Tagus River

My Secret Trip to Lisbon

Yes. I did it. After thinking about it several times before I finally had the guts to go to Lisbon and not tell anyone about it.

It was my first holiday with a friend and I took her to meet my lovely city, Lisbon.

Being a tourist in my own city was amazing. We used public transport and Uber a lot, visited some of my favorite places and even discovered new ones.

We stayed in a very central hotel and loved the place. The beds were so good that we were fine with an average of just 5 hours’ sleep per night.

Day One:
We dropped the bags at the hotel as it was too early to check in and headed to Belém for lunch. We had steaks with river views at Portugália. Grabbed some “pastéis de Belém” and visited the tropical gardens nearby. We got a Uber back to the hotel as we were super tired then and needed to recharge our internal batteries to be OK for the night ahead of us.
Tagus RiverSteak at Portugalia

 

 

 

 

Casinha ChiadoTemplarios Bar XPTOLater we had a light dinner at Chiado before our big night out with live music at Templários bar with XPTO.The show was incredible and the fact that we can smoke inside mind-blowing for my friend. Even though we were tired we stayed up until pretty late that night.

Day Two:
OceanariumParque das NacoesWe spent endless hours at the Oceanarium and strolled around Parque das Nacoes enjoying the sunshine. I was pretty much dead by the end of the day and needed to lay in bed for a quick nap before going out for dinner. We had a lovely fondue, good wine and chocolate mousse for dessert in great company. The conversation flow was great even with the non-fluent English.

Day Three:
Alfama Street ArtBasilica da EstrelaThe 28 tram! What a mission it is nowadays to get to ride on it. I used to take this to and from school every day and I swear it was not nearly as busy. We still did it but it was not the best experience. We visited Basilica da Estrela and got the stairs all the way to the rooftop. Back on the 28 we headed to Alfama and from there we walked to get the boat to the other side. It was a cute short boat ride on the old “cacilheiro”. It was cool we got an old boat and not the new ones that might be faster but like in character.

CacilheiroCosta da Caparica BeachWe used Uber from Cacilhas to my favorite beach. We had lunch at the beach bar and decided to walk a few miles back to town by the sea. Walking made us hungry so we ate some “caldo verde” (cabbage soup) and “pao com chourico” (bread with chorizo). I thought I wasn’t going to be hungry to have dinner but after a spa session back at the hotel and close to 11pm I decided I wanted to have dinner! Got Sanam to put on some clothes and we walked around the corner for delicious burgers and Caipirinhas at Honorato.

Day Four:
Galapos BeachBeachWe were lucky enough to get our own personal tour guide for the day. He drove us around the Arrábida area, we walked the most beautiful beaches, visited cape Espichel and Sesimbra castle. Chilled at the beach before a dinner of grilled sandwiches with the most entertaining service. And finally had drinks at Fonte da Telha at a beach bar. I never expected to do so much in one day! I don’t get to visit that area very often so it was amazing to revisit and share it with friends made it even more special.

Cabo EspichelCastelo de SesimbraCabo Espichel

 

 

 

 

 

Day Five:
Sintra! We got there by train and it was an easy and cheap journey. The first stop was Quinta da Regaleira and the queue was of a decent size. We walked around one of the most photographed places in Portugal and enjoyed it. It was my first time there believe it or not. From there we decided to get a Uber to Palácio da Pena and were lucky enough to get one with a panoramic roof! If you’ve ever done that road you will know how amazing that is. The queue for the palace was not as bad and we got in pretty quickly. Visited the palace and after that we were dead and ready to get back to Lisbon.

Quinta da Regaleira Pena Palace Quinta da Regaleira

Day Six:
Easyjet Planetime to go snapIt was time to leave so we chilled at the hotel after a good breakfast at our usual spot around the corner at Delta. We finished packing and checked out. On our way to the airport we stopped at Vasco da Gama shopping center for lunch outside in the balcony with river view. From there it is a quick tube ride to the airport.

It was an amazing break in Lisbon in great company. Cannot wait to do another holiday like this one!

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Praia dos pescadores

Portugal Travel Diary III

This is the last post of this travel diary. Hope you have enjoyed it so far.

Lazy Sunday

CrepeAfter a late breakfast at the local café we headed to a family lunch. That stretched through the afternoon with the conversation flowing.

Once we reached Ericeira we were feeling peckish and ended up at the café again for crepes and milkshakes. Totally skipped dinner after that!

