Sunday, 21 October 2018

24HRS IN SINTRA, PORTUGAL | TRAVEL GUIDE


So, from my last post, I think we already established I absolutely loved Lisbon. After spending 3 days there, we spend out last day in Sintra -  a quaint small town near Lisbon in the foothill of the Sintra Mountains.

It used to be a royal sanctuary, which essentially means there are endless castles around the town and in the mountains. You could easily spend a few days just visiting different castles; however, since we only had a day we decided to only visit two and take it easy. 

The first one we visited was Quinta da Regaleira. Whilst there are buses that can take you from the train station to most of the castles, we decided to take an Uber as it was very cheap (genuinely less tan 5€) and much easier! 



Quinta da Regaliera is a massive estate with a castle, a chapel, a lake, grottoes and, most importantly, a really cool well called the Initiation Well. You can walk down it and it looks like something you would fine in Narnia or another fantasy movie. I was expecting to find the Upside Down once I reached the bottom but, unfortunately or fortunately, I only found some spooky underground tunnels. Still cool though. 

After we had walked around the estate and taken all the necessary Insta pics, we headed back to the town centre to have some lunch. We went to this place called Incomum which had some really amazing food - especially if you like seafood and fish. 


After, we walked around the town a bit which was absolutely stunning - it's full of narrow picturesque cobbled streets with little boutiques. We also went to the famous bakery Piriquita, where you have to try the traditional travesseiros, made with puff pastry and almond cream. Definitely a must try if you're in Sintra! 

Once our stomachs were full and content, we took another Uber to what now is my favourite place I have ever visited: Pena Palace. There are no words to describe how beautiful and mind blowing it is. It looks fake and you will definitley feel like you're in some sort of film. 




The palace is at the top of a hill which means that, unless you go on a very clear day, it is very likely to be foggy which adds to the film-like experience. The palace is so colourful and with the most intricate carvings on the stone. It was honestly something out of this world. I would try and describe it better but a picture is worth a thousand words so just see it for yourself! 

Overall, Sintra was absolutely beautiful and definitley worth a visit if you're in Lisbon! 

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Sunday, 7 October 2018

TRAVEL GUIDE: 48 HOURS IN LISBON



Lisbon was an absolute dream. 

I think I am still in shock by the beauty of it. Stepping into the city felt like being stepping into a complete different world, and definitley not somewhere in Europe. Somewhere only a 2 hours flight away from home. It has such a different vibe to any other European city - so relaxed, so culturally rich and so majestic in an almost antiquated way. 

We spent three days in Portugal, two in Lisbon and one in Sintra (a small town near Lisbon, stay tuned for another post coming your way very soooon!). Realistically,  three days are enough to get to know the city. However, it is the kind of place where you kind of want to stay forever. You know, quit your job and open a hotel à la Mamma Mia.

What I loved the most about Lisbon is that it has so many quirky neighbourhoods that are perfect to wander and get lost in, you never know what's going to be just around the corner. So, get lost with me. Here's where we stayed, what we did and (most importantly) where we ate.

where we stayed

We stayed in a beautiful apartment in the centre of Lisbon, near Praça do Comércio on Rua da Padaria. It was a great location as it was very close to the metro, the tram and within walking distance to many restaurants, markets and also the ocean (which is always an added bonus).

The apartment was very Portuguese - very colourful but not in an obnoxious way, and very modern. It basically looked pretty much like what I want my future house to look like - clean look with a rustic touch and some colour

what we did 

There is a lot to do in Lisbon, but at the same time there isn't. Whilst you could easily spend two days visiting all the touristy sites, the best way to get to know the city is to simply wander around and explore the city by foot.  

That being said, there are a few things you should definitely check out whilst you're there. 

On the first day, we visited Praça do Comércio which was very near where we were staying and then took the tram to Belém, one of the most famous neighbourhoods in Lisbon.




Belém

The main thing Belém is known for is the famous Pastéis de Natas (or custard tarts), which are quite literally heaven on Earth. If you don't know what they are, think of the standard British custard tarts but more cinnamon-y and just a hundred times better.

Whilst you're there, definitley go to the bakery called Pastéis de Belem - you won't miss it, as there is usually a very long queue. Definitely worth the wait. Best custard tarts I have ever tried, and I have tried quite a few.




Near the bakery you will find the Jerónimos Monastery, a stunning white building with very intricate designs. If you have time, try to go inside; it's not cheap, but definitely worth it!

