Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Best women's day article I could have found!

Why you should travel solo! 6 female travelers share their thoughts. | Hostelworld.com: The Best Solo Travel Tips for a Girl Travelling Alone
In honour of International Women’s Day, we’ve compiled the best female solo travel bloggers to give you the best advice on how to travel the world

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Good reads

After watching Gone Girl, which I thought was one of the best movies of 2014, I was eager to investigate a bit on the author of the book, Gillian Flynn’s other work. So after being done with Paula Hawkins Girl on the Train, I dove into Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

They are both very well written. Flynn's greatest gift seems to be creating deep and well developed characters. You can almost picture her scribbling on some paper an enormous amount of background story on each character she invents. In Dark Places she carefully takes us through the minds of several members of the Day family, focusing on the current life of disturbed Libby (the youngest daughter of the family who survived the massacre), and happenings on the fatidic day for Patty (the mother and head of the household) and Ben (the oldest brother and presumed killer).  For Patty and Ben the book evolves in a good pace, as in each chapter you find out yet another detail of their lives that helps put together what realy happened on the night of the murders. For Libby thought, the pace of the narrative seems too fast, she deserved a little more self-discovering time. The character goes from traumatized brother hatter to lets save Ben which is a pity since the story had a lot of potential. The ending is not what you would expect but Flynn like original. 

On Sharp Objects the entire book is seen through the point of view of Camille, a disturbed young woman who has developed the obsession of cutting herself. Just out of psychiatric hospital in Chicago, Camille returns to her hometown in Missouri, where she hasn’t been in several years, as a reporter to cover the creepy story of two young girls who were strangely murdered and had their teeth pulled out. Back home she is forced to face old acquaintances from a past she is trying to forget, which include the death of her beloved younger sister, a tense and distant relationship with her mother and the beginning of her depressive self-destructive behavior. As dark and twisted as it could be, the book is less centered on the killings and more on Camille’s bizarre family. A stepfather whose presence is barely noticed, a younger sister Camille barely knows and who seems to be desperate for attention, and a mother you simply cannot figure out. You will spend the entire book trying to understand why Camille and her mother have such a tense relationship and why do they act on such a hurtful way towards one another. Only in the end will the truth be revealed. 

One thing I do admire on Flynn's endings is that she provides closure but doesn't try to make it a fare ending. Do not except her long hurt troubled characters to just be ridding into the sunset to a bright future ahead. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Harry Potter Studios

Finally completed one of my wish list things to do! Visit the HP studios! As a true HP fan, from the very beginning I recommend it! Truly do! So here are some tips and suggestions if you are also planning to visit!

Buying tickets and getting there
You can get the tickets from the HP Studios official website. I recommend doing this as soon as you book your trip, because the only way into the studios is with a reservation and they do sell out. The visit is very well organized. Every 20 minutes or so they allow a group of about 50 people to go in. There is a first part with a film and then you are on your own to explore all of the set. This is good because it means there are no lines and waiting around. Bathrooms are all clean and food court was not packed (and we went on a Saturday).  
To get there I recommend buying a package deal with entrance and returning bus ride to central London (from and to Victoria). I mean this because if you miss your reservation the park doesn’t guarantee your entrance.  Also when you are done visiting the park you will be exhausted so sitting in a comfortable bus watching a HP movie, they’ll be playing, while being driven back to town it’s just ideal.
The name of the operator we used was Golden Tours and we paid something like 50£ each. When you choose your entrance time, the bus departure time will also change, to ensure you get there in time.

Inside the park you need 3 or more hours to be able to see everything. If you are on London vacation and don’t want to loose an entire day just pick a 5 o’clock reservation as we did. It gives you enough  time to wander around and catch the last bus back to town.

What's best?
Its HP studios! Meaning all the props, clothes, sceneries that you will be seeing are all the real deal! It’s above all, a museum of the HP movies and any HP fan will go bananas. Be prepared for Hogwarts, The Burrow, The Ministry, the Chamber of Secret’s door, the Sorting Hat, Diagon Alley and much much more!
The staff is awesome! All HP fanatics, from the moment you arrive to leaving they will do their best to make your trip as pleasant and magical as possible! You can ask them questions on anything about the studios or the books or ask them to take photos, anything you need.
Do not miss the flying car experience and the broomstick. There is a little fast line and you can make a cool video of you flying in a broomstick and get awesome pictures while dressed appropriately.

What needs improving?
The diner! I really was hoping for a Three Broomsticks kind of environment while drinking my butterbeer (which btw is awesome). Instead it’s just a simple diner with some sandwiches and coffee. No magic there!

