In October 2016 I did not only visit Sal again but also another two of Cape Verde’s islands. One of them is called Santo Antão. It is reachable by boat from Mindelo, on adjacent São Vicente.
The day when we visited was not very clear but as the boat approached Santo Antão I knew that I was going to have a magic day. And I must say that I saw some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen in my life, during the tour.
“Verde” means green in Portuguese but in Sal you see very little green. However in Santo Antão the rain season had just completed and the whole island was extremely fertile.
There is no way I can communicate the extreme beauty that I saw on Santo Antão. And my simple camera is not very good in cloudy conditions so the intense green does not really come through. Despite this I hope I can transmit a tiny bit of my experience through this blog post 🙂 On the first image below you can actually see São Vicente in the background.
Vasco, the organizer of Sabor a Cabo Verde, that I wrote about in my last post >>, joined the tour to São Vicente and Santo Antão but the excursions were led by locals. And Vasco could enjoy the scenery together with the rest of the group 🙂
What we saw was hills and valleys, flowers and greenery, everywhere. The Aloe Vera wriggled along the hillsides. The irregularity of the hills made the landscape very fairytale alike.
Not many people make it to volcanic Santo Antão even though the tourism is growing. The once coming to this island are mainly interested in trekking. It felt like we had in some way discovered an almost untouched paradise.
We passed colorful houses along the coast and down in the valleys the vegetation was so intense that I though I was in a dream. Papayas and bananas all around. Palm trees dangling from the hillsides.
After touring the island almost a full day the last ride was along the coast, back to where we were going to catch our boat back to Mindelo. I managed to get a few shots out of the bus window. And I remember having a very peaceful feeling seeing the rough beauty passing by. And the feeling of being lucky to have seen a true well kept secret.
In October 2016 Louise & I joined a dance trip to Santa Maria in Sal, Cape Verde. Since we had fallen in love with Santa Maria in February last year, we decided to join the festival “Sabor a Cabo Verde”, organized by a Portuguese travel agency. The focus of the week was Kizomba and the instructors were all Cabo Verdianos, even though they all live outside Cape Verde today. I have to admit I am not a festival fan. But this was something different. We had an absolutely amazing week!
The location was hotel “Belorizonte”, the same hotel that we had been staying in in February. The hotel has a relaxed ambiance, is situated right on the beach and has excellent shows every evening. We figured that nothing could go wrong if we went back there and on top added some dance and new acquaintances. We had asked beforehand to stay in the same bungalow area as last time and managed to get one just opposite our “old” 😉 The hotel has all inclusive concept. The food is not a gourmet experience but it is OK. Rather much veggies which I like! And fresh papaya every day!
Louise & I arrived a day before the rest of the group. And that first day was amazingly beautiful! Last time we had clouds and very chilly winds almost the full week. The first day of this trip was actually the first and last day we got with clear blue sky 😉
And so Vasco, in charge of Sabor a Cabo Verde, and a whole bunch of people arrived and the dancing could start. I would say half the group were Swedish & Danish and the rest half mixed Europeans. We had a very nice week with the group, attending workshops during the day and parties during the night. The schedule was not too packed so there was always a lot of relax time. I did attend a lot of workshops but not all, and also not all evening activities. I liked the freedom of having the possibility to dance and be social but also to chill and go my own way. Vasco is a real sweet heart too and was never far away if support was needed. 2016 the instructors were Ze Rui, Ze Barbosa, Isaac Barbosa, Tony Pirata & Avelino Chantre. The schedule for 2017 is found here>>
Belorizonte has a very talented animation team that entertains hotel guests every evening with shows & fun. My favorite nigh is the Africando show where the group performs different dances from allover Cape Verde. After the shows finish there is always some fun on the stage for the audience, with the possibility to try some of the dances, with focus on Kizomba. Or Coladeira, as the style traditionally danced in Cape Verde is called. The shows and the fun are always available in Belorizonte. But due to Sabor a Cabo Verde even more fun was arranged every evening. Sometimes the group stayed at the hotel for common dinner and dancing and some nights were organized at different locations in the little town of Santa Maria or elsewhere in the tiny little island.