From there, we walked towards the ocean/river and then walked to the Tower de Belém. At that point I had eaten too many custard tarts so I was in a diabetic coma and could barely move. Therefore, I didn't pay much attention but it was a pretty tower... and we also saw some giant jellyfish. And when I say giant I mean bigger than my face. 





LX Factory


If you are into Shoreditch (in London), Berlin and this kind of vibe... what some would call edgy, then LX Factory is your place. 

It's an old industrial complex of house turned into restaurants, shops, libraries, hairdressers, tattoo parlours, everything. A very creative space which can only be described as the Shoreditch of Lisbon. 

Alfama

Again, another very famous neighbourhood in London. Every day they have the so called Feira da Ladra, a massive flea market which I guess it started off being for the locals but has now become very touristy. It is nice to walk around and you might find some interesting stuff, and a lot of people selling tiles, but I don't think it's worth spending too much time there. 




Once you have seen the market, just walk around the streets of Alfama. There isn't anything specific to see except the beautiful tile houses and random colourful streets. 

There is also a great viewing point called Miradouro Santa Luzia, it doesn't only have great views but the place itself is also stunning (and great for photos... because you gotta get that Instagram).


Bairro Alto & Chiado

This was probably one of my favourite areas of Lisbon - probably because it was more "city-like" and lively. It's a very central district, where all the big shops and many restaurants are. Even though it definitely has a city vibe, it is still very picturesque and there is no lack of narrow quaint streets.

It is great to walk around in the evening or late afternoon. It's also a very hilly area and where the classic Lisbon photo is taken. You know the one: uphill street, yellow tram and colourful houses? 

Chiado is another are that is very similar to Bairro Alto but a bit more structured and with bigger wider streets. And also more commercial. It is more modern and what feels "less" like Lisbon if that makes any sense. 

Still beautiful, though. I just can't say no to a house with pretty tiles.


where we ate 

If you're a foodie, Lisbon is your place. They have countless types of pastries (all equally delicious) and so much seafood. 

Breakfast


We had breakfast at the same bakery near our apartment - Portela Cafe. My favourite pastries (which you can find at most bakeries) were pao deus (sweet dough with some sort of coconut-y paste) and, obviously, pasteis de nata. But I honestly didn't try a bad pastry during my entire trip, so everything is delicious. 

Lunch

The only noteworthy place we went for lunch was TimeOut Market. A food hall where every "restaurant" has been chosen by TimeOut - so you know it's good. I was a bit skeptical first because it just looked very touristy but everything we tried was really good and there is so much to choose from.   Anything from oysters to croquettes - the latter being my absolute favourite. 

Dinner


For dinner we went to A Casa do Bacalhau, which is a restaurant that specialises in cod. In Portugal (or Lisbon at least), it is very common to have a few smaller sharing dishes - sort of like tapas - rather than one big dish each. However, they only bring on at a time - they wait until you have finished and then they will bring the next one. It is a bit odd but I kind of prefer it, you get to try so much more food! 

We also went to Taberna Rua dos Flores - a very traditional Portuguese restaurant. It is a very small restaurant and you can't book in advance, instead you have to go to the place at around 6-6:30pm and they will put your name down and tell you to come back in about an hour or so (depending on availability, it is an extremely popular restaurant). So you don't really get to choose when to eat but it's definitley worth the small inconvenience. 

Their menu is very traditional and everything we tried was absolutely incredible. Again, they also serve tapas style dishes for the table to share instead of big plates. I would recommend you try as much fish and seafood as you can as that's what I found to be the best! 

Desserts/Pastries


I have a big sweet tooth, so Portugal was my heaven on Earth - the amount of pastries and little sweet treats that hey have is mind blowing and they are all equally delicious. 

The number one place you have to go to if you're in Lisbon is Pasteis de Belem - I can't even tell you how good their custard tarts are. So good that I had too many too quickly and then felt sick for the rest of the day - but I still don't regret it. Expect a big queue, but 100% worth the wait. 


We were walking around Alfama when we stumbled into this little bakery called Fabrica Pastel Feijao - a very traditional and small bakery that specialises in Pastel de Feijao, a white bean and almond pastry. I was not expecting much of it as I didn't know how I would feel about white beans in a pastry, but it was so good. If you're in the neighbourhood, definitley try one! 

Finally, another dessert worth mentioning is the éclair we had at the TimeOut Market - not very Portuguese but still delicious. I can't remember the name of the stall but there is only one place that sells éclairs so it's hard to miss! 