The store! What a letdown! First I thought everything was crazy overpriced. A clock for 70£, scarf for 25£? No need for such prices. Also there was really nothing that you could look at and say what an amazing great thing to buy. Big lack of originality in this department! Hate to mention it but if it was in the states no doubt the merchandizing would be much cleverer!

Jamie Oliver Italian and Union Jack - London

Being a real fan of Jamie’s Italian style cuisine, and since it tends to be a tradition of mine going to his places wherever I go, I booked lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden. However I messed up the places and we ended up at Union Jack. See two of his places are in Covent Garden but Union Jack is the one inside the actual market. When we got there the host said we had the wrong place because they didn’t take reservations. We however manage to get a table anyway and had a very pleasant lunch. I had a marguerita and my friends some sort of chicken curry specialty of Union Jack. Staff is nice and the buzz and location are simply fantastic.

We ended up also being able to try Jamie’s Italian because we randomly found it a couple of days later. Also it will not let you down. Same style decoration and menu as any of the other Jamie Italians which however alike always have a personal touch of originality. Prices are as always average and the Chocolate Praline Pudding was do dye for!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Amsterdam! End of May 2015!

Picture credit: www.cvilarpics.tumblr.com 

This was my second time in the infamous Amsterdam. My first time there was in March 2013, and as we arrived the first thing anyone told us was “hey, welcome to the north pole. It’s the coldest month of March since 1920 something”. Jackpot!
This time around was much better weather…not great if you consider that I am travelling from 30 degrees in Lisbon, but definitely better!
So here are a few points on Amsterdam and Zaanse Schans the lovely place with the Windmills.

Here are a few FAQ from my friends about Amsterdam:

Public transport/trams
On both trips I used the tram only three times. Twice to get to the hotel with the bags and another time to get a TerraVision bus stop to get to Brussels from a further part of town. I guess this depends on how much you enjoy walking and, where your hotel/hostal is. This time we were in Munk Hotel in Achtergracht Street and the other time I was near Leidseplein which was also central. Distances on the map seem further than they actually are, so I recommend you find your hotel and locate how far you are from city center before getting a travelling card.

The Museums
I visited Van Gogh the first time there and even though the museum was being renovated it was pretty cool. I heard that with the renovations it’s gotten even better but this time I chose to visit The Rijksmuseum, which someone called Amsterdam’s Louvre and which is well worth if you like painting. I also went to the Sex and the Erotic museum which help get into the city mode! Kidding, but they are worth watching if you have never been. I personally think the one in Copenhagen is the best one.

If possible travel to Schipool Airport. Our return flight was from Eindhoven airport which is 2h30 from the city by bus, plus Ryannair decided to move it up from 5 to 3pm which basically made us loose a whole day.

Picture credit: www.cvilarpics.tumblr.com

I learnt my lesson from Glendalough’s excursion trip, so this time I insisted we went on our own. Arranged trips cost something like 40€, not worth it since you can easily get the train, which takes like 18 minutes to get to Koog-Zaandijk station. From there you walk like 10 minutes or ride a bike to the mills. The return ticket is 12€ and you have all the time you want to explore the mills, the little cute houses and stores around it or grab a bite. It’s totally worth it, don’t miss it!

Nine streets, Red Light, Piij

Three very cool areas to explore and get three different looks of Amsterdam. Nine streets has very nice houses, hotels and restaurants, it’s the postcard Amsterdam you are looking for. The Piij (which is read like pipe) is the neighborhood in the south with a younger crowd. Nice cheaper and trendy restaurants and bars to explore. Red Light District is the famous prejudice free area. Prostitutes on windows, loads of fun sex shops and many coffee shops. It’s the part of free Amsterdam. 


Day 1 – Adventure begins!
My friend Joana, who is quite a citizen of the world (having lived in São Paulo, Scotland, and New York in the past few years) is now living in Dublin! Since I went to visit her, there will be no reviews on where to stay - Joana is simply a fantastic host! In terms of Dublin and the nearby areas, there is plenty to discuss…and an urge to go again!

First of all if you are travelling from Lisbon you can fly Air Lingus or/and Ryanair and have a cheap ticket if you avoid high season and book in advance.
From the airport to central city just take the turquoise buses ( 10€ return).

As I arrived a little bit after lunch hour, we grabbed some delicious sandwiches to go at a place smartly called Lunch and headed out to eat outside at Trinity College lawn fields, whereas most students were also soaking the fleeting sun.

We spent the afternoon just walking around town with a little few shopping stops – check out Avoca, a very cool store with Irish made stuff. We also went to the National Gallery, which has a small but fun collection of paintings from big names such as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Goya. The entrance is free and also don’t miss their cute very colorful diner!
We also had time for some garden seeing at this national park, (I can remember the name sory) before going for some cheese and wine dinner to catch up!

