60 hours in Porto

Last time I spent a long weekend in Portugal was convincing enough to decide that just over 2 days in Porto will be worth doing. And boy, was I right!

The trip got off on the right foot when the lovely guy we were chatting to on the plane offered to give us a lift to our Airbnb, and it turned out he lived on the same street! We were staying right next to the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal where we spent our first evening sampling the craft beer at a little festival.

Saturday was spent by walking around the hilly streets of the city, marveling at the murals of the Sao Bento Station, strolling along the Douro, across the Dom Louis I Bridge, and by going all the way to the beach aboard the old tram.

We had dinner at this amazing restaurant that looked like a curiosity shop, had live music, and the best duck I’ve had since the last time I’ve had the best duck – in Lisbon. 🙂

On Sunday we checked out a few of the port houses in Vila Nova de Gaia, but in search for something a bit more authentic or at least less touristy we decided to walk all the way up the hill to Graham’s. It was the best decision ever. We joined one of their cellar tours and wine tasting sessions, and enjoyed the beautiful view.

After all that lunchtime drinking we headed to the beach again, this time with the intention of checking out the pools in Leca de Palmeira and braving the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean. We could not leave Porto without trying the famous Francesinha of course, which is a bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries (Wikipedia).  I do like meat, and it sure is really unique, but I doubt I will ever have it again…

I’m sure it’s clear to see that I fell in love with Porto, just like I did with Lisbon, and this time Fado was not even on the menu, so I would definitely recommend you put it on your bucket list. 😉

Budapest

The Secret Costumier - The Hungarian Parliament Building ©Robbie Packer

The Secret Costumier - Budapest


The Secret Costumier - Budapest


The Secret Costumier - Budapest - The Hungarian Parliament Building ©Robbie Packer

The Secret Costumier - Budapest


The Secret Costumier - Budapest - The Hungarian Parliament Building ©Robbie Packer

The Secret Costumier - Budapest

The Secret Costumier - Budapest

I’ve spent a weekend in the city where I grew up, and for the first time in my life I got to look at it as a tourist. I moved to London because I felt more at home here than I ever did in Budapest, but I guess the distance, the time spent away and the urge to show le boyfriend a good time, allowed me to see the city in a whole new light.

Budapest is full of pretty buildings, but other than the main attractions, nothing beats getting lost in the Jewish quarter and looking at all the little details on the buildings there, some of which are housing apartments, others hiding those famous “ruin bars”. When I mentioned to my friends that I am planning to take Robbie to Szimpla (the first and most famous such bar), they seemed unimpressed with my choice, because locals think it’s too touristy. It does have more tourists than locals I must admit, but for a good reason. It’s the still the quirkiest, biggest, most fun of them all, and the farmers’ market on Sunday morning with live jazz and great quality food was just unbeatable.

We also went to the biggest bath in Budapest (Széchenyi), which in spite of the freezing weather was a fabulous choice. There’s nothing quite like chilling in a pool of hot water, outdoors, after spending a day walking all around the city.

There are way more dishes to try than patience in me to mention them, but if you’re only gonna eat one meal, have a lángos. It’s a salty dough, fried in oil with different toppings, but the one I would strongly suggest you to go for is the sour cream & cheese one. It. Is. Divine.

Long story short, I think what I am trying to say is that I had an amazing time, especially because I was able to totally be in holiday mode without all the struggle of making decisions about where to go and what to eat. So if any of you Ladies and Gents are planning a trip there, I’m more than happy to shower you with recommendations. 😉

Zanzibar

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Tanzania is probably the closest it gets to paradise on Earth. The safari, especially in the Ngorongoro Crater is breathtaking, and Zanzibar has the most beautiful beaches you can imagine. Stone Town is a very lively city with amazing architecture, and you can definitely find peace and quiet in the fishing villages on the East side of the island.

Trying out surfing and snorkeling for the first time by the Mnemba Island made me instantly fall in love with the sports, in spite of being so scared of the fish beforehand that I was considering staying in the boat. 🙂 We had the most amazing time, mostly because we were lucky enough to find the nicest people whenever we needed help.

I somehow feel the need to mention that there is another side of Tanzania too. I have been to many developing countries before where I felt bad about being on holiday, enjoying the beautiful surroundings while the locals are struggling to make ends meet, but this time for some reason I felt very strongly about actually making a change in the way these things work. It may not come to anything, but maybe one day I can share my grand plans here… 😉

 

Tanzania

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TheSecretCostumier - Tanzania

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The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

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The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Lake Manyara

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Lake Manyara

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Lake Manyara

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Lake Manyara

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Lake Manyara

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Lake Manyara

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Lake Manyara

The Secret Costumier - Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater

Tanzania has never been on my bucket list. Not because I didn’t think it was a place worth going to, more because I had no idea how much it has to offer.