Mad Monday

x-rayWe had a quiet morning and lunch at home before the long day ahead. Afterwards we drove to Lisbon. I had to get an x-ray of my elbow before my second appointment at the hospital. Once that was done we quickly went to collect our passports (not far from the hospital). We got back just in time to see my doctor. The news were not terrible but I will need further treatment. To start off with we had to go buy an elbow brace somewhere else in Lisbon. This is becoming quite an expensive elbow as I have spent over £250 on it already!

Once my elbow affairs were sorted we did some shopping at Decathlon and Zara. We also picked up some of our stuff from my mum’s place (the one closer to Lisbon) before heading back to Ericeira.

Leaving Tuesday

The day was spent with family just enjoying a foggy day at Ericeira. A walk by the beach and an amazing homemade lunch totally made the day. The lobster was delicious!

I was not missing home yet. I felt I could stay a little longer this time. And it’s not just the weather as it is not even that hot at the moment. Can’t really pinpoint why to be honest but I am going to miss Portugal a little more than usual.

sunset at ericeira

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Praia da Gaivota

Portugal Travel Diary II

As promised I am back for a Sunday post.

Alentejo Wednesday

Quinta do Moinho de VentoAfter a good night sleep we headed to Mabi for breakfast. This is the most popular choice in the area for breakfast and it didn’t disappoint.

To soak up the Sun we picked Almograve and stretched our beach towels at Nossa Senhora beach. The water was cold but still we went in for a little bit. After getting all the Vitamin D we went back to Milfontes for lunch.

Farol Cabo SardaoIn the afternoon we went for a little Instagram mission and visited a lighthouse and another beach. No matter how many times we visit this part of Portugal we always discover something new. The beach was stunning and there was no one else there (check my Instagram for pictures).

Back at our room we showered and got ready to go out for dinner. Even though it is September and midweek the restaurants were packed and we struggled to find a table!

Road Trip Thursday

Heading back North we visited a few beaches on the way and it took us all day to reach home in Ericeira.

PatachoThe first stop was at Patacho beach to check out a shipwreck. We visited Pessegueiro Island beach and a few amazing beaches around Porto Covo including Sao Torpes which is known for its hot waters. The water was not exactly hot but it wasn’t as cold as the other beaches.

 

Comporta Beach

Lunch was in Sines and it was pretty good. Last minute we decided to visit Comporta to enjoy the sunshine. This place is pretty spectacular as the stretch of sand is so long you cannot see where it ends.Cais Palafitico

 

Before getting back on the road home we stopped at “Cais Palafitico” in Carrasqueira to take a few pictures. This is quite a picturesque place and worth a visit if you’re around.

Once we reached Ericeira we were super tired! We showered and enjoyed a lovely homemade meal at my mum’s place before bedtime.

Chilled Friday

We didn’t do much all day. Lunch was at a closeby restaurant and the afternoon was spent sunbathing at home on the terrace.

After a delicious dinner at home we drove to a town nearby to spend time with some friends. It was such a nice chat time flew by and we only got back at around 2am.

Family Saturday

My brother and his girlfriend came round for lunch and we had a lovely time catching up over lunch. It is nice to just talk and have no pressures to do “all the things”. Feels good to just relax and enjoy each others’ company.

Home

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Galé Beach

Portugal Travel Diary I

Thought I would do a different type of post as it is the first time I am away since I launched the blog. I even managed to fit my laptop in my hand luggage just to keep you all updated with new posts on the usual days.

This is what I have been up to so far in Portugal:

Travel Day

Luton Airport Rain Drops and Rainbow

We got delayed at rainy Luton and got to Portugal a bit later than planned ending up only reaching the arrivals’ area around 10pm. It had been a long time since we were in Portugal and the family was waiting for us. Even the dog came to the airport! Once we were all hugged out we walked to the rental car place together. Only to find out that as we were quite late they did not have the car we had picked online. We rented Diesel as we are going to travel a bit and Diesel is cheaper here. But Sixt did not let us down and quickly found a car for us. A black and beautiful Audi A1. I am super happy with this one, it is the first time we rented an Audi.

The drive home was quick and when we got home my mum had dinner almost ready. One of my favourites. Fricassé chicken.

Touristy Sunday roam and exploring an abandoned building

Azenhas do Mar Beach

Sunday started a little blue with us feeling a bit uneasy with the fact that we had no plans and no commitments for the day. Soon we sorted that out by deciding to go for a drive to check out the beaches around Sintra and later going to an abandoned restaurant to take some pictures.