After 9 days in Sal me and Louise joined Sabor a Cabo Verde extended stay, including the exploration of two other islands in Cape Verde. But that is for next post :-). Finally, those knowing me or that follows my blog knows that whenever me and Louise travels together we usually have “odd” weather. And this trip was of course no exception. The full week in Sal did not offer that much sun, however the climate was warmer than in February and very pleasant. At some point big waves started to role in and even caused a small flood for the following days. Few pictures below 😉
After spending about two weeks in Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, described in last post, me & Louise finished our vacation with 5 full days in Bangkok. We had picked a nice hotel in the area Sukhumvit. We felt like spoiling ourself with a good hotel and doing so in Bangkok is really affordable. The side streets (Sois) in Sukhumvit were rather narrow, green and cozy, like above 🙂 In Sukhumvit there are plenty of eateries & entertainment but most of the sights are in other parts of the city. Luckily the Skytrain was never far away.
We did visit the “must see” temples to see some gold & Buddhas. But what I enjoyed the most was the open air markets and the roof top bars. Thank´s to blogger Mitziemee we got some advice that helped us along the way 🙂
We did visit the popular Chat tu Chat market one day but the most interesting market for us was the night market Rot Fai. It was a bit out of the center but once there we were really rewarded. I think we only saw 15-20 other tourist in the whole evening. Rot Fai is a very local happening and the majority of the crowd are young and hip. Rot Fai is as much about eating and the pub scene as for shopping. The area is enormous and one section was entirely focused on vintages stores, mostly American themes. However that specific area was empty and a bit spooky when we were there.
There is a part in Bangkok which used to be called the “Venice of Asia”. It is possible to take a boat ride on the so called Khlongs (canals) and watch how people are living on the water. Most houses looked like they would fall apart anytime but there were some better areas too. It was an interesting thing to do but nothing I would prioritize if short of time.
We spent one entire day to visit both the Grand Palace area and also the close by Wat Pho. Grand Palace was extremely busy and a bit stressful. If I knew what I know now I would have skipped it and only done the Wat Pho. The first four pictures below are from Grand Palace and the other once from the Wat Pho. With other words, you see gold and Buddha in both places but wat Pho is so much more relaxed. And it is also famous for the “must see” Reclining Buddha, the huge one that is lying down. He was so big that I could not get all toes in one picture 😉
When I was younger I always stayed in the notorious area Khao San Road. Since I was very curious of the development there, we ended up going one evening. What I noticed was how the whole area had expanded. It is not only about Khao San Road anymore but the whole district is very tourist focused. There are many streets with bars and restaurants and a massage is never far away, whether you prefer to have a foot massage just beside the bar or in a more sophisticated clinic. We did not stay late enough for the party to start but what we did notice was how all places wanted to outdo each other when it came to playing as loud music as possible. Finally I would like to say that the area is very cozy and it is nice to stroll around and have something to eat and drink in this part of the city.
Even though we were not particular into shopping in Bangkok we decided to visit some malls around Siam Square one day. The most famous one for tourists is the MBK. We really did not like it and tried to get out as quick as possible after looking around for a little while. A lot what is sold are the same things that tourists will come across anywhere in Thailand. And the ambience was not very friendly.
We liked the food section in Paragon the most. I think we spent two hours there 😉 They had an enormous cake section and it all looked delicious. I found my favorite pastries from Portugal called Pastel de Natas. They had everything for sale including a huge section of strawberry cakes 😛 For lunch we had hamburger. And later the same day we had sushi in another food court.
Finally I want to cover my favorite section which was the Sky bars! On advice from Sanne, alias Mitziemee, we took a drink at Red Sky during their happy hours (two for one). Red Sky is close to Siam Square and good to combine with shopping. The views were not the most fantastic even though situated on the 55th floor but the design of the restaurant and the color changing arch is impressive.
Another advice from Sanne was to visit Above Eleven, situated in Sukhumvit where we were staying. The place was trendy and partyish and situated in a nice area on the 32nd floor. Being on that level gives another feel since one is closer to the buildings surrounding. The night when we went it was Latino night so I even ended up dancing some Salsa 😀 We enjoyed the vibe and the views a lot and their Peruvian/Japanese fusion menu was very tasty.