Being on a safari with our lovely guide, Jackson, was really a once in a lifetime experience. I never thought I would be so excited about spotting an elephant or a zebra from afar, or patiently waiting for lions (merely a meter away from us) to wake up from their siesta.

We were looking for a really short safari as we were only in the country for a week, and the two days spent in the Lake Manyara National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater were everything I ever wished for. By the way, the Ngorongoro Crater would worth a visit even if there weren’t thousands of animals roaming free in it, as it must be one of the most diverse, interesting and beautiful places on Earth.

If you only go to one place this year, I suggest you go to Tanzania! 🙂

Kyoto and beyond

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After getting a little acclimatized in Tokyo, this bit of our journey was about taking it all in: the tastes, the scenery, the sudden appearance of maikos in the Gion district, Hiroshima’s dreadful history and the peaceful Itsukushima island with the breathtaking Miyajima shrine… so I’ll let you do the same. 🙂

Tokyo, my new love

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I used to think I lived in the most exciting city in the world. Then we visited New York… and I still thought London was the real deal. Then we went to Tokyo. Mind blown. There is not enough space and time to explain what and why I liked about it so much without getting lost in the small details (like enjoying the super fast, super punctual trains; the orderly queues everywhere; the amazing food even at the cheapest of places; the nicest people trying to help us out whenever we needed anything at all, etc.), but let’s just say I could really see myself exploring this beautiful country even more in the future. Getting up at 3 in the morning to catch the famous tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market was worth being tired for days after it; as well as a little trip to the Nippori fabric town (just a piece of advice: leave your travelling companions behind, as you’ll want to have all the time in the world to browse those shops 🙂 ), and looking at Mt Fuji from a hotel’s beautiful garden was one of those rare, unplanned adventures that turn out to be the ones you remember for years to come. Tokyo is an incredible city, but wait until I show you Kyoto… 😉

Istanbul

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I have just returned from a trip to Japan with my mum and sister, where we were travelling to via Istanbul, Turkey. This was my second time in the city, and I liked it a lot more this time than on the first visit, which was also a one day stopover. The best part of it was definitely smoking shisha in an old building attached to a mosque, while sipping the sweetest apple tea known to man…

New York, New York…

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For a Woody Allen/Sex and The City/Friends/King of Queens/HIMYM/Will and Grace/Mad Men/ you name it… fan, New York is that one city you’ve never been to, yet know absolutely everything about. Or so you think.

Last year was the first time I did not feel like I was only temporarily living in London, temporarily having a job and temporarily putting off things I would love to do once I settle down a bit – like travelling to the places on top of my wish list. After getting a taste of South East Asia in March, during a lunchtime email session we somehow ended up booking a flight to New York with my sister. 5 days Airbnbing in Williamsburg, in the middle of the weird December heathwave, ensured that I saw in the New Year pretty broke, but it was totally worth it.

I found Central Park pretty decent, the Top of The Rock is better than the Empire State building, I would pick Manhattan Bridge over the Brooklyn, people are super nice, rats are pretty much all over the place at night, the bagels beat the ones on Brick Lane, the Whitney Museum must be the coolest place to hang out, I totally missed out on fabric shopping as I’m a bit of an idiot when it comes to checking opening times I guess, Greenwich village and the banana pudding by Magnolia Bakery are to die for, and while visiting Harlem was probably more shocking than exploring certain parts of third world cities for example, it would have not been the same experience without it.

There is so much to see in the world before I decide to go back to see more of New York, yet this is one of the few cities where I would actually love to spend a few months getting to know my way around it.

(Photos of me shot by my sister @debso)

Bem-vindo a Lisboa

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Lisbon. No new bags were made this time around, but out of all the places I’ve been this year, this is the European favourite. Those tiled old houses? The sound of the Fado everywhere? Not to mention the beautiful Portuguese men (who knew?!), and my new favourite restaurant, I think it’s safe to say that I fell in love with the place. If I wasn’t in a monogamous relationship with London already, I would definitely be busy strapping the sewing machine to the bike, while trying to find a flat in the oldest little house and a route to it avoiding those steep hills in Alfama… 🙂

Barcelona

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I might have already mentioned here that I went on a short break to Barcelona a few weeks ago. This was the first time I traveled on my own, and after a few hours of getting used to not being able to talk to someone (that’s a lie actually, I was on the phone all the time… 🙂 ), I really did have a good time.

In a country that produces the most fashionable brands in Europe (Zara, Mango, etc.), it is quite predictable to see some nice fabric shops, but I was absolutely stunned by the variety of fabrics on offer in 3 shops on the same street.

Barcelona is a surprisingly neat city, with broad streets and pretty buildings. I, of course, am more drawn towards the colorful and messy bits, so loved the works of Gaudi, and the favourite part of the city became the Barceloneta neighborhood and the Tibidabo. A hundred years old amusement park on top of a mountain overlooking the city? That’s perfection in my book!