First we went for a walk at Azenhas do Mar beach as this is one of my favourite places around Lisbon.

magoito beach

Afterwards we struggled to find a restaurant that had free tables and allowed dogs. Once we found one (at Praia das Macas) the service was so slow that we waited an hour to get our starters. The food was OK but I would not go back due to the poor service.

No longer starving we headed to Magoito beach. Shockingly I had never been there before. It has the most beautiful views! We soaked in the Sun and got some nice shots before we left.

The golden hour was running out so we rushed to the next photo mission place. The abandoned Panoramic Restaurant in Monsanto. The signs outside warn about entering this place as it is strictly forbidden and doing so could lead to spending 3 months in prison. This is a little scary but seeing some kids inside we did not hesitate in going in too.

Panoramico Monsanto

Everything was pretty clean inside and even though the walls are covered in graffiti the place is really impressive. The views of the city are great too. It is a shame that this place is not open for the public to visit legally.

Sunset at Panoramico de Monsanto

I have to say I was a little scared of getting caught as I am not one to just ignore the law and enter private property without authorization. Because of that we ended up getting out pretty quickly and not getting great shots.

At the end of the day we were exhausted!

Admin Monday

As this was the first working day of our time in Portugal we had already planned to go get our passports renewed. We had a bet on how long the wait would be. The bets were between 30 to 46 minutes but we ended up being called less than a minute after we got there! And were out in less than 10 minutes. Great service too as the guy was in good spirits and did everything so efficiently.

With time to spare we tried to book a haircut. And failed! They were booked up for the whole day already.

Portugalia Steak and Egg

Then we moved on to going to the bank to sort out some paperwork. This took a lot longer than expected and we were super hungry by the end of it. Lunch was at Portugália and it was lovely.

It was super hot outside so we decided to go home to get some rest. Later we went to the private hospital for an orthopedic appointment as I was (and still am) suffering from pain in my right elbow. The diagnostic was elbow tendonitis. I will need to go back for a second appointment next week.

Road Trip to Milfontes Tuesday

Praia da Gale Rocks

The plan was to get up early and make a move but we ended up enjoying breakfast in family instead. Our first stop was Praia da Galé just to take some pictures. The easiest access is via the camping site so we walked through it to reach one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. A few shots after we got out of there and gave a lift to a couple of hitchhikers that were leaving the camping site and were heading South.

Milfontes Beach

After lunch we got back on the road towards Vila Nova de Milfontes. We checked in once we arrived and headed to town to do a little shopping before exploring the local beaches. As it was too windy we didn’t do a lot of sunbathing as there was a lot more of “sandbathing” going on instead.

Even though the Sun was pretty much gone I braved into the cold waters of the swimming pool for a little bit before a hot shower.

Dinner was Pizza and Sangria and we loved it. It is so good to be back to one of our favourite holiday spots in the World.

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my hand luggage

Hand Luggage

Hard to remember the last time I checked in a bag! At first it might seem daunting not being able to take “everything you need” with you. But really it’s not such a big deal and you get better at it.

There are a few pros and cons of travelling with hand luggage only and of course it’s up to you to choose what suits you best.

Pros:

  • You save money as checking in bags can be quite expensive
  • You save time as you can go straight to security and there is no need to wait for that bag to show up at the conveyor belt for endless minutes after a tiring flight
  • No uncertainty regarding possible lost luggage
  • Less bags to carry around
  • Easier to find your stuff as it will all be in one bag (before it is all over the place)
  • Usually no struggle to fit your luggage in the rental car.

Cons:

  • The liquids’ restrictions can be a bit of a pain as you won’t be able to take a lot with you and some products don’t even come in 100ml (or less) bottles
  • The amount of clothes you can take with you is fairly limited
  • Packing can take longer as you need to be more selective with what you are taking with you
  • Not being able to buy stuff when away and bring it back.

Now, a few notes and tips to go on a hand luggage only adventure:

  • If you live in the UK most of your “liquid” necessities will be available at Boots inside the airport after security so you can buy all you need there and take a carrier bag with those on the plane no questions asked
  • Coming back you can always buy gifts or any local treats at the airport. It will be more expensive but not as much as checking in bags
  • Anything you are not sure you are going to need when away and that you can easily buy it there (like an extra jacket) just don’t bother taking it and use it as an excuse to buy something new for yourself. If it doesn’t fit in your hand luggage coming back you can always wear it
  • If you own a big camera you can usually take it with you outside the bag. At least I never had any issues with it
  • And always double-check each airline’s  hand luggage maximum dimensions/weight allowed as you don’t want any unplanned extra charges.
Hope this post was helpful. Whether you do it light like me or you’re taking your closet with you I hope you have the best time! Enjoy travelling!