Day 2 – Exploring Dublin
We are both early birds which gave us a long day ahead to explore Dublin! First, we took a free walking tour around the city. You book it online and you don’t have to pay unless you enjoy it, then you offer a tip of your choice. The free walking tour will take you to most well-known places in Dublin, with a nice back ground story which varies from Irish tales, the revolution, Guinness Intel and some fun U2 stories, which show just how much Irish people dislike Bono. Top places: Dublin Palace, the Cathedrals and the Temple Bar area!

For lunch we went across the river to the north part of the city, and to this very good veggie place called Brother Hubbard where we had the most amazing lunch!
Then, after some shopping at Penney’s (Irish for Primark) and some other northern side stores we went to meet a friend at Temple Bar. This friend of ours has lived in Dublin for many years and being an expert on the city she decided to take us to The Brazen Head, the oldest Pub in Dublin for a pint! This you cannot miss this!
Dinner was at an old church turned into restaurant/bar then we headed out to explore Dublin night life at some pub! 

Day 3 – Rain, Brunches and Dalkey
Rain! I knew that having a whole stay in Ireland without rain would be a lot to ask for and sure enough there it was! A full morning with non stop shower! So, in order to avoid getting wet, we took this time to enjoy a long cozy brunch at a very cool place called Fumbally and then coffee and desert at the lovely Bibi’s

It was still raining after brunch but we decided it would not get in the way of our plans anymore so we got ourselves on the Dart (Irish for train) and headed to Dalkey!

Dalkey (Deilginis in Irish) is a cute little town, 30 minutes or so from Dublin (and guess what, on the way we passed through Dún Laoghaire and it really doesn’t sound at all as you would say it)!

Dalkey supposedly has some of the best ocean views from Ireland and it’s where Bono and a bunch of other well-off guys have their "cottage" houses. We had a very nice warm lunch at the cutest place called Tramyard then headed out to see some more of Dalkey. It’s not a very touristic place so it’s nice enough to just have a quiet nice walk around and take some great pictures.

Later we headed home to meet our friends at a fantastic (but a bit overpriced) Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vitta, the best pasta I have had in a long time, and then explored a few bars.

Day 4 – Falling for Wicklow / Music in the air
So because we didn’t have a car, and frankly we were scared to drive on the right side of the road, we went to Wicklow County on one of those arranged trips. This was not well organized at all so I really recommend you rent a car instead. Here is why: the time you have at the places, especially at Glendalough and the Lakes is not enough to explore it properly. Also, no one advised us to take snacks or any sort of food for the way, and you really have no extra time to sit for a coffee or  grab a bite. By the time we got to Kilkenny we were starved and could not face anymore climbing to visit the caves. We stayed in Kilkenny hopping to find some nice warm food (which didn't happen). 

Kilkenny is supposed to be the most gothic town in Ireland. Never (and I live in Portugal) have I seen that many churches and cathedrals per square meter! If you are stopping for lunch its cool to check out their Castle- very Downton Abbey- but there is really nothing more to do so don’t waste a lot of time there. Also, something that really upset me is that the bus can’t really stop in the middle of the countryside narrow roads so basically you just drive through Wicklow and look at the landscape.  

Appart from all this horrible going around experience, Wicklow is amazing! The Wicklow Mountains are the location set for many well-known movies such as Braveheart, PS I Love You and nowadays some parts of Vikings. The lakes are breathtaking. And the best thing is how in a short drive you have a complete different scenery to enjoy. From its rocky arid mountains to green graze fields packed with cows and black sheeps, you must not miss this part of Ireland! Here are the pictures to prove it! Enjoy!

Back in Dublin and because we didn’t feel to head back home before dinner, we had some time to just walk around the city streets. We suddenly ran into a nice band of street performers, doing covers of songs you know by heart but using their own style. We had a nice time alongside with a crowd of other music lovers who were also just passing by and decided to stop to hear them. Just as they finished off and we continue heading for dinner, we passed through what looked like a normal building with some very cool live music playing. So we decided to head up the stairs where out of the blue we found another jam session this time the performers were their fifties, looked like a little reunion, and the rock and blues they sang were all written by them. Another very nice moment in my Dublin visit.

Later we went for some wine and a cheese board at J favorite place which is a very cool wine bar beneath a fancy market place. Lovely atmosphere and great wine! After three days of late nights and early rise we were weary enough to just head home for some Tesco’s apple and cinnamon tea and PS I Love You! Very non Irish I know! And the next day I had to get back Lisbon.

Here are a few more pictures of my trip!