. In the first image below our hosts are delivering our main dish. Usually the casas have a table or two at their roof top for this purpose. It is also a great way to socialize with the other guest in the casa.
Not too far from Trinidad lays Ancon beach. A beautiful stretch with just a few hotels surrounding. We took a taxi there every day to relax and to watch the cute lizards with the curly tails Upon return to Trinidad it was nice to have an ice-crem and a refreshing drink. Cubans like ice cream and they are pretty OK in taste.
On the afternoon of 31 December 2014 we took a walk up the hill to get a better view over Trinidad. Funnily enough we past the nightclub Ayala were we had been ending our evening two nights before. It is a very unique venue since it is in a cave. But the even more odd thing is that to get there you walk up a long hill which is partially nothing else than a garbage dump. The club itself is really cool. The guard offered us a free daytime tour as we passed by. Despite my claustrophobia this cave was OK for me. Maybe because it was so spacious.
After seeing the beautiful sunset on the way back from our walk, we went back to our casa and had dinner with a bunch of Belgians. Two of them stayed in our casa and another four in other casas. But since they traveled together our casa “Hostal Valmaseda” had offered to arrange the meal for all of them + us. Afterwards our hosts invited us to join their family New Years Eve party which meant dancing like crazy with all generations in their livingroom until the clock struck twelve. It was probably one of my most fun and memorable New Years Eve´s ever! In my last post there are some Youtube clips from the New Years Eve with the family and the Belgians.
On our last day in Trinidad I finally saw to elderly men with cigars that I got to photograph. But it is all for the show. As you can see the man´s cigar is not even lit. In fact I saw very few Cubans smoking cigar. Apart from the tobacco farmers in Vinales.
The day ended with yet another colorful stroll and a sunset drink at the stairs of Casa de la Musica. The live bands started playing around 16:00 every day and went on until after midnight. If there is one place we need to re-visit it will be Trinidad. It is not a question about “if” but only about “when”😀
Since Cuba is so much about the feelings that occurs in the interactions between people & music I decided to make a special post today where I share some short movie clips from mine & Louise vacation in Cuba Most of the evenings we had no camera with us since we wanted to be hands free for the salsa dancing. Naturally the evenings were when a lot of happiness happened but those images are purely recorded in out memories. I hope you will find the following clips inspiring.
Salsa lessons in Havana
A ride along Malecon
Salsa in Vinales square
Cafe musicians in Trinidad
Salsa lessons in Trinidad
Celebrating New Years Eve in Trinidad
Cafe musicians in Havana
I had to admit my feelings were mixed when we decided to put Varadero on our Cuba route. Varadero is the busy number one charter destination in Cuba. But I had also read that Varadero really has the most beautiful beach in Cuba. It is possible to stay at casa particulares (concept explained in this >> post) but we selected an all inclusive resort. When making this choice bare in mind that in Cuba you can deduct two stars from what is actually marketed. While the casas make their utmost to make you feel like a Queen, always keeps super tidied and serves you very well prepared food and drinks, the hotels in Cuba are pretty run down. Cleaners often does not bother to clean unless you leave them tip everyday, even if it is included as a standard service. Waiters will not give attention to your table, even if it is included, unless you tip them. But we have to admit it was kind of good fun. We had picked an average hotel close to the center. And took it for what it was.
So were we happy with our choice? Oh yes! Just scroll down and you will see why😉
The beach was situated about five minutes walk from our hotel Bellevue Palma Real. But it has a snack bar with free drinks as well so it was all very convenient. But what else would you expect from an all inclusive resort? The picture number two below shows how it can also look like if you want to be as close as possible to the drinks & snacks. Luckily the beach is endless and it is possible to find more quiet spots along the beautiful stretch.
We arrived on Christmas Eve and was told it was a special night. And what a welcome! The staff must have been working very hard to present us the most kitschy buffet I have ever seen. Butter creations looking like a mermaid or Santa Claus. Fishy art in gel, mayonnaise rubbed fishes, ham and cheese palm trees and more gelly thins and so fort. It tasted OK as did the buffet the rest of our days. But we were rather happy we had brought some chili from home to spice it up a bit. Let´s put it like this; I managed to get one plate for every meal with things that tempted me. But after eating that I was not tempted to get more😉
Every night after dinner it was possible to watch a nice show in the hotel outdoor theater. There were different performances every night and they were really good!
The hotel itself was OK. Food, drinks & daily entertainment. And if you still wanted more there was always a hotel nearby that had a special club night. We found a nice place close by called Calle 62 where people, both locals and tourists, were dancing on the street to live music. Lot´s of salsa! The good things with Varadero is that there is actually locals living there too😀 We tried the local “Casa de la musica”, a concert/social dancing institution which is found in most big cities throughout Cuba. Casa de la musica´s has a matinée from around 17-21 and a night performance from around 22-02. We tried a matinée called Discotemba and it was just us and locals. Most of the performance is salsa and other typical Cuban bands. But Discotemba is one of a kind. From around 17-19 people just sat and watched old music videos from the 80’s and 90’s which were shown on big screens. People drank beer and sang along. After that a DJ started spinning every things from Y.M.C.A. to Macarena and Cubans of all ages went completely wild. It was a fun experience😉 Una tarde loca!
One day it rained hard. But no worries, the main street in Varadero is actually pretty green and cozy with lot´s of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops to spend your time and money in. Varadero definitely exceeded my expectation. Don´t hesitate to go!