Category Archives: Portugal

Cold winds, hot dance & a lot of Port :)

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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 😉

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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 😉

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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 🙂

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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 😛

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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 🙂

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Back to cozy Lisbon

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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!

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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! ♥

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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.

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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!

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Appendix 1 | A beach day at Estrela

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Appendix 2 | A bedbug full of blood, my bites & how my beds look like after “bed bug check” 😉

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Lazy days in Lagos

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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 🙂

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Our lovely room, with fully equipped pentry:

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Quiet days in Vila Nova de Milfontes

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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 🙂

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Extra material: some kind of Portuguse hot dog 😉

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Beachlife around Lisbon

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

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

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

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

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Just a short train ride from Lisbon – Sintra

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

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

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

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Lisbon food, drinks and entertainment

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

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

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

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One especially nice Australian girl that I had met in the hostel, and who actually was brave enough to join me to Bairro the first time (which was a bit out of the center), came back for a second time to Lisbon after  traveling around for a few days. On her last night, before returning back to Australia, we decided to go for a great dinner. And we were extremely lucky to find “Sinal Vermelho” where we ate amazing food.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The feeling of Lisbon

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

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

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

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

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

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