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Thursday, 6 September 2018

MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE CITY


Even though I moved to London 5 years ago, I had never spent a summer here until now. Having grown up in Spain I had spent all my summer breaks at home in Mallorca but part of being an adult is getting a job, and jobs don't usually come with summer breaks sadly. 

Not going to lie I was dreading spending it here, I was expecting 15˚C max. and many grey cloudy days. 

Instead I got a heatwave... life's a funny thing. 

I thought I was going to hate it heloved it - London in summer is so amazing and there are so many things to do, it's almost better than Spain. Honestly, the city transforms as soon as the sun is out and it's slightly warm- everyone (and I literally mean everyone) is out having drinks, eating dinner on rooftops, going to the park on the weekends and just walking around and exploring this beautiful city. 



I never realised how lively and happy everyone would be, and I am sure the wonderful weather definitley helped, but it honestly made me not miss home at all. All that was missing was a swimming pool or a beach but I can live. 

By far what I loved the most were the sunny Sundays spent napping at Primrose Hill, eating bread and chorizo, getting a bit too sunburnt and eating ice cream whilst staring at London's skyline. Oh, and of course the evenings spent at the pub watching the World Cup games. Everyone just came together to support England and enjoy the sunshine, it was beautiful. If only the World Cup happened every year...I don't think I had ever felt that emotional about football, or any other sport for that matter. 


London truly transforms once the days are longer and the sun is out, everyone suddenly becomes so friendly and outgoing and you genuinely feel like you live in the best city in the world. 

However, we're going to quickly ignore the tube because commuting in that heat was definitley an adventure, even though I was lucky enough to be on a line with AC for the first half of the summer (Met line, I miss you every day). 


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Sunday, 2 September 2018

A DAY IN CAMBRIDGE


Living in London, it can be very easy to feel like you never have to leave, anything you could ever want is probably here - any type of restaurant, park, entertainment and museum. 

However, it can be so nice and refreshing to leave the city for a day and there are so many great places that are so close and so easy to get to! Last week, me and my friend decided to visit Cambridge for the day (as apparently we have run out of brunch places to try here lol). 

Getting there only took a bit over an hour by train from Liverpool Street and it was just over £10 so not expensive at all! 

We left London at around 10AM and got to Cambridge right after 11AM. The train station is very close to the city centre so we just walked towards the main part which is around King's College. Our first stop was, obviously, brunch because what else would I do? 


We went to Hot Numbers Cafe which is this really cute and cosy cafe where I can imagine loads of students go to work in the winter - it had big wooden tables and their food was so tasty! It was also very cheap compared to most brunch places in London which is always a plus. 

After we had fuelled our bodies with carbs, sugar and caffeine, we ventured into the actual town. I had been to Cambridge twice before, once when I was very young with my family and then again when I went to summer boarding school when I was about 16 - so I kind of knew my way around it a bit and knew where I wanted to go. Regardless of how many times I visit Cambridge, my favourite spot will always be right outside King's College. It is such a beautiful college which reminds me so much of Harry Potter and also makes me want to do another degree and go to Cambridge (even though we all know that's never going to happen). 



We tried to go in but decided it wasn't worth the £15 they were asking for, it's simply extortionate especially since you can visit other less famous colleges for free! 

Something worth doing whilst you're there is climbing the Church of St Mary the Great. You do have to pay £5 but the view is definitley worth it! You can see so many colleges and the whole town of Cambridge which is simply stunning. 

After, we wandered around the town centre and browsed the market before spending a good two hours in TK Maxx looking at home decor... whoops. 

Right after we left TK Maxx it started pouring which was beyond annoying as we had spent the last couple of hours of sunshine in a store. We decided to hide from the rain and go to the very well known cafe called Fitzbillies, famous for their Chelsea buns.  Not going to lie, all their pastries looked insane, but obviously we had to try the famous buns. It was my first time trying one so I can't compare it to anything else but it was really good and I can imagine having them as an afternoon snack during autumn with some hot chocolate... so maybe I'll have to get some imported from Cambridge. 




The rain stopped for around half an hour during which we visited one of the free colleges: Pembroke College. It genuinely felt like I was in another world, almost like Hogwarts. I can't imagine actually going to uni there and living in those colleges, I would love to experience it but probably only for a couple of weeks - I'm too much of a city girl.

We were planning to visit a few more colleges and explore the town a bit more but since it was raining so much we decided to leave at around 4PM as we can always go back another day! 

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