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bruges by night

Belgium Road Trip

I know, I know, super random. Definitely not your typical road trip destination. But I thought we could take exploring European cities to a new level. And we did it.

Throw back to a 5 day road trip in December 2014.

Instead of flying there as we usually do we decided to get the Eurostar to Brussels. Train journeys are not as tiring as flying so that was a plus of choosing Eurostar. We got a car at the station and after a couple of hiccups with the process we got out of there.

Driving in Brussels is not for everyone but thankfully we found our way out soon enough. We headed to Bruges where we were staying the first night.

airbnb brugesIt was our first experience with Airbnb. The house was massive with a cute little garden and a cat. Getting in was easy as the key was in a secret spot waiting for us. The only problem was that our hosts did not turn the heating on until later so we froze a little bit. After cooling down (literally) at home we headed out for a walk around Bruges (and for waffles). I would recommend Bruges for a day out only as I didn’t think there was a lot to do or see there (even with the Christmas market). Dinner was at Ribs ‘n Beer and it was delicious. If you are visiting maybe try to book a table as it seemed quite busy.

The day after we accidentally broke the house rules! We let the cat up in our room! The hosts were out but would be back at any time so we had to figure out a way of leading the cat downstairs again. Preferably without anyone getting hurt. Luckily he decided to follow me right before the hosts got back into the house.

AntwerpenOn the second day we headed East as we were staying in Genk the next couple of nights. You might think, why Genk? You probably never even heard of it before. Staying in Belgium is quite expensive so I browsed the map for less known cities and came across Genk so I booked a hotel there. That day trip was Antwerp. Totally worth a visit. Don’t miss the train station!

Our accommodation was in the middle of the woods and was quite a cool place to stay. Very modern and comfortable too.

The next day we mixed it up a bit by heading to Germany. It was our first time there. Cologne was not too far from Genk so we went to check out the famous Christmas market. It didn’t disappoint. As we were enjoying visiting different countries so easily we drove to Maastricht for dinner. We wanted to see a little more of Maastricht as we got there at night the previous day so we went back on the following day before driving to our next accommodation.

Ghent was our last stop.

Ghent cityMy expectations for Ghent were quite low. But it turned out to be my favourite place in Belgium. Full of history, beautiful buildings and bridges. And of course another great Christmas market.

The hotel in Ghent was the creepiest place ever! The pictures did not translate the eery energy in there. Big house on a quiet road, high ceilings and the friendliest most horror movie alike receptionist. We soon found out that not long ago the building used to be a mental health hospital as they kindly provided that information in a booklet left in the room. As that was going to make me enjoy my stay a bit more!

ribs in ghentWe got out of there to explore the city and had an all you can eat dinner of pork ribs. It was super delicious. Ribs are a thing in Belgium. If you like pork just enjoy it because they know what they are doing when it comes to ribs.

waffles with creamOn the last day we had breakfast in Ghent.  I had the most delicious waffle. We were chatting away at the coffee shop when the waiter asked if we were Portuguese. He had some friends in Portugal so he recognized the language.  We had a nice chat about Portugal and he even showed us pictures he took there.

Sadly the time to drive back to Brussels came very soon. The drive was supposed to be an easy one but we got caught up in traffic! Luckily we didn’t miss our train back to London.

I quite enjoyed Belgium and it is good choice for a quick city break in Europe. I would definitely visit Ghent again.

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quinta da regaleira

Stressful Times

We are now less than a month away from our first official visit to Portugal this year!

And, yes, I am super used to booking holidays all the time throughout the year. And, no, we do not need to think about where we are staying as we have our own bedroom there (actually we have two now). But it is one of the most stressful holidays to plan.

So we have time for everyone and everything we need to do There is a lot of thinking that goes into it.

There is a day when we sit down and panic! That day was today. We look at the calendar and juggle the dates. We figure out a thousand possible combinations to make it work.

This time we must renew our passports as they expire in December. So it really needs to be done. There is also a birthday, a possible weekend with my family, friends to see and a new restaurant to visit. Pretty sure I am forgetting something but I am only human.

I would also love to escape for a couple of days to have some real holiday time. Hopefully I can fit that in too. Wish me luck.