If I only could have visited one sky bar out of the three we went to, it would for sure have been Moon Bar. Moon Bar, and adjacent restaurant Vertigo, are situated on the 61th floor. But it is more than the hight, the views were absolutely amazing from Moon Bar and the bar is as “al fresco” as it can be with views in any direction. One thing which is worth mentioning is that it is bloody expensive to have a drink at a roof top bar in Bangkok. But we saw it as a kind of “entrance” to the views. Moon bar took the price but seeing below views made it all worth 😉
We had some nice days in Bangkok but I am far away from “In Love” and not so eager to return. I enjoyed to get a glimpse of the versatility of the city. From the Khlongs to the touristy Khao San road. And glittery Grand Palace and Wat Pho to the local young and hip Rot Fai. And also to see the upscale parts of Bangkok in Paragon food court and at the Sky bars. But the city did not stole my heart.
During Christmas & New Year 2016/2017 me & my travel friend went three weeks so Thailand. Louise had never been to Thailand and I was curious to see what had happened since last. I went to Thailand for the first time around 20 years ago and then again around 15 years ago. I also had a short stop in Bangkok 10 years ago.
We had chosen to visit the South East islands Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Since we had heard Chaweng Beach, which was our first stop in Koh Samui, was a very commercial place we had picked a hotel a bit away from the center up on a hill. It was a very nice little retreat to acclimatize and with the sun shining almost the whole first day our hopes for the vacation were high!!
Koh Samui | Chaweng Beach
First I like to say that even though most of my pictures will look sunny we only saw the sun about 4-5 half days! And naturally that is when I had my camera out. I guess it will sound unbelievable to be three weeks in Thailand during December/January and hardly see sun but that is what happened to us. It started of reasonable in Koh Samui and our first day in Koh Phangan but then a delayed monsoon rain hit…
We only stayed three nights in Chaweng beach and that was enough. It is very commercial and busy. There is hardly any space on the beach as you can see on below picture.
On Christmas Eve, which is when Swedes celebrate the most, we had decided to meet up with a girl I got to know in Panama some years ago, in a beach close by. The taxi ride there was a rip of and we never managed to catch up since we had different understandings of which day we actually should meet. The area was closing down extremely early and we were happy to find somewhere to grab a Pad Thai before heading back to Chaweng again. We made up for the poor Christmas Eve experience the next day with a great seafood plate by the seafront. Those are things that are very affordable to do in Thailand. Another thing that is very cheap is to have massage. I think I had at least 10 foot massages during our trip. On one of below images Louise played around with the camera, can you see her? 😉
Koh Phangan | Thong Nai Pan Yai Beach
It was interesting to spend a few days in Chaweng to understand how the development has transformed what was once a tranquil place. But we hoped to find more peace in Koh Phangan. Yes, it is true that Koh Phangan is known for its huge full moon parties once a month. But it is a big island and I had read that there are amazing places to find on the island. We had decided to see two sides of the island. Our first stop was Thong Nai Pan Yai where we had splurged our selves with a better bungalow that appeared to even more luxury than we had prepared ourselves for. We had a little patio with own pool and chill area. The sun shined as we arrived after a short boat ride. And our hope for a relaxing vacation on the beach was higher than ever 😉
We stayed in Thong Nai Pan Yai for four nights. It was a very sleepy little place with beautiful green surroundings. Our fist day was very beautiful with calm turquoise water. But the day after that it started. It had become very windy and during the night lots of garbage had blown up on the beach. People spend a full day cleaning it away. But we still could enjoy two hours of sun in the afternoon. All in all our days on this side of Koh Phangan were very relaxing.
Koh Phangan | Haad Yao Beach
After four nights on the east side of Koh Phangan we moved to the west side to Haad Yao. Yet an extraordinary beautiful beach! Our bungalow was simple and a bit up on a hill. Just a short walk away there was a beach which they say are usually as wide as a football field. But unfortunately there was a very hide tide when we were there so even if we could have sunbathed it was more or less impossible since there was no beach to lie on. Since we only had half a sunny day during our four nights in Haad Yao it did not matter that much to us. We focused on eating nice and shilling bye the water listening to the waves and hoping the sun would come out. In the late afternoons the tie went down a bit and the restaurants could put out their tables in the sand.
Koh Phangan Count Down Party
On the 31th of December we took a cab to Haad Rin beach to attend the 2016 Count Down Party. The organizer was the same as the famous full moon party, which usually draw between 20 000 to 30 000 party goers.
We did like everyone else and bought a bucket with some “hard stuff” to keep us awake all night. We had heard that people would be colorfully dressed so we did our best to melt in 🙂
Nothing could have prepared us for the size if this party. What you see below is just a fraction. A whole long beach was filled of people dancing. There was about 10 different venues having DJ´s playing all sorts of music. The crowed was mostly young and painted in fluorscent colors. We actually spent more time walking than dancing. It was a very interesting night. I guess for some even more interesting than for us since we discovered that the grayish milkshake many people bought in one specific club was a magic mushroom drink that was supposed to enhance your evening. We had a great night people watching but both felt that “seen that done that”.
Koh Tao | Sairee Beach
After Koh Phangan it was time to hit our last island for this trip, Koh Tao. So far we had seen the sun about 3 half and 1 full day and were very eager to relax on the beach. I had seen images of Koh Tao and knew it was a beautiful island. And as a small note I also like to say that you might have to be Swede (or Nordic) to understand this obsession with sun 😉
We stayed four nights. On the first day we had 4 hours without rain. Then we took a walk to a beautiful beach called Sai Nuan. On the way back it started to rain heavy and we had to stop to have cake and coffee in one of the many cafés that you nowadays find everywhere in Thailand.
Unfortunately the rain never stopped after that and the next two days we were more or less stuck in our hotel room since the non stop monsoon rain that arrived cause floodings. We lived a bit up on a hill and were lucky to have a dry room with functioning toilet and shower. We also had a great restaurant and a bar just opposite our street so twice a day we managed to cross the road to get something to eat and drink. The picture below shows how our street looked like. We heard further down there were places were cars could not even drive anymore and where the water was up to the waist if trying to walk. Tourists did not manage to catch their boat and we were starting to get really worried as we listened to the heavy rain poring down with out a pause.
We were lucky and made it to the harbor after there had been some effort to get water away enough to bring people to the boats.
Summarizing the two weeks on those three islands I must say that even though we felt the vacation was partially destroyed by the weather I don´t think I would have felt “wow” even with sun. The nature was fantastic but the authentic feeling was missing, the locals had stopped smiling and it was very difficult to walk around since the streets were overloaded by youngsters trying to ride a motorbike. About 1/4 of all young back packers we saw on the streets wore bandages from injuries. It was really much worse than it sounds, it was not relaxing at all to stroll around. And many bring their own sound speakers with them everywhere they go, so just listening to the nature was impossible since you must live with other peoples individual and selfish manners everywhere you go. I loved Thailand in my twenties but I will not go back anymore. There are so many other beautiful places in the world to be discovered and I have seen so much authentic beauty lately that I noticed my expectations have raised. One final reflection is that my discovery of Afro and Latin dances has also brought an insight that destinations where this kind of music is played and where people smile and dance a lot are the places that appeals to me right now. Every thing has its time. And everyday I learn about myself.
Last weekend me & Louise went to London to visit our friend Ann who we met in Portugal last summer. What brought us together initially is the love for Kizomba dancing. Ann came over to visit in November last year when the famous Kizomba artist Nelson Freitas performed at a party here in Gothenburg. And now it was time for me & Louise to visit Ann in London. The main purpose was dancing which we did Friday (Festac), Saturday (Vicio) & Sunday (Seebos). All nights different places, out of central London. And all nights different vibes! All in all we had a blast. In Vicio I experienced the best dance evening ever! Londoners are more into “tradtional/original” Kizomba which for me is the type of Kizomba that gives me most joy. Urban Kizomba, which is the preferred style for many European dancers, is fun too but the challenging footwork and the spins sometimes comes at the expense of lost connection.
Despite the hectic night schedule we did have some time for sightseeing too on Saturday & Sunday afternoon 😀
On Saturday afternoon me & Louise started of with some amazing fish & chips. With a view! After that we took a walk along the South bank of the Thames for a while before deciding to hop on the tube for Camden and some people watching. It was a nice day and when we got back to Ann´s house, lasagna & wine was waiting before a small nap & some Redbul to get going for the evening. 😉
On Sunday we woke up to a lovely English breakfast. Ann was such a perfect & sweet host to us and on top of that the view from her central London apartment was unbeatable. The sun was shining and we decided to start with a walk along the docks and towards London Tower Bridge & Tower of London. Ann joined us and it felt very luxurious to just follow our local guide 😉 The area where Ann lives, Wapping, is so beautiful!
After the Thames walk Ann wanted to show one of her favorite weekend spots. The Old Spitalfields market. Since my back had become a bit sore from all dancing & walking I insisted we start with a beer break 😉 After that we walked around the market which was absolutely lovely. A handicraft market and with a food stall section with delicious treats from all around the world. I loved it!
After a cupcake treat we moved on to St Paul´s. From the rooftop of the shopping mall “One New Change” we had a lovely view over the St Paul´s Cathedral. There we took a rest in the sun, feeling grateful for having such a nice weekend, before it was time to head back to Wapping and to get ready for a last night of dance before our morning flight back home. We had such an amazing weekend that we just felt like re-doing it all again straight away after coming home 😉 Thank´s Ann!
For the third time 2015 I booked an Airbnb apartment, this time in Serbia’s capital Belgrade where me & Louise spent a few amazing days last fall. Scroll to the end if you want to see the extraordinary apartment we rented!!! It was in a perfect location, in the area Skadarlija.
Both me and Louise loved Belgrade. It positively surprised us in all ways. There was actually only one thing we disliked and that was that people still smoke inside cafes and restaurants and Serbians smoke A LOT. But apart from that Belgrade is so cozy. It is green, picturesque, friendly and both traditional & trendy. It has great eateries & nightlife and many very affordable beauty salons. And there are plenty of great areas for walking along the Danube and just relax. Belgrade is famous for its many restaurant & bar boats lined up along the rivers. Most had closed for the season when we were there but I can imagine Belgrade is fantastic during summertime for this reason.
Belgrade has a lot of cafes with delicious pastries. We found our favorite where we lived 😛 They also sold small animal cakes that were so adorable it was hard to eat 😉
The great thing with Belgrade is that there are not so many “must see attractions” which is just what I wanted. That left plenty of time to just stroll around in the great autumn weather and enjoy the cozy Belgrade streets. One day we went hunting for street art. There are a lot in Belgrade and some are really great!
Belgrade also has a lot of nice restaurants, both traditional but also many alternative & arty places that you will not stumble upon but through some pre-research we managed to find some local gems. One was really special. It had no sign and was based in an apartment. Very tricky to find but well worth the effort since they served absolutely amazing vego food in an intimate and beautifully decorated space which felt more like dining in someones private home.
Even though we had an apartment we went out for breakfast every day. One nice thing for us was of course that we could splurge rather much in Serbia since everything was about 60% of Swedish prices. And Belgrade has so many cozy cafés that makes delicious omelettes that it was always a great start of the day to have breakfast out.
After a sturdy breakfast our last day in Belgrade started with a visit to the beautiful Kalemegdan park with nice views over the fort and the river Sava & Danube.
Our last afternoon was spent at a spa called “Bali Detox Center”, just around the corner from where we lived. After a nice massage & facial we did a detox treatment which started with a foot bath with some kind of electrical thing connected that was supposed to eliminate toxic in the body. Depending on your problem areas the water took a different color. Very interesting 😉 After we had the final treatment, which was a foot massage, we headed out to have some nice Serbian dinner before spending a last night at our amazing apartment “Yugodom”.
Appendix | Our beautiful apartment “Yugodom”
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 a bit tasteless and over cooked. But that helped us keeping weight since one plate was enough 😉
At night the animation team gave different great shows and it was also possible to try some Cabo dances afterwards :-). I have to state that the day time 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 😉